Brother Joe Ruiz, OSA, professed his first Augustinian vows in 2013 and presently continues formation at St. Rita High School in Chicago. This article shares how he came to his decision to join the Augustinians as a Religious Brother, through both continued prayer and reading the Confessions of St. Augustine.
Ever since I can remember, I have always had an inclination to prayer. I am not sure how I developed the inclination for prayer; if I can remember, I never saw my parents or even my grandmother pray. Maybe I should give kudos to God for giving me the inclination to prayer. I remember being in third grade religious education classes (CCD) and learning the basic prayers like the Our Father and the Hail Mary, but when I prayed before bed, I always found myself praying for other people and for myself. As much as I was encouraged to memorize the basic prayers, it seemed I had a natural tendency to have a simple conversation with God.
Many years later, I continue to have that simple conversation with God. I do even more so now as a newly professed Augustinian friar. At this point in my life, I can easily recall the various moments God has been at work throughout my faith journey. One of my favorite works of Saint Augustine is his Confessions. A common thread found throughout his Confessions, is his acknowledgment of God’s saving presence throughout his life:
Throughout his Confessions, we find pockets of Augustine’s intimate conversation with God. As Augustine reveals himself to God, God in turn reveals God’s self to Augustine. For me, this process of revelation between a human and the Divine is what personal prayer is all about.
One of the things I have become aware of throughout my faith journey is a sense of restlessness in my life, a yearning to be spiritually filled, and the desire to live a meaningful life. Once again, in his Confessions, Augustine speaks of his own restlessness. He says “You made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” These words of Augustine struck me at a time of my life where I was feeling unsettled. As I reflect on my life, I see the different paths I have taken that led me to this point with the Augustinians. I was an Electronics Technician for a computer company for five years. I was a religious brother of Holy Cross for two years. I was a semi-professional ballet folklórico dancer for ten years, traveling and performing in different parts of Texas, Colorado, and Mexico. I was an extra for the opera Carmen. I have traveled to Bangladesh and Peru to tutor English to natives of those countries.
All in all, if it were not for my personal prayer with God and the restlessness in my life, I would not have encountered the Augustinians. My attitude toward life is to live always in the present and to be attentive to God’s saving presence as did Augustine. “Before all else, live together, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”