Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Saint Augustine with members of the Augustinian Order on the occasion of their 184thGeneral Chapter. The Church is the site of the remains of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine.
Beginning his homily, the Holy Father reflected on the restlessness of the human spirit, as described by St. Augustine in the first book of his “Confessions”: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
The Holy Father focused on three aspects of Augustine’s restlessness: “the restlessness of the spiritual quest, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.”
Regarding the restlessness of the spiritual quest, Pope Francis recalled the early life of the Bishop of Hippo who although raised in the Christian faith, distanced himself in order to pursue the burning questions of his life.
“Augustine is an ‘accomplished’ man, he has everything, but in his heart remains the restlessness of the search of the profound meaning of his life; his heart is not asleep. I would say that it is not anesthetized by success, from things, from power,” the Pope said.
“Augustine does not close in on himself, he does not rest, he continues to search for the truth, the meaning of life, he continues to search for the face of God. Of course he makes mistakes, he also takes wrong paths, he sins, he is a sinner; but he does not lose the restlessness of the spiritual quest. And in this way he discovers that God was waiting for him, on the contrary, that He never gave up looking for him first”
The Holy Father called on not only those who have strayed from the faith, but those within the Church who distance themselves from God in small ways in their everyday life, to look within themselves and ask if their heart still desires something greater.
The Restlessness of the Heart and Love
Speaking on the second aspect, the restlessness of the encounter with God, Pope Francis told those gathered that upon his conversion, Augustine is compelled to discover God every day in his role as Pastor of Hippo. St. Augustine, he said, seeks to be the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who carries with him “the scent of his flock”.
The restlessness of the encounter with God, he continued, beckons all Christians to announce the Word of God and make Christ known to all.
“We can ask ourselves: am I restless for God, to announce him, to make him known? Or do I let myself be enchanted by that spiritual worldliness that urges to do all for love of one self?” the Pope asked.
Reflecting on the final aspect, Pope Francis used the image of St. Monica as an example of one’s restless love for another. The Holy Father encouraged those mothers who today weep for their children’s conversion, exclaiming: “Do not lose hope in God’s grace!”
The tears of St. Monica, the Pope continued, sowed the “seed of restlessness” in St. Augustine that moved him to seek the well-being of his flock. “Here, then, the restlessness of love: always seeking, without stopping, the good of the other, of a loved one, with that intensity that leads to tears,” the Holy Father said. The Pope also warned those in consecrated life of being closed in on themselves, saying that such an attitude leads to the temptation of living the community life as “comunita-comodita” [community-comfort].
Concluding his homily, the Holy Father called on the Augustinians to carry within them the restlessness of love that “gives us the gift of pastoral fruitfulness.”
“Let us ask the Lord for you, dear Augustinians, who begin the General Chapter, and for all of us, that he may preserve in our heart the spiritual restlessness to search Him always, the restlessness to announce with courage, the restlessness of love towards every brother and sister,” the Pope concluded.