Two aspects treated here are “Community and Apostolate” and “Community Life – from ideal to reality.”
Through the apostolate (the ministry undertaken for the Church), Augustinians join the universal mission of the Church which proclaims the Gospel to all people. In this, Augustinians follow the example of Augustine - leader of the church in Hippo, author, political activist, etc. Apostolate, therefore, is seen as an integral part of Augustinian religious life.
Augustine emphasised that the apostolic work must be a free service in love, and not undertaken by the force of necessity. It was a call for assistance from one's mother, the Church. He wrote, "It is by the grace of God that the friars love together. It is not the result of their own doing or their own merits; rather, it is a gift of God." (Exposition of Psalm 132, 10: PL 41, 647)
This is what the Rule of Augustine means in stating that all obligations should be observed in a sort of charity "as lovers of spiritual beauty… not as slaves living under the yoke of law but as persons living in freedom under grace." (Rule, Chapter 8) For Augustine the duties of the external apostolate and of interior prayer are to be integrated and mutually reinforcing. He wrote that both should carefully be made to happen so harmoniously "that neither the joyous taste of truth and contemplation is lost, nor the demands of love and the apostolate made burdensome." (City of God, 19, 19: PL 41, 647)
Through ministry Augustinian communities find new strength and incentive, for apostolic works are an expression of and an increase in the love of the Christ who is not only encountered in the faces met in ministry but also in the friar's own heart during his times of prayer. For an Augustinian, therefore, the apostolate (the ministry undertaken for the Church) is an exterior activity springing from a deep interior life. Neither apostolic activity nor prayer make the greatest sense nor offer the greatest benefit if both are not vigorously practised.
Download: Community Life: From the ideal to reality.
In general, when it is a question of justifying community life, Augustine refers himself to the first community of Jerusalem (Acts 4:31-35), since it traced the ideal for a radical Christianity, the anticipation of the celestial Jerusalem. But in order to discover the richness of his idea of community life, one must not only look at his Rule, in which this ideal is expressed. Sermons 355-356 and the Letter 211 give precious insights not only of the ideal, but also on the reality as it was lived, and at times lived badly, in the monasteries of Augustine.
Attached is an article translated into English from the French magazine of the Augustinians of the Assumption “Itinéraires augustiniens". The original article was written by Jean-François Petit a.a. For the article (PDF file), click here.
For the magazine (in French) of the Augustinians of the Assumption, "Itinéraires augustiniens", please go to www.assomption.org. Open "La Bibliothèque", then "Formation" and "La Revue des Itinéraires Augustiniens". There you will find thirty-six issues of this magazine.