St Augustine and his Rule
The Canons Regular of Prémontré follow the Rule of St. Augustine and, as such, are members of the wider Augustinian family of canons, friars and hermits. We therefore refer to him as our Holy Father, together with St. Norbert. It may be said that St. Augustine founded our way of life as canons regular, which St. Norbert reformed in the twelfth century.
St. Augustine of Hippo has exerted great theological and spiritual influence on the Church. He is the most cited Father in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, and his Rule has been adopted by well over 150 orders and congregations. In iconography, he is often depicted holding the Rule and a flaming heart, which burns for love of God. As a Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine has been awarded the special title, “Doctor of Grace.”
Born in Thagaste (modern day Algeria) in 354, the young Augustine was an earnest seeker after truth. Becoming a rhetorician and philosopher of the highest calibre, after experimenting with several schools of thought, he finally entered the Church in 386. He was ordained in 391 and became Bishop of Hippo in 395. As well as combating the Manichaeans, he also fought against other popular, but erroneous, movements of the fourth and fifth centuries. Among these were the Donatists, who claimed that the validity of the sacraments rested upon the personal worthiness of individual ministers, and the Pelagians, who taught that people could ‘earn’ salvation through their own efforts. As a result, Augustine developed, or expounded upon, the doctrines of original sin, grace, and divine sovereignty. He died in Hippo on 28th August 430.
When St. Norbert's community at Prémontré was first formed, some debate arose as to the form of life that was to be followed. St. Augustine appeared to St. Norbert, saying, “I am Augustine, Bishop of Hippo; behold here the Rule which I have written; if your fellow-brethren, my sons, shall have observed it well, they shall stand without fear in the presence of Christ on the terrible day of the Last Judgment.” The Rule of St. Augustine is founded on those ideals that shaped the primitive Church, as may be found in the Acts of the Apostles. These ideals include apostolic communio, holding all things in common, and an unity of heart and mind among those who are journeying together on the way to God.
In addition to the Rule, the Order's Constitutions also provide a guide to our way of life. St. Augustine's Rule is available on the website of Villanova University. The Constitutions and Augustine's Disciplina Monasterii may be viewed on the Order's website.