This page gives the principal points in note form from a lecture in 1986 at Chicago by the late Tarsisius van Bavel O.S.A., a renowned Augustinian scholar from Europe. It describes the Augustinian spiritual tradition (in Italian, spiritualita), and then its presence in the Rule of Saint Augustine.
Everyone has his or her spiritual tradition. It is an outlook on the Gospel. Spiritual traditions, although different, are all taken from the Gospel.
No one is able to live the Gospel in all of its fullness, in all its aspects.
No two persons can read the Gospel in an entirely identical way. Each person lays stress on different things, and has a number of favourite Gospel texts.
To a great extent, this depends on personal character and temperament, and on the experience and knowledge of life that any particular individual possesses.
As Augustine understood it, a spiritual tradition always deals with life in the concrete.
It is a free personal choice with consequences for daily life.
A person is not an Augustinian out of necessity, but out of free choice.
Saint Augustine had his own interpretation of Christian life. The Augustinian spiritual tradition is based on love of neighbour and on community. For Augustine, true virtue consists in ordering love properly. He views the whole Gospel in the light of love.
Everything, every virtue can be reduced to love. Love is the centre of Christian existence.
For Augustine, authentic love for a human being is at the same time love of God.
In Chapter Two of his Rule, Augustine says, "Honour God in one another." We meet God in every human being.
God lives in people, and people live in God. We worship God in human beings.
In the Augustinian spiritual tradition it is as important to relate to one another as it is to pray with one another.
Our love for a human being is far more concrete than our love of God. With regard to our love of God, we can easily deceive ourselves.
Delusion is almost impossible, however, with love of a human being: we are more conscious of our failures, of when we quarrel, when we insult, deceive, or wrong a person.
Therefore the love of people should be given preference: it teaches us whether our love of God is real and not a deceiving of self. Love is indivisible.
It does not make any difference whether one loves God, Christ or human beings.
Those three loves include one another. When one is present, the other is present too.
In his teaching about the Last Judgement in Matthew 25: 31-46, Jesus identifies himself with the ones who are hungry, thirsty, etc..
Augustine points out that love of neighbour is the sole norm according to which we will be judged.
Not one other virtuous act is mentioned.
Hence, according to Augustine, it is apparent how much everything else is subordinated to love of neighbour.
In the story the answer given to the question, "Lord, where did we meet you?" indicates that one meets God in other people.
So for Augustine the Christian adventure consists in experiencing love of God as love for each other.
The building up of community among people becomes the most important motif in the Augustinian spiritual tradition.
This motif which Augustine regards as the focus of Christian life in general is for him also the most important task for the religious communities he gathered around him.
The communitarian ideal culminates in friendship, which after love of God is the highest form of human relationship.
One could characterise the Rule of Augustine as a summons to evangelical equality of all people, to complete sisterhood or brotherhood, to friendship among all people.
The strong emphasis on community counteracts the fixation on the ego and on individualism, which are the most important obstacles to experiencing the Gospel.
The ideal of the community of Jerusalem implies a protest against the indifference towards and the inequality among people.