The Particular Charism or Gift expressed collectively by followers of Augustine.
We Augustinians, inspired by the religious insight and teaching of Saint Augustine, and established as a Mendicant Order in the 13th Century, seek to live out our Christian vocation of love for God and neighbor following the example set within his Holy Rule.
The Augustinian identity may be summed up as “The Search for God Together” by means of a Community through which we share our faith and life in a nurturing environment, and out of which is mutually generated our wholehearted service to society, the Church and world. Augustinian Spirituality does not take us out of the world (into the cloister or desert) but places us firmly in the midst of life to form community in the face of the individualism and competitiveness of our post-modern society.
Augustinian Spirituality takes its inspiration from Augustine’s encounter with God’s Mystery as it is revealed in his writings and prayers.
Among the ruins of the Basilica of Peace which lie in the Algerian city of Hippo (present day Annaba) on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, you can still see signs of Augustine’s hand at work in the design of hearts that he had carved into the decorative supports which were used to hold up the roof of his small cathedral.
The heart is the enduring symbol for Augustine’s love ablaze a] for God, b] for Scripture and c] for the Community of friends and strangers that surrounded him at every stage of his life. Instead of making a sharp distinction between the love we have for God and the love we have for people, Augustine concluded that ‘authentic love for a human being is at the same time love of God’.
The Search for God: [the Movement OUT] this experience is described as “the affectionate reaching out of the mind for God”. This very desire for God is itself a prayer and he writes “if you have an unceasing longing for God then you also pray unceasingly”. (Sermon 80, 7) It is just this ability when we allow our attention to go out in delight at recognising God’s presence in the world around us or observe and wonder at God’s beauty in Nature and in our relationships with others, as well as in the wisdom we glean from Sacred Scripture, this becomes the starting point of our spiritual discovery.
The Search for Truth: [The Movement IN] Augustine then invites us to bring our life experience into an inner room of the heart to ponder and digest what has been happening. It is this “going inside” which is so characteristic of Augustine’s spirituality. The technical term for this is “Interiority” as he takes what is going on outside of himself and brings it inside and there discovers that it is not his alone. We go from the outer experience to an inner place where the one whom Augustine calls “The Teacher Within” will surface for us what we are meant to know. “Enter then into your heart, (he tells us) and if you have faith you will find Christ there. There he speaks to you. I, the preacher, must raise my voice, but he instructs you more efficiently in silence. I speak in sounding words. He speaks within”. (Sermon 102:2)
The Graced Community of the Trinity: [The Movement Beyond] This third movement of St Augustine’s approach to prayer takes him beyond or upwards into a graced silence that has about it a promise that can only be fully achieved in heaven, but glimpsed from time to time, if only for a moment, here on earth. “Standing on the earth you are in heaven if you love God”, as we allow God to draw us into the mystery of God’s own love dwelling indelibly in each human heart. When we arrive at this threshold, our attitude becomes one of awe, silent communion and praise.
The Total Christ: St. Augustine is credited with coining the phrase “Totus Christus” (The Whole Christ) who is at the centre and heart of the Trinity from all eternity; is dynamically One in his humanity during his historical time on earth; and continues to be at the centre of our interacting and entwining lives throughout all of history “We are Christ and we are of Christ because in some way the whole Christ is head and body”. (Exposition on the psalms 26, 22) For this reason, Augustine was able to meet Christ present each day in
- Community: “By loving us he has bound us together by mutual love, and by joining the members together in this gentle bond he has made us the body of which he is the noble head”. (Homily on John’s Gospel 65, 3)
- The Word of Scripture: “Don’t be lazy, gather the grains from the Lord’s threshing floor; the words of God from the Church of God, gather them and store them away in your heart”. (Sermon 38, 2)
- The Eucharist: Christ is present not just in the bread and wine placed on the altar but the people assembled are changed (or at least reminded) that they are the Body of Christ. “Just as communion turns into you when you eat and drink it, so you, for your part, turn into the Body of Christ when you live devout and obedient lives” (Sermon 228 B, 3)
- The Poor and Suffering Members of Society: “Christ is present in the poor; when you give to the poor it is Christ’s hand which accepts”. (Sermon 86, 3,3)
For this reason and impelled by communal love, Augustinian Spirituality finds its expression in acting justly and peacefully with all of humanity.