Augustine, Rule of St.
AUGUSTINE, RULE OF ST.
augustine of Hippo lived as a monk from the time of his return to Africa from Italy in 388 and, as bishop of Hippo, required his cathedral clergy to imitate his monastic way of life. There is, however, no claim in his writings to have composed a rule. His biographer, Possidius of Calama, although stating that Augustine founded a monastery at Hippo "according to the manner and rule of the apostles" (Life, 5), does not say that he composed a rule for it or list one in the bibliography of Augustine's writings which he compiled. Nevertheless, from the 6th century onwards, a number of rules ascribed to Augustine for both men and women have been found in manuscripts, sometimes singly, sometimes in combination. These have engaged the attention of scholars from Erasmus to C. Lambot, but the major contribution to scholarship has been by Luc Verheijen, who devoted the greater part of his life to the study of the rule and its transmission. It must, however, be accepted that absolute certainty in this matter is impossible and that our judgments are primarily determined by the dating of manuscripts.
Four monastic documents are principally associated with Augustine (their Latin names are not traditional but were bestowed by Verheijen). They are (1) the Ordo Monasterii (Monastic Order) known in the Middle Ages as the Regula secunda, a short document of fewer than 400 words, giving general directions for the life of a masculine community. (2) The Praeceptum, or Regula tertia, the traditional Rule of St. Augustine. (The medieval Regula prima, or Regula consensoria, is today recognized as a forgery.) (3) The Obiurgatio, or Reprimand, Augustine's Letter 211, sections 1–4, a rebuke addressed to a community of nuns, who had revolted against their superior and asked Augustine to intervene. (4) The Regularis Informatio, or feminine version of the Praeceptum, was long considered by many scholars as the original Augustinian rule, from which the masculine version was thought to have been adapted in the 12th century to provide a form of religious life permitting a wider field of action than the Benedictine rule. This supposition was strengthened by the fact that in some manuscripts the Obiurgatio and the Regularis Informatio were joined together and so appeared to form a single letter, being so printed as Augustine's Letter 211 by the Benedictine editors and by A. Goldbacher in the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum edition in 1911. It now appears that only a few manuscripts of later date have Ep. 211 in this form, while earlier copies have an explicit after the Obiurgatio, separating it from the text of the Regularis Informatio.
The earliest witness ascribing the Ordo Monasterii and the Praeceptum to Augustine is the late 6th–early 7th century Paris manuscript. They are also found in the Bibliothèque Nationale 12,634, a collection of monastic rules formed by Eugippius of Lucullanum, an admirer of Augustine, less than a century after Augustine's death. There is no manuscript witness for the Regularis Informatio before the incomplete 10th-century Madrid manuscript Escorial a I13, while the oldest complete text is the Codex Turicensis, Zurich, manuscript, Rheinau 89, of the 11th–12th century. Since a number of manuscripts antedating the 10th century specifically ascribe the Praeceptum to Augustine, the codicological evidence supports the priority of the masculine rule. Furthermore, when St. Caesarius of Aries composed his Rule for Nuns in about 512, he drew upon the Praeceptum, not the Regularis Informatio.
There is no reason why Augustine should not be the author of the Praeceptum and there are good arguments for his authorship, since the psychology of the Praeceptum differs from that of later Western rules like the Rule of the Master and the Benedictine Rule. These stand in a tradition which ultimately looks back to the Egyptian desert, in which the monastery was a school and the abbot the teacher, a "master and disciple" relationship. Augustine, in contrast, characteristically starts from a bond of friendship between Christian souls, united by love of God and one's neighbor. Verheijen has drawn attention to the influence of Acts 4:32 on Augustine's thinking: "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common." This is the thought underlying the opening of the Ordo Monasterii, which is now prefaced to the Praeceptum in the Regula recepta, the official version of the rule used by the Augustinian order: "Before all else, dearest brethren, let God be loved and then your neighbor, because these are the chief commandments which have been given us."
The authorship of the Ordo Monasterii, which passed out of use in the Middle Ages as being no longer liturgically and administratively appropriate, has been the subject of much speculation. Verheijen suggested Augustine's friend Alypius, but the document is too short to permit any stylistic comparisons. It must suffice to say that the Ordo clearly comes from Augustine's milieu and could conceivably have been composed by him. It could, hypothetically, have been used at Augustine's first monastic settlement at Thagaste, and later at Hippo. The Praeceptum, equally hypothetically, could have been composed when Augustine had to leave his monastery for the bishop's house at Hippo and sought to commend a pattern of monastic life to his brethren; but these can only be conjectures.
We know little of the history of the rule for six centuries after Augustine's death, apart from what can be deduced from the various surviving codices. Then, in the later 11th century, there occurred a sudden flowering of interest, no doubt due to the influence of the Gregorian reform movement, which sought to bring about a renewal of religious life in the Western Church by reforms, including the requirement of common living and renunciation of private property on the part of canons of cathedral and collegiate churches. To this end a number of communities adopted the Augustinian Rule. Reforming bishops founded new Augustinian houses. The Premonstratensians, founded by St. Norbert (c. 1080–1134), called after their parent monastery at Prémontré, near Laon, became a regular Augustinian order, and the rule was adopted by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The Fourth Lateran Council approved the rule, and it was adopted by St. Dominic for his friars.
Bibliography: Editions. Of Praeceptum, l. verheijen, Règle de Saint Augustin, 2 v. (Paris 1967) 1:417–437. g. p. lawless, Augustine of Hippo and His Monastic Rule (Oxford 1987) 80–103, with Eng. tr.; Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 217 v., indexes 4 v. (Paris 1878–90) 32:1387–84. Of Ordo Monasterii, verheijen, 1:148–52; lawless, 74–79, with Eng. tr., Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne 217 v., indexes 4 v. (Paris 1878–90) 32:1449–52. Of Obiurgatio, verheijen, 1:49–53; lawless, 104–109, with Eng. tr. Of Regularis Informatio, verheijen, 1:53–66. lawless gives only a translation 110–118. Aug., Ep. 21 1. Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (Vienna 1866–) 57:359–71; Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne 33, 958–965. Regula recepta. Constitutiones Ordinis Fratrum S. Augustini (Rome 1968), tr. by r. p. russell, The Rule of Our Holy Father St. Augustine (Villanova, Penn. 1976). For the collected documents, verheijen, La Règle de Saint Augustin, 2 v. (Paris 1967); lawless, Augustine of Hippo and His Monastic Rule (Oxford 1987). agatha mary, The Rule of St. Augustine: An Essay in Understanding (Villanova, Penn. 1992). r. arbesmann, "The Question-of-the Regula Sancti Auctustini," Augustinian Studies 1 (1970) 237–261. j. j. gavigan, De vita monastica, in Africa Septentrionali inde a temporibus S. Augustini usque ad invasiones Arabum (Turin 1962). c. lambot, "Saint Augustin a-t-il rédigé la règle pour moines?" Revue Bénédictine 136n. 53 (1941) 41–58. p. mandonnet, St. Dominique, 2 v. (Paris 1937). t. van bavel, The Rule of Saint Augustine: Masculine and Feminine Versions, tr. r. canning (London 1996). a. zumkeller, Augustine's Ideal of the Religious Life, tr. e. colledge (New York 1986); Augustine's Rule: A Commentary, tr. m. j. o'connell (Villanova, Penn. 1987).