Augustinian Charism: Life in Community
The Charism of Community
Community is the axis around which Augustinian religious life turns: a community of brothers who live harmoniously together, united by a single soul and a single heart, seeking God together and open to the service of the Church. This community is the fruit of charity and is expressed in friendship, which brings forth and nourishes loyalty, trust, sincerity and mutual understanding.
We Augustinians take our cues from Saint Augustine of Hippo, the 5th century bishop in North Africa. What was essential to Augustine when he gathered the first members of his community was capturing the spirit of the first Christians found in the Acts of the Apostles: a community that came together and shared all things in common, all the while ministering to God’s People.
The foundation and characteristic of Augustinian life is "life in common," in which friars seek to construct a path that is directed to God in service to others. We do this not only through the sharing of ideals and values, but also in the communion of all our material and spiritual goods. In this way we strive to grow through the gift of God's grace, and so give witness to the mystery of the Trinity and of the Church, anticipating now on earth the reality we hope for in the future in the Father’s house.
The opening words of Saint Augustine's Rule give us direction: we are to be of one mind and heart on the way to God. We are travelers on pilgrimage together, wherein Christ is our constant companion, as well as our way and our goal.
The activity of our journey is shaped by Augustine's own experience and counsel, and is characterized by three essential elements: the constant search for God by means of a deep interior life; the practical love of neighbor; and the constant pursuit of truth.
Our common life is built on mutual acceptance and respect, kindness and concern, as well as a willingness to listen to others and to open oneself to them.
Rooted in Augustinian Spirituality
Augustinian spirituality is a unique lens through which one can discover God. Stemming from Saint Augustine’s own life, his writings, and his teachings, Augustinian spirituality can largely be summed up as the act of journeying together in search of the truth that is God.
This journey, as Augustine’s own life gives example, was not merely a communal and internal journey toward God, but rather a communal and outward journey. Augustine took scripture as a guide for truth, and specifically followed the example of the first Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles. As such, he and the communities in which he lived followed Christ’s outward model of love through service to others.
Charity unites us in Christ, helping us to recognize the signs of God’s love in the events and circumstances of life. Thus, united in charity, we share mutually the gifts given to us and to others. Our friendship in Christ not only favors the development of each one’s personality, but it also increases freedom within the community itself, in which a healthy openness of mind fosters dialogue and enjoys a necessary autonomy with which to serve God better.
Humility and poverty are the foundation of our common life and spiritual life, and are so closely related that no one can be called a “poor man of God” as was Augustine, without being humble. By reason of poverty and humility we consider all of our possessions, both material and spiritual, as the possessions of all, for we do not hold them as personal property, but as given to us by God to be administered. We are all beggars before God. Therefore we make use of the goods of the earth as tools on our way toward our heavenly homeland.