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

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

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.

 

Hello, World!


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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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PHOTOS: Our December Ordinations and Profession

In one weekend, on two separate coasts, the Augustinians of North America ordained a priest and a deacon and received the solemn profession of vows of a religious brother. We are delighted to share with you some of our favorite photos of the ceremonies.

On Saturday, December 15, the California Province celebrated the ordination of Fr. Maxime Villeneuve, O.S.A. to the priesthood and Dcn. Nicholas Porter, O.S.A. to the diaconate. The two were ordained by Most Rev. Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego, at St. Patrick Catholic Church.

On December 16, 2018, Br. Jack Tierney, O.S.A. professed his Solemn Vows to Very Rev. Anthony Pizzo, O.S.A., Prior of the Midwest Augustinian Province, at St. Thomas of Villanova Church in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Br. Jack, native of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, first found the Augustinians through the online service Vocation Match.  


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Video: Meet Br. Joe and Br. Sam

Video: Meet Br. Joe and Br. Sam

In 2016, the Augustinians of North America received first vows from 11 men. Many of them are now spending their pastoral year in active ministry, before they return back to Chicago in the Fall of next year and resume their graduate studies at the Catholic Theological Union. Two of these men, whom we would like you to meet today, were Br. Joe Roccasalva, O.S.A. and Br. Sam Joutras O.S.A..


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Why Did We Join? Meet the Augustinian Men of Heart

Why Did We Join? Meet the Augustinian Men of Heart

The men that are preparing to become solemnly professed Augustinians and Augustinian priests are often referred to as Men of Heart.  This is largely because throughout our formation process, we form both the mind and the heart.  We do this not only through studying the works of Augustine, theology, and prayer, but we live together in community throughout the process.  This enriches our perspective as brothers living in community, united in one mind and one heart on the way to God!


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PHOTO GALLERY: 2018 Profession of Vows

PHOTO GALLERY: 2018 Profession of Vows

With gratitude for God's blessings, the Augustinians of North America received three more brothers into the Order this August. Fr. Ray Flores, O.S.A.; Br. Emmanuel Issac, O.S.A.; and Br. Spencer Thomas, O.S.A., made their first, "temporary," profession of vows to the Augustinians in a Saturday Mass on August 4, 2018 at St. Jude Parish, New Lenox, IL.


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Responses from Augustinian Leadership to the Clerical Abuse Reports

Responses from Augustinian Leadership to the Clerical Abuse Reports

The difficulties the Church now faces, in the wake of the recent report on clerical abuse by the grand jury of Pennsylvania, present a unique crisis for those men who are in the midst of discerning a vocation. For this reason, we would like to share with you the following reflections on the current scandal, the past actions of the Church, and what is needed as we (clergy, religious, and laity) move forward together.


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