I was twenty-one… or was I twenty-two when I first heard this teaching? I know for a fact it was Mr. St.Clair, one of my heroes in the faith that divulged its truth and splendor. During a team meeting he gave a passionate homily, as only a man of the Spirit can do. Towards the end of this lesson, during which I might or might not have been napping, he presented this story. As to the reality of the tale, I cannot confirm nor deny. Many acclaimed the main character to be the great St. Augustine, yet some say it was a simple ordinary monk. Whether it was or wasn’t the reality bears no effect on the truth of the tale. So I will therefore write it down as I heard it all those years ago.
St. Augustine, much aged and past his prime, was sitting down beside a beautiful pool one spring afternoon. He had transferred his administrative duties for the church of Hippo to his assistant Eraclius, and was very near transferring from this world to the next. The day was perhaps normal, like any other day. Maybe Augustine was napping beside the pool, as the elderly tend to do whenever the chance presents itself. Whatever the circumstances, it wasn’t to long until his peace was disrupted. A young pilgrim came and knelt down before him, begging to be taught the ways of the Almighty. “I would know God.” he said, as if this revelation would make Augustine jump to life. It did not. He was ignored. “Master, I would know God!” the pilgrim repeated, this time a bit more determined to catch the ancient man’s eye. Again, silence was the reply. “Please sir, I must know God!” the pilgrim yelled out, with passion and vigor.
Suddenly, without warning, Augustine jumped to life.
He grabbed the young man by the scruff of the neck, and forced his head under the cold water of the pool. After what seemed like an eternity to the boy, Augustine let him up. “Do you want to breathe?” he yelled. The boy nodded. “Then breathe!” As soon as the pilgrim took a breath, Augustine repeated this action forcing him into the water yet again. Three more times Augustine did this to the young man, who seemed to be little less a faithful pilgrim than a drowned rat by the end of the process.
Finally he let go of the boy. The boy backed away from the master, afraid that the crazed man might do something even more psychotic.
Augustine sat back down, looking the boy in the eyes. “When you desire God as you desire your next breath…then you will know God.”
Those words haunt me to this day. I would know God.