Nearly everyone has heard about the stunning conversion of St Augustine, one of the most famous of all Christian theologians. His wisdom permeates Western Culture and Catholics are familiar with his saying, “You have made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”. Yet few know the details of Augustine’s life story told in his Confessions.
Born in the fourth century AD to Patricius, a pagan Roman official, and Monica, his Christian wife, Augustine showed great promise and felt that his North African backwater was not able to give him the education he required to develop his gift for rhetoric. He was disgusted by his father’s drunkenness and womanizing and contemptuous of his mother’s prayerful suffering as she served her family’s needs.
I was meant for better things, he thought, as he watched the famous lawyer Microbius and longed to be tutored by him. Monica found a sponsor and convinced Patricius to allow Augustine to leave home. Soon the brilliant Augustine became a renowned attorney winning case after case, relishing his fame and the pleasures of the flesh.
He visited home expecting his mother to be proud of him, but she reproached him about the fact that he had helped a guilty man avoid prison and return home to murder his wife. Monica was nursing Patricius in his final days and rejoiced as he finally asked to be baptized.
Augustine scoffed at Baptism; he even had a concubine who was to bear him a son. Though Monica cared for him and his family, she told him that she did not approve of his lifestyle and prayed constantly for his conversion, even as his friends got him involved in the cult of Manichaeism.
Soon his restlessness drove him to leave his family behind without notice travelling to work for the Roman Empress as her orator. Augustine had surrendered completely to the lure of fame and wealth. But as Bishop Ambrose had warned him, the Truth soon caught up with Augustine. No need to worry about spoilers here. It is all told in the Confessions.
What will fascinate modern viewers is the story of how a man who had everything to lose by becoming a Christian found peace. If ever there was a story from the ancient world which is relevant to our contemporary culture, this is it. No Catholic family is without its wayward sons and daughters, whose restless hearts have led them from the Faith of their parents into the spiritual desert of modern society, which is no less debauched than Rome in its final days.
Restless Heart has top-notch acting, a moving score, stunning cinematography, and a climactic ending. I recommend it for adolescents and up, due to some scenes involving drunkenness, adultery and violence. This is a film which should be part of every DVD collection and for a limited time it can be shown at privately sponsored screenings.
Leticia Velasquez is founder of Catholic Media Review as well as the co-founder ofKIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome) and author of A Special Mother is Born.