Augustinian charism19 May 2015, by Augustinians in
In religious life, the word “charism” refers to the special character, mission, and identity of a particular religious group. Each religious order or congregation is known for a particular thing, and that is their charism. A particular religious group may have the promotion of education as her charism, but that is not to say that others have no right to do the same. Still, those that have it as their charism emphasize it with all their strength over and above every other apostolate they may be involved in. The Augustinians as a religious Order has her own charism upon which every other of our apostolate builds; it is the first of all our apostolate. We may be involved in education, retreats, and other pastoral work, but all these will be useless if they are not done in the light of our charism.
St. Augustine opened his rule for his religious community with the purpose for which we are called into the Augustinian Order; the main purpose for which you have come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in the oneness of mind and heart. Our charism, therefore, as Augustinians, is life in common or community life. The community comes first before any other thing; every other apostolate draws strength and inspiration from the community. Every religious congregation or religious order automatically lives community life; it is one thing that defines us as religious. Augustinians, however, takes this community life as the foundation upon which every other thing we do must be built; it is the first thing we think about; it is our vocation to live a common life. In accepting any other apostolate, the Order forms a community and not an individual in charge. The community for an Augustinian is not limited to the house in which he lives, nor to the circumscription to which he belongs, because our family is the Order; as such, the community and the friars will be at the service of the Universal Church.
Our community life is not just for our ministry, no. We do not come to live a common life because we want to work in a parish, school, hospital, or retreat center as a community. These are not the purpose for which we come together; if these are our reasons for our common life, there is no need for it because so many others do the same work without belonging to any religious group or community. This is not an attempt to reduce the importance of religious community; there is no doubt that community life helps our apostolate in no small measure. However, We must accept that love does not consist of gazing at each other but looking together in the same direction… Our common life is not just to be together; people can come together for different reasons. Our holy father, Augustine, calls us together to support each other in the rigors of the inward journey. Unless we first journey together as a community inwardly, we may find it hard and frustrating to journey together outwardly. We cannot claim to be a community working in a parish or the education apostolate if we have not journeyed together inwardly if we are not there for each other. Community life is more than staying together; it is more than eating together; it is about “holding each other’s hands” in faith as we journey towards heaven. Augustinians’ charisma is common life, living together in one mind and one heart intent upon God.