The Example Of A Woman Essay Research

The Example Of A Woman Essay, Research Paper The Example of a Woman Sexual Renunciation and Augustine’s Conversion to Christianity in 386For you converted me to you so that I neither sought awife nor any other worldly hope. I was now standing inthe rule of faith in the same way that you had revealedme to her so many years before.

The Example Of A Woman Essay, Research Paper

The Example of a Woman Sexual Renunciation and Augustine’s Conversion to Christianity in 386For you converted me to you so that I neither sought awife nor any other worldly hope. I was now standing inthe rule of faith in the same way that you had revealedme to her so many years before. And you transformed hermourning into a joy more abundant than she had wishedand much dearer and more chaste than that of havinggrandchildren of my flesh.> These are the words that conclude Bk. 8 of theConfessions, where Augustine recounts the dramatic finalmoments of his conversion to Christianity. In thesewords he speaks about God converting him “in such away”> that the varied desires and confusing intereststhat gathered around him in Milan were shed like oldgarments never to be taken up again. Augustine alsodescribes his mother’s new joy, and relates for thefirst time that in Monnica’s attempts for her son’smarriage we must see not only her desire for hisconversion but even the domestic joys of seeingAugustine’s offspring. This untoward domestic hope also reveals aremarkable imperfection. Why does Monnica cherish such adesire when there is already a grandson in the person ofAdeodatus? Is it simply a wish for more grandchildren?Or, is it, as may well have been the case, a desire forgrandchildren whose status in Roman society would not beso questionable? Monnica and Patricius had always beenconscious of their precarious place in the social worldof Tagaste, and this keen sense of their place in thatsociety had contributed to the kind of aspirations theyhad entertained for Augustine’s career. The concern here for grandchildren falls into thatgeneral order of earthly desires which comes in forcriticism in the early part of the Confessions.> Theconclusion of Bk. 8 recalls this other side of “pious”Monnica. In the moment of resolution for her son,Monnica too undergoes a conversion: her mourning isturned into a joy that is purer and more chaste, a joythat is not tied to earthly cares and hopes. The wordused here to describe Monnica’s transformation iscouertisti, the same word Augustine’s uses to describehis own experience. For himself, Augustine believes he has received adouble portion. Not only is he converted to God, but heis converted from the desire for a wife and the honor ofa respectable career. This tandem, of love for the worldand a woman’s embrace, emerge as the twin anxieties thatovershadow Augustine’s last year in Milan before hisconversion. Augustine’s words are the invocations of arenunciate: turning his back on the world –his hopes,desires and dreams. To have given up the hope ofmarriage meant that Augustine was turning his back onthe Milanese girl on whom he was in waiting. But whythis drastic change? And why so final an act of sexualrenunciation? What brought Augustine from the positionof seeking a wife in order to prepare himself forChristian baptism (hence conversion to Christianity) tothe point where conversion entailed an act of sexualrenunciation? Studies of Augustine’s conversion have beenunusually silent on this point.> Even when referenceshave been made to a passage such as De bono coniugali5.5, where Augustine describes a scenario that fits alltoo perfectly the circumstances under which his firstconcubine was separated from him, it has not led toreconsiderations of the events shortly precedingAugustine’s conversion. Even less has it engendered areevaluation of the role of the mother of Adeodatus inAugustine’s conversion. Peter Brown, for example, seesthe patent self-referentiality of Augustine’s words andmerely comments that in the circumstances Augustinefailed.> But the sense of failure is not seen as in anyway constitutive of the equation of sexual renunciationwith conversion to Christianity. In his much earlierbiography of Augustine, Brown went so far as toacknowledge the ascetic implications of the vow ofAugustine’s first concubine, but the matter was made torest there.> An oversight of another kind shows up in FrederickVan Fleteren’s essay on “Augustine’s Theory ofConversion.”> He counts at least twelve conversionstories or retellings of conversions in the Confessions.But the experience of the mother of Adeodatus is notincluded among them, even though there are clearindications that some kind of conversion may have takenplace. Since Augustine weaves his own story around theother conversion narratives, the absence of hisconcubine from the circle of those individuals whoseconversions may have affected Augustine’s means that herpossible influence is all but precluded. In this study I will attempt three things. First Iwill try to show that the equation of sexualrenunciation with Christian conversion is essential fora proper understanding of the nature of Augustine’sconversion. Second, that Augustine came to make the linkbetween conversion and continence through a belatedresponse to the vow of sexual renunciation made by themother of Adeodatus. And third, the nature of hisconcubine’s vow and Augustine’s description of it in theConfessions constitutes a muted conversion narrative –perhaps the most pivotal conversion story in the wholetext, because it established the terms in whichAugustine came to understand his possible conversion toChristianity. As I have already indicated Augustine describes thefinal phase of his conversion to Christianity in highlypersonal terms, relegating to the background the way inwhich the scholarly debate over the past century hasbeen shaped. Since Alfaric> much of the discussion aboutAugustine’s conversion has centered on whether he wasconverted to something less authentically Christian in386. Alfaric put the matter bluntly by saying that theconversion in 386 was to Neo-Platonism and that theconversion to Christianity actually came years later, in396. Not the least of the reasons given for thisunderstanding of Augustine’s conversions are theapparent differences between the early works (especiallythe so-called Cassiciacum dialogues written between hisconversion and baptism) and the works coming out of theperiod following his De diversus queastionibus VII adSimplicianum. However much others have sought over theyears to defend the putatively Christian basis ofAugustine’s conversion in 386 the literary record tendedto get in the way, or was perceived to get in the way. The view that now holds the field is the carefullynuanced argument of P. Courcelle> who maintains that theChristianity vs. Neo-Platonism polarity is a tadmisleading when it comes to the Milanese background ofAugustine’s conversion experience. Rather than seeingtwo distinct episodic conversions, one Neo-Platonic andthe other Christian, Courcelle describes a Milaneseenvironment that is at once Christian and Neo-Platonic.In which case, Augustine would have encountered Neo-Platonism in Christian dress and vice-versa, and did nothave the opportunity to encounter one without the other.From Ambrose, Simplicianus, Manlius Theodorus andothers, he would have breathed a Christian Neo-Platonismwithout any perceptual sense that this was an odd way ofreceiving one’s Christianity. By removing the antithesis between Christianity andNeo-Platonism in the Milan of the 380s Courcelle allowsfor the kind of simultaneous influence which seems to beevident in the early writings. The emphasis throughoutCourcelle’s analysis is on the intellectual side ofAugustine’s experience over and against the moralaspects of his conversion.> Courcelle all but overlooksthe terms in which Augustine described and understoodhis conversion. Even if one is inclined to accept themuch later theological re-interpretation of hisexperience found in the Confessions with some amount ofskepticism, it must still be recognized that forAugustine the conversion in 386 was something veryintensely personal. For him the important thing was thatat that time he was able to turn his back on the worldin two very specific ways: he was prepared to give uphis ambitions for a public career and was willing toresign himself to a life of sexual renunciation.Some Early Accounts of Augustine’s ConversionSome of the earliest literary accounts of Augustine’sconversion deserve mention at this point because theytend to support the intellectual side of his conversionto the possible exclusion of the dramatic moral crisisthat he appears to have gone through. The preface to Debeata vita contains one such account. In a dedication toManlius Theodorus, Augustine presents De beata vita as aphilosophical exercise that had long been overdue. Hetells Theodorus that he had delayed his full embrace ofphilosophy for reasons that were less than estimable. Instating the reasons, there is no mention whatsoever of atraumatic experience preceding his conversion. Rather,Augustine refers first to the three classes of peoplewho would be fit for philosophy. He places himself inthe third class, those who, since youth through wastingtheir lives in useless pursuit yearn for a standard,hankering for a homeland they remember only too vaguely.Some return directly or, delayed by some enticements,they wander until they finally make the sailing.Sometimes they even suffer great peril in theirwanderings, like star-gazing (a possible allusion toastrology?), when they ought to be boarding the shipthat would bring them home. However, Augustine believes that all who endeavorto reach the goal must encounter some obstacles. Andhere he alludes to a huge mountain before the port ofcall as befitting the kind of obstacles that one mightwell confront.> Still the greatest obstacle, andAugustine gets a lot of mileage out of this one, ispride. This emphasis on pride as the greatest obstacleto the Truth and the blessed life anticipates his latercritique of the Platonists as a band of philosophers tooproud to submit themselves to the humility of Christ.>Augustine appeals to Theodorus for an assessment of hisadvancement in philosophy. He expects help too as hesubmits this exercise in Christian dialectic to thephilosophical wit of his friend.> Augustine goes on to recount what had happenedsince his nineteenth birthday. He refers to howHortensius fired him with love for wisdom (tanto amorephilosphiae succensus sum), his dalliance withastrology, a nine-year tenure with the Manichees, and alater infatuation with Academic skepticism. He mentionshow the sermons of the Bishop (Ambrose) and Theodorus’words helped him to start thinking about God inspiritual terms rather than the crude corporeal image hehad imagined since his boyhood. Then he notes one mainimpediment to his progress, namely, his desire for awife and the love of honor. He makes the interestingadmission that after reading the Platonists andcomparing them with the scriptures he was all but readyto break his chains except for the esteem of certainpeople of repute.> Finally, he adds that he was rescuedfrom his predicament by the onset of medical problems,chest pains (pectoris dolor), which allowed him to takethe desired rest (optate tranquillitati). Augustine refers to his circumstances atCassiciacum as philosophical leisure. He can chart hiscourse from the time of reading Hortensius in hisnineteenth year through the many turns of his life rightup to Cassiciacum. It is not exactly a straight course,but he believes he has arrived at a point where he candevote himself to philosophy. It appears fromAugustine’s comments here that he was ready to give upboth marriage and honors when he encountered thePlatonists and the scriptures, but held back onlybecause of the possible offense he might cause to somewell-placed individuals in Milan (nisi me nonnullorumhominum existimatio commoueret). But who were thesepeople? And exactly what influence did they exert on theyoung Augustine that he delayed his turn to a life ofphilosophical leisure? Besides, how is this in any wayrelated to the dramatic experience recounted in Bk. 8 ofthe Confessions? The account in De beata vita does not mention theanxiety that led to Augustine’s visit to Simplicianus(Conf. 8.2.3). That part of Augustine’s experience iselided from De beata vita 1.4, although in outline it isvirtually identical with what Augustine offers inConfessions Bk. 7. The only possible allusion to hisanxieties is the statement that he was hampered in hisdesire for philosophical retreat because of the esteemof certain individuals. But even this is too veiled. An equally veiled outline is to be found at ContraAcademicos 2.2.5. Here too Augustine speaks of hislonging for philosophical retirement (2.2.4). Herecalled how Romanianus had consoled him when Patriciusdied and how much that friendship had encouraged himtowards the course that he was now pursuing atCassiciacum. Augustine reminds Romanianus that duringthose difficult days he had always insisted that thetruly happy life was one devoted to philosophicalleisure, though he could not see abandoning his careerbecause so many others depended on him. His longing hadnever been assuaged, and was set ablaze when certainbooks came into his hands. He no longer had any interestin honor, fame or the mitigation of this mortalexistence. He sought better things. And the religion ofhis youth began to draw him back to his goal. Thewritings of Paul set him in the direction he had alwayslonged for.> The fascinating detail about Augustine’sdescription in Contra Academicos is that he conceivesthe entire process, from beginning to end, as aphilosophical pilgrimage. It is after his encounter withPaul that philosophy beckons him home (tunc . . . mihiphilosophiae facies aperuit).> Augustine sets hisexperience in the framework established by Cicero’sHortensius: Catholic Christianity is the way tophilosophy, the love of wisdom. Again Augustine leaves out any mention of adramatic conversion. In fact, the pilgrimage could notbe more straightforward. Here too the only intimation ofdifficulties comes in the oblique reference to the factwhen he got hold of certain books he no longer desiredhonor and fame, and did not care to simply make a fewamends to his life. But that is not saying very much inthe way of drama. Like the narrative in De beata vitathe account in Contra Academicos lacks the palpableregret one finds in Soliloquia, another one of theCassiciacum dialogues, where the subject of Augustine’sdisavowal of marriage is more conspicuous. “What about a wife?” Reason poses this question forAugustine. The response is emphatic. “However much youwish to paint her and to pile up on her every attraction, it will be of no account to me. I intendvery much to be continent.” Augustine goes on:I think that nothing unbars the door to a man’s mindmore than feminine charm and that contact with a woman’sbody which is so essential to having a wife.Consequently, if, as part of his duty, a wise man –whoI have not yet discovered– takes heed to have childrenand has sexual relations on account of this, as far as Iam concerned, it is to be seen as an amazing thing, butno one should imitate him. For these dangers are able tobeguile more than any happiness they might give. Forthis reason it is sufficient, I believe, rightly andprofitably, for the freedom of my soul that I haveordered myself not to desire, not to seek, not to marrya wife.> Augustine’s reasoning is based on the requirementsof the philosophical life. And he finds it amazing thata wise man would consider having children as part of hisduty and would then endure the great peril that issleeping with a woman just for the sake of fulfillinghis obligation. Augustine sees living with a woman as agreat threat to intellectual life, it throws open thesafe of a man’s mind (ex arce deiciat animum virilem).However, reading between the lines the real problemseems to be one of self-control, the ability to guardthe doorway of one’s soul. So even though thephilosophical rationale predominates, it is largelysecondary to the self-legislation that Augustine hasimposed on himself for the good of his soul (utiliterpro libertate animae meae). Astonishingly, Augustine also unabashedly refers towisdom as a woman, a lover, a theme that is at oncebiblical and Plotinian.> And as Reason tries to findout what kind of lover Augustine is a problem emerges.>Despite Augustine’s confidence he is not quite healthyenough for all this talk about embracing wisdom in sucha way that there is nothing that stands between them(nullo interposito velamento quasi nudam). He is soonreminded by Reason that for all his aplomb his life ofcontinence is riddled with difficulties. In the previousdays reflections he had sounded out confidently that awoman’s embrace was too sordid a prospect tocontemplate. And yet while he ruminated with himselfduring the night it all seemed so very different.Augustine continued to be tempted by the bittersweetness (amara suavitas) of what he had so easilydismissed during the day.> “Be silent, I pray, be silent,” Augustine pleads.”Why do you grieve me? Why do you dig and penetrate sodeeply? I am already inured to tears. From now on Ipromise nothing, I presume nothing. Do not interrogateme about these things.”> The dissonance between what hethinks he has achieved and the troubles that stillplague him here in the Soliloquies adumbrate similarconcerns in Bk. 10 of the Confessions. His troubles were far from over as he lay in bed atCassiciacum. Still, Augustine had chosen continence overmarriage and he intended to keep to that choice. Thecontinuing distress about his life of continencedemonstrates the peculiarity of Augustine’s equation ofcontinence and conversion in the months leading up tothe dramatic scene in the garden in Milan (Conf. 8.8.19-8.12.30). The highly textured fashion in which theConfessions portray Augustine’s anxieties is essentialto understanding this equation. Continence and A Possible Conversion to ChristianityAugustine’s conversion narrative proper begins inConfessions Bk. 7. In a retrospective, reminiscent ofthe account in De beata vita, he recounts the variousturns he had taken since adolescence: First theManichees, then astrology, Academic skepticism, Neo-Platonism, and finally Paul and the Scriptures.Chronologically he goes over material that he hasalready described in Bks. 4-6. However, Bk. 7 gives acoherent and tidy account of the various errors fromwhich he was converted, preparing the way for theclimactic overture in Bk. 8. Yet the intellectualodyssey in Bk. 7 seems to have little bearing on thetheme of sexual renunciation which concludes Bk. 8. In Bk. 7 Augustine speaks of the chains in which hewas shackled as he sought desperately to find an answerfor the question about the origin of evil. This washardly an academic issue for him, he was suffering manyinner torments which no one else knew.> Much of thelanguage here tends to link his chains with pride, withthe effect that his intellectual difficulties remain atthe forefront. However, by linking the language ofcensure and self-deprecation with his desire to serveGod and thereby master his body,> he offers a vagueallusion that perhaps beside the managed air ofintellectual problems that befuddle him there is anothermore fundamental problem. When he tries to work his wayto think of God in non-corporeal terms other images seemto shout back, accusing him of being vile and unworthy(indigne et sordide).> Augustine does not begin to unravel his existentialcrisis until the opening lines of Bk. 8, withintellectual certainties on the one hand and avacillating will on the other:Of thy eternal life I was now certain, though I saw itin a figure and as through a glass. Yet I ceased todoubt that there was an incorruptible substance, whencewas all other substances; nor did I now [desire] to bemore certain of Thee, but more steadfast in Thee. Butfor my temporal life, all was wavering, and my heart hadto be purged from the old leaven. The Way, the SaviourHimself, well pleased me, but as yet I shrunk from goingthrough its straitness.> So many people throng to the Church, but Augustinestill leads a secular life (agabam in saeculo). The wayseems too narrow, too constricting. Only now he has lostthe desire for honor and attainment.> So he is doublymiserable, displeased with himself, and his life aburden to bear (oneri mihi). He cannot quite keep awayfrom the Church, but as yet he is hesitant. He stillfinds himself chained, as it were, to his desire for awoman’s embrace (sed adhuc tenaciter conligabar exfemina). He adds that the apostle (that is, Paul) does notforbid him marriage (nec me prohibebat apostolusconiugari) but he finds himself so self-indulgent thathe cannot attain to the higher calling of continence.And then he notes that Truth (that is Jesus) teaches himsimilarly, quoting Matthew 19.12 about those who makethemselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God. All this isto show Augustine in a less than admirable position: helanguishes in his weakness (ego imfirmior). It is analmost unrecognizable image of the man who had soadamantly urged against Alypius that for him marriageand a philosophical life went hand in hand, and moreoverhe could not envision a happy life without a woman’sembrace (Conf. 6.13-14). Here, we catch a glimpse of hisdepression:But I being weak, chose the more indulgent place; andbecause of this alone, was tossed up and down in allbeside, faint and wasted with withering cares, becausein other matters I was constrained against my will toconform myself to a married life, to which I was givenup and enthralled.> By this time Augustine had already been through theexperience of seeing his first concubine sent back toAfrica, and unwilling to observe continence he had takenanother concubine (Conf. 6.15.25). In the meantime hewaited to get married to someone of his own social classand rank. Although marriage was all but certain,Augustine seemed to be wearying of the idea. As we readhim here, he seems to think that marriage isinconsistent with his conversion to Christianity. Heacknowledges that he is not obliged to reject themarried state, but he seems to think that marriage forhim would be an honorable self-indulgence at best. Augustine defines his problem in terms of the manin the parable in the Gospels who finds a pearl of greatprice and sells everything to acquire it. Except that inhis case he hesitates.> And to Simplicianus he goes,desperate for help, desperate for resolution. He expectsto be helped on the way because by dint of age andexperience Simplicianus would know what proper coursesomeone in Augustine’s situation needed to take (undemihi ut proferret uolebam conferentis secum aestusmeos).> Augustine’s emphasis here is on his uncertaintyand lack of resolve (aestus). Sensing the opportunity to tell a conversion storythat would appeal to Augustine’s own situation,Simplicianus speaks about the conversion of his friendMarius Victorinus. Victorinus had had something like atext-book philosophical conversion of the sort thatAugustine should have found congenial to histemperament, that is, if the intellectual odyssey wasall there had been. But the much hoped for conversiondoes not happen. Upon hearing Victorinus’ storyAugustine expresses a wish to imitate him (exarsi adimitandum).> But no sooner has he expressed the wishthan he is brought to his senses to confront the realitythat gnaws at him. We see Augustine again going over thenature of his anxiety, with an added comment that hefound in himself the conflict between the flesh and thespirit spoken of by Paul (Gal 5; Rom 7-8). In hiscommentary on the events of that period Augustine nowsees quite unmistakably the problem of the dividedwill.> He had responded with ardor to the story ofVictorinus’ conversion only to regress. Julian’s ban, which compelled Victorinus to give upteaching, seemed propitious to Augustine because itallowed Victorinus to retire into philosophical leisure.Perhaps this is what Augustine would have wanted: apretext of some sort to help him do what he thoughtneeded doing. After all if he lacked one thing it wasresolve, and anything which could get him there waswelcome. Augustine’s iron will held fast.> The desireto retire from his profession was in any event thelesser of his worries.My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain forme, and bound me. For of a forward will, was a lustmade; and a lust served became custom; and custom notresisted, became necessity. By which links, as it were,joined together (whence I called it a chain) a hardbondage held me enthralled. But that new will which hadbegan to be in me, freely to serve Thee, and to wish toenjoy Thee, O God, the only assured pleasantness, wasnot yet able to overcome my former willfulness,strengthened by age. Thus did my two wills, one new, andthe other old, one carnal, the other spiritual, strugglewith me; and by their discord, undid my soul.> By turns censorious and apologetic Augustinedescribes himself in Conf. Bk. 8 in terms of a conflictbetween two wills: one old, carnal and entrenchedthrough years of habit and the other, new, spiritual andinchoate. Unable to follow the example set by a woman,he had the temerity to do even worse: take anotherconcubine. To say that Augustine acted deplorably mayseem overly harsh. Yet he seems to be passing that kindof judgment on his own past, and in doing so invites hisinterpreters to wonder to what extent the departure ofhis concubine may have been decisive for the terms inwhich he came to understand his possible conversion toChristianity. Exactly when and at what time he came torethink what possible road he might take to becoming afull member of the church is not clear. What is beyonddoubt is that sometime between the departure of hisconcubine and his conversion in 386 Augustine came tolink his possible conversion to Christianity with sexualrenunciation. More specifically, by the time he decidesto pay a visit to Simplicianus (Conf. 8.1.1) Augustinehas made the equation between conversion and continence. For all the anguish he must have endured Augustinewas unusually deliberate. The slow progression towardsresolution may also have prolonged his distress. Hehesitated when he heard the story of Victorinus. Againhe would hesitate when he hears the story of Anthony.The conversion of Victorinus seemed too sedate and toowell-managed a change, despite the fact that culturally,intellectually and professionally Augustine share a gooddeal with him. There is scarcely a hint that Victorinusunderwent anything like the deep emotional andpsychological trauma of Augustine’s. The stories told by Ponticianus were especiallywell suited for Augustine: the decisiveness of those twocourtiers was what he needed. They had renounced theworld for something more enduring. And they had done sojust at the time in their careers when there were plyingthe very corridors of power and prestige in the Empire(Conf. 8.6.15). The effect on their own relations werealmost immediate: the women to whom they were engagedalso renounced the world, dedicating their virginity toGod (dicauerunt etiam ipsae uirginitatem tibi). Since his days as a Manichee, Augustine had neverlost his fascination with exemplary lives. But what hewas hearing now belonged to a different order. Hence thequestions he vaguely remembers posing for Alypius: Whatis wrong with us? What is this you have heard? Theunlearned rise up and take heaven by force, while we(look at us!) with all our learning are wallowing inflesh and blood. Is it because they have gone ahead thatwe are ashamed to follow? And do we feel no shame at noteven following at all?”> Renunciation, continence,imitation and the shame of the learned and weak-willedwho cannot do what the simple (indocti) dare to do:these are the issues around which Augustine’s musingsrevolve. The turning point began after Ponticianus left(Conf. 8.7.18). Augustine turned inward in a mannerreminiscent of his Neo-Platonic contemplations in Bk. 7.What stands out here is the high moral awareness thatAugustine brings to his introspection, which suggeststhat probably the most important thing he learned fromhis encounter with the Neo-Platonists, apart from hisnew found ability to think of non-material, spiritual,entities, was a vocabulary of inwardness and a moralconsciousness which compelled him to even deeperintrospection. Earlier, I made the point that the intellectualproblems had been resolved in favor of Christianity, andAugustine had no difficulty at Conf. 8.1 recognizing hisultimate good in the church. However, in De beata vitahe wrote about delaying his philosophical retirementbecause of the esteem of some individuals in Milan, andhe related that delay also to his desire for a wife.Before going any further I should like to suggest onepossible way of construing this aspect of Augustine’sproblems in the context of the anxieties brought on by apossible marriage. Having arrived at the conviction that Christianconversion required of him a life of sexualrenunciation, Augustine recognized the need to abrogatethe marriage he had all but contracted. In thissituation only the courtesies of the aristocraticcircles in Milan prevented him from doing what hethought necessary. It is highly doubtful that Augustinecould have stayed in Milan after annulling the marriage,even if he had not dreamed of a philosophicalretirement. It is doubtful too that the MilaneseChristian aristocracy could endure what would have beenperceived as an affront, a slight by the youngrhetorician who had sought their patronage, and from anAfrican no less. In a world so conscious of social rank and theprobity of one’s actions towards one’s patrons it wouldbe reasonable for Augustine to worry about hisreputation at this point. One even suspects that theapparently shrewd (though not altogether untruthful) wayin which he resigned his chair may have been part of ageneral desire not to elicit any undue attention in hisdirection (Conf. 9.2.2-9.2.4). It would have beenexciting to renounce rhetoric the way Victorinus haddone, but for Augustine such a public disavowal of theold ways would have been too flaunting. He had notreached anyway near the status and reputation ofVictorinus (another African) to go through so public arejection of the old ways. Besides, turning down aproper marriage would not commend Augustine to the verywell-connected families in Milan. A quiet retreat wasreasonable and much to be desired.> These considerations may have added to Augustine’sanxiety, but it still leaves out why he made theinextricable link between Christian conversion andsexual renunciation in the first place. Getting marriedneed not have been so problematic unless Augustine had

become convinced that there was something inherentlywrong and unchristian about getting married in hiscurrent condition. Although De beata vita 1.4 impliesthat reading the Platonists had formed in him theconviction to disavow marriage, it does not account forthe strength and force of that conviction. It is onething to be suddenly enamored of the idea of totalsexual renunciation because of the influence of Neo-Platonic spirituality, it is quite another thing to beso convinced of this that it becomes a test of one’sintegrity. Augustine, the onetime champion of a life ofphilosophy which included marriage, must have hadsomething more fundamental on his mind in order to evencontemplate breaking an engagement to a daughter of theMilanese Christian aristocracy. Whatever it was, it cutvery close to his being, and so required a drasticchange in orientation. Continence and Augustine’s Inner CircleThe language of continence appears in one very tellingreference to Ambrose. The mood is distant and almostacademic. From his vantage point as a listener ofAmbrose’s sermons Augustine evaluates the MilaneseBishop’s presence. Augustine does not seem to have foundAmbrose’s example relevant to his own life at the time–except perhaps in the negative sense that he felt astrange sympathy for the man he admired but did not knowpersonally, whose only trouble, he thought, was havingto endure a life of sexual continence (caelibatus tantumeius mihi laboriosus videbatur).> Of Ambrose’s celibacyhe has only naive pity. Even when Augustine talks about the danger that hadengulfed him, a danger that Ambrose knew nothing of,Augustine appears to be talking of something other thanincontinence. What he has in mind when he firstencounters the visage of Ambrose is the skepticism ofthe Academics (Conf. 6.3.3). Having arrived in Rome adisconsolate Manichaean auditor, he now found himself awholly disaffected Manichee and a skeptic. Shortlythereafter the Manichees would lose their tenuous holdon him, but the Catholics had not yet won. It is in thisstate of great uncertainty that Augustine sat inAmbrose’s church. No longer a Manichee, but not yet aCatholic he was for the taking. While the Manichees hadmade him a materialist and something of a libertine inrecognizing his responsibility for his own evils, theskepticism of the Academics> went to the root. Theyremoved the very foundations of knowing. For the wiseman there were to be no certainties, a pragmatism ofsuspended judgment was all one could hope for. Augustinewould continue for the better part of his lifenegotiating the dialectic between reason and authoritybecause of all this.> This and other questions he wouldhave liked to pose to Ambrose who had very little timefor the young rhetorician. All the same, Ambrose’s possible influence in theequation of conversion and sexual renunciation may havecome in another way. It is more than likely that whileAugustine may have considered Ambrose’s celibacy ananomaly, that very anomaly may have been part of thecomplex of impressions that moved him to the position hecame to hold eventually.> As we catch Augustinepondering the kind of inner conflicts that might wellconfound a man of Ambrose’s reputation and stature wecan sense already that the Bishop’s personal life isbeginning to be more than just a curiosity.> And it isnot surprising that when he came to found his ownmonastic community later on in Hippo Regius Augustinewould invoke Ambrose on many occasions. Possidius offersrare glimpses of how much Augustine referred toAmbrose’s monastic example.> All this is the stuff oflater years, no doubt. As far as Augustine’s pre-conversion experience isconcerned it is difficult to pinpoint exactly in whatway he appropriated Ambrose’s example. Nor can we evenbe sure how Augustine would have responded to Ambrose’ssermons in those moments when he presented sexualrenunciation as the ideal of the Christian experience.> A lost work of Ambrose’s, De sacramentoregenerationis siue de philosophia, a copy of whichAugustine had been able to obtain for study at about thetime that he was writing the Confessions seems a mostlikely candidate to have influenced Augustine’sposition, if he had known it prior to his conversion.>The argument of the work would have met Augustine’sproblem head on: “the way of the philosophers is not thetrue way, it is not enough to know the truth, one musthave in addition sacramental membership in the Christianchurch.”> It is an unusual argument. Moreover, Ambroseupped the ante.Ambrose found it polemically necessary and useful tocounter the claims of the philosophers to have achieveda higher standard of moral life by their chastity;’continence is the pedestal on which right worshiprests’, says Ambrose.> For someone in Augustine’s position Ambrose’srobust, “masculine” Christianity would have beencongenial if a bit too rigorous in its aims: he whowould take on true philosophy, he who would venture onthe road to Christian philosophy, ought to prove by hislife of continence the superiority of Christianity.>Construed this way Ambrose’s De sacramentoregenerationis siue philosophia would reach Augustine asanother “firing-me-up-for-philosophy” book, along thelines of Cicero’s Hortensius. Or, failing that,Augustine could have received it like the Platonicorumlibros which had precipitated one of his manyconversions. That Augustine does not mention Ambrose’s text inthe Confessions is a bit unusual since he has been atpains to indicate his philosophical and theologicaldebts, not only to Cicero, but to the Platonists, andeven other lesser figures who had been instrumental inturning him away from one error or another. What ismore, he does not overlook Ambrose’s influence inhelping him gain a better handle on the problem ofinterpreting the Bible. In addition, he speaks aboutcontinence in reference to Ambrose and appears to havebeen naively unimpressed, so it would be very odd tohave taken the decisive actions in response to Ambrose’stext without acknowledging it in any way. Had he beenmoved towards continence and baptism by this lost work,it would have been a fitting denouement to his earlierassessment of Ambrose’s celibacy. The absence of anyreference to this lost work in the Confessions istherefore a bit of a problem. But there is something else. Augustine rarely, ifever, uses the superiority of Christian asceticism as anargument against the philosophers. He reserves much ofthat ammunition for the Manichees, the first installmentof which comes in De moribus ecclesiae Catholicae. Asfor the philosophers, and the Platonists in particular,he continues to praise them even as late as the writingof De civitate Dei. His main objection against them istheir pride and lack of humility, not theirunwillingness or inability to undertake rigorousasceticism. When he does criticize the philosophers, aswe find him doing in De civitate Dei, Augustine chidesthem for having acquiesced to the religious practices ofRoman society despite the high claims of theirphilosophies. It would be an intriguing idea if indeedAugustine is taking up a challenge put forth by Ambrosefor those who would seek the happy life. However, theunfolding of the narrative in the Confessions seems topoint in a direction away from Ambrose. There had always been the personal example ofAlypius. If there was a model that Augustine had hadbefore him for a good part of his life it was Alypius.Part of the Alypius portrait in the Confessions preparesthe way for the whole problem of marriage, sexualrenunciation and the desire for philosophical rest. Inthe midst of all their concerns about worldly honors(Conf. 6.6) Augustine and his friends sought a way oflife, a true guide for their troubled souls. They hadhoped to find it in philosophical leisure. The planfaltered because they were sure the women would notagree to the arrangement. Augustine tells us that Alypius prevented him frommarrying because they feared losing the intimacy oftheir friendship.> But in his studied intransigenceagainst Alypius Augustine continued to maintain that thepursuit of wisdom did not rule out a woman’s love oreven a wife. Alypius almost lost his ground whencuriositas got the better of him, trying to figure outexactly what made Augustine’s desire for a woman such anecessity.> If Ambrose’s De philosophia helped in anyway it brought Augustine back to the views Alypius hadalways maintained. It is a measure of Augustine’s stubborn will thathe could keep on living the way he did with Alypius fora friend and Monnica for a mother. While Alypius wasmaking no headway and faltering while trying tounderstand Augustine, Monnica’s arrival in Milan wouldprove more precipitous. When she arrived she sawAugustine nearer her Catholic faith than ever she hadseen him, and so meant to help her son on the way.Marriage seemed a good idea to make Augustine’s passageless turbulent. Monnica knew better than to suggestcontinence as the way for Augustine. Augustine’s concubine would be the casualty ofMonnica’s intervention. Augustine had lived with hisconcubine for about fourteen years in virtual defianceof his mother. When Monnica took the lead in arrangingfor a proper marriage for him the period of Augustine’sdefiance appeared to have come to an abrupt end. Thelanguage describing his attitude towards Monnica’sintervention are much too passive, suggesting thatAugustine may not have reached this judgment on his owninitiative, and would probably not have taken decisivesteps without the urging of his mother.> With the departure of his concubine a mist descendson Augustine’s soul. In this state of uncertainty abouta possible marriage Augustine asks his mother to pray toGod for a vision about the future he was embarking on.What else explains Augustine’s anxiety about marriagethan the desire for dreams?> His youthful fascinationwith astrology may have reared its ugly head as hesought desperately to know his future. Monnicaapparently did have some dreams but they were of such anature that she did not think much of them. Augustine,in his usual sense of tact, does not say what they were;only that Monnica assured her that she could always tellwhich dreams were from God and which ones were simplythe products of her own anxieties, fears and imaginings.Perhaps one should not be surprised at Monnica here.What is surprising is that Augustine sought suchassurances. And it appears to be the first indication oftrouble (Conf. 6.13.23). Augustine’s depression continued. The helplesscreature of habit had meant to weather the storm bytaking another concubine, as he waited to be married.But he found himself deeply troubled. By the time wemeet him at Conf. Bk. 8.6.13 he is in the throes of hisanxieties, distraught over the prospect of having toconsider a life of continence as an essential aspect tohis possible conversion to Christianity.> The issue nowis whether Augustine will make the choice forcontinence. Continence and the Portrait of a Nameless WomanIn a curious transposition, much in keeping with hisearlier depiction of wisdom as a lover, Augustineportrays continence as a woman beckoning him to a lifeof renunciation. But, Continence is not alone in herenticements. Augustine’s former loves are just assolicitous, continually reminding him of his past,whispering in his ears, taunting him that he just doesnot have what it takes to venture on a life of chastity.”Can you live without us?” they cry.> Augustine drags his feet, hesitates, ponders, theninches a bit closer to his goal. Eventually Continencesucceeds. Her inducements are more appealing toAugustine: “In the direction toward which I had turnedmy face and still trembled to take the last step, Icould see the chaste dignity of Continence; she was calmand serene, cheerful without wantonness, and it was intruth and honor that she was enticing me to come to herwithout hesitation, stretching out to receive and toembrace me with those holy hands of hers, full of suchmultitudes of good examples.”> Then he goes on to pointout the examples that Continence showed him: men andwomen, young and old, virgins and widows who had devotedthemselves to her. Yet it should not have been such agreat number. After all, Augustine knew very little indeed of thevarious traditions of Christian asceticism prior toPonticianus’ visit. He came to know about Anthony ofEgypt from what Ponticianus had told him. Even Ambrose’scommunity in Milan was news just received. So theexamples are at best second-hand, based on Ponticianus,and perhaps Augustine’s recollections of certainindividuals he may have seen in Milan. The example ofrenunciation closest to him which had any pretensionstowards asceticism was that of his concubine, the motherof Adeodatus. If continence is presenting herself as awoman and showing Augustine examples of those who havechosen her way, what more likely candidate for such fairthan the woman who had made a vow of sexual renunciationafter years of living with Augustine? But note whathappens at Conf. 8.7.18 and 8.8.19, just when Augustinebegins to consider the implications of what he had heardfrom Ponticianus:So I was being gnawed at inside, and as Ponticianus wenton with his story I was lost and overwhelmed in aterrible kind of shame. When the story was over and thebusiness about which he had come had been settled hewent away, and I retired into myself. . . . And nowinside my house great indeed was the quarrel which I hadstarted with my soul in that bedroom of my heart whichwe shared together.> The language evokes the image of something like theinner chamber of a Roman house (cubiculo nostro, cordemeo). Whether all this is intended to evoke the memoryof his concubine is hard to say. Yet one cannot overlookthe language in which Augustine describes his relationswith the mother of his son. Augustine’s words reveal astrangely disquieting dignity, especially because theconcubine appears in contrast to Monnica. At no point inhis account about Monnica’s life does Augustine’s motherlook so unendearing. If modern readers have shown remarkable sympathyfor the mother of Adeodatus and have tended to seeAugustine (and his mother) as mean and heartless that isdue largely to Augustine himself. It is his text, hisportrait of the nameless woman, and his juxtaposition ofthose two women that engenders sympathy for the one andsurprise at the other. On the scale of imperfectionMonnica seems to be at the high end with Augustinesomewhere in the middle; confused, dejected and putupon. Augustine does not say “I broke off myrelationship with her.”> That at least would imply thatwhile he was in great anguish over the decision he didit himself. What we read is: “she was torn from me.”Passive, weak-willed and forlorn, all Augustine can sayis that “my heart clung to her.” Augustine’s words aremuch too emotional, and may even be a bit of anembarrassment for someone who should have knownbetter.> The description of the separation also bearsall the marks of Monnica’s handiwork. However one looksat it Augustine points the finger of blame at Monnicaand also at himself. What do we make of all this? An advancingrhetorician who is saddened at losing a concubine. For alate antique audience this would be overly dramatic.Many a man had gotten rid of a concubine and no oneseemed (except the women of course) the worse for it. Tohis contemporaries –if we understand the tragic worldof late Roman marriage protocol– Augustine should havefelt nothing of the loss he describes. For him to decrythat “she was separated from me because she was thoughtto be an obstacle to my marriage and my heart whichclung to her was dripping blood” is a bit too pathetic apicture of the young Augustine.> There is too muchanguish here. And to his contemporaries and his modernreaders he is difficult to comprehend. Whether or not weshould follow some translators in saying that Augustineloved her58 is another matter. Augustine describes heras simply, “the woman I was in the habit of sleepingwith” (qua cubare solitus eram). Augustine gives no indication that on his own hehad quite worked out in his mind that this was the causehe was going to take: marriage and then baptism. Nor isit clear that he had considered how a possible Christianconversion would impose on his relationship with hisconcubine. Had he ever thought he could take her intothe Church? Would Ambrose condone such practice when hewas holding up celibacy as the ideal?> In an environment where married Christians feltlike second-class citizens it is highly doubtful thatAugustine would have felt secure in thinking that hecould keep his concubine. However, if he had nointention of receiving baptism and wanted to wait aslong as it was possible then he could well remain on thefringes of the Christian community for a very long timeindeed. Ironically, the same Augustine who could not beconstrained in his career by an early marriage in hisyouth found himself in his early thirties consideringmarriage as the only way into the life of the Church. Inboth instances Monnica’s wishes predominate. Earlier shehad unwittingly acquiesced to Augustine’s profligacy,now she took the decisive steps to get him married onlyto watch her son slip in his tenuous steps towardmarriage and Christian baptism. The impending legal marriage, the departure of theconcubine, and the taking of another woman all madeAugustine’s situation unbearable. And Augustine was nothelped by the vow of his first concubine that she wouldnot give herself to another man. It would have beeneasier on a man of such introspection if she had notmade such a pledge. But she did, and it placed Augustinein a dubious position. She returned to Africa, but theunhappy, impatient, and weak-willed Augustine was inagony.I, in my misery, could not follow the example of awoman. I had two years to wait until I could have thegirl to whom I was engaged, and I could not bear thedelay. So, since I was not so much a lover of marriageas a slave of lust, I found another woman for myself –not, of course, as a wife. In this way my soul’s diseasewas fed and kept alive so that it might reach thedomination of matrimony just as strong as before, orstronger, and still the slave of unbroken habit. Nor wasthe wound healed which had been made by cutting off myprevious [concubine]. It burned, it hurt intensely, andthen it festered, and if the pain became duller, itbecome more desperate.> And so Augustine began in search of a cure for thedisease of his soul. Notice the contrast betweenAdeodatus’ mother’s vow of continence (not to giveherself to another man) and Augustine’s impatience andinability to follow the woman’s example. Whether she hadintended to influence Augustine in this way we will never know. At the same time there must have been a noteof desperation in the concubine’s vow. She had arrivedin Milan probably just about the time when Augustine hadset up house and had to leave shortly after Monnica’sarrival. In many ways it would have been better not tohave come to Milan at all. Although it would appear that Monnica had displacedthe mother of Adeodatus, the taking of another concubineby Augustine raised questions about how far Monnicacould determine the manner in which Augustine enteredthe Church. At this juncture control slips from both ofthem. Monnica had arranged a marriage, the firstconcubine had been sent packing, but Augustine was stillsleeping with a woman who was not his wife. Monnica’s worries may have intensified here, butAugustine says nothing about them. The willingness withwhich she accepts Augustine’s final act of conversion(Conf. 8.12.30) not only to God but to continencesuggests that Monnica had been aware of the terms inwhich Augustine framed his possible conversion toChristianity. His ongoing prodigality made Augustine’sfidelity in a monogamous relationship with the mother ofAdeodatus for those fourteen years or so look much moredecent. Augustine’s youthful prayer “give me continencebut not yet” (Conf. 8.7.17) seemed an apt description ofhis current condition, but in fact it belonged toanother kind of experience altogether. For at that timeAugustine had not had several years of living infidelity with a woman. A number of interesting questions emerge at thispoint. If an attempt had not been made to get himmarried properly, would Augustine have stumbled on theidea that he had a terrible wound for which he needed acure? Would he have linked Christian conversion withsexual renunciation had he been able to enter the foldof the Church with his concubine? And what would havebeen the shape of Augustine’s views on human sexuality?These are speculations to be sure, but they warrantreflection because of the variegated ways in whichAugustine’s personal experiences enter into histheological thought. This particular episode in Augustine’s lifedetermined a few important aspects of his later life.The mother of Adeodatus had not only pledged herself toa life of continence, she had made the vow to God, thesame God the young rhetorician wanted to be convertedto. Augustine was left to deal with the implications ofhis concubine’s vow. The bonds of their relationshipwould become an issue. When Augustine came to write his treatise “On theGood of Marriage” in 401, soon after finishing theConfessions he had occasion to reflect on a situationthat in every way recalled his own circumstances withthe mother of his son. The language, sentiments, andallusions are almost certainly self-referential:This problem often arises: if a man and a woman livetogether without being legitimately joined, not to havechildren, but because they could not observe continence;and if they have agreed between themselves to haverelations with no one else, can this be called amarriage? Perhaps: but only if they had resolved tomaintain until death the good faith which they hadpromised themselves, even though this union did not reston a desire to have children. . . . But if one or theother of these conditions is lacking, I cannot see howtheir alliance can be called a marriage. Indeed, if aman takes a woman only for a time, until he has foundanother who better suits his rank and fortune: and if hemarries this woman, as being of the same class, this manwould commit adultery in his heart, not towards the onehe had married, but toward her with whom he had oncelived without being legitimately married. The same canbe said for the woman . . . . Nevertheless, if she wasfaithful to him, and if, after his marriage to another,she herself gave no thought to marriage, but abstainedfrom all sexual relations, I would not dare to accuseher of adultery –even though she may have been guilty,in living with a man who was not her husband.> It is instructive that in his assessment hereAugustine exonerates the concubine who abstains from allsexual relations after she has been let go by a man towhom she was not properly married. He would not dare toaccuse her of adultery. And indeed Augustine did notdare to accuse the mother of Adeodatus, and spoke ratherof the example she had set him (Conf. 6.15.25). If even an inkling of any of this understandingformed part of Augustine’s thinking between the time ofhis concubine’s departure and his conversion in 386 wewould have the surest explanation of Augustinesituation: a proper marriage to another woman who fit”his rank and fortune” would imply in Augustine’s mindthat he was living in adultery. This would be sufficientto bring Augustine to the position where he came tobelieve that continence was a necessary corollary to hisconversion to Christianity. The almost cursory reference to the example set bythe concubine (ego infelix nec feminae imitator) makesit all too easy to overlook this model of continence inAugustine’s inner circle. Augustine could see in her actthe resolve he found terribly lacking in himself. Theyhad lived together. On the question of habits they wouldbear the same burden. The woman’s decision to becelibate for the rest of her life, demonstrated whatAugustine was unable to do for himself or for another’ssake. Living with a new concubine and “sinning all thewhile” (interea mea peccata multiplicabantur)>Augustine seems to have recognized the necessity of adecisive act of renunciation. The example of the twocourtiers of Trier would not be lost on him. There had always been Alypius, of course. ButAlypius appeared to Augustine as something of adifferent species, so that even when Alypius follows himin conversion Augustine can still say that Alypius issimply following what is right in his character(congruentissimo suis moribus).> Alypius knew nothingof the chains formed by habit. For Augustine habit hadled directly to his chains. So we come full circle: theman who had earlier looked at Ambrose with pity arrivedat a point where he could now look on the Bishop ofMilan as the more fortunate, because he was not bound byany chains. Much of what I have tried to suggest here is thatAugustine’s emerging conviction cannot be properlyaccounted for without recognizing the role of his firstconcubine’s vow to continence. The language of adulterywhich shows up in De bono coniugali 5.5 makes sense onlyif Augustine came to recognize, quite apart from theallowances which Roman society accorded men and theirconcubines, that the mother of Adeodatus had been inevery sense his wife. Consequently, to go through withthe legal marriage to the Milanese girl would be addingmore sin to an already ignoble record. There is also a pastoral issue worth noting.Augustine would not have had the integrity, nor would hehave had the audacity to chide the men in hiscongregation over and over again about theirinfidelities, about their adulterous lives (because someinsisted on keeping concubines), if Augustine hadshrugged off his relationship with his concubine assomething excusable and therefore incidental to hisconversion to Christianity.> Perhaps, if the concubinehad not been dismissed on the pretext that she was animpediment to Augustine’s conversion then Augustinecould have approached his possible conversion toChristianity on slightly different terms. But there ispatent irony all over this story. Augustine coulddissolve the relationship with the mother of Adeodatuson only two grounds. One, if he wanted to live a life ofcontinence, and two, if he wished to marry someone elsebefitting his status. There were no other options.Consequently, when the concubine chose continence, shehad unwittingly committed Augustine to follow suit, thatis, if Augustine wanted to be converted to Christianity.Under the circumstances his belated response was all butcertain. If he wanted to be converted to Christianity hecould not go through with the marriage because thatwould mean living in adultery. Augustine took the onlydoorway into the Church left open for him. Vovens Tibi and the Idea of Conversion in the ConfessionsThus far I have referred in various ways to conversionwithout defining exactly what I mean. In this I havebeen following Augustine’s usage. I have also assumedall along that the concubine’s vow and Augustine’sdescription of it should be recognized as a conversionstory, one of the many conversion narratives that dotthe landscape of the Confessions. Now I will attempt tomake a case for it. It may be objected that the claim toconversion for his concubine rests on a simple vow, butsuch an objection would be presuming on what conversionis in the first place. The crucial question to ask iswhat Augustine means to convey by vovens tibi? Augustine’s idea of his own conversion seemsobvious enough because at Conf. 8.12.30 he says soexplicitly (conuertisit enim me ad te). This notion ofconversion is the most common use of conuersio in theConfessions. It is God who is doing the turning. In agood many of these instances Augustine is either quotingfrom scripture or commenting on the various turns whichGod gave to his life, sometimes over and against hisbest wishes at the time.> Van Fleteren’s count of conversion narratives inthe Confessions includes such stories as Augustine’sencounter with Cicero’s Hortensius (Conf. 3.4.7-8),Alypius’ conversion from the Carthaginian circus (Conf.6.7.11-12), Augustine’s conversion from astrology (Conf.7.6.8-10), and Monnica’s decision not to drink wine(Conf. 9.8.19).> We could even add to the countAlypius’ change of mind about his Appollinarianism whilein Milan (Conf. 7.19.25), or more to the point, the muchearlier narrative about Augustine’s boyhood friend whoreceived baptism when he was deathly ill, had aremission, and then died shortly thereafter whileAugustine was away (Conf. 4.4.8). This last example, besides offering a witness tothe practice of baptism for those who were thought to benear death, greatly affected Augustine in another way.The change that seemed to have come over his friend, whocould not endure Augustine’s mocking of the rite, offersan interesting example of what may well have been acrisis conversion. That he died a few days afterwardscut the story short. Still, Augustine appears to havebeen greatly shattered by the alienation that enteredtheir friendship, an alienation that deepened with thedeath of his friend. There is the anguish of unfinishedbusiness –things that should have been said that werenever said– which linger in Augustine’s grief over hisfriend (Conf. 4.4.9ff.). Augustine the mocker stood onthe outside looking in on an experience in which hecould not share. Without knowing what had been done to him –thiswas the point Augustine had tried to stress bybelittling the rite– Augustine’s boyhood friend seemedto have changed his own attitude toward baptism when heregained consciousness.> In recounting this experienceAugustine pits his own foolishness against the sudden,unexpected, and newfound freedom of his friend (mirabiliet repentina libertate), who found the voice and theauthority to take Augustine to task. This was probablythe surest indication to the young Augustine thatsomething had taken place.> Something astonishing(mirabili) had happened. To recognize a conversion inthis earlier narrative about Augustine’s boyhood friendis to inch a bit closer to what one can expect in thestory of his concubine. There are far too manysimilarities between the two stories. What do I mean? First, there is the simple factthat the central characters in both stories (Conf. 4.4.8and 6.15.25) are nameless, but this is the leastinteresting of the similarities. We never find out thename of Augustine’s boyhood friend, nor are we toldanywhere in Augustine’s corpus the name of hisconcubine. Second, each story deals with a crisissituation for the protagonist and for Augustine too.Third, in each instance, the precipitating event leadsto some unfinished business between Augustine and thepersons involved. In the former, baptism creates abarrier between Augustine and his friend, in the latter,Augustine’s impending marriage and the forced separationfrom the concubine is itself the barrier. In death hisboyhood friend is lost to Augustine and we never findout whether Augustine knew what happened to hisconcubine or whether he even cared to find out. Fourth, God enters the respective stories atprecisely the points where Augustine is alienated. Hisboyhood friend receives baptism and thereby enters theChurch, the concubine makes a vow to God to live a lifeof continence. In either case the other person involvedadopts a rite and a form of life that Augustine mocks oris incapable of imitating. It is tempting to think thatAugustine does not get reconciled to either his boyhoodfriend or his concubine until the day of his conversionin 386 when, in a curious way, he embraces continenceand prepares himself for baptism. Fifth, in eachcircumstance we find Augustine inconsolable. He sheds alot of tears in the aftermath of his friend’s death andafter the departure of his concubine. When his frienddied he could endure his native town no longer and fledto Carthage to overcome his misery, plunged headlonginto new friendships yet found no rest. Similarly, whenhis concubine departs he tries to soften the blow byseeking the embrace of another woman. Instead what hediscovers is a misery much deeper and more intolerable. The similarities between the stories suggestsperhaps that if there is a crisis conversion in theformer, made explicit because Augustine’s boyhood friendreceived baptism and appears to have accepted theimplications of the rite, there may also have been acrisis conversion of another kind in the vow of hisconcubine. Beyond this we may not press too far. Butthere is another parallel worth remembering. When thetwo courtiers of Trier renounced the world in theirconversion to Christianity they left their respectivefianc es in marital limbo. And what did the two womendo? As Augustine tells us, they followed suit,dedicating their chastity to God (dicauerunt etiam ipsaeuirginitatem tibi). In this respect the dicauerunt . . .tibi of the two betrothed