Some Lighter Reading from “The City of God”

As the winter semester heads into the home stretch, the students in my “Reading with the Fathers” course will be turning their attention to the towering figure of St. Augustine of Hippo.  The influence of Augustine upon the Western theological tradition, through his copious written output, is unfathomableWhile a strong case could be made for assigning Augstine’s Confessions, I have opted to have the students read significant chapters from his massive City of God.  With the end of semester and graduation fast approaching, I don’t have a lot of time for extensive blogging, but I did think I could in the days ahead share some of the stimulating and provocative quotes from The City of God against the Pagans.

For fun, I thought I’d start with a lighter quote, in which Augustine is reflecting upon the great diversity of human gifts and natural capacities.

“There are those who can swallow an incredible number and variety of objects and then, by a slight contraction of the diaphragm, produce any object they like in perfect condition, as it out of a bag.  There are those who imitate the voices of birds and beasts and men, and who can do this so accurately that, unless they are seen, it is quite impossible to distinguish them from the real thing.  There are some who can at will, and without any odour, produce such a variety of sounds from their anus that they seem to be singing in that part; and I myself knew a man who could perspire at will.  Also, certain people are known to weep at will, and to shed floods of tears.” (XIV.24)1

  1. Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans, trans. R.W. Dyson, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

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