WEEK 1 REFLECTIONS
The main purpose of having come together is to live harmoniously in your house
intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart. (St. Augustine)
The Augustinian spirituality course in English, meant to deepen our knowledge about St. Augustine and his spirituality, has begun at St. Monica’s College and the Augustinian Patristic Institute in Rome. The course started on the 22nd of January and will end on the 6th of April. This year, we have seventeen participants; both friars and sisters. There are four sisters from the congregation of the Augustinian Missionary Sisters and four sisters from the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
The course will have two sessions in the morning. His Eminence Cardinal Prosper Grech, OSA and other reverend friars, sisters and lay professors will conduct the classes, teaching different Augustinian subjects. In the first week, Cardinal Grech and Fr. Kolawole Chabi, OSA conducted the classes on St. Augustine and Scripture and the Life and Works of St. Augustine, respectively. As part of the classes, the participants visited the Basilica of St. Augustine under the guidance of Fr. Robert Guessetto, OSA where we celebrated the Mass of Inauguration in the Chapel of St. Monica. The Mass with all the participants was presided over by Fr. Robert along with Fr. Louis Marin, Fr. Pasquale Cormio and other concelebrants. Knowing more about St. Augustine will help enrich the spirit of our Augustinian religious life. The more we deepen our understanding of Augustinian spirituality, the more we become true Augustinians.
WEEK 2 REFLECTIONS
This week, Fr. David Kelly OSA presented on the history of the Order, development, circumscriptions and Fr. Enrique Eguiarte OAR taught us about Augustine: Christ and Church. Time has passed by, but both of the professors’ enthusiastic way of teaching kept living in us. Not only their knowledge about the Order, Augustine and Christ, but also the friendship and community spirit nourished the whole group as Augustinians. Certainly, this past week was fruitful both internally and externally. We learned more about Augustine and Christ, likewise, we also had quality time to reflect and ponder about our life. More than that, it is certainly a great opportunity for all of us to use this time to strengthen our relationship with Christ and our friendship with other brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, this was a significant week for all of us; we are all settled down and ready to kick off the coming weeks.
WEEK 3 REFLECTIONS
The third week of the Augustinian spirituality course presented new insights regarding Augustinian arts and culture and Augustinian formation. Dr. Louise Bourdua, a professor from Warwick University, and Fr. Alexander Longs, osa, the director of professed students at Collegio Santa Monica, conducted the classes. How to see the sculptures and paintings of eminent artists filled with Augustinian spirituality was the main theme of Dr. Louise Bourdua’s lessons. Unlike others, we must look at the images with a different attitude. The sculptures and images contain rich theology and reveal certain historical incidents which are meant to boost our faith. The participants were inspired to see the tomb of St. Augustine in Pavia, the Baptistry of the Duomo and the relics of St. Ambrose in Milan. The renewal of our baptismal promises at the baptistery where St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine was a new experience for Augustinian friars and sisters. Formation classes filled with heart touching incidents from the life of the professor was motivating for participants. Fr. Alexander Longs’ classes were full of lessons that can be experienced with our hearts. The sisters of our group nourished our classes by introducing their congregations, their missions, and their charisms. It was a time to know each other and encourage each other as members of the Augustinian family. Thank you, God, for such wonderful experiences.
WEEK 4 REFLECTIONS
Week Four came right after a weekend pilgrimage that was spirit filled getting in touch with St Augustine as we visited his tomb and the baptistery and St. Ambrose as we visited his tomb.
This week, we were inspired and stirred up with two great presenters, Fr. Paul Graham, OSA and Dr. Joseph Kelley. Fr. Paul Graham helped us to see St. Augustine in the contemporary world and society and Kelley on the other hand, enlightened us on St. Augustine in conversations with 21th century Christians. Both of these two topics are interwoven. They helped us as Augustinians to make the world a better place through following the trends of the world not as an outsider, but together with the rest of the people; through sharing our love in this one big family in our friendships, community living and married life which will all bring us to the love of God.
Graham helped us understand that during the time of St. Augustine, he lived in a similar world where there were several issues going on, such as the venders who on several occasions attacked and destroyed churches, the different heresies that he had to keep up with. In his writing in the “City of God” he compares two cities, the city of God and the earthly city, in response to the new converts who blamed the problems on christianity. He took us through the trends in the changing world and how they have affected the church and the role we need to take as Augustinians to improve the world.
Kelley shared about the works of Augustine as he journeyd through his life trying to get closer to God, and he realized that it is only through relating well with his brothers and sisters that he can get to know God and thus encourages us to do the same. This week’s presentation has inflamed the fire in us to anticipate more inspiration in the coming weeks as we continue to learn more about St. Augustine.
WEEK 5 REFLECTIONS
“He who is filled with love is filled with God himself.”(St. Augustine)
This is what learning is, you suddenly understand something, you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way, with this attitude and spirit, we began our 5th week of journey in deepening the spirituality of St. Augustine. We had Fr. Joseph Farrell, OSA and Fr. Enrique Eguiarte Bendímez, OAR as the resource persons for this week.
Fr. Joseph invited us to look back to our human existence with the theme of Christian Anthropology. The 4 main pillars of the Christian anthropology, includes recreation/ recreativity, fall/ sin, grace and the redemption in Jesus Christ. God’s love is unconditional and Jesus Christ our Lord is the incarnation of that self-giving love. Charity is very essential for the Christian. The themes of sin, dis-oriented freedom, invisible fact of covenant and heart were discussed in the class. Grace, as mentioned in Romans 5:5, is absolutely necessary and it is gratuitous.
As in the 2nd week of our programme, Fr. Enrique Eguiarte OAR taught us about Augustine: Christ and Church. This week Fr. Enrique enlightened us with the views of St. Augustine on prayer, sacraments and liturgy. Love being an indispensable concept in all the spirituality, prayer becomes an exercise of love, dialogue, and it is also an exercise of 3 theological virtues. The commentary of St. Augustine on the prayer “our father” was thought provoking. Christ is the absolute source of all the sacraments which is also a source of grace. Dear professors we thank you for such an enriching and friendly outlook on these topics.
We made this week our learning more interesting with our visits, On Tuesday, to the Scavi, Underneath St. Peters Basilica and visit to the Vatican museum on Sunday. We were happy in exploring this rich story of the land and knowing much of the art and a good historical account. Such as the magnificent frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and those by Raphael in his Stanze. This week of our learning was really inspiring and enriching, we hope the best in the coming weeks.
WEEK 6 REFLECTIONS
“Lord, those are Your best servants who wish to shape their life on your answers rather than shape Your answers on their wishes” (St. Augustine-Confessions 10,26)
Sixth week began with a bit of an experience since most us had never seen snow fall, the experience was lovely everywhere covered in snow, children as well as grown-ups playing in snow. Means of transport were affected so we only had one sister in class on Monday, the rest could not find their way to the institute. We had a session on Augustinian Catechesis and Pedagogy with Fr. Gary McCloskey, OSA and he introduced us into field of Catechesis and Pedagogy that we are supposed to use as pastoral agents.
On Tuesday the class went on as usual first we were introduced to Pastoral Theology by Fr. Joseph Farrell, OSA, it was the best combination for the week since we had insights on pastoral work as well as the know-how on Catechesis and Pedagogy.
Wednesday was a day to remember since we all went for Papal Audience, though the temperatures were quite low everyone was braced to stand in the queue as along as it takes for this ecstatic experience. There after the group proceeded for Pranzo (lunch) prepared by School Sisters of Notre Dame Community, thanks to their generosity everyone enjoyed it.
On Thursday other than having class we were all invited for the talk at six in the evening at the Lay Centre of Rome, though only few made it and it was a nice experience for them
The week ended on a high note since the group had a tour to the Sanctuary Basilica of Our Mother of Good Counsel, Genazzano. Thanks to Padre Ludovico, the parish priest who took his time to explain the history behind the Image of Our Lady of Good Council, there after he invited us for Pranzo which we all enjoyed.
WEEK 7 REFLECTIONS
The 7th week of the program has come and gone. Two tedious topics were tackled; important documents of the Augustinian Order, presented by Anthony Banks OSA and John Flynn OSA, and the Spirituality and Trinity in Augustine, interpreted by Augustine Ugbomah OSA. I say tedious because these are such necessary concepts and they require such detailed thinking. They are both foundational to religious life. Augustine believed in both of them deeply. “Documentation is a most useful invention. They prevent bad people from lying and help good ones not to forget”. (Augustine in the Acts of the process with Pelagius, 16,39). Since its birth in 1244, the order has been developing documents and procedures to order their lives as Augustinians. They still think as Augustine did; “In necessary things Unity, when in doubt, freedom and in all things love.” If life is like putting up a circus tent in a wind storm, the order needs to have enough stakes to anchor it through the centuries.
We learned that Augustine thought long and hard and could talk years and years about the trinity because he was continually reflecting on his personal experience. As he said to Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, “I began the books on the Trinity, who is the highest and true God, when I was young and I published them when I was already old…” He continually tried to know the Trinity because he knew love grew with knowledge. He had moments of insight for which we hope to have also as we grow old.
Added to the week of deep thinking was the tedious challenge of working with the hands to make an icon. This project happened in the afternoons and was directed by Richard Cannuli OSA. Father Richard was delayed by a day due to the storms off the East coast of the U.S. Thus our first day of creation started on Tuesday. It’s hard to make up time when writing an Icon but we seem to be doing it. By the fifth day of creation, Our Icon of St. Augustine has grown from a flat outline of the saint into a colorful, mystic looking image that will help us focus in prayer. We have another week to complete this tedious work of creation.
WEEK 8 REFLECTIONS
LET ME KNOW MYSELF, LET ME KNOW YOU
Psalm of Soul loved by LOVE
Let me know myself, let me know “YOU”.
YOU are LOVE. So please let me know myself, let me know LOVE.
YOU are in every body for every body is YOUR HOUSE, a temple YOU dwell in.
When YOU let me know myself, YOU let me know “YOU” for YOU are inside of me
When YOU let me know myself, YOU let me know ‘LOVE”
When YOU let me know myself, YOU let me know every body whom your temple is
When YOU let me know myself, YOU allow me to know LOVE which is in every body.
When YOU let me know myself, YOU let me know and honor others for YOU are LOVE who always invite us to love and honor each other
Every time, before writing the ICON of Saint Augustine, Fr. Richard Cannuli, OSA invited us to pray. Process by process we colored the icon and finally we finished it. For me this process symbolizes our journey in this world towards the CREATOR. The journey filled with vibrant colors. The colors in our lives sometimes fade and therefore we need others to color, in our lives and vice versa.
As contemplative and active Augustinians, we always deal with others inside and outside of the convent. We color "life" with others through "preaching, teaching, hearing confessions, admittance the sacraments" (Erick Saak's book, 66-67), being family to each other, and trying to be one mind and one heart in this life. Life in HIM.
Fr. Brian Lowery, OSA stressed two words as key points when he gave the lecture of The Rule of Saint Augustine. “Gift and Movement” are two key words which for me can help us try to be one mind and one heart in this journey toward HIM. What I am trying to say is every body is happy when she or he receives gift and when somebody is happy, most probably she or he has a positive view of the situation and condition around him or her. A happy and positive view helps people gain strength and courage to move toward LOVE/GOD and others. So, let us everday try to make the Rule of Saint Augustine as a gift and movement in our religious life.
WEEK 9 REFLECTIONS
LAST WEEK OF CLASSES
These days of grace are coming to an end. During our last week of classes, Father Jude Ossai (NIG) helped us to inmerse ourselves in the Confessions, its theology and spirituality. We thank him for his good and intense job. Father William Faix (VIL) taught us about “Agustinian Saints and Blesseds legacy of a vibrant faith”. Indeed Father William has shared a vibrant faith and love for the Order and our saints. Hopefully we’ll know how to approach them to imitate them and ask for their intercessions.
On Monday afternoon we ended a very special activity, which has occupied us for many hours during the last two weeks, with the celebration of a Eucharist: the writing of an icon of our father Saint Augustine. As Father Richard reminded us during the homily, the writing of this icon signified a long journey of work, silence and prayer towards our own heart, where we must always return to rediscover the image of Christ inside us. During the blessing of the icon and the oil with which we cover it afterwards, we prayed for each one of us and for the people who will pray before it. Thanks to Father Richard for his patience and mastery.
At five in the afternoon -taurine time- on Tuesday, we received a gift, not for expected less wonderful: a tour of some of the rooms of the Pontifical Palace and the Sistine Chapel, guided by our Augustinian brothers who work in the papal sacristy : The beautiful Chapel Redemptoris Mater, lovely decorated by mosaics of East and West that cover it completely; the room of tears; the Sistine Chapel and, finally, the Pauline Chapel, with its incredible paintings by Michelangelo and, next to the altar, the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Thanks to Father Nestor and Father Paolo for their helpfulness and hospitality. By the royal staircase we descended to the meeting of the Father General and part of his Council, who waited for us for the celebration of the Eucharist.
During his homily, the Father General, after a brief rewiew of the topics that we have discussed during the course, asked us to enrich our communities and our apostolate and pastoral work with what we have learned and lived during these last weeks. At the end of the Mass, Father Luis Marín gave a few words of gratitude before proceeding to the delivery of diplomas. Finally, the Curia community invited us to dine at a nearby pizzeria where we had a really nice time. Thanks to Father General and Fathers Joseph Farrell and Luis Marín for their hospitality and closeness.
On Thursday we were surprised by a transport strike. The sisters had more difficulty to attend classes; still, they managed to arrive more punctually than the brothers, as always. Of course, in this, as in other things, we have to recognize that there is no possible comparison between sisters and brothers. Unfortunately, the transport strike prevented us from making the planned visit to Ostia Antica.
On Friday, after listening to Father William showing us our saints and blesseds of the twentieth century, we ended up with an exhibition about the contents of each of the books of the Confessions, their spirituality and their application to our apostolate. Good job! Congratulations, everyone. And so concluded our last day of school. I'm sure we'll miss our time together in the classroom.
I think this is an opportune time to thank the work of all our teachers during these two months. We are very grateful to you for having helped us to deepen the spirituality of St. Augustine. In the afternoon, the sisters and a group of brothers visited Ostia Antica. There we were expected by Father Augustine, our teacher of Trinity, to show us very kindly Sant’Aurea church, in which, for over a thousand years, rested the remains of Santa Monica, as well as the ruins of the old city. Walking around Ostia is like a time trip. Father Augustine, thank you very much for everything.
Tomorrow saturday we begin our preparation retreat for Easter, led by Father Jude. A new time of grace. Thus I do retire… Have a holy Holy Week.
WEEK 10 REFLECTIONS
HOLY WEEK – RETREAT
Just after our last classes and pilgrimage to Ostia Antica, on Saturday morning we set off on a spiritual trip. We had our retreat in the Retreat House of Sisters, Pie Discepole del Divin Maestro, Via Portuense 739/741 in Roma. The house itself is called “Casa Betania”, which becomes truly meaningful, when on the Monday of Holy Week we can hear in the Gospel, that: six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany – the house of his friends: Mary, Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
The theme of our retreat was “Self-Awareness as people of Communion”. In the conferences Father Jude Ossai, OSA invited us to deepen once more Augustine’s teaching of the gift of community life.
In the first talk Fr. Jude presented us with the main goals of the retreat, that is: to listen more intensely to the Lord living in me.
Things to listen for are:
• What is God saying to me?
• Do I want to know what areas in my life that needs to be changed, and which ones need healing?
• And if I should come to see and notice these areas, do I really want them to be changed and healed?
The house was nice, with a big garden, a spacious chapel with continuous Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – that all supported our personal efforts to immerse in God’s Word and deep prayer.
In the last two conferences Father Jude helped to make us aware of the danger of DRIFT of our unique spiritual journey and A CALL TO REPENTANCE. We need to be alert constantly and avoid distractions, drift and decline. Drift can happen to anyone, even in the most hallowed and respected of all places, if care is not taken. We are on the journey, so we have to remain consistent in our effort to keep the course.
And again Saint Augustine: Only Grace can reverse drift.
The Liturgy of Holy Week celebrated in the community allowed us to come closer to Jesus Christ as Suffering Servant. The Passion He endured in the Community of the Apostles has a significant meaning in our seeking the deeper motivation to give ourselves in our communities.
The world is a great book, of which they that never stray from home read only a page.
Coming together and meditating on the Word were the wishes of St. Augustine. We experienced that divine unity in the last two weeks in our Augustinian retreat and pilgrimage. The classes of Fr. Jude Ossai in these days helped us to pray and meditate on the word of God and the spirituality of St. Augustine. ''Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk 24;32). The words of the disciples are right. The talks we heard, the common prayers we recited, the meditations we did, the Eucharist we offered were burning our hearts. All these were leading us closer to God. It was a journey of searching for God! It was a living of experiencing the love and Friendship.
Post Easter, we began our pilgrimage to different Augustinian shrines. 5 days of pilgrimage to Assisi, Cascia, Siena, Lecceto, San Gimignano, Montefalco. Roccaporena. at each shrine we prayed together and this pilgrimage gave us a feeling that our saintly elder friars and nuns had been waiting for us for centuries to make us understand by their life, death and relics how rich is our Augustinian spirituality and how deep is the love of God. God is always with his consecrated people. In the same way, our Augustinian saints are always with their brothers and sisters! On the 6th of April we completed our pilgrimage and reached Rome. Now it is time to say goodbye to each other (which doesn’t mean we won’t meet again). We thanked Fr. Joseph Farrell for helping us throughout the spirituality course months. And we extend our sincere thanks to our Prior general Fr. Alejandro Moral Anton & his councilors. To Fr. Robert Guesetto, Fr. Pasquale, Fr. Luis. Fr. Robert Roy, and the other commission members. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Prior of Santa Monica. Inspired by the Augustinian spirituality course, we never stop our journey and we promise to spread the love and peace, we promise to spread the unity and Friendship! We will remember all in our prayers.
In St. Augustine