What does that mean? (Glossary)


St Augustine left us this teaching: “it’s better to need little than to have a lot”. The religious seeks austerity and lives austerely as a valid way of “not needing” that which is imposed on us from outside. Austerity leads us to value all goods as gifts received from God, to be grateful for our personal capacities, and not to think of them as being exclusive, or belonging just to ourselves , and also to recognise the worth and the greatness of other people.

The religious life can only be lived in an austere way. Austerity is the only way for us to escape the siren-songs of those who ask us to have more and to be less. With an austere and simple lifestyle we are more, and we need less.

Chapter (General, Provincial, Local..)

A chapter is the meeting of  representatives voted for by the religious, in which the life and work of the communities is analysed, and future challenges are identified by everyone. These representatives elect the religious who has the responsibility of encouraging and energising everyone else, so that these challenges can be met.

The Chapters are as follows: General, when the meeting is of representatives from the entire Order and  organizes the Order in general; Provincial, when this happens just for one of the provinces; and Local, which is a meeting of all the members of a community. In all cases, an element of evaluation and planning is included.

A General Chapter. A General Chapter.


“Charism” is a Greek work that means “grace, gift. In English, we say that someone has “charisma” when they attract or  fascinate others and attract their attention. As a religious term, charism is a particular gift given bey God to certain people: it is always in the service of the community.

The religious Orders each have their charism: in other words, their own way of life and of placing themselves at the service of the Church and of society. Although it might not be obvious to you, each religious Order is a different world compared to any another, with particular and distinctive variations that bring specific riches to Church and society. Put simply, take a look and you will see the number of congregations that came into being to work in hospitals, or schools, or prisons, or on the missions.

An important part of the charism is reflected in the specific activity of each religious congregation. The charism of the Augustinian Recollects is not in what we do, but in what we are. Therefore, what we do is universal and very diverse: going where the Church needs us, whether in parishes, colleges, or places of human and material poverty.

As regards out being, we bring our way of life based on the distinctive signs that we have already explained: fraternity, the interior life, and austerity.


Chastity is one of the oldest values of the religious life. The model is Jesus, who lived without a partner, completely dedicated to everyone. Our decision is to do the same: we don’t direct our capacity for love and self-sacrifice onto just one person, but rather we want our affectivity to be for everyone around us, beginning with those in our own house and then those with whom we share our work.

The vow of chastity isn’t a burden, neither is it an escape, nor an incapacity. It is a valid and concrete way of loving, freely  chosen and accepted with everything it implies. We don’t see “sex” as existing apart from “love”, and our “love” doesn’t look for physical or immediate satisfactions , but the personal giving of our time, qualities, abilities, to a community and to the work this community offers.

Does that sound odd? Perhaps it is. But if it does sound strange, it’s not because it’s impossible or because behind what we affirm there is a cock-and-bull story, but rather because the society in which we live has got used to seeing all of this from just one perspective.

Chastity isn’t a new way of living, or something exclusive to religious Orders: great men in history, many of them non-Christians, lived it and practised it. And in our days it is present in many cultures and human circumstances. So, don’t let yourself be fooled into “thinking like everyone does”, and live your life in the way you believe best. And for us, this is the best way.


Life in community means that in each of our houses there are at least three religious living together. They don’t choose each other, but each one is given his destination individually and without having chosen it before hand.

A Recollect community.
In every community there is a religious who fulfils the office of prior. A prior organizes, encourages, and helps the religious, and these in turn regard him with respect and obey him, in a relationship marked by sincerity and dialogue.

When possible, we try to ensure we work as a team. On other occasions, this isn’t possible, as some religious may take charge of specific tasks ,and  others may not be able to work in a particular occupation  because of health or old age.

In community life, there are personal times for being on one’s own (study and rest) and times spent in common (prayer, leisure, mealtimes, amusements, dialogues and meetings, etc.)

It’s also usual for there to be joint activities between communities; we see each other regularly, we talk, we know about the lives and the ups and downs of the religious of other communities.

In the community there are no private or personal belongings. Everything is dealt with in common, what is received and also what is spent.


A group of religious (known as councillors) who work directly with the prior general, the prior provincial, the vicar provincial, delegate, or local prior. They carry out the task of supporting and advising. Their role is at times simply consultative, but in other situations they make decisions, and the prior can act only with their agreement.

A meeting of all the councillors.


The document which brings together the rules of life for all the religious in the Order. It is based on the Rule of St Augustine and the Way of Life written by Luis de Leon, brought up-to-date as required for our times and circumstances, and in harmony with the Church’s general Code of Canon Law.

Constitutions of the Order of Augustinian Recollects.


Specific rules regulating the life of the religious of a particular province. Each province has the power to decide how to apply the rules set out in the Constitutions with regard to economic resources, personnel, everyday life, appointments, regulations for the common life and traditions, participation in on-going formation, etc.

Way of Life

This was the first set of regulations for the Augustinian Recollects, drawn up by the great Augustinian theologian and writer Fray Luis de Leon in 1589. It had had great importance in the Order’s history and Spirituality.

Antique edition of the Way of Life of Fray Luis de Leon.


This is the correct name for those religious belonging to the so-called “mendicant orders”, originating in the 13th century. “Friar” means “brother”, and expresses the fundamental equality of all the religious, who live in community, in fraternity. In Spanish, a friar is usually called “Fray” somebody-or-other, but this is not used in English.

Dis you know that there are friars who are priests, and priests who aren’t friars? This isn’t gibberish, and is much simpler than it appears. “Priest” is a word for those who have received  priestly office through the Sacrament of Orders. Through their office, priests are responsible for the care, instruction, and spiritual doctrine of the Christian faithful.

“Friar” comes from the Latin word “frater”, meaning brother. A friar is someone who has professed his vows within one of the religious orders known as “mendicant”, founded around the 13th century, with the intention of turning around religious life in the Catholic Church. They maintained the monastic tradition based on study, as well as the active life of secular clerics and the military and hospitaller orders.  Examples of the mendicant orders include the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans, and Carmelites. As well as the vocation to a religious consecration, some of these friars also felt the call to the ministerial priesthood, and were ordained priests. These are friars and priests at the same time.

There are also many priests who aren’t friars: secular priests, who are answerable directly to the bishop and have received only the sacrament of Orders, exercising the priestly ministry, but have not taken any vows within a congregation or religious order. There are also priest belonging to the monastic orders, whose members, correctly speaking, are not friars, but monks.

An interesting little aside: on Wikipedia, in its definition of the word “friar”, a photo of the novitiate of the Augustinian Recollects is used in the Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and English versions!

The Augustinian Recollects used to explain the term “friar” on Wikipedia.


Living in fraternity means “being brothers”. In other words, differences of age, where you come from, culture, ideology, don’t matter very much to you. Over and above these differences, you aim to live according to common values, with a personal life plan in which others have a big say, and with  a desire to seek happiness in company with others.

Augustinian Recollect Secular Fraternity

The Augustinian Recollect Secular Fraternity is a group of lay people who make the commitment to live out the Gospel in the light of the experience and spirituality of the Augustinian Recollect family: in other words, from the life and work of St Augustine of Hippo and the austerity and interior life of the Recollect movement of the 16th century.

Members of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity. Union City, New Jersey, USA
The members of the Secular Fraternity enjoy the joy of the community in contrast to the individualism that surrounds us; the enjoyment that comes from sharing things, far from any selfishness; the spark of wisdom in contrast to prejudices; and the surprise of the interior life, which makes us more fully developed  in opposition to what is superficial or trivial.

The Secular Fraternity is part of the worldwide multi-facetted Augustinian Recollect Family: missionaries and contemplatives, old and young, consecrated individuals and families, clerics and lay people, all followers of St Augustine together, enjoying the feeling of being one soul and one heart turned towards God, the fulness of joy.

Members of the Secular Fraternity meet to pray together, to receive formation, to support each other in moments of difficulty, share good times, celebrate their faith, and make a social commitment to a better world, to have fun, and to learn.


As good followers of St Augustine, we are people who are not satisfied with the superficial. In our daily tasks, in our knowledge, in our interpersonal relations, we seek more and more.

Silent retreat organized by the Augustinian Recollect Spirituality Centre in Santa Ana, San José, Costa Rica.
We enter into ourselves because we want to know ourselves better, to develop better our abilities and our vocation. We enter into ourselves because this is the place where God comes to save us, accepts us, and shows us all his love for each and every one of us.

We enter into ourselves because in our interior, authentic feelings of love for our brothers in community come to life, as well as an awareness of how we are loved by others. In this place we pray for each other and it is there that we find our hopes for being more faithful each day to this special call that God has made to us.

ARY/JAR Augustinian Recollect Youth

The Young Augustinian Recollects (JAR) are the Catholic youth movement of the Augustinian Recollect Family for living and spreading its particular charism. Children in catechesis,  teenagers wanting the challenge of knowing, accepting, overcoming and giving of themselves to others in the way of St Augustine can all take part, together with young people seek to meet Christ and the Church, and a vocation of service.

JAR meeting in Mexico City.
All of them have in common the desire to enter into themselves (interiority) to live a fraternal experience (community), cooperating in the growth of the Church our Mother and of society (mission).

The pedagogy of St Augustine gives shape to the JAR, beginning with the slogan “Learning to be and to share is to teach to think and to love”. It means accompaniment, through which people are formed in friendship, live in community, practice justice, experience solidarity and learn to love their neighbour. Other features of this path include the interior life, the search for truth and the responsible exercise of freedom.

The JAR have various moments for getting together: Weekly Mass and meeting; retreats, shared experiences, camping: apostolate and mission; national and international gatherings.

They have a spiritual advisor who motivates, guides, listens to, offers formation and celebrates with the young people; there is also a coordinator – a lay person- who is responsible for the group and directs the meetings, organises all aspects of formation, and draws up a timetable of activities. He or she walks the same path as the youngsters and develops their personal qualities.

The group (community) is the chief learning experience of the JAR, the privileged environment for growing as a person and in what one does. In opposition to individualism and self-sufficiency, there is dialogue and listening; in opposition to solitude and  egotism, there is communication and open participation; in opposition to an unfeeling nature, there is the encounter with the other person.

In the JAR, people learn to pray, get on together, engage in mission, and to feel themselves accompanied by Mary and by St Augustine; they bear witness the values of St Augustine and of the Recollection. They evangelise through their own example, and build up the civilisation of love and of reaching out to the other person. They collaborate with, and stand with, the whole Augustinian Recollect Family.


A lay person who doesn’t belong to a religious congregation, nor has received the sacrament of Orders. They make up the great majority of Christians.

Liturgy of the Word

One of the oldest of the Church’s traditions is to offer to the Lord the passage of time, not just in a generalized sense, but every day. This is the reason for the “Liturgy of the Hours”: a series of Biblical prayers (psalms, readings, etc) which are recited at different times of the day: at dawn, during the day, in the evening, and before bed. That is the moment for offering the day to god and thank him for life.

The Augustinian Recollects pray the whole of this Liturgy of the Hours in common, as part of our charism of fraternity.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours.


A religious with the responsibility of accompanying, encouraging, and helping the discernment process of those who are in the formation process (novices and simply professed).

Prior (prior general; prior provincial; local prior)

Amongst us, the friar who is responsible for the service of government is known as the “prior”, literally the “first among equals”.

The prior may be “general” when he is in charge of the whole Order, “provincial” when he is in charge of one of the provinces, and “local” when he is responsible for one of the communities. The prior’s chief role is to animate the religious life, oversee the fulfilment of the life programme, and look after the religious in terms of their health, happiness, and tranquillity.

No local prior or prior provincial may continue in office for more than six years in a row, although each term of office lasts three years. This means that they can only be re-elected once. With regard to the prior general, he is in office for six years (if he is re-elected, for a maximum of twelve years).

Formation process

The period of preparation for the religious life, which is organised in accordance with the Augustinian Recollect Formation Plan (IFAR, from its initials in Spanish). It lasts about eight years During this time, as well as spiritual discernment and the maturing of the religious vocation, the religious follow philosophy studies (two years), theology (three years), and a time of community and pastoral integration -which lasts about two years- in a different community to the formation one. Those who do not feel the call to the priesthood, should they not wish to follow these studies, do a specific formation programme in other subjects and sciences.

Community life is important for carrying out this formation process, so formation communities tend to be larger, and the priors are more careful about how they are constituted. There is study, because it’s always necessary to furnish the brain, and personal and community accompaniment, the real skills of dialogue and understanding, sincerity , openness, and consideration of the person a truly holy place.


This is the ceremony in which a religious promises chastity, poverty, and obedience, and the Order receives him as one of its sons. It’s called profession, which comes from the verb “to profess” (to carry out something freely and voluntarily and in an on-going way, with the commitment to fulfil certain promises).

Religious profession ceremony.
It takes place in two stages. Firstly, there is a temporary commitment, for one, two, three, or more years, which starts with the simple profession. After at least three years, the religious makes his solemn profession, which is perpetual, in which he makes a lifelong commitment.

Professed religious

Every religious who has made vows, whether simple or solemn, priest or religious brother. During the formation process, he is supervised by the master of professed religious.

Province/ Province of St Nicholas of Tolentino.

Having so many religious in so many countries and with such a variety of jobs supposes creating structures that help us to organise ourselves in the most efficient manner. So our Order is divided into Provinces.

In the world of civil affairs, Provinces are geographical demarcations; in religious Orders, they are groups of particular people who may be in different countries and different jobs. Each province is responsible for its own resources, decisions about where its religious should go, the infrastructure necessary for the formation of its members, and its own elections and rules.

The provinces usually have a particular name, the same as civil provinces. However, in the case of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, we have always chosen for our provinces the names of the saints who protect us.

In our case, the patron saint who gives his name to our province is St Nicholas of Tolentino.

Arms of the Province of St Nicholas of Tolentino.

Life and Mission Project

At the end of a Chapter, as a conclusion to all of the discussions and debates, the capitular assembly draws together in one document what it holds to be the chief identity of the community, its mission, and its priorities for action for the years ahead (three years for a Provincial Chapter, six for the General Chapter), and sets out whatever rules and initiatives that it considers necessary for the fulfilment of everything that has been decided..

This document is called the “Life and Mission Project”. Its contents are divided into various chapters according to the subject matter: spiritual life, pastoral and ministerial life, missions and social undertakings, and the priorities that we want to achieve. In addition, it lays down time limits for these actions, and indicates the persons responsible for them.

The Life and Mission Project has a direct impact on the life of the religious and of the religious community, and is one of the documents that you will almost always see on the desk in a friar’s room, or very near at hand.


During the greater part of the 16th century, the Church lived through a authentic revolution. There were many who advocated “a return to the primitive Church” to discover the real message of the Gospel, which had been distorted and contaminated by many other values, both political and even military. This was the birth of the movements which, without leaving the course of the  catholic Church, proclaimed a reform from within, in contrast to those other movements that in their enthusiasm for reform, went beyond certain boundaries and created new Churches, endlessly dividing and re-dividing themselves. Those Catholic reform movements continue today: Capuchin Franciscans, Discalced Carmelites and Augustinian Recollects amongst others, arose with this intention. “Recollect” therefore means “reflective” or “retiring”, and alludes to interior reflection, silence, and the search for a more intense spiritual life with greater religious observance.

Fray Luis de Leon reading the Way of Life to the first Recollects.

The Rule

Written by St Augustine, in which he  details what the life of the monks was supposed to be. He places special emphasis on community life.

Religious brothers

Religious who decide not to be priests.

Prayer life

We Augustinian Recollects cannot imagine our life without a continuous, sincere, and passionate relationship with God. All of this is seen in our prayer life: partly carried out in common, partly in private, each person seeking out the times and methods that seem most suitable for him.

Prayer time is the welcoming space where we nourish the other parts of our lives and gain the strength necessary for our tasks. This personal relationship with God gives meaning to what we do and to our way of working.


A promise made by religious to God at the time of the profession. There are three vows: chastity, poverty, and obedience. They are three facets of the one, same, attitude of giving oneself to God and to others.

According to whether the profession is for a period of time or is for life, one refers to “simple vows” or “solemn vows”.

Profession of solemn vows.

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Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine.

Paseo de la Habana, 167. 28036 - Madrid, Spain. Telephone: 913 453 460. CIF(fiscal registration number): R-2800087-E. Entered in the Register of Religious Organizations, of the Ministry of Justice, number 1398-a-SE/B. Develepod by Shunet for OAR Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine. © 2018 - 2021.