From the Rule of St. Augustine: Written about the year 400, the Rule of St. Augustine is one of the earliest guides for religious life. A short document, it is divided into eight chapters:
Chapter I | Purpose and Basis of Common Life
Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbor, because these are the chief commandments given to us.
- The following are the precepts we order you living in the monastery to observe.
- The main purpose for you having come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.
- Call nothing your own, but let everything be yours in common. Food and clothing shall be distributed to each of you by your superior, not equally to all, for all do not enjoy equal health, but rather according to each one's need. For so you read in the Acts of the Apostles that they had all things in common and distribution was made to each one according to each one's need (4:32,35).
- Those who owned something in the world should be careful in wanting to share it in common once they have entered the monastery.
- But they who owned nothing should not look for those things in the monastery that they were unable to have in the world. Nevertheless, they are to be given all that their health requires even if, during their time in the world, poverty made it impossible for them to find the very necessities of life. And those should not consider themselves fortunate because they have found the kind of food and clothing which they were unable to find in the world.
- And let them not hold their heads high, because they associate with people whom they did not dare to approach in the world, but let them rather lift up their hearts and not seek after what is vain and earthly. Otherwise, monasteries will come to serve a useful purpose for the rich and not the poor, if the rich are made humble there and the poor are puffed up with pride.
- The rich, for their part, who seemed important in the world, must not look down upon their brothers who have come into this holy brotherhood from a condition of poverty. They should seek to glory in the fellowship of poor brothers rather than in the reputation of rich relatives. They should neither be elated if they have contributed a part of their wealth to the common life, nor take more pride in sharing their riches with the monastery than if they were to enjoy them in the world. Indeed, every other kind of sin has to do with the commission of evil deeds, whereas pride lurks even in good works in order to destroy them.And what good is it to scatter one's weath abroad by giving to the poor, even to become poor oneself, when the unhappy soul is thereby more given to pride in despising riches than it had been in possessing them?
- Let all of you then live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honoring God in yourselves, whose temples you have become.
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This translation by Robert Russell, O.S.A., is based on the critical text of Luc Verheijen, O.S.A., (La regle de saint Augustin, Etudes Augustiniennes, Paris, 1967). Two sentences not contained in the critical text have been included to conform with the official text published with the Constitutiones Ordinis Fratrum S. Augustini (Rome 1968). They are the opening sentence of the Rule and the following one from Chapter VI: "But if someone secretly keeps something given to him, he shall be judged guity of theft."
Copyright 1976, Brothers of the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copies of the Rule found on other web pages are unauthorized.