In 1996 the late Fr Arnulf Hartmann O.S.A., a great historian of the Augustinian Order, published a list of 465 martyrs of the Order of St Augustine since its Grand Union in the year 1256.
This was a project that had been many years in preparation, and which had involved numerous contributors.
The list takes up seventy printed pages. It states each martyr’s name, offers a few lines of biography, and provides bibliographical sources for further research.
With the expansion of the Church in the sixteenth century, persecution and martyrdom was a consequence of the evangelisation by the Church into continents and territories where Christianity had not previously reached.
The readiness to suffer martyrdom, therefore, was considered a necessary ingredient of the missionary vocation.
Although in some instances the killing of the Augustinians happened because of their perceived violation of indigenous religio-cultural sensitivities and/or through native political resistance to the colonising European nation that sustained the missionaries, this does not diminish the fact that these missionaries stayed and accepted death for the Faith rather than flee to safety.
In a preface to the list, Fr Hartmann wrote, “This list is also intended to be a monument in commemoration of our brethren, who did not for a moment hesitate to pledge their lives for the freedom of conscience, for the freedom to practise their faith, and for the freedom to make their own decisions. It is to remind us of the fact that the profession of faith cannot be suppressed by the severest persecutions and that members of the Augustinian Order were in sublime courage, endurance and self-effacement, in a tenacious holding on to exposed solitary outposts equal to the martyrs of earlier times.”
The tally of 465 Augustinian martyrs, obviously, is not definitive. There are instances where a number of Augustinians were killed together and details of some of them have not survived in written records.
The list is accurate in the names it includes and in its bibliographical references; it is complete in these ways, rather than complete numerically.