What is an Augustinian Pilgrimage?
In his experience of restlessness, Augustine discovered that the things he thought would make him happy (e.g., career, titles, possessions, education, sex) failed to fully satisfy him. Through this experience, Saint Augustine discovered that it is in God alone that we find complete and final happiness. This is because we have been created in the image and likeness of God and therefore made for God alone: “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you!”
In the face of the every day distractions that life gives us, it becomes easy to take our eyes off of the source of our ultimate happiness, purpose, meaning, and fulfillment and seek it rather in things outside of God. Sometimes hardships and tragedies tempt us to seek solutions and fixes in ways that we try control, causing us to lose on God as our true source of strength, healing, and compassion. Other times material goods that bring us pleasure and convenience cause us to focus on using what has been given to us without remembering God as the source and giver of all good gifts.
Augustine discovered that while these things in themselves are not necessarily bad, treating them as an end in themselves rather than as a means to a greater end (i.e., rest in God) will always fail to satisfy our deepest longings. Augustine likens this human tendency to a traveler who falls in love with the boat they are on rather than the destination that boat is taking them to (Teaching Christianity, 1.4.4). We too are travelers, passing through the things, events, and circumstances of the world on our way to another destination: eternal rest with God.
Yet as we grow older, we like Augustine come to discover that the only thing guaranteed in this life is change. This search and renewal of God in the face of day to day reality becomes a journey, a pilgrimage of sorts as we continually seek to discover God anew in life’s ever changing circumstances: a new life stage, a new job, a new relationship, a tragedy, etc. As we journey through the fluid nature of life, we discover that we are always “on the way” to God as we seek God in new situations and new encounters throughout our lives.
It therefore becomes necessary for us in the midst of every day life to seek daily renewal as we continually place anew our trust, our hope, and our search for happiness and meaning in God alone. Such renewal comes through cultivation of a deep interior life which enables us to continually search for, discover, know, and love God.
Yet, Augustine discovered that he could not embark on such a journey alone. He needed the help of others as he embarked on the day to day journey to God. He desired a community life in which he could live with friends and devote himself fully to God in contemplation and service to others. This became the basis for Augustinian community life today.
While not every Christian is called to be an Augustinian Friar, it can be said every Christian is called to communion with others in some way. The Trinitarian nature of God reflects God as community. As Divine creatures who are created in the image and likeness of God, we too have a need for communion with others. Whether that community is in the married/family life, friendship, or other relationship; all people are invited to discover God in the other person. Such a community modeled after God is one that is based on love and free of possessiveness and pride.
The Augustinian way of life based on the Rule of Saint Augustine provides a model. We invite you to explore the key principles of the Augustinian Way of Life and discern how God may be calling you to journey with others on the way to Him.
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Reflection written by Jeremy Hiers, O.S.A.
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