The Holy Rule of Saint Augustine – Chapter 4

December 31, 2007



Safeguarding Chastity and Fraternal Correction

19. Let your clothing not be conspicuous. Do not seek to please by the garment you wear but by the life you live.

20. When you go out, go together. When you have reached your destination remain together.

21. Let there be nothing in your gait, posture, comportment or any of your movements, that might offend anyone’s eye. Let your manners be such as are becoming your holy state.

22. When you see a woman let your eye not be fixed on her. When you go out, you are not forbidden to see women. But to desire to see them or to wish for such desires on their part, is sinful. For not only by touch and affection, but also by glances such desires are aroused, and arise also in the women. Therefore, do not say that your minds are pure if your eyes are not, because an impure eye reveals an impure heart. When by an exchange of glances, though the tongue be silent, the hearts indicate their impurity and delight in each other’s ardent desire of the flesh, there is no chastity in such behavior, even though the bodies are not defiled by impure touches.

23. Neither must he who fixes his eye on a woman and is pleased to have hers fixed on himself, imagine that he is not observed by others while he does this. He is indeed seen, and by the very ones whom he thinks unaware of it. But granted that it remains unnoticed and no one on earth sees it, what will he do about Him who looks down from heaven and from whom no thing can remain hidden? May He be thought to disregard it because He looks on with a patience that is as great as His understanding? Let the religious fear to displease Him lest he desire to please a woman in a sinful manner. Indeed it is to such persons and in such things that fear is recommended by Sacred Scripture where it says: “An abomination before the Lord is he who turns his eye unto evil.”

24. When, therefore, you are together in the church or wherever there are women, safeguard each other’s modesty. For God who dwells in you will also in this manner protect you through yourselves.

25. If you observe this wantonness of the eye, of which I speak in anyone of you, admonish him at once, in order that the evil begun may not progress but be corrected as soon as possible.

26. But if after the admonition or on any other occasion you see him again doing the same, it is necessary that whoever observed it make it known, for he is wounded and in need of healing. But first one or two others should be told that they may convince themselves. Thus he can be convicted out of two or three and curbed with proper severity. Do not think that you act maliciously in making this known. Indeed, you are not without blame if by your silence you permit your brethren to perish, whom you might correct by making them known. For if your brother had a wound in his body which he would wish to hide from fear of an incision, would it not be cruel of you to keep the secret, but merciful to reveal it? How much more then, ought you to make him known lest he suffer worse corruption in his heart.

27. But before his fault is revealed to others, by whom he is to be convicted in case he denies it, the matter should be brought to the attention of the superior if he fails to amend after the admonition. Thus he may be reproved in private and his fault remain unknown to the others. But if he denies it, then the others must be brought in that he may be accused before the whole community not only by one witness but by two or three and, thus, stand convicted. The one convicted must submit to the penalty decreed for his amendment by the superior or also the priest to whose ministry such decisions pertain. If he refuses to bear it, and yet does not leave of his own accord, let him be expelled from your midst. This also is not done out of cruelty but out of mercy, lest he ruin many others by his evil influence.

28. Let what I have said about the restraint of the eye be diligently and faithfully observed in the discovery, prevention, manifestation, proving, and punishment of all other sins: with charity for the neighbour, but with hatred for sin.

29. If anyone has gone so far in his sin as to receive letters or presents secretly from a woman: if he confesses it of his own accord, let him be forgiven and let prayers be said for him. But if he is apprehended and convicted, let him be severely corrected according to the judgment of the priest or superior.