On Friday, November 20, 2015 after some weeks of serious decline in health, Fr. Michael Wernicke OSA passed away in our Monastery St. Augustine in Würburg, Germany. All who knew Fr. Michael acknowledge his gentle character and his profound knowledge of the history of the Order. For many of us he is remembered as a good brother and friend. He was a student of St. Monica, Rome, who, after initial studies, pursued a PhD in Church History at the University of Bonn. Fr. Michael served the Province of Germany in various roles. In 1977 he was elected Assistant General during the second term of Prior General, Fr. Theodore Tack. Six years later he served a second time as Vicar General under Prior General Martin Nolan. All of us who knew him will remember his special style of presenting the history of the Order. He always knew a little anecdote or some small story about the ordinary human lives of any historical situation he was discussing, which made his presentations very colorful. It was a pleasure to follow him!
Let us pray for our brother Michael and ask him to pray for us.
Present on the congress in Cebu, Philippines, are 58 participants from every Continent. The participants also include Augustinian Recollects, Augustinians of the Assumption, Augustinian Sisters of La Consolacion, Augustinian Sisters of Divine Mercy, Agostinas Misioneras, and Oblates of the Recollects and of the Assumption. This conference is being held in association with a meeting of 600 Augustinian youth from Asia. The work of the conference will be reproduced in written form in the middle of next year.
On 9-11 November 2015, 6 newly elected major superiors of the Order met in Rome with the Prior General and the General Council of the Order. The 6 major superiors are: Ki-Hoon Salesio Lee, the Superior of the Delegation of Korea; Shiju Varghese Kallarakkal, the Superior of the Delegation of India; Kevin Mullins, the Provincial of the Province of California; Antonio Lazan Pun Lay, the Superior of the Vicariate of Iquitos, Peru; Jose Guillermo Medina, the Superior of the Vicariate of Argentina-Uruguay; Pedro Casiño Acevedo, the Superior of the Vicariate of the Orient, Philippines.
These meetings provide all the friars with the opportunity to share information, concerns, challenges, as well as the many good works that are being accomplished in these circumscriptions. As Alejandro Moral Antón, the Prior General, shared with the group, all of those in the Order who are called to the ministry of leadership are called primarily to a ministry of service and to a ministry of building up community life, fraternity and enthusiasm for service to the Church and to the World. As all of the members of the Order face the challenges that they meet in their own local circumscriptions, they also can celebrate the many good works being accomplished around the world by our brothers and sisters.
The Augustinian Order’s path of preparation and formation for the Jubilee Year of Mercy goes forward. In the video, Fr. Edward Daleng Daniang, OSA, the president of the Order’s Commissions for Youth Encounters and for Evangelization and Pastoral Ministry, looks at the theme of evangelization in the light of the next Holy Year.
“Evangelization is an essential part of the vocation of the Church and the People of God: we are called to give witness to the love of God”, emphasizes Fr. Daleng. He points out the example of Christ, who in his earthly existence did not turn away from the company of sinners, but rather sought out occasions to offer them the mercy and compassion of God the merciful Father. Fr. Daleng also reminds us that this time of grace, which will shortly be upon us invites us all to live in the grace and the mercy of God. Moreover, we are called by means of this Jubilee to a spiritual rebirth so that all the faithful can experience new life in Christ and new life in the Church.
Saint Augustine was touched by the grace of God and his life was changed by the mercy of God. As Bishop, he worked tirelessly so that this love would be experienced by all. He also worked for unity in the Church. As Augustinians we want and we must value this spiritual treasure and open this treasure to every woman and man in this special moment of the life of the Church: “this is a time of grace and all people can live the love of God through us in our communities.” In order that this can truly bear fruit, we must have the certitude that we are forgiven by God, that we are loved by God. This powerful force renews us so that we can live the same feelings with our neighbor, thus sharing with them the joy and the beauty of the Gospel.
Only in this way will our work of evangelization be fulfilled and bear fruit!
The members of the International Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral Ministry met in Rome between 8th and 9th October 2015. The meeting of the Commission focused on the examination of the material produced early this year and sent out in the month March 2015 to the various circumscriptions around the Order to aid friars to reflect on the pastoral apostolate as Augustinians.
The feedback received was very poor because many did not respond. Consequently, the members of the Commission explored a strategy that is very practical: to encourage the organisation of regional and local conferences/workshops for a more active sharing among the friars in the various circumscriptions.
After the first video of the Vicar General, Fr. Joseph Farrell, it is now the turn of Fr. Anthony Banks, OSA, to be entrusted with the responsibility of the Circumscriptions of the Order present in Asia and Australia. Fr. Banks, a New Zealander, is responsible for the Order’s Secretariat of Justice and Peace: “Saint Augustine made it his own the cause of the human person, not only for solidarity or for asceticism; but also for justice. And this is the mature fruit of our Augustinian fraternity to promote and to share.” Those responsible explain: “Our Order gives testimony of solidarity everywhere and is present and for this reason embraces the fate of the weakest and neediest concretely and permanently. This is the motive by which the preferential option for the poor is undertaken.” In the video, Fr. Banks recalls, under the aspect of justice and peace, some central concepts for the Order in relation to the Jubilee Year. Beginning with the writings and the sermons of Saint Augustine, we read about the necessity for justice for the Church and for the world. This is also the basis for the first spreading out of the Order, after the Grand Union in 1256, when the Order of Saint Augustine was born and went forth, based on the immediate needs of the people, for their need for certainty and support. Urged on by the Augustinian charism, this Jubilee event is an occasion to reflect on and to examine the situation of the world in order to see, act, judge and make decisions so that a positive change can be brought about. Augustinian presence means that both religious and laity in accord with the values of Saint Augustine, and in an education based on love, causes community to grow and to work together in order to find answers and to identify those elements in society that are challenges which must be confronted both socially and culturally. This is why, as an Order, “we must be full participants in the Year of Mercy, as a real opportunity to reexamine our true mission.”
As part of the Year dedicated especially to Consecrated Life, there was a meeting of the young vowed members of the Order in Rome from the 15th to 19th of September. This meeting was organized by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. 19 young Augustinian friars attended the meeting. They came from the Provinces of Castile (Vicariate of the Antilles), of Spain, of the Philippines (Vicariate of the Orient and the Delegation of Tanzania), England-Scotland, Italy, Malta, Matritense (Vicariate of Panama), Nigeria, and Poland. The title of the meeting was “Wake Up the World!: Gospel – Prophecy – Hope” and there were more than five thousand young men and women religious who participated in the meeting. The meeting was intense, with times for reflection and prayer, opportunities for exchange and dialogue about the many different realities of consecrated life around the world, as well as times for giving witness talks and for celebrating the beauty of the vocation to consecrated life.
You may find more information on the webpage for the Order’s Institute for Augustinian Spirituality (ISA).
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate” (Lk 6:36).
Mercy, as the expression of love, is without a doubt at the center of the Christian life. Pope Francis, who wished to call for a Jubilee for the Church under the title of Mercy, reminds us the Jesus Christ is the face of the mercy of God, and because of this, the mystery of the Christian faith presents its synthesis in this Word itself (cf. Misericordiae vultus, 1).
The problems, which emerge in the Church and in the Order always arise, in the final analysis, from the abandonment of a cultivating of a personal and profound relationship with God, from not knowing God: the principal and almost single cause of my errors – Saint Augustine will say – was to hold on to a mistaken idea of God (cf. Conf. 5,10,19). Because of this we must not forget that God is love and that Christ is the face of that love with which God loves us, as we are reminded in a beautiful way by Pope Benedict XVI: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus caritas est, 1). Probably one of our greatest challenges today as Christians is to take care of the truth and the quality of our love and, perhaps, to go back to the authenticity and to the power of our first love (cf. Apoc. 2, 4).
Love expresses itself in choices and in the realization of actions. Fidelity to Jesus, as I stressed in my first discourse as Prior General (cf. Acta Ordinis, 66 (2013), 191-196), leads us to focus our life on the principle of mercy, and, because of this, not to close ourselves in on ourselves, on our own security and on our own comfortableness, but rather to place ourselves where we encounter suffering, to stand in the trenches, together with the wounded. Our areas of work are many. So also our activities are many, but as religious and as an Order, if we are not built on compassion, all that we do will be without doubt irrelevant and not only will our apostolate be false but also our religious life and our Christian witness will not be credible.
We are witnessing the greatest exodus of refugees since the Second World War and it threatens to become a human catastrophe. It is a human drama of enormous proportions that cannot leave us indifferent. Although this affects Europe primarily, we all must respond to the outcry of those in need. It is a requirement of charity. Certainly, those oppressed by misery have been and always are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2448). Precisely our tradition as a mendicant Order, having arisen to be in the forefront of the Church and for service to humanity, prompts us to listen to this cry for help, to allow ourselves to be challenged by this and to respond in an effective and generous way. Our Augustinian charism did not develop from a flight from the world, but rather as an insertion into the world as the place of God’s love. The call of the needy Christ, who seeks hospitality (cf. Mt 25:31-46) is directed to every brother in the Order, to every sister of contemplative life, to every lay person who lives Augustinian spirituality, especially the members of Augustinian Spirituality groups, to each person and to all of us together. Augustinian communities should be known for being places where anyone can see a response that is freer, bolder, prompter, more intense, and more creative in the face of the need for mercy and for compassion. “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”
a. The conversion of the heart
“I will take from your body the heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ez 36:26)
The first step is to seek the interior transformation that permits us “to hear” humanity in need, the poor and the excluded. A society of comfort can lead to not only the danger of a growing secularization in our way of life, but also to the increase of self-centeredness, the fear of losing security for those who have lost the security of Christ and who, therefore, are viscerally opposed to any kind of risk. By no means, can xenophobic commentaries be acceptable, nor the comments that trivialize the tragedy of thousands and thousands of people who, fleeing from war and persecution, knock at the doors of Europe seeking the opportunity and the possibility of a better world, seeking hope.
All these refugees, coming from wherever they come from, are the family of Jesus and yet it seems that there is no room at the inn for them (cf. Lk 2,7). They ask for a response from us. This response, which we must give both individually and as an institution, must not be blocked by fear, by selfishness, or by political interests. Not to respond is to be an accomplice; to avoid responsibility is to contribute to the evil. When these tragedies are minimized, or when someone says that it is the responsibility for governments alone, is not the sadness of one’s own emptiness being shown, and ultimately, is not the falsehood of living one’s vocation being demonstrated?
May the Lord grant us a compassionate heart so that we can see the needy person as a subject and not as an object, as a person and not as a number, as a living reality and not as fiction. Certainly, “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts” (Gaudium et spes, 1).
b. Some considerations
“Come you, blessed of my Father…because I was a stranger and you took me in (Mt 25: 34-35).
Pope Francis has presented us with a very specific request: “Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who flee death from war and hunger, and who have begun a journey moved by hope for survival, the Gospel calls us to be ‘neighbors’ of the smallest and the abandoned, and to give them concrete hope. It’s not enough to say, ‘Take heart. Be patient’.... Christian hope has a fighting spirit, with the tenacity of one who goes toward a sure goal. Therefore, as the Jubilee of Mercy approaches, I make an appeal to parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines throughout Europe, that they express the Gospel in a concrete way and host a refugee family. A concrete gesture in preparation for the Holy Year of Mercy. May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every shrine of Europe welcome one family, beginning with my Diocese of Rome” (Allocution during the Angelus, 6 September 2015).
With this in mind, I appeal to all the brothers and sisters of the Order, especially those who live in Europe:
* I ask each major superior of the circumscriptions of Europe, in conjunction with their councils, to study, with a sense of urgency, the ways to respond to this call of the Pope.
* The major superior, in dialogue with local priors, Augustinian pastors and with those responsible in the Order’s Secretariat of Justice and Peace, to concretize the way in which each community or parish can host and care for at least one family of refugees. That is: to find accommodations (in their structures or in other places) and to care for their material and spiritual needs: housing, food, education, clothing, work, health assistance, legal questions, etc. For those communities with fewer resources, they can collaborate with others.
* This theme is to be discussed in the local chapters of the religious communities and in parish councils.
* To seek a greater effectiveness and coordination by collaborating with diocesan and inter-congregational structures.
* For circumscriptions outside of Europe: we all know of similar situations, which exist in many parts of the world, where the reality of displaced persons and of refugees is also alarming. However, here it is necessary to consider the best way to help and to collaborate.
* For circumscriptions or communities who wish to collaborate with economic aid, a special fund will be established in the General Curia to channel these contributions.
* I ask the major superiors of the Order to inform me concerning what has been determined in their circumscriptions with regard to the assistance of refugees. This information should be sent to the Secretary General of the Order.
* I convoke a day in the whole Order to pray for refugees, for persecuted Christians and for the victims of war. This will take place on 16 November 2015, the International Day for Tolerance, and in a way that includes the laity. The Institute of Augustinian Spirituality will send out instructions and materials.
I wish to express my deepest gratitude for whatever can be done to mobilize resources for those who need our help most urgently, knowing that opening ourselves to the boldness of the Gospel will benefit us also; helping others helps each one of us as well as the Order, as in the words of Saint John Paul II, “Man attains to the merciful love of God, His mercy, to the extent that he himself is interiorly transformed in the spirit of that love towards his neighbor” (Dives in misericordia, 14).
May Mary, Mother of Consolation, protect us and accompany us.
Given in Rome, 16 September 2015
Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón
Prior General, OSA
The Order of Saint Augustine begins a course of formation and spiritual deepening as we move toward the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy with a series of reflections made by friars of the Order, published on YouTube and on the principal channels of communication of the Order. The Word of God and the deepening of its understanding in the light of Augustinian thought and in the light of the Augustinian charism are central in this proposed course in preparation for the extraordinary Jubilee event that will begin this coming December.
The first reflection was given by Fr. Joseph Farrell, the Vicar General of the Order of Saint Augustine, on the eve of the Feast of Saint Augustine which will be celebrated, Friday, 28 August and which will be celebrated by Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli, the Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo in a solemn pontifical liturgy at the tomb of Saint Augustine in the ancient Basilica of San Pietro in Ceil d’Oro. “As Augustinians, I believe that a way in which we can best prepare for the Jubilee Year is to re-discover, to discover anew, the treasure of wisdom, spirituality, and faith that we have in the writings of Saint Augustine,” Fr. Farrell explains. The references to Mercy in the works of Saint Augustine are particularly relevant and also very numerous because Augustine was mindful of the great mercy that he received in the course of his own life. “The Letters, the Sermons, the Expositions on the Psalms of Saint Augustine contain numerous references to Mercy, which brought him to his own conversion and which he continually received in the course of his life,” Fr. Farrell emphasized as he spoke on the day that the Church remembers Saint Monica, Augustine’s mother, August 27. She was the one who prayed for her son’s conversion and experienced this mercy of God.
Fr. Joseph Farrell in the first of these brief videos, reminds us of an example of Mercy in the works of Saint Augustine, as Augustine comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son: “When the merciful father comes close to his prodigal son he puts his hands on his son’s shoulders and it is as if he places on his shoulders Christ himself. No other burden is placed on the shoulders of the prodigal son. Thanks to mercy, the weight that the prodigal son was carrying has become lightened thanks to Christ, the Mercy of God.” Fr. Farrell concludes by inviting all to reflect on the writings of Saint Augustine as a reflection on the place of mercy in our lives and on the need to share mercy with our sisters and brothers.
The portrait of our Prior General, Alejandro Moral Antón, OSA has arrived in Rome and will be placed in the Curia next to the portraits of the previous Priors General. This portrait, created by the artist Giuseppe Antonio Lomuscio, will hang on the wall of the second floor of the Curia and will join the long line of other portraits which adorn the walls of the ground floor and the first and second floors of the Generalate. Although Alejandro Moral Antón, OSA is the 97th Prior General, he is the 96th friar to serve as Prior General of the Order of Saint Augustine because Clement of Osimo served two non-consecutive terms.