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Joining A Great Adventure

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This year’s friars’ retreat was held at the Carmelite Missionary Spiritual Center in Tagaytay with Fr. Pat Fahey, OSA as retreat master. The theme of the retreat is the Rule and its spirituality. The retreat master provided us with lists of texts from Augustine and other related materials arranged logically in topics like “Interiority”, “Love and Friendship”, “Prayer”, the vows and about contemporary concerns like “Justice and Peace.” In other words, the retreat master reviewed with us things that we were expected to know but from the perspective of one who has been living the life of a friar for more than fifty years.

For two consecutive years now, the theme of our retreats have been focused on what has been called “renewal of our Augustinian commitment and identity.” I’d rather say those retreats were occassions for reappropriating our Augustinian spirituality and identity. The Order is going back to its roots with a renewed effort to reappropriate its identity as a mendicant Order formed from hermit communities by a Pope who wanted it to have Augustine of Hippo as its spiritual father. The key to this movement of reappropriation is our relationship with the patrimony of Augustine himself and our self-understanding as an Order that is given to contemplation and the ministry of word and sacraments in the towns and cities of the world. This movement of “reappropriation” follows our Special Jubilee celebrations in 2004-2006 when we celebrated in succession, the 1650th birthday of St. Augustine (2004), the 700th anniversary of the death of St. Nicholas of Tolentino (2005), and the 750th anniversary of the Grand Union of the Order (2006). During the retreat, the topic about “community life” was once more discussed with a few additional hints pointing to Augustine’s idea of the Church as “Totus Christus”. The “one mind, one heart” was related during the homily of the last Mass as referring to the mind of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:5) and the restless heart of the famous Augustinian quote: “fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te ” “You created us for yourself and restless is our heart until it rests in Thee.” The singular “heart” refers to the heart that has been renewed in Christ. All these hints still await a more systematic discussion, but it is clear that whenever we refer to the Rule’s statement of about brothers living harmoniously with “├Âne mind and one heart intent upon God”, the main reference to a localized and concrete realization of the Totus Christus in a community of brothers. From this flows the spirituality of the Rule: a spirituality grounded in the reality of Christ and in the love of God that was made known in Him. The first historical and localized manifestation of the Church as Totus Christus was the first Jerusalem community, the ideal that Augustine sought to realize in his communities. It is this Jerusalem ideal that the friars will seek to live out as they bear one another’s burden and make the sharing of goods the “sacrament” of the spiritual reality they live: the self-giving love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Next year’s retreat would probably be on the Order’s spirituality. What we native Filipinos are missing is a presentation of how our masters of spirituality have been teaching the ideals of Augustine. I think especially of those who framed the Ratisbon constitutions, Augustine Novelus and Clement of Osimo, and of prominent friars like St. Alfonso de Orozco, William Flete, Henry of Friemar, Luis de Leon and others. Fr. Dueweke, the retreat master from last year, already gave us hints of an area of Augustinian history that most of us Filipino friars are not even aware of. Augustinian spirituality is after all not only Augustine of Hippo; it is also about the Augustinian friars who made him their very own spiritual father and founder. And so we who desire to insert our history into the history of the Order of St. Augustine, cannot but also make our own the spiritual patrimony of the friars who have gone before us. What we regard as the Augustinian charism is itself an adventure: of obedience to the Pope, of service to the Church, and the audacity of claiming Augustine for our own. Three congregations — the Tuscan hermits of 1244, the Gian Bonniti, the Brettini — first lived the charism of “one mind and one heart intent upon God ” despite differences under the Grand Union. Though starting out as hermits, they began to work in the ministry of preaching and teaching. Finally, even those who were following the Rule of St. Benedict prior to the Grand Union, laid it down and began the process of making St. Augustine their own. That was how the adventure began in 1256: a motley group of men coming together in obedience to the Pope to resume their search for God in a newly created community and to serve the Church in the new way prescribed for them. And we the friars emerging from 1983 Philippines can be part of that adventure.

Pictures of the retreat are found at the AgustinongPinoy Gallery


Originally posted 2009-09-18 01:19:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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