This is a letter I wrote for the February 6th parish bulletin
From time to time you might see me wear my 1967 graduation ring from Monsignor Bonner High School. I like to wear it and would wear it more often, but it’s kind of big and clunky. One reason I have been wearing it more in the past few months is because it bears on one side of the stone an image of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
On the other side of the ring, among a whole bunch of other things, there is a short line from one of my favorite prayers by St. Augustine: “Noverim te,” Latin for “That I might know You.” Here is the complete prayer:
Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know Thee,
And desire nothing save only Thee.
Let me do everything for the sake of Thee.
Let me humble myself and exalt Thee.
Let me think of nothing except Thee.
Let me die to myself and live in Thee.
Let me accept whatever happens as from Thee.
Let me banish self and follow Thee,
And ever desire to follow Thee.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in Thee,
That I may deserve to be defended by Thee.
Let me fear for myself, let me fear Thee,
And let me be among those who are chosen by Thee.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in Thee.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of Thee.
Let me cling to nothing save only to Thee,
And let me be poor because of Thee.
Look upon me, that I may love Thee.
Call me that I may see Thee,
And forever enjoy Thee. Amen.
The path of Augustine’s life, both before and after his conversion, often involved striving to know himself. Eventually he came to realize that knowing God and knowing himself well were intimately linked together. By “knowing himself,” Augustine is not talking about navel-gazing. He learned that he needed to have a realistic idea of who he was, his strengths and his weaknesses – and also his blind spots. He came to know that trying to deceive himself, trying to fool himself about the kind of a person he was would stagnate his growth as a human being and get in the way of growing in the knowledge of God. For you and me too, those two parts of the first sentence of Augustine’s prayer are permanently linked: “Lord, that I may know myself; that I may know Thee."
The use of the word “hate” in the third line might surprise us. I don’t think he means to hate himself as one might hate an enemy (whom Christ himself, after all tells us to love), but instead prays that he might be able to constantly choose Christ over himself.
This wonderful prayer of St. Augustine shows us the desire that he had to abandon his will and his life to Jesus. It might take us a while to “grow into” this prayer, but it can be one of many valuable tools in our efforts to grow spiritually and to follow Jesus more closely.
Keep warm and stay safe!