For Augustinian Religious Life follows the spiritual tradition of the Rule of Saint Augustine, and also fulfils the requirements of the Canon Law of the Catholic Church.
Canon Law generally defines Religious Life in terms of public vows of poverty (which means common ownership for Augustinians), chastity (castitas) and obedience (obediencia) that are approved by the Church. This requires individual affiliation to a designated community, and being de familia ("of the family of") even if for an approved reason an individual has to live away from a community residence for some period, e.g., to undertake university study or a special task in a town where there are no other Augustinians. For Augustinians and many other - but not all - religious congregations, community living involves a routine of community prayer. The particular proportionality - or "mix" - of contemplative aspects and apostolically-active aspects of religious life can vary from order to order, in the with the constitutions of each.
In a phrase that is more descriptive than based on Church law, the Augustinians have been said to be among the most active of contemplative orders and also the most contemplative of active orders. Leaving aside consideration of the juridic aspects, Augustinian Religious Life has some of the creative character of the personality of Augustine, including his characteristic umanita, an Italian word that translates roughly into the English language as his humanity, or - better still - his human warmth.
And just as the wines from different regions have distinctive flavours but yet are all still wine, the characteristic emphasis of the Augustinians is caritas (love). Because of the circumstances and particular needs of their different eras, Francis of Assisi emphasised poverty for the Franciscans, and Ignatius of Loyola highlighted obedience for the Jesuits. Augustinian Religious Life finds inspiration in the Gospel message, especially as highlighted in Augustine's life, thought and work.
From their own community life over hundreds of years, their teaching and study in universities and schools down the centuries to their current educational and pastoral ministries in as many as forty nations, the Augustinians seek to promote a search for learning, love and community life based on friendship that is the spirit of Augustine himself. The members of the Order find the life and thought of Augustine an attractive legacy. Augustine passionately believed the search for understanding and truth to be a common quest, leading seekers ultimately to God, the source of all truth and wisdom.
The life and work of Augustine, plus the charism, experience and writings of the formative Grand Union of Augustinians in the year 1256, comprise a notable and distinctive tradition in the Christian church of the West. The distinctive characteristics of this intellectual, spiritual and pastoral tradition include an emphasis upon the following ideas and practices: the priority of love, the mystery of Christ, the efficacy of grace, the importance of the Bible, and a critique of human power and institutions. These characteristics are certainly not unique to the Augustinian tradition.
The understanding of love and spiritual relationship by Augustine, his witness to Christ, his interpretation of the Bible, and his critique of social structures have all entered the mainstream of the Western Church as foundations of its theology and spiritual tradition. Recast in their original settings, however, and woven together in the tapestry of Augustinian history, the varied and subtle shadings of the thought of Augustine present rich resources for an integrated spiritual tradition for persons in the busy and impersonal world of today. This Augustinian spirituality (spiritual tradition) offers much that can deepen and broaden the quality of life of any religious or lay community that follows it.
Augustinian Religious Life is firmly based on the Gospel message, especially as highlighted in the life, thought and work of Augustine. A strong emphasis in the Augustinian charism is life in community. Saint Augustine in his own life as a Christian was strongly influenced by the description of the early Church as portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles 4:32: "they were of one heart and one mind." As a Christian layman, and then as a priest and finally as a bishop, Augustine lived in community.
This was not just for social purposes but was an integral part of his faith - to love one's neighbour is the way in which our love of God becomes concrete. Augustine paid attention not just to the concept of people living under the same roof but to the quality of the human relationships within the community. Following from his way of living the Gospel, Augustinian religious life values the communion that should exist among those living this way. For those being welcomed into and prepared for life as an Augustinian, being part of an Augustinian community is an essential dimension of their formation.
Through the ups and downs of life in common the candidate is encouraged to grow in openness to others, a sense of belonging, acceptance, trust, support, sensitivity, capacity to seek and accept forgiveness, and being present to others. (Cf. Plan of Augustinian Formation, Rome, 1993, n. 17.) For all of us this growth is a journey that is as long as our life, hence a patient love for oneself and for others is at the heart of the endeavour of Augustinian religious life. As you read this you will rightly observe that what is said here about attention to the quality of our relationships applies to all of us in our various vocations.
It has been noted that the perspectives of Augustine on religious life is nothing other than a conscious, focussed effort to live the Christian life well in a particular way. Just as Augustinians are called to articulate in words and deed the values underlying our way of life, we are continually formed in them by experiencing among the people we serve your commitment to living your family relationships and friendships. To use an Augustinian image, we carry one another on our common journey towards God. Augustinian community life is for both genders The Augustinian vocation is for persons of either gender. In its constitutions, the Order has communities of nuns (i.e., Religious women of the conremplative life, as distinct from Religious Sisters who undertake ministry in schools, caring for the sick, assisting in parishes, etc.) Augustinian Contemplative Nuns mainly have theor monasteries in Europe, but also a number of monasteries in Asia (Philippines), Africa (Kenya), North America (Canada, USA), and Latin America.Numerous congregations of Augustionian Sisters (as distinct from Augustinian Nuns) are constitutionally affiliated to the Order, with the Prior General of the Order of St Augustine having constitutional rights over matters such as the election of the Sisters' international superior, and other guardian roles. These congregations of Augustinian Sisters exist in many nations where thje Augustinian friars minister, and additionally in some countries wqhere the friars are not present.All congregations of Augustinian Sisters are not,however affiliated to the Order of St Augustine, e.g., Sisters affiliated to the Augustinian Recollects or to the Augustinians of the Assumption, or being independent "local" congregations that belong to a diocese but have adopted St Augustine of Hippo as their patron.