by Friar Joseph Augustine, AIHM
From an Augustinian point of view, love is anything but mushy. Love is the day to day grind of placing another’s interests above one's own. For Augustine, love is made real in community, that is one’s family, co-workers, the people we see and deal with everyday.
Love is doing what is best for another despite all of the annoying and even disturbing things that they do day after day. Love is caring for the sick in your midst who remind us of our own frailty, correcting your sister or brother in light of your own imperfections risking their anger, giving one help who has so much already that you must fight your own human jealousy. Love is asking for forgiveness risking rejection and then having to turn around and forgive another even though part of you isn’t ready.
Finally, Augustine says, “do not let your love for one another be caught up in self love…for pride lurks even in our good works, seeking to destroy them.” (Rule, chapters 6.3 and 1.7)
Love is hard work for humans because it means being vigilant in keeping the spotlight turned on another and away from oneself. And, it can only really manifest itself in community. For when love is real and manifest, everyone’s needs are being met, by each other. One need not worry about their own needs for that is the job of their brothers and sisters. Very risky to place one’s needs in another’s hands. You need not worry about the spotlight shining on you, let it shine on another and their love will reflect it back on you. Love requires great courage and integrity, not sentiment.
Augustine focused on Paul’s idea that love must be found in one’s actions. One’s choices and actions shows where their heart’s desire is. Paul said show me your faith and I will show you the good works that bear witness to my faith. If your heart desires God then you will love, really try to love in deeds and choices and actions.
Let me end with an example. There was a friar at Villanova with whom I lived as a postulant. He often arrived at Morning Prayer early and would be chomping on his cereal in choir as everyone else arrived. He had the liturgical sensibilities of a mule in a china shop. He grated on me, and most of the friars with whom he lived, like cheese. But, he was one of my strongest supporters that year when things were difficult, often encouraging me and telling me I had the Augustinian spirit. He helped to found the Center for Justice at the University, peace and justice were his life.
He passed a few years back and although he was difficult to live with, his funeral was packed by friars, students, and family whom he touched is his gruffness in ways one can only imagine.
He was an ex-marine…nothing mushy about him at all! But he LOVED much and was loved in return not by what he said but because of what he did that made a difference to others.