One can express genuine love for God in an infinite amount of ways. Often, it is shown in prayers, sacrifices, showing grace to others, and offering talent, time, and treasure. Others, however, are called to religious vocation: committing themselves for the rest of their life to and for the Lord.
What sets the Augustinian brotherhood apart is that they do everything together with a strong sense of Christ-like community. As they profess their first temporary vows before God, let’s unveil the journey the brothers had to take as they continue to live the Augustinian way.
Five simply professed friars namely: Fray Rey L. Gungob, Fray Rafael Martin G. Musa, Fray Katrieno Bennit O. Jorda, Fray Arjie V. Santosidad, and Fray Reyl Jon Esma were asked about their Augustinian journey from Aspirancy to Simple Profession and here are their respective answers:
1. What is an Augustinian for you and how do you embody the Augustinian values?
Bro. Reyl: For me, Augustinians are Christian lovers and every value can be considered Augustinian with love. Unity without love is just unity. However, when you do things with love, it becomes Augustinian.
2. How did you discover the Augustinian community?
Bro. Raf: It was a peculiar experience; it came to me in a dream. I was discerning what order or congregation I should enter into and asked for God’s guidance to help me decide. January of that year, four years ago, I had a dream where I saw men wearing black habits with a black cincture, passing by singing songs and psalms. I saw my guardian angel, and he mentioned the “Order of Saint Augustine”. After that, the image of Sto. Niño de Cebu came and that’s when I woke up from that dream. Doubtful but filled with newfound hope, I researched on the internet and saw that there is an existing Order of Saint Augustine in the Philippines.
3. Was there a turning point or sign that made you decide to become an Augustinian brother?
Bro. Rey: Being in the acolytes before gave me attachment to priesthood living, but I set it aside to focus on my studies and future career. I tried to focus on teaching after college, but the Holy Spirit suddenly made a move, calling me to return to the church and serve. From that moment, I did return to serving the church, and my desire and inspiration to enter the seminary came back. Upon searching and knowing the Augustinian order, I realized that this is the life that I was looking for since I was a child.
4. How did your family react when you decided to pursue religious life?
Bro. Rey: As the black sheep of the family there was a mix of emotions at first, but then they were amazed that I decided to enter the seminary. One of the most memorable feelings was seeing my family happy and supporting me in what I wanted to pursue.
Bro. Ben: My father supported me as I always worked on things in secret; however, when my father became ill, it seemed like too much time had passed. I decided that I needed to make my own decision now, so I worked on everything in secret. When I revealed my plans to the rest of my family, it came as a shock to them. But over time, they came to realize that this is where I find joy and the kind of life that I have been longing for even though at first, they were against it. When they saw how happy I was, especially during my first vacation, they began to support me in this kind of life.
5. What do you usually do in your daily life as an Augustinian brother?
Bro. Raf: Our daily lives as Augustinian brothers is not different from those of people outside the religious life. We eat, pray, play, and study too, but I think what makes our lives special is that we always do it together in the spirit of Christian life. There is love inside all of us, bringing us closer to God.
6. How do you put the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience into action as an Augustinian?
Bro. Raf: As a person who has weaknesses, it is not easy and you always need to have the assistance of God. In my life, I always entrust everything to God. It is not easy but in the end, it will be okay by God’s grace.
7. So far, how is your Augustinian journey?
Bro. Ben: My Augustinian journey is a roller coaster ride that’s full of ups and downs. But like what a speaker during our aspirancy said, joy and pain come together in religious life. What makes a person live a religious life is a love that one has for God.
8. What are the important things that happen in a simple profession?
Bro. RJ: We will make our simple profession during the mass. We will ask the Prior Provincial to accept us and join the Order. As proof, we will sign a book that signifies that we have been accepted and are now Augustinians. After that, we will receive the rule and constitutions of the Order. It will serve as our guide in living as an Augustinian.
Bro. Ben: The most important thing that happens is saying “yes” to the challenges and committing to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It is important to understand that when you enter the religious life, you are no longer just living your own life — you are living with Christ and that Christ lives in you.
9. What happens after simple profession?
Bro. Reyl: During novitiate, we were asked if we wanted to be a brother, a solemn professed friar, or to pursue priesthood because before becoming a priest, we are an Augustinian brother first. There are some who want to be brothers but do not want to be ordained as priests. After that, we will profess our vows. We will take a short vacation and take theological studies. Then, we will be sent to one of the Augustinian communities for exposure, apply for solemn profession, and be evaluated by the formators and other friars.
10. Do you feel ready to take on the next step in your Augustinian journey?
Bro. Raf: I pray to God, saying, “I am not ready to take this next step but the thing is I’m willing.” I think the willingness of the heart is what’s important. I believe that readiness is not just about yourself but a gift of grace from God. When you respond to that grace, that is what makes you ready. I am ready as long as God is with me.
11. What keeps you motivated to continue your religious journey?
Bro. Ben: Nothing keeps me more motivated than the love that I have for God. After all, it was love that led me here. In the same way, it is love that keeps me going.
12. What is your message to those who are considering and are still undecided to pursue the Augustinian way of life?
Bro. Reyl: I can see that in this world, individualism is a measure of success. You are seen as an accomplished man or woman when you are independent; however, in the Augustinian way of life, interdependency is the true measure of success. That focal point in an Augustinian’s life is seen in community living – traveling to God with a community of brothers or sisters.
Bro. Raf: I would invite them by saying this, “Truth is always anchored in God; if they find the truth in their job, then that’s fine. But if they continue to seek the truth and they’re not contented with what they have right now, they should pursue that truth because that will make them happy. The truth will set them free.”
Devoting one’s life to serve others is a choice not everyone has the guts to make, but the Augustinian brothers know that they can continue down the religious path with God’s blessing. The brotherhood puts premium on their ties, the relationships they have built, the connections they have strengthened, and the communities they immersed in.
Augustinian way of life is to embrace the voice of God, respond to the call for service, and devote to the lifelong commitment of serving God and His people. Above all, the unique and most important Augustinian virtue: to do it, together. (by Lorille Antoinette C. Mata with Debbie Joy Ngoho, CNU Media Interns)