Prior

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Prior, derived from the Latin for "earlier, first", (or prioress for nuns) 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.

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 Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Christian Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its polity, its discipline, its destiny, and its leadership.

In a hierarchy or tree structure of any kind, a superior is an individual or position at a higher level in the hierarchy than another, and thus closer to the apex. In business, superiors are people who are supervisors and in the military, superiors are people who are higher in the chain of command. Superiors are given, sometimes supreme, authority over others under their command. When an order is given, one must follow that order and obey it or punishment may be issued.

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Monastic superiors

In the Rule of Saint Benedict, the term appears several times, referring to any superior, whether an abbot, provost, dean, etc. In other old monastic rules the term is used in the same generic sense. [1]

Rule of Saint Benedict Book of precepts

The Rule of Saint Benedict is a book of precepts written in 516 by Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot.

A provost is a senior official in a number of Christian churches.

A dean, in a church context, is a cleric holding certain positions of authority within a religious hierarchy. The title is used mainly in the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church, and many Lutheran denominations. A dean's assistant is called a subdean.

With the Cluniac Reforms, the term prior received a specific meaning; it supplanted the provost or dean (praepositus), spoken of in the Rule of St. Benedict. The example of the Cluniac congregations was gradually followed by all Benedictine monasteries, as well as by the Camaldolese, Vallombrosians, Cistercians, Hirsau congregations, and other offshoots of the Benedictine Order. [1]

The Cluniac Reforms were a series of changes within medieval monasticism of the Western Church focused on restoring the traditional monastic life, encouraging art, and caring for the poor. The movement began within the Benedictine order at Cluny Abbey, founded in 910 by William I, Duke of Aquitaine (875–918).The reforms were largely carried out by Saint Odo and spread throughout France, into England, and through much of Italy and Spain.

Camaldolese

The Camaldolese monks and nuns are two different, but related, monastic communities that trace their lineage to the monastic movement begun by Saint Romuald.

Cistercians Catholic religious order

The Cistercians, officially the Order of Cistercians, are a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that branched off from the Benedictines and follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are also known as Bernardines, after the highly influential St. Bernard of Clairvaux ; or as White Monks, in reference to the colour of the "cuccula" or white choir robe worn by the Cistercians over their habits, as opposed to the black cuccula worn by Benedictine monks.

Monastic congregations of hermit origin generally do not use the title of abbot for the head of any of their houses, in an effort to avoid the involvement with the world the office of an abbot would entail. As a result, it is not in use for the congregation as a whole. Among them, the equivalent term of 'prior general' is the one used. This applies, e.g., for the Camaldolese and the Carthusians.

Hermit person who lives in seclusion from society

A hermit 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.

Carthusians Catholic Church religious order founded in 1084

The Carthusian Order, also called the Order of Saint Bruno, is a Catholic religious order of enclosed monastics. The order was founded by Bruno of Cologne in 1084 and includes both monks and nuns. The order has its own Rule, called the Statutes, rather than the Rule of Saint Benedict, and combines eremitical and cenobitic monasticism.

The term is also used by various mendicant orders, e.g., the Carmelites and the Dominicans. This applies both to the friars and the nuns of these orders. The term connotes the idea that the 'prior general' is simply the "first among equals". [2]

Carmelites Catholic mendicant religious order

The Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or Carmelites is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order founded, probably in the 12th century, on Mount Carmel 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.

Dominican Order Roman Catholic religious order

The Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominican Order, is a mendicant Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Dominic of Caleruega in France, approved by Pope Honorius 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.

Friar member of a mendicant religious order in Catholic Christianity

A friar is a brother 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.

Compound and derived titles

The Benedictine Order and its branches, the Premonstratensian Order, and the military orders have three kinds of priors: [1]

The Claustral prior (Latin prior claustralis), called dean in a few monasteries, holds the first place after the abbot (or grand-master in military orders), whom he assists in the government of the monastery, functioning effectively as the abbot's second-in-charge. He has no ordinary jurisdiction by virtue of his office, since he performs the duties of his office entirely according to the will and under the direction of the abbot. His jurisdiction is, therefore, a delegated one and extends just as far as the abbot desires, or the constitutions of the congregation prescribe. He is appointed by the abbot, generally after a consultation in chapter with the professed monks of the monastery, and may be removed by him at any time. [1]

In many monasteries, especially larger ones, the claustral prior is assisted by a sub-prior, who holds the third place in the monastery. In former times there were in larger monasteries, besides the prior and the sub-prior, also a third, fourth and sometimes even a fifth prior. Each of these was called circa (or circator), because it was his duty to make the rounds of the monastery to see whether anything was amiss and whether the brethren were intent on the work allotted to them respectively. He had no authority to correct or punish the brethren, but was to report to the claustral prior whatever he found amiss or contrary to the rules. In the Congregation of Cluny and others of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries there was also a greater prior (prior major) who preceded the claustral prior in dignity and, besides assisting the abbot in the government of the monastery, had some delegated jurisdiction over external dependencies of the abbey. [1] In the high days of Cluny, the abbot was assisted by a coadjutor styled Grand-Prior (Grand-prieur in French).

The Conventual prior (Latin prior conventualis) is the independent superior of a monastery that is not an abbey (and which is therefore called a "priory"). [1] In some orders, like the Benedictines, a monastery remains a priory until it is considered stable enough and large enough to be elevated to the rank of an abbey. In other Orders, like the Camaldolese and Carthusians, conventual priors are the norm and there are no abbots. (The superior of the major houses of Camaldolese nuns, however, is called an abbess.)

This title, in its feminine form prioress, is used for monasteries of nuns in the Dominican and Carmelite orders.

An Obedientiary Prior heads a monastery created as a satellite of an abbey. When an abbey becomes overlarge, or when there is need of a monastery in a new area, the abbot may appoint a group of monks under a prior to begin a new foundation, which remains a dependency of the mother abbey until such time as it is large and stable enough to become an independent abbey of its own.

A Prior Provincial is the regional superior of certain Orders, such as the Order of Friars Preachers Dominicans or the Carmelite friars. In this last case, the head of the whole Order is called the prior general.

Among communities of friars, the second superior is called the sub-prior and his office is similar to that of the claustral prior in the Benedictine Order. [1]

Other orders

Some Orders have only one Grand prior (e.g., the Portuguese Order of Christ).[ citation needed ]

Other Orders have several, each in charge of a geographical province called grand priory after him[ clarification needed ] (as in the Order of Malta).[ citation needed ]

See also

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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".

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A dependency, among monastic orders, denotes the relation of a monastic community with a newer community which it has founded elsewhere. The relationship is that of the founding abbey or conventual priory, termed the motherhouse, with a monastery composed of the monks or nuns of the new community, which is called the daughter house. In that situation, the abbot or abbess remains the ultimate authority for the affairs of the dependent priory, which is considered an extension of the founding house. This relationship will end at such time as the new community becomes fully autonomous in its own right.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Wikisource-logo.svg  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Prior"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton.
  2. Carmelite Friars. The British Province of Carmelites, 5 July 2017. Retrieved on 8 June 2018 from carmelite.org

Bibliography

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