Discalced Carmelite Priests and Brothers

Aside from the ordination of Priests, what are the differences between Priests and Brothers of the Discalced Carmelite Order (or any order for that matter)?

How do they differ in clothing? daily lives? prayer life? etc., etc.

[quote="JMJ_coder, post:1, topic:195614"]
Aside from the ordination of Priests, what are the differences between Priests and Brothers of the Discalced Carmelite Order (or any order for that matter)?

How do they differ in clothing? daily lives? prayer life? etc., etc.


I will speak for the O.Carm., there is no difference except for ministry. A brother will not be in any ministry that requires him to celebrate any of the sacraments, as he can not do so. That does not mean he will not be assigned to a parish, but he would not be a vicar or pastor.

Brothers and priests wear the same habit, brothers may wear the roman collar, daily life is the same as those they live with, and we join in community prayer for morning and evening prayer and celebrate the Mass together with one of the priests of the community being the celebrant. Traditionally the other priests of the community do not concelebrate at a house Mass.

[quote="JMJ_coder, post:1, topic:195614"]
Aside from the ordination of Priests, what are the differences between Priests and Brothers of the Discalced Carmelite Order (or any order for that matter)?


There is a juridical difference in institutes designated as clerical institutes of pontifical right, whereby major office - regional superiors and the general council - must be priests, meaning that a lay brother could only be elected to such office with a papal dispensation (typically a highly unlikely proposition). This does not stop a lay brother from being made prior (or equivalent) of a religious house, and they can also serve on provincial councils or hold non-elected positions such as formator, bursar etc.

In some ways this is archaic, and could benefit from reform, especially since a number of de jure clerical institutes are de facto mixed institutes. According to my canon law professor, the canonical reasoning underlying this (other than tradition) is that when holding major offices, members of the institute may have to make decisions regarding the appointment of an ordained member to a diocesan position as parish priest, and it is held that such a decision can only be made by a religious ordinary (the major superior) in collaboration with the diocesan ordinary (the bishop). Because a lay brother cannot be a religious ordinary, so it is that they cannot be a major superior.

That this is the main reasoning behind the prohibition is attested to by the fact that in male institutes that are predominantly lay, a major superior who is not ordained can make decisions about the appointment of ordained members who are needed to offer the sacraments within a community of the institute, because these are non-diocesan appointments and so do not require ordinary power.

The OFMs (one of the three major Franciscan orders, along with the Capuchins and Conventuals) have addressed this problem somewhat by electing lay brothers as regional superiors once or twice and did receive a dispensation; the above difficulty was surmounted by electing an ordained member as vicar provincial to the lay superior, who as a priest could wield ordinary power delegated by the general council (rather than through the lay superior) and so make diocesan appointments as required. In all other matters the lay superior had authority.

Inasmuch as having members that hold ordinary status is a positive boon to an institute, there is a tension between addressing a potential injustice within religious life that might create dissent, and maintaining a useful status quo. Or between having your cake and eating it, if you prefer.;)

There are also institutes of clerks regular who nevertheless have lay brothers - the Jesuits come to mind. I'm not sure if the juridical prohibitions are the same, although I would imagine they are. Anyone?

It could also be said that in the past, non-ordained members of some institutes were patronised by being seen as people who were not intelligent or holy enough to become priests, and who were consequently treated as assistants or even servants to the ordained members (a similar kind of hierarchy existed in female institutes where there was a distinction - and a veritable gulf - between lay and choir sisters).

This persisted well into the 20th century and I've spoken to older men from several religious institutes who attested to being given this kind of inferior status because they were not ordained. The call of Perfectae Caritatis at the Second Vatican council to return to the vision of the founders of institutes of consecrated life helped to address these practices and improve community life. But as Brother JR has commented more than once, the role of the religious brother remains misunderstood both by some secular people and some religious, and is still marginalised in many respects.

[quote="Ocarm, post:3, topic:195614"]
TIn some ways this is archaic, and could benefit from reform, especially since a number of de jure clerical institutes are de facto mixed institutes.


A provinical prior, provinial superior in the Carmelites, acts as the local ordinary for his province. How could a lay brother fill this role? The provinical prior calls a brother forward for ordination, how can a man who does is not ordained call another man to ordination?

That is the issue I see with the possibility of lay brothers holding such an office in a mixed institute.


So in your community, do the Brothers have more of a share of the manual labor than the Fathers (cooking, cleaning, fixing, etc.), or do all share equally? Also, do the Brothers preoccupy themselves to the same extent as the Fathers in spiritual and theological study and prayer (communal and individual)? Do

Also, they all wear the roman collar?! How does that work?

Everyone in the house is assigned a house job. It all equals out in the amount of work one does in the house. I am the only brother in a house of 14, soon to be 15 with another brother coming. My house job is to assist with the technology and the house network (this is because of the work I did before entering the order).

A brother studies the same as a brother who is on the ordination track, both get an M.Div…

Brothers are involved in community prayer and we are all called by our constitutions and rule to meditate on the Word of the Lord, this usually works out to be about an hour or so a day of private prayer.

We have a habit but some ministries do not allow us to wear it so we wear the roman collar. Also, I only have one habit so there are times when it needs to be cleaned and I have not had the time to do so, so I wear the collar.

How does it work? I do not understand this question.

Somehow I assumed that the orders wouldn’t want their members doing the same kind of work as they did in their former lives (sort of like – the ‘old’ you is dead – type of thinking).

That’s interesting.

I was asking the question because 1) I didn’t see any religious not wearing their habit (maybe being given two to cover such instances) and 2) I didn’t see any layman being allowed to wear a roman collar, which I see as a sign of ordination.

Officially, the sign of ordination is the stole (true for Deacons, Priests, Bishops).

In the pre-Vatican II system, the use of the Roman collar was reserved to the "clerics", which would have been any seminarian who received tonsure at their first minor order (porter, I think it was). This would have been true for any man in a "major" seminary (graduate-level theological studies).

Since V-II did away with the minor orders as a regular practice (replaced with "ministries") seminarians are not officially clerics until their deaconate ordination. There are some diocese and seminaries that hold strictly to this norm (not allowing non-ordained men to wear the clerical garb). Most seem to require the seminarians to wear the "clerics" for Divine Office, Mass, and classes (some also allow it for off-campus ministry). Most allow that if the seminarian is on campus, he may wear the clerical attire.

It's a mixed bag nowadays. For those of us who are consecrated religious, by virtue of our right to wear the religious habit, we may as a substitute wear the Roman collar. While the habit is preferred (for both priests and brothers), clerics are acceptable.

I hope this helps!

[quote="JMJ_coder, post:7, topic:195614"]
Somehow I assumed that the orders wouldn't want their members doing the same kind of work as they did in their former lives (sort of like -- the 'old' you is dead -- type of thinking).


For me this is honoring my previous life. It acknowledges that when I entered the order I brought a set of skills that can be helpful to the order.

Do we really want someone who knows nothing about technology and networking to be assigned to care for these things while I am assigned to do some work I know nothing about? That does not make any sense to me.

Its perhaps worth saying that these practices vary from one province to another. Brother Savid and I belong to the same order, but here in the UK a brother not aiming at ordination might have a different study programme. This would definitely include some philosophy and a larger programme of theology, but might then move into a more sepcific discipline depending on the particular apostolate chosen for him.

Lay brothers don’t wear Roman collars here, either - that seems to be a custom more common in the US and some parts of Europe, but not in all countries. We do wear the habit, of course, but the collar would only be worn by our ordained men when in appropriate settings.

[quote="JMJ_coder, post:7, topic:195614"]
Somehow I assumed that the orders wouldn't want their members doing the same kind of work as they did in their former lives (sort of like -- the 'old' you is dead -- type of thinking).


The figurative dying-when-you-enter-religious-life is no longer a key aspect of life in many religious institutes, at least in the stricter form you allude to. Although we do leave a great deal behind, it is seen as a denial of God's guidance of us in our former lives to ignore the skills and talents we have acquired, although the purposes for which we use them may now be different.

Its worth pointing out that religious consecration does not involve the kind of ontological change ascribed to ordination. Entering religious orders - as opposed to other kinds of religious institutes - is often about adopting and promoting a way of life rather than focussing on the particular work that we do.

First I'll answer Brother's question about the Jesuits. Institutes of Clerks Regular are always clerical institutes. Therefore the lay brothers are what canon law refers to as coadjutor brothers. They may not hold any office, because the institute was founded for clerics. Lay men wee admitted to help with the domestic and technical tasks. For lack of a better title, they were called Frater, Brother.

The problem is that this title is really the proper title for Monks and Friars. It was only in the late 1800s that monks and friars began to use the title Father. Monks used Brother and the superior was called Abbah or Abbot, which means Father. Mendicants: were always called Friar, whether or not they were ordained.

Properly speaking, there is a difference between a lay brother in an institute of clerks regular and a lay brother in a mendicant or monastic community. In a mendicant or monastic community the lay member is a full member with full rights and obligations. Each institute defines those in their constitution unless they are already defined in the rule.

The Franciscan family has run into this snag with the Vatican, as Brother pointed out. The Friars Minor were founded as an order of brothers not priests. In the rule, there is no mention of priests. Francis spells out the requirements for the superior. He must be over age 25 and must be in solemn vows for at least one year. He must be canonically elected. There is no mention of priests being superiors. There were always priests among us and the first Vicar General was a priest, Br. John.

The glitch that the Franciscan family has taken up with the Holy Father is that the Rule of St. Francis has a Papal Bull on it. Pope Honorius did this so that no one, not even the friars, could change the rule. No pope has ever touched it. It's intact since 1223, when the Bull was granted.

The Vatican has had to yield on two issues. The first to bring the case up to the Vatican were the Capuchin Friars Minor. They won their case. They were stripped of the title "clerical". They were offered the title "mixed life" which the General Chapter refused, because it still recognized the presence of priests in the community as if they were a different group of brothers. They went back. Finally, they were granted the title "lay". They are a lay order. But they have one condition that they have to meet, which Brother pointed out. Of the two major superiors, the Minister and the Vicar, one must be ordained. There are a few provinces where neither is ordained. These have to get the approval of the Holy Father. If one is ordained, the approval has already been granted for that.

The other thing that happened with the Franciscan family was that Pope John Paul urged the General Chapter of 1990 to begin to slit the order into smaller obediences. We are still one order, but each group has its own Minister General and General Council. The Ministers meet several times a year.
I was in one of those groups. Many of you are familiar with Fr. Benedict G. He is in another one of those groups. There are many groups right now and more coming. Each is very small. We follow the same rule. Everyone in the community wears the same habit. Whatever habit the community agrees on. We all wear a Roman Collar when necessary.

In my community, the Franciscans of Life (Brothers of Life of the Order of St. Francis, ergo: OSF) we wear a grey habit with a Tau over the chest and a caperone like the Carmelites wear, but not a scapular. We wear the traditional Franciscan cincture, not a belt like the other mendicants. We also require that every brother go by the title brother except the superior. He is always Father, because he is the successor of St. Francis. Our priests are always Brother. You can only recognize them when they celebrate the sacraments. We also require that all of our friars have two academic degrees. One must be in a secular science or a technical trade and the other must be a Master's of Divinity, which is a four-year masters that every priest in the USA gets. But you may only be ordained if you pass three conditions.

  1. You must wish it.
  2. The house where you live must vote on it and you must pass.
  3. The major superior must approve the vote.

We have only one parish. So the priesthood is not really essential to our community. We have a few priests for our internal needs and we lend them to parishes that are short-handed, but only on weekends. Our community works full time in Respect Life Ministry. Therefore, it makes no difference whether you are a priest or not. You need the theology degree, because you are working in an area where you must make pastoral decisions and you must give moral guidance as if you were in the confessional. For example, I have an STD (Doctorate, not a disease) in Mystical Theology.

This avoids clericalism on the part of the laity. One of the things that the Franciscan family, I would say all the mendicants have suffered is the abuse of our lay brothers by the laity. I hate to put it so bluntly, but the treatment has often been abusive. The most egregious offense is when priests, sisters and lay people speak about male and female vocations or pray for vocations and they pray for more priests and more sisters. Lay brothers are left out of the prayer of the Church, as are deacons too. The Church has a moral duty to pray as she teaches and teach as she prays.

We deeply love all of our friars, whether they are ordained or not. This is true for mendicants and the monastic orders. That was in the mind of the desert fathers, who were the first religious.


Br. JR, OSF :)

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