"I was never hit over the head by God": The Vocation Story of Fr. Max

The California Province’s Br. Dominic Smith, O.S.A. and John Paul the Great film student Joseph Graves produced the following video on the vocational journey of newly ordained Fr. Maxime Villeneuve, O.S.A.

For me it was a process over some amount of time wherein going to the friary, each time I visited it felt more and more like home to me.

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Pope Francis Calls upon Augustinians to Bear Witness to the "Contagious Charity of the Church"

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The Augustinians assembled for the General Chapter met with Pope Francis early Friday morning within the Vatican, where the Pontiff exhorted the friars to live out their call to fraternal charity rooted in God:

“You Augustinians have been called to witness to that warm, living, visible, contagious charity of the Church, through a community life that clearly manifests the presence of the Risen One and His Spirit. “

The foremost opportunity to live out this charity, he added, comes within the context of community life. He emphasized that while the Augustinian way of life is rooted in a shared spiritual experience, our most important experiences of charity come in the “small everyday things” that make up communal living.

He appealed back to his 2018 Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate, where he specifically invokes the story of Augustine to show that “a community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan” 

While the charism of fraternal charity takes place within and among Augustinian communities, it is intended to reach outward to “show God living to the world.” The importance of fraternal love is all the more important, the Pontiff claimed, in the midst of scandals such as the one the Church now faces. He appealed back to the letter of St. Augustine to St. Jerome, where our Holy Father described his experience of community: “Upon the love of such friends I readily cast myself without reservation, especially when chafed and wearied by the scandals of this world; and in their love I rest without any disturbing care: for I perceive that God is there”

Read the entirety of the Pope’s address below:

Dear brothers,

I welcome you all, gathered in Rome for the General Chapter, and I thank the Prior General for his words.

In this Chapter, you have proposed to face the most important challenges of the moment, in the light of the Word of God, and of the teaching of the Church and of the great Father Augustine.

You are well aware that communities of consecrated persons are places where we want to live the experience of God from a deep interiority and in communion with our brothers and sisters. This is the first basic challenge that consecrated persons face and which today I wish to entrust to you in particular: to experience God together so that we can show God to this world in a clear, courageous and uncompromising way. It is a great responsibility!

I remember the words of Saint Paul VI in the wonderful Exhortation, Evangelica testificatio: “From the beginning, the tradition of the Church—is it perhaps necessary to recall it?—presents us with this privileged witness of a constant seeking for God, of an undivided love for Christ alone, and of an absolute dedication to the growth of His kingdom. Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the “salt” of faith would lose its savor in a world undergoing secularization” (3).

You Augustinians have been called to witness to that warm, living, visible, contagious charity of the Church, through a community life that clearly manifests the presence of the Risen One and His Spirit. Unity in charity – as your Constitutions also explain well – is a central point in the experience and spirituality of Saint Augustine and a foundation of all Augustinian life. From this perspective, in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate I wished to recall “the sublime spiritual experience shared by Saint Augustine and his mother, Saint Monica!” (142): a moment in which their souls merged in the intuition of divine Wisdom. We always reread it with emotion on the liturgical memorial of Saint Monica. That desire of the Saint who in the end had what she sought, and even more. That “cumulatius hoc mihi Deus meus prestitit” (Saint  Augustine, Confessions, IX,11). This must encourage us to move forward.

“Such experiences, however”, I immediately added, “are neither the most frequent nor the most important. The common life … is made up of small everyday things. … A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan” (ibid, 143, 145).

Certainly, keeping alive this flame of fraternal charity will not be possible without that “in Deum” of your Rule: “Primum, propter quod in unum estis congregati, ut unanimes habitetis in domo et sit vobis anima una et cor unum in Deum” (3). That is, tending towards God. This addition to the expression of the Acts of the Apostles is proper to Augustine, to underline that this is the profound dynamism of your communities, the first great source from which there springs all your service to the Church and to humanity. The anima una et cor unum is born of this perennial Wellspring: in Deum. Your hearts, always tending towards God. Always! May every member of the community be orientated, as the first “holy intention” of every day, towards the search for God, or letting oneself be sought by God. This “direction” should be declared, confessed, witnessed among you without false modesty. The search for God cannot be obscured by other aims, even those that are generous and apostolic. Because that is your first apostolate. We are here – you should be able to say, every day, among yourselves – because we walk towards God. And since God is Love, one walks towards Him in love.

As the dear father Agostino Trapé wrote: “According to the Rule, charity is not only the end and the means of religious life, but it is also its centre: from charity it must proceed and to charity it must be oriented, with a perpetual movement of circular causality, every thought, every affection, every attitude, every action” (Saint Augustine, La Regola, Milano 1971 Ancora, p. 137).

Writing to Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine expressed his own experience of community in this way: “Upon the love of such friends I readily cast myself without reservation, especially when chafed and wearied by the scandals of this world; and in their love I rest without any disturbing care: for I perceive that God is there” (Letters 73,10). And in the face of the scandals of the Church or the scandals of your family too, peace is on this road. Going back to this… and scandals fall by themselves, because they show that there is no other way, this is the way.

It is good to return often to that meditation that Augustine offered to his faithful, in the First Letter of John, where the Church is called by him “mater charitas”, a mother who weeps at the division of her children and calls to and recalls the unity of charity: “Then if you would know that you have received the Spirit, question your heart: lest haply you have the Sacrament, and have not the virtue of the Sacrament question your heart. If love of your brethren be there, set your mind at rest. There cannot be love without the Spirit of God: since Paul cries, The love of God is shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. Romans 5: 5” (ibid., VI, 10).

Your Constitutions refer to this fraternal charity as “a prophetic sign”, and their warning is wise when they say: “We will not be able to accomplish all this if we do not take our daily cross for the love of Christ, with humility and gentleness”. The cross is the measure of love, always. It is true that one can love without a cross, when there is no cross, but when there is a cross, the way in which I take up the cross is the measure of love. That is how it is.

Let us return to the Augustine meditation to listen from him, father and guide, what the via charitas is, in the final analysis: “A new commandment, says the Lord, give I unto you, that you love one another (Jn 13: 34) … What is perfection of love? To love even enemies, and love them for this end, that they may be brethren. … For so loved He who, hanging on the cross, said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk 23: 34). … He was fixed upon the cross, and yet was He walking in this very way: this way is the way of charity” (ibid., I, 9).

Dear brothers, this is also the challenge and the responsibility for your today: to live in your communities in such a way as to have the experience of God together, and to be able to show him, living, to the world! The experience of the Lord, as He is, as He looks for us every day. May Mary, mother of Jesus and luminous figure of the Church, accompany you and keep you always. I bless you heartily, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.


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Augustinian Delegates Re-Elect Prior General for Second Term

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At the opening of the second week of the General Chapter of the Order of Saint Augustine, the delegate friars re-elected Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón, O.S.A. as Prior General of the Order. With this re-election, Fr. Alejandro will serve a second six-year, which goes into effect immediately.

After tallying the votes, Chapter President Fr. Joe Farrell invited the friars to the chapel of St. Monica’s College, where Fr. Alejandro formally was installed into his second term. Following, our Prior General received the congratulatory embrace of every friar present at the Chapter.

Bio Fr. Alejandro (from the website of the General Curia):

The Prior General Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón was born in La Vid (Burgos), Spain, on June 1, 1955. He entered the novitiate of the Augustinian Province of Spain in 1972 and professed his religious vows on September 12, 1973. Following studies in La Vid and Madrid, he continued his academic preparation at the Collegio Internazionale S. Monica in Rome, and made his Solemn Profession in September, 1980. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 20, 1981.

Father Alejandro served his Province at various times as librarian, bursar, director of formation, and Provincial counselor. In 1995, at the age of 40, he was elected Prior Provincial and served in this capacity until his election as Vicar General of the Order in 2001. From that time until his election as Prior General he has been a member of the Order's General Curia and has held various responsibilities: as President for the Commission charged with the revision of the Constitutions, President of the Economic Commission, and President of the Order's Secretariat for Justice and Peace; from 2004 until the present he has served as Procurator General of the Order and since 2009 has been Assistant to one of the two Federations of Augustinian Contemplative Nuns in Spain. Father Alejandro has also worked extensively with the Order's international commissions of Laity, Education, Finances and Spirituality.


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Augustinians Open 186th General Chapter in Rome (Photos)

OPENING MASS

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In the 775th Anniversary of their foundation by Pope Innocent IV, the Augustinian Friars opened their 186th General Chapter in Rome. This international chapter calls together 80 voting friars, from 49 geographical circumscriptions, and 63 countries of origin. The three-week meeting opened on the evening of Sunday, September 1, with an inaugural Mass at the St. Augustine Basilica, with chief celebrant Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón, O.S.A., Prior General of the Order.

In its current form, the General Chapter is a three-week meeting, once every six years, that takes place primarily at the General Curia of the Augustinians, which faces the southern colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Over the course of these three weeks, the Augustinians update one another on their progress, vote on their leadership, make decisions regarding circumscriptions, make plans for the futures, and much more.

In his opening address, Vicar General Fr. Joseph Farrell, O.S.A., described the mission of the chapter thusly:

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“Our time together in the Ordinary General Chapter of 2019, is our opportunity to continue our story.  And we pray that we may begin this chapter of our story petitioning God to assist us in cleaning the eyes of our heart so that our vision of the goal on the horizon may be undivided.  With pure hearts we can remain focused on our mission of glorifying God and seeking the salvation of our sisters and brothers.  That is how we shall see God. With this General Chapter, we begin another chapter in our story. How the chapter will end, we do not know.  We do know, however, that with clean hearts, we have enlightened eyes to see our God, who is with us in all chapters of our common story. We have a clear view of our goal and can then develop lucid ways of proceeding in our vocation as religious so that we may attain that goal. With repetitious attention to our way of life:  our prayer, our life in common, our sacramental life, our Chapters, our meals, our ministries, our physical, emotional and spiritual health, in short, our welfare.  We are formed intentionally, with intent, and not by mere chance.  We have the previous chapters of our story to assist us to remember that we are part of a context that is filled with diversity, complexity and mystery. And we know that our story continues with the assistance of God who brings us together at this point and who will guide us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. “ 

Please pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout this chapter, and continue to look for updates on this site.


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Homilies from the General Chapter in Rome

The foundation of the fellowship enjoyed at the General Chapter in Rome is our sharing of daily Mass together. Each day one friar is asked to celebrate Mass and deliver a homily with particular regard to the issues facing both the Order and his geographical circumscription. In order to let you share in a small way, we are please to present a handful of the homilies. Please check back as we periodically update.


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Our 2019 Augustinian Formation Gathering

The Federation of Augustinians of North America (FANA) held their annual “Formation Gathering” at Villanova University over the first four days of August. The Gathering brings together men in all stages of initial formation with the Augustinians, as well as those within their first five years of solemn vows and/or priesthood.

It was a time for fraternal prayer and fellowship among our newest members. It featured a series of presentations by friars regarding community life, an open panel with the Prior Provincials of all three FANA Provinces, and a group tour through historic Philadelphia.

All men under temporary vows also renewed their yearly profession to the Augustinian Vicar General from Rome, Fr. Joe Farrell, O.S.A.

Many beautiful pictures were taken, which we are excited to share with you!!


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Photos: Br. Michael Professes First Vows at Villanova

We have a new Augustinian friar!

On Saturday, August 3, Br. Michael Riggs, O.S.A. made his first Profession of Vows to the Vicar General of the Augustinian Order. The ceremony, held at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the Villanova University campus, came at the close of the 2019 Augustinian Formation Gathering. Br. Michael—a 26-year-old from Centereach, NY—will begin his graduate studies this Fall semester at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Check back soon for a video of this beautiful Mass and learn more about Br. Michael!


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NEW VIDEO: Two Friars Profess on Pentecost Sunday

I look at our solemn vows and in the context of the Pentecost: Brother Nicholas is from Iowa. Myself, I am from Sri Lanka, I’m from another part of the world. This shows both cultures and nations … come together to say yes to the Lord, to the Augustinian way of life on the Solemnity of the Pentecost
— Fr. John Arulthas, O.S.A.

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Photos: A Bounty of Vocations in Early Summer!

Years of formation and education culminated in a bounty of new professions and ordinations over the months of May and June!

In five separate ceremonies in three cities, the Augustinians of North America were blessed with four Solemn Professions to the Order, four Ordinations to the Diaconate, and one Ordination to the Priesthood.

We wish to take you along on a tour of these past two months with a highlight reel of photos from each of these blessed events!

Wednesday, May 8 in San Diego

In a one-of-a-kind outdoor ceremony at St. Augustine High School, Br. Adnan Ghani, O.S.A. made his Solemn Profession of Vows before brother friars, visiting priests, friends, and the students and faculty of the school community. Br. Adnan came to the Augustinians of California from his hometown of Gurjat, Pakistan.

Sunday, May 26 in San Diego

In a special celebration during the Sunday evening Mass at St. Patrick's Parish, Br. Sarfraz Alam, O.S.A., also a native of Pakistan, made his Solemn Profession of Vows to the Very Rev. Gary Sanders, O.S.A., Prior Provincial of the California Province.

Saturday, June 8 in Los Angeles

At Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish in Los Angeles, the Province of St. Augustine in California witnessed the ordination of four brothers to the Orders of Priesthood and the Diaconate. Fr. Nicholas Porter, O.S.A., was ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Dan Turley, O.S.A., who is the Bishop of Chulucanas, Peru. Those ordained to the Diaconate were Barnaby Johns, O.S.A., Adnan Ghani, O.S.A., and Sarfraz Alam, O.S.A.

Sunday, June 9 in Chicago

Br. Nicholas Mullarkey, O.S.A., (from West Des Moines, IA) and Fr. John Arulthas, O.S.A., (from Sri Lanka) make their solemn profession of vows to Prior Provincial Anthony Pizzo at the St. Rita Shrine Chapel in Chicago. Fr. John Arulthas currently serves as Pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in King City, Ontario. Br. Nick teaches at the Augustinian Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, OK.

Saturday, June 22 in Chicago

Lastly, Br. Jack Tierney, O.S.A.—who professed his solemn vows this past December—was ordained to the Diaconate by Most Rev. Robert Casey, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, at St. Rita Shrine Parish in Chicago. Br. Jack will continue on his studies in Public Policy at Northwestern University this Fall.


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The Augustinian Charism of Community

By Elizandro Contreras, O.S.A.
Previously published in the Winter 2019, AUGUSTINIAN, Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova Magazine

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Since I first met the Augustinians their way of life has caught my attention, especially the very important aspect of their living “the community experience.” Although I was born in an Augustinian parish, it was not until I was eighteen that I first visited one of their communities. I was amazed to see a group of men all different – in personality, age, culture, and nationality – but deeply devoted to making real the commandment of our Lord to “love your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and then your neighbor as yourself,” trying to live out this belief with a shared desire for God with St. Augustine’s Rule as a guide.

It was, perhaps, their brotherhood and their care for each other that attracted me, or their respect and engagement in their ministries, or maybe it was their way of searching for God through the study of Scripture helping them to have a better understanding of God’s message, or possibly the custom of gathering together for prayer, accompanied by evident generosity that changed my mind about religious life, priesthood, and community living. This experience cured my blindness and changed my mistaken notion of seeing priests and religious as raised up on clouds, one step from heaven, and I realized that they were not that far from us lay persons.

I learned the basics of community living from my mother who as a single-mother knew how important it is to have a quality relationship with God, with relatives and neighbors, since everything is possible with their support. I remember that in our neighborhood we treated each other as a big family and we shared many things – spiritual, emotional, and material.

It was not until I joined the Augustinians that I started to walk the path of conversion. On this path, as I am moving forward, I am experiencing many changes in my life. Sometimes I feel that my life is on hold between an autumn/winter and early spring where a major force reminds me that I have to die and let go of my pride and attachments, which are no more than selfishness, control and ego. And when that happens, the cold winter leads me to a fragile state of being trustful of God in order to see that every grace I receive comes from him. Then, I learn that I can grow again with a new humble attitude of love (my spring).

This process of conversion made me capable of understanding and appreciating how important it is to be an authentic Augustinian, being in ongoing interior renewal in order to be an integrated person with a close relationship with Christ that can help me to experience authentically community life. Why? Because community living requires sensitivity, respect, tolerance, responsibility, humility, openness, trust, a sense of humor, courage, thankfulness, presence, self-giving, and love. And all of this comes from us as individuals, not in some mechanical way. It is not something that we can buy online. We can experience all of this only if we are engaged in the struggle of conversion so as to become Christ. Then, I believe, the more integrated we are, the more we can bring to the community and have better and healthier relationships. We also can produce better fruit through our life-style as witnesses of Christ in the Church.

I am very grateful to the Augustinians for giving me the opportunity to be part of this family and for all the support that the Villanova Province is giving me to grow in my journey of conversion, to be at my side and with me at every moment, to be with me in oneness of mind and heart fixed upon God.


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Malvern Prep Welcomes Brother Bill For Pastoral Year

Following two years of graduate studies at the Catholic Theological Union, Augustinians in formation spend a year in a position of active service within one of the Order’s ministries. This time, called the Pastoral Year, affords them an opportunity to apply and practice what they have gained in class, before returning back to complete their master’s degree.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, the Augustinian Malvern Preparatory School in Pennsylvania, welcomed Brother William Gabriel, OSA. In the most recent issue of the Malvern Magazine, they published a wonderful feature on Br. Bill’s and his work at the school. The article text appears in full below, but you can also find it by clicking here.

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 There is a new friendly face around campus this semester.  And, if he wasn’t wearing his Augustinian habit, he may be mistaken as just another senior.  Brother Bill Gabriel, O.S.A., 26, is spending his pastoral year of Augustinian formation as assistant campus minister, theology teacher and assistant ninth grad basketball coach at Malvern.

“I love being part of the Malvern community, and helping students get to know Saint Augustine and see how his teachings are such a part of a Malvern education,” Brother Bill says. “Following graduation from college, I spent a few years at Archmere Academy in Delaware as a campus minister and basketball coach, so it is great to be back in high school.”

How did Brother Bill decide to join the Augustinians and where is he on his formation journey? As he tells it, he knew that he wanted to be an Augustinian from a very early age.  Growing up in New England and attending an Augustinian-led parish, he remembers telling his father, “I am going to be that guy” referring to the Augustinian pastor.  Fast forward to Fall 2015, following graduation from Villanova and a few years in the working world, he joined the Augustinians.  First as a pre-novice and then as a novice, he professed his simple vows on August 5, 2017.  This step then led him to his first two years of a four year period of theological studies.  This year he takes a break from his theological studies for his pastoral year at Malvern.

“My experience of the Augustinian spirit at Malvern has been exceptional - a spirit of loving hospitality, vibrant community, and a deep, communal desire and search for truth,” he says.  “It has been a gift to learn from and walk with the Malvern Prep community; serving as a great affirmation of my call to the Augustinian way of life.”

Brother Bill will resume his theological studies after leaving Malvern at the end of this school year. If all goes well, as we know it will, he will profess his solemn vows next year and be ordained as a transitional deacon.  Finally, after his seven year of preparation, he will be ordained to the priesthood and take up his new ministry.

“Malvern takes great joy in having Brother Bill with us this year,” said Malvern Head of School Father Donald Reilly, OSA. “It is truly a gift to have him present, modeling the Augustinian way of life for our students.”


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The Story of Saint Rita

The Precious Pearl

THE STORY OF SAINT RITA OF CASCIA

This information was taken from the book, The Precious Pearl, written by Michael DiGregorio, OSA,

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High in the hills of the republic of Cascia, in a tiny Umbrian village called Roccaporena, Antonio and Amata Lotti were well-respected peacemakers. In 1381, they welcomed their only child, Margherita.  In the local dialect, her name meant “pearl," but she was known simply as Rita. Baptized in the church of St. Augustine in Cascia, Rita became acquainted with the local Augustinian nuns of St. Mary Magdalene Monastery and was attracted to their way of life. But her parents arranged a marriage for her in order to provide safety and security, and so Rita obediently married Paolo Mancini with whom she had two sons.

In the troubling political climate of the times, there was often open conflict between families. Paolo was the victim of one such conflict, and he was murdered when their sons were still young. The expectation of society at the time was that the boys should avenge the murder of their father to defend family honor. Rita, however, influenced by the peacemaking example of her parents, pledged to forgive her husband’s killers. She faced a steep challenge, however, in convincing her sons to do the same. Tradition has it that she often pointed out to them the image of the crucified Christ and the fact that he forgave those who killed him. Within a year, however, both sons succumbed to a deadly illness leaving Rita not only a widow, but also childless. Following these tragedies, Rita placed her trust in God, accepting them and relying on her deep faith to find her way. After eighteen years of marriage, Rita felt called to a second but familiar vocation: to religious life in the Augustinian convent.

But the sisters at St. Mary Magdalene Monastery were hesitant and refused her request. However, Rita was not discouraged, convinced that she was called to the contemplative community. She returned and asked for entry again, but the sisters even more firmly refused, citing that although Rita had forgiven her husband’s killers, her family had not.  There were members of the rival family in the convent; her presence would be detrimental to community harmony. And so, inspired by her three patron saints (St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Nicholas of Tolentine and John the Baptist), Rita set out to make peace between the families.  She went to her husband’s family and exhorted them to put aside their hostility and stubbornness. They were convinced by her courage and agreed.  The rival family, astounded by this overture of peace, also agreed. The two families exchanged a peace embrace and signed a written agreement, putting the vendetta to rest forever. A fresco depicting the scene of the peace embrace was placed on a wall of the Church of Saint Francis in Cascia, an enduring reminder of the power of good over evil and a testament to the widow whose forgiving spirit achieved the impossible.

At the age of 36, Rita finally was accepted into the Augustinian convent. She lived a regular life of prayer, contemplation and spiritual reading, according to the Rule of Saint Augustine. For forty years she lived this routine lifestyle until Good Friday of 1442, fifteen years before her death, when she had an extraordinary experience. In contemplation before an image of Jesus that was very dear to her, the Jesus of Holy Saturday or, as it is also known, the Resurgent Christ, she was moved by a deeper awareness of the physical and spiritual burden of pain which Christ so freely and willingly embraced for love of her and of all humanity. With the tender, compassionate heart of a person fully motivated by grateful love, she spoke her willingness to relieve Christ’s suffering by sharing even the smallest part of his pain.  Her offer was accepted, her prayer was answered, and Rita was united with Jesus in a profound experience of spiritual intimacy, a thorn from his crown penetrating her forehead. The wound it caused remained open and visible until the day of her death.

Toward the end of her life, Rita progressively weakened physically. Several months before her death, she was visited by a relative from Roccaporena who asked if there was anything she could do for the ailing woman. Rita at first declined, but then made a simple request to have a rose from the garden of her family home brought to her. It was January, the dead of winter in the hills of Umbria, but upon her return home the relative passed Rita’s family garden and found to her astonishment a single fresh rose in the snow-covered garden on an otherwise barren bush. She immediately returned to the convent where she presented the miraculous rose to Rita who accepted it with quiet and grateful assurance. For the four decades she had spent in Casica’s convent she had prayed especially for her husband Paolo, who had died so violently, and for her two sons, who had died so young. The dark, cold earth of Roccaporena, which held their mortal remains, had now produced a beautiful sign of spring and beauty out of season. So, Rita believed, had God brought forth, through her prayers, their eternal life despite tragedy and violence. She now knew that she would soon be one with them again.

Rita died peacefully on May 22, 1457.  An old and revered tradition records that the bells of the convent immediately began to peal unaided by human hands, calling the people of Cascia to the doors of the convent, and announcing the triumphant completion of a life faithfully lived. The nuns prepared her for burial and placed her in a simple wooden coffin.  A carpenter who had been partially paralyzed by a stroke, voiced the sentiments of many others when he spoke of the beautiful life of this humble nun in bringing lasting peace to the people of Cascia. “If only I were well,” he said, “I would have prepared a place more worthy of you.”  With those words, he was healed; Rita’s first miracle was performed. He fashioned the elaborate and richly decorated coffin which would hold Rita’s body for several centuries. She was never buried in it, however. So many people came to look upon the gentle face of the “Peacemaker of Cascia” that her burial had to be delayed. It became clear that something exceptional was occurring as her body seemed to be free from nature’s usual course.  It is still incorrupt today, now in a glass-enclosed coffin, in the basilica of Cascia.


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Never Alone

Never Alone

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By Fr. Joe Narog, O.S.A.
Vocations Director, Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova

(Article originally published in the Peacemaker)

When reflecting on Jesus’ promise in the Gospel of Matthew – “I am with you always,” (Mt 28:20b) – I can’t help but recall the many moments when this proved to be true during my vocational discernment and initial formation as an Augustinian.  As a ‘later vocation,’ entering formation at the age of thirty-nine and a half, it would be an understatement to say that I encountered a good deal of transition in my life.  While I was signing my letter of resignation from a fifteen-year career in the United States Intelligence Community, I felt like I was having an out of body experience.  And learning to sacrifice some of my independence wasn’t always so easy.  During my first year of initial formation, in fact, I often would find myself questioning Jesus as to whether this was where he really wanted me to be.  The answer, I sensed, remained the same – he was calling me to discern more deeply with the Augustinians.  And so I did.

It is through my Augustinian brothers and sisters that I most vividly came to recognize that Jesus is indeed with me – and all of us – always.  After returning from my novitiate year, taking simple vows, and starting another year of studies, I was faced with one of the biggest tests of my life.  First my mother and then my father died about ten and a half months apart.  It’s a journey I’ll never forget; I’m ever grateful that I was allowed to be with them in their illnesses and their deaths. 

In what seemed, at times, to be a very lonely experience, I was reminded that I never was truly alone.  On the day my Mom died, my former Novice Director and two of my Augustinian classmates showed up at my parents’ home.  They nor my family had any idea that their visit would coincide with her passing.  Yet, there we were, celebrating Mass at my mother’s bedside and reassuring her – and ourselves – of Jesus’ powerful words – “I am with you always.”

Just about six months later, my Dad had surgery from which he never recovered, remaining in the hospital for 130 days.  During that period, we were visited by no less than eight Augustinians – all of whom offered to anoint my father.  He’d wink at me, not wanting to disappoint any of them.  Each time my Dad was anointed, both he and I again experienced the promise – “I am with you always.”

Even on the most stressful or sad days of caring for my parents, I still would find something for which to thank God.  This struck me as quite significant and was cultivated only through much prayer – including turning to my friends, St. Rita and St. Jude – and the times I shared with my Augustinian family.  It spurred me to continue to solemn vows and ordination.  It’s what inspires me as I now work with men in their vocational discernment and initial formation.  No matter what life holds for them, I humbly hope that, in some way, I and my experiences can serve as a reminder of Jesus’ unending promise – “I am with you always.”


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Religious Brothers Day: May 1

We Augustinians Join In Celebrating Religious Brothers Day

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We pray that the witness of religious Brothers in the Church may draw all persons to know, love,
and serve God in this world.


For all religious Brothers, especially those of our Province and Federation, whom God has sent
in the name of Jesus to serve others in love, that they will be blessed in their ministry and inspire
many more to consider a vocation to consecrated life…


We pray that, following the example of St. Joseph the Worker, religious Brothers will continue
humbly and faithfully to toil in the Lord’s vineyard, protecting and speaking out on behalf of the
marginalized in our world…


For all of us, whom the Risen Lord has called to his service in the spirit of St. Augustine and St.
Thomas of Villanova, that by prayer, study, and witness of our lives we may be empowered to
speak of God’s mercy and love in truth…


We pray the Lord Jesus will give us the strength and grace to help our neighbors in need and that
there will be a just and fair distribution of the earth’s goods founded on true brotherhood…
For those religious Brothers who have gone before us and who dedicated their lives to building
up God’s Kingdom of justice and peace, that they may enjoy their eternal reward and continue to
intercede for us…


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Augustinian Reflections for the Easter Triduum


As we enter into the Easter Triduum, the Augustinians invite you to reflect back on the writing of our patron saint.


On the Bread and Wine of the Lord’s Supper

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Be a member of Christ's body, then, so that your "Amen" may ring true! But what role does the bread play? We have no theory of our own to propose here; listen, instead, to what Paul says about this sacrament: "The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body." [1 Cor. 10.17] Understand and rejoice: unity, truth, faithfulness, love. "One bread," he says. What is this one bread? Is it not the "one body," formed from many? Remember: bread doesn't come from a single grain, but from many. When you received exorcism, you were "ground." When you were baptized, you were "leavened." When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were "baked." Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread. So too, what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. In the visible object of bread, many grains are gathered into one just as the faithful (so Scripture says) form "a single heart and mind in God" [Acts 4.32]. And thus it is with the wine. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew. This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated. 

(Sermon 272)

On Christ’s Death

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He had the power of laying down his life; we by contrast cannot choose the length of our lives, and we die even if it is against our will. He, by dying, destroyed death in himself; we are freed from death only in his death. His body did not see corruption; our body will see corruption and only then be clothed through him in incorruption at the end of the world. He needed no help from us in saving us; without him we can do nothing. He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot have life.

(Treatise on the Gospel of John )

On Christ’s Resurrection

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The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the new life of believers in Jesus; and this is the mystery of His Passion and Resurrection, which you ought well to know and to carry out in act. For not without a cause did Life come to death. Not without a cause did the Fountain of life, whence we drink in order that we may live, drink His cup which He was not bound to drink. For death was not Christ’s due portion. As to the question whence death has come, let us look to our origin. Sin is death’s parent. Had there been no sin, no one would have died. The first man received God’s law, that is, God’s commandment, on condition, that if he kept it he should live, if he violated it he should die. By not believing that he would die, he did what caused him to die; and found that to have been true which the Giver of the law had affirmed. Thence came death, thence man became mortal, thence came labour, thence misery, thence the second death after the first, that is, after temporal death, death everlasting. This tradition of death, this law of destruction, binds every man who is born, except that one Man who became Man that man should not perish. For He came bound by no law of death; therefore He is called in the Psalm, “Free among the dead;” whom in all purity a Virgin conceived; whom she as a Virgin bore, and remained a Virgin; who lived without sin, who did not die because of sin; sharing in our penalty, not in our offense. Death is the penalty of offense; our Lord Jesus Christ came to die, did not come to sin; by sharing in our penalty without our offense, He annulled both our offence and penalty. What penalty? That which was due to us after this life. So He was crucified, that on the Cross He might show the dying-out of our old man; and He rose, that in His own life He might show our new life.

(Sermon 231)


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Why I Want To Be a Priest Despite the Crisis

By Brother Jack Tierney, O.S.A.

As one of the youngest members of the Midwest Province of the Augustinians, I have been deeply affected by seeing the names of our friars, living and deceased, published on the front pages of newspapers and websites. The reports and allegations against the U.S. clergy coming to light over the past year have given me many opportunities for discouragement about the Bishops’ leadership, anger at offenders, and sadness for victims.

By wearing my religious habit, the public’s anger and doubt are now directed onto me. They are often surprised by my youth. It opens the space for dialogue about my own vocation and our call as an ecclesial community.

Nevertheless, it was during these discouragements that I made my permanent, solemn vows to the Order of St. Augustine in December 2018. Some people have expressed their own dismay, asking such things as, "Why commit for life? How could you sacrifice a bright future to a corrupt and erring organization?" The discouragement is real—yet so is the outpouring of support from family and friends. I have experienced God’s presence and peace in my decision to commit my life to the Order. This article offers my own perspective as a man in religious formation preparing for priesthood. These are three reasons why I decided to profess solemn vows.

REASON 1 – I FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST

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I would be discouraged from religious life if I let the tides of public opinion persuade my life choices or if I were joining the Augustinians in search of a quiet path of leisure. I would be discouraged if the anger and frustration were to pierce my mind and heart. However, I did not dedicate my life to the pursuit of popularity or comfort. Neither do I ignore the need among the religious for perpetual conversion and repentance. I am consecrated to Jesus. My solemn profession was my response to the personal invitation, "Come and follow me" (Mt 4:19).

A vocation is a sacred call to follow Jesus Christ; he is the source and center of my faith. The call of Christ has led me to the Augustinians. Indeed, I discovered an imperfect community-one that is messy and often misunderstood by many. By wearing my religious habit, the public’s anger and doubt are now directed onto me. They are often surprised by my youth. It opens the space for dialogue about my own vocation and our call as an ecclesial community.

The Augustinian Order—this imperfect community of imperfect men—is where God has provided me with profound joy and spiritual friendship. As I proclaim and live the Gospel, I participate in the very mystery of the Christian message—that Christ suffered and died in order to establish the Kingdom.

REASON 2 – GOD PROVIDES FOR THE FUTURE

From the outside, some might also see the age demographics of our Order as a source of discouragement. For example, at our most recent Province Chapter, I was one of the youngest people in attendance. Around me, I witnessed the wisdom and experience of elder friars as they deliberated the future of the Midwest Augustinians. There was a lot of gray hair (It’s true, brothers!).

The scandal has far-reaching implications that will only emerge with time. However, it is clear sexual abuse will not be solved in three months. It will take years and perhaps even decades to fully mitigate its effects and eliminate its causes. I have committed to an unknown future with the Augustinians and the Roman Catholic Church; at times the work ahead of us seems overwhelming.

Isn’t there incentive to find a younger, richer, or more secure community?

It’s true - the Province must provide health care to our retired friars, supply qualified pastors and teachers for our ministries, and continue to invite men to join the Augustinian way of life. These are major challenges for the very near future. Just as preventing sexual abuse is an urgent task.

If we relied on our human effort alone, we are bound to fail. Thank God our guidance is from God! "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect" (Rom 12:2).

Often, our human weaknesses and sin is visible. And manifest in destructive ways. Yes, many members of the clergy and religious orders will have their sins brought to light. However, the uncomfortable process of reform and improvement never detracts from the Divine presence.

As the Augustinians discern God’s will, we follow the Holy Spirit. We trust that God is present to the Church and we give thanks for "good and pleasing" trends. We celebrate a sustainable increase in vocations to the Augustinian way of life. We give thanks for benefactors supporting the financial needs of the Order. We receive consolation that the sexual abuse crisis does not define us as Augustinians, friars, or priests.

The Augustinians are dedicated to a life of prayer and service to God’s people. We believe that God is present to us, even as we explore an uncertain future with hard truths. Through transformation and renewal in Christ, God is actively present to all the faithful—especially those in sin who seek forgiveness.

Often, our human weaknesses and sin is visible. And manifest in destructive ways. Yes, many members of the clergy and religious orders will have their sins brought to light. However, the uncomfortable process of reform and improvement never detracts from the Divine presence. So long as we keep the call of Jesus at the center of our mission and identity, I am consoled with the Father’s guiding presence.

REASON 3 – WISDOM OF A MEDIEVAL STRUCTURE

The media raises important questions about clergy behavior and the implementation of safe environment policies. There are victims who experience tremendous hurt as a result of clerical sexual abuse. We have an opportunity for better oversight, greater accountability, and stronger measures of responsibility to protect vulnerable people.

When survivors of clergy abuse are ready to share their story, they may feel disoriented by the organizational structure of religious orders. Developed over hundreds of years, religious communities appear complex, slow, secretive, and protective. This may be especially true for the Augustinians - we are a worldwide Order with our central governance in the Roman Curia. Did I join a brotherhood that conceals misdeeds or deliberately convolutes the course of justice for its own protection? Have I put a target on my back?

The Augustinians are a brotherhood who have experienced a calling to common life in response to the invitation of Jesus. We are not united by secrecy or a culture of silence. Rather, we are bound together in Baptismal consecration. Our vows consecrate our words and actions to Christ, the very center of our identity.

Joining the Augustinians has been fulfilling and life-giving for me. I bene t from the example of Augustine and Saints who loved the common life. As I learned about myself, I discovered the need for brothers to keep me on track. I realized that I need the Order for support, just like a family. Yes, it’s a large, confusing bureaucracy. It can even be slow and frustrating at times. But it is my home; the place my restless heart can encounter God through others.

The Order grants access to institutional resources and provides an unmatched platform for announcing the Good News. The Church has an enormous capability for good, unrivaled by almost any other organization in the world. These structures need updating, accountability, and renewal. But they were designed to be stable and deliberative; their perseverance through the centuries attests to the wisdom of the mendicant tradition. The bureaucracy is intentionally slow: in order to be intentionally compassionate. e process provides opportunities for truth, forgiveness, and the primacy of love.

I am confident that the Holy Spirit will lead reform and fulfill the requirements of justice. No amount of bureaucratic delay will stifle the fire of love. Because I have experienced God in the fraternal love of Augustinians, it is precisely through the fraternity that God is calling us to renewal. I hope that my own passion and energy will both honor the past and help define the next generation of Augustinians.

 


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Is the Profession of Vows a Sacrament?

Similar to priestly ordinations, the solemn profession of religious vows takes place within the context of a Mass—ideally a Sunday or solemnity Mass. For those Catholics who have witnessed a profession of religious vows, they likely have noticed that the ritual looks, from the outside, very much like an ordination.

We see a man called up to the altar; he answers questions; he lies face down and we recite the Litany of Saints; he kneels before the presider, makes vows, and is given a line of embraces from the attendant friars.

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Indeed, they share many ritual appearances. However, the difference between them is important to understand. A profession of vows is not a sacrament, and not a rite of Holy Orders. The sacrament of Holy Orders, refers only to the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons, and it “confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a ‘sacred power’ (sacra potestas).” Within the ritual of the sacrament, this sacred power is conferred by the visible sign of the “laying on of hands.”

The profession of vows, however, does not permit a friar to the exercise of any “sacred power.” And the Mass of profession excludes that very decisive gesture of the laying on of hands. 

 Rather, within the Augustinian Rite of Solemn Profession, the friar asks that he be united “more closely to God” through a lifelong embrace of “of perfect chastity, poverty, and obedience.” Further, though the vow of the friar is made exclusively to the Order of St. Augustine—and his promise is specifically given to the Prior General of the Augustinians, who resides in the Roman Curia. This usually is done via the friar's local Prior Provincial.

Below is the full text template of the solemn vows a friar makes to the Augustinian Order. While it shares much with the solemn vows of other mendicant orders, the vow is uniquely Augustinian in character and language:

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“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. In this year of the Lord _____, on the ____ day of ____, I  [name] led by the Holy Spirit declare my intention to follow Jesus Christ more closely and to give a fuller expression to my baptismal consecration. Therefore, calling upon the Virgin Mary and our holy father Augustine, I give myself to God and unite myself to his will by the solemn vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, in the Order of Brothers of Saint Augustine and according to the Rule of our holy father. I wish to continue my quest for God together with my brothers and serve the people of God in community life and mutual sharing of goods. For the love of God and in the presence of my brothers, I promise obedience to you, ____, in the name of ______, prior general of the Order. I pray that the Lord will enable me to live faithfully with you in unity of love and have one mind and heart intent upon God.”

 

To learn more, please look at our most recent video of the Solemn Profession of Br. Jack Tierney, O.S.A.


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VIDEO: A Lifetime Commitment to the Augustinians

When I visited the Augustinians, I could tell that these men loved the Lord, that they were committed to God, and they were friends with each other. They liked living together!

On December 15, 2018 Br. Jack made his solemn, lifelong profession of vows to the Order of St. Augustine. Hear Br. Jack himself explain what solemn profession means to him and how he found a home with the Augustinians.


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