Greetings. Before I commence, I must be absolutely clear... I didn't really like St. Augustine (or for purposes of laziness, Gus) Aside from the fact that I always felt that he had had all the fun in his life and then left us his theology which denied our own "having fun," I always felt that had I been at his side, I probably would've taken him out for a drink, or at least told him to take a chill pill. Needless to say, I always felt a bit of remorse for Monica (Gus' mom) and felt that her Feast Day was always merited, August 27th. I mean, imagine that poor woman having to put up with her mopey son. Or not. Maybe he became the way he was because of her, either way, I digress. The reality is that for the first time in a long time, some of Gus' life and words have resounded deep in my heart. The part that has especially shaken me is his beautiful realization: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you." For many reasons, these words have caused something within me to take leave of my daily routine and look once again toward the One in whom I had found my life. I did. I stopped, I reflected, I listened and I turned to God with the humility of a person who had thought himself in no need of the divine. Much to my surprise, however, I did not encounter a god whose only vision was of me behaving badly (or unworthily of ministry), instead, I found that God was there, God had been there all along and not as a condemning judge who so readily declared me unworthy of His time, but a loving Creator who understood the paths I had taken and why I had taken them. There, as I stood before the loving face of God, for the first time I saw God in a very different way, for the first time, I stood before the awesome love of God and realized, late have I loved thee... For the first time, I came to understand in a real way, not the scientific theological statement which had been declared by Gus, but the profound emotional realization of a person who had found true LOVE! I too have been humbled by the ever present and ever patient love of God, and now have a better understanding of how Gus must have felt. Grant it, he left a worldly life and took on a life of holiness, whereas I had holiness all along, left it and have come to appreciate that once again. Slightly different, but true nonetheless. (If you're still with me and aren't scratching your head in confusion, kudos. If I've lost you and you have no clue what I'm rambling about, my sincerest apologies.) As I reflect on Gus for his Feast, I see for the first time in my life, not a guilt-ridden man who had chosen to inflict the church with chastity and penance, but a man who gave every bit of himself to the One True Love unlike anything else he had ever experienced. And to some extent, that is what we celebrate, what I celebrate on Gus' Feast this year, the witness of a big brother who so radically and profoundly discovered what he had longed to know through so many other things that were created but were not the Creator. We celebrate a love so profound and transcendent, that it accompanies us even in our darkest hour, but which does not impose itself on us. We celebrate the face of God coming in to clarity, not just in the Sacraments and those things holy, but in our very being. Today, Gus is that invitation to live a life so deeply rooted in Love that we quiver at the thought of never having known such love. Gus wasn't about making everyone bitter, or making young seminarians do extra hours of homework, he was about witnessing to the beautiful love which he had discovered (according to him) so late in life. It was as if he was telling us to take the path of Love and to know Love instead of having to waste our time with those things that weren't Love. It was as if he was telling me to stick it out and see how Love was working in my life. And yet, as I have come to realize, sometimes it is in the falling that the rising becomes so bittersweet. I have fallen, but today, with Gus, I am happy to say that in my own feeble manner, I stand up again (and like Bambi when he is born) I walk once again with Love. So may you also walk with Love, and in your journey, may you rejoice in having found and rediscovered Love as Gus did, and as I believe I have. Late have I loved thee, O Lord, and yet, you were sitting right by my side all along. Just smiling away and waiting for me to grow up. I'm not fully grown up, but I know you are here. Smiling right at me, loving me.
As always, know that you are loved, and that you are beautiful. I love you. Fr Rick.
St. Augustine, pray for us.