This is an excerpt about some aspects of Augustine’s spirituality. The full article by Sister Rosa MacGinley pbvm Ph.D. of Queensland, on 17th October 2002, is available at the web link provided at the bottom of this page.
Augustinian spirituality stems from the great figure of Augustine himself. While, as an old man, he saw his city destroyed, his writings contained in his library werre preserved. All Augustine's reflections bear the spirit of communio. He was drawn to Christianity in Milan and, to prepare for baptism, he withdrew to a country villa at Cassiciacum for a time of reflection. With him went his mother, the widowed Monica, his brother Navigius, his teenage son Adeodatus and a group of close friends - a community of expatriate North Africans!
The spirit of Cassiciacum was expressed in deeply shared conversations, delight in the beautiful natural surroundings and, for Augustine, some very fruitful writing. They were there for six months before returning to Milan and later to Rome. Following Monica's death, Augustine returned to North Africa where he gathered a devoted community in his father's house at Thagaste. This was his first religious community and one, for Augustine, beset with busyness as he drew further friends and those seeking advice around him. On a protracted visit to nearby Hippo, he was called to priesthood by the local people and ordained. Here he formed his second community. As priest and later bishop of Hippo, he led a very active life, concerned in the affairs of the region. He made various journeys in North Africa, and produced many writings.
All these had a pastoral intention within the various situations and conflicts that developed in the area. Always, Augustine drew strength from his deepening spirituality and his ability to share this with his own community and his wider congregation. Augustine's spirituality was centred on the Totus Christus, the whole Christ, in whose life we share. This impelling sense of communio led to his spiritual outreach. He once said, 'Nothing human is alien to me.' Hence, his is a spirituality of insertion in the world which was strongly echoed in the great foundational document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes (On the Church in the Modern World). In the fairly short document which represents the Rule of Augustine, he begins with the basic message of the gospel: love of God and love of our neighbour, saying 'these are the chief commandments given to us'.
He then stresses the importance of community life, basing his concept of this on the account of the early Christian community given in the Acts of the Apostles. 'Honour God in each other', he writes, whose temples you have become.'From the earliest references to monasticism, we know that the psalms, together with hymns, formed the basis of community prayer - so too for Augustine's community as he exhorts them 'ponder in your hearts what your lips are saying.' Charity, he says, 'prefers the common good to the good of the individual' ... the superior of the community is to 'serve with love' and to be served in turn by love and not a servile fear. (Words repeated in many later constitutions of religious orders.) Finally, he prays, 'The Lord grant that you observe all these things as lovers of spiritual beauty, giving forth the spirit of Christ in the holiness of your conduct, not as slaves under the law but as free people firmly established in grace'.
A great literature has grown around the Augustinian spiritual heritage. It is the heritage within which the Presentation Sisters’ constitutions (Australia) were written and received their ecclesial approbation. It remains a tradition marked by flexibility, moderation and interaction with the surrounding world, whose motive force is love, a word so often used by Augustine. Many today are seeking spiritual roots in a world that seems fragmenting around them. There is a present search for the great spiritual traditions of the Church and a wish to link into them. For us as Presentations, as for many other religious families, our heritage lies in the Augustinian spiritual tradition.
The Augustinian Rule and some aspects of Augustinian spirituality. Published by the Golding Centre for Women’s History, Theology and Spirituality on the web site of Australian Catholic University. http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/Centres/Whits/Requestedtranscripts/reqtranscript04.html AN2254