Abbess

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Eufemia Szaniawska, Abbess of the Benedictine Monastery in Nieswiez with a crosier, c. 1768, National Museum in Warsaw Anonymous Abbess Eufemia Szaniawska.jpg
Eufemia Szaniawska, Abbess of the Benedictine Monastery in Nieśwież with a crosier , c. 1768, National Museum in Warsaw

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. [1]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

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 Religious title

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.

Contents

Description

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. [2] She must be at least 40 years old and have been a nun for 10 years. [3] 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. [1] 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. [1] The office is elective, the choice being by the secret votes of the nuns belonging to the community. [4] 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. [1] [5] 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. [1] An abbess serves for life, except in Italy and some adjacent islands. [1]

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

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.

Latin Church Automonous particular church making up of most of the Western world Catholics

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.

Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

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.

Roles and responsibilities

Princess Maria Theresia Isabella of Austria, a noble abbess with her crosier. Maria Theresia Isabella Austria 1816 1867 portrait.jpg
Princess Maria Theresia Isabella of Austria, a noble abbess with her crosier.

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). [1] 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). [1] 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. [1]

Priest person authorized to lead the sacred rituals of a religion (for a minister use Q1423891)

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.

Deacon ministry in the Christian Church

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.

Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion

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.

History

Historically, in some Celtic monasteries, abbesses presided over joint-houses of monks and nuns, [2] 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. [2] [6]

Celtic Christianity Christianity in the Celtic-language speaking world during the early Middle Ages

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.

Brigid of Kildare Irish abbess and saint

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 Town in Leinster, Ireland

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  [ de ]) survived to designate the heads of abbeys which since the Protestant Reformation have continued as monasteries or convents (German Stifte ). [2] 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. [1] 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. [2] 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. [7]

Lutheranism form of Protestantism commonly associated with the teachings of Martin Luther

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 Church in Quedlinburg, Germany

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. [1]

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." [1] The Roman Catholic Church has around 200 abbesses at present. [5] 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.

See also

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Oestreich 1907
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abbess". Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 11.
  3. Hoiberg 2010 , p. 11
  4. Chisholm 1911.
  5. 1 2 Henneberry 1997 , p. 8
  6. Fletcher 2007
  7. Rambler 2010

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