FAQ

 


What is a Stift?

What does “Klosterneuburg” mean?

How old is Stift Klosterneuburg?

What is a Secular Canon?

When did Stift Klosterneuburg become an Augustinian Canonry?

Are the Canons Regular the same as the Augustinians?

Who lives in Stift Klosterneuburg?

Which are the six abbeys of the Austrian Congregation?

What kind of work do the members of Klosterneuburg do?

What is a Canon?

What does “Regular” mean?

Under which rule do the Augustinians live?

Did St. Augustine found the Canons Regular?

Who founded the Canons Regular?

What is the charism of the Canons Regular?

How do the Canons Regular understand the common live?

Why does a Canon Regular receive a new name?

Why are Canons Regular addressed as “Dom”?

Why does a Canon Regular wear a Habit?

What is the habit today?

So what is that funny looking white starched linen tie?

What do Canons Regular do?

Will I find what I need to become a saint in this way of life?

Has this way of life produced saints?

Where do I go from here?

Saint Augustine

What is a Stift?

A Stift is in literal terms, an endowment or donation. The ancient monasteries of Austria and Germany were endowed by the nobility with extensive lands. The monasteries of Benedictines, Cistercians and Canons Regular are called the old Orders, and these have Stifts. A Kloster (cloister) is a monastery. The word comes from the Latin noun claustrum meaning bar or bolt, which comes from the verb claudere to close.

 

Stift Klosterneuburg

What does “Klosterneuburg” mean?

Klosterneuburg is the fusion of three words: “Kloster” refers to the Stift or abbey and the “neu Burg” refers to the “new castle”. St. Leopold established both of them in the early 12th Century.

 

How old is Stift Klosterneuburg?

On June 12, 1114 St. Leopold laid the cornerstone for the construction of the abbey church under the title of the Nativity of Our Lady. So the abbey is nearly 900 years old. At that time St. Leopold erected a secular canonry.

 

What is a Secular Canon?

A canonry is another way of referring to a house of canons, just like a house of friars is called a friary. As to the meaning of secular, the Church distinguishes between priests who are in religious life and those who are not. The former are called religious priests, while the latter are called secular priests. In English we tend to refer to secular priests as diocesan priests. Secular canons were priests who lived together but did not share their property. They were primarily responsible for the liturgy of a large church. The common life was limited.

 

Bergen

When did Stift Klosterneuburg become an Augustinian Canonry?

In 1133 St. Leopold handed over the canonry to the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. This should not be surprising, since the Canons Regular were part of an important movement for clerical reform in the Church in the 12th Century. The first Augustinian Canons came from the canonries in Passau, Salzburg and Rottenbuch.

 

Are the Canons Regular the same as the Augustinians?

Canons Regular are sometimes called Augustinians which leads to confusion. There are two religious orders that use the nickname Augustinians: Canons Regular of St. Augustine or Augustinian Canons (or in England they were called the Austin or Black Canons) and the Order of St. Augustine or the Augustinian Friars. The latter is the community with which most Americans are familiar. For example the Augustinian Friars run Villanova University, just outside of Philadelphia. Many of the Augustinian Canons belong to the Confederation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine.

 

Who lives in Stift Klosterneuburg?

Stift Klosterneuburg is a community of 47 members. It is one of the six abbeys of the Austrian Congregation of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine (in German Augustiner-Chorherren or Augustinian Canons).

Which are the six abbeys of the Austrian Congregation?

Herzogenburg, Klosterneuburg, Neustift, Reichersberg, St. Florian and Vorau. Only Neustift is not located in Austria. Rather it is found in South Tyrol, which became part of Italy in 1918 after World War One. There are 164 members of the Congregation, divided among six houses or Stifts. The Canons look after over 100 parishes in Austria and South Tyrol. Moreover as of the First Sunday of Advent 2003, the Austrian Congregation has taken over the pastoral care of the third largest parish in Norway, St. Paul the Apostle in Bergen, Norway and two parishes in Glen Cove, New York, St. Patrick-on-the-Hill and the Church of St. Rocco.

Number of parishes looked after by each abbey of the Austrian Congregation:

  1. Herzogenburg: 14
  2. Vorau: 13
  3. Reichersberg: 14
  4. Neustift: 22
  5. St. Florian: 33
  6. Klosterneuburg: 27

What kind of work do the members of Klosterneuburg do?

The majority of the priests of Klosterneuburg are engaged in the care of souls (the cura animarum in Latin, and Seelsorge in German). This means they are parish priests. This has not always been the case, or not at least to the extent that it happens today. Every house in the Austrian Congregation runs parishes as well as having other apostolates including education, catechetics, retreats and spiritual formation. Stift Klosterneuburg serves 24 parishes in and around Vienna (see map) and one in Bergen, Norway. The parishes vary greatly in size from just a few hundred people to over ten thousand. Depending on the size, there will be more than one priest. In addition to a variety to the priestly apostolate, Stift Klosterneuburg is also charged with the care of a precious cultural and artistic patrimony and is actively engaged in various social and economic enterprises. Austrian Stifts have typically played an important role in almost every aspect of human endeavors in their locality and even beyond. This is clearly seen, for example, in the influence of Pius Parsch on the pre-conciliar liturgical reform movement.

The parishes of Stift Klosterneuburg. Click to enlarge.

What is a Canon?

A canon is a priest who shares some form of common life and is bound to the solemn celebration of the liturgy in a particular church. This ancient term derives from the Bishop’s list or “canon” of priests. These were the clergy who belonged to the bishop and were his co-workers in the cathedral.

“Dearly Beloved, we ought, above all things, to love Almighty God and then our neighbor; for these are the principal precepts delivered to us in the Holy Scriptures.”
Prologue to the Rule of St. Augustine

“These commands that follow are called a Rule (regula in Latin), because in them is expressed the pattern of holy living. Now a rule is some named because is it the source of direction and instruction. Where we speak of a rule, the Greeks use the term Canon. Hence from the Greek the name Canons or Regulars is also applied to those who live in religious houses and lead a Canonical and apostolic life, according to the precepts of regular observance laid down the by the holy Fathers.”
An Explanation of the Rule of St. Augustine by Hugh of St. Victor

What does “Regular” mean?

The word comes from Late Latin regularis regular, from regula rule. So a Canon Regular is a priest living under a rule. This term describes a kind of reformed priestly life, which came into use in the 11th and 12th Centuries when some canons adopted a vow of poverty, hence Canons Regular, while other did not, hence Secular Canons.

Under which rule do the Augustinians live?

Canons Regular live under the Rule of St. Augustine. As Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine composed it so he could share the common life with his priests.

“Because nothing makes for good religious so much as conformity to the spirit of the one who gave them their Rule, we should try to live in the spirit of St. Augustine, a spirit of gentleness and mildness. You are a canon regular: make it you aim to possess this spirit, so characteristic of your Order.”
The Handbook of Augustinian Spirituality by Johann Georg Gröber

Did St. Augustine found the Canons Regular?

Actually no. The Canons Regular acknowledge St. Augustine as Father of the Order and rule-giver since the common life he shared with his priests is the model of our life as Canons Regular.

Who founded the Canons Regular?

Unlike the Franciscans or Dominicans who can point to St. Francis or St. Dominic as their founders, the Canons Regular cannot name a particular founder because our way of life originates in the apostolic life of the early Church. So the Canons Regular claim ultimately that it is Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles and the example of the common life of the early Church that founds the practice of the Canonical Life before there was a name or a rule given to it. It is the first form of religious life for clergy in the Western Church. This should not surprise us. After all, the Church often gives a standard name to beliefs or practices long after Christ entrusted them to the Apostles. One need only remember that the Church has always professed a Trinitarian faith even before the word Trinity was used to describe it!

St. Augustine teaches the Orders. Besides the Canons Regular, many other religious follow the Rule of St. Augustine and look to him for inspiration and example.

What is the charism of the Canons Regular?

Our charism, which is a special grace that God gives to build up the Church, is the common life for priests.

“How good and pleasant it is,
when brothers live in unity.”

Ps. 133:1

How do the Canons Regular understand the common live?

In the tradition of St. Augustine, the common life is going together to God as priests and religious. While there are a diversity of ways in which Canons Regular live out this vocation, these are all based on the Rule of St. Augustine, which presents a vision of priestly common life and lays out the principles by which such a life is made possible. Each house or congregation moreover is guided by a constitution, which spells out the specifics of the Canonical Life in a particular time and place. The two pillars of this life are common prayer, which manifests the union of souls and hearts, and common meals, which expresses the union of goods and property.

 

“First, the reason that you are gathered together in one is that you dwell with concord in the house: and that you possess but one soul and one heart in God.”

Here, in the first place, we have counsel regarding unity and agreement: such agreement, namely, as will arise, from living together in God. To unite with others for any bad purpose would itself be evil; but an agreement to do good, to pursue justice, and to serve God is productive of much good. This is the end for which we are gathering in one: namely, that we may have one spirit and one soul in the service of God. And therefore the command is that we dwell together in the same house and have but one soul and one heart in God.

An Explanation of the Rule of St. Augustine by Hugh of St. Victor

Why does a Canon Regular receive a new name?

The new name represents the entrance into a new life as a religious. This tells the man and everyone else that what matters now is his identity as a religious. He has left the past behind and now looks towards to future with God as His goal. The giving of a new name is a frequent and important event in the Bible. This new name emphasizes a radical reorientation towards God.

 

Why are Canons Regular addressed as “Dom”?

“Dom” is a venerable title still used properly by the older Orders (e.g. Benedictines, Canons, Cistercians, etc). It is short for the Latin word Dominus, meaning “lord”. A title given out of respect, it applies equally to all members of the community, whether they are ordained and in solemn vows or not. In the Austrian usage, the title “Dom” is translated in two ways. For the ordained, it is rendered in German as Hochwürdige Herr, which means literally “high-worthy gentleman” or more freely “very reverend sir.” The non-ordained are addressed as Ehrwürdiger Herr, loosely translated as “reverend sir.” At Stift Klosterneuburg at least, the term “Brother” is not generally used. With respect to the title “Father,” this term is not generally used in the German-speaking world. In the English speaking world however many canons have adopted this usage.

Fr. Aldo Tapparo, the illustrious parish priest of Royal Leamington Spa, UK, and Dom Clemens.

Why does a Canon Regular wear a Habit?

A habit represents the decision to put on Christ everyday. It is, moreover, a constant reminder that the Canon Regular is dedicated to God not only in what he does, but who he is: a priest and a religious. When a man is received into the community as a novice, he is clothed or invested in the habit of Canons.

 

What is the habit today?

A black cassock, a sash, a split linen collar and that funny looking white starched linen tie.

 

So what is that funny looking white starched linen tie?

It is called a “sarozium” and actually has a deep spiritual significance. This word sarozium comes from two Latin words “sacrum rochettum” or sacred rochet. It indicates the Canon Regular’s dedication to the worship of God in the Sacred Liturgy. The first Canons Regular wore both a white cassock and a white rochet all day long. Over time, though, the habit was modified to be more practical. The white habit became black and the sacred rochet was trimmed to what remains today: the sarozium. The sarozium remains an integral part of the Canonical Habit because it underscores the Canon Regular’s dedication to God’s service, not just when he is in church, but wherever he is. When he is in church, he removes the sarozium and puts on a full rochet.

 

What do Canons Regular do?

The Canon Regular does that which flows from his vocation as a priest called to the common life. His first responsibility therefore is to build up, support and foster the common life, which he shares with his brothers in a common residence. The celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Eucharist as well as a generous participation in common meals, conversation and recreation are the principal means by which this life is promoted. It is through this life that he grows in sanctity and receives the encouragement he needs to carry out his priestly ministry. When necessary, a canon may for a time live outside the house, e.g. in parish rectories. However even there a semblance of the common live ought to exist. Moreover those who live outside the house ought to return often to the house to participate in prayer, meals and fraternity, so they may draw strength from the very sources of their Canonical Vocation. Concurrently, since the Canon Regular is a priest, he is entrusted with the apostolate of the Church. For most this means carrying out pastoral work, i.e. celebrating the Sacred Liturgy and the Sacraments, teaching the faithful, visiting the sick, instructing converts, reconciling sinners, etc. Others may undertake specialized ministries. Whatever the case, all serve as long as health and age permit.

 

“There is one sure way of achieving perfection and it consists in this: to meditate, over and over again, on the life of our teacher, Jesus Christ. You should be constantly reading two books, as it were. The first contains the life of Christ, and the second, a copy of the first, contains an account of your own life, patterned after his example. This exercise is useful for a number of reasons, but especially because the example of Christ, unlike the example of other people’s lives, not only shows you the way, but gives you the strength to follow it. Jesus Christ, when he sees you ready and willing to follow him in all things, gives you the grace and strength to do so. He lights up your path in a hundred different ways, and he reveals wonderful mysteries to you, in proportion to your readiness to follow him closely.”

Bl. Alanus de Solminihac

Will I find what I need to become a saint in this way of life?

The canonical vocation is a gift that God gives to sanctify men, whom He has chosen to be His priests. The sanctification of the Canon Regular occurs through the common life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Drawn to imitate Christ in His life and mission, the Canon Regular is challenged through his religious vocation to leave behind his self-love and to be perfected through the constant practice of charity. Patience and forgiveness are his companions on this road to holiness. This is a life-long project. No man is a saint when he enters and he will be disappointed if he expects to find a house in which only saints reside. Canonical life exists to make sinners into saints. Therewith comes the pressing need to cultivate the humility and honesty which will lead one to seek conversion and reconciliation. This difficult journey however is made easier, indeed even joyful, by the presence of other men who seek after the same sanctity and walk together, supporting one another on the way to God.

 

Has this way of life produced saints?

Through the Canonical life the Holy Spirit has raised up countless hidden saints as well as the numerous saints who are venerated by the Church and honored in the liturgy. These are testament to the wisdom of this way of life as well as to the mercy of God, who makes mere sinners into His beloved sons and daughters.

St. Alipius

Where do I go from here?

Here are a few suggestions:

Visit the links which elaborate the brief descriptions given here on the FAQ page.

Read the Declaration on the Canonical Life, which offers an excellent summary on the nature, origin and history of the Canonical Life. To do so, click here.

Contact us. Send us your questions.