The suppression and closure of Augustinian – and other - monasteries in Europe during the second half of the eighteenth century was at the hands of secular rulers.
For example, in 1768 the Duke of Moderna closed twenty Augustinian monasteries, and the senate of Venice did likewise to several Augustinian monasteries a year later.
A year later again, the boundaries of a number of Augustinian Provinces were redrawn (i.e., certain monasteries were changed from one Province to another) at the insistence of lay rulers in Umbria.
This had nothing to do with any benefit to the monasteries or to the Order, and in fact most often was at the Order’s inconvenience and detriment.
Harsher steps were soon taken in other regions of Italy and in other European lands by rulers of the “enlightenment.” The prevailing mood imposed on the Order was one of caution because of external coercion, rather than one of confidence.
The post-Reformation reduction in vocations (new membership) to the Order – and not exclusively to the Augustinians, by any means - and financial strictures precluded expansion almost everywhere except on the Iberian Peninsula.
Entering the period between 1648 and 1789, Spain was largely untouched by the Protestant Reformation.
The Church and the Order in that country had benefited from vigorous reforms of the subsequent Council of Trent (1545 - 1564).
By 1776 there were four Provinces in Spain with a total of 130 houses, plus the headquarters of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the Philippines, which had been founded in Spain in 1575 to recruit and train men to become Augustinians for missionary service in Asia – China, Japan and principally the Philippines.
Since 1759 this Province had its famed missionary seminary at Valladolid, Spain (which still operates). By 1600 this Province had fifty Augustinian houses on six of the Philippine islands.
The four Spanish Augustinian provinces allowed their members to transfer to the missionary Philippines Province if the foreign missions attracted them.
In this way, and through direct recruitment of Spanish men to Augustinian Order by the Philippines Province, an estimated 2,900 friars went from Spain to the Philippines between 1569 and 1898.
This Province in 1776 had twenty-eight monasteries, mainly in Asia, and from them conducted 165 missionary sub-centres called doctrinas.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right).
Picture 1: The Escolania (residential choir school) of the Escorial. Conducted by the Augustinians.
Picture 2: A class in the Escolania.
Picture 3: Choir rehearsal in the Escolania.
For the Augnet photo gallery of Augustinian ministry in Spain: Escorial (see photos at right), click here.