“Forge ahead, my brothers and sisters; always examine yourselves without self-deception, without flattery, without buttering yourselves up. Always be dissatisfied with what you are, if you want to arrive at what you are not yet. Because wherever you are satisfied with yourself, there you have stuck. If, though, you say, “that’s enough, that’s the lot,” then even you perished. Always add some more, always keep walking, always forge ahead.”
– St. Augustine, Sermon 169
Augustinian Values Institute
Augustinian Core Values in the Schools
Since the mid-1980s, Augustinians began to develop more carefully their understanding of the Augustinian school. Reflection on the values and Augustinian philosophy of education continued on many fronts including the use of organizational practices mentioned earlier. Insights of Augustinians in other parts of the world, especially Spain, were helpful. The search for greater clarity and accessibility was spurred on by the need to share foundational insights with the great number of collaborators joining Augustinian educational endeavors.
In 1993, the Augustinian Prior General Miguel Angel Orcasitas, O.S.A., addressed a letter on education to all the friars of the Order entitled “The Augustinian School and the New Evangelization,” and in 1999 the U.S. Augustinian Provincials published their “Augustinian Vision of Education” paper.
St. Augustine and Augustinian Core Values in Education
In the vast writings of St. Augustine, we find no systematic and clear presentation of a scheme for Christian education, what we might call, in the manner of Cardinal Newman, Augustine’s “Idea of a University.” Augustine did write three treaties which explicitly move toward and sometimes circle the subject of teaching and education, but he does not speak of core values that might inform his view of education, he offers no handbook.
Identification of three values or unifying virtues are the result of reflection on the life and teachings of Augustine and the experience of those who have been touched by their experience with him and with them. The Orcasitas letter and the U.S. Provincials’ vision paper offer the synthesis of that reflection and put them in the context of cited writings by Augustine.
These values are the signature set of overarching and integrative aspects of Augustine’s life and teaching. They represent life-long characteristics of Augustine’s life and represent his window on the Gospel realized in his words, experience, and practice.
While the life of Augustine is unique in its history and challenges and resulting response, his prevailing values offer a unifying Christian pathway for others in their lives and ministry - in the present as it has been for many others in the past.
The Content of Augustinian Core Values
Augustinian educators are engaged in the search for God through the pursuit of truth. They seek union with God through love and union with God and others in the school faith community.
We regard our purpose in the Christian formation and education of students as an essentially pastoral activity. We teach the truth with love, and our students acquire, along with a human and scientific culture, a knowledge of the world, of life, and of humanity that is enlightened by faith. We see education as being about the whole person and done in a community context.
Unitas (Unity, Community)
Union with God and Others in the School Faith Community
The Christian understanding of being one with one another is based on our common origin in creation by God and re-creation in Christ.
In the words of Paul, we are one body. With the Church, we attempt to renew the experience of the early Christian community where “the community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts 5:32)
The relationships within the community are nourished by the oneness of Christ with each of us and His presence in the community.
Markers of the presence of the value, what does “Unitas” look like?
- Eagerness to serve the common good
- Respect for one another, our diversity, and our talents
- Shared identity and membership
- Welcoming and lasting friendships
- Expressions of unity in community gatherings (e.g. Mass, assemblies, rallies)
- Realization of the universality of the Church and awareness of being members of a global community
- Shared common experiences in short, studies, and service.
The Search for God through the Pursuit of Truth
We are rooted in the truth about ourselves, we are aware that God is the source of all truth. With faith and reason, like two great wings, we fly to Truth.
Augustine insists that we are to “teach the truth in love.”
Markers of the presence of the value, what does “Veritas” look like?
- To tell the truth
- To search for truth in friendships
- To be serious about the hard work, self discipline, and self-awareness that honest study requires
- To know Him who is Truth Incarnate, Jesus Christ, and His saving message
- To know one’s worth as a child of God and the transcendent dignity of every human person
- To explore energetically the physical world and the world of ideas with an openness to the goodness of beauty and reality
- To be able to think in an orderly and critical fashion and to express one’s thoughts clearly and with grace
Union with God through Love
The great commandment of Christ is to love God and to love neighbor. God is love. The school community and relationships within it are a special place where this love finds expression.
More than any one word can express (be it love, concern devotion, compassion, caring), “caritas” is that impulse of the Spirit of Jesus that is expressed in hundreds of kind and gracious ways.
It is “active friendship” that encompasses both love of God and neighbor. It is when the head and heart move into action, often with sacrifice, for the good of another or a community.
Markers of the presence of the value, what does “Caritas” look like?
- Being a friend.
- Loving deeds.
- Service to the community.
- Care for the common good.
- Sharing of goods, information, resources, talents.
- Personal interest and support of one another.
- Bearing shared burdens and responsibilities.
We can see that these three values support and express one another. Truth acquired through both faith and reason is the basis for our understanding of reality. Truth about God as creator and source of life along with the coming of Jesus to be one with us supports our love for one another. This union with God and one another is evidenced in Christian community.
The Augustinian Values Institute (AVI) is a program of the Augustinian Secondary Educational Association (ASEA). The ASEA was established by the Federation of Augustinians of North America (formerly the North American Conference of Augustinian Provincials) to foster unity, efficiency, and continued development within the Augustinian ministry of secondary education. The Association is a forum and vehicle for the sharing of resources, for the advancement of the Augustinian charism and values, for the promotion of secondary education as a vital and proper ministry of the Order, and for assuring authentic Augustinian identity in the schools.
Immediate Goals of the AVI
- To establish clarity of mission
- To understand the Augustinian underpinnings of our mission
- To state and clarify Augustinian values
- To develop language which expresses these values
- To see, explore, and apply their implications and expectactions
- To develop enthusiasm, dedication, and common purpose in our schools
Long Term Goals
- To gather a group of faculty, staff and board members of Augustinian high schools (from North America) and throughout the world) to continue the investigation as a platform for development
- To provide an opportunity to develop curriculum “for further information (for example: reading is, affinity groupings, regional groupings, support groups within schools, etc.)”
- To establish a series of opportunities for ASEA (Augustinian Secondary Education Association) sponsored events to continue the process and response to needs and insights