Rubric – Saint Augustine speaks to the man of today
2 / Unity and communion
In the heart of St. Augustine’s writings there is a constant invitation to unity and communion.
Contemplating the story of creation in Genesis, Augustine writes: “… From a single individual God gave rise to mankind, to teach men how much the unity of the many is pleasing to him” (The City of God, 12:22).
But how can we manage to live this at the heart of our Lord unity in the family, in the parish and in the Church?
After the death of his sister, who had held up saintly the female monastery, Augustine writes a letter (211) to the nuns, begging them to maintain unity, urging them to concord and specifying: “The main reason for which we gather to form together a community is that we live unanimously and form one heart and one soul reaching out to God, like the first Christians [Acts 4:32]”
Therefore, Augustine urges us not to forget the purpose for which we are called, that is God. So, the journey must always be reaching out towards God.
To teach how to achieve this end, Augustine places concord at the basis of every journey of communion and, taking up the words of Sirach (25,2), he comments: “Concord, friendship and harmony, these values are undoubtedly a source of joy and appreciable in the human context, but much more important on the divine level. […] Concord among brothers is a good thing, but observe where: in Christ and among Christians” (Speech 359).
So Augustine points out to us that in order for good harmony to always reign, Christ must be the bond of every relationship. And when you think about it, the parish is the place and the heart where you can cultivate and grow in these values, because you are driven by the same feeling and moved towards the same end; it is the place where you can welcome the joy that comes from cultivating nice and good friends with whom you can share common feelings; where you can live your journey of faith by putting your gifts to good use in harmony. Basically, faith is not lived alone, but it needs others and in the relationship with others, it grows, is perfected and matures, bringing to fruition the fruits of good works, of conversion and of charity.
But how can we overcome our limits that sometimes create obstacles in our relationships? How to be true builders of communion?
Saint Augustine comes to our aid with his “Rule” which, although addressed to organize the life of the monks, it offers some teachings that are at the basis of every Christian journeying.
First of all, Augustine places Charity and prayer, reminding us to love God first and then our neighbour and “striving fervently to pray meditating in the heart what is uttered with the voice” (Rule 1-2).
He educates us to live fraternal charity with the following principles: mutual custody; fraternal correction, “using love for people and hatred for vices”; solicitude for forgiveness; dialogue, which is the building block of each relationship and “not seeking personal interest but putting common good ahead of this.”