“Things take the time they take. Don’t worry. How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?”
This is the first poem in Mary Oliver’s recent collection “Felicity.” In just a few words she tells a whole story. Becoming takes the time it takes. Some find meaning and purpose for their lives at a young age. Others, like Augustine of Hippo (354-430), traveled many roads before coming to faith. He was a brilliant scholar and achieved academic success. He was intrigued with the problem of evil, but at the time of this study he didn’t adhere to Christianity. Later as an adult looking back on his life he discovered something was missing. Meaning for his life was not found by grasping after empty pleasure.
St. Monica, Augustine’s mother, devoted much of her life praying for her son. Despite his worldly success she prayed that he would give up his amoral conduct and be
converted to Christianity. This happened in 387 at the age of thirty-three. He was later ordained a priest and became the Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa. His learning, leadership skills, and keen theological savvy produced in him one of the finest theologians and “Doctors of the Church” of all time.
No doubt Monica worried about her son before his transition as many mothers become anxious for the welfare of their children. Yet, if we view this scenario from an extended time period, we observe that all of us are works in progress. Some of us come to faith at an early age and for others “things take the time they take.” I imagine that from God’s perspective speed is not essential in order to be recipients of God’s love. God has an eternity of time. Our search for a glimpse of truth and beauty may be swift or delayed. In either case we are upheld by God’s love from birth to the moment of rebirth and beyond. For those who struggle, including ourselves, we can join in prayer as Monica did for her son that God’s blessings will be revealed in us and in those for whom we pray. From that perspective we need not worry. In God’s time all will be well.