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    What is a Religious?
    A religious is someone who wants to devote his or her life totally and completely to God. He or she accomplishes this by living (usually) in a community and taking certain vows.

    What is a Male religious?
    Male religious dedicate themselves to Christ's church by serving either as a priest, brother or monk.

    What is a Female religious?
    All female religious "marry" Christ Jesus. Thus she is called the "Bride of Christ". A sister's job is to serve the Church and pray for it. She can be cloistered or active.

    What is a Postulant?
    A postulant is the first stage of religious life. Usually, they wear a jumper or skirt and vest of some sort to distinguish themselves from others. This period can last from six months to a year.

    What is a Novice?
    A novice is a man or woman in the second stage of religious life. At this point they are given the habit (if a sister). Usally, this period lasts two years.

    What is a Cloister?
    A cloister is a monastery or abbey where nuns work, pray and live. They cannot leave the enclosure, and thus are not distracted from their duty by the outside world. When talking with other people from the "outside world" they talk through a screen or grill. They are contemplative, meaning that they put a strong emphasis on praying. Some convents are active-contemplitive, meaning they have a strong emphasis on prayer and have a "cloister" inside the convent though they still work in the world.

    What is a Priest?
    A priest is a man who dedicates himself to God by serving Christ's bride, the Church. So in a way he "marries" the Church.

    What is a Nun?
    A nun is a cloistered woman. She is a nun but is addressed as "sister". They live in monasteries and abbies. Their object is to pray for the Church.

    What is a Sister?
    A sister is an active religous. Though often referred to by people as a nun, she is technically a sister. She is also addressed as "sister". Sisters live in the world together in community (usually). If contemplitive they have a cloister inside the convent.

    What is a Brother?
    A brother is someone who lives in the community of an abbey or monastery and takes the religious vows. A brother can be a monk (see below).

    What is a Monk or Friar?
    A monk or friar can be brother or priest. He lives in a monastery or abbey and is referred to as brother.

    What are First Order Religious?
    First Order religious are consecrated priests.

    What are Second Order Religious?
    Second order are consecrated women (sisters, nuns) and brothers (brothers, monks, friars).

    What is an oblate, lay-religous, third order, tertiary, seculars?
    An oblate, lay religious or third order is a lay person who may, or may not, live in a community of religious, but participates in some aspects of religious life. If living with the religious, he or she is not bound to all the rules and can leave at any time. There are also certain guidelines for oblates and they are different depending on the religious order.

    These Third Order lay religious can be married or single people who want to participate in the prayer and apostolate of a religious order. A Tertiary is very similar to a 3rd order lay religious. Tertiaries study, meet monthly, pray the Rosary daily and go to Mass daily if possible. They are connected with the third order of a religious order. There are many names for the third orders but the basics remain the same.

    What is an Order?
    An order is a group of religious. They follow a rule and often have a set apostolate(s).

    What is a Community?
    A community is a convent, abbey, monastery or a group of these. They have various apostolates and belong an Order.

    What is an Abbey?
    An abbey is where a large group of religious live (male and female). An abbey is bigger than a monastery and not dependent on a mother house.

    What is a Monastery?
    A monastary is where a small group of religious (male or female) live. Monasteries are dependent on a mother house.

    What is the difference between a convent and a monastery?
    The members of a convent are active and interact with the outside world. A monastery is often cloistered or at least contemplative.

    Online U.S. Catholic Directory of Parishes

    This page is continually being updated.

  • © April 2004