Confessions II.iii(5) – II.iii(7)
In ancient Rome there was no such concept as public education. Either your parents possessed the financial means to fund an education or they didn’t. Because of this usually only the wealthy could afford an education. This explains why such a vast majority of populations until the modern age were illiterate. Augustine’s parents were not aristocrats. They were of humble means. It was because of this at age 16 Augustine did not continue his education. Apparently, Patrick (Augustine’s father) was saving money to afford his education. Yet, he still spent beyond his means. It seems that many in their community highly regarded Patrick for his sacrifice. Augustine writes
“At that time everybody was full of praise for my father because he spent money on his son beyond the means of his estate, when that was necessary to finance an education entailing a long journey. Many citizens of far greater wealth did nothing of the kind for their children. But this same father did not care what character before you I was developing, or how chaste I was so long as I possessed a cultured tongue – though my culture really meant a desert uncultivated by you, God. You are the one true and good lord of you land, which is my heart” (Chadwick, ed.26).
Patrick’s only concern was the praise of his neighbors and the education of his son. He had little concern for his internal character. Just the next paragraph we see that Patrick became aware of his “virility” at the local bath house and celebrated this by becoming drunk (27). Patrick had all the wrong priorities. He had no concern for the type of man Augustine was becoming, only as long as he was educated. Patrick could care less about the sexual immorality Augustine was walking into, as long as he provided Patrick with grandchildren. Augustine says that “he was drunk with the invisible wine of his perverse will directed downwards to inferior things” (27). Though he was a catechumen (a new entrant into the church – he had yet to be confirmed as a believer and welcomed into full fellowship in the church), he failed to raise Augustine as he should.
Augustine’s mother seems to have expressed some concern, but it fell on deaf ears. He describes it as “womanish advice” (27) to his young, arrogant heart. Her words are still the words of a mother with a godly concern. He recognizes the admonishment of his mother was also the words of God. He writes, “they were your warnings and I did not realize it. I believed you were silent, and that it was only she who was speaking, when you were speaking to me through her” (27). The importance of godly parents cannot be understated. Augustine saw that when he penned this work. It is something that we must see today as well. It seems that part of God’s plan in regenerating and sanctifying his children includes parents. It is fortunate for Augustine that he had a godly mother. Yet, it is equally sad that he had such a foolish and ignorant father. Were Patrick a wiser, more God fearing man, maybe some of Augustine’s sinfulness could have been avoided. As Augustine needed in his day, so we still need godly men who raise children rightly and in the fear of the Lord. God will move their hearts in the day of his choosing. But the proverb of Solomon still holds true: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
With an impending marriage and the thoughts of future children I pray regularly that I would not succumb to the patterns of men today. I pray that I raise the children God grants Whitney and I in a way that glorifies the Father and keeps them on the path of righteousness. That is a prayer that all men ought to pray. Without the intervention of God and the power of the Holy Spirit we all shall fail as Patrick failed.