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The Holy Rule of Life of our Father, Saint Augustine

The Holy Rule of Life of our Father, Saint Augustine

The Holy Rule of Saint Augustine

Translated by Rev. Tarcisius Rattler, O.S.A.

1. Above all things, dearest brethren, love God, and after Him your neighbor.  For these are the main commandments given to us.  2. The following are the things we command you to observe in the monastery.


Purpose and Foundation of the Common Life

3.  The first purpose for which you have been brought together is that in living in one house you be of one mind and that you have one heart and soul in God.  4. Do not call anything your own, but let all things be in common.  Let food and clothing be distributed to each one of you by your superior, not in equal measure to all, because you are not all of the same health, but so as to provide for each one according to his need.  For thus you read in the Acts of the Apostles: they had all things in common and distribution was made to everyone according to his need. (Acts. IV, 32,35)  5. Let those who had possessions in the world freely consent, when they enter the monastery, that these be put to the common use. 6.  But let those who possessed nothing not look for things in the monastery which they were unable to have in the world.  Nevertheless, all needful care of their infirmities must be provided, though their poverty in the world deprived them of their very necessaries.  However, let them not consider themselves fortunate for having found food and clothing such as they were not able to obtain in the world. 7.  They should not lift up their heads for being associated with those whom they would not have dared to approach in the world.  Let them raise their hearts to God, instead of seeking earthly and vain things.  Else the monasteries would be useful to the rich but not to the poor, because the rich would there be humbled, while the poor become proud. 8.  On the other hand, let those who seemed to be something in the world not look down upon their brethren who have come from poverty to this holy society.  They should rather strive to glory, not in the honored station of their wealthy parents, but in the society of their poor brethren.  Neither should they be proud if they bestowed any of their possessions on the community, lest the sharing of their wealth in the monastery fill them with worse pride than its enjoyment in the world.  For every other vice brings forth its own evil work, but pride ensnares even good deeds and destroys them.  Indeed, what does it profit to renounce wealth by giving to the poor and becoming poor oneself, if the wretched soul becomes prouder by the contempt of wealth than in its possession? 9.  Be, therefore, all of one mind and live in harmony, and honor in one another God whose temple you have become.




10.  Be diligent in prayer at the appointed hours and times.  11.  Let no one do anything in the oratory, except that for which it was made, whence also it has received its name, so that if anyone wish to pray there in his free time, outside the appointed hours, he be not disturbed by those who think it necessary to do something else there.  12.  When you pray to God in psalms and hymns, let your heart be occupied with what your lips pronounce.  13.  And do not sing, except what you find set down for singing.  But what is not so marked shall not be sung.


Simplicity of Life and Mortification of the Flesh

14.  Subdue your flesh by fasting from meat and drink, so far as your health permits.  But if anyone is not able to fast, at least let him take no food out of meal time, unless he is sick.  15.  While you are at table, listen without disturbance and dispute to the customary reading.  For not only your palate should be gratified by taking food, but your ears likewise should relish hearing the word of God.  16.  If those who are weak because of their former condition of life receive special food, this must not arouse ill-feeling in others, nor appear unjust to those whom another condition of life has made stronger.  Neither should they consider the former more fortunate for receiving something which they themselves do not receive.  They should feel happy that they can bear what these cannot endure. 17.  And if those who come to the monastery from a softer way of life are given food, clothing, beds, and covers which are not given to others who are sturdier and, therefore, more fortunate, the ones who are not granted these things must consider how much those others have given up of their former secular way of life, although they have not yet been able to reach the simplicity of those who are stronger in body.  All should not expect the same consideration they see a few receiving, because these are not thereby honored but treated with tolerant patience.  Else there might arise the detestable abuse that in the monastery the rich are subjected to many hardships and the poor become self-indulgent. 18.  As the sick must receive less in order to avoid any strain on them, so their treatment after sickness must be such as to hasten their recovery, even though they come from the poorest condition in the world.   For sickness puts them in the same condition as the former habit of life in the case of the rich.  But when they have recovered their former strength, let them return to the happier manner of life which is the more becoming for the Servants of God the less they need.  The pleasing taste for food should not hold sway over those restored to health who in their sickness had need for relief.  They should esteem those the richer who in sustaining poverty are stronger.  For it is better to have fewer needs than to enjoy things beyond what is necessary.


Safeguarding Chastity and Fraternal Correction

19. Let your clothing not be conspicuous.  Do not seek to please by the garment you wear but by the life you live.  20. When you go out, go together.  When you have reached your destination remain together. 21.  Let there be nothing in your gait, posture, comportment or any of your movements, that might offend anyone's eye.  Let your manners be such as are becoming your holy state.  22.  When you see a woman let your eye not be fixed on her.  When you go out, you are not forbidden to see women.  But to desire to see them or to wish for such desires on their part, is sinful.  For not only by touch and affection, but also by glances such desires are aroused, and arise also in the women.  Therefore, do not say that your minds are pure if your eyes are not, because an impure eye reveals an impure heart.  When by an exchange of glances, though the tongue be silent, the hearts indicate their impurity and delight in each other's ardent desire of the flesh, there is no chastity in such behavior, even though the bodies are not defiled by impure touches.  23.  Neither must he who fixes his eye on a woman and is pleased to have hers fixed on himself, imagine that he is not observed by others while he does this.  He is indeed seen, and by the very ones whom he thinks unaware of it.  But granted that it remains unnoticed and no one on earth sees it, what will he do about Him who looks down from heaven and from whom no thing can remain hidden?  May He be thought to disregard it because He looks on with a patience that is as great as His understanding?  Let the religious fear to displease Him lest he desire to please a woman in a sinful manner.  Indeed it is to such persons and in such things that fear is recommended by Sacred Scripture where it says:  "An abomination before the Lord is he who turns his eye unto evil."  24. When, therefore, you are together in the church or wherever there are women, safeguard each other's modesty.  For God who dwells in you will also in this manner protect you through yourselves.  25.  If you observe this wantonness of the eye, of which I speak in anyone of you, admonish him at once, in order that the evil begun may not progress but be corrected as soon as possible. 26.  But if after the admonition or on any other occasion you see him again doing the same, it is necessary that whoever observed it make it known, for he is wounded and in need of healing.  But first one or two others should be told that they may convince themselves.  Thus he can be convicted out of two or three and curbed with proper severity.  Do not think that you act maliciously in making this known.  Indeed, you are not without blame if by your silence you permit your brethren to perish, whom you might correct by making them known.   For if your brother had a wound in his body which he would wish to hide from fear of an incision, would it not be cruel of you to keep the secret, but merciful to reveal it?  How much more then, ought you to make him known lest he suffer worse corruption in his heart.  27. But before his fault is revealed to others, by whom he is to be convicted in case he denies it, the matter should be brought to the attention of the superior if he fails to amend after the admonition.  Thus he may be reproved in private and his fault remain unknown to the others.  But if he denies it, then the others must be brought in that he may be accused before the whole community not only by one witness but by two or three and, thus, stand convicted.  The one convicted must submit to the penalty decreed for his amendment by the superior or also the priest to whose ministry such decisions pertain.  If he refuses to bear it, and yet does not leave of his own accord, let him be expelled from your midst.  This also is not done out of cruelty but out of mercy, lest he ruin many others by his evil influence.  28. Let what I have said about the restraint of the eye be diligently and faithfully observed in the discovery, prevention, manifestation, proving, and punishment of all other sins: with charity for the neighbor, but with hatred for sin. 29. If anyone has gone so far in his sin as to receive letters or presents secretly from a woman: if he confesses it of his own accord, let him be forgiven and let prayers be said for him.  But if he is apprehended and convicted, let him be severely corrected according to the judgment of the priest or superior.


The Goods Needed in this Passing Life and Those Charged with Their Care

 30. Your clothes shall be kept in one place under the charge of one or two or as many as may be required to care for them, lest they be spoiled by the moths.  And as you are fed by one kitchen, so you shall be clothed from one wardrobe.  If possible, it shall not be left to you to decide which garment, according to the requirement of the seasons, be assigned to you: whether you receive the same that you turned in or another which one of the brethren had worn; as long as no one is denied what he needs.  But if contention and murmuring arise among you through someone's complaint that he has received a poorer garment than he had worn before, and he resent not being clothed so well as someone else: then learn from this, how much you are still wanting in that inner garment of the soul, quarrelling as you do about the clothing of the body.  But if consideration is shown to your weakness, and you are given the same garment which you had laid off, you must still keep in one place under the charge of those appointed whatever clothing you put off. 31.  Let no one do anything for himself.  All things should be done for the community with greater attention and ready cheerfulness than if each one were working for himself. Charity of which it is written that it seeks not its own, is thus to be understood:  that it puts the common good before private advantage, not private advantage before the common good.  Know, therefore, that your progress is the greater, the more you are intent on the common good instead of your own.  Let charity which abides forever, reign supreme in all things required by the passing needs of this life. 32. Hence, if anyone brings to his children or relative in the monastery clothing or any other useful object, this must not be received secretly but must be handed to the superior, that it may be made common property and given to him who needs it.  He that conceals a gift shall be condemned as guilty of theft. 33. The cleaning and conditioning of your garments may be done in the monastery or in professional laundries.  But the question of propriety as to the neat appearance of your clothing shall be decided by your superior, lest an inordinate desire for elegant attire cause interior defilement of your soul. 34. Neither shall the body be denied the proper hygienic care according to the requirements of good health.  Let the directions of the physician be carried out without objections.  If anyone refuses to comply he must, upon the command of the superior, do what is necessary for his health.  If he should desire what is perhaps not good, his wish shall not be fulfilled.  For also harmful things are sometimes believed to be good because they are pleasant. 35.  In the case of an ailment which does not externally appear, the complaint of the Servant of God should be believed without mistrust.  But if it is not certain that the remedy he desires is helpful, the physician shall be consulted. 36. In going to the public-health baths or wherever it may be necessary to go, no fewer than two or three should go together.  And he that is required to go somewhere must go with those whom the superior appoints.   37. The care of the sick and convalescent or those suffering from any weakness of health, even without fever, must be assigned to one who shall request from the dispensary whatever he deems necessary for each one. 38. Let those who are in charge of the kitchen, clothing or books serve their brethren without grumbling. 39. The books should be asked for at a certain hour each day.  He who ask for them outside this hour shall not receive them. 40. But clothing and shoes must be given to those who need them without delay by those in charge.


Asking Pardon and Forgiving Offenses

 41. Let there be no quarrels among you, or if they arise, end them as soon as possible, lest your anger grow into hatred, making of a mote a beam, and render the soul guilty of murder.  For thus you read: "He that hateth his brother is a murderer," (John III,15). 42. Whoever has offended another by an invective, an evil wish, or slander should hasten to make amends as soon as possible; and he that has been offended should forgive without reproaches.  But if both are guilty of offense, both must forgive each other.  And this on account of your prayers which must be the better the more often you pray. He that is tempted to anger, yet hastens to ask forgiveness from him whom he has offended, is better than he that is slower in becoming angry, but is less readily disposed to ask pardon.  He that refuses to forgive his brother may not hope for any fruits from his prayers.  But he that never asks pardon, or does not ask from his heart, is in the monastery to no purpose, even though he is not expelled.  Refrain therefore, from harsh words; but if such have come forth from your mouth, let it not be too much for you to offer the remedy just as you have caused the wound. 43. But when you are compelled to use harsh words by any necessity of curbing irregularities of discipline, you are not obliged to ask pardon of your subjects, lest by too great humility your authority be weakened with those who must obey.  But forgiveness must be sought from the Lord of all who knows your kindness even toward those whom you have rebuked perhaps more than is just.  However, not sensual but spiritual must your love for each other be.


The Manner of Commanding and Obeying

 44. Obey your superior as a father, but especially the priest who takes care of you all. 45. In order that all these things will be observed, and if anything has been observed less faithfully, it will not be passed over carelessly but carefully amended and corrected. It shall be the special duty of the superior to refer such things as exceed his authority and ability to the priest who holds the greater authority among you. 46. Let the superior consider himself happy, not because of his power to rule, but for his opportunity to rule in charity.  Let him hold a position of honor in your midst, but before God let him lie prostrate at your feet.  He shall show himself in all things an example of good works.  He shall restrain the restless, comfort the downhearted, care for the sick and be patient with all.  Let him eagerly observe discipline but impose it with holy fear.  And although both are necessary, he should seek to be loved rather than feared by you, always mindful that he shall have to render an account for you before God.  47. Be, therefore, the more obedient out of compassion not only for yourselves but also for him, because the higher his position among you, so much greater is the danger in which he lives.


Observance of the Rule

 48. The Lord grant you may joyfully observe all these things as lovers of spiritual beauty and fragrant with the good odor of Christ by the goodness of your life: not as slaves under the law but as free under grace.  49. Now, that you may see yourselves in this little book as in a mirror, and in order that nothing may be neglected through forgetfulness, it shall be read to you once a week.  And where you find yourselves doing what has been written, give thanks to God the giver of all good things.  But where anyone sees that he is wanting, let him repent for the past and take heed in the future, praying that his fault be forgiven and he be not led into temptation. Amen.

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