A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


The Bishop of Hippo, Floria Aemilia & The Bitch
Sunday, May 06, 2007

St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas are really the two most important saints of the Catholic Church in reference to doctrine. Aquinas modified and adapted Aristotle's concept of the unmoved mover as his "proof" of the existence of God. I always saw God as a very special bowling ball that somehow moved all the other bowling balls in a row (as they are automatically returned) without It moving at all. The three finger holes on the ball are sheer coincidence and have no bearing to the Holy Trinity.

I have told Rebecca the story of St Augustine thinking on the problem of the Holy Trinity while walking on a beach. "How could God be three distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and somehow all be (and certainly not share as that would be heresy) the nature of God?" He spotted a little boy (sometimes in my story he is naked) who was running to the sea with a sea shell where he would scoop some water and then run back to the sand where he had dug a little hole. He would then empty the shell into the hole and repeat his procedure. Thinking this a bit strange, Augustine stopped the boy and asked him what he was doing. "Sire, I am emptying the sea into the hole." "Child, that is clearly impossible," Augustine retorted. The little boy then said, "Far easier for me to finish my task than for you to find an answer to your problem." And then I tell Rebecca the little boy vanishes in a poof.

It was a few years ago in 1997 that I found a little book called That Same Flower by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder. This book is a translation from the Latin into Norwegian and then into English by Ann Born. The book is supposed to be the letters that St Augustine's mistress, Flora Aemilia wrote to him.

How did Gaarder find the letters?

In 1995 Gaarder was browsing in an antiquarian bookshop in Buenos Aires' old district of San Telmo. It was there that Gaarder claims he found the letters in a box labeled Codex Floriae. Inside he found an introductory greeting:

Floria Aemilia Aurelio Augustino Episcopo Hipponiensi Salutem

We do know that Augustine did have a mistress called Floria who was the mother of his only son. They lived together for over a decade in Africa and then in Italy, until Augustine banished Floria with the intention of marrying a woman of higher social status. He never did and chose a path of asceticism.

From the book I copy:

You thought I bound you to the world of the senses, leaving you no peace and quiet in which to concentrate on the salvation of your soul. As a consequence, nothing came of that proposed marriage either. God desires above all that man should live in abstinence, you write. I have no faith in such a God........But why? Well, because you loved the salvation of your own soul more than you loved me. What times, Esteemed Bishop, what manners! (O tempora, o mores!)

The book is a delightful one night read and what is most interesting is that our concept of the terrible mother-in-law has not changed in the least with time. It seems that while Monica was a good mother and a saint she was a bitch.


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