1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Augustinians
AUGUSTINIANS, in the Roman Catholic Church, a generic name for religious orders that follow the so-called “Rule of St Augustine.” The chief of these orders are:—Augustinian Canons (q.v.), Augustinian Hermits (q.v.) or Friars, Premonstratensians (q.v.), Trinitarians (q.v.), Gilbertines (see Gilbert of Sempringham, St). The following orders, though not called Augustinians, also have St Augustine’s Rule as the basis of their life: Dominicans, Servites, Our Lady of Ransom, Hieronymites, Assumptionsts and many others; also orders of women: Brigittines, Ursulines, Visitation nuns and a vast number of congregations of women, spread over the Old and New Worlds, devoted to education and charitable works of all kinds.
St Augustine never wrote a Rule, properly so called; but Ep. 211 (al. 109) is a long letter of practical advice to a community of nuns, on their daily life; and Serm. 355, 356 describe the common life he led along with his clerics in Hippo. When in the second half of the 11th century the clergy of a great number of collegiate churches were undertaking to live a substantially monastic form of life (see Canon), it was natural that they should look back to this classical model for clerics living in community. And so attention was directed to St Augustine’s writings on community life; and out of them, and spurious writings attributed to him, were compiled towards the close of the 11th century three Rules, the “First” and “Second” being mere fragments, but the “Third” a substantive rule of life in 45 sections, often grouped in twelve chapters. This Third Rule is the one known as “the Rule of St Augustine.” Being confined to fundamental principles without entering into details, it has proved itself admirably suited to form the foundation of the religious life of the most varied orders and congregations, and since the 12th century it has proved more prolific than the Benedictine Rule. In an uncritical age it was attributed to St Augustine himself, and Augustinians, especially the canons, put forward fantastic claims to antiquity, asserting unbroken continuity, not merely from St Augustine, but from Christ and the Apostles.