Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Augustinian Order in the Church

On December 11th, 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 (1241–1254) and Pope Alexander IV (1254–1261), 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 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.

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 "honored 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 favor the gifted, nor exclude the poor or marginalized. 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 energized the various branches of the order into building communities founded on mutual affection and intellectual advancement. The Augustinian ideal is inclusive.

December 16

Incumbit Nobis

The founding of the Augustinian Order


Almighty and eternal God,

In the fullness of time,

you called together, the many Augustinians,

to become a single community,

united in faith, and in the observance of the Holy Rule.

Through the intercession of our Father, Saint Augustine,

may all who follow his rule of life,

become one in mind and heart,

intent upon the Kingdom of God.

Through our Lord.

Thanks to Fr. John, SSA for this information.