A lengthy difficulty affected the Order in relation to Spain and its colonies (a considerable proportion of the Order) for ninety years of the nineteenth century. Because of a papal bull signed in 1804, Augustinian houses of the Spanish world (and those of other Orders in a parallel manner) were legally outside of the authority of the Augustinian Prior General in Rome. This matter, which shall be detailed at length in subsequent paragraphs, was exacerbated even further with the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808, when all religious houses (i.e., including Augustinian houses) were forced to close. When they were allowed to reopen they were subject to the papal bull in 1804 Pius VII (pope from 1800 to 1823).
His bull, lnter graviores, of 13 May 1804, provided for the government of the Spanish houses of the Order by a Spanish Vicar General. It was granted by the Pope at the request of King Charles IV of Spain and Cardinal Bourbon, who was the Apostolic Visitator of Regulars in that country. The Spanish Vicar General had full authority over the Augustinians of Spain and of its numerous colonies, just as much as the Prior General in Rome had exercised previously.
The Augustinian Order was in effect cut in two, one part under the jurisdiction of the Prior General in Rome, while the order in the Spanish Empire was under a Spanish superior. From at least the year 1786, trouble was brewing for the Spanish section of the Order, for at that time, Pope Pius VI, in a Brief to the Spanish Augustinians, mentioned a breakdown in the observance of the Rule due to the lack of a superior to watch over them properly. When the countries of South America gained their independence from Spain by force, members of the Order in these lands formed provinces and vice-provinces of their own, and were returned to the jurisdiction of the Prior General in Rome, for the bull Inter graviores of 1804 henceforth no longer affected them. The same held true for Mexico, so that by 1893 the only countries remaining under the jurisdiction of the Spanish superior were Spain, the Philippine Islands with their oriental missions, and a few remaining missions in South America. An then in 1893 Pope Leo XIII promulgated the Spanish Augustinians still separated from the jurisdiction of the Prior General at Rome be reunited to the rest of the order.
The papal directive of 1893 was followed, even if reluctantly by some Hispanic officials within the Order. This anomalous situation was ended, and for the first time in eighty-nine years, all members of the Order were under the authority of the Prior General in Rome, who in 1893 was Fr Sebastian Martinelli O.S.A., (later in Leo XIII’s pontificate to be made a cardinal and the Apostolic Delegate to the U.S.A.). It is now necessary to back-track briefly to the 1830s. In 1833, which saw the infant Queen Isabel II assume the throne and an anticlerical regime in control of the state, there were the following number of houses in the Augustinian provinces in Spain: Castile 38, with 347 members; Andalusia 35 house and 302 members; Aragon 47 houses and 572 members, and the Province of the Canaries 8 houses and 35 members. This made a total of 138 houses.
And then in 1835 all but two of the Augustinian houses in Spain were suppressed. Some members of the provinces based in Spain joined the Philippines Province and went to the Philippines, and others worked as teachers, parish priests, chaplains to religious sisters, etc.. The Spanish-based Philippines Province had 250 members ministering in the Philippines. When in 1835 all houses of religious orders in Spain were suppressed by a republican government that was in conflict with the Church, the Augustinian missionary colleges of Valladolid (49 resident members) and Monteagudo (the mission house of the Augustinian Recollects) were exempt. They trained men in Spain for the ministry of priesthood in the Spanish colonies, and the government did not want to bring any disturbance to the work of the church in Spanish colonies. Because of the insufficiency of space at Valladolid, the government in 1865 allowed the Philippines Province to open a second seminary at a former Premonstratensian monastery of La Vid (which subsequently was handed to the Province of Spain when it was founded in 1926).
The restoration of the Spanish royalty in 1875 was the beginning of better days for religious orders. In 1885 the Province of the Philippines consented to an invitation to staff the monastery within the Escorial, which was a royal palace and monastery. (Ministry in the Escorial was in 1895 then passed to the Province of Madrid, which was founded that same year.) The Escorial was to be the greatest source of the Augustinians who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The Escorial became an important centre in the life of the Order in Spain. This was the beginning of a conscious decision by the Spanish Augustinians to establish schools. It was a step that provided a rapid growth in membership in the twentieth century. Pope Leo XIII, who is justifiably called "the second founder of the Augustinian Order," took yet another step in ensuring the survival of the Order of Saint Augustine in 1893. In that year, he called for a General Chapter involving the entire Augustinian world. For the first time in 103 years the Hispanic section of the Order - 300 members - were to be part of the deliberations. At the General Chapter of 1893, the Province of Castile, whose restoration had begun in 1881 of former houses of the previous Province of Spain, was officially approved. As well, a new Province of Madrid was approved, containing some of the houses of the Province of the Philippines that were located in Spain. In 1926 the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus in Spain was formed, as a further growth in Spain from houses that until then had remained in the Province of the Philippines. Thus in the 21st century there are these four Provinces operating in Spain: Castile (founded about 1256, restored and re-named in 1881), the Philippines (1575), Madrid (1895) and Spain (1926).
In 1912 the Augustinian Recollects of Spain became a distinct Order. Previously there were autonomous from the Order of Saint Augustine, yet still under the care of the latter Order's Prior General. After 1912 they elected a Prior General of their own. During the previous century, all four Provinces undertook missions, mainly in Latin America, the Philippines and China, and continue to do so in the 21st century. One Spanish Augustinian in China, Abilio Gallego O.S.A. was executed by Communist militia in 1933. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was a time of great difficulty for the Church, and for priests and religious in particular.During that War, sixty-five Augustinian friars from the monastery of El Escorial were executed. This included the Augustinian Provincial (regional superior), Avelino Rodríguez O.S.A., and the Assistant General (assistant world leader), Mariano Revilla O.S.A.. In all, five groups of Spanish Augustinian friars totalling 180 men gave their lives in witness to their Christian faith during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
The Spanish provinces were inspired to increase their number of members to even higher levels in the years that followed. Members from Spain have been the Prior General of the Order on three occasions in recent years: Luciano Rubio O.S.A. (1959 - 1965), Miguel Angel Orcasitas O.S.A. (1989 – 2001) and Alejandro Moral O.S.A. (since 2014). Late in 2011 discussion took place among the four Augustinian Provinces based in Spain about the possibility of their amalgamating into a single Spanish Province. The matter was presented as a proposal to the Order's international General Chapter in 2016, and was officially encouraged.
Links Espana Province website, Spain http://www.agustinos-es.org
Matritense Province website, Spain http://www.agustinosescorial.com
Augustinian communities at the Escorial Monastery. The gallery has spectacular photographs of the Escorial Monastery. http://www.monasteriodelescorial.com
Augustinian mattyrs: Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). This was a time of great difficulty for the Church in general, and for priests and friars in particular. More than 7000 priests, friars and nuns were martyred. Their crime: being a priest or religious. In addition, more than 3,500 lay persons were martyred in witness to their Christian faith. Besides Blessed Anselm Polanco O.S.A. who was martyred in the 1936-1939 conflict, six groups of Augustinian friars totalling 98 men, gave their lives in witness to their Christian faith. http://midwestaugustinians.org/bl-avelino-rodriguez-and-martyrs-of-spain