St. Augustine left the Church when he was a young man. With the celebration of his feast day this week (Aug. 28), we rejoice in where he ended up after his conversion. But it’s a good time to reflect on how he got there and to ask ourselves: What role are we called to play for the many Augustines who populate our lives?
St. Monica, Augustine’s mother, played a role in bringing him back; her prayers were crucial to his conversion. St. Ambrose, his bishop, also had a role; his example and preaching were pivotal.
The team of Sts. Monica and Ambrose calls to mind other great teams in which people played complementary roles in bringing people to Christ — sometimes during times of upheaval in the Church. Some were in Scripture: Sts. Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. Sts. Peter, James and John. Some were later in Church history: Sts. Francis and Clare. Sts. Francis De Sales and Jane de Chantal. Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.
The examples of these “conversion teams” raise two questions for us: What’s our team, and what’s our role on that team?
The “team” question is important because of us is called to salvation alone. On the one hand, this is simply a fact: when we’re baptized we become members of the body of Christ, not lone rangers. On the other hand, it’s also an imperative. Jesus will ask us not only “How did you do?” but also “Who are you bringing with you?”
None of us can do it all. St. Paul said that the Church is like a body: It has different organs, and each organ plays a different role. An orchestra is like that, too, and so is a football team — no one person can play every instrument or every position.
Whatever analogy works best for you — body, orchestra, team, or something else — we need to ask these questions about our lives.
What’s my team?
First and foremost this is my family, my friends, my co-workers. We can’t make a difference to every situation in the world. We can’t ignore the rest of the world, to be sure! We need to raise our eyes to see what’s going on around us. But the first and deepest place we’re called to make a difference is in our home team. God calls us to spend most of our time and energy on the people and situations right in front of us.
What’s my role?
Like Monica and Ambrose, we all have different roles to play in bringing people to conversion. The effectiveness of the Body of Christ in reaching them requires that we play our roles well, and help others to play theirs. As we’ve seen recently, when any part of the Body fails in its task, the rest of the Body pays the price.
There are many pre-conversion St. Augustines in the world today. As we celebrate the feasts of Sts. Monica and Augustine this week, let’s think deeply about how we can reach them with the good news of Jesus Christ.
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.