From the Beginning the missions of the Canons were to lead a life combined by the monastic rule of St. Augustine and pastoral work. And so cultural and social engagement are also part of our duties.
Our order has no specific founder like the Benedictines or the Jesuits. The institution of the Augustinian Canons is the result of a development that lasted several hundred years. St. Augustine did not want to found an order like the one we have today. After his conversion he lived with friends in a monastic community. He then became bishop of Hippo and lead a monastic community with the priests of his city. This way of life was nothing completely new. Other bishops before him had had the same idea. St. Augustine and his priests lived together like monks, but instead of handwork, they worked in pastoral care. His intention was not to create something new but to return back to the basis of Christian life, as cited in the Acts of the Apostles, with the first community in Jerusalem.
In 1059, during the Lateran council, Pope Gregory VII summoned the clerics to look about St. Augustine and his idea of a community of goods. In doing so a differentiation came about between the Canons who had personal goods (canonici saeculares) and the Canons Regular (canonice regulares) who took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience according to the Rule of St. Augustine.
The 12th century was the the time of prosperity of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. They spread across the whole of Europe and were respected by the people and the church authorities. Over the centuries difficulties arising from the confusion during the Reformation, the French Revolution, the Josephinism in Austria and the secularisation in Germany meant the end of many Canonaries.
In Austria only a few survived and today they form the Austrian Congregation of the Canons Regular which was founded in 1907. The following monasteries belong to the Austrian Congregation: St. Florian, Herzogenburg, Klosterneuburg, Neustift bei Brixen (South Tyrol), Reichersberg and Vorau. The chairperson of the congregation is the Abbot General who is elected every five years. Although there is an Abbot General every house is still autonomous according to community life, its statutes and its specific duties.
The Austrian Congregation is part of the worldwide Confederation. The head of the confederation is the Abbot Primate. He is responsible for maintaining relations between the different congregations.
The congregations are: Augustine-Canons of the Brothers of the jointly living, Augustine-Canons of Windesheim, Augustine-Canons of Lateran, Austrian Congregation of Augustine Canons, Augustine-Canons of Great Sankt Bernhard, Augustine-Canons of St. Maurice de Agaunum, Augustine-Canons of the immaculate conception, Augustine-Canons of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Augustine-Canons of Sankt Victor.