St. Augustine of Canterbury
St. Augustine of Canterbury is like so many of the reluctant heroes we read about in stories. He entered a monastery fully expecting to spend his whole life inside its walls. Instead, he was sent to the edge of the civilized world, called by Pope Gregory the Great to go to Britain and bring Christianity to the people there. In a letter to Augustine, Pope Gregory gave a very simple reason for why he was sending him: “we are seeking in Britain brothers whom we do not know.”
At the start of the week, we spoke of the unity that the Holy Spirit gives to us. Here, we see a manifestation of that. Gregory and Augustine feel a kinship with the people in Britain–though neither of them are British–and so wish to seek them out and bring Christ to them. They feel the unity, and know that the unity will only be deepened by bringing the Britons into the Church. There are no limits to the people that the Holy Spirit can bring together in this unity. Do we ourselves believe in this boundless unity, and seek out brethren whom we do not even know?
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.