In 1992 an eminent medieval historian, Professor Francis Xavier Martin O.S.A. (now deceased) stated that the Order of Saint Augustine has never adequately investigated the history of its observant movement during the times before, during and after the Protestant Reformation.
He attributed this partly to a degree of Augustinian shame about Martin Luther, who was a member of the observant movement throughout his life as an Augustinian.
The Order of Saint Augustine was not far past its Grand Union of the year 1256 when yearnings for its hermit (eremitical) origins of the previous two centuries led to corresponding steps being taken by the leaders of the Order.
The title, Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine, was in fact a misnomer, yet it truthfully reflected the origins of many of the groups that were drawn into the Order at the Grand Union of 1256.
Persons looking back at the traditional hermit (eremitical) origins of the Augustinians were often members who were looking for a greater spiritual intensity in Augustinian life.
They sometimes feared that the call of the Church to apostolic activity in the newer mendicant tradition had the potential to reduce the quality of spiritual and community life.
There was a similar sense in those called the "spirituals" amongst the Franciscans in Umbria, whereas the Augustinian hermit (eremitical) tradition was strongest in Tuscany.
In both the Franciscan and Augustinian Orders particularly, communities seeking this supposed "original" intensity of spirituality, penitence and a more strict observance of the spirit of Francis and Augustine were said to be part of an observant movement.
The observant movement was strong among the Augustinians in Tuscany partially because of a tradition that was later proved to be historically incorrect.
They had thought that Augustine had lived in - or even possibly instituted - a hermitage in Tuscany at some time between his conversion in Milan in 387 AD and his return to Africa and the community at Thagaste in 388 AD. (In fact, it is certain that he spent that time in Rome.)
(Continued on the next page.)Photos (at right):
Ordination of a young Augustinian on 10th October 2005 in Parroquia San Agustin de Concepcion, Chile. The bishop, from Panama, was also an Augustinian.
Picture 1: The bishop imposes his hands.
Picture 2: Padre Jose imposes his hands.
Picture 3: Reading of the Gospel.