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Pope Francis urges faithful to be restless like St Augustine

By on Friday, 30 August 2013

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica of St Augustine, Rome (Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica of St Augustine, Rome (Photo: CNS)

St Augustine said people’s hearts are restless until they rest in God, but too many people allow their hearts to be “anesthetised” and no longer search for God and for love, Pope Francis has said.

Celebrating the saint’s feast day with members of the Order of St Augustine, Pope Francis prayed that they would always be restless in their search for God, their desire to share the Gospel and their drive to demonstrate their love for everyone they meet.

Although the Vatican described the liturgy as a “private” Mass with members of the Augustinian fathers’ general chapter, hundreds of people gathered outside Rome’s Basilica of St Augustine to get a glimpse of the Pope and shake his hand. The Pope obliged before entering the church.

Ninety members of the order, founded in 1244, were gathered in the basilica to open their order’s general chapter and elect a successor to US Fr Robert Prevost, who has completed two six-year terms and is ineligible to serve again.

In his homily, Pope Francis said St Augustine’s use of the term “restlessness” was striking and led him to think about three basic areas in which every Christian should be restless: in the spiritual life, in the search for God and in love for others.

Augustine lived a life like that of many young people today, the Pope said.

“He was educated by his mother Monica in the Christian faith, although he was not baptised, but as he grew he moved away from it. He didn’t find in it the answer to his questions, to the desires of his heart and he became attracted to other things.”

He studied, he had fun, “he knew intense love” and began a brilliant career as a teacher of rhetoric, the Pope said. “He had arrived in every way.”

“But in his heart, there remained the restlessness of the search for the profound meaning of life,” Pope Francis said. “His heart was not asleep, it was not anaesthetised by success, by things, by power.”

Augustine continued to seek God, the Pope said, and “he discovered that God was waiting for him and, in fact, never stopped looking for him first”.

Pope Francis said Christians must “look into your hearts and ask yourself if you have a heart that wants great things or a heart that is asleep. Has your heart maintained that restlessness or has it been suffocated by things?”

Every Christian, he said, must “let yourself be restless for God” and, like St Augustine, never tire of sharing the good news of God’s love and promise of salvation with others who are as lost as he was.

The Pope, who as a cardinal would visit the basilica during trips to Rome to pray at the tomb of St Monica, mother of St Augustine, said St Augustine must have learned to love God and others from his mother.

“How many tears that holy woman shed for the conversion of her son. And how many mothers today shed tears that their children would return to Christ,” Pope Francis said. “Don’t lose hope in the grace of God.”

Like St Monica, he said, Christians are called to love others to the point of shedding tears for their well-being and salvation.

Too often in religious life, he said, “community means comfort”, and just as some people don’t know their neighbors, some religious don’t know their confreres.

“The restlessness of love always pushes you forward to go out and encounter the other without waiting for the other to tell us what he needs,” the Pope said.

  • NatOns

    ‘“The restlessness of love always pushes you forward to go out and encounter the other without waiting for the other to tell us what he needs,” the Pope said.’

    Indeed so, for Augustine’s rather bemused flock of fishermen’s families and and commercial interests heard from his lips and saw in his actions that some officials among men were to be both loved and feared – yes, feared – this office abundantly applied to him for that very same soul searching interest in others for the Lord’s sake .. which the Accuser is never slow in perverting by his own wiles.

    ‘The desire to be feared and loved of men, with no other view than that I may experience a joy therein which is no joy, is a miserable life, and unseemly ostentation. Hence especially it arises that we do not love Thee, nor devoutly do we fear Thee. And therefore Thou resistest the proud, but givest grace unto the humble (Jam 4 : 6); and Thou thunderst upon the ambitious designs of the world, and the foundations of the hills tremble (Ps 18 : 7). Because now certain offices of human society render it necessary to be loved and feared of men, the adversary of our true blessedness presses hard upon us, everywhere scattering his snares of the call: “well done, well done”; that while acquiring them eagerly, we may be caught unaware, and disunite our joy from Thy truth, and fix it on the deceits of men; and take pleasure in being loved and feared, not for Thy sake, but in Thy stead, by which means, being made like him, he may have them as his, not in harmony of love, but in the fellowship of punishment; who aspired to exalt his throne in the north, (Is 14 : 13-14) that in dark and chill they might serve him, imitating Thee in perverse and distorted ways.’ Augustine, Confessions 10:36.

  • Benedict Carter

    An ant’s nest in Portugal once made me rather restless.

    What is he wittering on about? At this rate the Delphic Oracle will have to make a comeback.