Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo. -St.Augustine
A few weeks back, the incorrigible Milo Yiannopolus* posted his side of an unpublished interview with the Jesuit magazine America. (reader discretion advised, it is, after all, Milo) The general gist of it seemed to be “Yeah, I am a bad Catholic, but that’s okay. There were lots of saints that were bad Catholics.” He uses several quotes from St. Augustine’s Confessions to justify his behavior.
The interview is a fascinating read. He professes his love for his Faith, Evelyn Waugh, Aquinas… He knows his stuff! It kinda sorta in a weird way made me really proud to be Catholic. Even this guy, so full of himself and so blatantly living in contradiction to the Faith recognizes the philosophical and moral supremacy of the Catholic Church.
And yet it frustrated me so very much. Midway through, he suggests that someday, he will, like Augustine “recall his past foulness”. He is so charismatic, so intelligent, and extremely influential, but he just banks on the supposition that he can turn back to God later. After all, that’s what Augustine did. I picked up a gorgeous leather bound copy of the Confessions the other day and dove in, because I had to get this all sorted. I’m barely a third of the way through, but already I can see that Milo dearest, you and Augustine are not in the same boat at all.
When Augustine prayed, “Make me chaste and continent, but not yet”, he had not been baptized. He did not have the full understanding of the Faith, and he did not have Sanctifying Grace. Yes, he was an evil man, he was very impure, prideful, and selfish. But to a degree, he simply didn’t know better. Milo, on the other hand, boasts of a solid understanding of the Catholic Faith, and celebrates the wisdom of it. His behavior makes him a public hypocrite, which is more aggravating than simply being a sinner.
In his interview, he compares himself to Fr. James Martin, claiming to be a better Catholic than him, since he is not self-righteous, and since he freely admits that he is a sinner. While that is all well and good, Our Lady of Fatima told the child Jacinta that more souls go to hell for sins of the flesh than any other sin. Its not something to sneeze off simply because, in your mind, it is not so bad as some others’ sins.
God does not judge on a curve. You aren’t compared to the people around you when you die. You are compared to how well you followed God’s commandments to the best of your knowledge. And you don’t get to wait for the “but not yet”. The day of judgement “comes like a thief in the night”, “no one knows the day or the hour”, “be watchful”… Jesus Himself told us not to lollygag about our salvation.
I think we all have Milos in our lives. At one point or another, we all have been Milos. “Not yet, God” we say. “I’ll be good tomorrow. I won’t struggle with this after that happens. Its too hard now, I’ll wait until I’m older.” Heck, I remember reading that Augustine quote in my very mild “crazy days” and nodding in agreement. But that is not what Augustine is about!
Primarily, the Confessions is about how relentless our God is in pursuit of our hearts, and how restless those hearts are “until they rest in Him”. Whatever things we are holding on to for a little while longer are not going to do us any good. There was one chapter I read where Augustine goes through a long list of things he thought he wanted, and how each one of those things was a poor imitation of something so much more beautiful that God had planned for him.
Augustine’s story isn’t about how God takes away from us the things that we want to make us happy and fulfilled. His story is about how those things that we want pale in comparison to what God wants to give us. And yes, I suppose part of Augustine’s message is that we can always turn to God, that He doesn’t give up on us, but nevertheless, we know that we aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow.
Maybe a better quote for Milo, and all of us to take as our motto would be this one from C.S. Lewis:
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
*Quick explanation just in case: Milo is an alt-right provocateur, the “most fabulous super-villain on the internet”, extremely homosexual, and also a very vocal (lately) Catholic.