Confusion over all the different vocation terms


Does anyone have a suggestion concerning where one might find an exhaustive, all-in-one place resource where one can find clear-cut definitions and distinctions between the different vocations? There seems to be some much confusion. There are the single (which apparently, if not consecrated, are not *really *a vocation), the consecrated virgins (which apparently can only be men), hermits, anchorites, monks, friars, religious, members of a lay apostolate, members of religious congregations, secular institutes, societies of apostolic life…ugh!!!

I don’t want a book on each one, but I also don’t want a one-liner for each description. Perhaps a good solid paragraph for each, something authoritative (because apparently, there is lot of misinformation and differences of opinion.) that makes clear distinctions and also shows how it also fits together.

My web searches have been fruitless, any help would be great. I’d also take book suggestions. Could anyone please guide me in the right direction?


Secular institutes have their own website:

The Rite of the Consecration of Virgins is only for women. However, secular institutes can be just for men, and the form of commitment be consecration.

A private lay association can be either with or without the intention of becoming an institute of religious life. Lay associations ‘without intention’ are sort of like third orders where commitment is concerned.

Hermits and anchorites are basically the same thing. I know a few diocesan hermits who choose to refer to themselves as anchorites or anchoresses. An anchorite lived in an anchor hold attached to the side of either a church or a monastery.

Friars are wandering preachers. Monks live a monastic life in a monastery, as do nuns, properly so called. Sisters are out in the world.



Thanks for your reply and help. You must admit—it really is quite dizzying.


private associations:

  1. without the intention of becoming an institute of religious life.
  2. with the intention of becoming an institute of religious life.
  3. private association with capital letters indicates an emerging religious charism with a letter from their bishop

public associations:

  1. started by a bishop without the intention (same as #1 above)
  2. started by a bishop ‘with intention’
  3. public association with capital letters indicates the second stage of recognition, or its been founded by a bishop and has a letter of recognition.

most of what i work with, and what i have started, are either number one or two of the first section. i dont have any that fall under section 1, part 3.



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