Posted by: John Adams | July 31, 2009

“It Cannot Be That the Son of These Tears Should Perish”

While reading through St. Augustine’s Confessions this week, I was greatly moved by the following passage, which clearly demonstrates God’s Providence at work, easing his mother’s anguish as she interceded fervently for the salvation of his soul (Augustine had rejected his Christian faith in his teenage years, falling into a heretical sect called the Manichees, an error from which he would not recover until he was in his 30’s):

Meanwhile you gave her another answer [to prayer] that sticks in my memory. For I pass over much because I am hurrying on to those things which especially urge me to make confession to you, and there is much that I do not remember. You gave her another answer through one of your priests, a bishop brought up in the Church and well trained in your books. When that woman asked him to make time to talk to me and refute my errors and correct my evil doctrines and teach me good ones—for he used to do this for those whom perhaps he found suitably disposed—he declined, wisely indeed as I later perceived. For he answered that I was still unready to learn, because I was conceited about the novel excitements of that heresy, and because, as she had informed him, I had already disturbed many untrained minds with many trivial questions. “Let him be where he is,” he said; “only pray the Lord for him. By his reading he will discover what an error and how vast an impiety it all is.”

At the same time he told her how he himself as a small boy had been handed over to the Manichees by his mother, whom they had led astray. He had not only read nearly all their books but had even copied them. Although he had no one disputing with him and providing a refutation, it had become clear to him that that sect ought to be avoided, and therefore he had left it. When he had said this to her, she was still unwilling to take No for an answer. She pressed him with more begging and with floods of tears, asking him to see me and debate with me. He was now irritated and a little vexed and said: “Go away from me: as you live, it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish.” In her conversations with me she often used to recall that she had taken these words as if they had sounded from heaven.

Maybe they did. After all, Augustine eventually did come to repentance and faith, an act he would later compare to a lazy man deciding at long last to get out of bed and face the day.



  1. Vraiment profond, Mon Cher, vraiment profond.

  2. moral of the story: don’t mess w/Mama Bear 🙂

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