KERNS: Hey, Villanova, Augustine had hormones, too



Bryan Kerns

Augustine was no saint. One of the greatest intellects in the Western tradition had a wild side for the first 30 years of his life that would even make the WiseCat cringe.

That said, he was always in search of something to love, something to give himself meaning. He went from heresy to heresy, from lover to lover, from bad thing to bad thing.

Eventually he settled in with God and became a priest, bishop and prolific writer. In his early years, though, he was more Hugh Hefner than Hugh of Cluny.

In fact, he even fathered an illegitimate child and did some questionable things in a church about which scholars debate to this day.

Above all else, Augustine was longing. He longed his way into a lot of interesting places and positions. That longing was only satiated when he got to God, but even then his restlessness remained until the day of his death.

So, then, what is the point of talking about Augustine’s sex life vis-à-vis his religious life? The truth is, we all long for things, and we all seek love. If this weren’t true, would Augustine have been able to write entire books on it? I doubt it. After all, it is called “Confessions” – it’s a highly personal account and can’t really be described as blasé.

Take all this into account and then imagine Augustine composing his “Confessions” as bishop. As one of my philosophy professors put it: here’s “the smartest guy in the ancient world” dictating to some poor scribe this melodious and timeless prose as he eats whatever passed for cereal in North Africa during the fourth century.

It makes for some pretty interesting stuff, even in our modern context. Why then would the Augustine and Culture Seminar be so named if Augustine didn’t have a narrative that was relevant to our culture?

By now you should have realized that our section’s theme this week has alludes to Valentine’s Day. What, then, does Augustine of Hippo, fourth-century Casanova, have to do with Valentine’s Day?

The answer is that Augustine’s struggle with his demons and his eventual success at finding what made him happy speaks to the extant nature of the human condition.

We seek love, we seek affection, we seek companionship and we seek that which makes us happy. After years of sexcapades, Augustine figured out that monastic life was the best for him.

Why does a dead guy from North Africa matter to the love lives of Villanovans? Because he too sat in the seats you sit in – albeit on another continent and without an iPod – and wondered about that girl two seats up and if there was a future with her.

Chances are good that he took her out on a few dates and then moved on to the next name in his little black book. His struggles eventually brought him to God and the rest is history.

Valentine’s Day, then, taken in Augustinian terms, should be about struggles and work and restlessness of the heart. When we find what we love or who we love, it takes work to keep it going. It takes time to perfect relationships. Working through conflict in relationships involves restlessness.

The modern day conception of Valentine’s Day as a perfect holiday characterized by perfect expression of love is in error in that it neglects every day of the rest of the year. It neglects the struggle, the work and the restlessness that Augustine wrestled with every day of the year.

Therefore, we as Villanovans should reject Valentine’s Day in favor of every other day of the year. Work on your relationships on Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Labor Day and Administrative Professionals Day. Show your love for others whenever you can.

Valentine’s Day is only one day on the calendar – why should we reserve it as better than others where love is concerned? Doesn’t it diminish the idea that we give our all to our significant others whenever possible? It absolutely does.

Even when he was checking off every girl in his college yearbook, Augustine was attempting to love. It was a restless struggle. Even though he settled on God, it took him a while of working through problems to get there.

So, Villanova, forget Valentine’s Day. Do as Augustine and give it your all every day – not just on Feb. 14.


Bryan Kerns is a freshman honors major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].