The Augustinian Secular Fraternities (FAS) of Latin America celebrate their II Congress under the theme "Augustinian Vocation, Grace and Mission. Were not our hearts on fire?"
To mark the gathering which took place from 19-24 November in Sao Paulo, Prior General Fr Alejandro Moral Antón sent an affectionate message to the participants in which he stressed the importance of friendship as a fundamental characteristic of Augustinian laity, united in mind, heart and diligent effort.
The Assistant General and Coordinator of the Augustinian Lay Movement, Fr Edward Daleng, presided over the opening Eucharistic celebration, at which he reflected on the Gospel reading from Luke 9:23-26. The date was with the memorial of St Magdalene of Nagasaki - virgin and martyr, and patroness of Augustinian laity who lived the Gospel in word and deed, embracing the cross for the unconditional love of Jesus Christ - and Fr Daleng emphasised how the life of the saint was characterised by simplicity and love for her fellow human beings in Christ, her spouse; a pure, sincere, total and absolute love. "As Christians, and even more so as Augustinians," he affirmed, "we are called to imitate her through a love without envy, jealousy, selfishness, unhealthy competition and protagonism." A love, as St. Augustine teaches us, that must be generous, ample and total, as he proclaimed in his commentary on Psalm 33:
"I do not want to magnify the Lord alone, I do not want to love him alone, I do not want to embrace him alone. For it is not the case that if I embrace him, there is no place left for another to put his arms. No, the breadth of Wisdom is such that all souls can embrace it and enjoy it. If you love God, draw to the love of God all those who are united to you, all those in your house; if you love the body of Christ, that is, the unity of the Church, draw them to this delight, and say to them: Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord. So draw as many as you can, exhorting, leading, entreating, expounding, giving reasons, all with meekness and gentleness: draw them to love; that if they proclaim the greatness of the Lord, they may do it with one accord." (Commentaries on Psalms 33 II, 6, 7).
Augustinian Spirituality at the Centre
The entire Congress was an important moment for the members of this third branch of the Order (Constitutions, n.40) to meet and get to know each other better, sharing the diverse experiences of their respective communities and circumscriptions within the Church and the Order in Latin America. The participants tried to deepen their vocational commitment in order to be able to give witness as Augustinians in their daily activities, with ever-increasing awareness and conviction. To this end, various themes of Augustinian spirituality were presented by different speakers. Highlights included interventions of the General Councillor for Latin America, Father Alex Lam, the Provincial of Our Lady of Consolation of Brazil, Father Luiz Antônio Pinheiro, or Father Juan Francisco Constanzo Parada; all designed to stimulate and enrich debate, discussion and dialogue among the participants.
"The longing for Truth and for God, who is love."
Charity, humility and service nourished by Grace were central themes in the conversations that took place during the Congress. In the words of Fr Daleng, "as Augustinians, we are all called to live the distinctive signs of restlessness and longing for the Truth and for God, who is love, within secular environments." And for this very reason, in his opinion as the one leading the laity in the Order, such "signs" should permeate life, activities and interaction with others, with whom we are called to build a community for a better world that "reveals the presence of God in the Church."
Congress delegates took part in all the arranged activities with enthusiasm and zeal, even using periods for food and rest to - as Fr Daleng reports - to strengthen "mutual knowledge and communion."
Visit to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
On the last day before the closing of this second Congress of the Secular Augustinian Fraternities, all the participants, among whom was a large and festive group of young people from the FAS, went on pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, where a Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated in the company of great numbers of pilgrims.
As the General Councillor commented, "the beauty and spiritual air of this Marian spot invited us to silence, prayer, and reflection, inspiring us to turn our gaze to the Mother of God who leads us to her beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
One hundred and six representatives from almost all the circumscriptions of the Order in Latin America attended the Congress, a great expression communion and symbol of the synodality about which Pope Francis speaks so much: a synodality that is not enough just to live, but which must be actively promoted. Moving forward, it remains to us to harvest the fruits of this Congress along the road that leads to the next Congress, in July 2026 in Ecuador.