The impact of the observant movement on the Order of Saint Augustine is highlighted by the fact that the observant movement included the four Augustinians who were most influential before, during and after the Protestant Reformation.
These were Giles of Viterbo O.S.A. (who also was Prior General for twelve years), Martin Luther O.S.A. in Germany, Girolamo Seripando O.S.A. (Italy, and also a Prior General), and (Saint) Thomas of Villanova O.S.A. (Spain).
By the sixteenth century, however, its success led to its loss of spiritual tone, and this tone was partly replaced by an attitude of superiority over the greater number of conventual Augustinians.
The Protestant Reformation and subsequent civil upheavals affected adversely the number of members in the Order of Saint Augustine in a number of countries (Germany, France, England, Hungary, Poland, and less so Italy and Spain).
A number of observant congregations ceased.
A step in the opposite direction happened, however, at Toledo in Spain in 1588, when a Provincial Chapter approved the formation of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, which finally was granted complete separation from the Order of Saint Augustine in 1912.
Today members of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (O.A.R.) minister in nineteen nations, most of which have a Hispanic background: Spain, throughout much of Latin America, Philippines, and also in Taiwan, China, Sierra Leone, USA and England.
There are presently no officially designated observant houses or congregations in the Order of Saint Augustine in an official sense.
In recent times, the Convento Sant’Agostino in San Gimignano, Italy has been recognised as a place of Augustinian pilgrimage and prayer, yet the two Augustinians there are ascribed members of the Augustinian Province of Italy in the same manner as in any other Italian convento of the Order of Saint Augustine.
Another special place in Augustinian history and spiritual tradition is the Eremo (hermitage) of Lecceto. It is now occupied by Augustinian contemplative nuns.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right):
Picture 1: Augustinian International Encounter for Young Adults, at Pavia, Italy: August 2006.
Picture 2: Prior General at the Encounter.
Picture 3: On an excursion during the Encounter.
For Augnet galleries of images of Lecceto and San Gimignano, click here.