The Rule of St. Augustine was written about 423 AD, and has its origins as a letter addressed to nuns in a monastery that had been governed by a sister of Augustine, and in which a cousin and niece of his lived. The monastery was having troubles related to the appointement of a new superior, and the primary purpose of the letter was to address these troubles. Augustine took advantage of the opportunity to share his thoughts on the virtues and practices appropriate to the religious life.
The letter to the nuns at Hippo does not give strict and minute guidance such as can be found in the Rule of St. Benedict, but it is clear that Augustine intended the letter as direction for the nuns; they were directed to have the letter read weekly so they could follow all the prescriptions given in it. St. Benedict was very familiar with the letter, and included several provisions from it in his own Rule.
The basic message of the Rule of St. Augustine is that love -- love of God, love of neighbor -- is the center of Christian life. By their love for one another, by their ability to live together in harmony, a religious community's members embody the truth of Christ's teachings. They make Christ's love visible to others. Or as Augustine himself put it, "Let all of you then live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honoring God in yourselves, whose temples you have become."
The Rule, as practiced today, is not very long and is divided into eight chapters:
- Purpose and Basis of Common Life
- Moderation and Self-Denial
- Safeguarding Chastity and Fraternal Correction
- The Care of Community Goods and Treatment of the Sick
- Asking Pardon and Forgiving Offenses
- Governance and Obedience
- Observance of the Rule
The full text of the Rule may be found at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/1534/ruleaug.html.