Pope Gregory X had acted in favour of the Order of Saint Augustine during the pre-1274 years of his pontificate but, at the Second Council of Lyons, needed to hear out the complaints of the bishops about the papal exemptions from episcopal authority granted to religious orders. The bishops gathered at Lyons called that something be done about it. In the ecclesiastical politics of the era, to what extent did Gregory X intend the Second Council of Lyons to be only a salutary warning to the Augustinians to mould itself to the needs of the Church and to assist further the local bishops?
To what extent was it a Pope simply demonstrating to the bishops that he too would not like the proliferation of religious orders, but did not see this as being excessive as the bishops did? After the death of Pope Gregory X , Pope Martin IV (Pope from 1281 to 1285), and especially the first Franciscan friar to become pope, Nicholas IV (Pope from 1288 to 1292), moved slowly on the suppression of religious orders. These Popes could not but be impressed by the continuous efforts of the third Prior General, Clement of S Elpidio, to give his Order uniformity of habit as well as unity of mind and action. Blessed Clement had but one motto in office: Ut Ordo unus sit (“That the Order be one").
To that end, he and Blessed Augustinus Novellus O.S.A. (also called Nicholas of Tarano) revised the Augustinian Constitutions and gave them such compact form that the text was not again revised for the next 250 years, although of course additions were made. Clement published new liturgical books, held for the first time a General Chapter outside of Italy, and gave the Order a uniform theological teaching in prescribing in 1287 the doctrine of Giles of Rome O.S.A. for all schools of the Order. This devoted and intelligent leadership of the Order was favourably noted by the Papal See. Nicholas IV, therefore, did his share to help and protect the Augustinians. Cardinal Richard Annibaldi had died in 1257 but no successor to him as Cardinal Protector of the Augustinians had been appointed. One of the first acts of Nicholas IV was to give the Order, in 1288, a new Cardinal Protector, Bernard de Languissel, Archbishop of Porto. The Pope also protected the Order, wherever it was attacked, particularly in Germany and Paris. He chose for his penitentiary Blessed Augustinus Novellus O.S.A. (also called Augustine of Tarano). By his personality and example, this Augustinian holy man exerted a remarkable influence on the Papal Curia.
In 1290 Nicholas IV asked the Prior General and twenty other Augustinians to preach the crusade, and eighteen months later requested thirty more. He sent similar requests to the Dominicans and Franciscans, an indication that the Augustinians now enjoyed a good reputation as preachers. In August 1294, the brief administration of Pope Celestine V began. As Pietro di Murrhone, he had been taken from his obscure mountain cave in the Abruzzi and consecrated as Pope. He was a holy man, but totally unsuitable for the position of Pope. On the 13th December 1294, he resigned from the burden of being the Pope, which was excessive for him. He had not been interested in any decree of suppression of any religious groups. The next pope, Boniface VIII (Pope from 1294 to 1313), was through the family of his mother connected with the Italian house of Segni, which had already given three popes to the Church, Innocent III, Gregory IX, and Alexander IV (who had ratified the Grand Union of the Order of Saint Augustine in 1256).Born Benedetto Caetani, Boniface VIII knew well some senior members of the Order of Saint Augustine. It is said that Clement of Osimo, a former Prior General who had died in sanctity, had been his confessor. Boniface had visited Clement's body in Orvieto soon after he died, when the fame of his miracles had already begun to spread. Pope Boniface VIII had jurisdictional and political battles with many European rulers. When he encountered a contest of wills with the Crown of France he found among the Augustinians his staunchest and most distinguished supporters. Giles of Rome O.S.A., the first Paris master (doctorate) of the Order, jeopardized his high standing in Paris by publishing one treatise after another in defence of the Pope. Blessed James Capocci, later Archbishop of Naples, Augustine Trionfi, and several other Augustinians were mighty warriors in the Pope's cause.
Giles of Rome O.S.A. in 1294 became the fifth Prior General of the Order of Saint Augustine. A close associate of Boniface VIII, Giles was possibly the greatest scholar in the history of the Order thus far, and wrote powerfully a number of times in defence of the position of Boniface. The time that Giles occupied the office of Prior General was brief, for in April 1295 he accepted the wish of Pope Boniface and became the Archbishop of Bourges in France. Part of that time, from spring of 1296 until August 1299, Giles at papal command lived in Rome assisting Pope Boniface VIII. It is not to be wondered at, then, that Pope Boniface VIII came energetically to the rescue of their Order. On 5th May 1298, which might well be considered the second birthday of the Order, he modified the threatening decree. Previously, it permitted the Order to continue “until other arrangements have been made.” The Pope now caused it to read, “We will that the Order continue as fully approved.”
Even before Boniface VIII guaranteed their continuance the Augustinians must have been somehow reassured concerning their future, otherwise their renewed spirit of enterprise could not be explained. For example, shortly after Pope Gregory's death in 1285 they moved into Ireland. In England itself a great building activity is evident in all houses, and at least five new foundations were made in the final decade of the thirteenth century. And so the words of one Pope in 1274 were counteracted by the words of another Pope in 1298, but not without twenty-four years of concern for the members of the Order in the interim. In 1299 Boniface reconfirmed their exemption from episcopal jurisdiction, under immediate obedience to the pope. The Order of Saint Augustine was thus secure. In 1303 Boniface further reconfirmed the Order's participation in the same privileges concerning preaching, sacramental confession and the burial of the laity as were possessed by the members of both the Franciscan and Dominican mendicant orders.(Continued on the next page.)
For the Augnet photo gallery on Cascia (including the three photos above), click here.