Normally a marathon and St. Augustine’s Confessions — an autobiographical work that chronicles his misspent youth and conversion to Christianity — don’t have much in common. But, next week faculty and students at The Catholic University of America will stage a public reading of the piece that will take 14 hours over three days.
University Provost Andrew Abela will start the reading the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the beginning of the first book of the 13-volume work. The reading will continue Oct. 12 and 13, starting at 11 a.m each day.
The reading by more than 40 members of the University community will take place in the University’s expansive McMahon Hall foyer, with its imposing white marble statue of Pope Leo XIII. Written in Latin between 397 and 400 AD, the Confessions is not a complete autobiography. St. Augustine wrote it during his early 40s and lived until 430, producing many other significant works, including City of God.
The first nine books are autobiographical. The 10th book is on memory and the last three are commentary on the book of Genesis. The most complete record of any single person from the 4th and 5th centuries, the Confessions is also a significant theological work, featuring spiritual meditations and insights.
The Confessions has been studied at Catholic University since the University’s founding. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Early Christianity, the event is not the first time the University has staged marathon readings of classic works. Over the past couple of years, the center staged an Aene-athon with a public reading of the epic poem by Virgil and two Homer-athons, of the Iliad and the Odyssey by the Greek poet.
“We didn’t want to call this reading a Confessions-athon because we didn’t want people to think that we were hosting marathon confessions in McMahon Hall,” quipped William Klingshirn, director of the center.
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