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Augustinians

[aw-guh-stin-ee-uhn]

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.

The main branches of the order internationally

The Augustinian family worldwide is made up of two main kinds:

These are further made up of five main branches:

  1. The Order of Saint Augustine; the canons subject to the jurisdiction of the Prior General (International leader)
  2. Augustinian nuns or sisters of contemplative life (enclosed nuns)
  3. other Augustinian orders not under the jurisdiction of the Prior General such as the Ursulines
  4. religious congregations of apostolic life (active congregations of men or women)
  5. lay fraternities and societies established under the name and teaching of Saint Augustine.

Some of the most visible contemporary groups of Augustinians include:

The Order of the Hermit Friars of Saint Augustine

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.

Organization of the Order

The Augustinian Hermits, while following the rule known as that of St. Augustine, are also subject to the Constitutions drawn up by Augustinus Novellus (d. 1309), prior general of the order from 1298 to 1300, and by Clement of Osimo. The Rule and Constitutions were approved at the general chapter held at Florence in 1287 and at Ratisbon in 1290. A revision was made at Rome in 1895. The Constitutions have frequently been printed: at Rome, in 1581, and, with the commentary of Girolamo Seripando, at Venice, in 1549, and at Rome, in 1553. The newly revised Constitutions were published at Rome in 1895, with additions in 1901 and 1907.

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.

Augustinian lay societies

The lay societies are voluntary groups, generally made up of people who are either married or single and have sympathy with, and interest in, the Augustinian approach to life. These lay people do not take the monastic vows, but offer support to the work of the Augustinian order through voluntary work, gifts of money and goods, and the study and promotion of Augustine and Augustinian teaching. The Brotherhood of the Virgin Mary of the Belt in Italy, the Friends of Augustine in the Philippines, the Augustinian Lay community and the Augustinian Friends in Australia are some examples of Augustinian lay societies.

Aggregated communities

Other orders and groups belong within the Augustinian family either because they follow the Rule of Augustine or have been formally aggregated through their constitutions into the worldwide Augustinian Order. These are not counted comprehensively in this article only because the Catholic church's system of governance and accounting makes only the numbers of ordained priests relatively accessible and verifiable. Some of these include:

The Augustinian Rule

The ancient Rule of life formally constituted for the hermits around 1243, had its origins established soon after St. Augustine was converted by Ambrose in Milan around the year 384 AD. He and some friends returned to his native Thagaste in North Africa, gave away their possessions and began a life of prayer and study. Probably, Augustine didn't compose a formal monastic rule despite the extant Augustinian Rule . Augustine's hortatory letter to the nuns at Hippo Regius (Epist., ccxi, Benedictine ed.) is not considered a formal Monastic rule by some scholars . However, the present rule has strong consonance with the existing writings and teaching of Augustine of Hippo.

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.

History of the Grand Union

The year 1256 is usually quoted as the date of the Grand Union that brought the modern order into existence, but there is some scholarly discussion over the exact date of the formal constitution of the Augustinian order, as it occurred in stages. By the 11th century there had appeared historically identifiable groups of clerics in various part of Europe who renounced private property and lived together in community following the Rule of St. Augustine described above. The consolidation of this movement can be connected to the changes proposed by the Gregorian Reform. In 1243 the decree, Incumbit Nobis was issued by Pope Innocent IV, and it called together a number of monastic communities in Tuscany. The Augustinians owed their formal existence to the policy of Popes Innocent IV (12411254) and Pope Alexander IV (12541261), who wished to counterbalance the influence of the powerful Franciscans and Dominicans by means of a similar order under more direct papal authority and devoted to papal interests.

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.

The Augustinian ethos

The teaching and writing of Augustine, the Augustinian Rule, and the lives and experiences of Augustinians over 16 centuries help define the ethos of the order, sometimes "honoured in the breach".

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.

References

Bibliography

  • Bibliography for the Augustinian official website
  • Augustine of Hippo, The Rule of St Augustine Constitutiones Ordinis Fratrum S. Augustini (Rome 1968)
  • The Augustinians (1244–1994): Our History in Pictures. Pubblicazioni Agostiniane, Via Paolo VI, 25, Roma, Italy.
  • Canning O.S.A, Rev. R. (1984). The Rule of St Augustine. Darton, Longman and Todd.
  • Ebsworth, Rev. Walter (1973). Pioneer Catholic Victoria. Polding Press. ISBN 0-85884-096-0.
  • Hackett O.S.A., Michael Benedict (2002). A Presence in the Age of Turmoil: English, Irish and Scottish Augustinians in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Augustinian Historical Institute, Villanova University, Pennsylvania 19085 U.S.A.. ISBN 188954227X.
  • Hickey, Rev. P.J. O.S.A (1981). A History of the Catholic Church in Northern Nigeria. Augustinian publications in Nigeria, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria.
  • edited by Martin O.S.A, Rev F.X., and Clare O'Reilly The Irish Augustinians in Rome, 1656–1994 and Irish Augustinian Missions throughout the World. St. Patrick's College, Via Piemonte 60, Roma, Italy.
  • ''Orbis Augustinianus sive conventuum O. Erem. S. A. chorographica et topographica descriptio Augustino Lubin, Paris, 1659, 1671, 1672.
  • Regle de S. Augustin pour lei religieuses de son .ordre; et Constitutions de la Congregation des Religieuses du Verbe-Incarne et du Saint-Sacrament (Lyon: Chez Pierre Guillimin, 1662), pp. 28–29. Cf. later edition published at Lyon (Chez Briday, Libraire,1962), pp. 22–24. English edition, The Rule of Saint Augustine and the Constitutions of the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament (New York: Schwartz, Kirwin, and Fauss, 1893), pp. 33–35.
  • Zumkeller O.S.A., Adolar (1986). Augustine's ideal of Religious life. Fordham University Press, New York.
  • Zumkeller O.S.A., Adolar (1987). Augustine's Rule. Augustinian Press, Villanova, Pennsylvania U.S.A..

See also

External links

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