Malvern Prep is a proud part of the Augustinian heritage that dates back to St. Augustine of Hippp (354-430 A.D.), a North African Christian, Priest and Bishop. Augustine developed a sprituality and pedagogy that transcends his lifetime and was formally established in the 13th century when his followers, at the encouragement of the papacy established the Order of St. Augustine (O.S.A.). This Order is now worldwide and came to the United States in 1796 with the arrival of Irish Friars to Philadelphia at St. Augustine Church. The American Province established a college and high school in Radnor Township in 1842 and named it Villanova College, in honor of the Spanish Augustinian Friar, St. Thomas of Villanova. Malvern Prep traces its heritage to that point, although it moved to it's current location in Malvern, Chester County in the 1920's.
Augustinian principles are based on the personal lived experience of Christianity of St. Augustine. He was a man with a restless heart. He grew up with a Christian mother, St. Monica, but did not embrace the faith as a child or young man. A brilliant young man, he searched for meaning in life in many directions, and lived by the way of the world at the end of the Roman Empire. He sought pleasure in the typical fashion of students of his day. He took on a mistress as a teen and had a son with her.
He pursued truth in other religions, but never forget the message he has learned from his mother about Catholic Christianity. He rose in power in his career and moved eventually to Milan, Italy, where the emperor resided. While in Milan he got to know the bishop, St. Ambrose and was impressed with his sincerity and dedication in the Catholic faith.
One day while meditating on his struggles in a garden he thought he heard the voice of children singing a song. He heard the words “ Pick up and Read”, “Tolle Lege” in Latin. Realizing is was not the voice of children he pick up a Bible and found the passage from Romans “ Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the desire of the flesh” (Rom 13: 14). He knew deep in his heart that it was time to reform his life and become a Christian. In 387, after months of reflection and studies he was baptized, along with his friends and his son Adeodatus.in the catherdral in Milan.
After his conversion, Augustine returned to North Africa and established a community of friends who dedicated themselves to study and reflection. One day while attending mass in the nearby town of Hippo, this well know, now Christian man was approached by the crowd who demanded he become a priest, Although that was not his desire, he believed it was the will of the lord and he accepted ordination. Later he was made the Bishop, another job he did not seek.
He dedicated the rest of his life to being a good bishop, writing his reflections and serving the needs of the church, while he continued to live in community with his brothers. It is that foundation that inspires the Augustinian way of life: service, reflection and community.
Augustine died in 430 as the Vandal barbarians were laying siege to his city of Hippo. After his death his library was saved and his remains were eventually moved to Italy. Although his Rule of Life for his followers was kept alive, the official Order of St. Augustine was not founded until the 13th Century. His spirit lives on in his communities and in the institutions that are sponsored by the Order throughout the world.
Malvern Prep is sponsored by the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova. For more information about hte province please visit www.augustinian.org. More information about St. Augustine can be found at Villanova University’s Augustinian Institute.