How Living in Community Life Keeps You Grounded as a Priest

In terms of the service, we're invited to participate in the serving of God's People day in and day out and accompanying them in their struggles of life, their joys of life, in the journey of life that we all share together.

There are many times when the Augustinians might get really big heads about themselves because God's People are just so generous to us.  In terms of just saying, "You guys are just the best preachers, the best teachers ... you're the best looking we've ever seen!"  (He laughs.)  And we understand, we get that!  But what's awesome about that is that the balance - that the minute you cross the threshold of the door of the friary - there one of our dearly beloved brothers to whom we're vowed will remind us that we forgot to wash our dishes in the morning.  They remind us of our humanity.

I think that's a unique lens that Augustine had on the Gospel is inviting us back to reality, back to humanity:  the day-in and day-out ... that each of those moments, God is present.  That we remind each other that God is present.

In many of Augustine's sermons, he will say that we are all necessary for each other's salvation - that we're really all called to bring out the best in each other.  That's in every aspect of life:  religious life, marriage, friendship, single life.  It's all about being followers of Jesus.  It's not about going at it alone.  But going at it together, in various ways, but meeting each other along the way and bringing out the best and bringing each other closer to Christ.

I think that's what Augustinian life is for me.  It's about bringing out the best in me, I hope.  I'm sure it doesn't always bring out the best in me depending on the day ... or the hour.  I like to think I'm a morning person, but maybe not so much!  (He laughs.)  So we're not always perfect, right?

But I think about those various moments when I look back on my life that brought me to this moment ... I think that's the great way we're called to share our stories.  We're being invited to really go back and to see God's activity.  That was our hope for this period today:  that we can go back and tell our story.  How God has manifested His presence in doing all sorts of wonderful things in each of our lives.

I think back to those days of walking through the halls of Monsignor Bonner High School as a teenager not always knowing what the heck was going on.  But knowing that there were these men in black robes - there were ten of them at the time in my school - and if I were to give you the names:  all very much characters within themselves.  And there was this mystique about them that I remember standing between Bonner and Prindy, waiting for the bus and looking in through the friary wondering, "What happens in that house?"  And then after I got there, I found out, "Not much happens!"  (He laughs.)  That mystique of what happens behind the friary?  Well, humanity happens there.  God's presence happens there.  Struggles happen there.  Joy happens there.  And Augustine says the search for God - together - happens there.  And that's what called me.

My brother, shortly after I entered - he and I are opposite personalities, opposite looks:  he's heavily tattooed, dude is every other word out of his mouth, I only use the word dude when I quote him ... Shortly after we left the house at the same time, I left to enter [the Augustinian community], he left to marry his wife.  He was like, "Dude, when God called ya, what was it like, did an angel come?"

And I said, "Let me ask you a question first, dude, what was it like - when did you know you were supposed to marry?"

He said, "It was after a couple of dates, it was something that came over me.  I had this deep gut feeling, I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with her.  And that's all I was going with; I just knew.  I was hearing it from other people going, 'She's the one.' "

And I said, "Well, in many ways, that's what it was like for me when I met the Augustinians ... that there was something un-explainable."  But I was like, "I think I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with these guys - for good or for bad."  But its really for the good.  That is a call.  That deep sense of knowing that we all get at various moments.  We just gotta have to go with it because I think that's where, I think, the Holy Spirit dwells:  that pull, that nauseous feeling that sometimes you get, that stomach butterflies ... Sometimes I think that's the work of the Spirit in our lives:  the moment's that's causing what's going on in there.

And that moment continues to happen day-in and day-out, every now and then.  That this is a group of guys - this is a group of brothers - that I would call to find God with them.  And because of them, out of that comes a greater desire to serve God's People and the Church.

It's really been a blessing:  I go back 17 years of living in community and ... Did I know exactly what I was getting into?  Do any of us know?  Ever?  Exactly what we're getting into?  But we're invited to keep deepening those initial moments.  We might get a better vocabulary or a better word.  Did I know that the Augustinians were all about community and the search for God together?  No.  But there was something about them that brought me to that understanding.

And so again, I invite you to ask yourself:  what is it that brought you to this moment?  To this day?  Who are the people in your life perhaps that cause or caused butterflies?  The nauseous feeling perhaps?  The nervousness?  That feeling that hopefully brought out the best in you.  Because that's the activity of God, inviting you to then share your story.


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