FORMATION OF THE ORDER: 1220 - 1256
The Order of St. Augustine had its direct origin fromseveral hermitical groups in central Italy. Some of these hermitage communities traced their beginnings back to the middleageTheir dwellers were simple men with a high concept of the majesty of God Whom, in accordance with the ideas of the time, they believed they could serve better in solitude. Their spirituality was very hetero-geneous, since each group was free to organize itself according to its own preferences. Manual labor, penitential practices and the repeated recitation of vocal prayers filled their day. Sometimes they took care of rural chapels or looked after travelers.
FROM HERMITISM TO MENDICANT ORDER: 1256-1350
Since the middle of the previous century religious life was advancing toward greater penetration of social life, a more intense apostolate and a more centralized and homo-geneous organization. Innocent III (1198 – 1216) and the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) had favored this process, and the spectacular development of the Franciscans and Dominicans had fully confirmed its validity.
THROUGH THE "GREAT UNION"
On the year 1256 the Church challenged the different communities to organize themselves – an order was born under the sign of St. Augustine and in the mendicant model.To form “One Mind and One Heart” was a constant struggle.
THE REFORM IN ITALY: THE ORDER OF THE DISCALCED AUGUSTINIANS
The 19th of May 1592 can be considered in a right sense as the DIES NATALIS (=day of birth) of our Order. On this day, the 100th General Chapter of OSA taken place in Rome in the convent of Saint Augustine, formulated a Decree "ET QUONIAMSATIS" which prescribed the Reform in all convents in the Order. The text goes this way: "Since it is obviously evident that not a few Religious in the Order stayed away from the observance of the moral norms and of the canon laws through which the features of fraternal charity and of the old religious discipline can hardly be recognized and on the other hand, having an ardent desire to make flourish again our Order in the sanctity of life and of works by making it shine to the world as the luminous example of every virtue, the Definitory Fathers have decreed that as the prime concern, our Roman Cenobite, being a model, should be reformed and then likewise those neighbouring convents and later on, if it would be possible, all cenobites and monasteries of our Order. This is either to set right the customs or to uproot any kind of material abuse in the possession of goods or to remove any stain or mistake until to the smallest defect."
Father Andrew Diaz is a very important person in the beginning of the OAD reform, because of his formation, because of his experience and because of his longing for religious life. He was born around 1552 at Torri Nova near Lisbon, Portugal. He accomplished his novitiate year under the guidance of Ven. Thomas of Jesus. He had his solemn profession as members of the Observant Congregation at the province of Castilla-Spain on December 23, 1575. Around 1576 he was ordained priest, and from 1581 to 1588 he joined the Augustinian Observant Congregation of St. Centorbani, Sicily. In 1589 he went back to Spain joining the first Recollect Community in the Monastery of Talavera. In 1592 with the death of the Province of Castilla, he received permission to bring the Reformed Augustinian Life to Italy. In Rome, April and May he stayed for a time in the Church of Sts. Marcellino and Pietro. During this time on May 19, the 100the General Chapter of the OSA prescribed the reform. In June 28, he was already in Naples in the Monastery of St. Augustine with the permission to use the hermitage of Sta. Maria dell’ Olivella to begin the reform of the Discalced Augustinians. In July 20, he gave the reformed habit to the first four Discalced Augustinians. He was the first Superior of the Community. On March 1593, he was elected Vicar General by the members of the Observant congregation of Centorbani. In November 1598, his commitment with the Centorbani expired. He asked from the General to go back to the Recollect of Spain. During his trip he stopped in the Central House of the OAD at San PaolinoallaRegola, Roma. Continuing his trip by boat, he died near Valencia, Spain.
The appeal of the General Chapter was received and was acted upon in Naples where some Religious, either coming from OSA or from the Laity, formed the first community in the Convent of St. Mary of Olivella. The pioneering Religious were Fr. Andrew Diaz, a Spanish Augustinian of the Sicilian Congregation of Centorbi and Fr. Andrew from Sicignano, a Religious from the Convent of St. Augustine in Naples and later on, joined with them Fr. Andrew Taglietta, Fr. Lawrence of Tolfa, Fr. Ambrose Staibano, Fr. John Baptist Cristallino, Fr. Julius of Calabria and Fr. John Baptist of Bologna. On July 20, 1592, clothed with rough wool, everybody took off his socks and shoes as a way of giving a formal start of the Reform. As a whole, these first Religious can be considered as the MORAL FOUNDERS of the Order for they interpreted the Rule of St. Augustine in all its course of demand according to the General Chapter. Between 1592 and 1598, the year in which the first Constitutions were approved, with their way of life they formed the typical features of the Charism of the Discalced Augustinians from the womb of the Augustinian Family.