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In Catholicism, an abbess (Latin abbatissa, feminine form of abbas, abbot) is the female superior of a community of nuns, which is often an abbey.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
In linguistics, grammatical gender is a specific form of noun class system in which the division of noun classes forms an agreement system with another aspect of the language, such as adjectives, articles, pronouns, or verbs. This system is used in approximately one quarter of the world's languages. In these languages, most or all nouns inherently carry one value of the grammatical category called gender; the values present in a given language are called the genders of that language. According to one definition: "Genders are classes of nouns reflected in the behaviour of associated words."
Abbot, meaning father, is an ecclesiastical title given to the male head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not the head of a monastery. The female equivalent is abbess.
In the Catholic Church (both the Latin Church and Eastern Catholic), Eastern Orthodox, Coptic and Anglican abbeys, the mode of election, position, rights, and authority of an abbess correspond generally with those of an abbot.She must be at least 40 years old and have been a nun for 10 years. The age requirement in the Catholic Church has evolved over time, ranging from 30 to 60. The requirement of 10 years as a nun is only 8 in Catholicism. In the rare case of there not being a nun with the qualifications, the requirements may be lowered to 30 years of age and 5 of those in an "upright manner", as determined by the superior. A woman who is of illegitimate birth, is not a virgin, has undergone non-salutory public penance, is a widow, or is blind or deaf, is typically disqualified for the position, saving by permission of the Holy See. The office is elective, the choice being by the secret votes of the nuns belonging to the community. Like an abbot, after being confirmed in her office by the Holy See, an abbess is solemnly admitted to her office by a formal blessing, conferred by the bishop in whose territory the monastery is located, or by an abbot or another bishop with appropriate permission. Unlike the abbot, the abbess receives only the ring, the crosier, and a copy of the rule of the order. She does not receive a mitre as part of the ceremony. The abbess also traditionally adds a pectoral cross to the outside of her habit as a symbol of office, though she continues to wear a modified form of her religious habit or dress, as she is unordained—females cannot be ordained—and so does not vest or use choir dress in the liturgy. An abbess serves for life, except in Italy and some adjacent islands.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
The Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest particular church sui iuris of the Catholic Church, employing the Latin liturgical rites. It is one of 24 such churches, the 23 others forming the Eastern Catholic Churches. It is headed by the bishop of Rome, the pope – traditionally also called the Patriarch of the West – with cathedra in this role at the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Italy. The Latin Church traces its history to the earliest days of Christianity through its direct leadership under the Holy See, founded by Peter and Paul, according to Catholic tradition.
The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.
Abbesses are, like abbots, major superiors according to canon law, the equivalents of abbots or bishops (the ordained male members of the church hierarchy who have, by right of their own office, executive jurisdiction over a building, diocesan territory, or a communal or non-communal group of persons—juridical entities under church law). They receive the vows of the nuns of the abbey; they may admit candidates to their order's novitiate; they may send them to study; and they may send them to do pastoral or missionary, or to work or assist—to the extent allowed by canon and civil law—in the administration and ministry of a parish or diocese (these activities could be inside or outside the community's territory). They have full authority in its administration.
Canon law is a set of ordinances and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of a Christian organization or church and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law, or operational policy, governing the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the individual national churches within the Anglican Communion. The way that such church law is legislated, interpreted and at times adjudicated varies widely among these three bodies of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was originally a rule adopted by a church council; these canons formed the foundation of canon law.
However, there are significant limitations. They may not administer the sacraments, whose celebration is reserved to bishops, priests, deacons (clerics), namely, those in Holy Orders. They may make provision for an ordained cleric to help train and to admit some of their members, if needed, as altar servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, or lectors—all ministries which are now open to the unordained. They may not serve as a witness to a marriage except by special rescript. They may not administer Penance (Reconciliation), Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction), or function as an ordained celebrant or concelebrant of the Mass (by virtue of their office and their training and institution, they may act, if the need arises, as altar servers, lectors, ushers, porters, or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and if need be, the Host).They may preside over the Liturgy of the Hours which they are obliged to say with their community, speak on Scripture to their community, and give certain types of blessings not reserved to the clergy. On the other hand, they may not ordinarily preach a sermon or homily, nor read the Gospel during Mass. As they do not receive episcopal ordination in the Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Churches, they do not possess the ability to ordain others, nor do they exercise the authority they do possess under canon law over any territories outside of their monastery and its territory (though non-cloistered, non-contemplative female religious members who are based in a convent or monastery but who participate in external affairs may assist as needed by the diocesan bishop and local secular clergy and laity, in certain pastoral ministries and administrative and non-administrative functions not requiring ordained ministry or status as a male cleric in those churches or programs). There are exigent circumstances, where due to Apostolical privilege, certain Abbesses have been granted rights and responsibilities above the normal, such as the Abbess of the Cistercian Monastery of the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas near Burgos, Spain. Also granted exceptional rights was the Abbess of the Cistercian order in Conversano Italy. She was granted the ability to appoint her own vicar-general, select and approve the confessors, along with the practice of receiving the public homage of her clergy. This practice continued until some of the duties were modified due to an appeal by the clergy to Rome. Finally in 1750, the public homage was abolished.
A priest or priestess is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities. Their office or position is the priesthood, a term which also may apply to such persons collectively.
A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state.
An extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is, under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, "an acolyte, or another of Christ's faithful deputed", in certain circumstances, to distribute Holy Communion. The term "extraordinary" distinguishes such a person from the ordinary minister of Holy Communion, namely a bishop, priest or deacon.
Historically, in some Celtic monasteries, abbesses presided over joint-houses of monks and nuns,the most famous example being Saint Brigid of Kildare's leadership in the founding of the monastery at Kildare in Ireland. This custom accompanied Celtic monastic missions to France, Spain, and even to Rome itself. In 1115, Robert, the founder of Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon and Saumur, France, committed the government of the whole order, men as well as women, to a female superior.
Celtic Christianity or Insular Christianity refers broadly to certain features of Christianity that were common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages. Celtic Christianity has been conceived of with differing levels of specificity: some writers have described a distinct Celtic Church uniting the Celtic peoples and distinguishing them from the Roman Church, while others classify it as simply a set of distinctive practices occurring in those areas. Varying scholars reject the former notion, but note that there were certain traditions and practices present in both the Irish and British churches that were not seen in the wider Christian world.
Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland is one of Ireland's patron saints, along with Patrick and Columba. Irish hagiography makes her an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland, which was famous and was revered. Her feast day is 1 February, which was originally a pagan festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring. Her feast day is shared by Dar Lugdach, who tradition says was her student, close companion, and the woman who succeeded her.
Kildare is a town in County Kildare, Ireland. As of 2016, its population was 8,634 making it the 7th largest town in County Kildare. The town lies on the R445, some 50 km (31 mi) west of Dublin – near enough for it to have become, despite being a regional centre in its own right, a commuter town for the capital. Although Kildare gives its name to the county, Naas is the county town.
In Lutheran churches, the title of abbess (German Äbtissin) has in some cases (e.g. Itzehoe Convent) survived to designate the heads of abbeys which since the Protestant Reformation have continued as monasteries or convents (German Stifte ). These positions continued, merely changing from Catholic to Lutheran. The first to make this change was the Abbey of Quedlinburg, whose last Catholic Abbess died in 1514. These are collegiate foundations, which provide a home and an income for unmarried ladies, generally of noble birth, called canonesses (German Kanonissinen) or more usually Stiftsdamen or Kapitularinnen. The office of abbess is of considerable social dignity, and in the past, was sometimes filled by princesses of the reigning houses. Until the dissolution of Holy Roman Empire and mediatisation of smaller imperial fiefs by Napoleon, the evangelical Abbess of Quedlinburg was also per officio the head of that reichsunmittelbar state. The last such ruling abbess was Sofia Albertina, Princess of Sweden.
Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.
The term Stift is derived from the verb stiften and originally meant a donation. Such donations usually comprised earning assets, originally landed estates with serfs defraying dues or with vassal tenants of noble rank providing military services and forwarding dues collected from serfs. In modern times the earning assets could also be financial assets donated to form a fund to maintain an endowment, especially a charitable foundation. When landed estates, donated as a Stift to maintain the college of a monastery, the chapter of a collegiate church or the cathedral chapter of a diocese, formed a territory enjoying the status of an imperial state within the Holy Roman Empire then the term Stift often also denotes the territory itself. In order to specify this territorial meaning the term Stift is then composed with the compound "hoch" as Hochstift, denoting a prince-bishopric, or Erzstift for a prince-archbishopric.
Quedlinburg Abbey was a house of secular canonesses (Frauenstift) in Quedlinburg in what is now Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was founded in 936 on the initiative of Saint Mathilda, the widow of King Henry the Fowler, as his memorial. For many centuries it and its abbesses enjoyed great prestige and influence.
In the Hradčany of Prague is a Catholic institute whose mistress is titled an Abbess. It was founded in 1755 by the Empress Maria Theresa, and traditionally was responsible for the coronation of the Queen of Bohemia. The Abbess is required to be an Austrian Archduchess.
During the Middle Ages abbesses were known to attempt usurpation of the spiritual power forbidden them[ citation needed ] . Attempts were made to bless, give penance, make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of men, even administer the sacrament. The pope has categorized these forays into the forbidden as "unheard of, most indecorous, and highly preposterous," adding that "these Abbesses had evidently overrated their spiritual powers a trifle." The Roman Catholic Church has around 200 abbesses at present. The oldest women's abbey in Germany being St. Marienthal Abbey of Cistercian nuns, near Ostritz, established during the early 13th-century.
On September 10, 2018, the priory of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, MO was elevated to an Abbey and the prioress, Mother Cecilia Snell, OSB, was consecrated as the first abbess. The Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles are a traditional order of Benedictines nuns whose monastery is in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
A nun is a member of a religious community of women, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery. Communities of nuns exist in numerous religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.
The Royal Abbey of Our Lady of Fontevraud or Fontevrault was a monastery in the village of Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, near Chinon, in the former French duchy of Anjou. It was founded in 1101 by the itinerant preacher Robert of Arbrissel. The foundation flourished and became the center of a new monastic Order, the Order of Fontevrault. This order was composed of double monasteries, in which the community consisted of both men and women—in separate quarters of the abbey—all of which were subject to the authority of the Abbess of Fontevraud. The Abbey of Fontevraud itself consisted of four separate communities, all completely managed by the same abbess.
The Reverend is an honorific style most often placed before the names of Christian clergy and ministers. There are sometimes differences in the way the style is used in different countries and church traditions. The Reverend is correctly called a style but is often and in some dictionaries called a title, form of address or title of respect. The style is also sometimes used by leaders in non-Christian religions such as Judaism and Buddhism.
A priory is a monastery of men or women under religious vows that is headed by a prior or prioress. Priories may be houses of mendicant friars or nuns, or monasteries of monks or nuns. Houses of canons regular and canonesses regular also use this term, the alternative being "canonry".
The Trappists, officially known as the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance and originally named the Order of Reformed Cistercians of Our Lady of La Trappe, are a Catholic religious order of cloistered monastics that branched off from the Cistercians. They follow the Rule of Saint Benedict and have communities of both monks and nuns that are known as Trappists and Trappistines, respectively. They are named after La Trappe Abbey, the monastery from which the movement and religious order originated. The movement first began with the reforms that Abbot Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé introduced in 1664, later leading to the creation of Trappist congregations, and eventually the formal constitution as a separate religious order in 1892.
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.
The Order of the Most Holy Savior, abbreviated as O.Ss.S., and informally known as the Brigittine or Bridgettine Order is a monastic religious order of Augustinian nuns, Religious Sisters, and monks founded by Saint Bridget of Sweden (Birgitta) in 1344, and approved by Pope Urban V in 1370. There are today several different branches of Bridgettines.
A Prince-abbot is a title for a cleric who is a Prince of the Church, in the sense of an ex officio temporal lord of a feudal entity, notably a State of the Holy Roman Empire. The secular territory ruled by the head of an abbey is known as Prince-abbacy or Abbey-principality. The holder, however, does not hold the ecclesiastical office of a Bishop.
During the Middle Ages, the Latin word advocatus was a general term for any person called to defend another, such as a lawyer or an advocatus ecclesiae, usually a lay lord charged with the protecting a particular church.
A territorial abbey is a particular church of the Catholic Church comprising defined territory which is not part of a diocese but surrounds an abbey or monastery whose abbot or superior functions as ordinary for all Catholics and parishes in the territory. Such an abbot is called a territorial abbot or abbot nullius diœceseos. A territorial abbot thus differs from an ordinary abbot, who exercises authority only within the monastery's walls or to monks or canons who have taken their vows there. A territorial abbot is equivalent to a diocesan bishop in Catholic canon law.
Prior, derived from the Latin for "earlier, first", is an ecclesiastical title for a superior, usually lower in rank than an abbot or abbess. Its earlier generic usage referred to any monastic superior.
The Abbey of Our Lady of the Mississippi is located near Dubuque, Iowa. The nuns there are members of the branch of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly referred to as Trappistines. They are a part of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Cistercian nuns are female members of the Cistercian Order, a religious order belonging to the Roman Catholic branch of the Catholic Church.
Amesbury Abbey was a Benedictine abbey of women at Amesbury in Wiltshire, England, founded by Queen Ælfthryth in about the year 979 on what may have been the site of an earlier monastery. That foundation was dissolved in 1177 by Henry II, who founded in its place a house of the Order of Fontevraud, known as Amesbury Priory.
The United Dioceses of Meath and Kildare is a diocese in the Church of Ireland located in the Republic of Ireland. The diocese is in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin. Alone of English and Irish bishops who are not also archbishops, the Bishop of Meath and Kildare is styled "The Most Reverend".
The Bishop of Kildare was an episcopal title which took its name after the town of Kildare in County Kildare, Ireland. The title is no longer in use by any of the main Christian churches having been united with other bishoprics. In the Roman Catholic Church, the title has been merged with that of the bishopric of Leighlin and is currently held by the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. In the Church of Ireland, the title has been merged with that of the bishopric of Meath and is currently held by the Bishop of Meath and Kildare.
Kildare Abbey is a former monastery in County Kildare, Ireland, founded by St Brigid in the 5th century, and destroyed in the 12th century.
This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.
Marienschloss Abbey is a former Cistercian nunnery in Rockenberg, a town in Hesse, Germany. It is now used as Rockenburg Prison.