OSA: A Snapshot

We are called Augustinians. This name carries with it a wonderful past, a present filled with challenges and a future filled with hope. St. Augustine’s Order is one of the religious orders dedicated to the service of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our mission as a religious order within the Catholic Church is to bear witness to God’s love for mankind through our living together in communities of brothers built on spiritual friendship and the sharing of the experience of faith. Through our vows of chastity, poverty and obedience we commit ourselves to a consecration for which God has summoned us to serve the Church in the various ministries that we are entrusted with in different times and places.

Our ideal as Augustinians was laid down by ST. Augustine, who, following his conversion, wished to live in communion with others where nobody owned anything and where everything was shared with others, each according his needs. For this purpose he set up monasteries for men and women. He also wrote the Rule for these servants of God and in it he gathered the fundamental principles our life so that we can live the Gospel on the lines of the first community of Jerusalem, just as we find in the Acts of the Apostles (2, 4-5)

 

 “All those who believed were united as one, and they shared everything amongst themselves, selling their wealth and all their possessions and distributing the proceeds amongst themselves, according to the needs of each individual. And every day they used to go to the temple together, break bread in their homes and sharing food with joyful and pure hearts”

 

During the 13th Century, a time of great turmoil and great changes in the Church and in society, in the forests of central Italy there lived several hermits, very often in small communities who led a life of penance and contemplation but dedicated to commitment towards the people of God.

These brothers wished to participate more significantly in the work of the Church. Four of them presented their chosen lifestyle to the Pope. In 1244 Pope Innocent IV gathered them together and gave them St. Augustine’s rule in accordance with their wish. Thus was set up the Order of the Hermit Brothers of St. Augustine. From the very beginning, together with the contemplative and community spirit, these religious brothers dedicated themselves to scholarship and apostolic work. In 1256 Pope Alexander IV joined various other groups to the original community and wanted that that the Augustinians adopt the way of life of a mendicant order These mendicant orders based their life on the value of poverty both personal and of the community.

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They depended on charity and were organised in a centralised structure. Thus in addition to St. Augustine’s rule, which is a map upon which we try to live the Gospel, we also embrace the tenets of the Constitutions: life norms that adapt the Augustinian ideal to the different times and cultures in accordance with the traditions of the Order.


From the 13th Century onwards the Order of St. Augustine continued to grow and spread through the whole world. Today it is found in more than 40 different countries in all continents and numbers around 2,800 religious brothers. Together with these, one needs to add to the great Augustinian family the Augustinian nuns who lead a contemplative life, the Augustinian nuns who lead an active life and the Lay Augustinians who commit themselves to live the Augustinian values and spirituality wherever they live and work.

After our name we carry the initials O.S.A. (Ordinis Sancti Augustini) because our official name is Order of St. Augustine. The badge of the Order, our symbol, in which is gathered the essential spirit of St. Augustine, is made up of a flaming heart pierced with an arrow of love on a background of an open book that represents the Word of God. Our religious habit, a symbol of our consecration and belonging to the Order is made up of a black (or white) tunic with a hood and a leather belt.

The Augustinians came to Malta towards the end of the 14th century and during over 600 years of history have dedicated themselves in various fields for the benefit of the people of each period and social situation.

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Where are we found?

The foundation of the Augustinian life is life in the community in which the brothers share everything together and build the road that leads to God through the service of others. The value of our communion is embodied in particular environments and circumstances.  In this way wherever we are, we are called to be a reflection of the mystery of love of the Holy Trinity.

To the Augustinian the community does not limit itself to the house where he lives, neither to the province in which he has been admitted, but it is wherever there are Augustinian brothers. Every religious brother takes a vow of obedience to the Prior General that in is in charge of the Order as a whole. In this manner the service that we can give is not limited in any way The Augustinian community is called to be a prophetic sign in the world, a source of the sharing of goodness and the kindling of hope. Upon St. Augustine’s example, the love for the Church exhorts us to be sensitive to its needs and we welcome the duties it assigns us according to our charism and in solidarity with the family of mankind in particular with the poor and the suffering.

We consider our Apostolic activity as a service of love. Therefore our labours are considered as a manifestation of that bond of love expressed by life in the community. The work of every Augustinian receives its bidding from the community from which it also finds help and support.

In Malta we are found in six convents: Rabat (Malta), Valletta, Rabat (Gozo) Paceville, Tarxien, and Pieta’ A number of other religious brothers also work in collaboration with other provinces in Cuba, Italy and the Vatican.

In every convent a small community of religious brothers works so that, by means of its charism, spreads the Gospel in different ways and in different environments. Thanks to our lifestyle, and the manner in which we understand and live our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, inspired by the experience and teachings of St. Augustine, also strengthened by the example of many of our brothers who achieved sainthood, we hope to be a beacon of hope for many.

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What do we do?

In a world where what you do identifies you as who you are, as Augustinians we endeavour to be identified not so much by what we do or possess, but by what we really are; human beings made in the image of God, and thus in a constant journey of attraction to this God who “so loved the world that He sent His only Son.

While we acknowledge the fact that that which man does is important, we also understand the fact that it is important that which is in the heart of every person. It is from this source that our work must emanate. 

Our first duty is the very life of the community through which we profess God’s fidelity towards mankind. Every Augustinian community tries to live the ideal of the love for God and our neighbour through a life of praise and prayer to God and through the life of the community in simplicity and in the search for Truth by means of scholarship, introspection, in the sharing of material and spiritual goods in unity, humility and love

However, no Augustinian community is created as an end in itself. Our service towards mankind is part of our identity. Encouraged by the Spirit we acknowledge the Church as a mother and founder, and, on the example of St. Augustine, we dedicate ourselves to its service in a number of different works.

To this end we do not attach ourselves to any particular place or convent, but in the spirit of commitment we make ourselves available to work in diverse places, cultures and fields. These services include:

  • parishes
  • schools and universities,
  • retreat centres and houses of spirituality,
  • cultural centres,
  • work with people with social difficulties and the emarginated
  • the missions

 In order to achieve this objective

  • We assign first place to our consecration to God by means of our vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, from which originates our community life as well as our pastoral mission.
  • We all seek God and by means of the liturgy we worship Him as an expression of the faith that is shared between the brothers of the community.
  • We live fully the life of the community where no one owns anything and where everything belongs to everybody.
  • We promote the experience of God by means of introspection and scholarship considered as contemplative activities.
  • We fulfil our apostolic work in accordance with the needs of the Church and society.
  • We dedicate ourselves earnestly to our work both manual and intellectual for the good of the community.

 


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