Was Giles of Viterbo O.S.A., the Prior General from 1507 until 1518, the person for this task? The early indications of this possibility certainly were promising.
Giles was a member of the observant movement at the Augustinian eremo (hermitage) at Lecceto in Tuscany. He was a scholar with a fine intellect, a man who could relate to the Renaissance without accepting what he perceived as its areas of moral weakness.
As well, Giles was generally acclaimed as being one of the best preachers of his day. He was one who said that the reform of the Order of Saint Augustine was uppermost in his mind.
At the General Chaper of 1507, the 1,100 Augustinian delegates (in an Order of 22,000 members) unanimously elected Giles as Prior General - a gesture more or less rare in the Order's history.
The Chapter passed thirty resolutions, which was an indication that the goals of reform sought by Giles had much support.
It was a brave plan, and yet not a radical one. In the spirit of the Augustinian observant movement, it called for a return to the living of the ideals of the past. There was little that was "new" being envisioned.
Just as a call back to poverty was the hallmark of renewal for the Franciscan mendicants, it was a call back to the perfect living of the vita communis (the community life) that was proposed as the Augustinian path to spiritual perfection.
The vita communis required the renunciation of private property, participation in community prayer and meetings, meals in common, and observance of the rules of cloister (clausura, patio).
It also required a careful administration of the property of the community, regulated association with the laity, regular prayer in community, and, most of all, a greater degree of mutual charity among and between Augustinians.
Additionally, Pope Julius II supported the goals of Giles with a series of papal bulls that strengthened his authority.
This was to protect Giles from individual Augustinians or from civil and ecclesiastical authorities who might oppose his reforms in order to maintain any ill-gotten gains attained through Augustinian laxity.
Papal legislative help to Giles even extended to giving Giles authority to imprison any Augustinian who was living outside of community without sufficient cause, and to seek the excommunication of anybody who refused to return property belonging to the Order that had been improperly obtained.
The next practical step of Giles was to issue the first printed edition of the Constitutions of the Order of Saint Augustine.
The Constitutions had existed in manuscript copies since 1290, but there was no guarantee that any particular copy was updated with all amendments passed at each General Chapter that followed every three years.
For the first time ever, every Augustinian authority possessed an authentic and contemporary copy of the Constitutions.
The Constitutions and related documents printed in the same volume were the program of reform that Giles intended to implement.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right):
A camp encounter for young adults of the Parish of Saint Augustine, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Picture 1: Discussion points.
Picture 2: Concert at the camp for young adults of the parish.
Picture 3: Assignment of tasks at the camp for young adults of the parish.