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The Rule of Augustine: An Introduction

by Brian Lowery, OSA

Editors Note:  This posting was is part of a class given by Fr. Brian Lowery, OSA titled "The Spirituality of the Rule of Saint Augustine" in March 2018 as part of the Augustinian Spirituality Course.

Every time I enter an Augustinian house or meet someone new from the Augustinian Family, I immediately feel at home with them. It’s not because we are members of the same organization or have in common the figure of St. Augustine.

No, it is because I feel that we are coming out of the same spiritual energy and living the same human reality.

The Second Vatican Council spoke about how “a wonderful and wide-spreading tree has sprung up in the field of the Lord from the God-given seed branching out into various forms of religious life … for the good of the whole body of Christ” (LG 43). By that they meant the rich variety of charisms of consecrated life within the Church. Still another useful image is that of a window on a garden. There are other windows looking on at the same garden as well, each from its own angle. The garden is one, but the perspectives on it  are many. In our case the garden is the Gospel and the windows on different angles are the charisms within the Church.

Someone once said that the Augustinian charism is the best kept secret in the Church. Yet the essence of the charism, found in the Rule of St. Augustine, keeps creeping up everywhere in Church documents, in new foundations, and in spiritual writings on religious life. That is particularly true with its emphasis on unity of mind and heart on the way to God as the chief purpose for coming together. The Rule of St. Augustine was not intended to be a guide to the ascetical life, nor even for the purpose of forming saints. I was once asked by a Jesuit novice to give a definition of the Augustinian charism in 25 words or less. This is what I came up with:

”a community of men or women seeking God together.”

Augustine’s Rule is flexible. It lends itself to the pastoral life, foreign missions, the cloistered contemplative life, and the educational apostolate. It gives to all these forms a specific quality or flavor that flows directly from Augustine himself. That’s why it has been adopted by actives and contemplatives alike, missionaries and educators. Take away the Rule and our pastoral lives, our contemplative lives, our missions ad gentes, and education would not be the same.

So for these days we are going to closely study the Rule of St. Augustine and try to see what this originality is and what it contributes to our consecrated lives. Throughout the years since its composition (they are almost 1600) the Rule has received various interpretations, all reflecting the ages during which they were written. It would be worth our while to ask how do we interpret it now in the 21stcentury after Vatican II and with a pope who is himself a religious?

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