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

Written by Fr Richard Peers, posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Day Twelve

3:5. Sick people necessarily take less food so as not to aggravate their condition. During convalescence they are to receive such care as will quickly restore their health, even if they come from the lowest level of poverty in the world. Recent illness has afflicted them with the same frailty which the wealthy possess from their previous manner of life. When sick people have fully recovered, they should return to their happier ways, which are all the more fitting for God’s servants to the extent that they have fewer needs. Food formerly necessary to remedy their illness should not become a pleasure which enslaves them. They should consider themselves richer since they are now more robust in putting up with privations. For it is better to need less than to have more.

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


“There is nothing I shall want.”

We looked at the second line of Psalm 23 right at the start of our reflection on Augustine’s Rule in the context of the pooling of goods that is the common life. The final sentence of this section also reflects the biblical injunction to cease desiring possessions.

This section on illness is not actually very much about being ill but more about the fundamental attitudes of the members of the community. Once again the difference between those who were rich and those who were poor before they entered the community is referred to. It might seem that Augustine goes on about these differences in previous social status rather too much but in fact this is the final reference to them in the Rule. 

Augustine’s understanding of human nature as in some way mis-aligned is apparent in this short passage “a pleasure which enslaves them” is typical of his view of life and our attachments. He is often portrayed as being against pleasure, certainly against sex, and we will see some of his thoughts on that later in the Rule. However, his real concern is freedom, the freedom that comes from grace. Clearly here he is not against the pleasure of slightly better food and is recommending it to enable those who are ill to recover. he just want it not to be something that imprisons them. This freedom he describes with string terms ‘happier’ and ‘richer’.


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