Christians in Times of Catastrophe: St. Augustine’s City of God

A Moderated Conversation on The City of God with Jennifer Frey, Russell Hittinger, and Fr. Michael Sherwin, O.P.

It was my pleasure to participate in this moderated discussion on the relevance of St. Augustine’s City of God for thinking about the problems that define our current historical moment. Not surprisingly, it is my view that now, more than ever, we need to be looking for wisdom in our rich philosophical and theological heritage.

Augustine wrote the City of God in response to the sack of Rome in 410. In this monumental work, Augustine outlines his vision of two cities founded on two loves–the earthly city, founded on the inordinate love of self, and the heavenly city, founded on the love of God. The sack of Rome is but a pretext for Augustine to explore the only two great catastrophes of man: the fall from grace and the crucifixion of Christ. Augustine will argue that we must take both catastrophes to be part of God’s providential order.

Augustine urges us to try to be virtuous so that our loves are well-ordered; this virtue allows us to enjoy the goods of this world, but in the knowledge that they cannot perfect or complete us. Augustine stresses that ultimately we are pilgrims in the earthly city–our true home and our true happiness lies elsewhere.

In our discussion, we review the structure of the book and Augustine’s purposes in writing it. We talk about evil, suffering, providence, exile, virtue, and grace. I hope you enjoy our conversation