|St Augustine and St Monica|
During his homily, Pope Francis meditated on the famous expression of St Augustine from his Confessions "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (Confessions, I,1,1). "With these words, which became famous, Saint Augustine turns to God in the Confessions, and in these words is the synthesis of his whole life." Pope Francis noted. Continuing on he reflected on the term ""Restlessness". This word strikes me and makes me reflect. Let me begin with a question: What fundamental restlessness did Augustine live in his life? Or perhaps I should say, what kind of restlessness invites us to be mindful of and keep alive in our lives this great man and saint? I propose three: “the restlessness of the spiritual quest, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love."
Full text of homily from Zenit HERE:
Restlessness". This word strikes me and makes me reflect. Let me begin with a question: What fundamental restlessness did Augustine live in his life? Or perhaps I should say, what kind of restlessness invites us to be mindful of and keep alive in our lives this great man and saint? I propose three: “the restlessness of the spiritual quest, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.
1. The first: the restlessness of the spiritual quest. Augustine lives an experience that is very common today: quite common with today's youth. He was educated by his mother Monica in the Christian faith, even if he did not receive Baptism, but growing up he begins to distance himself, he doesn't find in that the answer to his questions, to the desires of his heart, and he is attracted by other proposals. He then enters a group of Manicheans, he devotes himself diligently to his studies, he does not renounce light-hearted fun, in the spectacles of that time, intense friendships, he knows intense love and embarks on a brilliant career as a master of rhetoric that takes him all the way to the imperial court of Milan. Augustine is an "accomplished" man, he has everything, but in his heart remains the restlessness of the search of the profound meaning of his life; his heart is not asleep. I would say that it is not anesthetized by success, by things, by power. Augustine does not close in on himself, he does not rest, he continues to search for the truth, the meaning of life, he continues to search for the face of God. Of course he makes mistakes, he also takes wrong paths, he sins, he is a sinner; but he does not lose the restlessness of the spiritual quest. And in this way he discovers that God was waiting for him, on the contrary, that He never gave up looking for him first. I would like to say to those who feel indifferent towards God, towards the faith, to those who are far from God or have abandoned Him, even to us, with our "distances" and our "abandonment" of God, small, maybe, but there are so many in our everyday life: look deep within your heart, look deep within yourself, and ask yourself: do you have a heart that desires something greater or a heart that is asleep with things? Has your heart preserved the restlessness of searching or do you let it suffocate from things that end up leaving it atrophied? God is waiting for you, he is looking for you: what will you respond? Do you realize this situation of your soul? Or do you sleep? Do you believe that God is waiting for you or is this truth only just "words" to you?
2. In Augustine, there is this restlessness of the heart that leads him to the personal encounter with Christ, it leads him to understand that God that he searched for far from himself, is the God close to every human being, the God close to our heart, more intimate to us than ourselves (cfr ibid.,III,6,11). But also in the discovery and encounter with God, Augustine does not stop, he does not rest, he doesn’t close in on himself as one who has already arrived, but instead continues the way. The restlessness of the search for the truth, of the search of God, becomes the restlessness to know him more and to come out of himself to make him known by others. It is the restlessness of love. He would like a quiet life of study and prayer, but God calls him to be Pastor of Hippo, in a difficult moment, with a community divided and war at their gates. And Augustine lets himself be disquieted by God, he does not tire of announcing Him, of evangelizing with courage, without fear, he looks to be the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep (cfr Jn. 10,14), indeed, as I love to repeat, he "smells of his flock", and goes in search of those that are lost. Augustine lives that which Saint Paul tells Timothy and every one of us: announce the Word, in season and out of season, announce the Gospel with the great magnanimous heart, (cfr 2 Tm, 4,2) of a Pastor who is restless for his sheep. The treasure of Augustine is precisely this attitude: to go out always towards God, to go out always towards the flock…He is a man in tension, between these two exits; not "privatizing" love…always on the way! Always on the move, Father would say. Always restless! And this is the peace of restlessness. We can ask ourselves: am I restless for God, to announce him, to make him known? Or do I let myself be enchanted by that spiritual worldliness that urges to do all for love of one self? We who are consecrated think of personal interests, the functionalism of works, of careerism. There are so many things we can think of…Am I "accommodated", so to speak, in my Christian life, In my priestly life, in my religious life, also in my community life or do I preserve my strength of the restlessness for God, for His Word, that leads me to "go out", towards the others?
3. We come to the final restlessness, the restlessness of love. Here I can't fail to look at the mother: this Monica! How many tears were shed by that holy woman for the conversion of her son! And how many mothers today shed tears so that their own children return to Christ! Do not lose hope in God's grace! In the Confessions, we read this sentence that a bishop said to St. Monica, who had asked him to help her son to rediscover the way of faith: "It is not possible that a son of so many tears would perish" (III,12,21). The same Augustine, after his conversion, turning to God, writes: "For my love my mother wept before you, always faithful, shedding more tears than have ever been spilled by mothers at the death of their children (ibid., III,11,19). Restless woman, this woman, who, in the end, says those beautiful words: cumulatius hoc mihi Deus praestitit! [my God has satisfied me sufficiently] (ibid., IX,10,26). That for which she cried for, God gave it to him abundantly! And Augustine is heir to Monica, from her he receives the seed of restlessness. Here, then, the restlessness of love: always seeking, without stopping, the good of the other, of a loved one, with that intensity that leads to tears. I am reminded of Jesus who weeps before the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. Peter, who, after denying Jesus, meets the rich gaze of mercy and of love and weeps bitterly. The father who awaits on the terrace for his son and when he is still far, runs to meet him; I am reminded of the Virgin Mary who with love follows Her Son Jesus to the Cross. How are we with the restlessness of love? Do we believe in the love of God and towards others? Or are we nominalists on this? Not in an abstract way, not only in words, but the real brother that we meet, the brother who is next to us! Do we let ourselves be restless for their needs or do we remain closed in ourselves, in our community that many times for us is a "comunita-comodita" [community-comfort]? There are times where you can live in an apartment without knowing who lives next door; or one can be in a community, without truly knowing his own brother: with pain I think of those who are consecrated that are not fertile, that are "zitelloni" [elderly bachelors]. The restlessness of love urges us always to go meet the other, without waiting for the other to show his need. The restlessness of love gives us the gift of pastoral fruitfulness, and we should ask ourselves, every one of us: how is my spiritual fruitfulness going, my pastoral fruitfulness?
Let us ask the Lord for you, dear Augustinians, who begin the General Chapter, and for all of us, that he may preserve in our heart the spiritual restlessness to search for Him always, the restlessness to announce with courage, the restlessness of love towards every brother and sister. So be it.