What is evangelization, who is called to be part of it, and what wisdom does Saint Augustine offer us? This series reflects on the New Evangelization and Augustinian Spirituality.
In 1995, the U.S. Bishops released the document GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States, which outlines three specific and concrete goals for evangelization that are helpful for discerning a vision for evangelization in our modern world:
- Goal 1: Bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith, that in living their faith in Jesus, they freely share it with others.
- Goal 2: Invite all people in the United States, whatever their social or cultural background, to hear the message of salvation in Jesus Christ so that they may come to join us in the fullness of the Catholic faith.
- Goal 3: Foster gospel values in our society, promoting the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family, and the common good of our society, so that our nation may continue to be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ.
The first goal focuses on renewal within. This then enables us to invite others to not only join us on our journey to God (Goal 2), but also foster Gospel values in society (Goal 3).
I believe this is where the heart of Augustinian community comes into play. According to Saint Augustine in the opening lines of the Rule, the purpose for us coming together as a community of faith is to live harmoniously and share a single intent: to journey towards God with one mind and one heart (The Rule, I, 3).
Such communion can only be achieved when any sense of pride, power, and possessiveness are overcome by a spirit of love and unity among the members of the community. At the root of all Augustinian community life is a life shared in common; a life in which all the brothers, by sharing of themselves, construct a path to discover God in themselves and in one another. All have been created in the image and likeness of God, therefore Augustine calls those who follow the Augustinian way of life to mutually honor God in one another (Rule, I, 9).
As history and our present day demonstrate, such a journey away from the human inclination towards pride, power, and possessiveness that leads to so much injustice in our society is not easy. Renewal is required each day within the life of the community. The Augustinian way of life includes several avenues through which such daily renewal takes place: common worship and prayer, sharing everything in common so that the needs of all brothers in community are met, friendship that not only respects differences but also embraces them, and mutual care for one another among other key principles.
All of these can be avenues for “renewal within.”
All this allows us to not only live together physically, but to also live together spiritually, achieving not only “unity of peace and harmony” but also “unity of purpose, understanding, and heartfelt affection, such that all the religious should seem to be only one.”. When we remain faithful, through daily renewal to our commitment to these principles (Goal 1), then we can hope to attract others to this way of life (Goal 2), and invite them to join us in fostering justice and peace in society (Goal 3).
These same precepts can be extended to parishes, shrines, schools, and other ministries.
It is important to note that Go and Make Disciples, like many of the others we have seen in this series, affirms the complementary roles of the ordained, religious and lay members of the Body of Christ in carrying out these goals:
“Evangelization in the parish should be seen as a collaborative effort that springs from a partnership between the clergy and laity. Priests have a special leadership role in carrying out this plan, but they should not feel isolated, overburdened, or frustrated in implementing it.”Go and Make Disciples, no. 86.
In other words, Lay, Ordained, and Religious alike are invited through Goal 1 to create renewal within their community of faith (e.g., parish, faith sharing group, family, etc); to invite others into that sharing of faith through Goal 2; and then use that gift of unity to go and promote Gospel values in society through Goal 3.
Moreover, by uniting their forces let the laity so remedy the institutions and conditions of the world when the latter are an inducement to sin, that these may be conformed to the norms of justice, favoring rather than hindering the practice of virtue. By so doing they will impregnate culture and human works with a moral value.Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 909.
The Augustinian way of life provides principles for building up unity within such a community of faith that can be extended to other religious, non-religious ordained, and all the lay faith.
RELATED: What the Rule of Augustine Can Teach Us About Building a More Peaceful and Just Society