Last Monday, Prior Provincial Fr Peter Jones met in conversation with our Parish Pastoral Council to share information about the Province and particularly the vision and identity Augustinians bring to parishes – Communion, Interiority, Searching and Love. This identity is expressed in the day-to-day through Community, Liturgy, Formation, Mission and Social Justice.
The Order takes seriously its responsibility to highlight core Augustinian values in ministry as the ‘window’ on the Gospel and the Church. In turn, this applies to our schools where the values of Community, Truth and Love are the centrepiece of Augustinian Education, supported by the other values enunciated in parish ministry above. In Parish and College, this vision needs to remain fresh and alive and this is achieved through Province support of these ministries where various Augustinians work with leaders, staff and College Board members.
A few weeks ago I led an in-service session with the staff of Villanova College, our Augustinian School in Brisbane. In our reflection on Augustinian Charism and Spirituality, we grappled with what it means to be ‘church’ today. Those who are older recalled a quite different view of Church growing up, a different ‘culture’, fine for its time but the world has changed significantly. If the outcomes of our parish conversations here in North Harbour in preparation for the Plenary Council 2020 are any indication, people of all ages are ready for change. This is particularly so in our age where there is significant disillusionment with institutions such as politics, the banks, big business, media and the Church.
Some experience a ‘disconnect’ in their encounters with the Church, in this modern age where communications are radically different, social attitudes often clash with traditional values, family relationships are changing, and truth is elusive. Many have ‘redefined’ what Catholic practice means. Even where it may mean ‘Christmas and Easter’, the presence of over 2,000 people at Christmas Masses in North Harbour remains a powerful statement.
In suggesting a ‘fresh’ view of Church, I am proposing that we be open to fresh insights into our identity as the Body of Christ – still a vibrant and powerful symbol of who we truly are – vibrant for St Paul and the Early Church, vibrant for St Augustine whose teaching about the Body of Christ and the Eucharist is unsurpassed, still vibrant in the teaching of our recent Popes.
Pope Francis models the Gospel of Jesus in the simplicity of his personal lifestyle, very much a ‘hands-on’ Pope. In family life, don’t we often have to be open, inclusive and non-judgemental at times? Don’t we have to listen to people’s life circumstances – their unique history, life situation and personal struggles, even when it goes against the grain?
Might we find in Francis’ advice the strength to do all this with peace of mind: ‘Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way’ (Joy of the Gospel 46). How might this reflect a ‘fresh view of Church’?