The Augustinians, named after Saint Augustine of Hippo (died AD 430), are several Catholic monastic orders and congregations of both men and women living according to a guide to religious life known as the Rule of Saint Augustine. Prominent Augustinians include the only English Pope Adrian IV, Italian Pope Eugene IV, mystic Thomas à Kempis, Dutch Christian humanist Desiderius Erasmus, the German Reformer Martin Luther, the Spanish navigator Andrés de Urdaneta, Italian composer Vittoria Aleotti, German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich and the Austrian geneticist Gregor Mendel. The order has made a very significant missionary contribution to Christianity as well as establishing educational and charitable institutions throughout the world.
These are further made up of five main branches:
Some of the most visible contemporary groups of Augustinians include:
The O.S.A.'s, formerly called Augustinian Hermits, but today known as Augustinian Friars or Austin Friars, are a mendicant order. Being friars, they pray the Liturgy of the Hours throughout every day. This Latin Rite branch is active in society (i.e., not enclosed) and it is counted comprehensively in the article below. It is headed by the international Prior-General in Rome, and while spiritually and historically connected is now canonically separate from the other Independent Augustinian Communities such as the Canons Regular, Discalced Augustinians, Augustinian nuns, Premontres, Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, Augustinian Recollects and the Dominicans.
The government of the order is as follows: At the head is the prior general, elected every six years by the general chapter. The prior general is aided by four assistants and a secretary, also elected by the general chapter. These form the Curia Generalitia. Each province is governed by a provincial, each commissariate by a commissary general, each of the two congregations by a vicar-general, and every monastery by a prior (only the Czech monastery of Alt-Brunn, in Moravia, is under an abbot) and every college by a rector. The members of the order are divided into priests and lay brothers. The Augustinians, like most religious orders, have a cardinal protector. The choir and outdoor dress of the monks is of black woolen material, with long, wide sleeves, a black leather girdle and a long pointed cowl reaching to the girdle. The indoor dress consists of a black habit with scapular. In many monasteries white was formerly the colour of the house garment, also worn in public, in places where there were no Dominicans. Shoes and (out of doors) a black hat complete the costume.
The Discalced Augustinians have their own constitutions, differing from those of the other Augustinians. Their fasts are more rigid, and their other ascetic exercises stricter. They wear sandals, not shoes (and are therefore not strictly discalced). As an apparent survival of the hermit life, the Discalced Augustinians practise strict silence and have in every province a house of recollection situated in some retired place, to which monks striving after greater perfection can retire in order to practise severe penance, living only on water, bread, fruits, olive oil and wine.
Three sets of the "Augustinian Rule" have been attributed to Augustine's authorship (texts in Holstenius-Brockie, Codex regularum monasticarum, ii, Augsburg, 1759, 121–127), the longest of which, a medieval compilation from certain pseudo-Augustinian sermons in 45 chapters, is the one commonly known as the regula Augustini, and served as the constitution of the Augustinian Canons and many societies imitating them, as, for example, the Dominicans and Arrouaisians.
The extant Augustinian orders claim lineage from the communities founded by Augustine of Hippo, and while the history of ideas is evident, historic continuity is not conclusively proven according to the standards of contemporary historical method. The most likely process of transmission occurred between the years 430 and 570 as the Roman empire collapsed - rapidly in Roman North Africa. Augustine's style of communal living was carried into Europe by monks and clergy fleeing the onslaught of the Vandal tribes under Geiseric. Around 440 Quodvultdeus of Carthage established communities in Naples. St. Fulgentius of Ruspe arrived in Sardinia by 502 and introduced Augustinian teaching there. The 5th century Donatus and his monks probably brought a form of it to Southern Spain around the year 570 when he established the Monasterium Servitanum . The Third Order, a form of Augustine's Rule, was later used as a basis for the reform of monasteries and cathedral chapters during the 11th century. The convent of Saint Clare of Montefalco was one of the first to adopt the formally constituted Augustinian rule 1291. The rule was also adopted by the Dominicans, Canons Regular of the Abbey of St. Victor in Marseilles (before its suppression), the Abbey of St Victor, Paris (a precursor to the University of Paris), the Premonstratensians, and the Lateran Canons.
The Augustinian Hermits (who are generally meant by the name "Augustinians", one branch of which Martin Luther belonged to) became the last of the great mendicant orders to be formally constituted in the thirteenth century. It is historically verifiable that Innocent IV, by the bull issued 16 December, 1243 united a number of small hermit societies with Augustinian rule, especially the Williamites, the John-Bonites, and the Brictinans.
Alexander IV (admonished, it was said, by an appearance of Saint Augustine) called a general assembly of the members of the new united order under the presidency of Cardinal Richard of Saint Angeli at the monastery of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome in March, 1256, when the head of the John-Bonites, Lanfranc Septala, of Milan, was chosen general prior of the united orders. Alexander's bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae, confirmed this choice. The new order was thus finally constituted with Italian, Hungarian, French, English, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swiss, Austrian and German Augustinian friars united into one international order. Pope Alexander IV afterward allowed some houses of the Williamites, who were dissatisfied with the new arrangement, to withdraw from the union, and they adopted the Benedictine rule.
Several general chapters in the thirteenth century (1287 and 1290) and toward the end of the sixteenth (1575 and 1580), after the severe crisis occasioned by Luther's reformation, developed the statutes to their present form (text in Holstenius-Brockie, ut sup., iv, 227–357; cf. Kolde, 17–38), which was confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII. A bull of Pius V in 1567 had already assigned to the Hermits of Saint Augustine the place next to the last (between Carmelites and Servites) among the five chief mendicant orders.
As well as telling his disciples to be "of one mind and heart on the way towards God Augustine of Hippo taught that "Nothing conquers except truth and the victory of truth is love" (Victoria veritatis est caritas), and the pursuit of truth through learning is key to the Augustinian ethos, balanced by the injunction to behave with love towards one another. It does not unduly single out the exceptional, especially favour the gifted, nor exclude the poor or marginalised. Love is not earned through human merit, but received and given freely by God's free gift of grace, totally undeserved yet generously given. These same imperatives of affection and fairness have driven the order in its international missionary outreach. This balanced pursuit of love and learning has energised the various branches of the order into building communities founded on mutual affection and intellectual advancement. The Augustinian ideal is inclusive.
Augustine spoke passionately of God's "beauty so ancient and so new" , and his fascination with beauty extended to music. He taught that "to sing once is to pray twice" (Qui cantat, bis orat) , and music is also a key part of the Augustinian ethos. Contemporary Augustinian musical foundations include the famous Augustinerkirche in Vienna where Orchestral Masses by Mozart and Schubert are performed every week, as well as the boys' choir at Sankt Florian in Austria, a school conducted by Augustinian Canons, a choir now over 1,000 years old.
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