Brief History Of The Order OF Augustinian Recollects
In the 10th and 11th centuries, all over Europe and particularly in Italy, there were many monks who had settled in remote places, the so-called hermitages. The origin of these little congregations must be sought in the desire for a deeper spiritual way of life as a protest against an easy and poor evangelical lifestyle. But in 13th century, the eremitical life no longer corresponded to the needs of the surrounding world which required a new style of religious life.
Monastic theology had become scholastic theology. There were movements of voluntary poverty which adopted a critical attitude toward the worldly life of the Church. This attitude was at the root of the creation of the mendicant orders: Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians. The Church needed them in order to stem the tide of the new mentality. This was the reason why several contemplative congregations of hermits, some of which lived under the Rule of St. Augustine, wanted to become united as a juridical entity, the Order of St. Augustine. The union of March 1244 was soon followed by the Great Union in 1256, which was approved by Pope Alexander IV.
The Augustinian Recollects are a fruit of the Augustinian monastic tradition and the Catholic restoration of the latter half of the 16th century. They were born in December 5, 1588 in the womb of the Augustinian Province of Castille (Spain) for a purpose of leading a more austere and perfect life. Their aspirations were expressed in the Forma de Vivir (Way of Life), a brief juridical and spiritual document penned by Fray Luis de Leon. Its fourteen chapters revolve around the spirit of prayer, asceticism, and the equality that must reign among all religious.
In 1605 the Recollects initiated their missionary history with the sending of 14 missionaries to the Philippines who embarked on the shores of the island of Cebu in May, 1606. In 1621 the Holy See raised the Recollect convents to the rank of religious congregation. In a short time, the Recollection numbered 1500 religious, distributed in 5 provinces, 43 convents and some 20 mission posts. Three of these provinces had all their convents in Spain. The two other had theirs in the Philippines, Colombia, and Panama.
In the Philippines a missionary lifestyle prevailed. Over more than three centuries, hundreds of religious evangelized the regions of Zambales, Cavite, Batangas, and the southern islands (Mindanao, Palawan, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Romblon, among others). During the 17th and 18th centuries, several dozens of religious worked in Japan and the Marianas Islands. In 1898, a new offensive put the mettle of the Recollection to a severe trial: 33 religious died in the hands of the Filipino revolutionaries and 84 others were captured and imprisoned. The rest either took refuge in Manila or hurriedly left for Spain.
By mid-1899 more than 30 religious were already in Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, and Colombia searching for new horizons. Others set up apostolic centers in Spain. Little by little hope was rekindled. In 1908, they were able to resume the holding of the general chapter, which had been interrupted since 1829.
Presently, the Order is divided into eight provinces spread all over the world: the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine in Spain (1621), the Province of Our Lady of Candelaria in Colombia (1660), the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova in Spain (1907), the Province of St. Augustine in the US (1939), the Province of St. Joseph in Spain (1948), the Province of St. Rita in Brazil (1960), the Province of Our Lady of Consolation in Spain (1961), and the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno in the Philippines (1998).