7. Common Good.

Rule 7, 2 of the Augustinian rule states: "The degree to which you are concerned for the common good (rem communem) rather than for your own, is the criterion by which you can judge how much progress you have made." This passage synthesizes Augustine’s conviction regarding personal growth in Christian love. It appears in a context wherein Augustine gives the guidelines for day-to-day life in community, a life characterized by mutual service. We have already pointed out the importance of the social dimension in Augustine’s thought. Since human life is social by nature, the development of a person cannot be separated from its social context. The same applies to the new life of the believer in Christ. The new man that is born from the waters of baptism lives the commandment of love. This life of love is verified in one’s service to the brothers and sisters in the community. Within this context, one’s progress in love is directly proportional to the intensity of one’s concern for the common good.

The common good is "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.27" It possesses three essential elements: (a) the respect for the person as such; (b) the social well-being and development of the group to which the person belongs; and (c) peace which is the stability and security of the just order. The common good is graphically illustrated in the Lucan description of the Jerusalem community:

The community of believers
was of one heart and one mind
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common...
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses
would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale
and put them at the feet of the apostles
and they were distributed to each according to need.

This ideal was first lived by Augustine as a lay man with his friends in Tagaste, before he made it the ideal for the monasteries he founded. The memory of Augustine the layman living with his friends according to the "rule of the apostles" have led Augustinian lay seculars to declare:

Augustinian community consciousness urges us to do whatever we can to make the ideal of the primitive community of Jerusalem an inspirational force in both the ecclesial and the human communities, so that sharing of goods may be the sign and sacrament of unity of hearts and everyone may have what he requires, thus leaving no one in need.

Augustinian spirituality requires us to promote a fraternal distribution of goods which will show that we all believe ourselves to be friends and brothers in Jesus Christ under the fatherhood of God. It would not be Augustinian to condone arbitrary socio-economic inequality and exploitation of one’s brother, or to claim that economics is answerable only to itself and has nothing to do with universal brotherhood, unity and peace.28

Those who desire to have an Augustinian mode presence in the world takes as their specific apostolate making unity and peace a reality in the Church and in human society:

This requires us to rid ourselves of narrowness and selfishness, and become attuned to a broader social love, joining ourselves to others in such wise that we may have only "one mind, the mind of Christ."

If we are to realize the apostolate of unity and peace in love, we must tirelessly defend justice and denounce injustice in accord with Gospel values. Peace which is the hoped for good of everyone is "the tranquility of order," and therefore peace itself, cannot exist, unless we succeed in having everything in its proper place according to its nature, and unless we act according to the will of God, seeing to it that the rights of every person are respected. Every injustice no matter how small , is contrary to the cause of peace, for justice and peace cannot be separated (Ps. 84:11; Rom. 14:17; Is. 32:7)29

Christian formation in Augustinian values, therefore, cannot prescind from an attitude that takes the common good seriously. Love, when it is true, is always directed away from oneself; it is transcendent. The two-fold commandment of love translates into working for the common good; working for the common good is service.