(This is the text of my March Letter, which promotes the Saint Augustine Institute of Catholic Studies.)
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Laudetur Iesus Christus! When is God going to convert these United States to the Catholic Faith? Exactly how will He do it? Who will be the ones, humanly speaking, responsible for this magnificent achievement?
The only honest answer one in this vale of tears can give to these questions is, “I don’t know.” One may have theories, educated guesses, or general impressions, but nobody can answer any of them with certainty. Doubtless, too, the complete answers will entail a multitude of interrelated causes and details that would dizzy us to consider. Best to leave these questions for Heaven, when our intellects will be dilated by the light of glory. But we can ask ourselves other questions that are answerable: What will it take to make America Catholic? What type of person will be successful in this effort? And the most important: Am I doing what I can to make America Catholic?
Brother Francis had a vision of a Catholic America, a vision he received from Father Feeney. Brother also had definite ideas on how this Catholic America he so ardently desired might become a reality. It was to form a network of study circles, whose members learned and relished the Faith together, and who were zealous in prayer and work to share this pearl of great price with their neighbors. These circles were to be an extension of the work going on at Saint Benedict Center, where Holy Scripture, philosophy, history, and their allied disciplines are studied. For that reason, Brother had certain lectures at the Center recorded for wider distribution.
Thus was begun the Saint Augustine Institute of Catholic Studies (SAI).
When he launched SAI, Brother told its first students, “I assure you, we are starting something that could convert this country to the Catholic Faith. Just give me a couple of hundred Catholics who really know the Faith and are zealous in trying to spread it to their friends, and we will start a leaven that could bring the Faith to this whole country.”
Note that Brother was not attempting to speak as a prophet. He spoke, rather, as an apostle whose instincts and experience led him to a particular approach. It is our duty, as his disciples, to use this approach, and to do so in a way that will make Brother Francis’ vision become a reality. There are SAI circles out there, but not enough. There are dedicated souls studying according to SAI’s method and Syllabus, but not enough. There are many who have begun the program and successfully completed it, but not enough.
Brother Francis deserves much more. More importantly, Our Lord and Our Lady deserve much more.
All of our tertiaries, friends, and benefactors should be reaping the fruits of Brother Francis’ labors, and using them, in turn, to reap more fruit for the salvation of souls. This was the purpose for which Our Lord chose His Apostles: “You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). To use another figure that Our Lord employed, and that Brother Francis loved most especially, we can say that it is our duty to spread that “fire” with which our teacher burned, and that Jesus wanted to consume the whole world: “I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled?” (Luke 12:49).
In order to kindle this fire, Brother Francis wanted to establish a well-grounded “school of thought” that would craft every-day faithful Christian souls into the very men and women who will make America Catholic. SAI is the repository for that school of thought.
A few sentences ago, I made two biblical references. My use of these “words of the Word” can illustrate our school of thought by bringing us to a more general question: How should a Catholic read Holy Scripture? Brother Francis spoke a great deal about this in his wonderful lectures, giving solid answers.
In a series of classes he gave when he launched SAI, Brother spoke eloquently and inspiringly about two ways to read Scripture. The first was using the Old Testament and New Testament as commentaries on each other. Brother actually hand copied and studied each of the 411 passages in the New Testament wherein the Old Testament is directly quoted. In this, he showed himself to be a faithful student of Saint Augustine, who said: Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet. Vetus Testamentum in Novo patet. (“The New Testament is hidden in the Old. The Old Testament is revealed in the New.”) Seeing in such close detail how the New Testament is the fulfillment of the types and prophesies of the Old Testament, and how, on the other hand, the Old Testament provides an essential framework and backdrop for the events of the New Testament, gave Brother a marvelous penetration into the Scriptures.
The second method he spoke of was to use the Church’s traditional liturgy as a guide for reading the Bible. How, for instance, the ordinary and the propers of the Roman Missal employ the Psalms and other Wisdom books gives us tremendous insight into what was on the Divine Mind when inspiring them. Look, for instance, at the way the Canticle of Canticles and the book of Wisdom are used in the propers for various Marian Feasts. Consider how the Church used the Apocalypse in the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. (Go now, and open your missal to February 11. Behold an authoritative interpretation of Apocalypse chapters 11 and 12!) Besides its first and fundamental purpose of giving glory to the Blessed Trinity, the Church’s liturgy also serves as the best commentator on Scripture after Scripture itself.
There is something enchanting, almost haunting, in the mystical exegesis that Brother offers us in his lectures. Thankfully, these inspiring talks introducing the program are available under the deceptively prosaic name, “G-3 Introduction to the Saint Augustine Institute.”
The SAI Syllabus gives the following overview of the program, which I have shortened to fit this letter:
“The Saint Augustine Institute of Catholic Studies is the educational division of the Crusade of Saint Benedict Center. Its purpose is to provide a well-rounded and conveniently simple course of instruction in Catholic thought.
“The goal of the Institute is the formation of a large and ever growing body of well-instructed lay apostles in the Church Militant… .
“…Our teachers are the popes, the councils, the saints, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and, most especially, Holy Scripture and Catholic Tradition. By learning from these unchangeable and foundational sources, we continue to keep our eyes fixed on the narrow path to salvation, no matter how distorted and distracting the world around us becomes… .
“…Catholic men and women, in any ordinary occupation in life, can form a circle of study, which could meet weekly for the purpose of increasing their knowledge of the Faith, and of things pertaining to it.
“In order to give the course form and purpose, every person enrolled will aim at obtaining a Diploma of General Catholic Education, by means of completing a program which we describe below, and with the help and guidance of the Saint Augustine Institute of Catholic Studies at Saint Benedict Center.”
Our Third Order is a distinct reality from the Saint Augustine Institute, but as our departed mentor reminded us constantly, we must “distinguish without dividing.” The Third Order is the “who” that will use the “what” of SAI to effect the conversion of America, beginning, I should add, with each individual member, for no man can give what he does not have. That is the whole point of SAI: to make the would-be American apostle into an apostle in-fact because he actually has something to give.
I want to challenge all our tertiaries, friends, and benefactors to begin a study circle, to join an existing one, or, if neither is possible, to enroll in the Saint Augustine Institute as individual students. Can we give Our Lord and Our Lady those hundreds, or even thousands of “Catholics who really know the Faith and are zealous in trying to spread it to their friends”? I believe we can, but it will take work, sacrifice, and dedication.
Are you up to the task?
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.
P.S. “What’s next?” you may be asking. First, procure and read the SAI Syllabus. It’s free on our web site: catholicism.org/downloads/syllabus.pdf. Otherwise, you can order a copy from us for $5. Next, call Robert Carbone, our Third Order prefect [phone number not on web site; email instead]. He can help you get started with the program.