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Augustinian Studies

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published on November 12, 2015

John Sehorn

Monica as Synecdoche for the Pilgrim Church in the Confessiones

Many have observed that Augustine casts Monica, both in the Cassiciacum dialogues and in the Confessiones, as a representative of Catholic piety and/or a figure of the church. But what is the relationship between Monica the type and Monica the individual? This article suggests that the literary trope of synecdoche supplies the most adequate answer to this question. Reading Monica as an individual who, precisely in and through her individuality, represents the church as a whole also illumines Augustine’s ecclesiology, both in its early stages at Cassiciacum and in a more developed state in the Confessiones. In the latter we find Augustine fully embracing an understanding of the pilgrim church as a community that knows itself, not as an aggregation of spiritual adepts, but always and only as “on the way,” i.e., in the process of being redeemed, and for just this reason as the privileged vehicle of transformation by the grace of Christ.

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