My book on Augustine is nearly finished and should be out before Christmas, God willing (I will post the final cover when it's ready).
It has been a very intense experience for me. I lost my first illustrator when I was already half-way through the project, then I embarked on a long and difficult search for the right artist. One day, when I was particularly discouraged, I saw this painting online (see left). I stared at it for a long time. This is really Augustine as I see him, his soul constantly stretched forth toward God. I found the name of the artist, Ezio Pollai, and I called him in Siena. His wife answered the phone.
"I am calling from America," I said. "I would like to speak to Master Pollai."
Ezio Polliai was utterly surprised. He enthusiastically gave me permission to publish his painting in my book and, in a very Italian way, invited me for coffee at his house, just behind Via dei Pittori. I wished to hop on a plane right then...
I asked him if he would do illustrations for my book, but he said that he does only paintings. Still, I felt that God was encouraging me. Pollai's ability to capture and portray Augustine's soul encouraged me to think that maybe, with my feeble words, I could introduce to our children this great man of old who bared his soul with a startling degree of honesty and revealed a yearning for God that invariably jolts us out of our complacent daily lives and moves us to cry with him, Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
I pray that my book may convey to our chidren the same hunger and thirst after God which continued throughout Augustine's life and caused him to assert boldly the wonderful doctrine of God's grace that, many centuries later, was at the heart of the Reformation.