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Catholic Religious Orders are one of two types of religious institutes in the Catholicism, and the major form of consecrated life in the Roman Catholic Church. These are organizations of laity or clergy who take solemn vows, in contrast to the simple vows taken by members of Catholic religious congregations, and who live in community, following a religious rule or constitution under the leadership of a religious superior. There are four branches of religious orders in the Catholic Church: monastic orders, mendicant orders, Canons Regulars, and Clerks Regulars. Monastic orders are founded by monks or nuns, who live and work in a monastery. Mendicant orders are founded by friars or nuns who are engaged in apostolic works, and supported by contributions. Canons Regulars are founded by canons and canonesses regular who are usually in charge of a parish. Clerks Regulars are founded by priests who are also religious men with vows, living an active apostolic life. The intention of Catholic orders is to imitate Jesus more closely, but not exclusively, and to observe chastity, poverty, and obedience. Additionally, they may vow to obey other guidelines for living, as each order has its own charism. Unless they are also ordained priests or deacons, member of a religious order are not part of the Catholic hierarchy. Religious orders differ from religious congregations in the nature of their vows, one being solemn while the other is simple. Although the names are often used interchangeably, they are not actually the same. A Catholic Congregation is a religious institute in which simple (rather than solemn) vows are taken. Another use of the term is to denote the various grouping of Benedictine monasteries into independent associations, which may retain a historical and working relationship with the order from which they came, which may also provide guidance. Catholic religious orders and congregations are the focus of topics in this category, and its subcategories.







Cenacle Sisters





Community of Saint John



Gabrielite Brothers

Good Shepherd Sisters

Holy Cross

Hospitaller Brothers

Infant Jesus Sisters



La Salettes




Our Lady of Sion






Regnum Christi




Sacred Heart





Sisters of Charity

Sisters of Mercy

Sisters of Notre Dame











Feature Article

What Is the Difference Between Monks and Friars?

monks & friars

Monks and friars have been around for a long while, and they are still very much a part of the Catholic Church, although some people might relegate them to the Middle Ages. By this, I mean not only Protestants, agnostics and atheists, but many Catholics as well.

Monks and friars had their beginnings in the Middle Ages and, in a time that many refer to as the post-Christian era, many religious Orders do appear to be in decline. Do not underestimate the role that they have played in some of the things that we take for granted today.

During the violent times that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire, it was largely the monks who kept Christianity alive and relevant. As Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, monks played a significant part in the reclamation of civilization. It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that Western civilization would be a different thing today without the work of the monks.

They built churches and cathedrals, developed new techniques in agriculture and animal husbandry. They taught schools, cared for the sick, and shared their faith.

Who or what are they?

Monks are members of a religious order, but there was no such thing as a religious order in early Christianity. There was such a thing as monasticism, however. Several men, and even some women, sought to become closer to God by taking up a life of prayer, either alone or together with other like-minded people. Holding contempt for the world, they served God through daily liturgies and prayer.

They built houses and some monastic communities became quite large, but there were no connections between one community and another.

Nearly a thousand years went by before there was anything resembling a religious order. A collection of monastic communities came to owe allegiance to the same abbot. This became Cluny Abbey, a Benedictine monastery.

Within a couple of hundred years, a system of government developed, in which participating monasteries remained independent but accepted correction from one another, as well as oversight by a central abbot. This became known as the Cistercian Order, the model that other orders would emulate.

The daily life of a monk differed from one monastery to another, and from one order to another, but monks lived in monasteries, having little connection with the rest of the world. Some even took vows of silence, not even communicating with one another verbally.

Monks take solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, living together in community, and supporting themselves through labor, producing a variety of products that are offered for sale.

In the 13th century, another group of religious people arrived on the scene. These were the friars who, rather than living lives of solitary contemplation, shut up in a monastery, elected to take their religious life into the world. Like the monks, they lived and prayed in common, but had a more active apostolate. The friars were mendicants, who relied upon the generosity of others for food and for shelter.

Monks and friars share equivalent priesthoods, but their vocations differ somewhat. Today, the terms are somewhat blurred, and easily misunderstood. Both the monk and the friar live lives that involve sacrifice, poverty, and service to others.

Both the monk and the friar may be involved in teaching, in caring for the sick, and helping the poor, but the monks do so largely from within the confines of their monasteries, while the friars go out into the community to preach, pray, teach, and care for the sick and the poor. Although they may live together in a friary, which is the equivalent of an abbey or monastery, they are not tied to it.

In the early days of monasteries, few monks were ordained as priests, and most were lay people who took religious vows, but in more recent times monks are usually ordained as priests after completing their final vows.

Friars may be priests, people studying to be priests, or lay brothers. Originally, friars lived on alms and the generosity of the faithful. Orders of friars did not own their own property, and friars were free to move about and evangelize, teach, or work in an apostolate. Later, the orders did own property, but property was held communally rather than individually.

Through most of Catholic history, monks were characterized by their stability in one monastery, which maintained ownership of their property, and were self-governing and self-sufficient. This is still pretty much true today, although monks are now granted more fluidity in moving from one order to another.

Orders of monks include the Benedictines, the Cistercians, and the Trappists, while the friars include the Dominicans, the Franciscans, and the Carmelites.

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