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Consecrated life is a state of life in the Catholic Church lived by believers who wish to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it "is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in a stable state of life recognized by the Church".The Code of Canon Law defines it as "a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to his honour, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory."
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 Catechism of the Catholic Church is a catechism promulgated for the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in 1992. It sums up, in book form, the beliefs of the Catholic faithful.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law, also called the Johanno-Pauline Code, is the "fundamental body of ecclesiastical laws for the Latin Church". It is the second and current comprehensive codification of canonical legislation for the Latin Church sui iuris of the Catholic Church. It was promulgated on 25 January 1983 by John Paul II and took legal effect on the First Sunday of Advent 1983. It replaced the 1917 Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV on 27 May 1917.
What makes the consecrated life a more exacting way of Christian living is the public religious vows or other sacred bonds whereby the consecrated persons commit themselves, for the love of God, to observe as binding the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience from the Gospel, or at least, in the case of consecrated virgins and widows/widowers, a vow of total chastity. The Benedictine vow as laid down in the Rule of Saint Benedict, ch. 58:17, is analogous to the more usual vow of religious institutes. Consecrated persons are not part of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, unless they are also ordained bishops, priests or deacons.
Religious vows are the public vows made by the members of religious communities pertaining to their conduct, practices, and views.
The three evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection in Christianity are chastity, poverty, and obedience. As Jesus of Nazareth stated in the Canonical gospels, they are counsels for those who desire to become "perfect". The Catholic Church interprets this to mean that they are not binding upon all and hence not necessary conditions to attain eternal life (heaven). Rather they are "acts of supererogation" that exceed the minimum stipulated in the Commandments in the Bible. Catholics that have made a public profession to order their life by the evangelical counsels, and confirmed this by a public religious vow before their competent church authority, are recognised as members of the consecrated life.
Gospel originally meant the Christian message itself, but in the 2nd century it came to be used for the books in which the message was set out. The four canonical gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—were probably written between AD 66 and 110, building on older sources and traditions, and each gospel has its own distinctive understanding of Jesus and his divine role. All four are anonymous, and it is almost certain that none were written by an eyewitness. They are the main source of information on the life of Jesus as searched for in the quest for the historical Jesus. Modern scholars are cautious of relying on them unquestioningly, but critical study attempts to distinguish the original ideas of Jesus from those of the later authors. Many non-canonical gospels were also written, all later than the four, and all, like them, advocating the particular theological views of their authors.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments: "From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practising the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. Thus the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved them."
Consecrated life may be lived either in institutes or individually. While those living it are either clergy (if ordained) or lay people, the state of consecrated life is neither clerical nor lay by nature.
Institutes of consecrated life are either religious institutes or secular institutes.
A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church where its members take religious vows and lead a life in community with fellow members. Religious institutes are one of the two types of institutes of consecrated life; the other is that of the secular institute, where its members are "living in the world".
In the Roman Catholic Church, a secular institute is an organization of individuals who are consecrated persons and live in the world, unlike members of a religious institute, who live in community. It is one of the forms of consecrated life recognized in Church law.
A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.
Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.
Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Catholic Church recognizes:
Societies of apostolic life are dedicated to pursuit of an apostolic purpose, such as educational or missionary work. They "resemble institutes of consecrated life"but are distinct from them. The members do not take religious vows, but live in common, striving for perfection through observing the "constitutions" of the society to which they belong. Some societies of apostolic life, but not all of them, define in their constitutions "bonds" of a certain permanence whereby their members embrace the evangelical counsels. The Code of Canon Law gives for societies of apostolic life regulations much less detailed than for institutes of consecrated life, in many instances simply referring to the constitutions of the individual societies. Although societies of apostolic life may in externals resemble religious life, a major distinction is that they are not themselves consecrated and their state of life does not change (i.e. they remain secular clerics or laypersons).
Examples of societies of apostolic life are the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, and the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice, and societies such as the Missionary Society of St. Columban.
Each major development in religious life, particularly in the Latin West, can be seen as a response of the very devout to a particular crisis in the Church of their day.
When Constantine the Great was legalizing Christianity in the Roman Empire in the early 4th century, and the Christian faith became the favoured religion, it lost the self-sacrificing character that had profoundly marked it in the age of Roman persecution. In response to the loss of martyrdom for the sake of the Kingdom of God, some of the very devout men and women left the cities for the testings of the life in the desert that was meant to lead the individual back into a more intimate relationship with God, just like the wandering of the Israelites in the Wilderness of Sin. The Greek word for desert, eremos, gave this form of religious living the name eremitic (or eremitical) life, and the person leading it the name hermit. Anthony the Great and other early leaders provided guidance to less experienced hermits, and there were soon a large number of Christian hermits, particularly in the desert of Egypt and in parts of Syria.
Though the eremitic life would eventually be overshadowed by the far more numerous vocations to the cenobitic life, it did survive. The Middle Ages saw the emergence of a variant of the hermit, the anchorite; and life in Carthusian and Camaldolese monasteries has an eremitic emphasis. The Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox Churches have their own eremitic traditions, of which Mount Athos is perhaps the most widely heard of today.
In modern times, in the Roman Catholic Church the Code of Canon Law 1983 recognises hermits who - without being members of a religious institute - publicly profess the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond in the hands of their respective diocesan bishop, as Christian faithful that live the consecrated life (cf. canon 603, see also below).
The eremitic life was apparently healthy for some, but led to imbalance in others. Pachomius the Great, a near-contemporary of Anthony the Great, recognized that some monks needed the guidance and rhythm of a community (cenobium). He is generally credited with founding, in Egypt, the first community of monks, thus launching Cenobitic monasticism.
Basil of Caesarea in the East in the 4th century, and Benedict of Nursia in the West in the 6th century, authored the most influential "rules" for religious living in their areas of the Christian world ("rule" in this sense refers to a collection of precepts, compiled as guidelines for how to follow the spiritual life). They organized a common life with a daily schedule of prayer, work, spiritual reading and rest.
Almost all monasteries in the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the Eastern Orthodox Church today follow the Rule of St Basil. The Rule of St Benedict is followed by a variety of orders of monastics in the West, including the Order of Saint Benedict, Cistercians, Trappists, and Camaldolese, and is an important influence in Carthusian life.
Canons regular are members of certain bodies of priests living in community under the Augustinian Rule (regula in Latin), and sharing their property in common. Distinct from monks, who live a cloistered, contemplative life and sometimes engage in ministry to those from outside the monastery, canons devote themselves to public ministry of liturgy and sacraments for those who visit their churches.
Historically, monastic life was by its nature lay, but canonical life was essentially clerical.
Around the 13th century during the rise of the medieval towns and cities the mendicant orders developed. While the monastic foundations were rural institutions marked by a retreat from secular society, the mendicants were urban foundations organized to engage secular city life and to meet some of its needs such as education and service to the poor. The five primary mendicant religious Order of the 13th century are the Order of Friars Preachers (the Dominicans), Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), Order of the Servants of Mary (Servite Order), Order of St. Augustine (Augustinians) and the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (the Carmelites). Unlike the monks and nuns of the earlier orders, the members of the latter orders called their houses convents, rather than monasteries (in English, Dominican convents for men may also be called priories, and Fransciscan and Carmelite convents friaries).
Until the 16th century recognition was granted only to institutes with solemn vows. Institutes with simple vows arose in the 16th century and increased in number. After at first being merely tolerated, they afterwards obtained approval.They provided specific services or ministries for the Church and society, building schools, hospitals and new missionary enterprises around the world. The period of their greatest growth was in the wake of the French Revolution in early 19th century France and Belgium. Only in 1900 did they obtain full recognition as religious.
The Society of Jesus is an example of an institute that obtained recognition as an "order" with solemn vows, although the members were divided into the professed with solemn vows (a minority) and the "coadjutors" with simple vows.It was founded in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, introducing several innovations designed to meet the demands of the 16th century crisis. Its members were freed from the commitments of common life, especially the common prayer, which allowed them to minister individually in distant places. Their unusually long formation, typically thirteen years, prepared them to represent the intellectual tradition of the Church even in isolation.
By the constitution Inter cetera of 20 January 1521, Pope Leo X appointed a rule for tertiaries with simple vows. Under this rule, enclosure was optional, enabling non-enclosed followers of the rule to engage in various works of charity not allowed to enclosed religious.In 1566 and 1568, Pope Pius V rejected this class of institute, but they continued to exist and even increased in number. After at first being merely tolerated, they afterwards obtained approval, finally gaining on 8 December 1900 recognition as religious. Their lives were oriented not to the ancient monastic way of life, but more to social service and to evangelization, both in Europe and in mission areas. The number of these "congregations" (not "orders") increased further in the upheavals brought by the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic invasions of other Catholic countries, depriving thousands of monks and nuns of the income that their communities held because of inheritances and forcing them to find a new way of living their religious life
Secular institutes have their modern beginnings in 18th century France. During the French Revolution, the government attempted to dechristianise France. The French government had required all priests and bishops to swear an oath of fidelity to the new order or face dismissal from the Church, and had forbidden any form of religious life. Fr Pierre-Joseph Picot de Clorivière, a Jesuit, founded a new society of diocesan priests, the Institute of the Heart of Jesus. He also founded the Daughters of the Heart of Mary (French : Société des Filles du Coeur de Marie). While living a life of perfection, they did not take vows, remaining a secular institute to avoid being considered a religious society by the government. They would eventually receive pontifical institute status in 1952. The Daughters of the Heart of Mary, though resembling a secular institute in some ways, were recognized as an institute of religious life. On 2 February 1947 Pope Pius XII issued the apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia recognizing secular institutes as "a new category of the state of perfection" (Latin : nova categoria status perfectionis). The 1983 Code of Canon Law recognizes secular institutes as a form of consecrated life. They differ from religious institutes in that their members live their lives in the ordinary conditions of the world, either alone, in their families or in fraternal groups. They include, among others, Caritas Christi, The Grail, and the Servite Secular Institute.
A hermit, or eremite, is a person who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons. Hermits are a part of several sections of Christianity, and the concept is found in other religions as well.
In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a type of religious community characterised by its members professing solemn vows. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, they are classed as a type of religious institute.
Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word consecration literally means "association with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups. The origin of the word comes from the Latin stem consecrat, which means dedicated, devoted, and sacred. A synonym for to consecrate is to sanctify; a distinct antonym is to desecrate.
In the Catholic Church, a religious profession is the solemn admission of men or women into consecrated life by means of the pronouncement of religious vows, typically the evangelical counsels.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is the congregation of the Roman Curia with competency over everything which concerns Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, regarding their government, discipline, studies, goods, rights, and privileges.
In the Catholic Church, a consecrated virgin has been consecrated by the church to a life of perpetual virginity as an exclusive spouse of Christ. Consecrated virgins are consecrated by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite. The consecrated virgins are to spend their time in works of penance and mercy, in apostolic activity and in prayer, according to their state of life and spiritual gifts.
A religious is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun", as opposed to an ordained "priest". A religious may also be a priest if he has undergone ordination, but in general he is not.
The term secular clergy refers to deacons and priests who are not monastics or members of a religious institute. A diocesan priest is a Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox priest who commits himself or herself to a certain geographical area and is ordained into the service of the citizens of a diocese, a church administrative region. That includes serving the everyday needs of the people in parishes, but their activities are not limited to that of their parish.
A society of apostolic life is a group of men or women within the Catholic Church who have come together for a specific purpose and live fraternally. There are a number of apostolic societies, such as the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, who make vows or other bonds defined in their constitutions to undertake to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. However, unlike members of an institute of consecrated life, members of apostolic societies do not make religious vows—that is, "public vows."
An institute of consecrated life is an association of faithful in the Catholic Church erected by canon law whose members profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience by vows or other sacred bonds. They are defined in the Code of Canon Law under canons 573–730.
A religious congregation is a type of religious institute in the Catholic Church. They are legally distinguished from religious orders — the other major type of religious institute — in that members take simple vows, whereas members of religious orders take solemn vows.
Vocational discernment is the process in which men or women in the Catholic Church discern, or recognize, their vocation in the church. The vocations are the life as layman in the world, either married or single, the ordained life and the consecrated life.
The Missionaries of the Company of Mary is a missionary religious congregation within the Catholic Church. The community was founded by Saint Louis de Montfort in 1705 with the recruitment of his first missionary disciple, Mathurin Rangeard. The congregation is made up of priests and brothers who serve both in the native lands and in other countries. The Montfortian Family comprises three groups: the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Wisdom and the Brothers of Saint Gabriel.
A religious brother is a member of a Christian religious institute or religious order who commits himself to following Christ in consecrated life of the Church, usually by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He is a layman, in the sense of not being ordained as a deacon or priest, and usually lives in a religious community and works in a ministry appropriate to his capabilities. A brother might practice any secular occupation. The term "brother" is used as he is expected to be as a brother to others. Brothers are members of a variety of religious communities, which may be contemplative, monastic, or apostolic in character. Some religious institutes are composed only of brothers; others are so-called "mixed" communities that are made up of brothers and clerics.
This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.
The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) is a Society of Apostolic Life within the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in 1958 by Father James H. Flanagan, a priest from the United States. The Society maintains missions in various countries, describing itself as Marian-Trinitarian, Catholic, missionary, and family. Membership in the Society includes priests, permanent deacons, religious sisters, religious brothers, and the lay faithful.