Four centuries of fertile encounter of cultures and lives intertwined in socio-evangelizing service (I)

The Augustinian-Recollect Family, after more than four centuries of multiple geographical presences and areas of pastoral action, has been generating a great cultural richness of double meaning: contributing its charismatic reality and drinking from the local cultures where it has served. During this FOURTH Centenary of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine (1621-2021) we present an overview of this fact in two installments, thanks to the collaboration of the Augustinian historian Recollect Angel Martínez Cuesta.
News | 2021 Jan 12

Between the suspicion of the reforming environment and the Augustinian heritage

The Order of Augustinians Recollects has not been an institution that has privileged the cultivation of letters or science. He was born in the second half of the sixteenth century in a climate dominated by prejudices about ecclesiastical studies.

Reformers of the time distrusted higher education because they looked more at illustration than building and opened the door, they thought, to privileges and dispensations that violated common life and cooled the tendency to observance.

At first, these prejudices had no greater impact among the Recollects, as they were not easily reconciled with the Augustinian heritage that they wanted to assume and continue. Rather, they believed what their first chronicler defined:

Generally, mercy and doctrine are given very well.

Consequently, from the first moment the Augustinian Recollection  took care to organize higher education and to "settle the foot in one of the Universities that flourish in Spain, for the comfort in them of the continuous exercise of letters".

But gradually the reforming ideal eroded the Augustinian heritage. The chapter of 1602 already saw some incompatibility between the cultivation of letters and the ideal of reform. In 1664 the Constitutions broke the community’s ties with the University by prohibiting the attendance of its religious in its classrooms.

This break with the university world explains his subsequent limited participation in cultural dialogue.

Studies over the first few decades

In the first few decades this participation was somewhat more active. In them they unsealed Rodrigo de San Miguel (1584-1626), Pedro de San José (1598-1651),Andrés de San Nicolás (1617-1666) and Lorenzo de San Nicolas (1593-1679) and Agustín de San Ildefonso(1585-1662).

Rodrigo de San Miguel

He was a polyhedral man, moving freely in fields as diverse as the evangelization of primitive peoples, administrative tasks, social relations, oratory, historical research, the study of theology, nautical and languages.

His curiosity was universal. As a missionary he was able to attract the trust of Filipino indians with music, the study of their languages and their use in poetic compositions and theatrical performances.

His reflections on the religious value of some pagan customs or rites and his writings on the Moluccas and the persecution of Japan remain useful so many years later.

Pedro de San José

He preached in the main pulpits of Spain. In 1644 he published the  Glorias de María, the same title as a century later (1734-50) he would popularize St Alfonso Maria de Ligorio. In the author's lifetime he reached three editions and after his death was translated into Portuguese.

Andrew of St. Nicholas

He pleased in his numerous writings the spirit of the Recollection. In General History he expressed with vigor and success the ideals of reform and retained for future generations the fundamental data of the family tradition.

Lorenzo de San Nicolás

He was one of the best Spanish architects of the seventeenth century. He gave the presses the treatise Art and use of architecture in two volumes, which for several decades was a reference book for both those who began in the art of architecture, and for "the reputable masters, many of whom had it in their bookstores".

It has had seven editions, three of them in our time (two in 1989 and one in 2008). He drew up the plans and directed the construction of several churches and religious buildings in Salamanca, Madrid, Granada, Talavera de la Reina (Toledo) and other localities.

Some have disappeared. But the churches of the Royal Conception and San Placido still exist in Madrid, that of the  Augustinian Recollect Sisters de Colmenar de Oreja, that of the Augustinians in Toledo, those of the Bernardas and Carmelitas Descalzas de Talavera and the majestic main chapel of the sanctuary of the Virgin of Prado in the sameToledo city.

He also intervened in the reform of the cloister of San Jerónimo el Real de Madrid. In 1672 the ancient Gothic-Elizabethan cloister was demolished by threat of ruin, to raise between 1672 and 1681 a Baroque one in Madrid granite designed by Friar Lorenzo. Its construction was conditioned by the adjoining buildings, the bases of the demolished cloister and the use of much of its materials.

Currently the cloister work of the recollect is integrated into the extension of the Prado Museum of the architect Rafael Moneo (1998-2007).

Augustine of St. Ildefonso

From this time (1644) it is also the mystical theology of Friar Augustine of San Ildefonso, "one of the most accomplished works of his kind", in the words of one of the best connoisseurs of Spanish spiritual literature, Eulogio Pacho.

Missionary literature

More numerous were the Augustinians who addressed missionary issues. From the arrival in the Philippines in May 1606 until the end of the nineteenth century the missionaries of the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine composed a good number of dictionaries, grammars, catechisms, devotionals, novenas and sermonaries in visaya, tagalo, zambal, cuyuno, chamorro and other island dialects.

Tomás de San Jerónimo (†1686) published some books for use by his inexperienced colleagues in the Visaya language and others for direct use by indigenous people. The zambal grammar of Father Rodrigo de San Miguel served as the basis for the later ones. Father Juan Félix de la Encarnacion’s Visaya-Spanish Dictionary has not yet been surpassed. In the author's lifetime he had two editions (1851–1852 and 1866).

Aniceto Ibáñez compiled a Chamorro-Spanish dictionary, composed a chamorrah grammar and made available to the faithful of Guam a devotional. Juan Félix de la Encarnacion, at the request of the Bishop of Cebu, translated into visaya the Catequista Orador of Father Juan Planas (1862, 1866) and the four volumes of the sacred history of García Mazo. Both translations accommodated them to the needs of Filipino parish priests and faithful.

José María Learte translated into Tagalog the exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola and some works by St Anthony Mary Claret; Nicolás González put in visaya the Cathechism of García Mazo (1885) and other devout works, and reformed the Visaya grammar of Francisco Encina.

Ramón Zueco (1828–89) gave birth to a dozen long writings of linguistic and catechetical character. His grammars were all reprinted. Among his catechetical writings are the series of Notices to Children, MarriedWomen and Maidens, all published in Manila in 1873.

Manuel Vilches published a curious Bisaya Mediquillo Manual and a Visaya-Cebuana grammar.

Gregorio Sanz gave birth to Sacred Embryology (1856), a kind of bioethics manual widely used by Filipino midwives, midwives and parish priests. The Bishop of Cebu greeted his appearance with enthusiasm for responding to a strongly felt need in his Diocese. The Archbishop of Manila recommended his acquisition to parish priests and coadjutors of the Archbishopric and bishopric of New Segovia.

De Antonio Ebeda is Teresa (1852), a costumbrista novel of catechetical intonation, and a brief Visaya-Cebuano catechism.

Between 1788 and 1792 the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine published the fourteen volumes of the General History of the Philippines, written years earlier by John of the Conception (1724–1786). It tells the ecclesiastical and civil history of the Philippines from the arrival of Magellan until the mid-18th century. For a century and a half, it has been the most detailed and faithful history of the archipelago. Your consultation is still useful and, in rare cases, necessary.

Cultural regrowthe

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there was a greater interest in studies, perhaps the result of the plan approved in 1879, which placed the studies of the Order at the height of the best theological centers in Spain and raised to seven years the duration of the ecclesiastical career.

Although timidly, the Recollects began to frequent university classrooms and become present in the press and in the world of letters. Victor Ruiz (1855-191), who published a Commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine and other books of spiritual theology, can be noted.

But the bishops Toribio Minguella (1836-1920), Nicolás Casas (1854-1906) and Saint Ezekiel Moreno (1848–1906) 1906), and the publicists Pedro Fabo (1873-1933),Marcelino Ganuza (1865-1944) and Eugenio Cantera(1880-1953).

Toribio Minguella

In nearly 60 years of literary activity, this friar and bishop recollect published grammars, biographies, historical and philological writings, sermons and lectures on a wide variety of topics. In his later years, since the death of Saint Ezekiel Moreno in 1906, he devoted special attention to spiritual and ascatic subjects.

Among his publications are those dedicated to the Riojan spiritual centers of San Millán de la Cogolla andValvanera the history of the Diocese of Siguenza in three thick volumes and the biography of Saint Ezekiel Moreno, of whom he also published his doctrinal writings and a selection of his spiritual letters.

Pedro Fabo

Despite having spent much of his life in the solitudes of Casanare, this religious managed to write thirty books of the most varied genres. In his bibliography we find novels, poetry, biographies, profane and religious history, literary criticism, oratory, religion and even gardening.

The debate of liberalism in Colombia

The writings of Saint Ezekiel Moreno, Nicolás Casas and Marcelino  Ganuza are doctrinal in nature and were at the front line of the debate on liberalism in Colombia. Pastoral interest always prevailed in the three, but while the writings of the former always responded to concrete situations and used a lively and even passionate tone, those of the other two became more interested in the general principles and adopted a more aseptic language.

Eugenio Cantera

It was the first recollection of the modern age that was able to license in theology and doctorate in philosophy and canon law, thanks to the abrogation in 1903 of the rule that prohibited the Recollects from accessing the university.

His early writings deal with philosophical and theological themes, but from the 1920s he preferred legal studies. To him owes the Order the accommodation of the Constitution  and the Ceremonial to the guidelines of the Code of Canon Law of 1917.

In the American, European and Asian press

During the first decades of the twentieth century the signature of recollects friars appeared frequently in magazines and newspapers.

Santiago Matute, Pedro Fabo, Samuel Ballesteros, Nicolás Casas, Marcelino Ganuza and Regino Maculet stood out in Colombia.

In Venezuela, Blessed Julián Moreno, a regular contributor to several publications and director of the Maracaibo Ecclesiastical Bulletin, distinguished himself

Already in Panama we can cite the frequent signatures of Bernardino García, Doroteo Ocón and Marcelino Ganuza.

In Spain Esteban Azcona, Eugenio Cantera, Teófilo Garnica, Pedro Corro or Vicente Peña wrote with some regularity in newspapers in La Rioja, Granada, Pamplona and even Madrid. Corro, Fabo and Cantera, to which Capánaga later joined, collaborated more or less assiduously in the magazines La Ciudad de Dios andSpain and América.

In the Philippines the most regular were Gregorio Ochoa, Vicente Soler, Francisco Sádaba, Fabián Otamendi and, above all, Aurelio Lacruz (1873-1941). This was a prolific writer, easy to feather and solid and varied knowledge. During his stay in the Islands (1919-1928 and 1931-1941) he was a fixed contributor to the main Spanish-language newspapers: El Comercio, El Mercantil, El Excelsior and La Defensa, of which he was an ecclesiastical censor. He also collaborated in the Catholic Bulletin of Cebu. In order to challenge the belligerent anti-clericalism of The Independent newspaper, he founded in 1923, in collaboration with Fabián Otamendi and two other religious, the weekly Estudio, of which for two years he was the main editor —and in recent months almost the only one, since two of his colleagues left the country and the other broke away from the weekly.

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Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine.

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