Fr. Augustine a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal
Many people in the Diocese are already familiar with Fr. Augustine’s regular talks both at Mass and live via his page on Facebook “madeforlove.change.the.world” which bears the icon of the Sacred heart of Jesus.
Upon This Rock magazine caught up with Fr. Augustine at the Cathedral and the following questions and answers were put to him on behalf of our readers.
Fr. Augustine could you please tell the readers, when and how you were first called to the Franciscan order?
At the age of 20, I had a very powerful encounter with the love of God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and from that moment I began a process of discernment that led me to join the Community of the Franciscans of the Renewal, in the South Bronx in New York.
I knew nothing of St. Francis and knew nothing of the Franciscan Order but what attracted me to the Friars was their joy and their public witness to Jesus, their prayer life and community spirit, their service to the poor and their desire to share the Gospel.
I understand you have spent time in Nicaragua. What one thing most surprised you when you went there?
I left Nicaragua in March after being a missionary there for almost 8 years. My time in Nicaragua was an incredible blessed and fruitful experience.
What I loved most was to live in a culture where God is recognized as part of the fabric of life and where the Catholic faith is lived with joy and enthusiasm.
How do you come to be in Gibraltar?
After my mission in Nicaragua, I was seeking a new mission where I could make use of all that I learned in Nicaragua and, through various circumstances, it was suggested by my Religious Superiors, that I come to Gibraltar, for at least a year, to serve and support the Diocese especially in the area of evangelisation.
What do you see as the role of the Church in our current situation?
The mission of every Christian and the mission of the Church in every moment, regardless of the circumstances, is to be Light and Salt for the world. In these difficult times, the mission of the Church must continue and we must find ways of continuing to spread the message of God’s love and mercy to a confused and broken world.
How can we best reflect the Christian message, and take it to those who long to hear the good news when the elderly are obliged to self isolate, and the rest of us to avoid going out, or to be masked in many areas and avoid embracing one another in public?
Jesus tells us to be “cunning as serpents and gentle as doves”. What this means is that we need to pray for the gift of Wisdom and the gift of Courage so that we can “translate” the gospel to meet these uncertain times.
The internet is a useful tool for reaching those who need comfort. However, the need for human communication and contact cannot be undervalued. Our concern for precaution can not displace the deepest need of the heart for closeness and love. We need to be creative and accept a certain risk at times with the understanding, as one retired Chief Justice said, that “there is more to life than the avoidance of death”.
In what way can we turn the situation, where we spend more time at home possibly alone and, less time in offices and other places of work, to the advantage of our families and the community as a whole?
God can bring good out of everything. Through this Covid situation perhaps we are beginning to see what is most essential in our lives. I believe that we have two options in any crisis. Either, one can turn in on oneself and “wither” or one can accept the “pruning” that we are all experiencing and creatively move forward with confidence that God is still God and that with Jesus there is always a way forward.
In your talks you have preached hope, why do you see a bright future ahead for us, when so many are only filled with doom and gloom?
In the Book of Revelation Jesus says: “Behold, I am making all things new!” Our Christian faith is based on the concrete Hope of the Resurrection of Jesus which constantly directs us to the truth that sorrow and death does not have the last word. Jesus is the Lord of all human history and we know, by faith, that the power of the Resurrection is an irresistible force that constantly renews and transforms that which seems lifeless and without hope.
I believe in Our Risen Lord and I believe in his victory which he won on the Cross and so I believe that in this Covid situation and in all that may happen in the future “All will be well” as Julian of Norwich famously wrote.