On The Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts by James K. A. Smith takes us on the spiritual journey of Augustine, as he travels Africa and Italy searching for purpose and meaning. Smith hones in on the human heart’s longing for road trips—journeys. Our hearts long for something that leads us out on the road. Usually, those journeys lead to some destination, the events along the way often more important than the destination itself, but then we go back home. However, our true spiritual journey is to a home we’ve yet to see. We all start as prodigals, and the question is do we finally run home to the Father. On the Road with Saint Augustine lets us ride along on both Augustine’s and Smith’s journeys.
Smith writes in the introduction:
This is not a biography. This is not a book about Augustine. In a way, it’s a book Augustine has written about yo. It’s a journey with Augustine as a journey into oneself. It’s a travelogue of the heart. It’s a road trip with a prodigal who’s already been where you think you need to go.
I admit I’m a sucker for stories about journeys. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was my favorite as a kid. That being said, Smith’s writing is engaging and Augustine’s journey is engrossing. I never thought I’d say this about a book focused on an early church father and philosophy, but it’s a page-turner. I didn’t want to stop reading.
On The Road With Saint Augustine is so engaging because Smith emphasizes that the saint knows exactly what we’re going through as we fight the pull of the world to find true meaning. Smith writes:
He only knows you because he’s been there, because he has a sense of the solidarity of the human race in our foibles and frustrations and failed pursuits. If he jackhammers his way into the secret corners of our hearts, unearthing our hungers and fears, it’s only because it’s familiar territory: he’s seen it all in his own soul.
Smith walks us through Augustine’s insights into finding oneself, friendship, sex, ambition, family, justice, and death— all of it just as relevant today for wanderers as it was in the 4th century. Smith throws in ample philosophy; with Camus, Derrida, Heidegger and more. My personal favorite is his discussion around the existentialists and Augustine.
I really enjoyed On The Road With Saint Augustine. It’s an insightful journey you won’t regret. You can pre-order your copy here.