Every Christian has heard about the stunning conversion of
St Augustine, the most
famous doctor of the Church. 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”. We have heard about St Augustine’s long
suffering, prayerful mother, St Monica, whose feast day precedes his on the
Liturgical Calendar. Many Catholic mothers consider St Monica their patroness
as they intercede for children swept out of the Faith by the wayward culture.
Yet, few Catholics know the details of Augustine’s life story told in his Confessions and it is this void which
the film “Restless Heart” seeks to fill.
Born to Patricius, a pagan Roman official and Monica, his Christian wife, Augustine showed great promise at a young age and felt that his backwater town in
North Africa 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. Augustine was meant for better things, he reasoned,
as he watched the famous lawyer Microbius and longed to be tutored by him. Patricius did not have the funds or the
desire to send him to study but Monica found a sponsor for her son and
convinced Patricius to allow him 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 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 had embraced a life of sin which included a concubine who was to
bear him a son. Though Monica cared for Augustine 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 Empress of Rome as her
orator. Augustine had surrendered completely to the lure of fame and wealth,
and his seemed a hopeless case. But as Bishop Ambrose had warned him, the Truth
soon caught up with Augustine.
No need to worry about spoilers here. Catholics know this story has a miraculous ending, which brings Augustine more fame than he could have achieved in his secular career, thanks to the faithful prayer and loving example of St Monica. What they will be fascinated to watch is exactly how a famous man who had everything to lose by becoming a Christian did so, and found peace for his soul in the Church. If ever there was an ancient story 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. Catholics will be engrossed with this film in its full cinematic glory, with top notch acting, moving score, stunning cinematography, and 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 parish and home DVD collection and for a limited time can be shown at privately sponsored screenings. More information can be located at the film's website.