Barney Johns O.S.A.
When did you first encounter the Augustinians?
When I went on a weekend retreat from Cambridge to Clare at University. Then when I was in Japan on retreat and my fellow retreatant was an Augustinian called Tom Purcell who had been in Nagasaki since not long after the 2nd world war. Then when I was in London and looking for a place to live and heard about a Christian community being set up in West London so I went along and met Fr. Stephan Park, O.S.A. and Fr. Paul Graham, O.S.A. I moved in a few months later and got to know the Augustinians at a time when I was seriously considering and discerning Priesthood. The experience of community life at the St John Stone Community led me towards religious life.
What intrigued you about the Augustinian way of life?
Community, life in common, the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. The fact that there was little conformity and one was accepted as one was rather than having to live as some ideal. There was a maturity so that I was respected as an individual and not placed in some imposing structure. The Augustinians were a family. Only later did I enjoy Augustine and his writings.
What’s your definition of an “Augustinian”?
The Franciscans love God through their poverty, the Dominicans through study. I would say that an Augustinian lives in community and loves God through love. An Augustinian loves the beauty of Christ and wants nothing else in his life.
What types of ministry intrigue you?
Showing the face of Christ through innovative ways such as through the arts – writing, painting, theatre, and film etc. Spiritual direction and retreat giving. Ministry of Prayer as well – showing people the joys of the interior life and helping them find God in their lives. This could be in a parish.
What are you passionate about?
The beauty of the writings of Augustine and how they apply to dealing with many contemporary problems in society. About searching for the truth and about finding the radicality of the Christian life and the Augustinian way of life in particular.
When you’re celebrating your 20th Jubilee as an Augustinian, what do you hope to have accomplished in that time?
I hope to have accomplished being faithful in my vows and in being loving in community. I hope to be part of a revolution in a Church that is on its back foot and falling apart – to bring the Gospel to contemporary society that needs it so much in interesting ways. And if all that fails then I hope that God is still at the centre of my life.
How did you know you were being called to an Augustinian vocation?
I suspect I am still trying to figure that out. Signs and wonders perhaps but more realistically I made a decision and felt at peace with it. One has to feel the hand of providence.