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Augustine's Values

Villanova University aspires to be a truly Augustinian institution and accordingly acknowledges that “nothing is to be preferred to the search for truth,” 1 as its members dedicate themselves to a journey of living lives of interiority and conversion. 2

If Augustine were to offer his own thoughts on what an Augustinian university should be like, he might suggest these themes and values:

“Do not go outside yourself, but enter into yourself, for truth dwells in the interior self.” 3

Both Augustine’s personal life and his spiritual teaching are dominated by a continual call to interiority. He contends that it is “inside one’s self” where truth is found,4 and that only in reflection and silence is understanding achieved. 5

According to Augustine, the visual and the audible of the external world only serve as reminders to the student, and that learning takes place in the interior world. 6

The interior activity of contemplation and a search for the Ultimate truth leads us to transcend ourselves to an eventual encounter with God. 7


“Unless humility precedes, accompanies, and follows whatever we do, we will find that we have done little good to rejoice in. Pride will bereft us of everything." 8

Humility is the root of true charity. It calls us to accept the sacred in ourselves and others. It allows us to recognize that we are human, to accept our place in reality neither making oneself more nor less than what one actually is, and to love all things, but in an appropriate way. 9

Humility teaches us to see others as equals. “Humility induces us to presume on our own strength and to trust in God.”10 Humility allows us to listen to others and to see the truth in them.

According to Augustine, the only way to reach an “abiding, active knowledge of the truth is through humility.” 11

“Believe so that you may understand. Understand that you may believe.” 12

In the Augustinian model of education, both faculty and students are “servants of the truth,” who place instruction and learning in the disciplines at the service of development of intellect. 13

Learning, “cultivation of the mind,” in the Augustinian context, is to be understood as more than the pursuit of “academic excellence” or of knowledge for its own sake, but more appropriately as the pursuit of wisdom, the capacity to understand one’s self, others and the world in light of the Ultimate reality. This pursuit of wisdom coincides with the search for Truth for which every person longs. 14

Honesty and humility characterize “disciplined conversation” between faculty and student, during which students develop confidence in their abilities to reason and to assert for themselves discovered truth. The intended outcome is less dependence on the teacher’s “authority” but greater appreciation for “truth,” both discovered and revealed during principled and collaborative inquiry.15

The academic community acknowledges belief in God as reasonable, places each discipline in conversation with the Catholic intellectual tradition, and creates an environment “where being a faithful Catholic is taken seriously as an intelligent and morally responsible option for contemporary people.” 16

In the Augustinian model, faculty and students form an egalitarian learning community, pursuing goals as “friends, brothers, sisters, sharing with others what they have or gain, and receiving what God has given or will give” to each. 17

“An Augustinian community is a place where the search for truth takes place in a climate of love and friendship, where one can experience that the ‘truth is neither yours nor mine, so that it can belong to the both of us.” 18

In an Augustinian community, the purpose of life is to search for God, the Ultimate truth, not alone, but among friends,19 who are committed to the same journey. In such a community “love is at the center and the heart” of every act and interaction,20 and respect for each person, as children of God, is primary.

Members strive to live in harmony - in a quest for union of mind and heart,21 to mutual concern for and assistance to each other in every way possible, including fraternal correction, in a spirit of love and understanding. 22

Members look upon their work as an expression of one’s human nature, not as a burden, but in cooperation with the Creator in shaping the world and serving humankind.

Always conscious of the virtues of honesty, integrity, and compassion as fundamental to the Christian way of life, 23 members seek in every effort to work for unity, making justice and peace, the fruits of love, a reality in the Church and in the world. 24

"Every good thing is sealed to us in the celebration of the sacraments." 25

Villanova University is “a Catholic university that reflects Augustinian traditions, nurtures the development of religious faith and practice, develops moral and ethical perspectives and values of its members.” 26

All in this community are invited into the sacramental life that is active participation in an outward expression of one’s faith.  Exploration of religion and faith, participation in prayer, liturgy and other forms of communal worship are both respected and encouraged.

Those who have a desire to live an Augustinian life seek to make “unity and peace a reality in the Church and in human society.” It requires a particular expression of faith, of Gospel values - putting aside narrowness and selfishness and becoming “attuned to a broader social love, joining ourselves to others in such ways that we may have only ‘one mind, the mind of Christ.” 27

“The degree to which you are concerned for the common good rather than for your own, is the criterion by which you can judge how much progress you have made.” 28

Stewardship of the common good requires that we willingly accept accountability for others through service to them, without control of them.

In the Catholic tradition, “the Beatitudes teach us the final end to which God calls us, and confront us with decisive choices concerning earthly goods. They teach us [how] to love...” 29

“Love, when it is true, is always directed away from oneself.  It is transcendent. The two-fold commandment of love, therefore, translates into working for the common good, [and] working for the common good is service.” 30

Service in an Augustinian context is done in the spirit of gratefulness and in recognition that the service owed to God must be rendered to humankind. Service is love in its dynamic dimension. Service gives expression to Jesus’ command, “Love one another as I have loved you.” 31

1. Against the Academicians, 3.11.

2. Pontifical Council for the Laity, Formation of the Laity, III, Parish; VI, Types of Formation, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, Volume 6, Rome, 1980, pp 667, 691.

3. True Religion, 72, 102.

4. True Religion, 72, 102.

5. Sermon 56, 22

6. The Teacher, XIV, 46.

7. Pelligrino, M.(1996). Spiritual Journey: Augustine’s Reflection on the Christian Life, p. 11.

8. Letter 188. 22

9. Burt, D. (1989). “Application of Augustine’s Spirituality to an Academic Community.”

10. Pelligrino, M. (1996). Spiritual Journey: Augustine’s Reflection on the Christian Life, p. 57-58.

11. Pelligrino, M. (1996). Spiritual Journey: Augustine’s Reflection on the Christian Life, p. 35.

12. Letter 120.

13. Jacobs, R. (2000). Augustine’s pedagogy of intellectual liberation: Turning students from the “truth of authority” to the “authority of truth.” In K. Paffenroth and K. Hughes (eds.) Augustine and liberal education, pp. 111-123. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

14. The Augustinian Way

15. Jacobs, R. (2000). Augustine’s pedagogy of intellectual liberation: Turning students from the “truth of authority” to the “authority of truth.” In K. Paffenroth and K. Hughes (eds.) Augustine and liberal education, pp. 111-123. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

16. Egan, R. J. (1996). Can universities be Catholic? Some reflections, comments, worries, and suggestions.  Commonweal, 123(7), 11-14. 

17. Secular Augustinians: The Rule of Life and General Statues, 17.

18. Augustinian Way

19. Confessions, 4, 4.7.

20. Tracts on the Gospel of John, 7, 8.

21. The Rule of Augustine, 3 and 4.

22. The Rule of Augustine, 25-29, 41-43.

23. Cf. General Statutes, 67.

24. Letters of Augustine, 234, 3-7.

25. On the Spirit and the Letter, 17.18.11.

26. UPBC Strategic Goal Statement, Villanova University.

27. Augustinian Way

28. The Rule of Augustine, 7, 2.

29. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1726-1728.

30. Augustinian Way

31. Augustinian Way, 8.