The next great daring explorer. The next renowned expeditionist who would journey across African savannas and trudge through frozen tundras. As a young boy, these were the images that filled my mind throughout each day. The hill beyond my house was Mt. Everest, and the muddy creak a few doors down was the Pacific Ocean. Inevitably, on the way back from the bus stop someone’s life would need to be saved from a villain or monsters.
Children so often know instinctively that meaning is to be found in seeking something in the vast unknown. It usually involves an adventure “far from home” and nearly always includes saving the life of another. I remember setting out for the trek all the way across the park to save my neighbors from the unfortunate kid who had been chosen as “bad guy” that day.
Simply put, children know they desire something beyond themselves. The recognize that they desire to give of themselves to save the other. Certainly, children can be selfish and self-centered, but it’s telling that so much of our imagination as children is oriented towards the good: the knight saves the princess, the cop defeats the robber. We have much to learn from the kids in our lives.
We “grown ups” so often forget this basic lesson. We turn inwards to fulfill our desires with worldly things and close our hearts. Turning inwards, we struggle to give ourselves away for sake of the other. Turning inwards, our hearts tend to fall asleep. Pope Francis challenges us to, “Look into your hearts and ask yourself if you have a heart that wants great things or a heart that is asleep. Has your heart maintained [Augustine’s] restlessness or has it been suffocated by things?”1
Does our desire still move us to seek something in the great unknown? Does it still enable us to give ourselves away for the sake of the other? Do we hear the Lord speaking to us through our desires and transform our desires? I still have that adventurous spirit. I feel so alive trekking through the mountains and I still want to climb Mt. Everest. But the Lord has show me that what I want infinitely more is to climb towards Heaven.
A wise and holy priest once told me that desire is at the heart of the spiritual life. And no saint speaks more of desire than St. Augustine. Through The Confessions of St. Augustine, we see the life of someone whose heart was awakened from sleep. We witness the life of a man whose desire led him to a freedom and fullness of life beyond his wildest imagination. On this feast of St. Augustine, let’s pray together that the Spirit of God would fill our hearts with desire for Him and the coming of His Kingdom.
St. Augustine, pray for us!
1. Wooden, Cindy. “Catholic News Service.” Pope Says Christians Should Have Restless Hearts like St. Augustine's, Catholic News Service, 28 Aug. 2013, www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2013/pope-says-christians-should-have-restless-hearts-like-st-augustine-s.cfm.