The Protestant Reformation happened in the context of the intellectual and religious ferment in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages.
There was the decline in Scholastic theology, the after-effect on papal authority of the Great Western Schism, the appearance of Wycliffe and Hus, profound social evils, the increasing tendency of regional rulers and princes to wrest some control from the church, and the anti-ecclestiastical aspects that emerged within humanism and the Renaissance.
Added to this intellectual and sociological ferment, there was also the growing storm being caused by religious abuses.
This was evident in abuses regarding pious practices and pilgrimages, the matter of indulgences, the cult of relics, the increase of superstition and of belief in witchcraft.
Within the espicopal and clerical circles of the church itself, there was a decline in - and even a neglect of - pastoral care, worldliness, the accumulation of benefices, simony, avarice, and public scandal.
In religious orders, too, aside for some successful pockets of reform, there was a slackening in monastic discipline and in religious spirit.
In such a foreboding atmosphere, therefore, what was the general condition of the Order of Saint Augustine in terms of its morale and its performance during the decades before the Protestant Reformation exploded into medieval history?
A response that is both far too simplistic and far from accurate is to say that the Order was corrupt or rotten to the core. That is abjectly false.
One interesting observation to the contrary is that in 1561 Augustinians were still living and working in their Augustinerkloster (i.e., the Augustinian convento) at Erfurt, where Martin Luther had joined the Order of Saint Augustine in 1505.
When they were forcefully evicted from their monastery by anti-Catholic civic authorities of Erfurt in 1561, Luther had already been dead for fifteen years.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right):
Picture 1: A German Augustinian novice.
Picture 2: A German Augustinian novice.