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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters of St. Augustine > Letter 84

Letter 84 (A.D. 405)

To My Lord Novatus, Most Blessed, My Brother and Partner in the Priestly Office, Esteemed and Longed For, and to the Brethren Who are with Him, Augustine and the Brethren with Him Send Greeting in the Lord.

1. I myself feel how hard-hearted I must appear to you, and I can scarcely excuse to myself my conduct in not consenting to send to your Holiness my son the deacon Lucillus, your own brother. But when your own time comes to surrender to the claims of Churches in remote places some of those whom you have educated, and who are most dear and sweet to you, then, and not till then, will you know the pangs of longing which pierce me through and through for some who, once united to me in the strongest and most pleasing intimacy, are no more beside me. Let me submit to your thoughts the case of one who is far away. However strong be the bond of kindred between brothers, it does not surpass the bond by which my brother Severus and I are united to each other, and yet you know how rarely I have the happiness of seeing him. And this has been caused neither by his wish nor by mine, but because of our giving to the claims of our mother the Church precedency above the claims of this present world, out of regard to that coming eternity in which we shall dwell together and part no more. How much more reasonable, therefore, is it for you to submit for the sake of the Church's welfare to the absence of that brother, with whom you have not shared the food which the Lord our Shepherd provides for nearly so long a period as I did with my most amiable fellow-townsman Severus, who now only with an effort and at long intervals converses with me by means of brief letters—letters, moreover, which are for the most part burdened with the cares and affairs of other men, instead of bearing to me any reminiscence of those green pastures in which we were wont to lie down under Christ's loving care!

5. You will perhaps reply, What then? May not my brother be of service to the Church here also? Is it for any other end than usefulness to the Church that I desire to have him with me? Truly, if his being beside you seemed to me to be as important for the gathering in or ruling of the Lord's flock as his presence here is for these ends, every one might justly blame me for being not merely hard-hearted, but unjust. But since he is conversant with the Punic language, through want of which the preaching of the gospel is greatly hindered in these parts, whereas the use of that language is general with you, do you think that we would be doing our duty in consulting for the welfare of the Lord's flocks, if we were to send this talent to a place where it is not specially needful, and remove it from this region, where we thirst for it with such parched spirits? Forgive me, therefore, when I do, not only against your will, but also against my own feeling, what the care of the burden imposed upon me compels me to do. The Lord, to whom you have given your heart, will grant you such aid in your labours that you shall be recompensed for this kindness; for we acknowledge that you have with a good grace rather than of necessity conceded the deacon Lucillus to the burning thirst of the regions in which our lot is cast. For you will do me no small favour if you do not burden me with any further request upon this subject, lest I should have occasion to appear anything more than somewhat hard-hearted to you, whom I revere for your holy benignity of disposition.

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Source. Translated by J.G. Cunningham. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102084.htm>.

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