By Robin Gomes
Detaching oneself from one’s roots in order to be modern will lead to ruin and suicide. Rather, one needs to go against the tide and bear Christian witness through prayer, penance, humility and charity, in order to speak to the heart of men and women of our time.
Pope Francis made the exhortation to some 200 members of the General Chapter of the Discalced Augustinians whom he met in the Vatican on Thursday. He told them that if they want their tree to grow, bloom and bear fruit, they must never detach themselves from their roots.
The Order of the Discalced Augustinians (OAD) is a contemplative-missionary community that gives primacy to spiritual life and the search for holiness through the special vow of humility and is available to the needs of the Church. The Order was established in 1610 as a reform movement within the Order of St. Augustine (OSA) that was formed in 1244.
The Pope noted that this year, the Discalced Augustinians were particularly focussing on their order’s special 4th vow of humility, which according to the Prior General, is “a ‘key’ that opens the heart of God and the hearts of men”. Above all, he said, it “opens your own hearts to be faithful to the original charism, to always feel yourselves disciples-missionaries, available to God's calls”.
Mission “ad gentes”
Pope Francis noted that their “predecessors” had heeded to the request of earlier popes to be available for evangelization, and adopted the apostolic dimension of their Founding Father. He said, “The Spirit also blows the wind of the mission ‘ad gentes’ in the sails of the Church, and you have been able to be ready to leave.” In an age in which the mission “ad gentes” is being renewed in fidelity to the mandate of the Risen Lord in all it force and relevance, the Pope said he was joining them in remembering the Augustinian missionaries who gave their lives for the Gospel in different parts of the world. The Pope expressed pleasure that the Augustinian monks treasure these witnesses of the past in order to renew their readiness for mission today.
Augustine – humble “giant of Christian thought”
The Holy Father expressed his admiration for Saint Augustine, saying he is among those who make you feel the wonder of God, drawing you to Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Despite being “a giant of Christian thought”, St. Augustine, he said, was blessed by God with the vocation and mission of fraternity. He did not close himself in the vast horizon of his mind but remained open to the people of God and to the brothers and sisters with whom he shared community life.
Fidelity to roots
Pope Francis encouraged the Discalced Augustinians to love and continue deepening their roots, and draw from them, in prayer and in community discernment, the lifeblood for their presence in the Church and the world today.
Their qualification of “discalced”, meaning “barefoot”, the Pope said, “expresses the need for poverty, detachment, trust in Divine Providence”. It is not so much about going barefoot and without shoes, as having a “barefoot soul”, a charism and evangelical need about which the Spirit makes us feel very strongly at certain moments in the journey of the Church. We must always be attentive and docile, he said, to the voice of the Spirit, the protagonist who makes the Church grow with that great force of evangelization.