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Mendicant orders are, primarily, certain Christian religious orders that have adopted a lifestyle of poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas for purposes of preaching, evangelization, and ministry, especially to the poor. At their foundation these orders rejected the previously established monastic model. This foresaw living in one stable, isolated community where members worked at a trade and owned property in common, including land, buildings and other wealth. By contrast, the mendicants avoided owning property at all, did not work at a trade, and embraced a poor, often itinerant lifestyle. They depended for their survival on the goodwill of the people to whom they preached.
The term "mendicant" is also used with reference to some non-Christian religions to denote holy persons committed to an ascetic lifestyle, which may include members of religious orders and individual holy persons.
What is called the mendicant movement in Church history arose primarily in the 13th century in Western Europe. Until that time the monks of Europe worked at their trade in their monastery. Renouncing personal property, they owned all things in common as a community after the example of chapters 2 and 4 of the Acts of the Apostles.
With the rise of Western monasticism, monasteries attracted not only individuals aspiring to become monks and nuns, but also property, buildings and hence riches. In the view of some, the idea that Christ came down to earth poor and that the true Church must be the church of the poor clashed with this phenomenon. The desire for true Christian authenticity was thus seen by some to contrast to the empirical reality of the Church.
The twelfth century saw great changes in western Europe. As commerce revived, urban centers arose and with them an urban middle class. New directions in spirituality were called for. Church reform became a major theme of the cultural revival of this era. In response to this, there emerged the new mendicant orders founded by Francis of Assisi (c. 1181–1226) and Dominic Guzman (c. 1170–1221).
The mendicant friars were bound by a vow of poverty and dedicated to an ascetic way of life, renouncing property and travelling the world to preach. Their survival was dependent upon the good will and material support of their listeners. It was this way of life that gave them their name, "mendicant", derived from the Latin mendicare, meaning "to beg".
The mendicant movement had started in France and Italy and became popular in the poorer towns and cities of Europe at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The refusal of the mendicants to own property—and therefore to pay taxes—was seen as threatening the stability of the established Church which was then planning a crusade, to be financed by tithes. For this and other reasons some mendicant orders were officially suppressed by Pope Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyon in 1274 and others were reformed, so as to be capable of contributing funds or men to support the war effort.
While on a visit to southern France, Saint Dominic met the Albigensians, a religious sect which had a great popularity partly because of the economic situation of the times. Dominic, who had begun as a secular canon, responded to a desperate need for informed preaching by founding the Order of Preachers and thus embarking on a new form of religious life, the life of the friar. Before this time, religious life had been monastic, but with Dominic the secluded monastery gave way to priories in the cities. By the time of his death in 1221, the Order had spread through Western Europe, hundreds of young men had joined, and the presence of the Order of Preachers was felt at the major universities of the time.
Francis came to this manner of life through a period of personal conversion. The Franciscans spread far and wide the devotion to the humanity of Christ, with the commitment to imitate the Lord.Many of them were priests and men of learning whose contributions were notable in the rapid evolution and contemporary relevance of the movement. Notable Franciscans include Anthony of Padua, who were inspirations to the formation of Christian mendicant traditions.
The Franciscans and Dominicans put into practice a pastoral strategy suited to the social changes. The emergence of urban centers meant concentrated numbers of the homeless and the sick. This created problems for the parish churches who found themselves unable to address these issues.Since many people were moving from the countryside to the cities, they no longer built their convents in rural districts but rather in urban zones.
In another innovation, the mendicant orders relinquished their principle of stability, a classical principle of ancient monasticism, opting for a different approach. Unlike the Benedictine monks, the mendicants were not permanently attached to any one particular convent and to its abbot.Because the orders' primary aim was the evangelization of the masses, the church granted them freedom from the jurisdiction of the bishops and they traveled about to convert or reinforce faith. The freedom of mendicancy allowed Franciscans and Dominicans mobility. Since they were not tied to monasteries or territorial parishes, they were free to take the gospel into the streets, to preach, hear confessions and minister to people wherever they were. Friars Minor and Preachers traveled with missionary zeal from one place to another.
Consequently, they organized themselves differently in comparison with the majority of monastic orders. Instead of the traditional autonomy that every monastery enjoyed, they gave greater importance to the order as such and to the Superior General, as well as to the structure of the order Provinces. Their flexibility enabled them to send out the most suitable friars on specific missions, and the mendicant orders reached North Africa, the Middle East and Northern Europe.
As students and professors, Friars Minor and Friars Preacher, Franciscans and Dominicans, entered the leading universities of the time, set up study centers, produced texts of great value and were protagonists of scholastic theology in its best period and had an important effect on the development of thought. The great thinkers, St Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure, were mendicants.
In all the great cities of western Europe, friaries were established, and in the universities theological chairs were held by Dominicans and Franciscans. Later in the 13th century they were joined by the mendicant orders of Carmelites, Augustinian Hermits, and Servites.
They attracted a significant level of patronage, as much from townsfolk as aristocrats. Their focus of operation rapidly centered on towns where population growth historically outstripped the provision of rural parishes. Most medieval towns in Western Europe of any size came to possess houses of one or more of the major orders of friars. Some of their churches came to be built on grand scale with large spaces devoted to preaching, something of a specialty among the mendicant orders.
Despite conforming to a recognizable model, the mendicant orders of friars had origins that were generally very different. The original mendicant orders of friars in the Church in the Middle Ages were the
The Second Council of Lyons (1274) recognized these as the four "major" mendicant orders, and suppressed certain others. The Council of Trent loosened the restrictions on their owning property. Afterwards, except for the Franciscans and their offshoot the Capuchins, members of the orders were permitted to own property collectively as do monks.
The other mendicant orders recognized by the Holy See today are the
Like the monastic orders, many of the mendicant orders, especially the larger ones, underwent splits and reform efforts, forming offshoots, permanent or otherwise, some of which are mentioned in the lists given above.
Mendicant orders that formerly existed but are now extinct, and orders which for a time were classed as mendicant orders but now no longer are.
The Dominican Order, known formally as the Order of Preachers, is a mendicant order of the Catholic Church founded in France by the Spanish priest Saint Dominic. It was approved by Pope Innocent III via the Papal bull Religiosam vitam on 22 December 1216. Members of the order, who are referred to as Dominicans, generally carry the letters OP after their names, standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers. Membership in the order includes friars, nuns, active sisters, and affiliated lay or secular Dominicans.
The Carmelites, formally known as the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or sometimes simply as Carmel by synecdoche, is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order for men and women founded, probably in the 12th century, on Mount Carmel in Israel in the Crusader States, hence the name Carmelites. However, historical records about its origin remain very uncertain. Berthold of Calabria has traditionally been associated with the founding of the order, but few clear records of early Carmelite history have survived.
Augustinians are members of Christian religious orders that follow the Rule of Saint Augustine, written in about 400 AD by Augustine of Hippo. There are two distinct types of Augustinians in Catholic religious orders dating back to the 12th–13th centuries:
The Fraticelli or Spiritual Franciscans were extreme proponents of the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with regard to poverty, and regarded the wealth of the Church as scandalous, and that of individual churchmen as invalidating their status. They thus claimed that everyone else in the Church were damned and deprived of powers and were declared heretical in 1296 by Boniface VIII.
A friar is a brother and a member of one of the mendicant orders founded in the twelfth or thirteenth century; the term distinguishes the mendicants' itinerant apostolic character, exercised broadly under the jurisdiction of a superior general, from the older monastic orders' allegiance to a single monastery formalized by their vow of stability. The most significant orders of friars are the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians and Carmelites.
The Minims are members of a Roman Catholic religious order of friars founded by Saint Francis of Paola in fifteenth-century Italy. The Order soon spread to France, Germany and Spain, and continues to exist today.
The Servite Order is one of the five original Catholic mendicant orders. Its objectives are the sanctification of its members, preaching the Gospel, and the propagation of devotion to the Mother of God, with special reference to her sorrows. The members of the Order use O.S.M. as their post-nominal letters. The male members are known as Servite Friars or Servants of Mary.
A provincial superior is a major superior of a religious institute acting under the institute's Superior General and exercising a general supervision over all the members of that institute in a territorial division of the order called a province—similar to but not to be confused with an ecclesiastical province made up of particular churches or dioceses under the supervision of a Metropolitan Bishop. The division of a religious institute into provinces is generally along geographical lines, and may consist of one or more countries, or of only a part of a country. There may be, however, one or more houses of one province situated within the physical territory of another since the jurisdiction over the individual religious is personal rather than territorial. The title of the office is often abbreviated to Provincial.
The term "Third Order" signifies, in general, lay members of religious orders, who do not necessarily live in community and yet can claim to wear the habit and participate in the good works of some great order. Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism all recognize Third Orders. They were a twelfth-century adaptation of the medieval monastic confraternities.
Canons regular are canons in the Catholic Church who live in community under a rule. They are often organised into religious orders. They are distinguished from clerics regular, a later form of religious life where members also live life under a rule, in that canons regular emphasise a life lived in community. Examples of religious orders of canons regular include the Crosiers, Premonstratensians, and some Augustinians.
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."
A Catholic order liturgical rite is a variant of a Catholic liturgical rite distinct from the typical ones, such as the Roman Rite, but instead specific to a certain Catholic religious order.
The Crosiers or Brethren of the Cross or crutched friars is a general name for several loosely related Catholic orders, mostly canons regular of the Augustinians. Their names derive from their devotion to the Holy Cross. They were founded in the 12th and 13th centuries, during the era of the crusades in the Holy Land. These orders tended to maintain hospitals and care for the sick. Currently, the term "crosiers" most frequently refers to the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross originating from Belgium, but it could also refer to at least five other orders from Jerusalem, Portugal, Italy, Bohemia, Poland–Lithuania, and a group of friars in England and Ireland.
The Crutched Friars were a Roman Catholic religious order in England and Ireland. Their name is derived from a staff they carried with them surmounted by a crucifix. There were several orders devoted to the Holy Cross, collectively known as Crosiers, that had some presence in England and there is much confusion to which specific order the friars belonged to. Earlier literature linked most of the Crutched Friars to the Italian Crosiers, but later it was proven that they were a branch of the Belgian Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross. The Crutched Friars were suppressed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.
The Order of Saint Augustine, generally called Augustinians or Austin Friars, is a Catholic religious order. It was founded in 1244 by bringing together several eremetical orders in the Tuscany region who were following the Rule of St. Augustine, written by St. Augustine of Hippo in the 5th Century.
The Eastern Roman (Byzantine) imperial church headed by Constantinople continued to assert its universal authority. By the 13th century this assertion was becoming increasingly irrelevant as the Eastern Roman Empire shrank and the Ottoman Turks took over most of what was left of the Byzantine Empire. The other Eastern European churches in communion with Constantinople were not part of its empire and were increasingly acting independently, achieving autocephalous status and only nominally acknowledging Constantinople's standing in the Church hierarchy. In Western Europe the Holy Roman Empire fragmented making it less of an empire as well.
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".
When referring to Roman Catholic religious orders, the term Second Order refers to those Orders of cloistered nuns which are a part of the mendicant Orders that developed in the Middle Ages.