Rick Piatt O.S.A.
When did you first encounter the Augustinians?
It was at St. Thomas of Villanova Parish in Rosemont, USA, back in 1991. I had just begun my graduate work in Theatre at Villanova University and this Augustinian parish just happened to be around the corner from my apartment. I enjoyed the parish itself and the Augustinians I met were very approachable; very “real”, by which I mean that there was a sense of openness and connection to the community in which they lived and served.
What intrigued you about the Augustinian way of life?
I was impressed by the variety of ways in which the friars were able to serve God and the Church on a practical level while still maintaining and striving to live a community life. These friars were, and are, parish priests, educators, psychologists, attorneys, artists, prison ministers, just to name a few of the diverse ministries in which they participate. I was impressed that the province was willing and able to recognize the individual gifts and talents of each friar and encourage them to use those gifts for the service of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
What’s your definition of an “Augustinian”?
Before all else, an Augustinian seeks to become one in mind and heart with God. Yes, I know that is a paraphrase of Augustine and may even sound a bit cliché, but in my opinion he said it better than anyone else before or since. But it is not something we ever do alone. This search for God is done in community, with others who also seek God. So I guess, at this stage of my journey, I would say that an Augustinian is one who seeks God with others and is willing to meet these others where they are, spiritually, politically, socially all with the intention of finding Christ’s presence among us.
What types of ministry intrigue you?
My professional background is in theatre and I hold higher degrees in both drama and theology. I had been a campus minister and an adjunct faculty member on the University level for the first five years of my priesthood. During that time I began to explore ways of combining theatrical production with Catholic social justice. As a result, I am currently working on a PhD in a field known as “Theatre of the Oppressed” which basically explores the possibilities for challenging and changing systems of oppression in which many marginalized persons suffer. It is my goal to teach these techniques at one of our Universities in the United States while simultaneously engaging in the work with those on the margins of society.
What are you passionate about?
The answer above covers two of my passions; theatre and social justice. I am also passionate about the Liturgy, particularly Eucharist, and the involvement of the lay community in those celebrations. For me, liturgy needs to be a lived experience, one where we continually discover something new in the ritual itself, in the Word and the communal breaking of the bread, in common song and shared silence. If it ever becomes “routine” or “boring”, well, that’s something to pay attention to for it means that we –individually and collectively - need to pay more attention to the how and why we come together.
When you’re celebrating your 20th Jubilee as an Augustinian, what do you hope to have accomplished in that time?
That’s a long way off, and honestly, I’ve stopped trying to second-guess where God is going to lead me. I never thought, when I first joined the order, that I would minister anywhere that I wound up. I certainly never thought I’d be lucky enough to be allowed to move to London to study for a few years, and even then it was not in the original plan for me to do some ministry at St. Augustine’s. In all of it, I believe that Christ places me in the path of people who have things to teach me about God, about the Church, about different cultures and about myself. Hopefully, I’ve been able to offer those I’ve met and ministered with a few things as well. By my 20th anniversary, well, who knows where God will lead me.
How did you know you were being called to an Augustinian vocation?
At first, it just felt right. That might sound like a bit of a cop out, but it is true. But it is important for me to say that it was a process, a long process, for that feeling to be confirmed. It was not an overnight revelation and I did wrestle with the “call.” It took the years of initial formation, my time spent in the Noviate and in community prior to solemn vows, that I felt that yes, God was calling me to be an Augustinian friar and that the community agreed.
Why would the Augustinian Order be appealing to others discerning religious life?
I can only say why I feel it is right for me, and why it has lasted as long as it has. Augustine’s Rule for those living in community is not for everyone. As a theology professor once told me (she is an ISM, not an OSA) “Augustine’s rule was written for adults, not children.” By that she meant that if one is looking to have all the rules and regulations laid out and ready to follow, then the Augustinians are not the right fit. If however, one is looking for a religious order with a long history of scholarly inquiry in the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition, outreach to the poor and the marginalized, has a passion for the sacramental life, and is willing to live in a community of brothers who strive, despite each one’s personal strengths, weaknesses, faults and gifts, to become a living example of Christ’s love for his brothers and sisters, then the Augustinians just might be the right fit. Check it out…it just might be what you are looking for…. and where God is leading you.