Looking at the Past

English translation by Fray Emilio Larlar, OAR

A book long awaited by us has just come out the printing: the second volume of the History of the Augustinian Recollect written by Fray Ángel Martínez Cuesta. It is a great milestone for all our communities and for all the Augustinian Recollect Family. The third and the last volume which will examine the entire XX century and the beginning of the XXI must come out soon.

The Volume II will be conveniently presented, as usual. But, inevitably that presentation will be limited to concrete act, scenario and date. The materials that we offer for this day of retreat, try to present it to each of the Recollect communities of the world.

We are in the Year of Consecrated Life and, according to Pope Francis, the first objective of the Year is “to look back with gratitude” 1. The work that we are presenting now serves us well like a ring to the finger.

Immediately after stating the said objective, the Pope warned: It is not a matter of making archeology or cultivate useless nostalgias, but to travel the path of the past generations in order to rediscover in it the inspiring flame, the ideals, the projects, the values that have motivated them.

It is what we intend to do. And we will do it in a very simple way. We have asked the author of the work himself to pick out some pages or episodes that have special significance. They are what we present now, and perhaps will present, in another coming retreat. Our suggestion: simply that these pages be read in an atmosphere of praise to God for the marvelous works he has done in our history, in His History of Salvation.

We will alternate the reading with the verses taken from Psalm 136 (NAB), adapting it to the mentioned circumstances.

“To repeat continually “for his mercy endures forever,” as the psalm does, seems to break through the dimensions of space and time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love. It is as if to say that not only in history, but for all eternity man will always be under the mercifulgaze of the Father.

Knowing that Jesus himself prayed this psalm makes it even more important for us as Christians, challenging us to take up the refrain in our daily lives by praying these words of praise: “for his mercy endures forever” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae vultus, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, 7).

This psalm was in the Jewish liturgy, and also in the Christian, a ‘Paschal Hymn’ and sings the divine mercy manifested both in the creation as well as in the history of the People of God. The XIX century was for us a paschal time, a Red Sea in which the Order was at the point of dying and from where only the powerful hand of God could take it away.

I remember the days of old; I ponder all your deeds; the works of your hands I recall. I stretch out my hands toward you, my soul to you like a parched land.(Psalm 143: 5-6).

The Spiritual and Charismatic Consequences of the Spanish Expropriation of Church’s Properties. Year 1835.

a.) The General Law of the Expropriation of Church’s Properties, July 27, 1837.

The first article of the General Law of Church’s Properties of July (27 or 29?), 1837 put an end to the legislative process started two years that was at the point of ending religious life in Spain. It first article declares: “All the monasteries, convents, colleges, congregations and other houses of community of religious of both sexes have become extinct in the Peninsula, adjacent islands and territories in Africa.”

Other articles prohibited the use of religious habit, subjected the secularized monks to the Episcopal authority and they determined the use of the conventual properties. The buildings and the lands were allotted to the State to be sold at public bidding. The more valuable con-vents would be used for public utility. The archives, books, paintings and artistic and cultural objects would be awarded to “provincial libraries, museums, academies and other establishments of public education”. “The religious who would like to leave the religious life could take with them furniture, clothes and books of their personal use”, they would enjoy all the privileges of the secular priests and they would receive a pension that would oscillate bet-ween six reales daily for the priests older than 70 years and three for the lay younger than 40 years.

This law could have caused the extinction of the Order. Orders of national level like the Hermits of St. Jerome and the Order of St. Basil did not survive. From the human point of view, its survival was due to the missions of the Philippines. In the heart of the Order there were no intentions of resisting not even passively. The difficulties were enormous, but with passage of time, the possibility of organizing a small center in a foreign land could have been thought of, as other Orders had done, or in establishing contact with the American governments and Bishops, among whom there was a strong willingness to accept Spanish religious. Not even taking advantage of the possibility of sending religious to the Philippines. Only 12 exclaustrated saved their religious vocation offering as volunteers for the missions of the Philippines. Others travelled to Rome to finish their studies.

Fortunately, the government, aware of the political contribution of the missionaries, could not afford to do away with them and explicitly excluded from suppression the convents intended for the formation of the missionaries for the Archipelago: “The colleges of the missionaries for the provinces of Asia established in Valladolid, Ocaña and Monteagudo are exempted from what had been ordered in the previous article. Later, it continued being interested in them, intervening in its interior regime, in its Provincial Chapter and even in the admission of novices. That intervention at times degenerated into oppression. But others became providential. Already before the decree of 1835 it had exempted it of the a contribution imposed by the Governor of Tudela and had allowed it to receive novices contrary to the what was legislated in 1834. In 1855 excluded it dwellers from receiving Holy Orders and in 1855 its properties from the law of expropriation of October of the previous year. In 1868, when a radical minister wanted to reedit the antireligious politics of the first liberal governments by suppressing “the monasteries, convents, colleges, congregations and other houses of the religious […] founded in the Peninsula and adjacent islands from July 29, 1837,” the community was able to save the college of Marcilla, because the Overseas Ministry considered it as a mere extension of that of Monteagudo, and, therefore, outside of the field marked out by the Ministries of Justice and Governance.

The second article of the General Lay of Expropriation of Church’s Properties, by saving the Convent of Montegudo from suppression, also saved the entire Recollection. From it again re-organized itself and to spread with the opening of the colleges of Marcilla (1865) and San Millán (1878); and formed a phalanx of young people that spread their presence in the Philippines; since the year 1888 it offered the Apostolic Commissioner the necessary personnel in order to restore the Province of Colombia and ten years later spread it outside the old boundaries of Colombia, Philippines and Spain.

The Lord allowed that they would take away our convents:
For His mercy endures forever.
They passed our cultural properties to public service:
For His mercy endures forever.
He took care of our exclaustrated religious:
For His mercy endures forever
He did not want that Monteagudo – the seed of future harvest would disappear:
For His mercy endures forever.
He maintained and allowed the missions of the Philippines to grow:
For His mercy endures forever.
He caused and carried out the restoration in Colombia:
For His mercy endures forever.

b.) Its Impact on the Life of the Order

The expropriation of Church’s Properties affected the charismatic life of the Recollection, modifying its spiritual and apostolic structure. Up to 1835 it had been a community with contemplative tendency. In 1835 a period in which it has often been in danger of becoming an apostolic and missionary institute started. Until 1835 a conventual type of life in which fraternity, simplicity, prayer, and retreat are the most esteemed values prevailed in it. Their friars lived in austerity, they wore espadrilles, or at most, sandals; they fasted half of the year and scourged themselves three times a week. The apostolate still occupied a secondary place in it, although it was not marginal. It even fought for the supremacy in the scale of values of the Congregation. In the daily life it already achieved it. But its laws and historical memory continued proposing a plan of life that is humble, secluded, away from the hustle of the world and dedicated to the asceticism and contemplation. The missions of the Philippines were simple appendix. The core of the community is constituted by the 39 convents of Spain and Colombia, even though it was already a broken core that was incapable of assuring the identity and unity of the body.

Now, deprived of its convents and without the possibility of practicing life in common, it adopted a style of life in which everything – objectives, formation, governance and, above all, the daily life – tended towards the apostolate. The life in common was confined in the college of Monteagudo, dedicated to formative tasks, and to the convent of Manila, seat of the Provincial Administration and refuge of the old religious removed from the ministries for disciplinary reasons. Los corporate bonds were relaxed and the demands of the tradition of the superiors reached the friars very weakened. In the isolation of the parishes, these felt more the urgency of their personal and that of their parishes than those of the community. Little by little the Order was turning its back to its communitarian spirituality, inalienable legacy of its Augustinian inspiration, in order to adopt another with individualistic and priestly overtone. If the transformation did not fully materialize, it was due, in the first place, to the education given in the convents, especially in the novitiate, in which almost always there were religious who were in love with the Recollect heritage, and the laws, whose claim always found echo in more or less numerous groups of friars. On the other hand, the community never accepted the centralization of the administration of the modern institutes nor did it share the strong spiritual experience that characterized the founding period of the religious institutes.

The phenomenon was repeated in Colombia in 1861. General Mosquera expelled from their convents all the religious of the nation and took possession of their properties. There also the religious were converted overnight into clerics who were separated from their superiors had very limited relationship among them. The majority placed themselves chaplaincies and parishes and felt good in them, and tied emotionally more to the local Church than to the Order.

During several decades the Order scarcely had the possibility of changing the situation. Perhaps, it could have tried to do it at the end of the XIX century and at the beginning of XX century, when it cut itself off from the tutelage of the Overseas Ministry and there arose from its bosom a reflection about its present, past and future. But at that crucial moment there was an absence authorized voices – with a complete vision of the history and spirituality of the Order – who would balance or, at least, blend the weight of the Filipino tradition, in which almost all were existentially immersed. The debate logically led to the decisive reaffirmation of the missionary and apostolic character of the Order and to an application to it all of a spirituality which, in reality, belonged to one of its Provinces only. The General Chapter of San Millán took note of this reality and solemnly proclaimed that the new purpose of the Order was apostolate and that the Constitutions that were already being prepared must be adjusted to it.

The Lord corrected us with the Laws of Expropriation of Church’s Properties:
For His mercy endures forever.
And made us develop the charism of the Order:
For His mercy endures forever.
Our brother had lived in the seclusion of the convents:
For His mercy endures forever.
And in them the path to apostolic vocation was opened:
For His mercy endures forever,
He purified our religious who left the convent with a thousand penalties:
For His mercy endures forever.
He fueled the flame of the apostolate in the Philippines:
For His mercy endures forever
He did not allow that thread of our history would be broken:
For His mercy endures forever.

c. The Filipinization of the Order

Another consequence of the Expropriation of the Church’s Property was the Filipinization of the Order, its identification with the Asian Archipelago. For many years the only horizon of the community, including its superiors, was that Archipelago. That attitude is, in itself, worthy of respect, and in some religious even deserves praise. It reveals a visceral participation in the life of the country in which they worked and toward which they had oriented their life since they were young.

In the superiors it is less comprehensible, above all as the years were advancing. It reveals a lack of foresight which, among other things, impeded them to make use of the possibilities that since 1876 Spain during the time Cánovas was providing opportunities to the religious institutes. Between the 1876 and 1898 23 years had passed during which old and new, national and foreign, Orders, repopulated the Spanish geography with convents, colleges, residence and houses of all kind. The Recollects only made the foundation of San Millán (1878), whose monastery they accepted without enthusiasm, perhaps so as not to snub the government that offered it to them as a reward for their services in the Philippine Archipelago. The attempts to establish in Gijón, Madrid, Aragón and Extrmadura did not go beyond mere whims. In other nations of Europe, Asia, America or Africa scarcely was it thought of. The Colombian experience and the incipient opening of some communities in the Philippines to other nations of Asia and America could have helped them to drive away the fear of the possible reprisals of the government in case of diverting to the America some of its members. Not even when, in 1893, the President of the government Antonio Maura expressed the wish that the Spanish communities be implemented in the former Spanish America, did they decide to take advantage of its immense possibilities.

With the word Filipinizaton I do not wish to express one simple geographical concept. It contains a manner of understanding the Recollect life that was forged in the Philippines throughout the XIX century and which from the Archipelago extended to South America at the beginning of the XX century. The dozens of religious who established themselves in Panamá, Venezuela, Trinidad, Brazil between 1898 and 1904 travelled with Norms that try to fix their pastoral work on basis that are more in line with the Recollect tradition, avoiding the deficiencies that had darkened the work in the Philippines during the last century.

According to these norms, they should pay more attention to the life in common, forget about pocket money, to widen the ties among them and with the superiors and cultivate prayer more assiduously, both mental and vocal. The “Filipino” individualism must give way to sharing, to the common good and to the spirit of the body. The missionary activity should take the place of that of the parish; only on extraordinary cases that a religious be allowed to live alone; and all should act in permanent contact with the superiors, to whom they should render periodical account of their activities. It was even thought of that the title of parish priest be exclusive of the superior and that the other religious administer “their” parishes in close dependence on him. In all houses let there an hour of meditation daily and rosary en honor of the Virgin Mary be prayed.

The main responsible of those expeditions urged the fulfillment of these Norms; but with little success. They encountered many objective and subjective obstacles that rendered their efforts useless. They had to accept what the bishops offered them, and these looked for, above all, parish priests for rural, poor and isolated areas, which rarely could support more than one religious, who, besides, had to stay hours and even days away from their companions. The people did not understand about residences or pastoral centers and pressed to have their priest nearby. On their part, the friars, who were accustomed to living alone, did not want companions with whom to share decisions or divide income, which in America, at least, during the first years, did not allow them to be of the same level as they had in the Philippines. Hence, they opposed its implementation, and they ended by being exempting themselves and to continue with the same habits that they had acquired in the Islands.

In 1909 none of the nine Recollect parishes in the Triangulo Mineiro, in Brazil, had more than one religious. The situation, both in other states of Brazil as well as in Venezuela, was very similar, and was prolonged during decades, in spite of the attempts made to put an end to it. Likewise in the Philippines there was an attempt to oppose the autonomy and pocket money, and there was also an attempt to concentrate the personnel, above all, as a result of the apostolic visit of 1930. But these ideas only started to receive practical consistency after the Second World War, with the entrance of the Province in the field of education and the determination with which Father Ayape (1950-62) urged the observance of the ordinances that prescribed the transfer to the bishops of the parishes with only one personnel.

In the first years of the XX century the Order had offered of colleges, seminaries and technical schools in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. Their acceptance could have facilitated the prohibition both of the old individualism as well as the parochial exclusivism, but none of them came to crystallize. The main causes of the failure must be sought in the poor preparation of the personnel and the administrative and charismatic irregularity that during those years burdened the activity of the Order and impeded the taking of appropriate measures. Few of the friars who came to America, were in a position to offer services to the society such as education, health care, the preaching of exercises, retreats and popular missions.

Even the insertion in the pastoral life of the Diocese was very difficult for them. Most had been parish priests in a privileged situation, well remunerated, better considered and poorly controlled. Now it was hard for them to accept that not in all places were such privileges enjoyed, that the government did not pay their work, that the faithful did not give them greater considerations, that their income did not permit them the train of life to which they have become accustomed in the Philippines, that the bishops are on top of them and demanded the respect due to his dignity… Some saw their position in the Archipelago as an anomaly that had to be forgotten. But for others – perhaps for the majority – it continued to be a goal that had to be regained.

Many brothers are ignorant of the wide horizons of the Church:
For His mercy endures forever.
But to others the Lord gave them courage to go over to America:
For His mercy endures forever.
He allowed the apathy and the dissatisfaction of many:
For His mercy endures forever.
And rewarded the availability of many others:
For His mercy endures forever.
He humbled them with the feelings of helplessness:
For His mercy endures forever.
He did not allow that their faith and apostolic zeal to weaken:
For His mercy endures forever.
The superiors dictated to them norms of renewal:
For His mercy endures forever.
Many brother reoriented their life;
For His mercy endures forever.
And new fields and a new stage of its history were open to the Order:
For His mercy endures forever.


For Reflection

  1. Does it make sense to sing the mercy of God starting from historical deficiencies: Can I do it by analyzing the obscure moments of my life?
  2. Do we look at politics and the events for the point of view of God, as something that He manages; or do we do it only from our own partisanship and ideologies?
  3. The course of our history changed with the Expropriation of the Church’s Properties (1835), and the Chapter of San Millán of 1908 accepted and assumed it. Is there something of what characterized the old convents that is of value to us today? How could we recuperate it?

Final Prayer

Psalm 136: 1-4.10-16. 26 (NAB).

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
for his mercy endures forever;
Praise the God of gods;
for his mercy endures forever;
Praise the Lord of lords;
for his mercy endures forever;
Who alone has done great wonders,
for his mercy endures forever;
Who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his mercy endures forever;
And led Israel from their midst,
for his mercy endures forever;
With mighty hand and outstretched arm,
for his mercy endures forever;
Who split in two the Red Sea,
for his mercy endures forever;
And led Israel through its midst,
for his mercy endures forever;
But swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea,
for his mercy endures forever;
Who led the people through the desert,
for his mercy endures forever;
Praise the God of heaven,
for his mercy endures forever.

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Frei Bo

Frei Bo

Priest-Religious of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno. Webmaster.

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    Sr. Mary Lou Duhino, AR
    Sis. Gloria Horcasitas, SAR (San Carlos Chapter)
    Bro. Sofronio Maribojoc, SAR (San Carlos Chapter)


    Most Rev. Natale Paganelli, SX (Diocese of Makeni)

  • All day
    December 26, 2022


    Bro. Allan Vivas, SAR (Puerto Princesa Chapter)


    +Sr. Maria Gavino, AR
    +Sis. Concepcion Artiaga, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

  • All day
    December 27, 2022


    Sr. Ma. Editha Escalania, AR
    Sr. Filomena Atun, AR
    Sis. Evelyn Gaerlan, SAR (Baguio Chapter)


    +Sis. Rosalina Cepe, SAR (Valencia Chapter)

  • All day
    December 28, 2022



    Fray Niño Cesar Ruiz
    Fray Jessriel Marcha
    Sis. Remia Gallegos, SAR (Talisay Chapter)
    Sis. Lydia Gutierrez, SAR (Bacolod Chapter)
    Sis. Luzviminda Tecson, SAR (Cebu Chapter)
    Sis. Emily Dacanay, SAR (Manila Chapter)
    Cyrine Mae Mendoza (RAY-Talisay)


    +Sis. Rita Lincoran, SAR (Antipolo Chapter)
    +Bro. Bartolome Lamug, SAR (Baguio Chapter)

  • All day
    December 29, 2022


    Sis. Luz Tañales, SAR (Brooke’s Point Chapter)


    +Sr. Justa de Jesus, AR
    +Sis. Benita Legaspi, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

  • All day
    December 30, 2022


    [Rizal Day: Regular Holiday]


    Bro. Tomas Banguilan, SAR (Provincialate Chapter)
    Bro. Delfin Anareta, SAR (Antipolo Chapter)
    Sis. Violeta Fumar, SAR (Miranila Chapter)
    Sis. Rizalina Gasmido, SAR (Provincialate Chapter)


    +Sr. Maria Viñon, AR
    +Sis. Teresita Villasario, SAR (San Carlos Chapter)
    +Sis. Benita Dianon, SAR (Cebu Chapter)
    +Sis. Esperanza Montesclaros, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

  • All day
    December 31, 2022

    ROME: Celebration of Vespers and Te Deum in Thanksgiving for the past year (1700H, Rome Time)


    Fray Antonio Zabala, Jr. Fray Jose Alden Alipin
    Sr. Potenciana Azurin, AR
    Sis. Elizabeth Mahusay, SAR (Talisay Chapter)
    Sis. Erlinda Yubal, SAR (Cebu Chapter)
    Sis. Pauline Culaton, SAR (Baguio Chapter)
    Sis. Teresita Dayag, SAR (Manila Chapter)
    Bonnie de Guzman (RAY-Urbiztondo)


    +Sr. Benigna de la Purisima Concepcion, AR
    +Sis. Zenaida Maglalang, SAR (Manila Chapter)
    +Sis. Myrna Baynosa, SAR (Bacolod Chapter)
    +Sis. Nelia Rito, SAR (Talisay Chapter)

    HAPPY NEW YEAR 2023!