I was a junior in college the first time I encountered St. Augustine’s Confessions. It was in a small, upper level seminar called “Honors/Interpretation.” Confessions was one among just three other works we read (and reread) that term, including Plato’s Apology, Epictetus’ Enchiridion, and Letters of Abelard and Heloise.  I had just declared myself a philosophy major. Five short years before, I had confessed my faith in Christianity, the result (in part) of three different high school classmates – one Catholic, one Episcopalian, and one Presbyterian – sharing their own beliefs with me independently of each other. I knew almost nothing about the Christian tradition (my family was not religious) except what I soon gleaned from New Testament books featured at amateurly-led Bible studies that I joined whenever possible. Confessions thus became the first Christian apologetic literature that I studied academically or discussed with others in a classroom.

I remember feeling simultaneously exhilarated and self-conscious at the prospect. For instance, when another member of our seminar – an upperclassman soon bound for graduate study in philosophy – complained during one session about Augustine’s psycho-emotional overreaction to his recollection of youthfully-filched fruit, I was confused and frustrated: I guess he doesn’t understand what it feels like to sin against one’s savior?, I realized. In the same way my high school friends had challenged my assumptions through existential dialogue, my peers and I, guided by our professor, slowly exposed our respective worldviews to each other. By the end of the semester, I realized I needed new categories — and vocabularies — for articulating my simple faith not just to skeptics but also to myself. Soon I was bound for graduate study, too, in order to understand the history and philosophical nature of my own newfound religion.

Thus Confessions and challenging conversations about it helped lead me to my current profession: encouraging students to closely read, analyze, discuss, and write their own stories of reaction to literary, philosophical, and religious texts from East to West. In so doing, we model ourselves after Augustine, discovering both the power of classroom community and of reflecting on our own writing over time. It is my hope that, in the process, our discussions can be as transformative for my students as it was – and still is – for me.