Augustinian Spirituality permeates in all the ministries where we serve. Some of our men in initial stages of Augustinian formation may take classes at Villanova University, an Augustinian University in Pennsylvania. The following article was originally published in an issue of the Villanova Magazine. Reproduced with permission.
Every day, Villanovans define what it means to be educated in the Catholic Augustinian tradition.
"Villanova--that's Jesuit, right?"
If you've been asked that question, then you also know the inevitable query that follows, once you've set the record straight.
"What does 'Augustinian' mean?"
Let's face it. For lots of folks, Augustine is only a name--and one that they're not even sure how to pronounce. Of the man esteemed historical figures whose orders are famous for Catholic high education, Augustine is not the first to spring to the average person's mind.
And yet, 1,400 years before Basil Moreau's congregation made a home under a dome in South Bend; 1,100 years before the injured solider Ignatius of Loyola beat his sword into an "SJ"; 800 years before Francis embraced a life of poverty and Dominic one of preaching; and a century before Benedict penned his rule for monastic life, Augustine was creating a legacy that would impact the course of Western thought.
Bishop, theologian, philosopher, reader and writer, Augustine had a multi-gigabyte résumé and a bio more gripping than any reality show. As a teen, Augustine had walked on the wild side. He hung out with the wrong crowd, enjoyed loose living and set his sights on fame and fortune. But the divine spark that always had been in him inflamed an even stronger passion than worldly ambition: the hunger for wisdom. For truth. For knowledge that comes from looking within. This hunger led him to God.
Augustine's distinctive approach employed mind and heart. His search began in humility, was shared among friends and was advanced by the dialogue between faith and reason. Powering the search engine was love. Today, we call this journey an Augustinian education. It is what puts Villanova University in a category all on its own.
Inquiring minds, restless hearts
In his intellectual and spiritual pursuits, Augustine fearlessly sought answers to ultimate questions. It's a tough act, but Villanovans follow it. Fortunately, they have an Augustinian tool that equips them for success: a liberal arts foundation.
This base empowers students in every college to think critically, expand boundaries and articulate new visions. From discussing Pascal in the Augustine and Culture Seminar Program to dining with faculty mentors in the Center for Faith and Learning, students seize opportunities to wrestle with moral, philosophical, scientific and theological issues.
At Villanova, this search for Veritas is open, free and respectful. Everyone has a place at the table, a voice in the discussion and a stake in the outcome. Augustine wouldn't have it any other way.
Community of learners
Augustine put a premium on cultivating knowledge in the company of friends. So do Villanovans. They live, learn, grown, reflect and dream together.
In small-sized classes, students and faculty know each other's names, listen to each other's ideas and probe each other's assumptions. Conversations that begin in class are continued within interactive "learning communities" in the residence halls. Collaborative spaces, interdisciplinary study, and cross-college innovations bring together from every corner of campus, forming--and transforming--relationships.
It's nearly impossible not to be drawn into and inspired by this spirit of Unitas. Before all else, Villanova is a community. Visitors sense it. Faculty, students, and staff magnify it. Alumni from around the world spread it. Everyone has Augustine to thank for it.
Service and the common good
Augustine was adamant: The common good trumps personal interest. Love impels people to put others' needs ahead of their own. This change is at the heart of Villanova's educational mission.
In classes and through co-curricular activities, students learn to see the connections between campus and the local and global communities. Seeing translates into compassionate action as Villanovans use their knowledge to serve others. They staff soup kitchens; tutors children; build homes; oversee the world's largest student-run Special Olympics event; improve the quality of life in developing countries; and turn out by the thousands for the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service.
The Augustinian principle of Caritas drives them: The extent to which they love is the true measure of progress.
A just and ethical world
The University's Augustinian motto, Veritas, Unitas, Caritas, packs a lifelong commission into three little words. Villanovans are to develop their minds, reflect in their heats and then go out into the world and ignite change. Wherever life takes them, they are to create a more just, ethical and sustainable society.
For that reason, no Villanovan is surprised to be learning about morality in a marketing course or about Catholic social teaching in an engineering course. No Villanovan questions why the University puts so much time and money into promoting green initiatives and seeking justice for the oppressed. Above all, no Villanovan wonders what it means to be Augustinians. The only decision each has to make is: How will I live out this distinctive identity in my professional and personal life? The world couldn't ask for a better definition.
The friars strive to follow in Augustine's footsteps through these values and services, whether if we serve in parishes, high schools, missions, or social justice issues. It is not always easy, admittedly, but that is why we live, work, and pray together. In community.