Thursday, 28 August 2008

St Augustine of Hippo, Bp & D. (340 - 430)

Today is the feast day of St Augustine of Hippo, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. About his wonderful conversion and his holy writings so many is written and said. This fascinating saint, however, has written a rule of life, which is not as well known as other rules written by other great figures.
I prepared myself for the feast of this saint by reflecting on his rule. Although written around the year 400 it is still fresh and inspiring. It is practical and uncomplicated. No wonder the founder of the mendicant preachers chose this rule for his fledgling order.
The great Augustine starts his rule with a most basic principle: “Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbour, because these are the chief commandments given to us.” Any life in common is to be based on the maxim given to us by Jesus. We who strive to live the common life as Church would do well to remind ourselves of this opening sentence from the rule of Augustine. Harmony results by being “intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.” Having a common life also means having things in common as exhorted by Acts 4. It is sad that some Christians are so mean from depositing of their goods to the common purse of the Church; Augustine encourages us to look at this matter closely. He concludes the first chapter thus: “Therefore all of you live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honouring God in yourselves, whose temples you have become.” Indeed another valuable instruction for the Church.
Augustine encourages us to be assiduous in prayer but at the appointed time. It is a subtle temptation of the devil for it to use the inclination to pray to distract us from God or to make us loose heart. This points out the wisdom of having a spiritual director with whom we establish our patterns of prayer. Augustine also reminds us about the need to coordinate what we say in prayer with our minds and hearts and therefore with our whole being.
Augustine encourages us for self-denial but at the same time advocates moderation, again an issue to be discussed between the individual and his spiritual director. This great Doctor also speaks about the custody of the eyes. It is in the result of this custody that enables us to keep a clear and pure mind, fixed on the realities above rather than the shadows here below.
To safeguard common life Augustine instructs: “You should either avoid quarrels altogether or else put an end to them as quickly as possible; otherwise, anger may grow into hatred, making a plank out of a splinter, and turn the soul into a murderer. For so you read: Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 Jn 3:15).” When small quarrels fester we know the devastating results.
Augustine speaks about the holiness of obedience and the beauty of order. Towards the end of his rule he says: “The Lord grant that you may observe all these precepts diligently in a spirit of charity as lovers of spiritual beauty, giving forth the good odour of Christ in the holiness of your lives: not as slaves living under the law but as men living in freedom under grace.” The rule of St Augustine is available on line in many places, if you have the time, read this short and precious writing.

We shall keep the feast of St Augustine today and also venerate his relic. Our intention today is for all theologians, so that inspired by Augustine and aided by his prayers, they may enable us to enter more deeply into the mysteries of our Faith.

In the local paper today will appear the advert for a Parish Administrator. Please say a prayer that the right people will apply for this post.

Prayer composed by St Augustine.

Too late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient,
O Beauty so new.
Too late have I loved you!
You were within me but I was outside myself,
and there I sought you!
In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made.
You were with me,
and I was not with you.
The things you have made kept me from you,
the things which would have no being
unless they existed in you!
You have called,
you have cried,
and you have pierced my deafness.
You have radiated forth,
you have shined out brightly,
and you have dispelled my blindness.
You have sent forth your fragrance,
and I have breathed it in,
and I long for you.
I have tasted you,
and I hunger and thirst for you.
You have touched me,
and I ardently desire your peace.

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