Pope Francis tells Augustinians "Prayer and penance do not cease to be the cornerstones on which Christian witness is based..." Full Text


Sala Clementina
Thursday, 12 September 2019

Dear brothers and sisters,

Providence wanted me to meet you today, the Discalced Augustinians, and tomorrow your brothers from the Order of Saint Augustine - brothers, cousins, friends, enemies - you never know! We give praise to God for the charisms he has raised and aroused in the Church through the testimony of the great Pastor and Doctor of Hippo.

I thank the Prior General for the words with which he introduced this meeting, which concludes your conference on the occasion of what you call "Year of the Charism", beautiful!

I would like to tell you first of all that I appreciate in you the joy of being Augustinians: "Happy to serve the Most High in a spirit of humility" - it would seem a Franciscan motto, but in reality it is simply evangelical. Moreover, St. Augustine is one of those figures who make us feel the fascination of God, who attract to Jesus Christ, who attract to the Word of God. He is a giant of Christian thought, but the Lord has also given him the vocation and the mission of the fraternity. He did not close in the vast horizon of his mind, but remained open to the people of God and to the brothers who shared community life with him. Even as a priest and bishop he lived as a monk, despite pastoral commitments, and on his death he left many male and female monasteries.

In this long religious tradition begun by St. Augustine, you Discalced Augustinians have your roots, which the Prior General recalled a little while ago. I encourage you to love and deepen your roots again and again - to go to the roots -, trying to draw from them, in prayer and in community discernment, the lifeblood for your presence in the today of the Church and the world. To be modern, someone believes it is necessary to break away from the roots. And this is the ruin, because the roots, the tradition, are the guarantee of the future. It is not a museum, it is the true tradition, and the roots are the tradition that brings the sap to make the tree grow, flourish, bear fruit. Never break away from the roots to be modern, that's suicide. Prayer and penance do not cease to be the cornerstones on which Christian witness is based, a testimony which in certain contexts is completely counter-current, but which, accompanied by humility and charity, knows how to speak to the hearts of so many men and women too in our time. Moreover, the Popes have asked your "ancestors" to be available for evangelization, and in this way you have assumed that apostolic dimension which is very present in the Founding Father.

The qualification of "barefoot" expresses the need for poverty, detachment, trust in Divine Providence. There is a liturgical hymn, which is used on the feast of St. John the Baptist and says that the people went "with their bare feet" to be baptized: not only barefoot because they do not wear stockings - I see that you have shoes, at least one ... The barefoot soul, this is the charisma. This is a gospel need, which in certain moments of the Church's journey the Spirit makes us feel more strongly. And we must always be attentive and docile to the voice of the Spirit: He is the protagonist, it is He who makes the Church grow! Not us, Him. The Holy Spirit is the wind that blows and keeps the Church going, with that great strength of evangelization.

In particular, this year you wanted to emphasize the vow of humility, the fourth vow that characterizes you. I congratulate you on this choice and I agree with the discernment of which the Prior Prior became a spokesman: this vow of humility is a "key", a key that opens the heart of God and the hearts of men. And first of all open your own hearts to be faithful to the original charism, to always feel like disciples-missionaries, available to the calls of God.

Humility is something that cannot be taken in hand: there is or is not, it is a gift. You can't take it in hand. I remember a very vain religious, very vain - this is historical -, still alive. His superiors always said to him: "You must be more humble, more humble ...". And finally he said: "I will do thirty days of exercises for the Lord to give me the grace of humility". And when he came back he said: "Thank God. I was so vain, so vain, but after the exercises I won all my passions!" He had found humility. Humility is something that comes by itself. Thank God, but it comes, you can't measure it.
The Spirit blows the wind of the mission ad gentes in the sails of the Church, and you have been able to be ready to go. We are living in an age in which the mission ad gentes is being renewed, also through a crisis that we want to grow, to be faithful to the mandate of the Risen Lord, a mandate that retains all its strength and its relevance. I too join you with emotion in remembering the Augustinian missionaries who gave their lives for the Gospel in different parts of the world. And I am pleased to see that you take stock of these testimonies of the past to renew your availability for the mission today, in the forms that the Second Vatican Council and the current challenges ask of us.

Dear brothers, making a grateful remembrance of your journey, or better, of the journey that the Lord has made you do (see Dt 8: 2), the meaning of this "Year of the Charism" is fully understood. It is not something self-referential - no, it must not be this - but a living community that wants to walk with the living Christ, this is what you want; it is not a self-referentiality but the will to walk in Christ, the living Christ.

"Happy to serve the Most High in a spirit of humility". Go on like this! May the Lord bless you, Our Lady and Saint Augustine protect you. And please don't forget to pray for me. Thank you!
FULL TEXT + Image Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation from Italian