A communal life, at the example of the Apostles
With his friends, in Cassiciacum, Augustine tries to create a community of life. "But now I ask you why you desire that those men whom you love should live with you, or should live at all?/In order that we may together enquire into God and our own souls. For thus, he who first found out something could, without labor, easily impart it to the others." (Soliloquies, Book 1, XII-20)
The ideal of a communal life centered on the quest of wisdom predates Christianity. But Augustine is especially attracted to the way of life of the Apostles: "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common." (Acts 4, 32)
After his conversion, Augustine will always live in a community. Upon his come back to Africa, he lives a communal life in Thagaste with his friends and together, they seek God. Once ordained priest in Hippo, he chooses to live in a monastery with his friends. And when he becomes a bishop, he has to leave the monastery but asks his clerks to join him in fraternal life.
The essential condition to become a disciple of Christ is to get rid of one's wealth: Augustine is very demanding on this crucial subject. It is said that he had only the clothes on his back when he founded his monastery in Hippo. He sold the remaining of his wealth and gave the money to the poor while regretting that the Church couldn't do more. Why such an insistence? For Augustine, the community of goods is the condition of spiritual progress: "You will know that you progressed spiritually when you would care more about the common good that your personal interests." (Semon 355,2) Only one good is truly common: God Himself. Renouncing material riches in communal life is first and foremost an invitation to an authentic, generous love. This also maintains the ideal of harmony, necessary in all communal life.
To be continued...
Prayer for the sharing of resources
Augustine tried to share all he had, and also all he was. One of the challenges awaiting humanity in the future is to be able to share the resources of our planet, both economically and ecologically.
Lord our God, grant us to give generously all that we received freely from you. Grant us to share the gifts and qualities you put in us.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Artwork: Mural art by Benozzo Gozzoli, 15th century. St. Augustine Chapel, San Gimigniano, Tuscany.
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6