The Vision of St Augustine, by Lippi.
On Thursday we celebrate the feast of Our Holy Father Augustine, the founder of the canonical way of life, and so is rightly regarded as the Holy Founder of all canons regular. When St Norbert was establishing his community in Prémontré, St Augustine appeared to him, and gave him a copy of his rule that he composed for his communities in Africa (today, Tunisia) and so today, all Norbertines live by this ancient rule.
During his noviciate, the novice has been learning about St Augustine and his rule with the novice-master. When one looks at the great number of volumes of sermons and letters on the library shelf that came from St Augustine’s pen, he can seem daunting! But examining his life, and reading some of his works has revealed that he was truly a kind man, who understood human nature very well, and had a great love for God, Mother Church, his brothers and sisters in the religious life, and his flock as a bishop. Unlike the rules of many other communities, the Rule of St Augustine is extremely short, and seems to focus on the essentials of communal living: have mutual love, call nothing your own, but share everything, pray together, keep custody of your eyes, look after your health, look after one another, and, if there is a conflict, sort it out quickly and don’t dwell on things or harbour grudges, be obedient to the superior.
Above all, he exhorts his children to live in unity, and be of one mind and one heart on the way to God. His heart burned for God, indeed, that it his iconographic symbol, and, on statues, he can be identified by the flaming heart that he holds in his hand. It is a particularly fitting symbol for us, too, given that our canonry is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, the flaming heart of our Immaculate Mother, pierced with a sword. One of my favourite phrases came from a throw-away line in a sermon I heard many years ago, which runs: “fall in love with the cause of your salvation.” A truly Augustinian statement. Falling in love hurts. It is no different when we fall in love with God, in fact, it is a pain which is infinitely exquisite, for when we fall in love with God, we fall in love with the Cross.
On the feast of St Augustine this Thursday, the novice, Brother Gregory, will make his simple profession, vowing himself to a life of poverty, consecrated celibacy and obedience in this community. Simple vows have a time limit (in this case, three years), but that does not mean that they are made merely for just that three year period. God willing, they are made for life, and at the end of this period, he will have the opportunity to solemnise these vows and so bind himself to them for the rest of his life. So, if he perseveres, these are the vows that Brother Gregory will live by until the day he dies. So please say a prayer for him.
If you would like to attend the Mass of Simple Profession, you are most welcome to do so. It will take place on Thursday 28 August at 7.30 pm in Our Lady Immaculate Church, Chelmsford (CM2 0RG), followed by refreshments.
Between now and then, we’ve provided a litany of St Augustine below. There are many different litanies of St Augustine, so you may find many others in prayer books and on the internet, but this is the one that the novice is using in preparation:
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
Christ hear us
Christ graciously hear us
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us
Lord Jesus, Whose all-powerful grace converted St Augustine, have mercy on us
Holy Mary, Advocate of sinners, pray for us
St Augustine, dear holy father of the Order of Prémontré, pray for us
St Augustine, son of tears, pray for us
St Augustine, who bestowed your holy rule upon our Holy Father Norbert, pray for us
St Augustine, light of doctors, pray for us
St Augustine, miracle of grace, pray for us
St Augustine, bulwark of the faith, pray for us
St Augustine, gem of confessors, pray for us
St Augustine, wounded with the charity of Jesus Christ, pray for us
St Augustine, scourge of heretics, pray for us
St Augustine, ornament of bishops, pray for us
St Augustine, eagle whose eyes were fixed on the sun of the bright Trinity, pray for us
St Augustine, fountain of Divine eloquence, pray for us
St Augustine, mirror of sanctity, pray for us
St Augustine, comforter of the afflicted, pray for us
St Augustine, lover of humility, pray for us
St Augustine, seraph in love, pray for us,
St Augustine, shining rainbow in the clouds of glory, pray for us
Holy Patriarch, our light, our guide, and our refuge, pray for us
St Augustine, great prodigy of nature, pray for us
St Augustine, lover of the uncreated Beauty, pray for us
Model of all virtues, pray for us
Good Father in whom we all confide, pray for us
By the tears thy mother shed for thy conversion, pray for us
By thine admirable change of life, pray for us
By thy baptism, pray for us
By the merits of the saints the holy Order of Prémontré has produced, pray for us
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us
Pray for us, Holy Father Augustine
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
Let us pray
Almighty and eternal God, grant us by the merits of our Holy Father Augustine, whose intercession we implore, grace to acquit ourselves of the duties of our state; so that by the practice of them we may happily possess Thee for all eternity. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.