The Complete Idiot's Guide to Religious Orders?


#1

Salvo!

Recently, I’ve been considering the priesthood (note: not necessarily brotherhood (monks)), but I am torn between diocesan priesthood or religious priesthood. I suppose it doesn’t matter in the end as they both end to ordination, but I want to know what is most like me.

So I was wondering: what are specific characteristics of religious orders (i.e. Dominicans, Jesuits, etc)?

Perhaps it’d help if I describe my interests and hobbies, to help narrow it down. I’m a scholar, and have always loved research (to the point of obsessiveness); I am double-majoring in History and Philosophy at a Liberal Arts college, and I tackle both topics with obsessive vigor. I love reading, deep thinking, and essentially anything metaphysical. Aristotle, Plato, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas are those who have influenced me the most.

Also, a quick question (I asked this at “Ask a Apologist” but it appears it wasn’t answered :frowning: ) : do diocesan priests travel, and switch between specific diocese? Or would they be under the [permanent] jurisdiction of their initial archdiocese?

I know this is a lot to ask for – I apologize. Thank you so much, and God bless!

Pax.


#2

[quote="The_Scott, post:1, topic:205831"]
Salvo!

Recently, I've been considering the priesthood (note: not necessarily brotherhood (monks)), but I am torn between diocesan priesthood or religious priesthood. I suppose it doesn't matter in the end as they both end to ordination, but I want to know what is most like me.

So I was wondering: what are specific characteristics of religious orders (i.e. Dominicans, Jesuits, etc)?

[/quote]

There's a website that has a description between a selection of religious orders here

[quote="The_Scott, post:1, topic:205831"]
Perhaps it'd help if I describe my interests and hobbies, to help narrow it down. I'm a scholar, and have always loved research (to the point of obsessiveness); I am double-majoring in History and Philosophy at a Liberal Arts college, and I tackle both topics with obsessive vigor. I love reading, deep thinking, and essentially anything metaphysical. Aristotle, Plato, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas are those who have influenced me the most.

[/quote]

When you said scholar, I immediately thought "Jesuit", since one of the running jokes is how many PhD's they seem to possess.:D

On the other hand, Aquinas was a Dominican. Now, you'll find small differences between say difference groups of Dominicans and Jesuits, but I think Dominicans are a little more focused towards community while the Jesuits are less (people say they are sort of trained to be a one man army).

[quote="The_Scott, post:1, topic:205831"]
Also, a quick question (I asked this at "Ask a Apologist" but it appears it wasn't answered :( ) : do diocesan priests travel, and switch between specific diocese? Or would they be under the [permanent] jurisdiction of their initial archdiocese?

I know this is a lot to ask for -- I apologize. Thank you so much, and God bless!

Pax.

[/quote]

At ordination, a diocesan priest makes a promise of obedience to their bishop and his successors. That means that they are incardinated in that diocese. If they wanted to change diocese then they would need to get the permission of their bishop and the receiving bishop before they could. I think there would have to be a very good reason. Priests would not be allowed to just change diocese every 10 years or something.

If you are leaning towards that (wanting to move around more), then you may want to look more towards religious orders. They are allowed to move between ministries that their order run (even between diocese, countries, or halfway around the world). The only thing that'll need to be added to this is that if you are leaning toward a religious life then there is no guarantee that you'll be ordained a priest (unless you are in one that ordains all their men. One I know of is the Basilians, who focus is also on education. I'm not sure about the Jesuits, I know that they ordain a lot of them), so when looking at a religious order (or congregation) then you should be first looking at whether you are drawn to their charism (essentially what they do) first. You should be a religious for the charism first and maybe you will be called to become a priest later.


#3

Just thought of something to add to my last post.

Just because a priest may not be able to "switch" diocese easily, that doesn't mean they can't travel to other diocese (and it's common for visiting priests to concelebrate a mass in the diocese they're travelling in if they're there on a Sunday). It's quite common for priests to be "temporarily" located in another diocese while doing further education for example (that can mean something like 1 year, or in one case I heard a priest was "temporarily" in another diocese writing his thesis or something for something like 10 years :eek:). Sometimes, priests are also "loaned" from one diocese to another (sometimes there are priests from African countries filling a vacancy in America or Canada).


#4

I would like to add that there have been secular priests who were by no means confined to a parish(not that that is a bad thing). For instance, Monseigneur Lemaitre, a no. of Popes(including Benedict XVI), and Archbishop Sheen were long-time academics, something that one might imagine a Jesuit of doing. That is not to forget those priests who work in the Roman Curia, the diplomatic corps, or in local(i.e. diocesan) administration.


#5

[quote="Young_Thinker, post:4, topic:205831"]
I would like to add ...

[/quote]

YT, this is a good point. Also, before the rise of the mendicant orders, it was natural that the secular clergy staffed the universities. There is nothing inimical with being bound to a diocese and also having an academic mission. For instance, it is likely that your diocesan seminary will need professors.

The problem is more of a question of likeliness, and I'm not sure that in America that diocesan priests have much of a chance of hitting a 'university track' by means of the diocesan priesthood.

Salvo!

Salve, dear friend.

Recently, I've been considering the priesthood (note: not necessarily brotherhood (monks)), but I am torn between diocesan priesthood or religious priesthood. I suppose it doesn't matter in the end as they both end to ordination, but I want to know what is most like me.

Oh, but it does matter in the end. Religious life and secular life are two different callings. Any religious order will want to know that you have a calling, not only to priestly life, but also to religious life. They are two distinct callings! You'll need to be able to account for both if you discern with a religious order.

To inflame your soul toward religious life... read St. Thomas Aquinas on what religious life is. He calls it a complete holocaust of the self to God.

So I was wondering: what are specific characteristics of religious orders (i.e. Dominicans, Jesuits, etc)?

The Dominicans are formally known as the Order of Preachers. Their charism is to spread sacred Truth, especially by preaching and teaching. The Dominicans live a life in communal prayer, including singing the office together. The Dominican motto-- or at least one of their mottoes-- is contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere, to contemplate and share the fruits of contemplation. The sense is that what one receives from God in prayer and study, one may then impart to souls who need it. At the center of the Dominican charism is zeal for souls who need to know God's saving truth and His mercy, and in which direction all of its religious life is aimed as a means to an end. Indeed, the Dominican constitutions made a unique provision in religious life-- dispensation from the rule may be granted for the sake of the mission.

The Society of Jesus is well known as a 'militant' or military order. Specifically so that it may be free to do whatever apostolate calls it, the Jesuits have no obligation to say the divine office in common. Their motto is ad majorem Dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God.

Both orders have had a strong presence in the universities since their inceptions.

Perhaps it'd help if I describe my interests and hobbies, to help narrow it down. I'm a scholar, and have always loved research (to the point of obsessiveness); I am double-majoring in History and Philosophy at a Liberal Arts college, and I tackle both topics with obsessive vigor. I love reading, deep thinking, and essentially anything metaphysical. Aristotle, Plato, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas are those who have influenced me the most.

The Order of Preachers is St. Thomas's order. Give them a check out! I myself will be entering shortly, so give me a message in the next day or so if you'd like to ask me any questions. I'd like to hear where you go to college.

You should pick up a book or two on the Dominicans. Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy O.P. wrote a few good books which are still in print on the Dominicans... try St. Dominic which recounts Dominic and the early Order, and perhaps "St. Dominic's Family." A good contemporary theological and history biography of St. Dominic, if you can find it, is Guy Bedouelle O.P., "St. Dominic: The Grace of the Word." (ISBN 978-0-89870-531-7). It's better if you're already familiar with the basic Dominican stories, like in Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy's books. If you can't find it anywhere, either buy a copy through the Dominican Nuns of Summit NJ website (highly recommended!), or talk with the vocation director of the Eastern Province of Dominican Friars.

"The Lives of the Brethren" is the classic, but unobtainable, compilation of the stories of the early order. Give it a read through! It's online at that link.

I may be saying something controversial here, but since your interest seems to be mostly philosophy and theology-- stick with the Dominicans. I know the Jesuits are well known for this as well, but at this point in time, you're sure to drink from the stream of the Church's tradition in Dominican theology. Believe me, when it comes to things like ethics and moral theology (for instance, the incomparable Servais Pinckaers O.P.), the Dominicans are holding more fast to the Church's tradition. Even when it comes to more traditional philosophy, I suspect you'll be more likely to get it from the Dominicans than from the Jesuits (but I'd love to be pleasantly surprised). Plus, the Dominicans have a university that is faithful to the Church's magisterium (see Providence College's recent inclusion on the "Newman" list of faithful schools), but the Jesuits are still recovering, despite their many universities, from the wackiness of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Plus, it's easy to get an advanced degree in philosophy or theology from the Dominicans, if that's what you're in for. So don't worry too much about that.

-Rob


#6

Fr. Charles Connor had a serious called The Major Religious Orders of Men:

ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=7137&T1=

Give a listen! And good luck.

Pax†


#7

[quote="RobNY, post:5, topic:205831"]
The Dominican motto-- or at least one of their mottoes-- is contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere, to contemplate and share the fruits of contemplation.

[/quote]

I would add that most dominicans do more meditation than comtemplation.

Back to the OP: There are many different types of religious. Primarily there are three different groups: active, quasi-active, and contemplative. You need to discern where you are called.
If by what you mean by "research" as in the more academic area, then OP or SJ would be a good way to go. If you mean "research" as in "who/what/why/where [insert verb] God" then you should check out the more contemplative orders such as OCarth, OCSO, or OCD.

Best of luck to you.


#8

[quote="RobNY, post:5, topic:205831"]
The problem is more of a question of likeliness, and I'm not sure that in America that diocesan priests have much of a chance of hitting a 'university track' by means of the diocesan priesthood.
-Rob

[/quote]

Exactly. As for my own vocational aspirations, the order that I am currently most interested in is that of the Carmelites. I have always been attracted to mysticism yet also to learning. At the same time, I do not think that I could lead the life of an enclosed monk. I would enjoy being the pastor of a parish(while living according to the Rule of my community), but I also would not mind being an academic for some period of time. Basically, I want to experience life in the Church(and beyond it) at its fullest. I want to be both a priest and a friar(or other religious).


#9

Thank you all for your answers!
At first, the Jesuits were my number one choice, mainly because of their militant ways (St. Ignatius of Loyola!) and supposedly strict vows towards the Pope. But now I feel the Dominicans are a better choice between the two. Something about them is more...mystical, than militant.

However, I'm genuinely still torn between religious or diocesan priesthood. I'll pray on it, and I humbly ask you all to help me.

Let me say, though, that I am still going to continue my academic career in my college -- I'll be starting my Junior year next month. So I still have two whole years to contemplate this calling.

Thank you all, again, so much.

Pax.


#10

[quote="The_Scott, post:9, topic:205831"]
Let me say, though, that I am still going to continue my academic career in my college -- I'll be starting my Junior year next month. So I still have two whole years to contemplate this calling.

[/quote]

That is definitely the best choice. Especially if you're a few years in, finish college while discerning. If you choose not to enter the priesthood/religious life, then you'll still have something to work from.


#11

[quote="Young_Thinker, post:8, topic:205831"]
Exactly. As for my own vocational aspirations, the order that I am currently most interested in is that of the Carmelites. I have always been attracted to mysticism yet also to learning. At the same time, I do not think that I could lead the life of an enclosed monk. I would enjoy being the pastor of a parish(while living according to the Rule of my community), but I also would not mind being an academic for some period of time. Basically, I want to experience life in the Church(and beyond it) at its fullest. I want to be both a priest and a friar(or other religious).

[/quote]

I've read about the small, new community of Carmelites in Wyoming, who sound very orthodox and simple. I very much admire them. Have you find a province of Carmelites that have what you like?

[quote="The_Scott, post:9, topic:205831"]
Thank you all for your answers!
At first, the Jesuits were my number one choice, mainly because of their militant ways (St. Ignatius of Loyola!) and supposedly strict vows towards the Pope. But now I feel the Dominicans are a better choice between the two. Something about them is more...mystical, than militant.

However, I'm genuinely still torn between religious or diocesan priesthood. I'll pray on it, and I humbly ask you all to help me.

Let me say, though, that I am still going to continue my academic career in my college -- I'll be starting my Junior year next month. So I still have two whole years to contemplate this calling.

Thank you all, again, so much.

Pax.

[/quote]

Besides, the Dominicans and Jesuits won't take you before you get at least an undergraduate degree anyway. Let your remaining time be a time for growing in holiness. Pray a lot, go to confession, go to daily Mass. This will reveal God's will for you far more than any internet forum. :) God bless, Rob.


#12

The new Carmelite community in Cody, Wyoming will have two of their members ordained priests next year and thus become a diocesan order. I understand that they're looking to receive pontifical recognition (but knowing how long that takes, it might be a century from now). They seem quite awesome, to tell the truth. It looks like they're trying to do to the Carmelites what the Trappists did for the Benedictines.


#13

One misconception has to be clarified here. There is no such thing as the “religious priesthood”. The priesthood is a sacrament. Religious life is a call to live as a consecrated man or woman. The priesthood is accidental, not essential to religious life. They are two very different callings.

The man called to be a priest is called to participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ who offers the sacrifice and sanctifies his people through the sacraments. The man called to the religious life is called consecrate his life to live the Kingdom of God in the here and now by forfeiting his will through the vow of obedience, detaching himself from ownership of material things, ownership of his wishes and desires, ownership of people and place through the vow of poverty, and by giving back to God the most precious gift that God has given to him, the right to be a husband and parent, by accepting to be part of a family that is bound by the grace of the Holy Spirit, through the vow of chastity.

Some men are called to be both, priests and consecrated men. We often mistakenly refer to them as “religious priests”. The correct term is priests who are religious. In this case, they identify themselves not by their priesthood, but by their way of life. That may be as a monk, friar, or clerk regular. Clerks regular are generally members of clerical congregations. These are religious institutes for priests. The Jesuits are the biggest of them.

Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Trinitarians, Augustinians and Praemonstaterians are friars or mendicants. The primary focus of their lives is brotherhood. They are called to live lives of prayer, penance, and service as a brotherhood. Everything that they do revolves around their life as brothers. In everyday life, this means that they place first their community life, then their priestly ministry. Therefore, community mass, community Liturgy of the Hours, community meals, community recreation, community functions, community traditions and rules, community work, silence, manual labor, Lectio Divina and community ministries take precedence over all other activities, including those that are traditionally priestly ministries. The priests in these communities are not “clerical”. They are obviously clerics. But they accept being governed by lay superiors who are also their brothers in community. They avoid all distinctions between the members of the community. They are faithful to the vision and mission of the founder. The Franciscans have a unique character. Men are not guaranteed ordination. Men can ask for Holy Orders, but the brothers must vote on it. Then the superior has to call them to Holy Orders. In other words, ordination is not a given. This is true of all the Mendicants, but most especially of the Franciscans, because our vocation is to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis who was not a priest and never dreamed of a community of just priests or governed only by priests.

The Clerks Regular are a little different. Salesians, Jesuits, Redemptorists, Passionists, Fathers of Mercy and many others are congregations that were founded to unite priests under a common way of life. Unlike the mendicants, it is assumed that the members of these religious communities will also be priests, because the ministries that are proper to these communities are priestly ministries. In their case, the community life is designed to support the ministry, unlike the mendicants and the monks where the community life determines the ministry of the members. The Clerks Regular were necessary to meet a very special need in the Church. There was a need for priests. But men also wanted the spiritual benefits of the consecrated life, without the intensity of the mastic practices. To meet the need for priests and the priests’ need for the common life, the communities of Clerks Regular were founded. This allowed men to be priests, but independent of the bishops. By being autonomous from the bishops, they enjoyed the ability to expand and move around the world instead of being bound to a geographical area known as a diocese. Their community life is less intense than that of friars and monks. Friars combine the monastic with the apostolic. Monks are totally enclosed and their apostolate is to crucify themselves in silence and solitude for the world. The Clerks do not have as many hours of community life in their day as do the friars and monks, but they are accountable to each other, as are the religious in other institutes of consecrated life.

The decision is really what do you feel Christ is calling you to do? Is he calling you to be a priest and a consecrated man, a priest, or a consecrated man? Then you must discern whether Christ is calling you to focus on the common life and the ministry of the community, whatever that may be. He may be calling you to focus on the ministry supported by the community. It’s a matter of emphasis.

If you feel called to ministry supported by a group of brothers, then you belong in a congregation of Clerks Regular. If you feel that Christ is calling you to life an intense life of community that serves together in different ministries, according to the wishes of the community and its founder, then you belong in a religious order of mendicants. If you feel that Christ is calling you to live the hidden life of prayer, solitude and silence, with very little priestly functions or none at all, then you belong in an order of monks.

I hope this helps.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :)


#14

[quote="Saint_Macarius, post:12, topic:205831"]
The new Carmelite community in Cody, Wyoming will have two of their members ordained priests next year and thus become a diocesan order. I understand that they're looking to receive pontifical recognition (but knowing how long that takes, it might be a century from now). They seem quite awesome, to tell the truth. It looks like they're trying to do to the Carmelites what the Trappists did for the Benedictines.

[/quote]

Actually not. The Carmelites in Wyoming do not follow the Rule of St. Albert. They have no plans on adopting that rule either. They do not want to be part of the Carmelite Order. They were founded to live as the early hermits at Mt. Carmel. The Carmelite Order was foiunded BY the early hermits at Mt. Carmel and organized by St. Albert. They are two very different religious families.

The Trappists are Benedictines. They were originally a Cistercian house, with very strict Benedictine observances. They continue to be Benedictines. The Benedictines include: Benedictines, Camaldolese, Cistercians, and Trappists.

Then you have the Augustinians. They too are one family. These include: Augustinians, Augustinian Recollects, Augustinians of the Assunmption, Dominicans, and Canons of St. Augustine. They are all one order with different constitutions.

Finally, you have the Franciscans. This is the largest order in the Church, with over 1.7 million. There are 114 branches of the same order, under four obediences (four rules) written by St. Francis of Assisi. The obediences are devided into three orders: Friars Minor, Poor Clares, Brothers and Sisters of Penance (secular and regular).

That's the end of the orders.

The Carmelites of Wyoming are not an order. They will never be an order, because the Church no longer allows new religious orders. They are a diocesan monastery. When they grow they will become a Pontifical monastery, but not an order. To be an order you must have the privilege of solemn vows, pauperitas, and exemption. The last to receive this were the Discalced Carmelites.

I hope this helps.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :) [you figure out where I come in, under this big mess. LOL]


#15

[quote="JReducation, post:14, topic:205831"]
[you figure out where I come in, under this big mess. LOL]

[/quote]

Gagh, it's complicated!


#16

[quote="RobNY, post:11, topic:205831"]
I've read about the small, new community of Carmelites in Wyoming, who sound very orthodox and simple. I very much admire them. Have you find a province of Carmelites that have what you like? .

[/quote]

I appreciate your interest, Rob. I am trying to find out more about St. Elias Province of O.Carm. I have also heard about the Carmelites of Wyoming, but I believe that they are actually monks and are a bit far from where I live. They are said to make good coffee, though! In addition, if there are a number of orders within a family, I usually prefer the original one.


#17

I'm sure you have it, but in case you don't, here is the Wyoming Monk's website:

carmelitemonks.org/

They are also "The Laser Monks"!


#18

[quote="CatholicFireman, post:17, topic:205831"]
I'm sure you have it, but in case you don't, here is the Wyoming Monk's website:

carmelitemonks.org/
They are also "The Laser Monks"!

[/quote]

Thank you. I wonder why they are called the "Laser Monks."


#19

[quote="The_Scott, post:9, topic:205831"]
Thank you all for your answers!
At first, the Jesuits were my number one choice, mainly because of their militant ways (St. Ignatius of Loyola!) and supposedly strict vows towards the Pope. But now I feel the Dominicans are a better choice between the two. Something about them is more...mystical, than militant.

However, I'm genuinely still torn between religious or diocesan priesthood. I'll pray on it, and I humbly ask you all to help me.

Let me say, though, that I am still going to continue my academic career in my college -- I'll be starting my Junior year next month. So I still have two whole years to contemplate this calling.

Thank you all, again, so much.

Pax.

[/quote]

You've received many excellent answers already, but I would just reiterate Young Thinker's point that diocesan priests can be academics, too. I know one diocesan priest who has 7 degrees (including two doctorates) who teaches full time at a seminary that is located in another diocese.

There are many opportunities for well-educated priests in a diocese. They may teach at a Catholic high school. They may serve a parish/chapel on a university campus. If Canon Law is your thing, the Diocesan Tribunal Office needs to be staffed with knowledgable priests. Also, there is always a need for at least one well-educated Censor Librorum in every diocese to grant the Nihil Obstat to any Catholic materials being published. :)

So being a diocesan priest doesn't necessarily mean solely being a pastor. Of course, in either case, it wouldn't necessarily be up to you but to the bishop or Religious superior. That doesn't mean you can't make your requests known to them, though.

Keep praying about it and definitely visit places. God bless you in your discernment! :thumbsup:


#20

[quote="Young_Thinker, post:18, topic:205831"]
Thank you. I wonder why they are called the "Laser Monks."

[/quote]

Because they also sell laser printer cartridges (cheap!) to support themselves. :)


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