“The main purpose for you having come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.” (The Rule, I, 3).
The principal aim of all Christian vocations is union with Christ.
As we see in the Augustinian core value of Veritas, union with Christ involves the search for truth about God in the ever changing and mysterious circumstances of life that we find ourselves in. The deeper Augustine got into his own search for truth about who God is, the more he realized he could not search alone. He needed the company of others and decided to found a community of friends with whom he could continue his lifelong search.
As Saint Paul teaches, we are all one body in Christ, though we are many parts (1 Cor. 12). While the Church consists of various gifts and vocations by which those gifts are shared (e.g., married life, single life, ordained life, religious life, etc), every gift is a contribution to the search for the source of all truth: God.
All are therefore called to bring these diverse gifts in union with God and each other. Thus, the journey to union with Christ involves union with each other.
We see how unity was established among the early Christian community through a dediction to the mutual sharing of gifts in such a way that no one was in need or had possessive power over another (Acts 4:32-37). This same sentiment is echoed by Saint Augustine in his Rule through which Augustine exhorts those who follow his way of life to freely and generously share their gifts for the common good of the whole community (The Rule I, 4). This Rule of Saint Augustine governs the Augustinian way of life today.
Some of the ways the Rule of Augustine calls us to unity are
- Shared identity through our common journey to Christ. Though we bring different gifts and life circumstances, we are all searching for God together (The Rule I, 3).
- Prioritizing prayer and worship as our source of unity with each other in God (The Rule II).
- Eagerness to serve the common good rather than just our own (The Rule I, 31).
- Respect for one another as being made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27) and the unique gifts that each person brings to the community in spite of our differences (The Rule I, 9).
These same characteristics can be applied to all vocations in life. Whether one is married, ordained, in religious vows, or single; all Christians share an identity in the search for Christ; all are called to share in prayer, worship, and dialogue around that search; all are called to contribute their unique gifts and talents to the common mission; all are called to eagerly contribute their unique gifts and talents for common good of all humanity; all are called to respect for human being as being made in the image and likeness of God.
Yet, freely giving of oneself for the benefit of others involves generosity. The human condition tempts us towards the desire for control and possessiveness. We see how in the early Christina community Ananias failed to contribute what he and his wife had been given by God to the common good, choosing rather to retain it for themselves (Acts: 5:1-11). Perhaps we can all identify with the temptation that Ananias faced in those times when we chose not to freely give.
Generosity is propelled by love. Love comes from God, and it is love that draws us into union with God and with others. Thus, the cultivation of love that propels unity through mutual sharing of our gifts is a key part of the Augustinian way of life, and leads to our third core value: Caritas.