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TITLE Paths to Holiness in Saint Augustine - Marriage and Consecrated Life

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Moral Theology

DESCRIPTION This study-unit will focus on two ways of lived spirituality, married and consecrated life. In the first section we will study Saint Augustine’s texts which talk about monastic spirituality, namely "The Rule", and "On the Work of the Monks", as well as other texts where the saint speaks about this subject. We will see how life in common and true friendship are basic concepts in Augustine’s monastic spirituality.

In the second section we will study Holy Virginity, Marriage and Widowhood. These three aspects in the theology of Saint Augustine are deeply interrelated. We will consider Augustine’s teaching on marriage, primarily, as it has had an enormously immense influence on the history of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the topic and the other interrelated two topics. The iter will discuss Augustine’s earliest attitudes to the topics before his conversion (387 CE), and up to the Confessions (397 CE). Then the topic will be considered from the perspective of his new reflections on the themes around the year 401 CE, the year of the composition of De bono coniugali (On the good of marraige) and De sancta uirginitate (On holy virginity), engaged as he was against a new opponent, the monk Jovinian. The themes will finally be studied against the background of the wake of Augustine’s anti-Pelagian controversy.

Study-unit Aims:

The aims of this study-unit are:
1) To present Saint Augustine’s spirituality of monastic life, consecrated life, marriage and widowhood;
2) To explain his idea of monastic spirituality, and how this was shaped by his personal experience;
3) To show how humility is more fundamental than virginity;
4) The good of marriage in Augustine’s theology.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- appreciate how for Saint Augustine life in common, on the example of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, was the basis for his idea of monastic life;
- understand the value of true friendship in Saint Augustine’s thought and spirituality and its relation to monastic life;
- recognise how notwithstanding the fact that Saint Augustine highly valued holy virginity, just the same he holds that a humble married person pleases God more than a proud virgin;
- have a clear insight on Saint Augustine’s theology and spirituality of marriage.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- make a critical assessment of key texts of Augustine on monastic life, consecrated life, married life and widowhood;
- to contextualise Saint Augustine’s spirituality about monastic life, consecrated life, married life and widowhood;
- surpass stereotypes which depict Saint Augustine as someone who didn’t value married life.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texs:
- BENNETT, JANA, MARGUERITE, Water is Thicker than Blood. An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness, University Press, Oxford 2008.
- LAWLESS, GEORGE, Augustine of Hippo and His Monastic Rule, Oxford, 1987.

Supplementary Readings:
- CAVADINI, JOHN C., “Feeling Right: Augustine on the Passions and Sexual Desire,” in Augustinian Studies 36.1 (2005), pp. 195-217.
- CAVADINI, JOHN C., “The Sacramentality of Marriage in the Fathers” from:
- LAWLESS, GEORGE, “Three Historical Questions about the Rule of Saint Augustine,” in Word and Spirit: A Monastic Review, 9, 1987, pp. 53-64.
- VAN BAVEL, TARSICIUS, The Rule of Saint Augustine: Introduction and Commentary, London, 1984.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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