Are You Living ‘Superficially’?

This observation Pope Benedict XVI made in a homily a few years ago about St. Augustine really stuck with me—here’s the full comment:

Pope Benedict—St. Augustine was a man who never lived superficially; his thirst, his restless and constant thirst for the Truth is one of the basic characteristics of his existence; not however for ‘pseudo-truths,’ incapable of giving the heart lasting peace, but of that Truth that gives meaning to life and is the ‘dwelling-place’ in which the heart finds serenity and joy. As we know, his was a far from easy journey: he thought he had found the Truth in prestige, in his career, in the possession of things, in the voices that promised him instant happiness; he committed faults, he experienced sorrows, he faced failures but he never stopped, he was never content with what only gave him a glimmer of light. He was able to look into the depths of his being and realized, as he wrote in Confessions, that the Truth, the God whom he sought with his own efforts was closer to him than he himself, that God had always been beside him, had never abandoned him, was waiting to be able to enter his life once and for all (cf. III, 6, 11; X, 27, 38). As I said in a comment on the film made recently about his life, St. Augustine, in his restless seeking realized that it was not he who had found the Truth but that the Truth, who is God, had come after him and found him. Romano Guardini, commenting on a passage in the third chapter of Confessions said: “St Augustine understood that God is the ‘glory that brings us to our knees, drink that quenches our thirst, treasure that gives happiness… [he had] the pacifying certainty of those who have understood at last, but also the bliss of the love that knows: “this is everything and it is enough for me.”’”(Pensatori religiosi, Brescia 2001, p. 177).

Two things stand out in the above comment:

1. God finds us: How true it is that in our search for the Truth, it turns out that it was the Truth that was searching for us all along. I am reminded of one of the more memorable lines from the Lamar Burgess character in the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report—We don’t choose the things we believe in; they choose us. This is one of the great and inscrutable paradoxes of the spiritual journey: We search for God, but it is God who finds us.

2. Don’t live superficially: The man (or woman) who is not content with life as presented to him, but goes out in search of its deeper meaning is one who refuses to live superficially, as Pope Benedict describes Augustine in his opening line. These are convicting words. Do we live superficially? Or do we live in the Truth? How do we slip into the first and how might we do better with the second? I have some thoughts of my own, but first I’d like to hear yours. Email me at (As usual, be forewarned that I reserve the right to post reader comments anonymously, unless specifically requested not to do so.)

Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on and A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at

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