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Nourished by Our Roots - the Rule of Saint Augustine: Day Sixteen

Written by Fr Richard Peers, posted on Sunday, November 22, 2020

Day Sixteen

4:9. If he neglects to mend his ways after such admonition, he should first be reported to the superior, before his behaviour is revealed to others, whose task it is to expose his failing in the event of his denial, so that his misconduct may not somehow be withheld from the others, after he has been corrected privately. But if he denies the charge, then the others are to be summoned without his knowledge so that he can be accused in the presence of all, not by a single witness but by two or three. When convicted, he must submit to the salutary punishment determined by the judgement of the superior, or even that of the priest whose authority embraces such matters. If he refuses to submit to punishment, even if he is determined not to leave, expel him from your society. Even this is not an act of cruelty but of mercy: to prevent the contagion of his life from infecting more people.

V.       You have made us for yourself, O Lord. [Alleluia].
       Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.  [Alleluia].


Six years ago a group of priests met in London to think about our priestly lives and how to build a sense of community. That meeting led to a community that now spans four continents with nearly 160 members and associates. That Sodality of which I am a part has a single aim, holiness: ‘because the world needs holy priests’. I suppose we might think that holiness is all about some kind of spiritual experience after which we never sin again. In fact although the key charisms of our community of priests are joy, friendship, seriousness and diocesan priesthood, it is actually something else, accountability, that most transforms us. Each year we fill in a form reporting on our keeping of the community’s way of life (laid out in our Manual). Over the short time we have existed it has been interesting to see how what people report has changed as accountability begins to have an effect on the way we live and the choices we make.

These sections of the Rule of St Augustine are fundamentally about accountability. It may not be possible for us to belong to a monastic community like Augustine’s or a community of priests like the Sodality I belong to. But all of us can have a Spiritual Director. Spiritual direction is abut accountability. There is some very third-rate literature around about Spiritual Direction, as if it is some sort of religious form of secular counselling. There are real and significant differences. A Spiritual Director should ask simple, straightforward questions which can reveal much about the state of someone’s soul. We’ve already referred to the Archbishop of York’s claim that we should show our Spiritual Director our bank statements.  A good Spiritual Director gains much more from asking 'When do you say your prayers? How often? How long for? Tell me what it feels like when you pray?' although to be fair the latter is a not an unimportant question.

Belonging to the Church, belonging to a community, seriousness in our Christian lives by having a Spiritual Director are all ways of being accountable for the choices we make. Augustine knows that we need accountability. Because of our vulnerabilities, because of the flawed nature of our being, we cannot do this on our own.


May the Lord
grant that we may observe all these things with love,
as lovers of spiritual beauty,
radiating by our lives
the sweet fragrance of Christ,
not like slaves under the law
but as free persons
established in grace.
Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord. 



You can find the full text of the Rule of saint Augustine by clicking here