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Augustinians are members of Christian religious orders that follow the Rule of Saint Augustine, written in about 400 AD by Augustine of Hippo. There are two distinct types of Augustinians in Catholic religious orders dating back to the 12th–13th centuries: [1] [2]


There are also some Anglican religious orders created in the 19th century that follow Augustine's rule. These are composed only of women in several different communities of Augustinian nuns.

Ruins of Jasienice Abbey, a former Augustinian priory in Jasienica, Police, Poland (14th century). Ruin of Augustinians' cloister in Police-Jasienica S5000806.jpg
Ruins of Jasienice Abbey, a former Augustinian priory in Jasienica, Police, Poland (14th century).


In a religious community, "charism" is the particular contribution that each religious order, congregation or family and its individual members embody. [4] The teaching and writing of Augustine, the Augustinian Rule, and the lives and experiences of Augustinians over sixteen centuries help define the ethos and special charism of the order.

The pursuit of truth through learning is key to the Augustinian ethos, balanced by the injunction to behave with love towards one another. These same imperatives of affection and fairness have driven the order in its international missionary outreach. [5] 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.

Augustine spoke passionately of God's "beauty so ancient and so new", [6] and his fascination with beauty extended to music. He taught that "whoever sings prays twice" (Qui cantat, bis orat) [7] and music is also a key part of the Augustinian ethos. Contemporary Augustinian musical foundations include the Augustinerkirche in Vienna, where orchestral masses by Mozart and Schubert are performed every week, as well as the boys' choir [8] at Sankt Florian in Austria, a school conducted by Augustinian canons, a choir now over 1,000 years old.

Augustinians have also produced a formidable body of scholarly works. [9]


Augustine of Hippo, first with some friends and afterward as bishop with his clergy, led a monastic community life. Regarding the use of property or possessions, Augustine did not make a virtue of poverty, but of sharing. Their manner of life led others to imitate them. Instructions for their guidance were found in several writings of Augustine, especially in De opere monachorum, mentioned in ancient codices of the eighth or ninth century as the "Rule of St. Augustine". [10] Between 430 and 570 this life-style was carried to Europe by monks and clergy fleeing the persecution of the Vandals. [11]

While in early Medieval times the rule was overshadowed by other Rules, particularly that of St. Benedict, this system of life for cathedral clergy continued in various locations throughout Europe for centuries, and they became known as Canons regular (i.e. cathedral clergy living in community according to a rule). Augustine's Rule appears again in practice in the eleventh century as a basis for the reform of monasteries and cathedral chapters. [11]

Several groups of canons were established under various disciplines, all with the Augustinian Rule as their basis. It was adopted by the Canons Regular of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris, [11] as well as the Norbertines. The instructions contained in Augustine's Rule formed the basis of the Rule that, in accordance with the decree of the Lateran Synod of 1059, was adopted by canons who desired to practice a common apostolic life, hence the title of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine.

Orders, groups, and societies

Canons Regular

The Canons Regular follow the more ancient form of religious life which developed toward the end of the first millennium and thus predates the founding of the friars. [12] They represent a clerical adaptation of monastic life, as it grew out of an attempt to organize communities of clerics to a more dedicated way of life, as St. Augustine himself had done. Historically it paralleled the lay movement of monasticism or the eremitical life from which the friars were later to develop. In their tradition, the canons added the commitment of religious vows to their primary vocation of pastoral care. As the canons became independent of the diocesan structures, they came to form their own monastic communities. The official name of the Order is the Canons Regular of St. Augustine (CRSA). [13]

Augustinian Friars

Martin Luther (1483-1546), in the habit of the Augustinian Order. Luther was an Augustinian friar from 1505 until his excommunication in 1520. Luther would later renounce his religious vows and marry Katharina von Bora in 1525. GNM - Luther als Monch.jpg
Martin Luther (1483–1546), in the habit of the Augustinian Order. Luther was an Augustinian friar from 1505 until his excommunication in 1520. Luther would later renounce his religious vows and marry Katharina von Bora in 1525.
Abbot Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) Gregor Mendel Monk.jpg
Abbot Gregor Mendel (1822–1884)

The 2008 Constitutions of the Order of St. Augustine [14] states that the Order of Saint Augustine is composed of the following:

a) friars, whether professed or novices, who are members of the various Circumscriptions of the Order (meaning a Province, Vicariate, or Delegation).
b) the contemplative nuns belonging to the monasteries of the order.
c) the members of the Augustinian Secular Fraternities, legitimately established by the Prior General.

In addition to these three branches, the Augustinian family also includes other groups: a) religious institutes, both male and female, formally aggregated to the order by a decree of the Prior General (this would include the Augustinians of the Assumption, the Sisters of St. Rita, etc.); b) other groups of lay Augustinians; c) lay faithful affiliated to the Order. [15]

The Augustinian, or Austin, friars (OSA), are a mendicant order. [16] As consecrated religious, they pray the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day. This Latin Church order, while a contemplative Order, differs from traditional monastic orders in three ways. 1) They do not take vows of stability, meaning that they can live in one house (called a friary or sometimes a monastery) typically for several years before being moved into a different community of the order. 2) They are engaged in apostolic activity, such as mission work, education, prison ministries, etc. The order is under the supervision of a Prior General in Rome, and as an international order they are divided into various Provinces throughout the world, with each Province being led by a Prior Provincial. (3) As an order, they have a special commitment to corporate poverty as opposed to simply the poverty professed by the individual friar. While this is not currently legislated as it was in the origins of the order, this is to be a distinguishing mark of their lives as a community.

As consecrated religious, Augustinians profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. They follow the Rule of St. Augustine, written sometime between 397 and 403 for a monastic community Augustine founded in Hippo (in modern day Algeria), and which takes as its inspiration the early Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles, particularly Acts 4:32: "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common." (NAB).

By decree of the Holy See, the Augustinian Order was historically granted what was known as exempt status, which placed made it directly dependent on the Pope, meaning that bishops had no jurisdiction with regards to the internal affairs of the order. This is now expressed by saying that the order is an institute of pontifical right. [17]

History of the Friars

The Augustinian friars originated after the older Canons Regular. The friars represented part of the mendicant movement of the 13th century, a new form of religious life which sought to bring the religious ideals of monastic life into an urban setting which allowed the religious to serve the needs of the people in an apostolic capacity. At this time a number of eremitical groups lived in such diverse places as Tuscany, Latium, Umbria, Liguria, England, Switzerland, Germany, and France. The Fourth Council of the Lateran of 1215 issued the decree Ne nimium to organise these small groups of religious people by requiring them to live in community, to hold elective chapters, to be under obedience to a major superior and to adopt one of the Rules of community life that were approved by the Church.

Little Union

In 1243 the Tuscan hermits petitioned Pope Innocent IV to unite them all as one group. On 16 December 1243 Innocent IV issued the bull Incumbit Nobis, an essentially pastoral letter which, despite its brevity, basically served as the magna carta initiating the foundation of the Order as it is known today. This papal bull exhorted these hermits to adopt the Rule and way of life of Augustine of Hippo, to profess this Augustinian manner of life in a way that they themselves would decide with regards to their specific charism and apostolate, and to elect a Prior General. The bull also appointed Cardinal Riccardo Annibaldi  [ it ] as their Cardinal protector. The importance of this man in the foundation of the Order cannot be overstated. [18]

As decreed by the bull Praesentium Vobis, the Tuscan hermits came together for a general chapter in March 1244, a chapter presided over by Cardinal Annibaldi. At this chapter the Order formally adopted the Rule of St. Augustine and determined to follow the Roman office with the Cistercian psalter, and to hold triennial elections of the Prior General. The first Prior General was Friar Matthew, followed by Adjutus and Philip. In the papal bull Pia desideria, issued on 31 March 1244, Pope Innocent IV formally approved the foundation of the Order.

Grand Union of 1256

In 1255 Innocent's successor, Pope Alexander IV, issued the papal bull Cum Quaedam Salubria summoning all the various groups of Augustinian hermits and the Hermits of Saint William to send two representatives to Rome for a General Chapter, again to be held under the supervision of his nephew, Cardinal Annibaldi. During this chapter the following groups of hermits, inter alia, were amalgamated to the Order, which up to then had only consisted of the groups of the Tuscan hermits (including the Hermits of the Holy Trinity):

  • the Hermits of Saint William
  • the Brittin (named after St. Blasius de Brittinis)
  • the Bonites (named after St. John the Good) The Fratres Saccati in Italy, and some of the houses of the Poor Catholics united with the Bonites. By 1256 the Bonites possessed eleven monasteries.

At this Chapter Lanfranc Settala, the leader of the Bonites, was elected Prior General. [10] The belted, black tunic of the Tuscan hermits was adopted as the common religious habit, and the walking sticks carried by the Bonites in keeping with eremitical tradition—and to distinguish themselves from those hermits who went around begging—ceased to be used. [19] The 12-year-old religious Order of friars now consisted of 100 or more houses.

On 9 April 1256 Pope Alexander IV issued the bull Licet Ecclesiae catholicae (Bullarium Taurinense, 3rd ed., 635 sq.) which confirmed the integration of the Hermits of John the Good (Rule of St. Augustine, 1225), the Hermits of St. William (Rule of St. Benedict), the Hermits of Brettino (Rule of St. Augustine, 1228), the Hermits of Monte Favale (Rule of St. Benedict), other smaller congregations, and the Tuscan Hermits into what was officially called the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine. [10] Almost from the beginning the term "hermits" became a misnomer for they ranked among the friars, and became the fourth of the mendicant orders. The observance and manner of life was mild relative to those times, meat being allowed four days in the week. [20]

In August 1256, a number of Williamite houses withdrew from the newly formed mendicant order and were allowed to continue as a separate congregation under the Benedictine rule. [21] [10]

The early years in the order's history featured a great devotion to learning, to study, to prayer, to service of the poor, and to defense of the Pope and the Church – a particular charism of the Order rooted in the fact that it is the only Order in the history of the Church to be founded directly by a Pope. In his work The Life of the Brothers, the 14th-century Augustinian historian and friar Jordan of Saxony writes:"It is certain that in its modern state the Order is principally founded on spiritual works, those that pertain to the contemplative life. These are as follows: the singing of the divine office; the service of the altar; prayer; psalm singing; devotion to reading or study of sacred scripture; teaching and preaching the word of God; hearing confessions of the faithful; bringing about the salvation of souls by word and example." [22]

The Augustinians count among their number over a dozen saints and numerous members declared blessed by the Church. [23] The Prior General Sebastiano Martinelli was the latest member of the order to be elevated to the cardinalate from 1901 to 2012. [24]

Privileges of the order

Ecclesiastical privileges were granted to the order almost from its beginning. Alexander IV freed the order from the jurisdiction of the bishops; Innocent VIII, in 1490, granted to the churches of the order indulgences such as can only be gained by making the Stations at Rome; Pope Pius V placed the Augustinians among the mendicant orders and ranked them next to the Carmelites. Since the end of the 13th century the sacristan of the Papal Palace was always to be an Augustinian friar, who would be ordained as a bishop. This privilege was ratified by Pope Alexander VI and granted to the Order forever by a Bull issued in 1497. The holder of the office was Rector of the Vatican parish (of which the chapel of St. Paul is the parish church). To his office also belonged the duty of preserving in his oratory a consecrated Host, which had to be renewed weekly and kept in readiness in case of the pope's illness, when it was the privilege of the papal sacristan to administer the last sacraments to the pope. The sacristan had always to accompany the pope when he traveled, and during a conclave it was he who celebrated Mass and administered the sacraments. He lived at the Vatican with a sub-sacristan and three lay brothers of the order (cf. Rocca, "Chronhistoria de Apostolico Sacrario", Rome, 1605). Augustinian friars, as of 2009, still perform the duties of papal sacristans, but the appointment of an Augustinian bishop-sacristan lapsed under Pope John Paul II with the retirement of Petrus Canisius Van Lierde in 1991. In papal Rome the Augustinian friars always filled one of the Chairs of the Sapienza University, and one of the consultorships in the Congregation of Rites.[ citation needed ]

Discalced and Recollect friars

Abraham a Sancta Clara (1644-1709) Megerle1.jpg
Abraham a Sancta Clara (1644–1709)

The Discalced Augustinians were formed in 1588 in Italy as a reform movement of the Order and have their own constitutions, differing from those of the other Augustinians. The Augustinian Recollects developed in Spain in 1592 with the same goal. Currently, though, they are primarily found serving in pastoral care.

Organization of the order

The Augustinian Hermits, while following the rule known as that of St. Augustine, are also subject to the Constitutions, first drawn up by Augustinus Novellus (d. 1309), Prior General of the order from 1298 to 1300, and by Clement of Osimo. A revision was made at Rome in 1895. The Constitutions were revised again and published at Rome in 1895, with additions in 1901 and 1907. [10] Today, the Order follows the Constitutions approved in the Ordinary General Chapter of 2007.

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 six assistants and a secretary, also elected by the General Chapter. These form the Curia Generalitia. Each province is governed by a Prior Provincial, each commissariat 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 number both priests and lay brothers. The Augustinians, like most religious orders, have a Cardinal Protector.

The Augustinians follow the rule of St. Augustine which is divided into 8 chapters (purpose and basis of common life, prayer, moderation and self-denial, safeguarding chastity and fraternal correction, the care of community goods and treatment of sick, asking for pardon and forgiving others, governance and obedience, and observance of the rule). [25] The Augustinians also use the charism or "gift from the Holy Spirit" to guide the communal life.

The choir and outdoor dress of the friars is a tunic of black woolen material, with long, wide sleeves, a black leather girdle, and a large shoulder cape to which is attached a long, pointed hood reaching to the girdle. The indoor dress consists of a black tunic and scapular, over which the shoulder cape is worn. In many monasteries, white was formerly the color worn in areas where there were no Dominicans. In hot climates Augustinians tend to wear white habits as they are easily distinguishable with the Dominicans (i.e. without long scapular, rosary, etc.).

Charism of the Order of St. Augustine

"The foundation of Augustinian life is life in common," [26] with a contemplative dimension.

Provinces of Augustinians throughout the world

Aggregated communities

Other orders and groups belong within the Augustinian family either because they follow the Rule of Augustine, [27] exist as independent societies, [28] or have been formally aggregated through their constitutions into the worldwide Augustinian Order. [29] These are not counted comprehensively in this article only because the Catholic Church's system of governance and accounting makes just the numbers of ordained clerics relatively accessible and verifiable. Some of these include:

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 monastic vows, but offer support to the work of the Augustinian Order in voluntary work, gifts of money and goods, and of study and promotion of St. Augustine and Augustinian teaching.

The primary among these are the Third Orders associated with the various branches of the mendicant Orders. These are the Augustinian Lay Community [32] and the Secular Augustinian Recollects. They make a formal and public commitment as laity to follow as best as possible the life and charism of the Order.

Other associations which support the spirit and work of the friars and Sisters include: the Brotherhood of the Virgin Mary of the Belt [33] in Italy, the Friends of Augustine in the Philippines, and the Augustinian Friends [34] in Australia.

Devotional practices

Our Lady of Good Counsel by Pasquale Sarullo Our Lady of Good Counsel by Pasquale Sarullo.jpg
Our Lady of Good Counsel by Pasquale Sarullo

The particular devotional practices connected with the Augustinian Order, and which it has striven to propagate, include the veneration of the Blessed Virgin under the title of "Mother of Good Counsel" (Mater Boni Consilii), whose miraculous picture is to be seen in the Augustinian church at Genazzano in the Roman province. This devotion has spread to other churches and countries, and confraternities have been formed to encourage it. [35] Several periodicals dedicated to the honour of Our Lady of Good Counsel are published in Italy, Spain and Germany by the Augustinians. The Augustinians, with the approbation of Pope Leo XIII, also encourage the devotion of the Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Besides this devotion, the order traditionally fostered the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Consolation. Members customarily wear a blessed sash or belt leather in honour of Saints Augustine, Monica and Nicholas of Tolentino, recite daily thirteen Our Fathers and Hail Marys and the Salve Regina, fast strictly on the eve of the feast of St. Augustine, and received Holy Communion on the feasts of the three above-named saints. This confraternity was founded by Pope Eugene IV at San Giacomo, Bologna, in 1439, made an archconfraternity by Gregory XIII, in 1575, aggregated to the Augustinian Order.

There are also a number of facilities dedicated to Mary under the title Our Lady of Grace. The Canadian Augustinians operate the Marylake Shrine of Our Lady of Grace at King City, Ontario; Our Lady of Grace Monastery is located in Nova Scotia. [36]

Saints and Blesseds

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carmelites</span> Roman Catholic religious order

The Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, known as the Carmelites or sometimes by synecdoche known simply as Carmel, is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order for men and women. Historical records about its origin remain uncertain, but it was probably founded in the 12th century on Mount Carmel in the Crusader States. Berthold of Calabria, as well as Albert of Vercelli, have traditionally been associated with the founding of the order, but few clear records of early Carmelite history have survived. The order of Carmelite nuns was formalised in 1452.

Augustinian may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Friar</span> Member of a Christian order

A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders founded in the twelfth or thirteenth century; the term distinguishes the mendicants' itinerant apostolic character, exercised broadly under the jurisdiction of a superior general, from the older monastic orders' allegiance to a single monastery formalized by their vow of stability. A friar may be in holy orders or be a brother. The most significant orders of friars are the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Carmelites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Religious order (Catholic)</span> Catholic religious community living under solemn vows

In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a community of consecrated life with members that profess solemn vows. They are classed as a type of religious institute.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mendicant orders</span> Type of religious lifestyle

Mendicant orders are, primarily, certain Catholic Christian religious orders that have adopted a lifestyle of poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas for purposes of preaching, evangelization, and ministry, especially to the poor. At their foundation these orders rejected the previously established monastic model. This model prescribed living in one stable, isolated community where members worked at a trade and owned property in common, including land, buildings and other wealth. By contrast, the mendicants avoided owning property at all, did not work at a trade, and embraced a poor, often itinerant lifestyle. They depended for their survival on the goodwill of the people to whom they preached.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Third order</span> Type of Christian religious order

The term third order signifies, in general, lay members of Christian religious orders, who do not necessarily live in a religious community such as a monastery or a nunnery, and yet can claim to wear the religious habit and participate in the good works of a great order. Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Anglicanism all recognize third orders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canon regular</span> Roman Catholic priests living in community under a religious rule

Canons regular are priests who live in community under a rule and are generally organised into religious orders, differing from both secular canons and other forms of religious life, such as clerics regular, designated by a partly similar terminology.

Canoness is a member of a religious community of women living a simple life. Many communities observe the monastic Rule of St. Augustine. The name corresponds to the male equivalent, a canon. The origin and Rule are common to both. As with the canons, there are two types: canonesses regular, who follow the Augustinian Rule, and secular canonesses, who follow no monastic Rule of Life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Consecrated life</span> Type of lifestyle advocated by the Catholic Church

Consecrated life is a state of life in the Catholic Church lived by those faithful who are called to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way. It includes those in institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life, as well as those living as hermits or consecrated virgins/widows.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discalced Augustinians</span>

The Order of Discalced Augustinians is a mendicant order that branched off from the Order of Saint Augustine as a reform movement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monastery of the Holy Saviour</span> Historic monastery in Lecceto, Tuscany, Italy

The continuing Monastery of the Holy Saviour at Lecceto in Tuscany, was the principal House of the order of the Hermit Friars of Saint Augustine in 1256, when Pope Alexander IV constituted the Augustinian order internationally. It was dedicated to Saint Saviour.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Enclosed religious orders</span> Christian religious orders separated from the external world

Enclosed religious orders or cloistered clergy are religious orders whose members strictly separate themselves from the affairs of the external world. In the Catholic Church, enclosure is regulated by the code of canon law, either the Latin code or the Oriental code, and also by the constitutions of the specific order. It is practised with a variety of customs according to the nature and charism of the community in question. This separation may involve physical barriers such as walls and grilles, with entry restricted for other people and certain areas exclusively permitted to the members of the convent. Outsiders may only temporarily enter this area under certain conditions. The intended purpose for such enclosure is to prevent distraction from prayer and the religious life and to keep an atmosphere of silence.

Independent Augustinian communities are Roman Catholic religious communities that follow the Augustinian Rule, but are not under the jurisdiction of the Prior General of the Augustinian hermits in Rome.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Augustinian Recollects</span> Mendicant Catholic religious order of friars and nuns

The Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR) is a mendicant Catholic religious order of friars and nuns. It is a reformist offshoot from the Augustinian hermit friars and follows the same Rule of St. Augustine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Saint Augustine</span> Catholic order of mendicant friars

The Order of Saint Augustine, abbreviated OSA, is a religious mendicant order of the Catholic Church. It was founded in 1244 by bringing together several eremitical groups in the Tuscany region who were following the Rule of Saint Augustine, written by Saint Augustine of Hippo in the fifth century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Augustinian nuns</span>

Augustinian nuns are the most ancient and continuous segment of the Roman Catholic Augustinian religious order under the canons of contemporary historical method. The Augustinian nuns, named after Saint Augustine of Hippo, are several Roman Catholic enclosed monastic communities of women living according to a guide to religious life known as the Rule of St. Augustine. Prominent Augustinian nuns include Italian mystic St. Clare of Montefalco and St. Rita of Cascia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Congregation of Windesheim</span>

The Congregation of Windesheim is a congregation of Augustinian canons regular. It takes its name from its most important monastery, which was located at Windesheim, about four miles south of Zwolle on the IJssel, in the Netherlands.

The Brothers of Penitence or Friars of the Sack were an Augustinian community also known as Boni Homines or Bonshommes, with houses in Spain, France and England.

"A religious institute is a society in which members, according to proper law, pronounce public vows, either perpetual or temporary which are to be renewed, however, when the period of time has elapsed, and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common."

<i>Origins of the Hermit Friars of the Order of Saint Augustine and Their True Establishment Before the Great Lateran Council</i>

Origen de los frayles ermitaños de la Orden de San Augustin y su verdadera institucion antes del gran Concilio Lateranense is a 1618 work by the Augustinian scholar Juan Márquez, Royal preacher and Chair of Theology at the University of Salamanca. It contributed to a long-running debate within the Augustinian order as to whether the friars (hermits) or the canons were the older-established foundation. Márquez argued that the hermits were the more ancient establishment.


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