Last week, we began an examination on leadership in the Augustinian tradition. Ideas were taken from an addition of the Heart Of The Matter magazine from Villanova University. We started by examining the “big questions” of life, but left any kind of concrete answers somewhat open.
Are there any principles from the rule of Saint Augustine that can concretely guide us in terms of how we approach leadership of our own life? Let us briefly describe the rule of Saint Augustine and then consider several principles from the rule that might offer us some guidance in terms of a “personal rule of life.” We will examine the first four principles this week then we will look at principles five – through – seven next week.
In 397, St. Augustine wrote a rule of common life for lay Christians (notice – not just for priests) in which he expressed his ideas about living in the midst of an intentional religious community. The core of the rule is found in Acts Chapter 4:32 “The whole group of believers was of one mind and one heart. No one claimed any of his possessions as his own, but everything was held in common.” Thus, for his “Rule,” Augustine considered core values of order, harmony, one mind and heart on the way to God, love of God and love of neighbor as primary. Considering Augustine’s past, it is also not surprising that he saw the task of overcoming one’s ego as the major obstacle in achieving this kind of integrated approach.
So what are some of the principles that we can draw from the rule of Saint Augustine?
Principle One: Harmony and Humility. Augustine writes “therefore all should live united in mind and heart and should in one another honor God who’s temple you have become.” “Humility consists of knowing yourself. Pride does it’s own will, humility does the will of God.”
One cannot be charitable until one is humble. Humility is also tied into searching for the truth, especially about who God is and then ourselves.
Principal Two: Prayer and Interiority. Colossians 4:2 says “Persevere faithfully in prayer.” Augustine adds, “…at the appointed hours and times.” Augustine’s personal life and his spiritual teachings are dominated by a continual call to interiority. Nevertheless, an interior life can only be maintained through quiet, prayer, meditation and religious celebration. In his book, On True Religion, Augustine writes, “Do not go outside yourself but enter into yourself. For truth dwells in the interior self. The external world can aid in this but they are merely signposts and reminders. True learning about God and ourselves takes place in the interior world.”
Principle Three: Moderation And Self-Denial. Augustine has much to say on this topic. For example, he writes, “Discipline your flesh, so far as your health allows. It is better to need less then to have more. You should not try to please by your appearance, but by your behavior.”
Augustine’s thoughts on this speak directly to our “post-modern,” consumer driven, 21st century culture. “Subduing the flesh” is not meant to pass a negative judgment on creation and human nature but rather to place a high priority on the integration between mind and body and spirit. In this regard the key is to avoid unhealthy overconsumption of anything which can blind us to the truth about the true importance and the beauty of created life.
Principle Four: Fraternal Correction And Mutual Responsibility. Augustine advises that whatever you are doing, your behavior should in no way cause offense to anyone, but should rather be in keeping with the holiness of your way of life. Concerning the less-than-desirable behavior of others, “You should warn a brother or sister at once so that what has begun may go no further and may be immediately corrected.”
We’re not talking about being busy bodies here, but we do share the responsibility for each other’s welfare, checking our motivations by holding ourselves accountable to someone else and finding means to support, yet hold others in the community accountable, for any actions that threaten the foundations of the community.