VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University—the nation’s only Augustinian Catholic University—has launched an interactive digital app that brings St. Augustine’s Confessions to life. The official launch coincides with St. Augustine’s birthday, Nov. 13. The author of 113 books, Saint Augustine of Hippo is revered as a great thinker and pastor who powerfully influenced succeeding generations, including present-day society. The Confessions continues to be widely read across the country and around the world, used extensively in great books programs and university classrooms. This app will allow users to read and analyze Augustine’s fourth-century work in a variety of new ways.
This new app provides users with an interactive digital sourcebook that contains contextual materials (including images, maps and a timeline of Augustine’s life and journeys), audio and visual components, and a note-taking facility for students to keep personal reflections about the text. It also features commentary and explanatory notes, which were the result of collaboration among Villanova professors and Augustine scholars from across the country. The app also incorporates an audio dimension with recordings by University faculty, as well as a reading by Villanova President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD.
The idea for this app originated in Villanova’s first-year foundational course, Augustine and Culture Seminar (ACS), where the Confessions are studied every fall semester.
“The Confessions benefits from Augustine’s own knowledge of rhetorical strategy and demonstrates his attempt to make complex ideas more understandable, even as it recalls his own struggle as a young man to read and comprehend abstract ideas,” said Noël Dolan, Director of Academic Learning Communities for Villanova’s Augustine and Culture Seminar Program. “I thought, what better way to reflect and update what Augustine himself did with language than to use technology to bring the text to life through audio, visual, and analytical components?”
Dolan worked with Villanova Computer Science Professor Frank Klassner, PhD, and students in his mobile apps class, to develop an initial framework for the app. Collaboration with The Augustinian Institute at Villanova, led by Fr. Allan Fitzgerald, OSA, and other faculty members ensued—adding additional layers of expertise on St. Augustine to the project. Programmers and developers from the University’s IT department joined the effort, led by Lisa Kemble and Chris Backofen, who developed the multi-platform, interactive functionality that ultimately brought the text to life.
“Since the Confessions has been and continues to be read by so many people of every age, it is a joy to make it available in this new and exciting way,” said Father Fitzgerald. “This was a multi-dimensional effort to make Augustine’s Confessions available to a wider audience. Faculty, students and staff each brought something essential to the creation of this app.”
The app will be used in Villanova’s ACS Program, as a means to promote understanding and discussion of this key text. It has benefits for students with different learning styles, allowing them to access the text through a selection of modes. ACS instructors have already developed plans and strategies for teaching and learning using the app.
“The Confessions is the unifying text in Villanova’s first year experience, helping students to understand how we all, no matter what our path, seek to better understand our place in the world,” added Dolan. “In piloting the app, I saw firsthand some of the benefits this technology could bring to the classroom, particularly in making dense texts more accessible.”
The app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It allows users to read the New City Press/Maria Boulding translation of the entire Confessions.
About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.