Chapter of Our Lady Of Grace
WHAT IS A SECULAR AUGUSTINIAN
“The Whole Augustinian Family, in accordance with the Apostolic See, is composed of four branches or parts: Brothers under the jurisdiction of the Prior General; Sisters of contemplative life; Religious congregations of apostolic life and secular fraternities -- Societies that bear the name and follow the Magisterium of St. Augustine.” (OSA Constitutions no. 44)
Secular Augustinians are one branch of the Augustinian family, made up of lay people (men and women) who are called to live the Christian faith following the inspiration of Augustinian spirituality, and recognized as a lay organization by the Church.
A Secular Augustinian shares the Religious Order’s spirit and is governed by the Order and collaborates in its work. Yet its members do not take public vows nor live the community life. Their rule is designed for people ‘living in the world’.
THE AUGUSTINIAN FAMILY
All Christians are called to holiness, to be children of God the Father. The Family of the Augustinian Order is made up of those who choose the priesthood, those who have chosen to embrace marriage, those who live in virginity or in celibacy and even in poverty and obedience, but in the world. The Holy Spirit brought the Family into being in the Church, and its purpose is to follow Christ and spread his message under the spiritual leadership and teachings of St. Augustine. All of us, its members, each to his or her ability, are called upon to lend our generous assistance to make a reality the ideal which St. Augustine described in his writings and sealed with the example of his own life; that is, unity of minds and hearts intent upon God.
HISTORY OF THE SECULAR AUGUSTINIAN
From the very beginning of the movement initiated by St. Augustine many laymen, attracted and edified by the spiritual beauty of Augustinian monasticism yet prohibited from embracing it because of their vocation in life, approached St. Augustine and his monks for spiritual guidance. They wanted to lead a deeper more regulated life, as monastic as their circumstances permitted. Many of St. Augustine’s extant letters are addressed to such petitioners directing them on the path of spiritual progress and perfection. This spirit on the part of individual laymen, seeking affiliation with a monastic institution, was the seed which during the following centuries developed and matured into what today is recognized as the Lay or Secular Augustinians.
Nature and Purpose
Through Baptism, all Christians are called to be children of God the Father. From its birth in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday, the Church has been the assembly of brothers and sisters, with Jesus Himself as the eldest brother. Secular Augustinians are called to give witness to this spirit of community through their profession in the Order.
Secular Augustinians have an important place in the Augustinian Family. They do not live a vowed life in the community but do share in the charism of community as they participate in the life of the local chapter. Guided by the spirit and inspired by the vision of St. Augustine, they are called upon to labour in the service of the Lord, each in his own way (married or single), working to build the Kingdom of Christ in the world. They are, therefore, an integral part of the Augustinian Order and an extension of it in areas where Religious would have little access: offices, shops, factories, family and social areas of lay life.
Secular Augustinians are committed to sharing their Christian calling from the perspective of Augustinian spirituality, united in faith and community to the world wide Augustinian family. They are witnesses to the values of Christian life, each in their own way, in the family and the workplace, working to build the kingdom of Christ in the world.
The Guide for Augustinian Lay Fraternities and the Statutes are the Secular Augustinian’s particular laws. These function to give structural form to Augustine's “Rule of Life”.
The ‘Rule of St. Augustine’, together with ‘Guide for Augustinian Lay Fraternities’, which expands its principal theme, gives the fundamental principles of Augustinian spirituality. In the very beginning of the Rule, Augustine insists on obedience to the two main commandments: love of God and love of neighbour.
Secular Augustinians, moved by the love of God and love of their fellowmen, pledge themselves to renew the temporal order and make this a better world in which to live.
The Secular Augustinians believe that the emblem of the Order definitely symbolizes the basis of Augustinian Spirituality. The open book represents the Word of God. It also represents the intellectual searching which must be part of a living faith. The flaming heart suggests that love must be progressively profound and even passionate. The arrow recalls the divine energy, the stimulating grace, which must be the source of thinking and loving. It represents the very Spirit of God, dynamically piercing the minds and hearts and calling each one to a vivid and continual experience of the growth of faith, hope and love in each one’s personalities. The emblem then, portrays the fundamental thrust of charism: the inner experience of grace moving us to learn to love and to live toward God. This is what “interiority” really is.
The Motto of the Order, “One mind and heart unto God”, adds a second feature to the charism: “community”. Secular Augustinians must work to build up and support each other intellectually and affectively. Each one seeks to become profound communicators of whom and what we are. This calls for self sacrifice as it demands that each one open themselves to one another so that each can appreciate and love each other more profoundly and genuinely. Augustinian Community means making real communication happen each and every day of life together: at worship, prayer, work, meals, recreation and every practical opportunity.
STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER
Our Lady of Grace Chapter of Secular Augustinians is governed by Statutes, which were revised in 2001, approved by the membership, and by the Prior General.
The life, growth and welfare of the Secular Augustinians are the shared responsibility of all the members. Members are all responsible for the progress of the Chapter and its membership. Sharing a single spirit and a single mission, though from different specific vocations, requires mutual knowledge, a relationship of trust and the fundamental belief that unity and communion are the basic elements of Augustinian spirituality.
Spirituality animates the life and internal dynamic of the group, giving it meaning and substance. This is done through the study of scripture, the teachings of the Church and thoughts of St. Augustine, through which members will gain a deeper knowledge and growth in spirituality
According to the Statutes and in practice, the Chapter meets monthly on the third Sunday of every month, after the Sunday Liturgy. Each meeting focuses on a theme related to Christian life and spirituality.
The Chapter is under the leadership of a President and three (3) Councillors who together form the Council. The President and the Councillors are elected from the membership and serve for a period of two years.
The Prior Provincial of St. Joseph’s Province appoints the Spiritual Director. It is the responsibility of the Spiritual Director to receive the promises of new members, meet with new candidates and promote the Augustinian spirit in all aspects of the Chapter.
The Secular Augustinian Chapter is open to practising Catholic laymen and women eighteen years and older who are willing to receive a Christian formation according to the Augustinian spirit and accept the responsibility of participating in the life of the Chapter. One cannot belong to another Secular Order.
The Statutes allow for a period of formation that constitutes a minimum of two years with various stages: introduction, initial acquaintance and formation period. Each stage allows for participation in Chapter meetings and activities, and provides time for reflection before moving to the next stage.
During the formation period, under the guidance of the Spiritual Director, the candidate:
· Studies the Gospel, the “On the Way with St. Augustine” (Augustinian Lay Fraternities), and the Statutes
· Makes a careful decision about his/her readiness to commit to the making of the promises
· Seeks to live the Christian life with greater fidelity
· Is present at the monthly Chapter meetings, and participates in the activities of the Chapter
After the formation period has been completed, the novice is required to write a formal letter to the Spiritual Director seeking acceptance as a member of the Secular Augustinians. This must be signed and approved by the Director before the promises can be taken.
Secular Augustinians commit themselves to:
· live the Gospel in the spirit of St. Augustine
· follow the Rule* and obey the General of the Order and Chapter Statutes
· a personal response to the vocation of Christian Faith
· simplicity of life in keeping with the spirit of the Beatitudes
· attend and participate in the liturgies and meetings of the chapter
· support the initiatives and projects adopted by the Chapter
· participate in celebrations with Augustinian religious communities, such as the Feast of St. Augustine
· participate in the life of the local Church
· commitment to social justice
Optional Spiritual Activities
The ‘Rule of Life’ of the Secular Augustinian
“… one heart and one soul intent upon God”
If you are a practising Catholic lay person who wishes to live a deeper spiritual life in the spirit of St. Augustine under the guidance of the Augustinians and would like further information, please contact:
Father Leo Cameron O.S.A.
Prior, Marylake Monastery
P.O. Box 550
13760 Keele Street
King City, Ontario Canada, L7B 1A7
Father Leo Cameron: firstname.lastname@example.org (Prior, Marylake Monastery)
Mary Dawson: email@example.com (President, Chapter of Our Lady of Grace)