St. Augustine is no stranger to widespread devotion. His incredible conversion story (pagan, playboy, convert, bishop, Doctor of the Church) is known and admired by many a convert and cradle Catholic alike. My favorite band has a song inspired by his well-known Confessions, and they’re not even Catholic!1
Everybody loves Augustine. I especially love him, though. Augustinian spirituality has claimed me, and I’m finally ready to talk about it.
My birthday was at the end of last month. Having a late summer birthday has felt like a blessing and a curse for my whole life: when you’re the new kid at school, there’s no one to celebrate with yet; when Labor Day comes early, everyone is traveling. When I began living my Catholicism in college, I discovered that my birthday falls right near the feasts of St. Augustine and his mother, St. Monica.2 I am wise enough to know that I can’t fathom all the mysteries of God’s timing, but that worked out nicely for me!
In another sign of my Augustinian heart, I went to the University of Maryland, just a stone’s throw from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.3 The Shrine contains one of my favorite places in the world, the side altar to Our Mother of Good Counsel. That altar was sponsored by the Order of St. Augustine, and it has a carving of the order’s symbol and motto: tolle, lege. Take and read [the Bible].
I have two friends from college who are Dominican priests 4, two from grad school who are in the Congregation of Holy Cross (which staffs St. Edward’s University here in Austin), a handful of other college friends who live like Carmelites, and a solid number of friends now who are in the Schoenstatt Movement. None of those particular ways of knowing and loving God and the Church ever captured my heart. Augustine’s way did.
Augustinian spirituality is based on the life of St. Augustine, the Rule of St. Augustine (which is older than the Rule of St. Benedict, the template for many religious orders today), and the Gospel. It is:
- Scriptural, finding spiritual nourishment and guidance in the Bible.
- interior, holding contemplation and individual prayer in high regard.
- mindful, considering the words we speak, pray, and sing of critical importance.
- modest, seeking humility in dress, speech, and attitude toward superiors.
- evangelical, putting relationships at the heart of the Christian life.
It’s hard for me to describe the joy that I feel having finally found a way to God after my own heart. If that description sounds like you, then I invite you to join me in my efforts to live out Augustinian spirituality.
If that doesn’t sound quite like you, I encourage you to find the spirituality that resonates with you. Maybe it’s a far-reaching religious order like the Dominicans, which comprise men and women, brothers, priests, sisters, and nuns. Maybe it’s following the way of a saint who was not in a religious order, such as St. John Paul II. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify the leanings of your heart, and glory in the richness and diversity of the Church.
- They say AW-gus-teen like the city in Florida instead of uh-GUS-tin. I find that Catholics tend to use the latter. ↩
- August 28 and 27, respectively. August 29 is the Memorial of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. I prefer not to think about what that might mean! ↩
- The Shrine is on the campus of the Catholic University of America, which I did not attend, but I would never have gone to a Catholic college. Naturally, I fell in love with the closest state university. ↩
- I still pray the Liturgy of the Hours like a Dominican due to their example. ↩