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Who Wants To Know Augustine II?

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A reaction to my blog caught my attention just recently, and I think it should be given a lengthier response. The reaction goes…

i understand your reaction regarding the proposal of having a short talk on Augustine. Perhaps, the brothers find it ineffective to “to keep the fascination of St. Augustine alive” by way of having a longer talk. They may find the means of conducting a longer talk not relevant especially to the culture of our youth today. I suggest it is more effective if we could make the fascination of Augustine alive by letting our parishioners experience the values that Augustine himself valued. In other words Augustinian witnessing, instead of talks. Later, we can give them our sharing to what they concretely experience. I believe we need the experience of Augustinianess in our parishes. Our people needs something to be felt and see, not necessarily hear.

The blog was not really on what we say to parishioners. That’s the least of my concerns when I wrote the blog. My concern was that the idea of a fifteen minute talk about Augustine is symptomatic of something deeper: the friars’ disinterest in their own spirituality and their own roots, and this NOTWITHSTANDING the three-year special jubilee of the Order .

What is Augustinian-ness? The love for Augustine and the love for what is Augustinian. How can we live this if not by honoring Augustine with a veritable Augustinian culture that is able to repropose to the Church and to humanity the patrimony that Augustine left us? “Augustinian-ness” as lived by the friars who lived before us was characterized by the appropriation of Augustine’s teachings, an appropriation that distinguished them from all other groups that were known to observe the Rule of St. Augustine.

When John Paul II first talked of “keeping the fascination of Augustine alive” it was during a General Chapter of the Order (August 25, 1985) He wanted to keep the fascination of the saint alive because…

the exact and heartfelt knowledge of his life awakens the thirst for God, the attraction of Christ, the love for wisdom and truth, the need for grace, prayer, virtue, fraternal charity, and the yearning for eternal happiness (Note: notice the phrase in bold characters)

In other words, the late Pope was asking the Augustinians to draw out the wealth of their tradition and share it with the Church and humanity precisely because Augustine belongs both to the Church and to humanity as a whole. (This is a thought that comes from Fr. Lucio Guttierez, OP)

It is not a question therefore of displaying how we live. For one thing, we will always be sinful and deficient in living out “the values that Augustine himself valued.” How many basketball coaches in the PBA, for example, can beat their own players in a one-on-one game? And should they, for that reason, stop from teaching their younger and stronger players how to play basketball and love the game? The duty to keep Augustine’s fascination alive in our society is a duty laid on people who love Augustine and find his life and his thoughts relevant to their own times.

Our people”, our author writes,”needs something to be felt and see, not necessarily hear.” Sincerely, I don’t know what this means. People — especially during these times — want to feel and experience anything that is pleasurable, fashionable and “modern” (whatever that means).

The mere fact that St. Augustine’s feast is celebrated as a solemnity in this Augustinian-run parish and not just a memorial as in other parishes should already demand an explanation. That Augustine is the most quoted Father of the Church in the volume of the Catechism of the Church that they have in their hands certainly should be explained! We have a large statue of Augustine inside our Church. What other experiential basis should people look for before we can talk to them about Augustine?

The author mentioned something about “Augustinian witnessing.” What is precisely meant by this phrase? Phrases like this can just be cheap attempts at avoiding the real issue. What was he/she thinking when he/she wrote it? Is there no Augustinian witnessing here or anywhere else that we should cease from “talking” about St. Augustine?

The author also wrote: “I suggest it is more effective if we could make the fascination of Augustine alive by letting our parishioners experience the values that Augustine himself valued.” But which”values that Augustine himself valued” do they still need to experience, I wonder? The values which Augustine valued were no different from the values which his contemporaries valued. But what we do call “Augustinian values” were precisely those human and Christian values which Augustine colored by his own unique personality and spirituality. “Values,” it is said, “is caught, not taught.” That is true in a sense. But to take this to mean that values should be experienced first before they are taught can be unrealistic. Who automatically understands that hard work is a value? And who would immediately associate a father’s getting up early and coming home late with hard work?

“Values” are NOT experienced; these are described. The value of industry and hard work, for example, will not be appreciated unless it is explained that it is someone’s industry and hardwork that puts food on the table and money for the family’s expenses. Besides, values are ambivalent. The Mafia runs on family values, for example. A prostitute “works hard” too, you know. But it is precisely because of this ambivalence that “distinctions” have to be made; and “distinctions” require a lot of talking.

So what is meant by letting the parishioners experience the values that Augustine himself valued when they do not even know who Augustine is? (And remember too that we are in 21st Philippines — where Augustine is virtually unknown even in those places considered to be traditionally “Augustinian” ). And this brings us back full circle to the subject of my blog. Who would care to know more about Augustine if those who were given the duty to keep his fascination alive would not even talk about him under whatever pretense?

Originally posted 2006-08-08 21:31:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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