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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Jean-François Petit aa: Community Life: from ideal to reality

Fr Jean-Francois Petit aa

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Two further articles by Jean-François Petit aa are also available on this website. They are Thomas Merton and Augustine and The Art of Discernment.  

This article was written by Jean-François Petit a.a. for the magazine, “Itinéraires augustiniens," of the Augustinians of the Assumption. It was later translated into English for APAC by the North American Assumptionist Province. Reproduced with permission.This article was written by Jean-François Petit a.a. for the magazine, “Itinéraires augustiniens," of the Augustinians of the Assumption. It was later translated into English for APAC by the North American Assumptionist Province. Reproduced with permission.
 
From the ideal to reality 
 
We exhort you in the Lord to persevere faithfully in your holy vocation until the end. (Letter 48 to Eudoxius) 
 
To understand the Augustinian concept of community life, one must place oneself in the context of the time. At the end of the fourth century, many thought that expansion of Christianity was finished: it was “spread throughout the world”. Heretofore, it was time to organize the forms of community life. Since the resurrection of Christ, Christians considered themselves already in the final times. The world’s population seemed assured. The task that needed to take place was to set up a spiritual people. Community life was to integrate itself with this perspective. 
 
In general, when it is a question of justifying community life, Augustine refers himself to the first community of Jerusalem (Acts 4:31-35), since it traced the ideal for a radical Christianity, the anticipation of the celestial Jerusalem. But in order to discover the richness of his idea of community life, one must not only look at his Rule, in which this ideal is expressed. Sermons 355-356 and the Letter 211 give precious insights not only of the ideal, but also on the reality as it was lived, and at times lived badly, in the monasteries of Augustine. Let us now strive mainly, starting with these two documents, to elucidate its main concrete traits. 
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ID404

 

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