This inaccuracy was compounded by a document later proved to be spurious, the so-called Sermones ad Fratres in Eremo ("Sermons [of Augustine] to the Brothers in the Hermitage").
From 1320 onwards, the unfounded claim was made about an unidentified Italian hermitage named Centumcellae in which Augustine was said to have resided and handed over his Rule, and another claim that he had visited the Eremo di Lecceto. These claims were actively believed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Because at this time members of the Order wished to believe that Augustine had literally founded their Order, Centumcellae was proclaimed to have been the very first house of the Order of Saint Augustine – established by Augustine himself 868 years before the Grand Union.
As previously stated, any lingering desire for and idealizing of the eremitical (hermit) style of life that had existed before the Grand Union would have resonated in spirit with many more friars who only desired that their current mendicant lifestyle was lived by them more authentically.
With the passage of time, the simplicity and especially the severity involved in their religious life was being eroded by the granting of privileges and the promulgation of dispensations and exceptions, and sometime also by the poor implementation of regulations and the bad example of lax discipline.
There was the destructive force of endless exceptions to the Rule and the ruination caused by the neglect of true poverty. A spirit of selfishness which sought personal comfort and individualism was gaining strength within the Augustinian Order, whose ideal was the common good.
In 1422, with the end of the Great Western Schism, the call for the Councils of Basel was for “a renovation in the head and members of the Church.” The assembled prelates sought to solve the problem by legislation, but if renewal is to be true and permanent it must come from within.
For this to occur within a religious order, some members must arise whose spotless lives and high ideals bring about a voluntary reform; whose steady courage and persuasive powers will carry along the average religious. The Austins had many such men.
Reform-minded Augustinians emerged in every nation where the Order was present, except in France in England. France, however, had a belated, violent reform movement in the seventeenth century.
Good religious chafed under this lawlessness but could do nothing because, in one sense, lawlessness had become legalized. In an era when not every Pope or Prior General was resistant to the granting of documents authorizing privileges and dispensations, these documents usually contained strictest orders to lower superiors not to interfere with the process.
(Continued on the next page.)
Fiesta of Sto Nino (Holy Child) at Cebu, Philippines, January 2010. This annual fiesta and procession draws over a million people to Cebu’s minor basilica and streets. It has been conducted by the Order of St Augustine since the Augustinians reached Cebu as the first missionaries to the Philippines in 1565.
Picture 1: A fiesta celebration outside the basilica.
Picture 2: The cardinal of Cebu and the Sto. Nino statue.
Picture 3: The street procession of the Sto. Nino statue.
Picture 4: Augustinian students watch the procession.