Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saint of the Day: St Augustine

I have special interest in St. Augustine. 12 years ago I was professed as a Secular Augustinian Recollect...a lay ministry that follows the "rule" of  St. Augustine. The Monastery that I attend is the Tagaste Monastery in Suffern, NY. The grounds are beautiful in a country setting, so serene. The Good Samaritan Hospital is across the street and the priests visit the patients there and celebrate Mass in the hospital chapel.

  A Brief History of St. Augustine

A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience.

There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love.

Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism.

In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Our Charism: The "chante love" of contemplation, the "ordered love" of community life, and the "diffusive love" of the apostolate are the essential elements of the Augustinian Recollect Charism.

Contemplation: in St. Augustine, is communitarian and apostolic. By dint of being ordered toward God, the human being is essentially contemplative. By means of a process of interiorization and transcendence, man's and will encounter God, who is the highest Truth and the greatest Good. The Augustinian person feels totally dependent upon God in his or her origin, and ordered toward him is destiny. He is from God and for God. He loves God disinterestedly and without measure. The is the amor castus of Augustinian contemplation.
Community: a second love plays its essential part in the communitarian aspect of the charism. It is the "ordered love" through which we "use" material things, and "rejoice" in God and in rational creatures. The vow of poverty is the communitarian vow par excellence.

Apostolate: the "chaste love" of contemplation, besides being a force for union, also is a force for diffusion, and is thus apostolic. The Augustinian person commits himself to service of all. He is available to dent to the needs of the Church.

Augustine is still acclaimed and condemned in our day. He is a prophet for today, trumpeting the need to scrap escapisms and stand face-to-face with personal responsibility and dignity.

“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

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