Cardinal Scola on Why St. Augustine's Appeal Is Unfading

Milan Archbishop to Celebrate Mass at Tomb on Tuesday’s Feast

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By Antonello Sacchi 

ROME, AUG. 27, 2012 ( Cardinal Angelo Scola will celebrate Mass on Tuesday, feast of St. Augustine, at Augustine’s tomb in Pavia, Italy.

The cardinal, who is archbishop of Milan, offered reflections on the enduring message of the bishop of Hippo.

Q: You are going to celebrate the Eucharist at the Tomb of St. Augustine: the singular bond between Ambrose and Augustine in Christian faith in thus renewed. They are pastors of the People of God and masters of culture and spirituality the West. We are a few months before the 17th centenary of the Edict of Milan: What can Ambrose and Augustine can still say about it?

Cardinal Scola: Ambrose and Augustine lived the troubled decades of the transition between the old — represented by the Roman Empire now exhausted and started toward its inexorable decline — and the new one that was on the horizon, but which was not yet clearly outlined. They were immersed in a society in many ways similar to our own, shaken by continuous and radical changes under the pressure of foreign peoples and in the grip of economic depression due to wars and famines.

In these conditions, even in the deep diversity of history and of temperaments, Ambrose and Augustine were indomitable heralds of the coming of Christ to every man, with the humble certainty that the Christian proposal, if freely taken up, is a valuable resource for building the common good.

They were staunch defenders of the truth, regardless of the risk and the difficulties that this entails, knowing that faith does not humiliate reason, but fulfills it, and that Christian morality perfects the natural, without contradiction, and promotes its practice. Borrowing terms from the contemporary debate, we can define them as two champions of the public dimension of faith and of a healthy concept of secularity.

Q: The Holy Father in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei declaring the Year of Faith quotes St. Augustine: Believers, so St. Augustine tells us, strengthen themselves by believing. In the Year of Faith, what can be, in your view, the lesson to be learned from the human and spiritual life of St. Augustine?

Cardinal Scola: Benedict XVI, in one of his general audiences dedicated to St. Augustine, taking up the expression “old world,» said, «Yet, if the world grows old, Christ is perpetually young; hence, the invitation: ‘Do not refuse to be rejuvenated united to Christ, even in the old world. He tells you: Do not fear, your youth will be renewed like that of the eagle'» (cf. Serm. 81, 8). (Benedict XVI, General Audience of January 16, 2008). Augustine is a powerful witness to of the contemporaneity of Christ to every man and profound fittingness of faith to life.
Q: What is the significance of the perennial appeal of the thought and human story of St. Augustine?

Cardinal Scola: It’s the heart inquietum of which he speaks in the beginning of the Confessions. His tireless research, which has fascinated men of all time, is especially valuable for us today, immersed (and often submerged) in the throes of the beginning of the third millennium. A search that does not stop with the horizontal dimension, though vast, but propels one forward in the vertical.

Augustine himself described this scope, when in a passage of his Soliloquies, he says: “Behold I prayed God.» “What do you want to know, then?” “All these things that I asked in prayer.» “Summarize in a few words” “I want to know God and the soul” “And nothing more?” «Nothing at all” (Soliloquies I, 2.7)”.

Q: Your Eminence, who is St. Augustine for you?

Cardinal Scola: A genius of humanity and a great saint, a man that is fully successful. I was impressed, in this regard, with a quote from Jacques Maritain that I often repeat to young people, who are often so obsessed with the problem of success and self-realization: “There is no personality really as perfect as the saints. But how can this be? The saint wanted to develop his own personality? No. He found his personality without looking for it, not searching for it, but for God alone.»

[Translation provided by the Order of St. Augustine]

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