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Sharing a Common Legacy

Symposium of the Augustinian Family and Course on Augustinian Spirituality

Rome, November 9-14, 1987

Augustinian General Curia

Rome 1988



English translations by Fr. M. Benedict Hackett OSA, Fr. Thomas F. Martin, OSA, Fr. Desmond T. Foley, OSA.


I. Messages of the Symposium..... 7



II. Conferences of the Symposium of the Augustinian Family   12





III.  Conferences of the Course on Augustinian Spirituality   67







In the letter of convocation for the 1st Symposium of the Augustinian Family that was sent to the Superiors General of the religious Institutes that make up the Augustinian Family, the following objectives of the meeting were expressed:

The “Symposium” will offer us many opportunities: to nourish our knowledge and friendship; to deepen together our common foundation of Augustinian spirituality and our particular charisms; to share the pastoral experiences and initiatives of our institutes throughout the world in the service of Christ; to kindle the sense and meaning of our being part of the” Augustinian Family.”  At the same time we can discern the possibilities for a more efficacious collaboration and a more concrete support of one another, in order to better take advantage of our common spiritual roots.

The Symposium was held in Rome at the Patristic Institute Augustinianum from November 9 - 14, 1987. Participating were some 80 religious men and women (Superiors General or members of the General Council) representing 46 different religious Institutes.

Contemporaneously with the Symposium, a Course on Augustinian Spirituality was held that was open to the public.

Judging from the comments of the participants, the Symposium far exceeded expectations. It above all generated a desire to continue such experiences and to deepen the common legacy of Augustinian spirituality and mutual knowledge and collaboration.

The publication in six languages of the texts of the conferences delivered during the Symposium and Course is the first concrete fruit of this collaboration.

Rome, April 24, 1988,

Feast of the Conversion of St. Augustine.

Secretariate O.S.A.



I. Messages of the Symposium


On the occasion of the concluding celebration of the XVI Centenary of the Conversion of St. Augustine, I am happy to great you who have taken part in the first Symposium of the Augustinian Family. You have gathered here from many nations in order to pay homage to the memory of that incomparable man whose spiritual heirs you are.

I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Augustinum Hipponensem that all of us in the Church as well as the Western world feel ourselves to be disciples and sons of St. Augustine.

I went on to exhort all the Institutes of men and women Religious who bear his name, live under his patronage, or in some way follow his Rule and call him Father, to increase and diffuse knowledge of him and to foster devotion to him.

The spiritual legacy that Augustine left us is both immense and profound. It is a spirituality that he himself lived and through his writings all can share in. His apostolic activity at the service of the Church in need was both intense and of long duration (St. Augustine, In Jo. Ev. 57,4; (PL 35,1791). At the same time experience taught him that “no movement of the religious life has any value if it is not at the same time a movement within, towards the profound center of our being where Christ has his dwelling place” (AAS LXXII, p. 209).

In his Rule he outlines the foundations for a life that would be truly apostolic. It was to be a life completely centered in the love of God and neighbor, and lived not as slaves under the law but as men and women free under grace, full of a vibrant desire for spiritual beauty (Rule VIII, 1).

Throughout the centuries the saintly founders of religious communities and the masters of the spiritual life have heavily drawn upon the teaching of St. Augustine. It is the same for men and women of today who can find in him a secure guide, one who not only experienced God but knew how to draw others into that experience.

Those do him homage who not only recall his life but who imitate him, making their own, with the help of God’s grace, his love for God, for his brothers and sisters, and for the Church. In so doing they make clear that religious life pertains inseparably to the life and holiness of the Church (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 44).

I have been gratefully present with you during this Centenary Year, wishing the various initiatives and celebrations all success. And now I invoke upon the Symposium of the Augustinian Family and each member of your institutes the heavenly protection and the efficacious help of the Virgin Mary whom Augustine exalted as Mother of the Church (St. Augustine, De Sancta virginitate 6,6; PL 40,339). I gladly impart to you, your Institutes, and the work of the Symposium my Apostolic Blessing.

John Paul II




In the name of the Augustinian Order I wish to extend to all of you and to each of you individually our welcome to this the First Symposium of the Augustinian Family. We are all heirs of the same spiritual Father, drawing from the same source of his example and teaching. Their depth and profuseness continue even today, after sixteen hundred years, to surprise us by their clarity and vitality.

St. Augustine is not a saint to be known from afar. He told all to his friends and his spiritual sons. He thus allows us to share not only in what his teaching was but also to share in the life he lived to the full. He did not even want to be silent about his sins, leading us along the paths of his interior pilgrimage until he arrived at the center of his heart where he discovered God himself.

St. Augustine experienced in his own life the truth that we find our true identity in the freeing embrace of God. Such an experience blossoms in friendship, gathers others, and life becomes thus a continual and reciprocal gift. In this gift God leads us also to the fulfillment of all the most profound desires of the human heart.

During these days of the Symposium it is our hope that we will come to know one another better, that in this friendship we will discover the relevance of Augustine’s teaching for us today. Together we can discuss life’s new challenges. It is precisely for these that Augustine offers us the necessary resources in order to welcome them and not just survive them but to flourish in them.

In this spirit of mutual understanding and enthusiasm we begin the Symposium. We are convinced, as Augustine tells, that Christ is not absent, but here with us. He is awaiting our availability and our openness so that he might encounter us, strengthen us with his grace, and fill us with his presence and his love.

Martin Nolan OSA

Prior General



II. Conferences of the Symposium of the Augustinian Family


Adolar Zumkeller, O.S.A.

Walking through Rome one sees countless churches, but of very different shapes. There are churches such as S. Sabina or S. Paul, the age old style of the ancient Basilica. There are churches like S. Maria in Cosmedin with its beautiful Roman style bell-tower. Then there are renaissance style churches, such as the beautiful Augustinian church of S. Maria del Popolo, while there are innumerable churches in baroque style of which S. Peter’s represents the peak of all church building art. All of these churches are at the service of the liturgy, the glorification of God. Each however has its own characteristics and beauty. The great Orders of the Church are like this. They are all religious complexes in which one seeks to serve God with individual heart. Each of these Orders has its own spirituality. Monastic life according to the Rule of St. Benedict is different in many aspects from religious life according to the Rule of St. Francis or the Constitutions of St. Ignatius. So too our religious life as brothers and sisters following Augustine’s Rule has similarities with other religious and yet has its own proper traits.

This conference responds to the question: What are the characteristic basic ideas of our Augustinian spirituality? Or, to put it another way: What is the common spiritual heritage that St. Augustine has handed on to us as our legacy? I would like to link with what the General Chapter in Dublin in 1974 stated in this regard. The well-known “Dublin document” speaks of three chief themes of Augustinian spirituality which are meaningful for our time: These are, firstly the search for God, secondly, community with Christ, and thirdly, all-embracing love. The Chapter Fathers in Dublin were convinced that the witness today’s world expects from the spiritual sons and daughters of Augustine consists, above all, in this, that we make these fundamental elements of Augustinian spirituality a reality in our lives.


We begin with the first, the search for God. A longing for a deeper meaning to life, a kind of homesickness for God is interwoven with our lives. Ever more people are weary of a society whose egoism, secularism and blind faith in progress do not know how to answer the ultimate, pressing questions of mankind. Here too is verified the saying of Augustine: “You have made us for yourself O God. On that account our heart is restless until it rest in you.” (Conf. 1,11). Only when a person enquires about God, seeks him and goes towards him does he find meaning and fulfillment for his life. As spiritual sons and daughters of St. Augustine, we are road signs and witnesses, both individually and as a community, to our fellow men in their search for God and for meaning to their lives. It is for us today an important and timely apostolate. Of course it is a task to which our religious communities can accomplish only if the individual members are every day concerned honestly and openly with their personal union with God. We all, however, experience how often enough we fail in this aspect in the mad rush and superficiality of our century.

Were we today to have with us St. Augustine and able to ask him: Tell us now what before all else we need today for the renewal of our religious life? — I believe he would make this point: A religious is a person who has determined to seek God and God’s kingdom in everything. This is why he reminds us in the Rule: “You lift up your heart and do not seek earthly vanity” (1,7).

Augustine prefers to designate religious as “servants of God” or as “slaves and handmaids of God” who have put themselves entirely and individually at the service of God. In this designation as “slaves and handmaids of God” is expressed the unconditional nature of our self-gift to God. God should be at the very centre of our lives. In this regard Augustine speaks of a “free service in God’s presence which we exercise in the cloister.”  (Epist. 126,7). We exercise this service to God not because we are compelled to it, but in the freedom of God’s children, a service full of availability and love.

To seek God above all and in all is for Augustine our daily task. This means seeking him in daily prayer and in the community Eucharist, in the service of one’s fellowmen and one’s brothers and sisters, in the hours of work and recreation, in quiet as well as in constant openness to his holy will. Augustine prayed once: “Let me not grow tired of seeking you.” (De Trin. XV, 28, 51). Is this not the especial need of many people at present, even amongst Christians? They have become tired of seeking God. They have forgotten Him, He is of no more interest to them, they live and leave Him aside. Augustine, in a sermon, compares such a person with a traveller on the way home. On his way, however, in one of the primitive inns of that time, he finds in the place jug and bowl in which food and drink is given him, such joy that he sets his heart on it and wishes to go no further, and forgets his beloved at home who full of longing awaits his return. To such foolish people Augustine likens a Christian who sets his heart on earthly things and so forgets God and the meaning of his life. For us religious not to become weary of seeking God is even itself a timely apostolate, an important spiritual service which we owe our fellowmen.


What are the fundamental ideas of religious life according to the spirit of St. Augustine? The first one I mentioned is seeking for God. We should before all things and in all things seek for God, his honour and glory, his holy will. The second fundamental idea I made is care for genuine community life.

The special following of Christ which religious live out is exemplified in the New Testament group of disciples whom Jesus gathered around him. These men from whom He later chose His twelve apostles, were called by Him into a closer community. Precisely through community lived with the Lord they were to offer first hand witness to God’s kingdom. Jesus thus expressly committed them in his farewell address: “A new commandment I give you for one another! As I have loved you, so ought you love one another. From this will all people know that you are my disciples; if you have love one for another.”  (Jn 13, 24). Jesus wished to tell them in this way: It is precisely your unity and harmony, your love for one another shall convince the people who do not know of the truth of my teaching. You, through your community and love for one another, should be a sign of Me for them.

For Augustine this is even the meaning and task of religious life. So at the beginning of his Rule he puts the sentence: “The first purpose of your community life is to live harmoniously together with one heart and one soul on your way to God.”  (Rule 1,3). In this brief sentence Augustine uses the word “one - unus” no less than four times. He literally wants to tell us how much he is concerned that we really form a unity of heart that is God directed amongst us. The sentence contains the programme for Augustinian religious life. For Augustine it has to do with the foundations of a community altogether rooted in God, in which all are linked together in a whole that is full of life. Augustine is, however, aware that a true community life can only come about where people relate to one another. The concept of community is the angle from which Augustine treats and builds up the whole religious life.

Community living in the monastery according to the Rule is not based on mere natural good will. The community has its roots immediately in God. Christ and his Holy Spirit are the soul and life principle of the community. We experience ever and anew the nearness of the Lord through the love of our brothers and sisters. Above all, in the celebration of the Eucharist is fulfilled in us His promise: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18,20).

There is no doubt but that the Augustinian community ideal is for our time especially pertinent. For in the technical society of this century people have an urgent need for human contact, for friendship and genuine brotherhood. There exists today, and not only amongst old people, so much isolation and loneliness. For this reason are we called to give witness through our genuine Augustinian community living, that Christ’s teaching possesses the power to lead men out of loneliness and egoism.

It has been said: For Augustinian brothers and sisters “community living is the first apostolate.”  This of course does not in any way weaken the significance of involvement in apostolic and charitable service of one’s neighbour.

To clarify this we must search for the real roots of this service to one’s fellowman. Our involvement separates us from the foundation that bears us along firmly if we are not connected with the inner roots of religious life, if we fail to contribute always in a decisive way to our belonging to a living community, if each day at the Eucharist, at the table, at recreation and work we do not give living expression to our love for those who have been given to us as neighbours in our convent by God.

As religious according to the mind of St. Augustine we are above all brothers among brothers, sisters among sisters. Young people of our time will find our religious life attractive to the extent that they experience with us a genuine humanised Christian community. Precisely as communities are our houses in these times a true witness to Christ and his kingdom, and a sign of hope in that God gives us people the power to overcome self-seeking and to grow ever more in the love of Christ.


Christian art has portrayed Augustine holding a flaming heart as an expression of his all-embracing love. This is the third characteristic of Augustinian spirituality on which we now wish to reflect. Precisely from us religious God and the world are awaiting a credible witness to love, an all-embracing love, for God and for people.

A religious is above all, for Augustine, a loving person, that is, one whose love is determined by the love of Christ. Of this Paul says in his high song of love (1 Cor. 13,8) “Love never gives up.”  It is precisely on this that Augustine makes us think when he says in the Rule: “Above all the vicissitudes of earthly concerns let love shine, which remains for ever.” (Rule V, 31). Even people who do not have much time for the Church today, allow themselves to be impressed by a Christian who lives from love. Think of the high respect which is shown all over the world for Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

What does Augustine really mean by the virtue of Christian love? He means a love that embraces all: God and one’s neighbour, Christ the Head and His Body the Church and all its members. Augustine places no sharp boundaries between love of God and neighbour. Wherefore he once wrote: “Whoever loves his neighbour truly, what else does he love in him other than God?” (In Jn. Evang. 65, 2). Love of God and neighbour does not allow itself to be split in two, Augustine often stresses. It follows for him that when we deny love to others, e.g. we won’t accept them or close ourselves to their need, we meet them with disdain or even with hatred, then we are denying love to God Himself.

Charity is then for Augustine the characteristic sign of a religious. He writes: “The person who possesses love is born from God. The ones who don’t have it are not from God.”  “Without it whatever you have is useless. Love alone suffices, even if you possess nothing else.” (In Jn. Ep. 5, 7). To grow in this love is the real purpose of a Christian life: Love beginning, says Augustine is perfection beginning, love growing is perfection growing, perfect love is complete perfection (De nat. et grat. 70, 84). The basis for this Augustine finds in the words of the Apostle: “God is love” (1 Jn. 4, 8).

Augustine understands Christian love as serving love. Christ Himself lived out this for us: “I am in your midst as one who serves.” (Lk. 22,27). Let us think of the washing the feet which Christ performed for his apostles at the Last Supper. Our specific vocation is to follow the Saviour on this way of love as service. Augustine is convinced that in such selfless readiness to serve others the true love of religious is manifested.

We live at a time when not unusually a crass striving for possession and an egotistical will dominate human life, and so many are all out to grab as much as possible for themselves. For Christians and religious, love must win out precisely in these situations. “Love does not seek its own advantage” (1 Cor. 13,5). Augustine quoted these words of the Apostle in the Rule. It should define our personal attitude and that of our religious community to goods and chattels.

Augustine also saw an immediate contradiction to Christian love in all thinking and striving after power. This temptation exists not only for those who occupy positions of government but also for those who are in positions of service. Jesus laid down in this regard: “Whoever among you would be great, must be your servant, and whoever would be first, must be your slave” (Mk. 18,4,31). The loving service of one’s fellowman is thus the characteristic sign of a Christian. Augustine also expects from us what he wrote in the Rule: “that we serve others without murmuring,” i.e. in love (Rule, V, 38).

Augustine understands this virtue of love as a sharing in the inconceivable love of God Himself. Again and again he quotes Rom. 5:5: “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  So it is the Holy Spirit who should ever more strengthen us in the love of God and fellowman. At times we experience difficulties in the practice of Christian love. It becomes somewhat hard for us. The loving sense demanded of us by our calling costs us much trouble and control. This is when we should call on the Holy Spirit for His help, something He can and will give us with His grace. In any case Christian love is the special fruit that our religious life should ever lead to more and more maturity.

This overview of the basic concepts of Augustinian spirituality would be incomplete were we not to acknowledge, in humility, with Augustine that “all is grace.”  For it is the work of the grace of God going before us that we bestir ourselves ever again to seek Him, to come nearer to Him and love Him more. It is also the work of grace that we are together in the cloister “with one heart and soul for God.”  It is the work of grace when we grow and become strong in the love of God, in undivided love for God and neighbour.

For this reason Augustine reminds us at the end of his Rule: When you establish that you have followed the prescriptions of the Rule, “So thank the Lord, the giver of all good” (Rule VII, 49). Augustine here means: Everything good that we do is, in the last analysis, the work of God in us. We could collaborate with Him but only while he was strengthening us.

Augustine does not wish us, however, to overlook our good works. Only we should not boast of them as if were they all completely our doing. In a sermon he says: “Don’t boast even when you’re good. For in boasting of your good works, you are bad” (In ps. 25, II, 11). Pride ruins just about everything.

In his Confessions Augustine has depicted the erroneous ways of his youth, but also his return home to God. The whole work is a thankful description of how he was freed from guilt and sin through the supreme power of divine grace. Let us hear his words: “I call upon Thee, O my God, my Mercy, who didst create me and didst not forget me when I forgot Thee”  (Conf. XIII, 1,1). Augustine did not forget during his whole life how God had overwhelmed him, undeservedly, with grace.

Augustine would also like to lead us to this thankful acknowledgement of the workings of the grace of God in our life. For our life too as Christians and religious is a life under grace. Moreover, what we have is God’s gift, as Augustine says in a sermon: “we are but God’s beggars” (Serm. 61,4,4). I close with the words of the Apostle Paul which St. Augustine so often quotes in his writings and sermons: “What do you then have that you have not received. If then you have received it why do you boast as if you had not received it” (1 Cor. IV, 7).




Luc Verheijen O.S.A.

We are convinced that we possess in the spirituality of St. Augustine a precious treasure, a spiritual doctrine, but also a spirituality meaning a human existence lived in a certain way, Augustine’s way precisely. It is necessary to understand by this ‘we,’ the members of the Augustinian Family, men and women, of every “plumage,” that is to say, of every obedience, but also all those who like to regard themselves as “friends of St. Augustine.”  We are also convinced that this treasure is a considerable enrichment for the man of today. But we do not know how best to exploit this treasure, neither for ourselves and still less for others. It seems that we do not succeed in making the point of contact between on the one hand the spiritual doctrine and the spiritual life of St. Augustine, and on the other hand Augustinian spirituality in our time, and this despite the truly Augustinian qualities of so many of us and in so many countries. This is very regrettable for us and also and above all for the Church.

I would like to divide this talk into two parts. In part one I would like to reflect with you on the spirituality of St. Augustine himself, and in the second part to deal with our Augustinian spirituality here and now.


The first question I should like to put is this: can we identify in Augustine’s spirituality, in so far as doctrine is concerned, a fundamental thought which dominates the whole of his spiritual thinking, and which once established, will enable us to have a simple view of his spirituality?

The famous French Augustinian scholar, Etienne Gilson, has made two interesting remarks in this connection in his Introduction a l’etude de saint Augustin.

The first takes the form of a whim (boutade), formulated in a succinct and suggestive manner: we open the works of St. Augustine in the hope of finding in them a system of thought, but what we find is a method of thought.

We shall explain in a moment the meaning of this distinction.

Here is Gilson’s second point — it determines the Augustinian method of which he speaks. It is necessary to try to understand and explain “things” in terms of God.

We shall shortly make this second point of Gilson’s more precise.

I believe that Gilson in presenting Augustinism as a method of thought, or if you wish a programme of thought, made a masterly point: we open the works of St. Augustine in the hope of finding a system, and what we find is a method.

By a system is meant here an organized and tight ensemble of human, intellectual elements, as for example: all is matter, there is nothing but matter. The point of departure for Augustine was not a human idea of this kind, but the Christian faith.

This faith should be an enlightened faith or, as he said himself, a fides quaerens intellectum (a faith seeking understanding).

One will say perhaps: was not Augustine a Platonist? Hence did he not have a system of human thought? With regard to this it is necessary to say, it seems to me, that in order better to understand the faith, Augustine in fact availed himself of platonic elements. But that did not prevent him from understanding better the mystery of the Trinity, for which Augustine made use of points from Aristotle. One also finds in Augustine some ideas borrowed from the Stoics. He also learned much from the writings of Cicero. In short, the unity of all these elements consists in the fact that they enabled him to understand better the Christian revelation which on any reckoning is not a system of human thought.

We open the writings of St. Augustine in order to find a system of thought, and what we find is a method of thought. And this method will attempt to understand and explain “things” in terms of God.

This is very true, but the fact remains that a long acquaintance with Augustine, and perhaps most of all a recent and precise rereading of the first book of the De Doctrina Christiana (on Christian Doctrine), impels me to make Gilson’s second point more precise.

As the reader may be aware, I have been for a long time interested in the monastic Rule of St. Augustine. A Rule is by definition a written, practical order. Augustine said to his monks (or religious — I do not dwell upon these terms) what they should do or not do. Some considerations of a theological or philosophical nature are rather discernible between the lines, so to speak. Augustine did not distinguish precisely between theology and philosophy; in other words, between a thought harking back to a Christian revelation and a thought based uniquely on the resources of human “natural” intelligence. Now, I have sought in the writings of St. Augustine for a few things nearly contemporary with the Rule — a more theoretical exposition of the Christian life. We came across the first book of the De Doctrina Christiana which dates from about 397. Augustine there puts the question of finding what is essentially revealed in the Bible. This is another way of saying that he reflects on the main themes of Christianity. Thus the first book of the De Doctrina Christiana is an important help for reading between the practical lines of the Rule the theoretical considerations that constitute its foundation.

But this book was certainly not written to explain the Rule. To situate it as is necessary in the context of Augustine’s life, one must go back to that which might be called the “first conversion” of Augustine. This “conversion” belongs to the milieu of the literary formation of Augustine which itself also left traces right to the end of Augustine’s life. Look what he himself recounts in his Confessions, book III, 4 (7-8). We are at Carthage: “When following the normal course of studies, I came across a book of Cicero. This book contains an incitement to philosophy. It is called Hortensius. The reading transformed my feelings... already I began to rise up to return to You, my lord... I was then nineteen, and my father had been dead for two years... The love of wisdom is called in Greek “philosophy,” and it was the love of this which this book inflamed me.”

In his Hortensius Cicero recalls a certain number of “sages” of the day and of previous centuries. He generally gives them the floor without siding rather for this “school” or that. But we know from the De Trinitate (on the Trinity) of St. Augustine that he himself (like Cicero) at the beginning of the treatise posed the question of knowing if there is not some point on which all the schools were agreed. This is how he formulates the answer: they all hold that men are beings who desire to be happy. This goes to say, and it is very important, that the love of wisdom, with which the Hortensius of Cicero inflamed the young Augustine, had a “teleological” orientation. Here are some words in explanation. Each of these philosophies asks in what consists the ultimate of the “sage,” or his “telos” (end), to use the greek word? In view of what does he live? Granted that there had been different ideas in this connection, the subject matter of the writings was “finalities” (plural), that is to say the supreme goods, as understood by the different schools. But at the same time, the authors speak of the greatest evils, again according to the different schools. The Latin title of studies of this kind was De finibus bonorum et malorum, or “on the different conceptions of the supreme good and the worst evil.” The authors likewise indicate the road to follow, subjectively, in order to reach the sovereign good and avoid the greatest evil.

Let us give two examples. For the Stoics the happiness of the wise man is found in virtue, and the way to virtue is ethical endeavour. With the Epicureans happiness for the wise man was to surround himself during the short life, which is the lot of man, with good things, agreeable friends, interesting books, to keep a good table. Some of them obviously desired merry-making which fell short of the ideal. The author of Hortensius also wrote a work with the precise title of De Finibus bonorum et malorum.

When Augustine was nineteen and enamoured of philosophy, he wanted a doctrine concerning the supreme good and the supreme human evil, in other words, a “teleological” concept in depth.

It is very important to bear this in mind. The first book of the De Doctrina Christiana is in effect to be viewed as a treatise on biblical “teleology.” Augustine asks where according to the Bible is to be found definitive happiness, the supreme good of man, and what is the way to achieve it. He also asks what is total unhappiness. In other words, the first book of St. Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana is, so to speak, his De Finibus bonorum et malorum. Written about the same time as his monastic Rule, this book is thus for us a valuable aid for perceiving those philosophical-theological reflections which are found between the practical lines of the monastic text.

Before proceeding further to explain this point, let us for the moment hark back to the magisterial idea of Etienne Gilson: We open the writings of St. Augustine in order to find a system, and what we find is a method of thought, and this method is: to try to understand and explain “things” in terms of God.

Now, as I have said already, a long acquaintance with St. Augustine, and notably a recent rereading of the first book of the De Doctrina Christiana, leads me to define exactly Gilson’s formula. I would say this: it is necessary to try to understand and explain “things” in terms of God, and also — and this is not really different — in terms of our final definitive and common place with God, or more technically in terms of our common “telos.”

This in effect is what St. Augustine enables us to understand in the first book of his De Doctrina Christiana.

A word first of all about the make-up of the work. Some fifteen years after his conversion Augustine began a work of four “books” on the Bible. Its title De Doctrina Christiana could be rendered as “Christian doctrine,” but this translation — not easily avoidable — does not sufficiently evoke the very great riches of the work. In the first of the four books Augustine attempts to explain in their essential lines what one can read in the Bible. In the second and third books Augustine treats of the means of expression employed by the sacred authors to formulate the message of the Bible. In the fourth book he explains some of the means of expression which should help someone who is called to explain the Bible to others, whether in writing or in speaking. In the following exposition we refer only to the first of these four books.

About a century ago the German protestant Adolf von Harnach wrote a famous work with the title Das Wesen des Christentums, which means “The essential traits of Christianity.” Now we can affirm that Augustine’s first book on “Christian doctrine” is not only his biblical De Fine bonorum et malorum, but also his Das Wesen des Christentums. It is clear that this relationship with the works of Cicero and Von Harnach makes the De Doctrina Christiana unusually interesting.

In what consists according to the Bible the happiness of the “sage,” or where does he find the “telos” of his life, and what is the road a man must follow in order to attain this happiness, or to put it more transsubjectively (transsubjectivement) his sovereign good? It is in these perspectives that Augustine poses his questions on the most essential lines of the biblical message.

The first question: where according to the Bible is found man’s supreme good? Answer: in the “possession” of the Trinitarian God in the hereafter. Second question: what road must a man take in order to reach this supreme good? The answer is already given in the Old Testament and is repeated by Jesus himself: a man must love God with all his heart, with all his soul and all his strength — a strikingly simple answer. But having cited this passage, Jesus goes on to add that a man must love his neighbour as himself, and that on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. Does not this suggest that a man finds the finality of his life not only in the Trinitarian God, but also in himself and in others? On all the evidence, this is impossible. Augustine in the first book of the De Doctrina Christiana regards this as a magna quaestio, or as a great and difficult problem.

After a long detour which is sometimes hard to follow, Augustine arrives at a solution. The Trinitarian God is man’s supreme good, and it is in Him and Him alone that man will find his happiness. But if the “possession” of God can be distinguished from, it cannot be separated from the “possession” of all one’s actual neighbours, through the grace of God and in following Christ who is the Way, and the accomplishment of all their highest potentialities — but not separated from the “possession” of oneself, and likewise the fullness of what is best in me.

What Augustine wanted to express in the philosophical-theological language of his time, is formulated in language perhaps more congenial for us in passages of the eucharistic prayers. We quote for example Eucharistic Prayer IV:

“Remember those who have died in the peace of Christ and all the dead whose faith is known to you alone. Father, in your mercy grant also to us, your children, to enter into our heavenly inheritance in the company of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, and your apostles and saints. Then, in your kingdom, freed from the corruption of sin and death, we shall sing your glory with every creature through Christ our Lord, through whom you give us everything that is good.”

My true love for myself is orientated towards the “possession” of the supreme Good which is the Trinitarian God, and towards my ultimate and definitive end with God. And my true love for my neighbours is also orientated towards them for the “possession” of the supreme Good and their final, definitive and common place with God.

But this orientation towards the hereafter, so strongly underlined by St. Augustine, does it not entrap one? Does it not leave my neighbour in his possible misery, under the pretext that it is only eternity that counts? Must we not take our neighbour as he is and not as he will be?

But to take our neighbour as he is, and I myself as I am, cannot abstract from the fact that my neighbour like myself is a being open to progress, or to speak with St. Augustine himself: God made us for Himself and our heart is restless until it rests in Him.

It could be urged that this celebrated saying of St. Augustine concerns the most sublime thing in a person. Is it to be forgotten that we are in the flesh and experience hunger and thirst, and have around us the poor who are hungry and thirsty?

But the same Augustine, who speaks with a faith so convincing and such a vivid hope of our common, eternal life, does not forget that the Good is “one thing” that gives all and who... asks all. It is the same Augustine who exalts so high the happiness of man, but who also sets high the conditions for achieving it. One has but to read the Bible. We are thinking here of the sermons on the Last Judgement and the criteria of the divine Judge.

Now it is particularly interesting that one of these sermons, sermon 60, it is dated 397, is virtually contemporary with the first book of the De Doctrina Christiana. Here is what we read:

“You fear to part with your grain by planting it in the earth, but you don’t fear to plant there your heart and lose it. What does the Lord your God say to you when he gives you advice for your heart? ‘There where your treasure is, there is your heart.’ Raise, he says, your heart to heaven lest it rot in the earth. This advice comes from him who wishes to save you and not lose you.”

Always the same loftiness of perspectives! But the accent changes:

“Have you forgotten the words of the Saviour: ‘Come, you blessed of my Father, enter into possession of the kingdom, for I was hungry and you gave me to eat, and as long as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me .’ If you did not treat with contempt the beggar who asked you for something, consider who received what you gave that beggar. For ‘as often as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me .’ It was Jesus Christ who received what you gave. He who received it is the same one who gave you that which you were able to give. He who received it is the same one who at the end of history will give himself to you.”

The perspectives mount higher, but not for long:

“I have drawn your attention, my brothers, now and again to something in the Bible which, I avow, has moved me deeply, and which I must often recall to you. I ask you to consider what our Lord Jesus Christ will say at the end of the world when he comes to judge humanity. He will gather all nations before him and divide the people into two sections, placing one on his right and the other on his left. He will say to those on his right: ‘Come you blessed of my Father, take possession on the kingdom prepared for you before the beginning of the world.’ But to those on his left he will say: ‘Depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ Seek the reasons for such great a reward or for such punishment: ‘Receive the kingdom’ and ‘Depart into eternal fire.’ Why do the first receive the kingdom? ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat.’ Why will the others go into eternal fire? ‘I was hungry and you did not give me to eat.’ I ask you what teaching do these words comprise? With regard to those who are to receive the kingdom: because being good and faithful Christians they were generous, open to the words of the Lord, trusting with confidence in the promises, this I see: they did what they did. If they had not done it, their life, otherwise good, would have been a sterility incompatible with the reward. Perhaps they were chaste, honest, sober, abstaining from doing evil deeds. If they had not added to these virtues care for those who were hungry and thirsty, they would have remained sterile. They might have observed the precept: ‘Abstain from evil,’ but not the other: ‘do good (as Psalm 33, 15 says). Nevertheless the Lord did not say to them: ‘Come, receive the kingdom, for you have been chaste, you have not defrauded anyone, you have not oppressed the poor, you have not taken the goods of others by force, nor have you cheated someone by swearing an oath.’ He says nothing of the sort, but: ‘Receive the kingdom because I was hungry and you gave me to eat.’ How excellent is this, seeing that the Lord mentioned it only and did not say a word about the other things!

Turning to the others he will say: ‘Depart into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.’ If the impious ask him: ‘Why are we to go into eternal fire?’, the Lord could give them a long list of reasons: you ask me, you an adulterer, murderer, swindler, sacrilegious, blasphemer, infidel? He will say nothing of the sort, only: ‘Because I was hungry and you did not give me to eat.’ I see you are impressed, just as I myself am impressed.”

The fact that St. Augustine said that our heart is restless until it rests in God did not mean that he was unconcerned about worldly problems.

Our heart... this leads us to the next point.

Formulated as we have done earlier and as we have explained in terms of the first book of the De Doctrina Christiana, the Augustinian programme is found, so to speak, in Augustine’s head. But in reality this programme is there at the profound centre of the man that he was. Augustine had his own terms for explaining this, among others the term cor or “heart” precisely. We think too easily of the heart as romantic, sentimental, but Augustine himself said that the cor is “the point” in the interior of man where he is what he truly is. If one is a good-for-nothing, it is because of a wrongly orientated love which is there in his “heart.” If someone is a saint, thanks to a love exceptionally well orientated, he is so in his “heart.”  And when the profound “I” of someone does not correspond with the fundamental idea which it pretends to portray, he wears a “mask” and only plays a “role.”  The fundamental thought ought to be at the same time a fundamental inspiration. But it must not be forgotten that this will only be truly and fully realised in the future life. Even a saint must say to the Father until the end of his earthly life: “I have sinned against heaven.”

With Augustine it is not a question only of a programme of thought, but also and above all of a lived inspiration that motivated the man Augustine completely. In other words, it is necessary to try to understand and explain “things,” but above all to evaluate in one’s heart their merits or their nothingness. In Augustine, spirituality of thought and spirituality of the “heart” formed a profound unity, despite their transient setting.

This fundamental inspiration was for Augustine the fruit of a history in which, finally, the grace of God and the profound “I” of Augustine, the man, coincided. In the garden at Milan in 386 this profound “I” all at once was shattered, and then, as he said himself, the darknesses of doubt disappeared immediately and completely, as his heart was infused with a light of tranquil certainty.

This is why I have said that it is necessary to try to understand and explain “things,” but also and most of all to evaluate in the heart their merits and their nothingness, in terms of God and our final, definitive and common position with God.

This is important to grasp. Any reader of Augustine, whether a believer or half a believer, or even a total non-believer, should place himself at the centre where Augustine judges everything, if one is not to interpret him wrongly.

For us and especially for us members of the Augustinian Family and “friends of St. Augustine” it would be good to free Augustine himself, and ourselves too, from the mortgage of those who don’t read him correctly. Even today we can still read or hear statements of this kind: that what Augustine said of predestination is fatalism; that he was a Platonic and therefore an enemy of the body, and consequently he was not able to have sane ideas about marriage or celibacy or sexuality; or that Augustine denied freewill, and so forth. Once a person has learned to read Augustine, not through the eyes of Jansenius, for example, but through the eyes of Augustine himself, those kinds of judgements no longer make sense. I would recommend you to read a certain number of studies on these subjects which are published in volumes I to XVI of the Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes. In these articles Augustine’s method of thought is brilliantly employed.

It is quite possible that those negative ideas prove to be tenacious and that this mortgage will weigh down the reader of Augustinian works even to the “seventh day.”  But there will already be great progress if the members of the Augustinian Family and the “friends of St. Augustine” learn to appreciate their guide, Augustine, from a competent work.


I have now arrived at the second part of my exposition. What are the “things” which St. Augustine evaluated as he did?

These are too numerous to be enumerated even in an approximately exhaustive manner. Here is a selection: Manichaeism, which he rejected; Donatism; the Jews; the Pagans and their Catholic friends; the Pelagians; the Arians; the first shocks of the great migrations; the fall of Rome; Augustine’s correspondents; his brothers in the monasteries; religious women; Jerome; friend and enemy; the role of Peter and that of the bishop of Rome; Augustine’s own life; his episcopate; his faithful; the African councils — one could continue the list.

The “things” of our time are equally numerous and at first sight unrelated. Here too is a selection: the Middle East; the hostages; the war between Iran and Iraq; the Jews; Afghanistan; drugs; young people cohabiting; feminism; the consumer society; pollution of the environment and ecologists; trivialisation of divorce and abortion; basic communities in South America; liberation theology;  Mgr. Lefebvre;  Khomeini;  esoteric or mystical movements; Assisi; Mother Teresa; Father Kolbe; protests against university selection; empty churches; empty monasteries; the thousands of priests, religious men and women who have left; the sects; new forms of religious life, some having a great impact; violence; discrimination; the “invasion” of the Holy Spirit in the practice of the faith; the “invasion” of the Virgin Mary, even in the most official conciliar documents and papal encyclicals; ecumenism; the ordination of women — one could go on and on.

An historian concerned with Annals will undoubtedly ask if all that we happened to enumerate in such a diverse list could nevertheless be grouped under a common denominator. The reply could be: the man who becomes more and more planetary searches for a new and planetary image of man. Sometimes he makes it in an authentic style, sometimes in a despotic and aggressive style, sometimes in a puny form or at least in a groping or hesitant way. But at the same time we react against all innovation on our old planet, sometimes to the point of fanaticism which leaves one cold.

If the desire for a new image of man is really characteristic of the mentality of men today almost everywhere in the world, then a field as yet little explored or cultivated opens before the Church, which by definition is universal, and for us in the Church.

But in order to avoid our running after what is not important, we would do well to try and understand, explain and evaluate in our heart present “things” in the light of the Trinitarian God and of our final, definitive and common place with God in the happiness of the heavenly Jerusalem, like Augustine, in spite of our humble talents.




Balbino Rano O.S.A.


The third chapter of the Augustinian Constitutions bears the title “The Extent of the Entire Augustinian Family.”  It makes quite clear that “the Entire Augustinian Family” is made up of those members who form an integral part of the Order of St. Augustine or the Augustinian Order or the Order of Brothers/Sisters of St. Augustine (O.S.A.).[3] Until 1969 the Order was officially designated “Order of Brother Hermits of St. Augustine,” with the initials O.E.S.A. In fact for the last few hundred years the Order has regularly been called the Order of St. Augustine or the Augustinians in a majority of places in the world.

The Constitutions of the Augustinians speak with love and affection of the Orders and other religious Institutes that follow the Rule of St. Augustine. They affirm that the Augustinian Order feels and has felt profoundly linked with these Orders and Institutes “and it is sincerely desirous of strengthening this bond in such a way that it may live in the closest union with them.”[4] They add that the Augustinian Order, seeking to be consistent with its own tradition likewise “...strives carefully to strengthen its longstanding bond with the Orders of apostolic fraternity,” that is, with those that are ordinarily referred to as Mendicant Orders. This above all refers to the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, along with the same Augustinian Order.[5] The Constitutions express the wish, however, that the bond with some of the Orders that have the Rule of St. Augustine may be tightened in such a way that that may arrive at “constituting a single spiritual Augustinian family with those [institutes] that ‘have nearly the same constitutions and customs and are inspired by the same spirit’ and purpose.”[6] The citation indicates clearly that these Institutes, Orders or Congregations do not in the strict sense form part of the Augustinian Family. In the broad sense all the Institutes that follow the Rule of St. Augustine may be considered as making up the Augustinian Family. Those that are more closely connected with the tradition, history and life of the Order of St. Augustine will be this even more fully, but not to the exclusion of the others. It remains that the preferred title for the group of Institutes that follow the Rule of St. Augustine is that of the Family of the Rule of St. Augustine or the Augustinian Family.

The Augustinian Order has always been a Family, a Community in communion of life with its various parts or ‘branches.’ The order was founded in March of 1244 by the Apostolic See, at the hands of Pope Innocent IV. The Augustinians of the XIVth and subsequent centuries affirmed clearly that Mother Church founded it. Like a number of other Orders, the Augustinian Order at first considered St. Augustine as Father, and its members looked upon themselves as his sons. This was so in virtue of having adopted his Rule and the most fundamental principles of the religious life lived or legislated, or at least attributed to him. In contrast with the other Orders that followed this Rule, however, this sense of paternity and filiation underwent a transformation. The members of the Order developed such an enthusiasm for St. Augustine that they arrived at establishing him as their founder along with the Church. They projected upon him as a physical person what other religious Orders projected on their immediate founder, e.g. the Dominicans with St. Dominic.  For this reason he was considered and proclaimed Founder of the Augustinian Order by virtue of the example of his religious life and his doctrinal teaching. It was the members of the Order who rediscovered the true meaning of St. Augustine’s sense of the religious life. They brought to light an Augustine who above all wanted to be exclusively a religious, for whom the motive in choosing religious life was not the priesthood. Thus, in virtue of the circumstances of the foundation of the Order as well as the example of St. Augustine, the ministerial priesthood is not of the substance of the Order[7]. For the same reasons all the members of the Order are considered on an equal level. However, there does exist a diversity of levels regarding the degree of intensity with which the Rule and spirit of St. Augustine is lived and the needs of the Augustinian Family are served, in accordance always with how each particular Congregation or Institute views its relationship to it.

Two popes have expressly and concretely indicated what the parts or ‘branches’ that make up the Order or the Augustinian Family are. They were Pope Julius II on July 2, 1512 and Leo X on May 10, 1513 both issuing a bull with the same title (Prae ceteris) and content. They state that the Augustinian Order is made up of “four branches: the brothers (fratribus), the nuns (monialibus), the ‘veiled’ (mantellatis), and the ‘cinctured’ (sola zona praecinctis).[8]

This distribution of the four branches is very clearly outlined and described in the already cited third chapter of the Augustinian Constitutions. The first part or ‘branch’ consists of the brothers who take solemn vows and are under the jurisdiction of the Prior General of the Order. The second part or ‘branch’ is made up of the Sisters of the Contemplative Life and who likewise take solemn vows. Such, for example, are the nuns of Cascia, Talavera, those of the recollect observance, whose name is not to be confused with the Recollect Augustinians, and those of the descalced observance, founded by St. John of Ribera.[9] The third part or ‘branch’ is composed of the ‘manteilates.’ They are namely those who were called religious tertiaries or secular tertiaries. The members of this ‘branch’ promise to “live the Christian life according to the Rule of St. Augustine and the other fundamental principles of the Order; however without embracing all the obligations.”  The first part of this ‘branch’ is made up of the religious Congregations of the Order; the second is made up of the secular Fraternities or Augustinian Seculars. The fourth ‘branch’ is composed of the ‘cintured’, called by the current Constitutions St. Augustine Societies. They are motivated by the desire to love St. Augustine and imitate him but without taking on the obligations of the other three ‘branches.’[10] As the veil serves as the sign of the “Mantellates” dedication, so the cincture serves as the sign of the ‘cinctured.’

The Prior General of the entire Augustinian Family is the Prior General of the Augustinians of the first ‘branch.’ In early times, in most instances, the Prior General had jurisdiction over all the other parts or ‘branches.’ In the course of the years the Priors General have been relieved of this jurisdiction. Sometimes this was the result of their own initiative, in other cases it was a result of Church legislation, the exception being, and logically so, the first ‘branch,’ as well as some of the contemplative monasteries. For example, the monastery of Cascia is under the jurisdiction of the Prior General. The Priors Provincial collaborate in a special way with the Prior General. They seek to give as much spiritual assistance as possible to the various other parts or ‘branches.’ Thus, by means of these Superiors, the unity of the Augustinian Family is supported and promoted. Confessors, preachers, etc. are provided in order to impart more adequately the life and spirituality of the Augustinians. Since the V Lateran Council (1512-1517) the popes have granted the Augustinian Family a wide exemption from pastors and bishops in order to better assimilate the life that they have promised to live. It is substantially the same for all four of the renowned Mendicant Orders: the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Augustinians, and the Carmelites.


As a normal rule, in order to be able to form part of the Order or Augustinian Family an acceptance on the part of the Prior General or other Priors considered as his delegates has been necessary[11]. In the XIII century there was some imprudence in receiving or accepting as members of the Order some monasteries or persons. As a result the General Chapter of Naples of 1300 ordered that such not take place without permission from the Prior Provincial or the Vicar of the Prior General, and that they not be accepted except after receiving the “mature and deliberate counsel of the ‘elders’” of the respective Province of the Order.[12]

In the XVIIth century Congregations began to emerge that wished to become members of the Order or the Augustinian Family. This led to the juridical act of aggregation by means of a formal decree. By virtue of the aggregation a religious Congregation begins to officially form part of the Order or Augustinian Family. The same is true for other Orders.[13] The General Chapter or Prior General issues the decree, currently “with the consent of his Council, provided that [these Congregations] have or take up as a solid basis of their life the Rule of St. Augustine and the other fundamental principles of the Order and are conscious of their belonging to and their spiritual ties to the Augustinian Family.”[14] For some Congregations this was merely a formality, since they were born within the Order or Augustinian Family and evolved into an Augustinian religious community (pious women living in common) or an Augustinian contemplative monastery, requiring their own Constitutions. For others it was and continues to be a constitutive act of belonging to the Order of the Augustinian Family. This is such in the cases of those Congregations that were founded outside the context of the Order. In former times this act required substantially that they would wear a black habit that resembled that of the Order and that the black cincture would be worn. These requirements no longer exist. The aggregated Congregations received the right to participate in all of the spiritual benefits of the Order: indulgences, privileged Masses — having fulfilled all required conditions. However, the principal element of the aggregation always remained that of the mutual help and cooperation shared by members of the same Family. The same holds true for the Secular Institutes aggregated.

Today the granting of indulgences and connected privileges has changed. However it still remains an important factor that the Order may grant to the aggregated Congregation participation in all the spiritual and good works of the entire Augustinian Family. It is sufficient to remember that the Augustinian Order offers many Masses for all the members of its Family. Every priest of the first ‘branch’ is obliged four times yearly to offer a Mass for members of the Augustinian Family: Commemoration of the deceased of the Order (Nov. 6); Commemoration of the deceased relatives of members of the Order (Jan. 16); Commemoration of deceased benefactors of the Order (Oct. 10); during the month of September, a Mass for the living benefactors of the Order. The non-ordained members of the community participate in these Masses with the same intention. The Augustinian Constitutions further state that the Prior General is to frequently offer the sacrifice of the Mass for all the members of the Order, especially on the solemnities of Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, the Annunciation, the feast of St. Joseph, and the feast of our Holy Father St. Augustine. Each month in which there is not one of the above mentioned three commemorations, each Augustinian community will offer a Mass for the deceased members and benefactors of the Order or Augustinian Family.[15]

A special faculty of the aggregated family is that of being able to use the liturgical calendar of the aggregating Order.[16] Also, all aggregated Communities can use the initials ‘ O.S.A.

Such a relationship with the Order or Augustinian Family does not imply a juridical dependence. For example, the Prior General is the supreme moral leader of the entire Augustinian Family. He has jurisdiction or juridical power over the previously mentioned first ‘branch’ and, when requested, over some of the monasteries of the second branch.

“The Order has the faculty of affiliating to itself those faithful who merit special recognition because of their distinguished cooperation for the good of the Order...” [17], the ‘good of the Order’ applying to all parts or ‘branches’ of the Order. Although the word affiliation would seem to indicate a more important bond than aggregation, the contrary is in fact the case. Affiliation does not render a person, monastery or Congregation a member properly speaking of the Order or the Augustinian Family. It makes them honorary members, ‘honoris causa,’ with the right to participate in the spiritual benefits of the Order both in life and in death.[18] “Affiliation is granted by the Prior General on his own initiative or upon the request of any community in the Augustinian Family. The parents of the Brothers and the Sisters of solemn vows are considered affiliated to the Order from the very day of profession. The Prior General is authorized to grant this affiliation to the parents of the Brothers and Sisters of Religious Congregations of active life if the General Moderators of these Congregations should request this.”[19] As a general norm, the parents of the brothers and sisters ought to be considered the principal benefactors of the Augustinian Family, and so are very deserving of this recognition.

A bit of history

From the very beginning the Augustinian Order has been a pluralistic Family. The history of the Augustinian Family is the history of each and everyone of its parts or ‘branches.’ It has been asserted that although in fact religious Institutes were considered a Family in the sense in which I have been speaking, the term was in fact not used until the last century, until St. John Bosco. This is not the case. The Augustinian Family considered itself to be such and used this title as early as the XVIth century. The great humanist Cardinal of the Roman Church, Brother Giles of Viterbo, whose elevation to the rank of Cardinal, according to the historian Ludwig von Pastor “redounded to the great honor of Leo X”[20] used the term. Writing in Cum Sanctissimum Dominum (1 November 1508) to the superiors of the Order, he expressly affirmed that the Augustinian Family, [in Latin, Augustinensem Familiam] was not the least part of the Christian flock, and he described it making reference to the ‘branches’ that I have already referred to when speaking of Julius II and Leo X.[21] At that time there already existed not only in fact the relationship but also the name Augustinian Family. And for Brother Giles ‘Augustinian Family’ meant universus Ordo, the entire Order, as it was in fact.

The Prior General Thaddeus of Perugia gave the title Augustinian Family even more solemnity in promulgating the revision of the Constitutions of the Order in 1581. During the praying of the Oratio serotina, an evening prayer that was recited by the friars, the contemplative nuns, and some active Augustinian communities, prayers were to be offered for the pope, that he may be kept “from all adversity..., for the Cardinal Protector, and the Prior General along with the entire Augustinian Family”[22] The same Constitutions describe and show a sincere concern for the entire Order or Augustinian Family.

In the XVIIth century a formal process of aggregation to the Order or Augustinian Family was established. This came about during that period when many new religious Congregations were being founded. On 21 July 1645 the Prior General Fulgentius Petrelli of Sigillo received a poignant letter from “your most humble and obedient daughters, the Superiors and Nuns of the monasteries of Avignon, Grenoble and Paris of the Congregation of the Incarnate Word and the Most Blessed Sacrament, of the same Order of St. Augustine” This was the title of a “new Congregation,” founded some six years previous, numbering three monasteries and with great hopes for the future. The letter begins with the words Ea semper. After stating that throughout the ages there have been those desirous of forming part of the “Augustinian Order,” they write that “the most recent is our own Congregation, erected a few years previous under the authority of the Holy See, first in Avignon, and subsequently in Grenoble and most recently in Paris.”  It was the Holy See’s desire that they be under the jurisdiction of the locale Ordinaries, but at the same time,

“guarded by the most gentle Rule of St. Augustine, operating under the protection of his most sacred Order, as members of this most noble Body.”  “Accordingly we are obliged to recognize as our own the Head of this Augustinian Body, and promise our filial observance to Your Most Reverend Paternity, who in all wisdom presides over this very illustrious Order. With humble prayers we ask you to deign to aggregate us as your daughters and nuns, as you have done with other Congregations of the same Order, declaring to all with your authority and appropriate letters, that we and our sisters have been and are religious nuns of your Order and that our Congregation and its monasteries, those already established and those we hope to establish, are members of this most noble Body. We also ask that you would incorporate us into your Order in such a way as to share in the communion of prayers, supplications, merits, works of satisfaction, and pious deeds, that are continuously carried out in the entire Order, as befits your true daughters and religious sisters. We would also ask you to deign to make and declare us participants in the privileges, favors, and all the indulgences, enjoyed by the other Congregations and members of the Order. Finally, we ask you to protect us with your patronage, and defend the Formula of the Institute as presented to you, in conformance with the Rule of St. Augustine and in no way contrary to your Constitutions, declaring that it is absolutely useful and necessary in order to attain the goal of this particular Congregation. We on our part will try with the help of God to do nothing unworthy of origins so illustrious and to presente ourselves as true daughters of this most sacred Order. We hope that your Most Reverend Paternity will not regret having granting us this kindness. With fervent supplication we beseech the Word Incarnate to look upon us and keep us safe for our good and that of the entire Order”.[23]

The same Prior General responded in a letter of 21 July 1645, noting in the corresponding Register that besides the letter that follows he will send them “tres familiaritates, a nobis dispensari consuetas.”  His letter of response begins with the words Suspirium illud Verbi Incarnati. It is a graceful letter, overflowing with love for the feminine consecrated life. “We, by the same token, moved by your letter to the highest joy, and having recently been chosen by the electors to the summit of the generalate, aggregate your Congregation fully to the number of our Congregations: we aggregate you to the Augustinian choirs of virgins with fervent and heartfelt desire, and by the accompanying letters receive you as our daughters in all charity, and declare you to be participants in our spiritual graces.”  The letter concludes with the concession of all they had asked for in their letter.[24]

This was the first women’s Congregation to be aggregated to the Augustinian Order. The letter’s content indicates that they wanted to be true members of the Order. This was all the work of the Foundress, Mother Jeanne Chezard de Matel, who died in Paris in 1670. The cause of her beatification is well advanced.[25]

The decree of aggregation of the Religious of the Incarnate Word does not use the words “manteilates” or “tertiaries.”  Such expressions, however, are found in the second aggregation. In 1661 the fervent and outstanding Augustinian Fr. Angel Le Prouse founded, once again in France, the Congregation of the “Sisters of St. Thomas of Villanova.”  They began as Augustinians. Nevertheless, for its juridical effects, they sought and were granted aggregation on 20 July 1683. The Prior General was Dominic Valvassori of Milan and with the letter Iniuncti nobis he declared that “inter Tertiarias, et Mantellatas Ordinis nostri recenseri merito possint.”[26]

Since that time 89 Congregations have been aggregated to the Order or Augustinian Family, considering as a single Congregation the various branches or groups of the Congregation of the Incarnate Word and the Most Blessed Sacrament. Eight of these were men’s Congregations and 81 women’s. On 28 February 1971 the most recent aggregation took place, namely that of the French Congregation of the “Augustinian Sisters of Charity of Our Lord,” founded 30 November 1943. Twenty women’s Congregations arose within the Order and 62 entered into the Augustinian Family directly by means of a Decree of Aggregation. Some Congregations have requested a renewal of their aggregation.  Such was not necessary but was granted for various reasons. In some cases it was because the Decree of Aggregation could no longer be found. In other cases there was confusion regarding the granting of the aggregation. The intention of the Congregation requesting, the same with the Prior General granting, was that the aggregation be granted. But at times it was mistakenly believed that the granting of “affiliation” was superior to that of “aggregation,” and so it was granted in the form of “affiliation.”  Similar confusion was operative even in this century.[27] This confusion was present on 12 January 1831 and 20 April 1853 in the case of the Augustinian Servants of Jesus and Mary. They had requested aggregation and were granted the formula that ordinarily is used to grant affiliation.[28] The same thing happened in the case of the Congregation of the Augustinians of the Assumption on 27 November 1866.[29]

Some Congregations, both of men and women, put a great deal of emphasis on the gaining of indulgences upon incorporation into the Order or Augustinian Family. However in almost all cases the desire was to be incorporated into the most authentic inheritance of St. Augustine and have the joy of being able to belong to a world-wide religious Family of long and noble lineage. To prove otherwise would require concrete evidence in each particular case. We know, however, that indulgences were a secondary matter. They were granted as a stimulus for a life of greater charity and perfection in a concrete religious Family; in our case the Augustinian Family. This may be likened, if I may use the image, to a mother who offers candy to her children, to encourage them to carry out their tasks with greater enthusiasm and fervour. It would be quite small to think that a Founder/Foundress of a Congregation would have requested aggregation simply out of a ‘selfish’ motive to gain indulgences, not paying attention to the content of the life this would require. This is especially true in former times when even some change in the habit was required, for example the wearing of a black cinture, the question of habit being of particular importance. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that it was never required to include the word “Augustinian” in the title of the respective Congregation in order to belong to the Augustinian Family. The aggregated Congregations always operated in a vast field of freedom within the context of the necessary unity. Thus when it is said that a Congregation, once aggregated ‘did not actually become Augustinian as such this does not mean that it was not now an ‘Augustinian congregation’ but rather that it was not bound to those same obligations as Congregations that were born actually within the Order. Let me give an example. The Congregation of the Concepcionistas Misioneras de la Ensenanza were the first religious of our Order I encountered. I came to know them in Ponferrada (Leon, Spain). Their founder Mother Carmen Sallés (†1911) asked for aggregation to the Order on 7 January 1910 as she was giving final shape to the Congregation. In the beautiful letter that she addressed to the Prior General Fr. Tomas Rodriguez she declared that this humble servant of God and all the members of her Council “having chosen the Rule of St. Augustine and desiring to incorporate our Institute to your Order and to enjoy its privileges, humbly ask Your Most Reverend Paternity to grant us the requested grace.”  It was granted on 17 January of the same year. She could well have said that the members of her Congregation were not Augustinians “as such” in the sense explained above. But she could not say, and without doubt would not have said, that they did belong to the Order, since the aggregation granted included ‘simple affiliation’ and much more. The saintly Mother Carmen Sallés knew very well what it meant to be a religious tertiary of an Order, as she knew very well that she was not obliged to take the Rule of St. Augustine nor any one of “the four ancient and traditional Monastic Rules of the Church.”[30] She chose St. Augustine because she loved him and chose his Order because she saw that it was good for her Congregation.

As an example of what other Founders/Foundresses did, we will look at how Mother Teresa del Sagrado Corazon Castaneda Coello  (f 1950), foundress of the Religiosas Reparadoras del S. Corazón approached the question. Initially the foundation, begun in 1896, followed the Franciscan tradition. After much prayerful reflection she saw that the Lord was indicating to her that the Congregation ought to belong to the Order or Augustinian Family. It required a strong women to take such a courageous decision after so many years. She asked for aggregation and the Augustinian Order granted it on 24 August 1931. On the 31st of the same month she wrote a letter to her Congregation: “After many years of prayer, and taking many things into consideration, we have received from the Lord of all goodness, my dearest daughters, the gift of a direction that will be more secure for our life’s pilgrimage.”  She indicated that one of the things that made an impression upon her was the holy liberty that the Augustinian Order granted to each one of its parts. The other is the sense of common life and collaboration. Nonetheless, she encountered difficulties regarding the decision she had made. She writes in letters of 18 November and 2 December 1931:

I have given much thought, my dear daughter, to this change; I have at length asked the Lord for his light, and after considering and weighing everything, I chose the Augustinians. Who more than I desires and seeks the security and growth of our beloved Reparacion. This does not mean, however, that our Aggregation involves the question of jurisdiction and that we are dependent upon the Augustinians. [Those that do not wish this] are free to leave and to live the Franciscan Rule in a Franciscan Convent. No one needs to be forced to remain in the Reparacion, especially at this point when we are trying to solidly establish the foundations. We seek only to fulfill what the Augustinian Rule indicates: ‘They had only one soul and one heart in God’.[31]

Mother Teresa, being the writer she was, has left us a clear record of her thinking. They enable us to understand clearly what she was thinking. And how many other founders/foundresses had the same intention but have left us very little in writing!

It could be asked if it is worthwhile and valuable to retain the aggregation if it was requested and obtained after the death of the founder/foundress. The answer is a wholehearted yes. It is a dimension of “the sound traditions” that Vatican II asked us to “acknowledge and faithfully maintain” as part of the “patrimony of each Institute.”[32] Without a doubt the decision was the result or fruit of the charism of the Congregation or the Institute.

Various French Congregation make up a Federazion, approved by the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes on 9 November 1970 under the title Fédération des Soeurs Augustines. Since 27 February 1968 various Congregations in Italy have come together in one way or another to form the Unione Agostiniana Italiana. In Germany a goodly number of Congregations belong to the Union der dem Augustinerorden aggregierten Schwesterngemeinschaften in Deutschland, created around 1958 and confirmed by the Prior General on 5 July 1976.

The radius of activity of the various parts or ‘branches’ of the Augustinian Family encompasses a world-wide geography. It is located on all continents, even though it can be noted that the presence of Augustinian sisters and contemplative nuns is lacking in some nations where the Augustinian friars have had a brilliant history.

The gamut of activity is extensive; one could even say universal: contemplation, adoration, reparation, evangelization and catechesis, missions, teaching, child and youth care, health care that includes house to house calls, assisting the poor, elderly and needy, service to seminaries and religious houses, etc.


As a religious Institute Two aspects are fundamental in the spirituality of the Order or Augustinian Family: Fraternity, stemming from the nature of the origin of the Order, and Augustinianism, by reason of its bond with St. Augustine and his monastic legacy.

This spirituality is to be found in good part in the Rule of St. Augustine. Its depth and dynamism is evident in all its vigor especially as it is read in the light of the other works of St. Augustine. The Rule is for the Augustinian Family the touchstone for the authentic interpretation of the mind of St. Augustine. The Rule is more important to us than the fine Constitutions of each ‘branch’, Congregation, or Institute.

A fundamental principle, if not tap root, of Augustinian spirituality is to be found in Genesis 1:26-27: “God created us in his image.”  We are the image of God, which gives us the capacity to possess him: “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”[33] Our spirituality is above all evangelical and ecclesial: it is the first thing proposed to us by the Rule. The Sacred Scriptures must be the foundation of all. There is a perennial relevance to the call of the Constitutions to Masters/Mistresses of Novices, extending back to the XIII century to see to it that “the novice reads the Sacred Scriptures with eagerness, listens to them with devotion, and learns them with enthusiasm.”[34] The search for God in inferiority must be the guideline: “Don’t go out of yourself; return within; truth dwells in the interior man...”[35] Once again: “O God, ever the same, let me know myself, let me know you!”[36] Humility, as the font of love, and love as the font of justice and peace, in an on-going search for truth’s triumph—to this each member of the Augustinian Family must aspire, finding security always in an intense collaboration with the grace of Christ: “who made you without your collaboration but will justify you only with your collaboration “[37]. Community of goods and communion of life are at the same time the foundation and goal of our religious community life. The Rule asks this of all of us: “dwell together in your house having one soul and one heart directed towards God...”[38] Our attitude must be to present ourselves “as one single soul, the one soul of Christ”[39] and to manifest ourselves as one single person, “the one Christ loving himself.”[40] Our conduct must be always marked by simplicity and friendship, required of us by the very meaning of our lived Fraternity and the teaching of St. Augustine, exhibiting always a fervent and profound apostolic zeal: “If you want to love Christ, extend your love throughout all the world: because the members of Christ are to be found scattered throughout the world.”[41]

Our spirituality must lead us to be ever more and more what we are called to be: a family that appreciates and is aware of its goodness, that loves and understands itself, and is concerned and collaborates with one another. We constitute “one body under our one Father St. Augustine.”[42]

There is no need of a juridical dependence between the various parts or “branches.”  It is sufficient to find the necessary unity by the right and obligation of feeling ourselves to be responsible members of one and the same great Family, a Family ever so glorious in the service of the Church and humanity.

In order to better achieve this we must likewise know our history — the history of the entire Family and accordingly each one of its members or parts: “because a better knowledge of history fosters that unity of the members of the Order and stimulates emulation in carrying out the mission” of the Family[43] in the Church.

The Augustinian Family has always had a profound respect for the entire person, physical and moral. No one is to be looked upon as merely a hired hand. There must be among all of us an authentic and fraternal equality, one that is mutually enriching as we maintain full faithfulness to the particular Founder/Foundress of our own Congregation or Institute. We share one common mission and vocation in the building up of the Kingdom of God, even if the ministries and specific or special goals of each group are diverse. All of these parts are “committed with one soul and one heart on the way to God to the same task and ideal, namely, ‘the building up of the Body of Christ’” (Eph. 4:12).[44]

We must dialogue in order to better collaborate as an authentic Family, seeking the good of each and everyone of its members. Accordingly we must find suitable ways to make this a reality today.

In order to better achieve this goal let us feel ourselves intimately united, using the words of Don Sebastián Gili Vives, Founder of the Congregation of the Agustinas Hermanas del Amparo, “with the great [heavenly] Augustinian Family that from above calls us and awaits us”[45]. Let us have this close to our hearts on the feast of All Saints of the Order, the 13th of November, anniversary of the birth of our Holy Father St. Augustine, and the day on which we celebrate in communion with “our brothers and sisters in glory.”[46]






Date of aggregation



Religiosae Verbi Incarnati et Smi. Sacramenti



Renewed for the Congregation headquartered in Mexico




Soeurs de Saint-Thomas de Villeneuve - Neuilly-sur- Seine, France




Suore Oblate del S. Bambino Gesii - Rome







Agostiniane Serve di Gesii e Maria - Rome







Filles du St-Coeur de Marie, called de la Providence La Fleche, France




Agustinas Hermanas de Amparo - Palma de Mallorca, Spain




4.II.1861, 26.XII.1927



Hermanos Terciarios Agustinos de Binisalem - Mallorca, Spain






Suppressed in 1952



Religieuses de l’Assomption - Paris




Congregatio Angustinianorum ab Assumptione - Rome







Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions - Rome







Augustines du Sacré-Coeur - Abbeville, France






In 1954 they united with the Augustines du Precieux Sang - Arras, who in turn united with the Augustines de VHotel-Dieu de Paris, called today Soeurs Augustines de Notre Dame de Paris



Agustinas Misioneras - Rome




12.IX.1928, 9.V.1949



Serve di Maria Ministre degli Infermi - Rome




Figlie del Crocifisso - Rome




Misionnaires du Verbe Incarne - Contras, France

According to the declaration of one of these missionaries, they were no longer in existence in 1921




Soeurs du St-Coeur de Marie - Vendome, France




By 1981 they were a local community of the Soeurs du Bon-Secours de Paris




Augustinian  Sisters  of Our  Lady  of  Consolation -S. Juan, Philippine Is.




Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary -Woodford Bridge, England




Suore Agostiniane del Divino Amore - Rome




Soeurs de Saint-Joseph de l’Apparition - Fontenay-sous-Bois, France

As of 1931 they said that they were no longer aggregated.




Fratres S. Augustini a SS. Sacramento - Iwonicz, Poland

In 1931 they were no longer in existence




Hijas de S. Jose, Protectoras de la Infancia - Santiago de Chile




Agustinas Terciarias de la Ensenanza - Logrofio Spain

In 1944 they were joined to the Agustinas Misioneras, out of which community they had developed.




Religiosas Concepcionistas Misioneras de la Ensenanza - Madrid







Suore della Carita del Buono e Perpetuo Soccorso -Rome




Agostiniane di Santa Rita - Palmi, Reggio Calabria Italy

In 1946 they united with the Agostiniane Serve di Gesu e Maria - Rome




Ordensgemeinschaft   der  Christenserinnen   Aachen -Stolberg, Germany







Petites soeurs de L’Assomption - Paris




Augustines  de  Notre-Dame  de  la  Consolation - Le Bouscat, France




Oblatas del Santisimo Sacramento - Iquique, Santiago, Chile

In 1922 they passed to the Mercedarian Order




Augustines du Saint-Coeur de Marie - Angers, France







Agostiniane del Chiostro della Cattedrale di Lucca - Italy

In 1982 they united with the Agostiniane della Annunziata - S. Giovanni Valdarno, Italy.




Genossenschaft der Cellitinnen zur hi. Maria in der Kupfergasse - Cologne, Germany




Congregatio Fratrum Cellitarum seu  Alexianorum -(Aachen) Signal Mountain, Tenn. U.S.A.




Augustinas Hijas del Santisimo Salvador - Lima




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Antwerpen - Belgium




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Halle - Belgium




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Leuven - Belgium

In 1964 they united with the Zusters Norbertienen van Duffel - Belgium.




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Lier - Belgium




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Mechelen - Belgium

In 1967 they joined with two other Congregations to form the Diocesane Zusters van Overijse-Mechelen.




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Bethel - Brugge, Belgium




Soeurs de Charite de Notre-Dame de Bonne-Esperance - Binche, Belgium




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Dendermonde - Belgium




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Diksmuide - Belgium

In 1964 they united with the Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Bethel - Brugge.




Gasthuiszusters Augustinessen van Ekeren - Belgium

In 1968 they united with the Gasthuiszusters van Boom, a group that does not pertain to the Augustinian Order.




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Enghien - Belgium

In 1950 they united with two other Congregations, not pertaining to the Order, to form the Chanoi-nesses Hospitalieres de S. Augustin - Tournai, Belgium.




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van leper - Belgium




Pauvres Soeurs de Mons - Belgium




Filles de Sainte Elisabeth - Mons, Belgium

In 1935 they united with the Soeurs de Charite de Notre-Dame de Bonne-Esperance - Binche, Belgium.




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Mons - Belgium

In 1956 they united with the Servites de Marie de Jolimont - Belgium.




Zusters Augustinessen van St. Truiden, Zwartzusters -Belgium




Augustines Soeurs Noires de Tournai - Belgium




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Veurne Westol - Belgium

They are now united with the Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Bethel - Brugge.




Genossenschaft der Augustinerinnen - Neus, Germany




Zusters Augustinessen van Barmhartigheid - Heemstede, Holland







Or antes de l’Assomption - Paris




Oblates de l’Assomption  Religieuses Missionnaires -Paris




Misioneras Siervas de San Josd - Rome




Soeurs de Sainte-Jean d’Arc - Quebec, Canada




Fratres Misericordiae Mariae Auxiliatricis - Trier, Germany




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Oudenaarde • Belgium

In 1956 they united with the Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Dendcrmonde




Zusters Augustinessen, Gasthuizusters van Leuven ■ Belgium

Augustines Hospitalieres de Louvain




Genossenschaft der Cellitinnen zur hi. Gertrud - Duren-Niederau, Germany




Religiosas Reparadoras del S. Corazdn - Rome




Agostiniane Riparatrici - Piano di Sorrento, Italy




Zusters Augustinessen van St. Monica - Hilversum, Holland




School Sisters of Notre Dame - Rome




Augustines de Notre-Dame de Paris - Paris




Rita-Schwestern - Wurzburg, Germany




Agustinas de Nuestra Senora del Socorro - Mexico







Petites Soeurs de la Presentation - Butembo Beni, Zaire




Schwestern von Heiligen Geist - Koblenz, Germany




Genossenschaft der Cellitinnen nach der Regel des hi. Augustinus - Cologne, Germany




Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Gent - Belgium




Genossenschaft der Augustinerinnen Cellitinnen - Cologne, Germany




Marienschwestern von der Unbefleckten Empfdngnis Rome




Petites Freres de l’Assomption - Butembo Beni, Zaire




Agostiniane della SS. Annunziata - S. Giovanni Valdarno, Arezzo, Italy Renewed

1954 8.X.1980



Alexianerbriider - Neuss, Germany




Kongregation der Hedwigsschwestern - Berlin




Augustines de Meaux, France




Augustines du Saint-Coeur de Marie - Paris




Monika-Schwestern - Ingelheim, Germany




Augustinas de la Ensenanza - San Luis Potosf, Mexico




Agostiniane della Presentazione - Poschiavo, Switzerland



Hospitalieres de Saint-Augustin - Marseilles, France



Zgromadzenie Siostr Augustianek - Krakow, Poland



Religieuses Augustines Hospitalieres de St-Louans -Chinon, France

In 1972 they united with the Augustines du Saint-Coeur de Marie - Angers, France.



Augustines de la Charite Notre-Dame - Montbrison, France

On 28.VIII.1985 they united with the Augustines de Notre-Dame de Paris.



Zusters Augustinessen van St.-Niklaas - Kortrijk, Belgium



Because of their close ties with the Order or Augustinian Family, although not formally aggregated, the following groups took part in the Symposium:


Augustines de la Misericorde de Jesus de Malestroit - Rennes, France.


Augustines Hospitalieres de l’Immaculee Conception Saint-Amandles-Eaux, France.


Augustines Hospitalieres de l’Immaculee Conception de Versailles -Versailles, France.


Augustinusschwestern - Volkach am Main, Germany.




Giovanni Scanavino O.S.A.

Represented here are members of one great family. The different Congregations, like the Augustinian Order itself, are an expression of a special and complementary gift which the Spirit willed to grant to the Church, and, in and through the Church, to the vast city of humanity.

None of the components of the Augustinian family has exclusively for itself either sanctity or Augustinian spirituality, but all the Congregations right from their origins have looked to Augustine, and follow his Rule, as a precise and significant way of interpreting the Gospel and religious life.

The Centenary which we are about to bring to a close, following many occasions or study and reflection, has underlined again the importance and validity of this reference to Augustine and his spirituality for the Church and the modern world, as well as for the life of the Church and its fidelity to the message of Christ, and for responding adequately to the most pressing expectations of contemporary man.

It seemed important to us, therefore, to devote time in order to reflect together about trying to coordinate in freedom and mutual respect a spiritual service, ever authentic and unifying, so as to meet the needs of our common mother, the Church, and the immense human family.

What impact in our life has this reference to Augustine and his spirituality? How can we make our presence active and significant in regard to the precise and urgent expectations of the Church and today’s world?

How seriously do we regard the question of our “formation” in this original way of interpreting the gospel and religious life, which has always been recognised by the Church as an authentic and catholic (universal, appropriate) way of living and spreading the Christian message?

What can we do better and more together (in agreement) so that a definite Augustinian spirit (a certain mentality and a certain style) may shape more the way of the Church and the world in terms of humanity, service and unity, etc., and thus be one very appropriate response by us to the needs of the Church and the modern world?

It is not our intention to deal with a juridical problem or to approach matters in terms of what might be called a religious Gallup poll, such as: how many are we? We are still very many, we are still somebody! No, the problem is more serious. Given our common identity and value, we must sincerely seek to analyse and study the problem with the great regard we should have for the gifts of God and in view of the immense yearning of this city which would like to be, but does not always succeed in being, God’s.

Fidelity to the proper “charism” of our foundation

One is aware of the predominantly charismatic understanding of the religious life which the Second Vatican Council proclaimed. It spoke of “a tree planted by God in a marvelous way, with varied branches, in the field of the Lord” (L.G. 43). It spoke of “God’s plan,” and of the “impulse of the Spirit” as explaining “the wonderful variety of religious communities which have contributed so much for making the Church not only better equipped for every good work (cf. 2 Tim. 3, 17) and better prepared for its ministry in building up the Body of Christ (cf. Eph. 3, 10), but through the variety of the gifts of its children, likewise adorned like a spouse for her husband (cf. Apoc. 21,2), thereby manifested the many-sided wisdom of God (cf. Eph. 3,10)”  (P.C. lb).

Every religious family has welcomed the invitation of the Council to renew itself by returning to the sources and to a faithful interpretation of the spirit and proper aim of the founders (ib. 2a, c). The new constitutions represent the official response to this invitation. We all have sought to rediscover our particular physiognomy and our particular function within the Church. In these years we have done nothing but talk about “charisms”: we hope we have succeeded in conducting ourselves with the wisdom of the scribe who knew how to draw out from his treasure things old and new (Mt. 13,52). With reference to the foundation of one’s own Congregation, not simply in an historical-archaeological sense, but rather in a dynamic sense, in the light of the present situation and its demands, there remains, however, the indisputable matter of expressing the proper nature of our charism and its originality among the variety of gifts proper to the Church. We must not understand this originality in an absolute unique sense; otherwise we become incensed that all are not charismatic, and in addition, religious life is reduced to a kind of dangerous competition in which we become more concerned about making an impression instead of being of service.

Charism and spirituality

In this process of renewal the dynamic principle is ever the same Spirit who inspired the foundation of our Congregation and who now wishes it to be adapted to the changed conditions of our time. The most fruitful attitude for us is to be attuned to listening to the Spirit who lives in us. In this way is born and developed the spirituality which is the soul and the guarantee of every authentic renewal.

With regard to the duty of listening to the Spirit, some founders down through the centuries have emerged as Masters (Doctors) because of their deep understanding of the gospel message and their doctrinal exposition. They interpreted in an original way and adapted according to the needs of their day the experience of the religious life; but they also bequeathed a copious literary heritage which, while transmitting the fruit of their research and their experience, became a secure medium for doctrinal and spiritual formation.

Augustine is surely one of these Founder-Masters. The Church has constantly recommended his teaching to ranks of religious men and women because in it they will find the security of a spiritual school and a needful and authoritative rule of life.

Today, with the renewal requested by Vatican II and focused with particular attention on historical sources, a problem could possibly arise with regard to our foundations and the spiritual school of Augustine. It is useful, though perhaps also superfluous to state precisely that the point of reference for all our religious families, and binding on each, is its foundation. There were profound reasons why each Congregation was founded. These are still relevant, though constantly adapted to the changed conditions of our time.

The reference to Augustine and his spirituality is however a complementary reference: it is a precise indication as regards method, equilibrium and coherence. Augustinian spirituality is not a substitute for what is proper to a foundation both concretely and historically. But Augustinian spirituality in some way completes the gift to the Church of a foundation and enriches it, precisely in terms of method, equilibrium and evangelical coherence.

a) Method — In his lecture (Augustinian spirituality and ours) Luc Verheijen, quoting Gilson, declared that Augustine rather than constructing a system proposed a method of thought, that is, to search for an explanation of “things” in terms of God. This method derives from his conversion, and is a guarantee of that most important welding, indeed so difficult, of the human with the divine now and in the future. The Augustinian method guarantees for us the unitarian and global vision revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation, a vision which always runs the danger of being fragmented by one-sided visions which exalt certain values to the detriment of others. Think of the different religious controversies in which Augustine found himself involved, and which in other forms are ever repeated within the church and the religious life.

b) Equilibrium and evangelical coherence — I do believe that the reason why the Rule of S. Augustine has been chosen for so many religious families is, if not primarily, certainly because of the precise hierarchy of values which it puts forward, and also because it succeeds in the application of this balance in relation to the most concrete rules for daily living. The centrality of God, for example, and his presence in each one of us as in his temple, establish the sacredness of each person to which everything is then subordinated. It is for the promotion and, if one may say so, the “divinization” of the person that all ascesis is geared. Thus charity — the love of God and neighbour — is the one absolute value that must be preserved in any theoretical treatment or practical application of the Rule. It is also the measure of every religious choice (chastity, poverty, obedience, the common life, etc.), as indeed of every pastoral undertaking (see the commentaries of Augustine on Matthew 25).

It is true of course that Augustine as a spiritual master was a man of his time, and is to be read and studied and interpreted in keeping with the progress of the different disciplines which make for perfection.    But the guarantee which springs from the totality of his interpretations of the gospel, and consequently of the religious lite, is a security for the orthodoxy and reality of his reflections and investigations, as he sounds the depths of man and God.

Augustinianism today

These reasons alone would justify the fact that the Church has entrusted us to the spiritual school of Augustine the master. But Augustine’s spirituality is not exclusively the patrimony of the Augustinian family.  It is a gift to the whole Church.

The Centenary which we are about to conclude has confirmed the perennial actuality of this spirituality because it meets the contemporary needs of man. If it did not sound a bit rhetorical, one might say that the man of today feels with Augustine. He recognises more than ever the light which Augustine knew how to shed on the gospel message (cf. Augustinum Hipponensem, part IV). And this holds for everyone: the man in the street, the student, the religious, the researcher.

I base myself on the authoritative evidence produced at the International Congress in Rome (September 1986), and what was said there by the man best qualified of all to speak, Goulven Madec, the “artisan (as he loves to describe himself) of the Bulletin Augustinien.”  I quote his introduction at the Congress:

Thanks to his conversion, and hence the powerful stimulus to his spirit, and thanks again, as a result of this, his untiring activity as pastor and doctor, Augustine provided the Middle Ages in the West with its theological patrimony, and he has nourished the spiritual life of innumerable Christians down through the centuries. In the opinion of Harnack: ‘all the great personalities who gave birth to new experiences in the Western Church or who contributed to the purification and deepening of its piety, were directly or indirectly influenced by Saint Augustine and were formed at his school.’ Harnach affirmed again that through the Confessions, Augustine ‘undoubtedly reached millions of souls, for he described so exactly their inner world, and offered them consolation in such a convincing, such an irresistible way, that after fifteen centuries (sixteen for us), life continues to repeat the experiences lived by him. Today again, in Catholicism, intimate and active piety, as well as its expression, are entirely Augustinian in essence. In the light of his experience one begins to feel like him and think with his own thoughts.’ Rightly, concludes Madec, the conversion of Augustine is ours” (Vol. I, pp. 28-29).

We all consider ourselves privileged to be influenced by Augustine, but we must ask if our presence today signifies a continuity or a tradition, or possibily a detachment and therefore an absence from the vital texture of the Church and the world.

The various initiatives and hard work on the part of the Assumptionists and the Augustinians on the scientific level and in the form of publications deserve to be praised. Big trees, however, are almost all thrown down by the inroads of disease and time. New trees are certainly not yet sufficient. What is needed therefore is a new and decisive will to improve and fill the ranks. Without this prop, we can only dream year by year of speaking among ourselves of Augustinian spirituality. There is an urgent need for people to study S. Augustine and patristics, and who can place at the service of everyone the fruits of their labour, as did Agostino Trape and Luc Verheijen, to mention just these two who have left us and to whom we are most deeply indebted. This invitation is for everyone, particularly as regards those who are more gifted for research and study, indeed anyone who belongs to our family. It may perhaps seem strange to talk in this kind of way, but it is best to do so in this place where we wish to share our problems and commitments, our riches and our wants. Yes, I have said what I want to say. We must recognise not only the charisms of our most dear Congregations, but also we must respect the gifts of each one of us, in particular those who have the ability for study and can aid us others with their studies. On every side there are requests for helpful conferences on Augustinian spirituality, but how many of us are anxious to work for this? When will we overcome the barrier of masculinity, even here, and when shall we see choice sisters and nuns bending over desks at universities and studying the works of S. Augustine? Is not this kind of work as important as any other service? It was justly asked during the Congress in Rome that due attention be paid to Augustine’s method and spirituality in catholic theology workshops and at ecumenical encounters. But who will be able to promote this ideal but the same “friends of S. Augustine” which we are — as was Alypius (cf. L. Verheijen, ‘The third aspect of the conversion of St. Augustine’)? Can we be content at watching the assaults launched against our common mother the Church by its abortive sons (the phrase is Augustine’s) in the face of laziness and sloth (cf. Lett. 243,8).

Augustinianism, that is in terms of the method of study and the style of life of Augustine the convert, monk and pastor, is not to be promoted of course just at the scientific level only, that is by scholars. The contribution of friends and readers of Augustine is equally necessary. If we succeed in forming a “community of readers” of Augustine, it will become friends of Augustine, it will thrill with him and reach the same spiritual levels, and with him it will become the friend of every man. The wine of the genius of Augustine (I steal this imagery from G. Madec, op. cit., p. 33) is drunk from the “choice and precious vessels” which are his writings. This is done with the aid of translations and commentaries by whoever, and for us, “reads the entire body of Augustine’s works in their historical context, seeking to enter into his cultural community, that of his faithful, his friends and his adversaries” (cf. Madec, ib.).

Speaking about spirituality is to speak about ongoing formation in Augustinian spirituality. This leads to living the kind of Christian communitarian experience which is the best answer to the needs of the church and the world. It is certainly the kind of life which means far more than study and reading. It is humility, stability of interior life, that is the capacity “to stay wakeful in the love of His mercy and the sweetness of His grace” (Conf. X, 3, 4) in order to show the same mercy and welcome (friendship) to others. In short, to share everything and serve freely to the point of forgetting oneself.

The list of these well-known values could be extended like an accordion. Clearly these are some of the fundamental values required to-day for the building up of the Church and the city of God. I believe that the step we must now make together is a common commitment to grow from the same source and, united, walk in the same direction.  Let us try, and discuss it together.



III.  Conferences of the Course on Augustinian Spirituality


Luc Verheijen O.S.A

The conversion of St. Augustine whose centenary we are celebrating has many aspects.

Countless people know that Augustine was converted in 386 and was baptised in 387. Many also know that his conversion was a return to the faith of his childhood. In the Confessions he wrote a celebrated passage in this connection: “...the name of Christ, this name according to your mercy, Lord, this name of my saviour, your Son, my infant heart had devoutly drunk in with my mother’s milk and retained deep down. Any writing however scholarly, elegant or truthful which omitted this name, failed to win me over entirely” (Conf. III, 4, 8).

Fewer people are aware that the conversion of St. Augustine involved the idea of a monastic project. He wanted henceforth to follow the example of the Egyptian monks, and as a celibate, but as yet he did not know what would be the final form of monastic life which he and his companions would take.

However, I believe that there is again a third aspect to his conversion which was linked with the first, namely his conversion to the faith of the Catholic Church, and likewise with the second, namely his conversion to the monastic life. These conversions of St. Augustine were conversions for two — himself and Alypius.

We read in the Confessions that after a long history of estrangement from the Church and progressively slow return, Augustine had a visit from Pontitianus who spoke to him about the monk Anthony and more generally about the monastic life. After Pontitianus left, Augustine went into the garden of the house where he was living in Milan. It was there that he experienced a crisis that was the most overwhelming of his whole life. It all happened abruptly. At one go the deep “I” of Augustine was shattered and then at once the darknesses of doubt all disappeared, as the light of tranquil certitude was infused into his heart. In order to be able to embrace the faith more realistically, Augustine personally felt bound to go and live like the men Pontitianus had spoken of, that is to say, to live only for God, or rather only for God alone without the company of a woman.

His friend Alypius, who was living with him, was nearby. When he learned what had happened, he said to Augustine in tune with his thought: “Take with you the one who is weak in the faith.”  When the moment of conversion came for Paul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus the light of God fell on himself alone. In Augustine’s case the light fell on Augustine and Alypius — on Augustine directly, on Alypius obliquely.

There was also a third conversion. Augustine and Alypius went to where Monica lived to tell her what had happened. Over the years, Monica had wanted for Augustine a return to the faith of his infancy, and to be baptised and have a successful career and marry a good woman of a suitable social status. And have for herself as a grandmother some grandchildren in her son’s home. But now the light of God fell on Monica too. She declared with joy that her prayers had been heard beyond her desires.

Augustine made a request to the bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, to be baptised with Alypius. After his baptism Augustine returned to Africa to put into execution the second aspect of his conversion and to lead with Alypius a form of life comparable to that which Pontitianus had described. But he did not know how he could combine this new way of life with the cares and burdens of an episcopate like Alypius.

Alypius was the first of the Augustinians

Let us look at his history more closely.

Alypius, the “brother of the heart” of Augustine, was born like Augustine in Thagaste. He was somewhat younger than Augustine. When Augustine began teaching at Thagaste, Alypius was one of his pupils. But when Augustine left to teach rhetoric at Carthage, Alypius did not come immediately to hear him, because some misunderstanding arose between the father of Alypius and Augustine. However, after a time Alypius took the initiative to greet Augustine and attend his classes for a time, but then left. At length he forced his father to give in. His father agreed that Alypius could have Augustine as a master.

Augustine by then had joined the Manichees and Alypius followed suit. He himself, although rather young, had developed a great fund of virtue. He “loved the company of the Manichees for their parade of continence which he believed to be true and honest. It was in fact an imposture, set to trap high-souled people. The Manichees were incapable of attaining virtue in depth, but easily deceived outsiders by the least sign and semblance of virtue” (Conf. VI, 7, 12).

In the world of antiquity, friendship was a highly appreciated value. Augustine himself loved friendship with all his heart. He was surrounded by dear friends among whom his senior pupil henceforth occupied the very first place. They remained friends for the rest their lives when both were bishops.

Augustine left Carthage for Rome. He abandoned Monica at Carthage, something he regretted very much later. At Rome, Augustine again met Alypius who had preceded him there in order to study law. He went on to become a legal adviser to one of the leading officials. In recording this in his Confessions, Augustine emphasizes that Alypius was absolutely incorrupt in discharging his office. Like his great friend, Alypius more and more detached himself from Manichaeism. Augustine, as is well known, left Rome for Milan in the company of Alypius, who there profited by his legal learning. Augustine tells us that Alypius was three times an “assessor” (judge) at Milan.

At the beginning of his adolescence Alypius had a minor adventure with a woman, but it left him with feelings of great remorse and disgust, so much so that he lived ever after in perfect continence. He diverted Augustine from taking a wife, that is to say from entering a proper marriage. Alypius told Augustine that he and himself could not, in that case, live together a life consecrated to the love of wisdom, but Augustine did not agree. He himself had thought of a project — a sort of common life consisting of ten persons in search of wisdom. Alypius would be one of the ten. But when the question arose about whether those who had or would have wives, might be allowed to have them with them, the project broke down and was rejected.

We arrive at the month of August 386. For the moment, Alypius is free of legal work and is with Augustine. Because of the importance of the events, we must repeat what we have said already. A third African, Pontitianus, went to visit Augustine and Alypius. He spoke among other things of monasticism. After he left, Augustine experienced the deepest crisis of his life. This was the moment of his conversion. Alypius, when he heard what had happened, said to Augustine: “Take with you the one who is weak in the faith.”  Thus Alypius became not only a Catholic like Augustine, but also the first Augustinian. In order to prepare for baptism and also to live a life dedicated to the search for wisdom, Augustine and Alypius retired to Cassiciacum.

In those writings of Augustine which are called “the Cassiciacum Dialogues,” Alypius often played a part in the discussions which Augustine had with those who, like Alypius, accompanied Augustine to Cassiciacum. His mother too joined in. Alypius sometimes absented himself, going to Milan where legal matters still demanded his attention, but when he is there, he had a word to say. Alypius did not always agree with Augustine. In the Against the Academics he defended scepticism. After Augustine had replied at length, the onlookers expected to hear a counter-attack from Alypius. But he gave in, and then made a valuable declaration which sounds like a programme for him, but also for us: “My friends, replace your expectation of a reply by me for the certain hope of becoming a disciple with me. We have (in Augustine) a guide who will lead us into the secrets of the truth, God having already given us a glimpse of it” (Contra Acad. III, 20, 44). From now on Augustine is the master-mind of his faithful friend. On the other hand, the juridical ability of Alypius will enable him to perform a valuable service for Augustine, and later on for the whole episcopate of Africa.

In 387 Augustine and Alypius together returned to Milan, and both were baptised by Ambrose on the night of 24-25 April. Then they set out to return to Africa, but stayed for a year in Rome after the death of Monica at Ostia. They profited by this new sojourn in Rome in order to acquaint themselves with different forms of the ascetic life which they found there. In 388 they reached Carthage, and from there they proceeded to Thagaste where they began to live in Augustine’s father’s house as a group of friends inspired by monasticism.

After Augustine was ordained priest much against his will, Alypius remained at Thagaste. Towards the end of 394 he became its bishop, but continued to live as a monk. In the meantime he visited Jerome who was living at Bethlehem in a monastery which he had founded. It was after Alypius returned from Palestine that the sometimes stormy correspondence between Augustine and Jerome began. Alypius had likewise been the intermediary between Augustine and Paulinus of Nola. He saw to it that Paulinus received the “anti-Manichaen Pentateuch” of his master and friend. This was probably the De Vera Religione (on the True Religion), the De Genesi contra Manichaeos libri duo (the two books on Genesis against the Manichees), the De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae (on the Customs of the Catholic Church), and the De Moribus Manichaeorum (on the Customs of the Manichees).

The episcopal ordination of Augustine followed a little later. Under the direction of Aurelius, primate of Carthage, began the great fight of the African bishops for the restoration of unity in the Church. Augustine, the monk-bishop, was the leading thinker in this combat, his practical and capable helper being his fellow monk-bishop Alypius. From then on, especially from the beginning of 416, Alypius became more and more the one entrusted with the mission of the African bishops within Africa itself, but also in Italy. Between 419 and 428 he went there four times to treat of certain matters whether at Rome or Ravenna. It would be tedious to go into the details of this activity in front of an audience hardly initiated into the problems of all sorts that then occupied the Church of North Africa. We might cite among others the names of Apiarius or else Antoninus, at the risk of wearying you to no good.

That which makes Alypius, fellow convert with Augustine, so interesting for us is his faithful attachment to Augustine. Like Augustine he worked for the Church without self-interest, and devoted himself totally to the cause of Christ. Augustine and Alypius shared the same love for the Church. But at the same time they shared the same love for the monastic life. Moreover, those who are aware of the concepts which Augustine had of the monastic life do know that for him this way of life has its roots in an ecclesial mentality, so much so that there is a certain complementarity and not an antithesis between the monastic life and the apostolic life.

It is interesting to note how the two men so very differently endowed remained so united. Probably no one among us will be called to be a new Augustine, but we can remain his friends, understanding him well, sharing together in this friendship and saying to Augustine with Alypius: “Take with you those who are weak in the faith,” you who came at length to lean against Christ.

Alypius was one of us. He was indeed the first of us, and we too have our different gifts.

Let us meditate on what we read in Numbers, 11, 25, as regards Moses: “Yahweh descended in a cloud. He spoke to Moses, but took some of the spirit which rested on Moses and put it on the seventy elders. When the spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but only once.”

Behold what enables us to understand the third aspect of the conversion of Saint Augustine. It was a conversion for two people, and Alypius is our prototype.




Luc Verheijen O.S.A.

In 386 Augustine was converted to the Catholic Church and at the same time to a project of ascetical life. On Easter night in 387 he was baptised at Milan by Ambrose, bishop of that city. We are celebrating the sixteenth centenary of these two events. An impressive number of publications has been already devoted to them.

But he lived for another forty-four years. And the question then poses itself: of him who spoke and wrote so much, what should be preserved as being the most important part of his immense legacy, that of his heritage which more than anything else should be recovered, for ourselves and for our time?

It seems to me that I must here avoid two dangers. On the one hand, I could once again describe the major lines of the life and activity of St. Augustine between 386, the date of his conversion, and 430, the date of his death. But that has already been done many times, and in publications which are easily available and sometimes excellent. Why do it once more? On the other hand, I could put together my own anthology “of the most beautiful texts of St. Augustine,” bring together perhaps fifty excellent passages. The problem with this is that these fifty pages could easily be replaced by fifty others. And an anthology runs the risk of being a badly digested juxtaposition which will quickly weary the reader who does not see what relationships there are, in depth, between all these texts, even though they have been brought together with competence and love.

To keep between these two extremes, I am proposing an “oriented” reading of Augustinian texts, to present passages which have very close mutual relationships. But it must also be that these passages occupy a central place in the life and work of St. Augustine. In other words, I wish to offer a key to understanding and reading. That is what we mean by speaking of an “oriented” reading.

Now, a long association with St. Augustine has taught me that his monastic Rule can render us great service in this domain.

I do foresee an objection. It will surely be said that a monastic Rule can be a good key for a reading, confined to monks, of texts related to monastic life, but that the ordinary reader of Augustine has need of a key which facilitates more precisely for him access to the whole of the Augustinian corpus. But this objection does not take account of the fact that for Augustine monastic life is a part of Christian life in general. That which is said by him to his monks holds true generally for all people. And so I hold that the Rule of St. Augustine is a good key to reading the whole of his work. It only has to be used with intelligence.

I did not find this key by a priori reasoning. It was afterwards that I came to realise that, partly by accident, I had been following a right track. I discovered that it is interesting and enlightening to read the work, the immense work, of Augustine in the light of the Rule and to read the Rule in the light of the works of Augustine. In making of the Rule the prism of my readings, I have had the satisfaction of encountering the religious personality which was St. Augustine and of living with him for many years. I have been able to discover that the least detail of this text shows itself to be interesting, the more one examines it in depth.

But in reading the Rule of St. Augustine the reader must allow for the fact that certain passages of this text have a less essential value than others. For example, the prescription to take and return books at a fixed time[48] is a detail whose interest and importance may well escape us. Our books, coming in printings of ten thousand, are no longer unique manuscript treasures.

Obviously very important is the very first prescription of the Rule. “Before all else live in the house in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God. For is it not precisely for this reason that you have come to live together?”[49]

Important also is the phrase which ends the first chapter, taking up again the words we have just quoted. “Let all then live in unity of minds and hearts, and honour in one another the God whose temples you have become.”[50]

Towards the end of the Rule Augustine formulates a phrase which, quite exceptionally, has the form of a prayer, which underlines for us the fact that here, too, we are at one of the climaxes of the writing. “May the Lord grant you the grace to observe all these precepts with love, as lovers of spiritual beauty, spreading by your life the life-giving odour of Christ, not like slaves, as if we were still under the Law, but freely, since we have been established in grace.”[51]

But midway between the beginning and the end of the Rule there is also a phrase whose wording shows that it also is extremely important for Augustine. Augustine is here formulating the criterion of progress in the monastic life, but a reading of parallel texts shows that this criterion applies also to other forms of Christian life. In the chapter (c. 5) which is the most technically monastic of the whole Rule we read: “...No one should seek his own advantage in his work. Everything you do is to be for the service of the community, and you are to work with more zeal and more enthusiasm than if each person were merely working for himself and his own interests. For it is written of love that ‘ it does not seek its own interests’ (1 Cor. 13:5), that is to say, love puts the interests of the community before personal advantage, and not the other way around. Therefore the degree to which you are concerned for the interests of the community rather than for your own, is the criterion by which you can judge how much progress you have made. And thus may the necessary use of all passing things be dominated by charity which lasts for eternity.”[52] It is clear that with these words Augustine wishes to say something of capital importance.

“Charity does not seek its own interests.”  This phrase which greatly attracted the attention of St. Augustine is found in the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, where it form part of what is called the “Hymn to Charity,” which goes from 13:4 to 13:8: “Charity is patient; charity is kind and envies no one. Charity is never boastful, nor conceited nor rude; charity does not seek its own interests, is not quick to take offence. Charity keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other people’s sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing charity cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance. Charity never passes away.”

But in the writings of the Apostle there are other places where he says more of less the same thing. Augustine cites them all, either in isolation or together with 1 Cor. 13:5, or with one or other of the texts which we are now about to quote.

In the Epistle to the Philippians, 2:21, the Apostle complains about a certain circumstance and says: “All seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”  Augustine often combines this phrase with 1 Cor. 13:5, and then gives it a general scope: “Charity does not seek its own interests but those of Jesus Christ.”  The First Epistle to the Corinthians furnished St. Augustine also with two other texts of the same genre. I think firstly of 10:24: “Let no one seek his own interests but that of the other.”  And also of 10:33: “(Strive to please all in all things) just as I seek to please all in all things, not seeking my own interest but that of the many, that they may be saved.”  The Second Epistle to the Corinthians underlines in 5:15 that Jesus himself gave us the example of this generous attitude, because he willed the salvation of all: “And he died for all, so that those who live may no longer live for themselves but for him who died and rose for them.”  The example of Christ is likewise emphasised in the Epistle to the Romans 15:3: “For Christ did not seek what pleased him.”  Sometimes St. Augustine cites in the same Christ-context some words of the Old Testament found in Ps. 21 (22), verse 30: “And my soul shall live for him.”  It is surely hardly necessary to recall that Ps. 21 is the one which begins with the cry: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

The texts of Augustine which we are now about to reproduce all have this in common, that they cite one or more of these seven scriptural texts which we have just collected.

And so we, in our own turn, will compose an anthology of Augustinian texts, but their scripture references are found to be so much at the centre of interest of the spiritual man that Augustine was, that we can look on this collection as a faithful portrait of his religious personality.

We are not going to cite all the passages in St. Augustine which revolve around our seven scripture texts; we will present a selection. This is not to say that we, also, are about to make a more or less arbitrary anthology. The interested reader who wishes to see all the passages in question together should consult the exhaustive repertory which I published in the journal Augustiniana, 34 (1984), p. 75-144. This complete repertory gives 97 texts of St. Augustine.

Charity does not seek its own interests, but those of Jesus Christ. Now, to seek the interests of Christ means to follow him who was the Servant par excellence.

St. Augustine did not develop this theme in a special work. But in our “oriented” collection there are many passages which show clearly the basis of Augustine’s thought.

It is not surprising to find one of them in a meditation on Ps. 21 (22). This, in fact, is the Psalm which begins with “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” These are precisely the words which were pronounced by the Suffering Servant, cruelly fixed to a cross.

Coming to the end of the text he is meditating on, Augustine reads: “It is for him that my soul will live.”  This evokes for Augustine one of our six phrases from the Apostle Paul: “Christ died for all, so that those who live may not live for themselves, but for him who for them died and rose.”  And this association is an occasion for Augustine to speak of Jesus Christ himself in the context of humble love and of the egoism of pride which is its opposite.

Jesus Christ became Mediator between God and man, in order by his humility to reconcile with God us who, by a pride which had no regard for the Source of our being, had distanced ourselves so much from him. No one should live for himself, one should live for Christ, doing the will of Christ and abiding in the charity of the Father. In the Gospel, is found the summary of both his words and the example he gave. Christ, equal to the Father in his divine condition, showed, in the condition of the Servant, that he had come to fulfil not his own personal will but that of the Father.

Following the example of Christ we must transcend our own private will. For the latter has thrown us into darkness. Let us now approach Christ, he is our common light, he has come to bring this light to all those who arrive in this world, so that our soul might live for him. He wished that this light shine above us, and that our face not be red with confusion.[53]

Commenting on the Gospel of St. John Augustine met in 8:36 the following words of Christ:

“If the son sets you free, you will he free indeed.” This liberty, in its fullness and perfection, is reserved for eternal life. There we will live, there we will be free of death, thanks to Him who, for us, died and rose so that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who died and rose for them.

Here below we are still on the way, vulnerable and even wounded. Let us turn to the Physician. He is the good Samaritan. Let him put us on his own mount and lead us to the inn to be cared for. It is he who promises healing. He has pity on the man left half-dead by brigands. The Physician poured oil and wine in his wounds to nurse them, he put him on his own mount, he brought him to the inn, he recommended him to the innkeeper.

He even gave two denarii to the innkeeper. In the present time, when the wounded person has need of care, the Church is the inn for the traveller. The two denarii given by the good Samaritan are two precepts: the love of God and the love of the neighbour. But there above, in eternal life, the Church will be heir, in possession of its heritage.[54]

Before speaking of our last text at the present point, we must say a few words of introduction. This text is found in a work of Augustine on “virginity.”  I believe that nowadays we should speak rather of “consecrated celibacy.”  Augustine has great praise for this state. But he fears that the consecrated virgins may come to think that they are better than everyone else by the sole fact of not being married. No, says Augustine, the value of being a disciple of Christ, whether as a virgin or not, is found in the love of God and love of the neighbour. Now, the proof that one truly loves God above is found in the aptitude for martyrdom. The fact of being a virgin, even if it is for religious motives, does not guarantee that one is apt. Yet, it is at the possible moment of this supreme test that the quality of love is shown. There have been virgin martyrs like Thecla, but there have also been married women martyrs like Crispina. If a consecrated virgin despises married women, let her remember that among those she looks down on there may be some “Crispinas.”  And is she herself certain of being already a Thecla? Let consecrated virgins, then, learn to be very humble.

But at what school? Augustine sends them to the King of heaven himself;

to Him by whom mankind was created and who, as man, was created for them and among them; to Him who — the Word Incarnate — exceeds in spiritual beauty the children of men; to Him who, master of the immortal angels, did not disdain to become the servant of mortals. He is humble, but certainly not because of personal sins. No, that which makes him humble is his charity, this charity — here precisely the charity of Christ himself — which is not envious, is not puffed up, does not seek its own interests. For Christ did not seek what pleased himself, but, as is said (in Ps. 68:10): ‘the insults of those who insulted God fell upon him.’

Come then to him, consecrated virgin, learn at his school, for he is meek and humble of heart. The publican humbly declared his faults, but, regarding you, I am fearful lest you proudly boast of your merits, like the Pharisee.”[55]

Therefore, when it comes to that charity which does not seek its own interests, Jesus Christ is for Augustine the Master par excellence, the absolute Model.

The celebrated theme of the two Cities is found in Augustine not only in the great work, “The City of God.”  It engaged the spirit of Augustine elsewhere also, and it had already taken form in his Commentary on the Book of Genesis, De Genesi ad Litteram.

The theme is developed in a rather unexpected way. In the Commentary Augustine meditates on the fall of man and the origin of evil. He finds himself faced with two apparently contradictory texts. In Ecclesiasticus 10:15 it is said that pride is at the origin of all sin. But in the First Epistle to Timothy 6:10 the Apostle says that the origin of sin is found in avarice.

Augustine judges that there is no contradiction, when one understands that avarice is really nothing other than pride. Certainly, “avarice” normally indicates an attitude of excessive attachment to money. But one can also give a broader meaning to “avarice,” that of “desire to have and thereby to be an important personage.”  “Avarice,” the origin of all evil, is then the mentality which causes one to always desire more, for the sake of one’s own excellence. In this sense avarice is basically the same thing as pride.

It may be thought that Augustine here has forced the case somewhat, but the important thing is that for him the root of evil is found in pride.

Pride wishes to raise itself up, but in fact it makes small. To the common good which is universal — finally, God himself — it prefers its own particular good which is limited.

People would not be greedy for money were it not that, in their pride, they believe they are so much more important by being rich. Opposed to this pride is love of the Supreme Being who is God, and the love of people, who are called in principle to be eternally happy in the presence of the Supreme Good. In St. Paul’s hymn of praise to this love one reads precisely that charity does not seek its own interests, which means that it takes no pleasure in its own “private” importance. It is for this reason that the Apostle says also, in the same hymn to charity, that it is not puffed up.

Then, in a rather unexpected way, we meet the antithesis between the perverse love of one’s own importance and the charity which is that love which does not seek its own interests. St. Augustine writes:

“Of these two loves, one is holy, the other is impure; one is social (turned towards the other), the other private (centered on oneself); one is solicitous for the good of all in view of the heavenly society, the other goes so far as to place the common good beneath one’s own power in view of an arrogant domination; one is submissive to God, the other is a rival to God; one is tranquil, the other turbulent; one is peaceful, the other foments trouble; one prefers the true judgement of someone to undeserved praise, the other is greedy for praise whether deserved or not; one is magnanimous, the other jealous; one wishes for the neighbour what he wishes for himself, the other wishes to submit the neighbour to himself; the one, if called to govern, does it to serve the neighbour, the other does it for his own profit.

These two loves began with the angels, one among the good and the other among the bad, and they established the opposition between two cities formed within humanity, the wonderful and ineffable providence of God guiding and ordering from above what he created: on the one hand the city of the just, on the other hand the city of the wicked. Mixed to an extent these two cities pass through history until they are separated at the last judgement, when one will be joined with the good angels and with its King attain eternal life, and the other will be joined with the bad angels and, with its king, be thrown into eternal fire.”

At this point, Augustine writes a phrase which is extremely interesting: “Perhaps I will treat more extensively of these two cities in another place, if God permits me.”[56]

So at this moment the project of his work on The City of God was taking shape in Augustine. The presentation of the two loves which he has given in his Commentary on Genesis has the advantage of being brief and of thus helping us to grasp better the meaning of The City of God. It has nothing to do with an antithesis between the Church and the State. “Charity does not seek its own interests,” the biblical phrase cited in the Rule of St. Augustine, is the key to a correct understanding of this great and arduous work which has been so often misinterpreted down the centuries.

Psalm 121 is a pilgrimage song. Our common pilgrimage does not lead us to the earthly Jerusalem but to the Jerusalem of heaven.

To enter there, one must pass through the last judgement. Jesus Christ will be sitting as judge, but he will have around him the Twelve, the Apostles.

“Thus there will be few people sitting and judging. But the scene is larger. Those placed on the right will be numerous and will form the population of the city which will be the heavenly Jerusalem. The fulness of the delights and the abundance of the riches of Jerusalem will be God, he who is Being itself; in him will share all the inhabitants of this city turned towards Being. But how do we arrive at the heavenly Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage? By means of charity. But in whom is found charity? In the one who, during the present life, does not seek his own private interests. Listen to the Apostle who himself had this charity. He says: ‘Seek to please all in everything, just as I seek to please all in everything... not seeking my own interests but those of the great number, so that they may be saved.”[57]

If it is true that Augustine tried to understand, explain and evaluate “things” in their relation to God and in relation to our final, definitive and common situation with God, then this commentary on Psalm 121 is certainly typical of Augustinian spirituality.

The Commentary on Ps. 61 recalls the king who, in Chapter 22 of Matthew, orders the guest without the wedding robe to be thrown out. Augustine emphasises the fact that in the Gospel there is only one such. But how can this be in agreement with the saying in the Gospel that many are invited, but the chosen are few? This would mean that many of the invited are thrown out! Augustine comments:

“in this one man is implied a big crowd. All those who appreciate only the things of earth, all those who prefer earthly happiness to God, are those who seek their own interests and not those of Jesus Christ, all together they belong to that city which, in symbolic fashion, is called Babylon, and has Satan for its king. Those who, on the contrary, have a taste for the things above, who meditate on the heaenly realities, who live their earthly existence with care not to offend God, who have the fear of sin, who being sinners are not ashamed to admit it, who are humble, gentle, holy, just, pious, good, all these belong together to one single city which has for its king, Christ.

The first of these two cities is here on earth, at it were, the senior of the second, but its priority is only one of time, not a priority of greatness or of honour. The first one began with Cain, the second with Abel. These two ‘ bodies’, these two earthly gatherings, each living under its own king, each related to either the first or second city, are enemies until the end of history, until their separation takes the place of their mixing, until those of the one are placed on the right and those of the other are placed on the left.”[58]

What Augustine said in a rather difficult way in the first book of De Doctrina Christiana, he has now repeated with the help of images provided by the Bible itself.

In the final passage of this group, Augustine is commenting on Psalm 105. Here the person praying speaks to God of the ingratitude of Israel, whom God has nevertheless filled with his benefits.

I wish to recall here that the point of departure of this “oriented” anthology was a text of the monastic Rule of St. Augustine which says: “It is said of charity: ‘it does not seek its own interests.’ This means that it puts the common interests before personal ones and not personal interests before the common ones. And for this reason you will be certain of having made more progress, the more you are concerned for the common good than for your own personal interests.”[59]

Now, the passage from the commentary on Psalm 105 which we are about to read is going to show how close Augustine’s reflections on the two cities are to the preoccupations which appear in this part of the Rule.

Here is what Augustine says:

“When the all-glorious city possesses the inheritance promised it, when there will be no one dying, no one being born, it will have no citizens who, thinking of themselves, will enjoy goods which are exclusively personal, for God will be all in all. All those who during the earthly pilgrimage desire faithfully and ardently to live in this heavenly society, accustom themselves already here below to prefer the common interests to their own private interests, seeking not their own interests but those of Jesus Christ, for they fear that by thinking egoistically only of themselves, they will annoy God by a wrong appreciation of ‘things.’“[60]

This text is not only a parallel text discovered by means of the prism of the Rule, but it is almost an author’s commentary on it.

Let us also note that, according to this text, the fact of not seeking one’s own interests seems to be already, in some way, seeking the interests of Jesus Christ!

In a great number of texts[61] Augustine emphasises that not seeking one’s own interests is the characteristic trait of every true Christian. If one limits one’s attention to the scripture texts which support his statements, one cannot avoid the impression of a certain monotony. But this changes as soon as these references are placed in their Augustinian context, and especially when the contexts are united in a sort of common perspective.

For Augustine, the fact of not seeking one’s own interests but those of Jesus Christ, means to place oneself within the movement of the Holy Spirit, to live Pentecost. It means to take to heart both the fraternity of all Christians, and the missionary task which has devolved on the Church and which was carried out by the apostles in a spirit of availability, of being “poor.”  They worked for the spouse of the Church and gave a great example of generosity. Unfortunately, right from their time, the Church has numbered in its ranks egoists who care only for their own private advantage, the proud who think only of their own importance, and that will be their lot until the end of history. There are so many who, raised in baptism, live “in the Church,” who belong to it, but do not truly belong to it, that is to say with all their heart, with that love of God which will last all eternity. For the common good of humanity is not material well-being, nor a well-being of a higher level, but still earthly; no, this common good is God himself. Opposed to the universal love of God there is this anti-love which can be called “avarice”: sinful men are “avaricious,” who do not know how to give, and especially to give themselves. In the “ark of Noah” they are not doves but ravens. For them the temple is above all a place for carrying on profitable business. But no! The “temple” is the Church, the inn where the good Samaritan, the healer of souls, brings the poor sinners that we are, so that we may be taken care of. The medicine of the good Samaritan is that he becomes greater in us, while, at the same time, we become “smaller in ourselves.”  That is why he gave an unheard-of example of humility, in his Incarnation, in his life among us, in his death for us. Very humbly he carried out the plan of the Father. And he did it that we might be united with him, our Mediator, in a filial attitude, that we might follow his example, that we might hear his word at that deep level where one is converted. This means living for “David,” just as “David” lived for God. Thus everything in us will be turned to its right end, without being seen by us as an admirable performance. The admiration which one will have for others will be wonder before the work of God in them. And when one has to speak of the good which one has accomplished personally, one will speak of it “for God.”  Living for God, whose “second” work has become, because of man’s fault, the combat against evil, one will not allow one’s fellowmen to be submerged, but one will warn them and help them, even if they appear recalcitrant.

The grand lines of the Christian mystery are all there, in this resume of an “oriented” anthology of texts of St. Augustine.

A final text to conclude. In Sermon 350 the phrase “charity does not seek its own interests” is cited as part of the whole “Hymn to Charity” of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8.  The context is very personal and therefore it is right that we should look closely at it. Sermon 350 treats first of the newness of the commandment regarding the love of God and man, and of the fact that the whole doctrine of Scripture is summed up in this commandment. Then Augustine paraphrases the “Hymn to Charity,” cites the whole text and continues to paraphrase it. He finishes the Sermon by saying: “Therefore apply charity, let it be the object of your religious thoughts and in that way produce the fruits of justice. May everything you have heard said in the text of the Apostle appear in your behaviour, with greater abundance than in the remarks I have been able to pronounce.”

Then he speaks a phrase which goes straight to the heart: “Because the discourse of an old man must be not only grave and elevated, but also short!”[62]

A suitable epilogue to a discourse which tried to show the most important legacy of St. Augustine’s immense heritage.




Tarsicius Johannes van Bavel O.S.A.

Behind Bread and Wine the person of Jesus Christ must be seen. We can now go forward and direct our attention to the other pole of the relationship, namely to the people who share in the Eucharist. Immediately we establish that when we are speaking of the Eucharist, it is not as if we were relating to something static. Rather is it an interpersonal relationship which of its essence is somewhat dynamic.

This is the reason why Saint Augustine does not delay long over the change from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. In today’s way of speaking we would say: his interest is not locked into transubstantiation, although this is naturally always presumed. The expressions which he uses express clearly enough the change from ordinary bread and wine, e.g. through the word the Sacrament is formed, bread and wine ‘ become ‘ the Body and Blood of Christ, this happens through the blessing, the sacrament is accomplished.

Augustine however doesn’t dwell on this change. His interest immediately reaches out to the effects of the Eucharist on people. The change of bread and wine is not the final purpose of the Eucharistic action but rather the change it brings about in those who receive it. In other words, the final purpose of the Eucharist is not things but people. The physical must give way to the spiritual, the outer occurrence to the inner event. Were it merely a question of the physical real presence in the Eucharist a person could ask: Of what use is the mere real presence, what does a person derive from that?

According to Augustine — and I believe he is right in this — the real presence in Bread and Wine cannot alone be the whole purpose of the Eucharist. For in the full sense of the word presence always means the presence of two persons to one another. A person and a thing are only present in each other in an improper sense, while mutual presence presumes an awareness of the relationship in both parties. So also for Christ it is not a question of bread and wine but of people. In this connection we can speak of a double real presence in the Eucharist. The first is the real presence of Christ in the Bread and Wine, while the second is the real, reciprocal presence of Christ and the faithful.

Augustine gives particular attention to the latter presence. K. Rahner saw this clearly and like Augustine he relativizes the physical real presence: “We can and must say: Sharing in the physical Body of Christ by eating assures us the grace of Christ insofar as this communal eating of the one Bread is a sign (of the renewed, personally ratified, deepened) sharing and membership of that Body of Christ in which a person can share in His Holy Spirit, namely, the Church. In other words: “res et sacramentum” (thus the first effect and the mediating cause of the other effects) is in this sacrament the deepened membership in this unity of the mystical Body of Christ. Witness to this are the well known passages in Paul; the first Eucharistic prayer of the primitive Church in the Didache; and Augustine’s teaching on the Eucharist which always so exalts this point of view that he could come under suspicion of spiritually evaporating the teaching on the real presence” (Kirche und Sakramente, S. 74).

To share in Christ’s Body and Blood means for Augustine to long for interpersonal relationships with Him. God Himself reaches out for our love. He wants to unite Himself with us. “Your God wants to be wholly yours. You will eat Him so that you may not hunger. You will drink Him so that you may not thirst” (En. in Ps. 36 1, 12). The subject of this text is God but far more numerous are the texts which have Christ as their subject. For the self-gift of Christ is not meant to be just one past event. Jesus would wish to travel with us to love. That indeed belongs to the essence of love. Christ wants to be with us, but so as to reach this unity, we must open our hearts and turn to Him. “When we believe, we have Christ with us. The disciples at Emmaus had Christ with them during the meal. We have Him with us in our hearts. It means more to have Christ with one in one’s heart than to be in the same building with Him” (Sermon 232, 7, 7).

Being with Christ however demands a conversion of heart and life. Augustine declares: “The words ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want’ (Ps. 23, 1) can only be spoken of those who receive the chalice of the Lord for life unending with changed hearts” (Contra Litt. Petiliani 11, 47, 110). What kind of sacrifice it will be for each depends on what kind of heart a person comes with to receive it. (Contra epist. Parmeniani II, 6, 11).

Union of lives includes a conversion of life. And this consists particularly in turning to the self-emptying Christ, Who humbled Himself and was obedient unto death. (Ph. 2, 7-9). Self-emptying is what in the deepest sense characterised the life of Jesus and particularly the offering of His life. Two reflections of Augustine particularly exalt the kenosis or self-emptying of Jesus. These reflections are strictly related to one another: poverty and humility. Really to share in the Eucharist means then: to be poor and humble.

There is nothing forced or artificial about humility. Rather is it simply what we call modesty. For Augustine humility is not just one virtue among many others. Humility is instead a fundamental virtue as it belongs to the basic posture of human existence and is the mother of all virtues. The reason for this lies in the fact that humility is immediately connected with love. Humility is the door to love, and without the openness of humility there is no love. Pride closes, humility opens. The Crucified Lord is by definition the Humble One. For that reason Augustine states in Enarr in Ps. 33, s. 2, 4: “Our Lord taught us humility, because when He entrusts to us His Body and Blood, He entrusts to us His humility.”

The same idea is contained in the word “poverty Augustine does not get tired commenting on the verse of Psalm 21, 27: “The poor will eat and be satisfied.”  And it is always in the sense that only the person who is ready to follow the poor Jesus arrives at being satisfied. Rich, meaning, proud people can never be satisfied for they do not even experience hunger, and waste away in their own self-sufficiency. In this connection however poverty is a concept with many meanings. It can mean humility, but also the gift of part of one’s possessions, or voluntary poverty. It can also mean self-abandonment or the surrender of love or peacefulness, and finally martyrdom. Just to quote only one text: “The Lord gave us His meal as gift, He gave us His suffering. Only the person who follows his suffering will be satisfied. The poor have followed Him, for they have suffered so much that they have followed in His footsteps” (in Ps. 21, s. 2, 27). In the same text Augustine says: What they ate they suffered... The Word died, the poor die, that is, they have suffered the same as what they have eaten... The Lord died, and so also the poor die. Master and disciple go the same way. That, finally, is the change discussed at the beginning of this paragraph.

Union with Christ through faith, hope and love

Dynamic relationship with Christ only takes place through faith, hope and love. These three acts plainly get pride of place in the theology and spirituality of Augustine for they are essentially personal relationships. Faith, hope and love of necessity open out to another person. This priority of faith, hope and love is not sufficiently appreciated today. Were I, for instance, to declare in a sermon next Sunday that the purpose of all sacraments is nothing other than an increase of faith, hope and love, I should fear that the people would not understand! And nevertheless our union with Christ is only realized through these vital acts. This is why the sacraments on the one hand and faith, hope and love on the other are not two ways to Christ, but form together only one single way to Him.

The sacraments are the embodiment of faith, hope and love, just as words are the embodiment of thought, or flowers are the embodiment of friendship.

That is the reason why Augustine links so closely together sacraments and faith. A person cannot simply disconnect these from one another. “Now at this time you possess Christ through faith, through the sign, through the sacrament of baptism and through the food and drink of the altar” (In Jo. Ev. 50, 12). Also in Sermon 127, 4, 5 faith and sacrament are mentioned in the same breath: “We are now already sons and daughters of God through grace, through faith and through the sacrament.”  In another place he says: “We do not see the countenance of the earthly Christ any more, we do not hear His voice any more, we do not smell the perfume of the ointment that poured over Him any more, we were not there at the Last Supper with his disciples, and nevertheless we enjoy the Lord’s Supper everyday in faith. Don’t think that it would have meant much if you had been present at the Last Supper... without faith. For it is not what is seen that nourishes us, but what is believed’” (Sermon 112, 4, 4-55). Only through faith is the sacrament of the Eucharist effectively received.

While here only faith is mentioned, in other places hope and love are also spoken of. Thus in Sermon Denis 6, 2: “See what you have received. As you can ascertain the Bread and Wine are one, so you too shall be one through your love for one another, so that you abide in one faith, hope and undivided love.”  In the well-known Eucharistic Sermon 227 we read: “So you should receive the Eucharist in such a way that you keep yourselves one in mind ami in your hearts have unity. Let not your hope be directed to this world but to heaven. Let your faith in God be steadfast and acceptable to Him.”

Jesus’ last paschal feast with His disciples was a “coena mystica,” “for the passing from this life to the other eternal life, that is, the passage from death to life, is brought home to us in the suffering and resurrection of the Lord. Now here on earth this passage is brought about for us through faith in eternal life and through the love of God and neighbour. In the measure in which we learn through grace to live in this faith, hope and love, we have already died with Christ” (Ep. 55, 1, 2-2, 3).

Faith hope and love bring about contact with the Person of Christ. Augustine often speaks of a “contactus spiritualis,” a spiritual contact, and in the word ‘spiritualis’ resounds the word “Spirit.”  Thus the full meaning of the Eucharist is only reached through sharing in the Holy Spirit. “We should not simply enjoy the flesh and blood of Christ in ‘sacrament.’”  Many indeed do this who do not lead a good life. We however should eat and drink until we share in the Holy Spirit, so that we live from the Spirit of Christ.” (In Jn. Ev. 27, 11). “The person who wishes to live from the Spirit of Christ must at the same time wish to become Christ’s Body” (in Jn. Ev. 26, 13).

In all these texts is being intimated that we are dealing with a kind of identification. As one of the aspects of love, identification is an entirely normal phenomenon, which we also meet in daily life. Identification is no unreal fancy, but reality. It takes place when several people love one another. A mother identifies with her child, a man with his wife, friend with friend. It simply means that a person really shares in the life of another person. A person no longer thinks alone, but keeps in mind the other. He becomes sensitive to the feelings of the other, sees through the eyes of the beloved. He does not take action without taking the other into consideration. In a word, I live in a certain sense in another person and the other person lives in me. Personal identity is not thereby taken away, since this relationship has been freely chosen.

As we reflect further on this we must admit that a person is at the same time many other people, for our being a person is formed by many relationships. In everyone lives a person’s parents, his children, his teachers, his educators, his friends, his acquaintances and so on. One personality contains many others.

Seen in this light it becomes clear why Augustine always refused to speak of Christ in a purely individualistic sense. Christ is no lonesome individual, but is related to all other people. Essentially Christ is a “We”: He in us and we in Him.

Is not this meant by the Johannine expression “to remain in Christ.”  Augustine frequently draws on John. “Eating this Bread and drinking this Wine means to remain in Christ and to have Christ remain in oneself.”  (In Jn. Ev. 26, 18). Once more the ultimate reality of the Eucharist, something altogether dynamic, that is, life: “What is this drink other than life? Eat life, drink life and you will have life, life indeed in the full sense. Then it will come about that the Body and Blood of Christ will be life for every person, if what is the sacrament is visibly eaten, the reality will be eaten and drunk in a spiritual way” (Serm. 131, 1, 1).

The Eucharistic Amen

The celebrant says: “Body of Christ,” and we answer “Amen.” Do we however reflect what this word really means? It means nothing other than: Yes I will be the Body of Christ. I put my body at the disposal of Jesus. This is more than pious symbolism. It refers to the fact that faith must be embodied. Otherwise faith is not genuine. From this point of view, namely when we conceive of our bodily existence in the world as service for God’s kingdom, as Jesus did, we move closer to the realism of Christ’s incarnation. We should consider our existence in the body as a continuation of the existence of Christ in the body. Conceptually one can distinguish the body of the earthly Christ, the Eucharistic Body and the body of the Church. But never may they be separated from one another. Cut loose from the earthly Body of Christ, the Eucharistic Body is suspended in the air.

The expression however “to become a member of another person” is in itself somewhat unusual. How can we become the body of another? Are we really in a condition to share our own bodiness with another? Still I consider that this takes place every day. For we also say than man and wife become one flesh. And do not parents share their own body existence with their children? And do not those who die for others or in their stead, give them a gift of their body? So too we can assert in a certain but real sense that the blind see through the eyes of others, and handicapped people are able to move through the help of others.

These examples of reciprocal sharing of our bodily existence can bring us along the way to a proper understanding of our being the Body of Christ. This is why Augustine calls the Body of Christ the mystery of our own selves.

From this the Eucharistic Amen receives its full meaning. “You heard (the minister) say ‘Body of Christ’ and you answer ‘Amen.’ Be a true member of the Body of Christ so that your ‘Amen’ may be true.”  (Sermon 272). This text is sufficiently well known. Perhaps less well known is the following. “The person who believes that Christ is in his heart, can never say like Cain: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And God spoke to Cain: ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying up to me from the earth.’ For the blood of Christ on earth cries loudly, in that all people answer ‘Amen’ when they receive His blood. It is the clear voice of the Blood, that the Blood itself makes heard through the mouth of the faithful.”  (Contra Faustum 12, 10).

We find here two important thoughts. First, to follow Christ means that from now on it becomes impossible to say “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Christians are always responsible for the blood of their brothers and secondly: The cry of the blood of Christ from the earth is put on an equal footing with the cry of the blood of Abel. Thus the Eucharist should be a protest against all bloodshed and all inhuman behaviour in this world. This protest is contained in the Eucharistic “Amen.”  And the blood of Christ does not cry without Christians. For this reason the Eucharistic “Amen” is always giving “witness to the blood you have received” (Sermon 181, 51, 7).

So we are back to the life of every day. The solemn Eucharistic celebration is not the ultimate end in and for itself. Sacraments should not be overvalued or made absolute. One should remain conscious of their relative worth. Augustine exhorts his hearers in the following way:

“The Easter days with their recurring festivity prevent us forgetting what happened once in history. Christ hung on the Cross: let us crucify our sinful self-love. Therefore, beloved, the daily enactment of the Easter feast should mean for us an unceasing reflection on all its redemptive acts. Yet we should not over-esteem these feast days. If we do this the danger is that we may neglect to think of the life and resurrection of the Lord on ordinary days. It is not for nothing that we have His Body and Blood as our daily food. Of course it is right to maintain that this feast refreshes our memory, animates our commitment and sets us with joy on our way” (Sermon Wilmart 9, 1, 2).

To safeguard the links between Eucharist and everyday living, Augustine couples it with the proclamation of the Word and with prayer.

“The Eucharistic Bread should be for us daily Bread that we eat to make us live. When we have reached Christ Himself it will no longer be necessary to receive the Eucharist... So the Eucharist is for us bread for every day. We must however receive it in such a way that we not only get new bodily strength, but also spiritual power. For the power that the Eucharist gives us is unity. This means that after we have received Christ’s Body and become His members, we are what we have received. Only then does the Eucharist really become our daily bread.

However, what I preach to you is also your daily bread. The same holds true for the hymns that you hear and pray. All these things are necessary for our present pilgrim journey through life. When however we have reached our destination we will no longer need to hear the book being read. We will see the Word Himself, hear, eat and drink Him” (Sermon 57, 7, 7).

Summarising this lecture we can state: To receive the Eucharist well is to “become Christ more.”  This endows the Eucharist with enormous power. The Eucharist is a task that here on earth can never come to completion. It is completed only when love is perfect. Only then has Christ reached His fulness, when He is all in all. This will not be so as long as we must still work at the upbuilding of love. The Eucharist is a summons to us to enter more and more into the life project of Jesus whose concern is nothing other than to realise through us His love in this world. In this regard we must constantly reflect on what Augustine said in his Confessions: “I am the food of the strong. Grow and you will eat me. And you will not change me into you like bodily food, but you will be changed into me.”  (Conf. VII, 10, 16).




Adolar Zumkeller, O.S.A.

The ecclesial crisis of the present time is not in the final instance a crisis of prayer. So many people, even Christians, have lost contact with God. This becomes clear in the fact that they no longer pray or pray but seldom. The reasons for this regrettable situation are many. The difficulties that people today experience in concentrating certainly have their role to play. Add to that the basic distance from God in public life which is secularism. In the public domain God is totally silenced. On the other hand many people today, even non-Christians show a sincere longing for meaning and wholeness. They feel they need this when they want truly to live as people in this technocratic world constantly in grace. This holds even more so in the case of us religious. For only a living relationship with God in daily prayer and liturgy gives us the inner strength to be true to our life’s ideal.

Augustine was himself a great man of prayer. Precisely for that reason he is for us an outstanding teacher of prayer.


Before we come closer to grips with his instructions, we must first put the question: What really is prayer?

To this question Augustine answers in a sermon: “Your prayer is your conversation with God (En. ps. 85, 7). Indeed every right prayer is a two way conversation with God, even when it so often seems we alone are speaking, to a certain degree, in a void.

What does praying mean? Augustine described prayer above all as an act of love. He sees the soul of prayer as a never ending longing of the inner person for God and life eternal. In a sermon he states: “The longing of the heart is a constant prayer. If you have an unceasing longing for God, then you also pray unceasingly.”  (Sermo 80, 7).  On the other hand prayer grows mute when the heart’s longing turns cold, when a person gives up loving. This longing of love then decides the worth of prayer. Through such longing our other activities also are made into a prayer. Augustine says: “You praise God when you do your daily work, you praise God when you take your food and drink, you praise him when you rest upon your bed: you praise him even while you sleep.”  (En. ps. 146, 2).

We do not however possess longing and love from ourselves. They are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Again and again Augustine recalls the words of the apostle in this regard. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Augustine bears this out with the words “With his Holy Spirit God has filled his servants so that they might be able to praise him” (En. ps. 144, 1).


Now we come to the detailed instructions the Father of the Augustinians gives us for our prayer. I already said that Augustine was himself a man of prayer. Evidence of this are the numerous prayer texts and instructions for a good prayer which are contained in his writings and sermons. Exactly on that account is one astonished that little is said about prayer in his monastic Rule. His instructions on prayer only embrace two short sentences. Of course their mere content is pregnant with meaning and go to the essence of the matter.  They deal with community, liturgical prayer.

1. “Apply yourself with eagerness to pray at the appointed hours and times” (Rule II, 10). “Orationibus instate.”  In our modern languages we have no word to convey adequately the import of this latin “instate.”  It means: to apply oneself to, to be earnest at, to long eagerly for, not to give up on. Augustine wishes to impress upon us in this way that community prayer is an essential element in our monastic life. Our prayer should not depend on mood or humour. Augustine is deeply convinced that daily community liturgy which he pursued in the prayer of the hours, is that strong bond which gathers us together ever more closely in a holy community. He thus expressly points out as an error when someone in the monastery gets so involved in work that he has no time or not enough left over for prayer (De op. mon. 17-20). Even for the pastoral apostolate and works of charity would this, for Augustine, be very disadvantageous, for our witness to Christ in word and deed would thereby be necessarily weakened.

We are living in a time of activism when in the public sphere only activity, achievement and success count. For religious however simply doing things is not sufficient. Without prayer, meditation and spiritual reading even our outer activity would limp nad lose much of its witness character.

For this reason Augustine speaks in his Rule of “appointed times and hours” for prayer. A common prayer life is not possible without an established order of things. In the earlier Egyptian monasteries a fixed time schedule during the day for prayer was unknown. Manual work and prayer were carried on together. Augustine however from the beginning established definite hours exclusively for prayer. A primitive monastic prayer schedule which apparently originated in North Africa and probably came from one of the Augustinian monasteries, mentions seven prayer times: Psalms with reading and prayer in the early morning, then the hours of Terce, Sext and None, Vespers in the late afternoon and a psalm prayer before going to sleep. To that was added the night prayer of the so-called Nocturns which consisted of numerous Psalms and readings.  It began with the first cock-crow.

Common liturgical prayer for Augustine is distinguished from all praise prayer in that it is the prayer of the Church, that is of Christ living on in this world. Here Christ Himself is praying in us his members. Augustine in a sermon says expressly: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God is He who prays for us, He who prays in us, and He who is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our Priest, He prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Let us then recognise our voices in Him and His voice in us.”  (En. in ps. 85, 1). Augustine wishes to tell us that we should as it were join our prayer which from a human point of view is so often defective, with the voice of Christ, who prays in us and through us to the Father.

2. Augustine, for this reason, wants our common prayer to be carried out worthily and in a beautifully ordered way. Like the different instruments in an orchestra, our voices and hearts should harmonize and give expression to our unity in Christ. In a sermon Augustine made this comparison: “Let you be the trumpets, the harps, the zithers, the drums, the lyres, the flutes, the symbols of the song of praise, which sound wonderful when they harmonise together.”  (En. ps. 150, 8). Order and beauty in communal prayer means that it is not decided on the word or opinion of the individuals.

In the Rule Augustine wrote: “Only sing what is written to be sung. What is not prescribed to be sung should not be sung” (Rule 11, 13). Perhaps the words were directed against a freewheeling kind of communal prayer and singing which was customary at that time amongst the Donatists who had separated from the mother Church.

3. Augustine however was at the same time against all mere formalism that can slip into liturgical prayer. So in his monastic Rule he added the exhortation: “When you pray to God in psalms and hymns, you must live in your hearts what your mouths express” (Rule 11, 12). He knew that even the most beautiful liturgical prayer and singing could quickly become a mere outward activity, when people no longer attended to the inner content. He once said to his faithful in a sermon: “Finches, ravens, magpies and other birds of this kind are often trained by people to speak words that they by no means understand. To sing with understanding is, by God’s will, reserved to human nature” (En. ps. 18, 11, 1). And in another sermon Augustine: “When you sing praise to God, sing Him praise with your whole being. Let your voice sing praise, let your life sing praise, let your deeds sing praise” (En. ps. 148, 2), meaning that our prayer is all the more pleasing to God, the more our thinking and doing correspond to the words we pray in. God attends not to the word but to the meaning. The interioration of monastic living was then for Augustine a serious commitment, and especially so to one’s daily service of prayer to God.

4. Augustine has earned for himself a special thanks in so far as monastic prayer is concerned in that he established in his monasteries a special prayer-room or Oratorium. Until then it appears that in Eastern monasteries the custom was to use the same room for prayer and work. When the monks wanted to pray, they pushed the work — materials and tools — to the side and prayed together. Augustine however prescribed: “In the oratory let each person do only that for which it is meant and from which it gets its name” (Rule 11, 11). This word ‘oratory’ of the Rule is the oldest evidence in the Christian West of the existence of monastic chapels. It points to a decisive progress in their development. True, it took a long time before the practice spead throughout the West. One hundred and twenty years later however, St. Benedict thought it important to incorporate this prescription of Augustine into his Rule.

The basic reason Augustine gave in his Rule for this is worth noticing: “Those who even apart from the prescribed times wish to pray in their free time should not be disturbed by others who believe they should engage there in other activities.”  (Rule 2, 2). Augustine thus provides the cloister with its own prayer room so as to afford his brothers and sisters the opportunity for undisturbed prayer. In this way he clearly expressed the value he attributed to the personal devotion of the individual. In the cloister one is nourished with quiet reflection and meditation, spiritual reading and the contemplation of the divine truths.


1. When we focus our attention on the personal devotion of the individual, the exhortation of Augustine holds prime importance: “In the heart one must live what with one’s mouth one expresses” (Rule 11, 12). Augustine knew well how quickly the thoughts of the person at prayer slip away, so that what he is doing becomes mere lip service. Such a prayer would merit the accusation of Holy Scripture (Mt. 15: 8) “These people honour me with their lips but their heart is far from me.”  This is why Augustine warns against praying or singing in which the voice is loud but the heart is silent.

When the person at prayer gives way to distractions before God, his prayer is worthless. As Augustine said, such a prayer may sound loud to the ear but before God it is dumb. What Augustine means is that a prayer full of freely admitted distraction, viewed rightly, is close to an insult to God. He uses a comparison to clarify for his faithful what he means: “When you are in conversation with me, the Bishop, and you suddenly turn to your servant and leave me standing ... shall I not take it as an insult? Look, that is what daily you do to God.”  (En. ps. 140, 18). Thus Augustine’s wise counsel to recollect ourselves before prayer: “A person must close the door.”  (De Serm. Dom. in monte. II, 3, 11). That means, a person must keep his senses and imagination in check when he wishes to pray well.

2. Augustine however knew well that despite all progress the person at prayer must ever and again grapple with distractions. These unwanted distractions are not faults and sins but, as Augustine says, the result of our human frailty. In this regard people today have special difficulties.  Noise, hastle and the restlessness in these technological times do not stop outside our houses. Augustine had similar experiences: his episcopal concerns followed him not infrequently into his prayer. He complains his prayer is often impaired and weakened by the darkness and chaos of worldly business. He expressly states: “While the voice of the heart is pleading before thy face, foolish thoughts come between us, I know not from where and put an end to this important activity” (of prayer). (Conf. 10, 35, 37). Augustine concludes: “Our prayer is even with good will, a daily endeavour, wonderful in what we praise but poor is the way to praise it.”  (En ps. 145, 6).

3. In spite of this it would be false and foolish if we decided to shorten our prayer or not come to community prayer for that reason or on the excuse that we don’t feel up to it. For this prayer, often so weak, is for us people the only way to fulfilment. In this connexion, quoting the words of the psalmist (85-86, 5) “Lord, you are good and kind.”  Augustine says “It seems to me that here God is called king, because he patiently bears our weakness and nevertheless expects from us our prayer so that he can fulfil us.”

In the final analysis, these involuntary defects in daily prayer are for people one of the trials God permits so as to cleanse us. For they are given to keep us from spiritual pride. From Augustine derives the saying: “It is better for one to be deficient in the praise of God than to grow in the praise of oneself.”  (En. ps. 145, 4). God “bends his ear to the poor and the needy, that is to the humble person who acknowledges that he needs God’s mercy. He does not bow down to the self-satisfied who sticks out his chest in pride as if he wanted for nothing.”  (En. ps. 85, 2).

4. Augustine lists yet another condition for good prayer in a later chapter of his Rule (VI, 42): Forgiveness of heart. There he exhorts us to forgive the offences of others quickly and sincerely “for the sake of your prayers.”  For Augustine is convinced that, more than lack of recollection or perseverance, it is unforgiveness that harms the person at prayer. “God has reached an agreement with us. The person who wishes really to pray Forgive us our trespasses must sincerely say: as we also forgive those who trespass against us. If a person does not say this or does not say it sincerely, this prayer is without meaning. A prayer in discord is no praise of the Lord.”  (Serm. 58, 6, 7). A person full of strife and hatred “may praise with his mouth, but with his heart he blasphemes (En. ps. 132, 13).

A good prayer demands that we free ourselves internally of resentments and from harbouring offences which block us on our way to God, such as perhaps exasperation, giving up, lovelessness, unforgiveness and even opposition to God and his dispositions.

A spiritual author of our own time has given the following beautiful expression to a concept of prayer: “Prayer is a self-gift to God.”  Perhaps all too often we forget this in our daily prayer. For in our experience we agree that in our prayer we seek above all something useful for ourselves, some consolation, joy and especial prayer-experiences. These are certainly worthwhile parts of prayer, but they should not occupy the first place in our prayer. When we engage ourselves in private or community daily prayer, it has first and foremost to do with God, with his glorification, with his kingdom, with his holy will. Let us take care to return always to this inner attitude in prayer. Then we will not be so easily disappointed when at times we do not find for ourselves what the heart is longing and waiting for. God’s merciful love can achieve its effects precisely in a soul that knows its poverty and need of help. Humility and love, according to our Holy Father Augustine, are the wings of prayer that bear one immediately into God’s presence (Serm. 206, 3).




Tarsicius Johannes van Bavel, O.S.A.

“None of the earlier conceptions about the human being stand secure today. Biology, psychology and related sciences on the one hand and the modern philosophical movements such as existentialism, Marxism and analytical philosophy on the other, each pose the question of human being. For, indeed, human being is a question; and as question he is perhaps nothing other than a continuous searching for an ever new answer in changing circumstances.”[63]

Yet, I dare to question whether it is only in our century that human being finds itself so puzzling. Very many of Augustine’s texts lay equal emphasis on the problem. And indeed there are also many different answers to the question: what is human? What is the human spirit, what is knowledge, what is freedom, what is good and evil, what is the human person, does the religious belong to the true being of humanity or is the religious dimension only an alienation of its being?

Augustine too wrestled with these questions. We must not forget, in this regard, that he began from a radically rationalistic standpoint. He sought a totally rationalistic insight and rejected any appeal to belief. “I wished to be as sure of that which is not tangibly perceptible as I was of the fact that 7 plus 3 is 10 “[64]. From this it appears that initially he was totally devoted to reason through which he hoped to uncover the whole meaning of human existence. But he was severely disappointed. He then became an adherent of a sceptical way of life: we never can have certainty.

Gradually, however, this position changed to another on which he allowed the rest of his life to be based: by his own power one can not arrive at a correct insight into human life; the light of belief must be his aid. Yet this position did not prevent Augustine from forcefully affirming that a human person remains for himself a boundless mystery. “I am not entirely aware myself of what I am. Is the soul then too narrow to understand itself? Where is this thing that the soul does not understand about itself? Is it sometimes outside the soul and not within it? How is it that the soul can not understand it? I am aroused with great wonder; and am seize by amazement”[65]. Yet this ignorance of ourselves is not meant statically, as we can see from the statement that, “No one knows another as he knows himself. And in this connection it must be born in mind that no one knows himself so well that he can, with certainty, predict how he will act tomorrow... Because of the ignorance and the insecurity of the human spirit Paul warns us, and quite correctly, ‘not to judge anyone before the time when the Lord himself will come.’”[66]

Human being is a dependent being

When one wishes to write on the opinion of human nature held by a Father of the Church, one must remain clearly aware that there is an enormous difference between the early Christian and modern estimate of it. The Church Fathers lived, much more than we, from a view of the world which considered it to be both a unity per se and a unity based on faith. All things were interconnected. The Fathers proceeded from a first principle which could be called God, and on Whom all beings depended in different degrees of participation. Within this scope little attention was given to the autonomy of beings in general, nor to the autonomy of humans in particular. Modern people have, in contradistinction, an increasingly sharper awareness of their own independence, and of the value, inner laws, and autonomy of the world. It is possible in our time to speak meaningfully of humaness without God, while for the Church Fathers it was impossible to speak of this world without including God in the discussion.

This means that the anthropology of an early Christian writer can not be treated without including all other aspects of his doctrine. One can not illuminate a part without touching the whole.  If we limit ourselves (and can we do otherwise?) then we must be aware that we are making an abstraction which was foreign to Christian antiquity. A complete anthropology would have to include descriptive, genetic, and social elements. By this we mean that the study must take into consideration the personal and the individual (who am I?); the question of origin (from where do I come?), and finally the description of man’s mission in the world (what is my duty?). A complete presentation of Augustine’s anthropology would have to include his teaching on: creation, freedom and sin, the relationship of body and soul; emotional life; desire and fear; interiority; epistemology; willing and loving; moral and social life; the image of God in man; and death. We are aware that the following considerations will be incomplete. But we hope to offer some small assistance in deepening your anthropological awareness. For the question “who is man?” continues to be important for all times and for all generations.

That which attracts immediate attention in Augustine’s anthropology is his manner of viewing the whole of human history from the standpoint of Christian belief. Our “concrete” history is, for him, that history which begins with God Who creates, and ends in the total Christ, “Christus totus,” in whom the whole of creation shall one day be united and presented to the Father. Augustine cannot speak of history without speaking of creation, incarnation, and final resting in Christ. He cannot speak of humans and be silent on sin and grace. It is this which is for him the only real and concrete history. No other history exists.

From this it is evident that a human person is a dependent being. When one does not take into consideration this dependence on God, one does not fully know the human person. One will indeed be speaking about human being, but not in its totality. We cannot understand what it is to be human if we ignore what it means to be dependent on God. If a human being remains turned in upon itself it will find nothing but it. Augustine expresses this concisely: “When you consider yourself to be the final end of all, then that is the final end of you “[67]. It becomes immediately clear why pride (superbia) assumes so central a place in Augustine’s anthropology. Pride is more that just another sin; it is the greatest sin we can commit. Pride turns a human being in upon itself; it prevents us from emerging from ourselves; indeed it hinders our very ability to love. What holds true for our relationship with God holds true also for our relationship with other persons. The deepest core of human existence rests in the fact that to be ourselves we need another. This essential need for another forbids the domination of one person by another. “No Christian may ever consider himself elevated above another person... If you wish to be greater than another, you will necessarily become jealous of him when you see that he is your equal. You ought to wish all people equal to yourself. But we often can not restrain ourselves. Because of greed we wish to be greater than, and to stand above, our fellow humans. It is precisely in this that pride consists.”[68]

Because Augustine believes a human being is a being dependent both on God and the neighbour, he can make no distinction between the natural and the supernatural. He recognizes no “natural” human, and even less is there a “natural” virtue. In fact all that cannot be placed within our human orientation to God is a fault — it may be the fault of genius but it is a fault none the less. Humans so err in precisely that area of life which is most important, namely the orientation to the final good. Augustine uses here the image of a ship’s helmsman. Though he may be an accomplished sailor, if he doesn’t know the way, his expertise is for naught. In such a case I’m better off with someone who is a less skilful sailor but who can bring me where I am supposed to be.[69]

The way of interiority

The best known theme of Augustine’s anthropology is his method of interiority. All problems are subjected to an analysis of interiority. What do we mean by this? Interiority means a search of one’s own heart, of one’s own interior, of the life of one’s own consciousness.

This does not mean a superficial introspection, whereby an ego becomes the object of consideration. On the contrary, through this type of splitting a human being would lose its own personality.

Through retiring into himself, Augustine comes to a deeper awareness or consciousness, a yet stronger reflection on the basic principles of morality, a certain lucidity with regard to fallacious solutions, and an honest understanding of his ignorance at the threshold of the unknowable. He always draws on his rich experience of life and never fails to include events and examples from daily life. “Men are going afar to marvel at the height of the mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the wide course of the rivers, the breadth of the oceans, and the paths of the heavenly bodies. But they abandon themselves and are not filled with wonder before their own innermost self.”[70]

The aim of this returning to the heart is not that we should become a static object of self-contemplation — a sort of narcissism. How could we profit from this? We would be merely closed up in a small circle. This is certainly not Augustine’s intention. This search of our own heart must be thought of as a movement which opens us. Interiority is the discovery of our own essence. And this essence is dynamic. Through seeking and questioning and in longing we try to find in ourselves the Other. “I entreat you, O God, do not keep silent from me... Speak truthfully to my heart, for you are the only one who speaks so... let me penetrate to my inmost self and there sing songs of love for you.”[71] Self-knowledge is then: to listen to what God has to say about me; I do not listen to myself in order to know myself (in what way would this make me the wiser?), but I listen to the Other.[72] The person who does not know his interior self is indeed an unhappy person [73].

From a moral standpoint the opposite of interiority is “curiositas.”  Curiositas may not be translated here by our word “curiosity.”  Augustine uses this term in a far more fundamental sense, namely as a desire to grasp rationally things exterior to oneself, as an involvement in exterior things that is so total that the self is forgotten.

Introspection, self-knowledge, and memory evoke in the modern Western the image of intellectualism. However this is not the case for Augustine. For self-knowledge does not result only in an “I think” but also in an “I will” or “I seek.”  The intellect can never be cut free from the will. Without the will no knowledge is possible. The longing for knowledge precedes knowing itself. “Knowledge is generated simultaneously by the knower and the known. But (here is a certain longing which precedes what the soul brings forth. This longing assures that, through our seeking and finding, we continue to desire knowledge. Through seeking and finding knowledge is born.”[74] The Confessions describe how the intellect and will obtain truth and love in this way: “And spurred on by the (Platonic) method to return to myself, I entered into my deepest interior, led by You; I was able to do it because You had become my helper. I entered and looking with my soul’s eye — weak as it was — I saw above this eye, above my spirit an unchanging light... He who knows truth, knows this light. And who knows this light knows eternity. Love knows it. O eternal truth and true love”[75]

We ourselves are not the source of truth. Only God can be the universal power of truth. The knowledge of God is possible through self-knowledge. For only in his inner self can a human being discover true transcendence. What we discover in ourselves is not some sort of first principle, on which all other truths logically depend, but rather a sort of first formation of truth: an interior word (verbum interius). We are, as it were, inhabited by the word of God. In this way the human spirit participates in the activity which is the ground of all beings: God himself, who is present in the human spirit. We participate in the light which illuminates all things.

This philosophical insight is given a Christian formulation when Christ is considered our inner teacher (magister interior). “The true teacher whom we consult is Christ, of whom it is said that he dwells in man’s interior as the unchangeable power of God and eternal wisdom.”[76] Augustine was convinced that it is impossible for us to give truth or wisdom to another, that we could not “teach - docere” in the strict sense of the word. Why not? Because we ourselves do not possess truth. Truth stands above us. S. Ijsseling wrote: “I believe that Augustine is correct in this. But who is this inner teacher, who is this Christ? Is it not all the inscriptions, images and the whole system of values which is set deep in our heart? This whole and this system is formed by Christ, and perhaps even by the ‘Christus totus.’”[77]

The fact that truth is never the strict property of a human being makes Augustine’s idea of truth very open. For example: justice is not an independent image or idea against which I can measure my ideas as if it were a mode to which my deeds can easily be attuned. Justice is a truth which must reveal itself for me; it cannot be known merely from experience; it is loved for itself; and it is recognized in my actions. This holds true also for love. For what can guarantee that my love is good? Only love itself can guarantee it.

There are two poles to reality: interiority and exteriority. We cannot eliminate either. It is possible that Augustine somewhat one-sidely emphasized interiority. But it is important that the question of interiority continues to be asked. Some authors are correct when they say that the domain most neglected by Western people is that of their own existence: Western people fear to be alone with themselves; they do not wish to be confronted with themselves.

The dignity of human being as the image of God

The great value of Augustine’s teaching on interiority is its role as the key to the development of the human person. Human subjectivity need not destroy itself; and even less must it disappear in the anonymity of the impersonal “all.”  Man’s personal history becomes very important; indeed, it even receives eternal value. G. Maertens has said, “The method of interiority prevents a ‘psychologization’ of God: God is not someone whom we ‘create’ in our interior. He was there already and is independent of our inner selves. It was thanks to God’s initiative that we could use our inner selves as the point of departure for approaching Him. The imago as an objective datum is extremely important and the method of interiority consists of ‘being aware’ that God was already there.”[78]

Nowhere is the true value of man better expressed than in the Judeo-Christian belief that humans are the image of God. The text of Genesis 1:26, “Let us make human beings according to our own image and likeness,” has left a deep impression on both the Jewish and the Christian traditions.

According to Augustine, the image of God is imprinted in the human being; of all creation, human beings stand closest to God. We are not foreign to God for we are created in His image. The term image implies at the same time both similarity and dissimilarity, identity and non-identity. However similar we are to God, we remain distinct from Him. As Augustine tries to describe further the way in which we are God’s image, he refers again to the human mind. Two elements come to the fore: the power to spiritually know the truth (intellectus) and the immortality which flows from the immateriality of the spirit (immortalitas). Our being as an image can also be interpreted in a trinitarian manner: We are, through our being, knowing, and loving, the image of God - Father, Son, Spirit; Origin, Word, and Love.[79] The body participates only indirectly in the soul as image; this participation will be greater at the time of eschatological glory.

In his earlier works, Augustine, perhaps in the company of some Greek Fathers, taught that through sin one is no longer the image of God. But surely after 412 A.D. he abandoned this view: the image of God in us cannot be lost, even through sin; it is carved into our being. Therefore, he makes a distinction between being an image of God as capacity and as participation. The relation to God is always there, either as capacity or as a reality. Everyone is an image of God, even if one does not know it or believe it. But naturally the ideal situation is such where one believes he is the image of God, sees it as a living relationship between himself and God, and lives according to it.[80]

This evaluation of human being is not statically conceived. It has ramifications for every day life. “The true honour of man is to be an image and likeness of God. This image is only preserved in relation to Him who imprints us with it. Therefore the more we depend on God, the less we cherish our own power.”[81] Our dignity as God’s image lays on us obligations. God’s image in us must grow. A genuine and continuous conversion — or better formulated — an unceasing reformation (reformatio) is necessary. This uninterrupted reformation is nothing other than a sustained growth in love. This reformation may also be thought of as a continuation of creation, for it is a new-creation. According to Augustine, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection the creation is, by far, more genuine than in the chaotic beginning. “That God brought creation into existence can even be interpreted in a future sense. That God created light may be understood as an event to take place when Christ rises from the dead. For it is only at the moment when he separates the immortal from mortal that he truly separates the light from the darkness.”[82]

God in our love

From what has already been said, one could get the impression that Augustine was a very introspective person, always involved with analyzing himself. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not surprising to find out that this man was scarcely ever alone. He always had people around him. Augustine was very social; it is impossible to picture him without friends; for him, friendship was one of the necessities of life. He says of himself that he could not be happy without friends.[83] Among all his works there is not one which is not either directly or indirectly an answer to another’s question.

To be human is indeed to be together with others; human being is essentially a social being. This social character culminates in love, without which the whole world would be nothing other than a great desert.[84] If you should ask me which of all his themes Augustine treats most often, I would answer without hesitation: love. This is indeed to often overlooked in studies of Augustine’s anthropology. Only some of the aspects of this theme can be treated here.[85]

Augustine proceeds from a fact, which is beyond doubt for him, namely, that every man desires to be happy. The human soul strives to fulfill its desires and potentials. Whenever the will has what it desires, it is happy. The one who does not have what he or she desires is, by necessity, unhappy.  Yet not every one who has what he or she wants is happy.[86] What it all boils down to is the achievement of true happiness. Every man is born with some insufficiency, with an emptiness (egestas). The will is an open desire directed towards all that can fill this emptiness. Augustine wishes in his heartfelt longing to fill this emptiness and to satisfy this hunger and so to come to joy, rest, and peace.

The transition from vague desire to well-ordered love is one of the main themes in Augustine’s anthropology. In the end it is only love that can determine what human value is. The history of a human being is basically the history of love. Science and knowledge can be very important for us, but they will not make us good. That love alone can do. Knowledge without love is never salutary. “Knowledge alone makes one haughty; love edifies. If you wish only to profess verbally a belief and do not wish to love, you are not better than the demons... Belief must be immediately joined with love, lest belief, without love, miss its goal. A Christian’s belief embraces love.”[87].

Who one is is thus determined by love. Only love distinguishes one person from another. For it alone distinguishes between their deeds. It is not language, skin, colour, cultural background which make one person distinct from another; it is in their deeds and in their hearts that they are distinct[88]. In the end there are only two sorts of love: a misdirected one and a right one. All misdirected love is derived from a selfish and covetous love (cupiditas-concupiscentid). The expression “desires of the flesh” may not be limited to the meaning of “sexual desires.” Augustine lists explicitly under this topic such things as brawls, jealousy, scandal-mongering, hatred, lust for power, and selfish egoism. Cupiditas is that love which remains a prisoner in the grip of the Ego, and which has no power to go out from itself. For such a love the Ego is the norm which all else is made to serve. Directly opposed to this selfishness is caritas, which alone knows how to correctly enjoy what is truly worthy of enjoyment, namely the neighbour and God.[89] The universal world history is nothing other than the history of these two forms of love. They constitute two different mentalities, two “civitates “: the civitas diaboli and the civitas dei.

The reason that only love can distinguish between human beings is, according to Augustine, determined by the fact that we are what we love: “Always, as we love, so are we. Do you love the earth? Then you are earth. Do you love God? Then — do I dare to say it? — you are God.”[90]

With these last words we come to an extremely important aspect of Augustine’s anthropology. For up to now you could think that Augustine is only interested in a vertical love directed to a God who is “above us.”  But this is not the case. Love of neighbour is the same as love of God; these two are identical. Indeed, love of neghbour is even given preference, for it is more concrete and leaves less room for self-deception[91] Augustine then does not hesitate to consider John’s expression “God is Love” to be equally true when reversed — “Love is God.”  “The value of Love (and with this he means inter-human love!) can find no stronger emphasis than by saying this love is God. It is more than merely a gift of God.”[92] Thus I intend no exaggeration when I give as the title of this section “God in our Love.”  As a further corroboration of it I offer this text: “Meanwhile we must exercise love. But how are our hearts to be trained? Through love of the neighbour. We can always object: but I don’t see God. But to this I reply that you can never say: I do not see my neighbour! Therefore have love for human beings, for if you love your sister and brother whom you see you will come to see God at the same time. Thus you will see love, and in the heart of love is God’s abode.”[93]

This vision involves an immense responsibility for those who are believers. We become responsible as a group for the presence of God’s love in the world. For our love of neighbour, in the end, is the love of God himself: God loves the world through us.

Tentative conclusion

In the final analysis, Augustine’s anthropology is dominated by love. Love is the value indicator and the vital center of our existence. To this extent his anthropology is also specifically Christian and centers on the Gospel: he who loses himself, finds himself. Or, to use Augustine’s own words, we must learn to love ourselves by not loving ourselves: “The more I give up my own Ego, the happier I am.”[94] This agrees completely with the paradox presented to us by Jesus.

This does not mean that there remain no tensions in Augustine’s anthropology, but these are based upon reality itself. There remains the tension between good and evil; he never really succeeds (but who does?) in explaining evil; how are suffering and misery to be harmonized with the fundamental goodness of God? There remains a tension between contemplation and action: however, it is clear that contemplation is, for him, more than merely knowing truth; contemplation is also to become truth. There remains the tension inherent in his hierarchical view of the world, in which spirit is superior to matter, the soul to the body, God to the world. God is above us and at the same time is present in us: God is immanent and simultaneously transcendent. “You are for me the Most High and the most near, the always absent and the most present,”[95] “More internal to me than I am to myself, and at the same time raised far above that which is highest in me.”[96]

There remains in Augustine a tension between God’s transcendence and His immanence. He finds God not only above himself, but also through all and with all other people. We find in Augustine not only individual thought but also cosmic thought; not only personal interests but interests in the whole human community.

These tensions demonstrate the degree to which human being is development and process. I conclude therefore with the words of E. Dinkier: “A most powerful life palpitates in Augustine’s anthropology. Nothing there is artificial, nothing static, but everywhere force and evolution. With exceptional talents and great intuitive knowledge, he lays bare the depth and width of being human.”[97]



Rome, November 9-14, 1987



Names of participants




Agostiniane del Divino Amore Roma

Sr. Lorenzina Tavoletti

Assistente generale

Piazza S. Pancrazio 11, I-00152 Roma


Sr. Eugenia Marchetti


Casa  del  Nino,  Cotabambas (Apurimac), Peru


Agostiniane della Presentazione Poschiavo

Sr. Maria Passini

Vicaria generale

Monastero Suore Agostiniane, CH-7742 Poschiavo (GR)


Sr. Maurizia Giuliani


Monastero Suore Agostiniane, CH-7742 Poschiavo (GR)


Agostiniane  della  SS. Annunziata S. Giovanni Valdarno

Sr. Raffaella Casilli

Superiora generale

Piazza Cavour 12, I-52027 S. Giovanni Valdarno (AR)


Sr. Angelica Di Pillo

Segretaria generale

Piazza Cavour 12, I-52027 S. Giovanni Valdarno (AR)


Agostiniane Serve di Gesu e Maria Roma

Sr. Eugenia Silvestri

Superiora generale

Via Nomentana 514, I-00141 Roma


Sr. Leonilde Allegro

Segretaria generale

Via Nomentana 514, I-00141 Roma


Sr. Rebecca Grech

Provinciale di Malta

208, Fleur-de-Lys  Rd., B’Kara, Malta


Sr. Clotilde Schiavone

Segretaria provinciale

208, Fleur-de-Lys Rd., B’Kara, Malta


Agustinas de la Ensenanza San Luis Potosi (Mexico)

Sr. Ma de los Angeles Alvarado


Via S. Uffizio 25, 1-00193 Roma


Agustinas de Nra. Sra. del Socorro Mexico

Sr. Juana Gomez Ceballos

Superiora general

Campana 63, Col. Mikcoac, Del. B. Juarez, 03910 Mexico, D.F.


Sr. Ascension Diaz Ferreira


Via F. Petrelli 26, 1-06028 Sigillo


Sr. Lidia Ordufio Martinez


Via F. Petrelli 26, 1-06028 Sigillo


Agustinas Hermanas del Amparo Pal ma de Mallorca

Sr. Carmen Villalonga Fajarnes


Via S. Uffizio 25, 1-00193 Roma


Agustinas Hijas del Santisimo Salvador - Lima

Sr. Rosa Ma Contreras Sabogal


Casa S. Rita, via Flaminia km 23 -1-00060 Riano (Roma), Italia


Agustinas Misioneras - Roma

Sr. Transito Gonzalez del Estal

Superiora general

Via R.  Pannaim 34, int.  19, 1-00165 Roma


Alexianerbruder - Neuss

Br. Wunibald Gillhaus


Alexianerplatz 1, D4040 Neuss 1


Augustines  de  la  Misericorde de Jesus - Rennes

Sr. Yvonne Derbyshire

Superieure generale

Generalat des Augustines, 4, Rue Adol phe Leray, F-35000 Rennes


Sr. Yolande Mabon

Assistante generale

4, Rue Adolphe Leray, F-35000 Rennes


Augustines de Notre-Dame de Consolation - Le Bouscat

Sr. Benedicte Dehez


318 Avenue de la Liberation, F-33110 Le Bouscat


Augustines de Notre-Dame de Paris - Paris

Sr. Jeanine Bertrand

Superieure generale

66 Rue des Plantes, F-75674 Paris Cedex


Augustines du Saint Coeur de Marie - Paris

Sr. M. Gertrude Mooney

Superieure generale

29, Rue de la Sante, F-75013 Paris


Sr. M. Agnes Degrelle

Conseillere generale

29, Rue de la Sante, F-75013 Paris


Augustines du Saint Coeur de Marie - Angers

Sr. Christiane Mahe

Superieure generale

35, Rue de la Madeleine, F4900 Angers


Sr. Marie Benoit Germon

Conseillere generale

35, Rue de la Madeleine, F-4900 Angers


Augustines  Hospitalieres de l’Immaculee C. - St. Amand-Les-Eaux

Sr. Marie Florence Des camps

Superieure generale

877 Route de Roubaix, F-59230 St. Amand-Les-Eaux


Sr. Marie   Michel Ghuislaine

Assistante generale

877 Route de Roubaix, F-59230 St. Amand-Les-Eaux


Augustines  Hospitalieres  de Ver- sailles - Versailles

Sr. Marie Menou

Superieure generale

23,   Rue   Edouard   Charton. F-78008 Versailles Cedex


Augustins de l’Assomption - Roma

P. Claude Marechal

Superieur general

Via S. Pio V 55, 14)0165 Roma


P. Louis Augustijns

Ass. et proc. general

Via S. Pio V 55, 1-00165 Roma


Augustinusschwestern Volkach am Main

Schw. Cacilie Mehler


Vogelsburg, D-S712 Volkach


Barmherizige Bruder von Maria Hilf - Trier

Br. Arno Trunk


Br. Sebastian Kneipp Str. 13, D-7800 Freiburg


Concepcionistas  Misioneras de la Ensenanza - Madrid

Sr. Carmen Arce Lopez

Asistente general

Via Bixio 75, 1-00185 Roma


Sr. Milagros Santos M.


Via Bixio 75, 1-00185 Roma


Figlie del SS. Crocifisso - Roma

Sr. Emanuela Fornaini

Superiora generale

Via Portuense, 750, 1-00148 Roma


Sr. M. Tiziana Buti

Segretaria generale

Via Portuense, 750, 1-00148 Roma


Filles du St-Coeur de Marie La Fleche

Sr. Marie Helene Granlin

Superieure generale

32, Rue de la Beufferie, F-72200 La Fleche


Sr. Me Joseph Raveneau

Assistante generale

32, Rue de la Beufferie, F-72200 La Fleche


Sr. M« Therese Chevalier

Assistante generate

32, Rue de la Beufferie, F-72200 La Fleche


Genossenschaft der Augustinerinn - Neuss

Schw. Ursula Causemann

Generaloberin - Praesidentin Fed.

Kloster Immakulata, Augustinusstr. 46, D-4040 Neuss


Schw. M. Salesia Brettschneider


Augustinusstr. 46, D-4040 Neuss


Schw. M. Raphaele Gordes


Augustinusstr. 46, D-4040 Neuss


Genossenschaft der Augustinerinnen Cellitinnen - Koln

Schw. Hedwig Jansen


GlevelerstraBe 365, D-5000 Koln


Genossenschaft der Cellitinnen nach der Regel des hi. August. - Koln

Schw. M. Nikodema Rutzenhorf


SeverinstraBe 71-75, D-5000 Koln 1


Schw. M. Andrea Hallerberg


Kardinal Frings Str. 12, D-5000 Koln 1


Genossenschaft der Cellitinnen zur hi. Gertrud - Duren-N.

Schw. M. Philomena Kleu


KreuzauerstraBe 211, D-5160 Diiren


Schw. Camilla Wellner


KreuzauerstraBe 211, D-5160 Diiren


Genossenschaft der Cellitinnen zur hi. Maria in der Kupferg. - Koln

Schw. Julitta Schafer


GraseggerstraBe 105, D-5000 Koln 60


Schw. M. Nicola Mielski


GraseggerstraBe 105, D-5000 Koln 60


Hedwigsschwestern - Berlin

Schw. Michaela Andorfer


DreilindenstraBe 24-28, D-1000 Berlin 39


Schw. Patricia Habelski


St. HedwigstraBe 2-4, D-4780 Lippstadt


Hospitalieres de Saint Thomas de VilJeneuve - Neuilly sur Seine

Sr. Jean Yves Drion

Econome generale

52 Bd d’Argenson, F-92200 Neuilly sur Seine


Sr. Marie Aloys


52 Bd d’Argenson, F-92200 Neuilly sur Seine


Oblates de l’Assomption - Paris

Sr. Aline Vauquois

Conseillere- seer, generale

203 Rue Lecourbe, F-75015 Paris


Orantes de l’Assomption - Cachan

Sr. Yolande de Champagny

Superieure generale

6, Sentier Henri Dupuis, F-94230 Cachan


Sr. Therese Tacheau

Assistante generale

6, Sentier Henri Dupuis, F-94230 Cachan-


Ordensgemeinschaft der Christense- rinnen Aachen - Stolberg

Schw. Ludwiga Rieth


Rainweg 36, D-5190 Stolberg Venwegen


Pauvres Soeurs de Mons - Mons

Sr. Marie-Francine Chau vaux

Superieure generale

24, Rue de Bertaimont, B-7000 Mons


S. Me Antoine Blomme


Providence des Malades,  B-7880 Flobecq


Petites  Soeurs de l’Assomption - Paris

Sr. M-Madeleine Termont

Procuratrice generale

Via Pineta Sacchetti 55, 1-00167 Roma


Religieuses de l’Assomption - Paris

Sr. Martha Mary Walter

Conseillere generale

17, rue de l’Assomption, F-75016 Paris


Reparadoras del Sagrado Corazon - Roma

Sr. Ma Consuelo Brescia Chiesa

Superiora general

Via Tagliamento, 41, 1-00198 Roma


Rita-Schwestern - Wurzburg

Schw. Marietta Lermer


Friedrich Spee  StraBe 32, D-S700 Wurzburg


Schwestern vom Heiligen Geist - Koblenz

Schw. M. Lioba


Marienhof,  MoselweisserstraBe, D-5400 Koblenz


Schw. M. Beatrix Reichert

General assistentin

Marienhof, MoselweisserstraBe, D-5400 Koblenz/Rhein


Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions - Roma

Sr. Margaret Mclnerney

Assistant general

Via di Bravetta 628, 1-00164 Roma


Sr. Moira Ross

Assistant general

Via di Bravetta 628, 1-00164 Roma


Zgromadzenie Siostr Augustianek - Krakow

S. Klara Grelewicz

Wikaria generalna

Ul. Skaleczna 12, 31-065 Krak6w, Polska


S. Konsolata Widerska

Przelozona Krakow

Ul. Skaleczna 12, 31-065 Krakow, Polska


S. Maria Babacz


Ul. Skaleczna 12, 31-065 Krakow. Polska


Zwartzusters Augustinessen van Be- thel - Brugge

Zr. Germana Verhelst

Algemene Overste

Woensdagmarkt 6, B-8000 Brugge


Zr. Suzanne Stubbe

Algemene assistente

Woensdagmarkt 6, B-3000 Brugge


Zr. Benedicta Vanwilde meersch

Assistente algemene

Alg. Z. Huis H. Hart, Gouwelozestraat 98, Oostende, Belgie


Zwartzusters Augustinessen - Den Derxnonde

Zr. Theofila De Keyser

Algemene Overste

Vlasmarkt 27, Dendermonde, Belgie


Augustinessen van  Zusters Barm. HoUand - Heemstede

Zr. Lucia Zuijderwijk

Algemene Overste

Glipperdreef 199, 2104 WG Heemstede, Nederland


Zr. Maria Breed

Assistente algemene

Glipperdreef 199, 2104 WG Heemstede, Nederland


Augustinessen van Zusters St. Ni- Kortrijk klaas -

Zr. Therese Benoit

Algemene Overste

Voorstraat 47, B-8500 Kortrijk


Zr. Lydie Delrue

Responsable en El Salvador

Calle Poniente 5, Cojutepeque, El Salvador C.A.


Zr. Lea Maes

Conseillere generale

Voorstraat 47, B-8500 Kortrijk


Agustinas Monjas

Sr. Cecilia Gil Gil

Presid. Feder. Nra. Sra del B. Consejo

Apdo. 169, Avda. Pio X, Talavera de la Reina (Toledo), Espafia


Sr. Maria del Camino Na varlaz Arraiza

Presidenta Feder. Nra. Sra. del Pilar

Monasterio Agustinas, Aldaz-Larraun (Navarra), Espafia


Sr. Juana Azpiazu Agui rrezabala

Delegada Fed. «Pilar»

Vallmayor 29, E-08021 Barcelona


Sr. Clara Moran Fernan dez

Delegada Fed.  «B. Con- sejo »

La Granja 9, E-28003 Madrid


Ordo S. Augustini - Roma

P. Martin Nolan

Prior generalis

Via S. Uffizio 25, 1-00195 Roma


P. Benedict Hackett

Assistens generalis


P. Julian Garcia Centeno

Assistens generalis


P. Giovanni Scanavino

Assistens generalis


P. Balbino Rano

Postulator generalis


P. Pietro Bellini

Secretarius et Procurator generalis


P. Adolar Zumkeller

Assist. Fed. Sor. Germ.

St. Bruno, Steinbachtal 2, D-8700 Wurzburg


P. Francisco Fernandez Prada

Assist. Mon. Fed. « Buen Consejo »

Calle Corredera del Cristo, 26 Talavera de la Reina (Toledo)


Secretariat of Symposium

P. Luis  Casado Espinosa


Camino de las Torres, 79-89 - Zara goza (Espafia)

P. Bernard Bruning


Pakenstraat 109, B-3030 Heverlee

P. Tarcisius Van Bavel -


Pakenstraat 109, B-3030 Heverlee

P. Thomas Martin

Subsecretarius generalis


Fr. Gerard Flatley

Subsecretarius generalis


P. Nicola Stollagli


P. Bruno Silvestrini


Fr.  Mikolaj Drobotowicz


Fr. Jaime Sepulcre


Fr. David Sharp


The following sent letters of support:

  1. Agostiniane Riparatrici - Piano di Sorrento
  1. Alexian Brothers - Signal Mountain (USA)
  1. Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation - Philippines
  1. Hijas del Santisimo Salvador - Lima
  1. Hijas de San Jose - Santiago de Chile
  1. Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary - Woodford Brdige (UK)
  1. Suore Scolastiche di Nostra Signora - Roma
  1. Zusters Augustinessen van St. Monica - Hilversum

[1] Delivered by the Holy Father Pope John Paul II on November 14, 1987, to the participants of the Symposium of the Augustinian Family, during a special audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

[2] Delivered by the Prior General O.S.A., Fr. Martin Nolan, to the participants of the Symposium of the Augustinian Family, on November 9, 1987, on the occasion of the opening of the Symposium, at the Augustinianum, Rome.

[3] Cf. Constitutions O.S.A., English edition, Rome 1978. pp. 9-11. For a fairly complete historical/juridical study of the concept “Augustinian Family” see: B. Rano, “The Augustinian Family,” OSA fnternationalia 10 (Rome 1981), pp. 141-143, 159-161. Id., “L’utilizzazione delta RA.” DIP., Vol. 7, Rome 1983, cc. 1554-1555.

[4] Ibid., n. 43, p. 9.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. The quote within the quote is taken from the Documents of the II Vatican Council, PC, 22. The implicit allusion to the Institutes of the Recollect Augustinians and the Discalced Augustinians is clear. The official titles of these two institutes were respectively: “The Order of Recollect Hermits of St. Augustine” and “The Order of Discalced Hermits of St. Augustine” and that of the Augustinians was “The Order of Hermits of St. Augustine.” The Recollect Augustinians and the Discalced Augustinians were part of the Order of St. Augustine until 1912 and 1931 respectively. Before those dates they formed a part in the strict sense of the Augustinian Family. Now they are designated in the strict sense: the Recollect Augustinian Family and the Discalced Augustinian Family.

[7] Cf. B. Rano, “Agostiniani. II. It posto di s. Agostino ncU’Ordinc,” DIP., vol. I, Rome 1974, cc. 292-302; Id., “San Agustin y los origenes de su Orden,” La Ciudad de Dios (200) 1987, special issued dedicated to the XVI Centenary of the Conversion of St. Augustine.

[8] L. De Empoli, O.S.A., Bullarium O.S.A., Rome 1628, pp. 214, 228.

[9] Cf. B. Rano, “Fisonomia y fin de los movimientos de recolcccion y descatcez de la Orden Agustiniana en Espana,” Ciudad de Dios 182 (1969), pp. 30-65; Id., “Documentos en torno at Breve Pontiftcio Rcligiosas fumilias (16.IX.1912), documento fundacional de la Orden de los Agustinos Rccolctos’, Analecta Augustiniana 49 (1986), pp. 311-349; Id., “Los primeros tiempos del convento de Agustinas de Puebla de los Angeles en los documentos de su Archivo y del Archivo Vaticano” in Archivo Agustiniano 71 (1987), pp. 235-390.

[10] Constitutions O.S.A., Ch. III, nn. 44-49, pp. 9-11.

[11] Cf. B. Rano, “Agostiniane, monache,” DIP., vol. I, Rome 1974, cc. 155-190; Id., “Agostiniane, snore,” ibid., cc. 190-192.

[12] o E. Esteban, O.S.A., “Antiquiores quae extant definitiones Capitutorum Generalium Ordinis: VIII. Capitutum Generate de Neapoti,” Analecta Augustiniana 3 (1909-1910), pp. 17-18.

[13] Cf. Clement VIII, Bull “Quaecumquc a Sede Apostolica” (7.XII.1604), Magnum Bullarium Romanum, vol. XI, Turin 1867, pp. 138-143; V. Macca, O.C.D, “Aggregazione,” DIP., vol. I, Rome 1974, cc. 150-152.

[14] Constitutions O.S.A., Ch.  Ill, n. 47, p. 10.

[15] Cf. Constitutions O.S.A., Ch. V, n. III, e-f, pp. 22-23; Ch. XXIII, n. 455, pp. 73-74.

[16] Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Instructio de Calendarus parti-cularibus ... recognoscendis (24.VI.1970), n. 16 a.

[17] Constitutions O.S.A., Ch. Ill, n. 50, p. 11.

[18] Cf. “Formulae litterarum aggregations Tertiariorum Ordini nostro,” and “Formula litterarum adfiliationis fidelium Ordini nostro,” Rituale Ordinis erm. S. Augustini cum formulario nonnullorum actuum, ed. Eustasio Esteban, Prior General O.S.A., Rome 1928, Ch. XI, nn. 606-608, pp. 428432, and Ch. XVI n. 613, pp. 439-440. In some cases there appears to have been confusion regarding the formula, using “affiliation” when in fact it was a case of granting “aggregation.”

[19] Constitutions O.S.A., Ch. Ill, n. 50, p. 11.

[20] Storia dei Papi, vol. 4/1, Rome 1908, p. 132.

[21] Appendix to the Ratisbon Constitutions, Venice 1508, f. 88r.

[22] Constitutions O.S.A., ed. Rome 1581, part I, Ch. I, p. 3.

[23] AGA (Augustinian General Archives), Dd 80, pp. 60-62.

[24] Ibid., pp. 62-63.

[25] Cf. “Sisters of the Incarnate Word,” OSA Internationalia 12 (1983), pp. 8-9; Carmen Ma Gonzales, “Chezard de Matel, Giovanna,” Bibliotheca Sanctorum, Prima appendice, Rome 1987, c. 319.

[26] AGA., Dd 123, ff. 107r-108r.

[27] In the petition of Mother Carmen Sallés, Foundress of the Concepcionistas Misioneras de la Ensenanza, the Subsecretary General of the Order Fr. Nicola Fusconi wrongly noted in pencil at the end of the second folio “Affigliazione all’Ordine delle Suore della Ensenanza” (AGA., Sorores Vitae Activae, Congregationes: Ar-C, Pp. 31, Concepcionistas Misioneras de la Ensenanza). In fact it was a question of aggregation (cf. AGA., Dd 274, p. 313); cf. also SebastiAn Gili Vives, Espiritu y vida de las Agustinas Hermanas del Amparo, selecci6n, introduction y notas de B. Rano O.S.A., Palma de Mallorca 1976, pp. XXVIII-XXX.

[28] AGA., Dd 250, p. 277, and Dd 257, f. 49v; AGA., Sorores vitae activae, Italia, Pp 35, Agostiniane Serve di Gesu e Maria, cartella 2; cf. I. Barbagallo, O.A.D., // dono totale di se: Suor Maria Teresa Spinelli (f 1850), Frosinone 1976, pp. 369-372.

[29] In the synthesis of the document to be found in the Register of the Prior General Giovanni Belluomini one reads: “Adfiliavimus Ordini Con-gregationem nuncupatam Augustinianorum de Assumptione degentium in Gallia, ac praesertim in diocesi Nemausensi” (AGA., Dd 261, p. 109). The formulas were not uniform. On 8 June 1866 the same Prior General aggregated the ‘Religious of the Assumption’, founded by Blessed Ana Eugenia Milleret de Brou (f 1880), a close collaborator of Fr. Manuel d’Alzon (f 1880), Founder of the Assumptionists. The following synthesis is found in the General Register: “Ordini tamquam Tertiariae ascriptae fuerunt in perpetuum Moniales Congregationis SS. Assumptionis, quae sequuntur regulam S. P. Augustini” (AGA., Dd 261, p. 80). With the utmost good will Fr. Eustasius Esteban O.S.A. believed to have demonstrated, and as Prior General of the Order communicated to the Superior General of the Assumptionists Fr. Gervase Quénard, in the letter Anno J930 of 29.XII.1928, that the Congregation had not been aggregated to the Order but simply affiliated. This theme was treated in the 1929 General Chapter of the Assumptionists along with the plan for union with the Augustinian Order proposed by the Founder of the Congregation Fr. M. d’Alzon. On 22 March 1929 Fr. Quénard declared in the letter Gervasius Quénard, addressed to Fr. Eustasius that the General Chapter had indicated that it wanted to tighten the bonds of love with the Augustinian Order and that before “the grave doubt arose regarding the value of the granting” of the aggregation it would have asked to have been aggregated to the Order as tertiaries.  The motivation would have been two-fold: that greater devotion to St. Augustine would stem from it and that the most illustrius ‘Augustinian’ Order would grow day by day.” On 25.III.1929, a day that pleased the Assumptionists greatly since it was the feast of the Annunciation, Fr. Eustasius issued the Decree of Aggregation (AGA., Dd 278, p. 151). In fact, Fr. Eustasius was mistaken in indicating the reasons that would have led to the “supposed error” and in indicating the time frame after which the Assumptionists would have begun calling themselves “Augustinians of the Assumption.” The title “Augustinians” was used much earlier than that believed by Fr. Eustasius. It was used at least as early as 1855-1857. They likewise considered themselves tertiaries of the Order previous to the time reckoned by Fr. Eustasius. It is thus that the reasons for the “supposed error” as ascertained by Fr. Eustasius are without foundation. The Commissary General of the Order, Fr. Pacifico Antonio Neno, with full power as General but without the title, wrote as follows on 18.VIII.1883: “Collatae fuerunt litterae commendatitiae Rmo. P. Assistenti Augustino Ciasca, qui ex mandato Suae Sanctitatis Lutetiam Parisiorum pergit, ad nostrates Tertiarios in ilia Civitate incolentes” (AGA., Dd 264, p. 174; cf. also Dd 265, p. 208). In 1883, in Revista Agustiniana (today Ciudad de Dios) 6 (1883) it was taken for fact that they were Tertiaries: “Los PP. llamados Agustinos de la Asuncion, terciarios de nuestra orden.” Regarding the perspective of Fr. Eustasius, cf. AGA., TOAR., - Assumptionistae; regarding the time of use of the word “Augustinian” and other such words, cf. J. Monval, Les Assomptionistes, Orleans 1939, pp. 37-38; P. Touvernerraud, A.A., “Agostiniani dell’Assunzione, Assunzionisti,” DIP., Vol. I, cc. 381-387.

[30] AGA. Sorores Vitae Activae, Congregationes: Ar-c, Pp 31, Concepcionistas Misioneras de la Ensenanza; AGA., Dd 274, p. 313; cf. Ma Asuncion Valls, Carmen Salle’s Mujer de Ayer y de Hoy, Madrid 1986, pp. 404 and 406, and pp. 269, 276-277, 386, 390. It is a book well worth reading. The Register of the Prior General Fr. Thomas Rodriguez gives the following synthesis of the Decree of Aggregation: “Die 17 lanuarii 1910. Aggregavimus Nostro Sacro Ordini, uti tertiarias sorores quae vulgo dicuntur Conccpcionis tas de la Ensenanza in Hispania constitutas ac praeserlim in civilate Matri-tensi” (AGA., Dd 274, p. 313). Mother Piedad Espinal was wrongly informed, as is likewise incorrect the perspective found on p. 404.

[31] Abundant documentation is available, especially under the title “;Por que pertenecemos a la Familia Agustiniana?,” Testimonio (bulletin of the Congregation) 3 (1980), p. 3; 4 (1980), pp. 3-7; 5 (1981), pp. 3-5; 6 (1981), pp. 3a and b; 7 (1981), p. 2; 8 (1981), pp. 4-6; 9 (1981), p. 3.

[32] Perfectae caritatis, 2 b.

[33] St. Augustine, Confessions, I, 1, 1.

[34] Constitutions Ratisbonenses, ed. I. Aramburu O.S.A., Valladolid, 1966, Ch. 17, n. 113, p. 60.

[35] St. Augustine, True Religion, 39, 72.

[36] St. Augustine, Soliloquies, 2, 1, 1; cf. Concerning Order, 1, 1, 3.

[37] St. Augustine, Sermon, 170, 11, 13.

[38] St. Augustine, Rule, Ch. 1, 34

[39] St. Augustine, Letter 243,4; cf. Commentary on Psalm 132,6.

[40] St. Augustine, Commentary on 1 John 10,3 and 8; cf. note 37.

[41] St. Augustine, o.c, 10,8; cf. Commentary on Psalm 33, II, 6-7.

[42] Constitutions O.S.A., Ch. Ill, n. 44, p. 9.

[43] Ibid., Ch. VII, n. 130, p. 26.

[44] Ibid., Ch. Ill, n. 44, p. 9.

[45] Letter “El Excmo..” 10 January 1893, Espiritu y vida de las Agustinas Hermanas del Amparo, Palma de Mallorca 1976, p. 199.

[46] Augustinian Missal, Rome 1976, p. 42.

[47] For further references to the aggregated Congregations c. B. Rano DIP , vol. I, cc. 372-378.

[48] Rule, 5, 10.

[49] Rule, 1, 2.

[50] Rule, 1, 8.

[51] Rule, 8, 1.

[52] Rule, 5, 2.

[53] Letter 140, 28 ( 68): PL 33, 568.

[54] On John’s gospel, tract. 41, 13: PL 35, 1699-1700.

[55] On holy virginity, 37 (38): PL 40, 417418.

[56] On Gen. ad lift., 15 (20): PL 34, 437.

[57] On Ps. 121, 12: PL 37, 1628-1629.

[58] On Ps. 61, 6: PL 36, 733-734

[59] Rule, 5, 2.

[60] On Ps. 105, 34: PL 37, 1415.

[61] Cf. L. Verheijen, Aliments dun commentaire de la Regie de saint Augustin - XX. “La chariti ne cherche pas ses propres inte’rcts,” August iniana, 34 (1984), 75-144.

[62] Sermon 350, 3: PL 39, 1535.

[63] E. DlRVEN, review of 0.F. PolLnow a.o., “Philosophischc Anthropologic heute,” in Kultuurleven 40 (1973), p. 931.

[64]Confcssiones VI, 4, 6. M(igne) L(atina) 32, 722.

[65]Confessiones X, 8, 15, ML 32, 785.

[66] Epistula 130, 2, 4. ML 33, 495.

[67] In epistulam Johannis 10, 5. ML 35, 2058.

[68]In epistulam Johannis 8, 8. ML 35, 2040. Cf. Ibid, 8, 14. ML 35, 2044.

[69] Enarratio 2 in psalmum 31, 2. ML 36, 260.

[70] Confessiones X, 8, 15. ML 32, 785.

[71] Confessiones XII, 16, 23. ML 32, 834.

[72] Confessiones X, 3, 3. ML 32, 780.

[73] Enarratio in psalmum 72, 22. ML 36, 920.

[74] De Trinitate IX, 12, 18. ML 42, 972.

[75]Confessiones VII, 10, 16. ML 32, 742.

[76] De magistro II, 38. ML 32, 1216.

[77] S. Ijsseling, “Augustinus en het eeuwige leveri’, in Tijdschrift voor Geestelijk Leven 27 (1971), p. 667.

[78] G. Maerthns, Augustinus over de mens. Brussels: Paleis der Acadcmicn 1965, p. 227.

[79] De civitate Dei XI, 26. ML 41, 339.

[80] De Trinitate XIV, 8, 11. ML 42, 1044.

[81] De Trinitate XII, 11, 16. ML 42, 1006.

[82] Enarratio in psalmum 47, 1. ML 36, 532.

[83] Confessiones IV, 6, 11. ML 32, 697-698.

[84] In epistulam Johannis 7, 1. ML 35, 2029.

[85] I have gone into this in more detail in my book: Christians in the World.   Introduction to the spirituality of St. Augustine. New York, 1980.

[86] De beata vita 2, 10. ML 32, 964.

[87] In epistulam Johannis 2, 8. ML 35, 1993. Ibid., 10,2. ML 35, 2055.

[88] In epistulam Johannis 5, 7-8. ML 35, 2015-2017.

[89] De Trinitate IX, 8, 13. ML 42, 967-968.

[90] In epistulam Johannis 2, 14. ML 35, 1997.

[91] Expositio epistulae ad Galatas 45. ML 35, 2137-2138.

[92] In epistulam Johannis 8, 14. ML 35, 2044. Ibid., 7, 10. ML 35, 2034

[93] In epistulam Johannis 5, 7. ML 35, 2016.

[94] De continentia 13, 29. ML 40, 369. Sermo 96, 2, 2. ML 38, 585.

[95] Confessiones VI, 3, 4. ML 32, 721.

[96] Confessiones III, 6, 11. ML 32, 688.

[97] E. Dinkler, Die Anthropologic Augustins. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1934, p. 240.

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