The Life of an Augustinian

Laura Welch

The Rev. Thomas Martin, O.S.A’s office doors in Old Falvey 306 are open and welcoming on a beautiful afternoon in late March. The mood of the office seems to reflect the day as Martin’s administrative assistant, Anna Misticoni, offers a cheerful greeting, while Martin joins in, automatically voicing a friendly salutation upon hearing someone enter. His office looks the way an Augustinian, author, professor and administrator’s office should look: scholarly, full of books, with a traditional desk and a long table surrounded by about 10 chairs. The office is tidy and organized, which is not an easy feat, considering the many roles Martin fulfills. “You have to be kind of an insomniac,” Martin says jokingly about his demanding schedule.For students at Villanova, the term “Augustinian” should be familiar. For Martin, St. Augustine became a significant part of his life when he was around the same age as many students. Following high school, Martin began to study for the priesthood. It was at this time that he began his journey to becoming an Augustinian. Martin is quick to say that the choice to live a religious life was always something close to his heart. A young Martin viewed being a priest as an appealing and attractive vocation. Nevertheless, it was not an easy decision to make. “Even in those days, very few made that decision,” Martin says. Many of Martin’s friends were surprised and expressed their concern that the priesthood was not for him. For Martin’s family, the separation proved to be the most difficult part of his joining the seminary. “There was a sense of loss,” Martin says. “… [In the seminary,] contact with others was very controlled.” Martin stresses that such life-altering decisions should never be taken lightly. The majority of men who started the seminary left before the nine years required for becoming a priest were up. “Those were difficult times,” Martin says. “…Risk is never easy.” Once Martin finished nine years in the seminary, he immediately began his work as an Augustinian priest. Martin’s past experiences include being a high school teacher, training other Augustinians, living in Rome for six years and receiving his doctorate all before coming to Villanova shortly after his 50th birthday. During his time at the University thus far, Martin has written several works on St. Augustine; his most recent was “Our Restless Heart: The Augustinian Tradition.” For Martin, the life and values of St. Augustine are not merely subjects he studies and teaches, but also a way of life. Martin mentions that to live St. Augustine’s message everyday takes a conscious effort. “It is easy to lose perspective,” Martin says.With such a demanding schedule, Martin makes sure he takes time each day to “keep balance” in his life through exercise, like running and swimming. “All these things help keep tensions down,” Martin says. Of all the tools Martin uses to manage his numerous roles, he emphasizes that the grace of God helps him above all else. The pressures of his numerous responsibilities are also alleviated by the great deal of support he receives from the Villanova community, which includes his assistant, co-workers, peers and students. “[The students] teach me with the questions they ask,” Martin says. These same college students Martin teaches about St. Augustine often face vices that tempt them to go against the values they learn. Martin advises students to look for friends who share common morals and will be there for support. Joining groups on campus that share similar interests is another way to find people with whom students can converse on relevant topics. Luckily, it is not difficult for most students to find groups that will help keep them focused on the goals St. Augustine prescribed, as Villanova is founded on these very Augustinian principles. Martin sheds light on a vital way that Villanova recognizes itself as an Augustinian institution through its emphasis on the importance of a combination between the individual and community. “The key is to develop gifts and talents through academics, but with a greater love in mind,” Martin says. Martin works arduously to keep Villanova’s Augustinian tradition alive through his teaching, scholarly works and the direction of The Augustinian Institute. Through all of his hard work, Martin remains grounded in the ultimate message of St. Augustine, “God is love.””The search is what is important. It is okay to ask questions, it is even okay to fail, as long as that is not the final word,” Martin says.