For religious following the Augustinian way of life, the Rule of St. Augustine is the privileged source of spiritual doctrine. St. Augustine wrote the Rule as a summary of the norms that he had developed with his companions during his years with the first community of companions, which had been established in his hometown of Tagaste (in modern Algeria). After he became bishop of Hippo, he maintained contact with his first monastery and created a second community to accompany him in his tasks as bishop. He wrote the Rule as a reminder of the goals and practices that had been developed in both of these communities. The Rule was probably written between the years 397 to 400 AD.
All Constitutions and structures governing the Augustinian Recollect religious life ultimately take inspiration historically and doctrinally from the Rule. The Rule is a simple document. It contains a purpose for religious life and the necessary precepts for achieving it. The purpose is the same as that which served to organize the apostolic community of Jerusalem following the experience of Pentecost. The Rule, which has guided Augustinian religious communities of men and women for over 1600 years, consists of eight chapters, which can be divided into four sections.
I. Preface and Holy Proposal: "The chief motivation for your sharing life together is to live harmoniously in the house (Ps. 67.7) and to have one heart and one soul seeking God". (Acts of the Apostles 4: 32a)
II. Precepts for living the Rule, chapters 2 to 7.
III. Prayer and goal of the Rule. "The Lord grant you the grace to observe these precepts with love as lovers of spiritual beauty, exuding the fragrance of Christ in the goodness of your lives; you are no longer slaves under the law but a people living in freedom under grace."
IV. A summary and reminder to use the Rule as a mirror in which the religious should look at himself and consider his faithfulness to his promises.
Although all Christians are to live the law of love and charity of the New Testament, St. Augustine makes charity the focus of his Rule and organizes the day-to-day life of the religious around fraternal charity, linking hearts together in bonds of reciprocal love.