THE GREETING OF PRIOR GENERAL, ROBERT PREVOST OSA, TO POPE FRANCIS
August 28, 2013
With great joy the Order of Saint Augustine – represented here by the members of the General Chapter – wishes to express its extreme gratitude for your very kind and generous decision to accept the invitation to accompany us in this celebration at the beginning of our Chapter work. You offer us today a wonderful opportunity to listen to your words, your message, during this important moment of great importance in the life of the Order.
Today, the Solemnity of our Holy Father Augustine, in this basilica dedicated to his memory, and where the mortal remains of his mother, Saint Monica, are venerated, is a particularly significant moment for this encounter. If Saint Augustine is our father, our ‘spiritual founder’, the Church is our ‘true mother and initiator’ – as Jordan of Saxony, one of the first Augustinian chroniclers, wrote. Our configuration and our style of life, in fact, share with the other Mendicant Orders the same objectives and have their roots in the same historical period; but with an important difference: the historical establishment of the Order of Saint Augustine is the fruit of a decision of your predecessors, Popes Innocent IV and Alexander IV, who, in the course of the 13th Century, united in a single Mendicant Order various eremitical communities and congregations which were following the Rule of Saint Augustine. The care manifested by the Apostolic See toward the Order from its birth has marked in a specific way its spiritual life, its theological thought, and the activity of the Augustinians who have always felt especially committed to the service of the Universal Church. The devotion and fidelity of the Order to the Supreme Pontiffs also have their origin here [Const. n. 3].
For this start of the General Chapter we wished to have represented also the other branches of the wider Augustinian Family. For this reason, in addition to the capitulars of all the Augustinian circumscriptions in the world and their collaborators, there are present with us some friars from communities closer by, our nuns, religious women from various congregations which are aggregated to the Order, and some lay persons, members of various fraternities. Their presence reminds us always of the many gifts and charisms which God gives his People and adds a precious element to this celebration. Together with you, Holy Father, we are happy to remember, as Saint Augustine teaches us, that we are all members of the Church and servants of God, and if we love Christ, we cannot but love the Church, in all of its parts and in all its beauty, because She is truly the Christus totus, the Body of the Lord who has loved us and has given himself for us.
Holy Father, some days ago, when we learned that you would be present with us in this celebration, someone asked me: “What would you like the Pope to say to the General Chapter?” It truly made me think, and I am not sure of the answer. But I found in one of the sermons of Saint Augustine words which could serve as a response. Augustine reminds us of the importance of walking in unity, together with the entire Church:
” … if, for traveling companions, walking together is a reason for mutual joy, what joy will they not have in our homeland! Along this path the witnesses (martyrs) struggled and advanced always in the struggle, in proceeding they never stopped. In fact, all who love, always move forward … and the path that we take seeks travelers. It loathes three categories of persons: those who stop, those who turn back, those who wander off. With the help of the Lord, may our proceeding be protected and defended against these three negative categories. Now, in reality, walking together, one goes more slowly, another more quickly; however, both move forward.” (Sermon 306B)
Holy Father, your presence with us today, will help us to renew our commitment to move forward with resolve, with love, and will help us to strengthen our conviction of walking always together with the whole Church.
One month has passed since the celebration of World Youth Day, in which many of us present here took part. We want to thank you, Holy Father, for all that you did in Rio de Janeiro. The enthusiasm of those days is still alive, and not only as a memory. Our desire is that today, too, the Lord, through your presence with us, will illumine our minds, move our hearts, inspire our lives, just as happened with so many young people in Brazil; so that this celebration and our Chapter might be promising occasions (kairos) in which to respond more generously to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to serve, with great love and courage, the Church, as well as our brothers and sisters and every person of our time wherever there is need. Thank you, Holy Father, thank you from our hearts for this great gift which you have wished to give today to the spiritual family of Augustine!