The Lord of Host calls some to live in a state of greater perfection. The religious life, strictly speaking, is not the result of a vocation. It is opened to all, because the lay Christian life is already a separation from the world (S. James I, 27), a firm and definitive renouncing to the devil, his works and vanities (Baptism Liturgy). Nevertheless, the religious life is fully evangelical, it is the life to which all must aim at, even the lay people according to their own mode, which is the object of divine merciful tolerance (I Cor. VII, 9). No doubt, the lay people have a raison d’être: it is accomplished in marriage and procreation. Therefore, to become a friar is not the consecration of celibacy caused by an asocial behaviour or misanthropy: it is the realization of the desire for perfection, from a soul with a normal forma mentis, who wants to love God in a sacrificial way, who answers in an absolute manner to the Saviour’s word: “If thy wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” (S. Matt. XIX, 21)
If the Saviour’s precepts are imperative to all, the keeping of the counsels belong to the highest form of love for God. To enter Religion is a death to the realm of self-will and to the senses, therefore, it must not be done lightly. Again, it is not a right; the Superiors have no obligation to receive an applicant who would not seem qualified for this life of charity and renunciation, but also for a community life. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (S. Matt. XVI, 24): no one enters Religion to show-off but rather to give-up a life of cupidity, by loving God above all and his neighbour as himself.
The Augustinian and sacerdotal Concord receives Friars who will, later on, be sent in the Houses according to the needs. It is careful to give them an appropriate teaching founded upon the Rule of Our Holy Father Augustine, as well as on the Ancients’ recommendations. After a probationary period (generally of one year), the Friars take the three vows in a simple manner, for a length of three years. Later come the solemn Vows.
The Friars are those to whom Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks first: “Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” (S. Matt. XI, 28) The applicants meet the Superiors for some preliminary interviews. The judgment is made by them who then refer to the Bishop; his decision is irrevocable, even if the probationary period had been accomplished already.
Once accepted, they look after the tasks belonging to their state, under the direction of the Elders and the Superiors, and the protection of the Bishop. They lead a life of prayer and meditation punctuated by the singing of the Divine Office. The Novices receive an advanced teaching on religious life as well as on the foundation of Christian world view. A special attention is given to the various humble tasks and handicrafts. Ora et labora is the Friars’ fundamental motto.
The Friars wear a special habit, according to the customs of the Augustinian Family.
The Augustinian spirituality emphasises on the gratitude towards God for the free grace he bestows upon whoever he wills. That brings about a great peace and a deep joy, which lightens the Blessed Saviour’s yoke (S. Matt. XI, 29). The religious life, which is difficult by nature, is influenced by that joy when the love for God is its deep and sincere motivation. He who does not bear Christ’s “sweet and light” yoke is crushed by the intolerable burden of self-love.
As we have seen, the vocation to become a Friar is not the same as that for Priesthood. The desire to consecrate one’s life to God in a more perfect manner than the lay people must proceed from a particularly strong love for God. The Superiors are the ones who can determine if the applicant is apt to be received among the Concord’s Friars.
“The applicant must have a healthy body, and robust enough to endure the austerity of the Rule; he must be free from debts, and parents needing his assistance for their living; he must know, or at least be willing to learn a craft which is done in the Household; his mind must not be agitated by troubles and perplexities, and must not be either strange nor peculiar; he must have a gentle character, opened and sociable; not stubborn, unruly, haughty, superficial, inconsistent, despondent, sombre and melancholic; he must not be of ill reputation, nor have any public moral stain. If he has fallen into dissoluteness, or if he has lived in heresy, he must hate it with all his heart and have proved himself for a long time in practicing good and exercising piety with such an edification that there be no doubt about the sincerity of his conversion and that his vocation be holy, firm, wise and well-thought-out; it must not be the result of a temporal necessity, neither of constraint nor by interest; there must be no fit of pique, no flimsiness, no caprice, or any human considerations whatsoever in his decision; he must only be concerned by his salvation when coming to the Concord.” (Excerpts from the ASQC’s Constitutions).
The Augustinian and sacerdotal Concord has three types of Friars: the lay brothers, the tonsured Friars, and the Priest-Friars. These three stages are organized into a hierarchy the one to the other, so that any applicant is received as lay brother, which constitutes a test of humility. If the religious state is considered as the most perfect, it is obvious that he who aspires to it be, if not perfect, at least in the inner dispositions which tends to perfection.
The state of lay brother is stable as such, and involves no necessary promotion. It is sufficient to work on one’s salvation in the context of Religion by means of the three Vows, by which one repents for his past life, and to gain the necessary virtues for his sanctification.
If the Bishop finds it appropriate, and upon the Superiors’ recommendation, the lay brother can be lead to the tonsure, or even to the minor Orders and the major ones (up to the Diaconate), in order to be associated more precisely to the work of the Priests, may it be in the celebration of the Liturgy, in the mission or any other pastoral activity in which Priests may need the help of a cleric. Such a promotion is based upon the virtues, the aptitudes, the seniority of the lay brothers and the needs of the Augustinian and sacerdotal Concord. Indeed, did not Our Lord Jesus Christ say that: “he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is greater” (S. Lk. XVI, 10).
Lastly, some Friars in whom the Bishop, together with the Superiors, discern the required qualities for Priesthood, have access to that august ministry, after the appropriate formation, within the ASQC’s theological school. Their condition within the Concord is described in another document.