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Catholic Religious Communities. Yesterday and Today. History. From the Beginnings of the Monastic Movement to the Twentieth Century. The Desert Fathers. Men who went into the desert to become closer to God St. Antony was the most important

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Catholic religious communities

Catholic Religious Communities

Yesterday and Today


From the Beginnings of the Monastic Movement to the Twentieth Century

The desert fathers
The Desert Fathers

  • Men who went into the desert to become closer to God

  • St. Antony was the most important

  • St. Pachomius established the first monasteries and wrote the first Religious Rule to incorporate the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience

St. Antony of the Desert Monastery, Egypt, is one of the oldest monasteries in the world

First monastic communities
First Monastic Communities

  • Throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, others followed Pachomius’ example

  • Basil of Caesarea established communities for both men and, working with his sister Macrina, women

  • The Rule Basil wrote for his communities would become the basis for Orthodox monasticism

St benedict
St. Benedict

  • Benedict of Nursia established a religious community at Monte Cassino, Italy

  • The Rule he (The Benedictine Rule) wrote for the monks there would become the basis for monastic life in the Catholic Church

  • The order he founded still flourishes in the Church today

Benedict s abbey at monte cassino
Benedict’s Abbey at Monte Cassino

First built in the 7th century; it has been rebuilt several times. The most recent was in the late 20th century after its almost complete destruction during World War II.

Medieval monasticism
Medieval Monasticism

  • Communities for both monks and nuns were established throughout Europe

  • Communities were often open only to those who were wealthy

  • Communities were required to be self sufficient

  • Many had farms worked either by peasants or by “lay” brothers and sisters

  • Monks and nuns were the only educated people in Europe during the 8th through 11th centuries

Battle abbey england
Battle Abbey, England

A reconstruction of the abbey’s cloister

Monk in scriptorum
Monk in Scriptorum

Medieval monks and nuns spent much of their time copying books for use both in the monastery and in churches and chapels throughout Europe

Liturgy of the hours
Liturgy of the Hours

Both monks and nuns spent a part of their day in Chapel reciting the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Liturgy of the Hours is seven periods of prayer and Scripture readings that are scattered throughout the day and night.

A new type of religious life the mendicants
A New Type of Religious Life – The Mendicants

  • In the 12th century there began to be the need for a more flexible type of religious community

  • This need was met by the formation of new orders called “mendicants”

  • Mendicants could travel from place to place and minister to the specific needs of the people, both as parish priests and in other ministries

The order of friars minor
The Order of Friars Minor

  • Founded by St. Francis of Assisi

  • Commonly called “Franciscans”

  • Practiced absolute poverty

  • Worked with the poor, preached, became doctors, later were missionaries

The order of preachers
The Order of Preachers

  • Founded by St. Dominic de Guzman

  • Commonly called Dominicans

  • Founded to preach to and convert heretics

  • Became teachers (especially in universities), pastors, confessors and later missionaries

  • Mendicant Orders were open only to men

  • Although both Francis and Dominic did found orders for women, these orders were cloistered

  • Today, there are active orders of Franciscans and Dominicans for women

New orders for the 16 th century
New Orders for the 16th Century

After the Protestant Reformation, religious life in the Catholic Church changed again:

  • There was a need for teachers to teach the Catholic faith in an age when Protestants were converting Catholics throughout Europe

  • There was a need for missionaries to preach the faith to the peoples of Asia and the Americas as Christianity spread beyond Europe and northern Africa for the first time

The society of jesus
The Society of Jesus

  • The Jesuits, founded by St. Ignatius Loyola

  • Founded to become missionaries. They were active in both Asia and the French and Spanish colonies of the Americas

  • Became teachers, especially to the upper classes of Europe. Jesuit schools even today are known for the academic excellence

  • Jesuit led retreats, based on “The Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius Loyola, are also popular.

The christian brothers
The Christian Brothers

  • Founded by John Baptist de La Salle in France

  • Mission: to teach the children of the poor

  • La Salle founded the first school to teach teachers and established the first Catholic elementary schools

  • He is the patron saint of teachers

Active orders for women
Active Orders for Women

  • For the first time, communities of women began to leave their monasteries and converts and work “in the world”

  • Most of these new communities were teaching or nursing orders and most worked primarily with women and children

The daughters of charity
The Daughters of Charity

  • Founded in Paris by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac to serve poor women and children

  • The first religious order for women to not be cloistered

Elizabeth Seton

Founder American Daughters of Charity

Frances Cabrini

Founder of Missionary Sisters of Sacred Heart of Jesus

Katherine Drexel

Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament

Religious life today
Religious Life Today throughout the 18

  • Today there are two types of religious communities: throughout the 18

    • Contemplative – live and work in their monasteries and convents

    • Active – live in community, but work “in the world”

  • All members of religious communities take the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience

  • All communities have a specific “habit” – something in their clothing that identifies them as belonging to that particular community

The evangelical counsels
The Evangelical Counsels throughout the 18

  • Poverty – to own little; to live simply

  • Chastity – to remain unmarried; no sexual relations; no exclusive relationships

  • Obedience – to God; to the Rule of your community; to your religious Superior

    Different communities may interpret these a little differently

Contemplative communities
Contemplative Communities throughout the 18

  • Live and work within their community throughout the 18

  • Spend much of their day in prayer – including the Liturgy of the Hours

  • Communities must be self sufficient

  • Some are more modern than others

  • Most allow the monks and nuns to leave the community briefly to spend time with family or to attend school or workshops

A typical daily schedule
A Typical Daily Schedule . . . throughout the 18

From Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky

  • 3:15 Vigils

  • 5:45 Lauds

  • 6:15 Eucharist

  • 7:00 Breakfast

  • 8:00 Work

  • 12:15 Sext

  • 12:30 Dinner

  • 1:30 Work; leisure; private prayer

  • 5:30 Vespers

  • 6:00 Supper

  • 7:00 Rosary

  • 7:30 Compline

  • 8:00 private time until bed

Contemplative orders include
Contemplative Orders include . . . throughout the 18

  • Benedictines (men and women)

  • Trappists (men)

  • Carthusians (men)

  • Domincans (women)

  • Poor Clares (women)

Cistercian brothers chanting
Cistercian Brothers chanting throughout the 18

Traditional benedictine nun
Traditional Benedictine nun throughout the 18

Dominicans nuns at prayer
Dominicans nuns at prayer throughout the 18

Active communities
Active Communities throughout the 18

  • Work “in the world” throughout the 18

  • Often may work at any job that does not contradict Church teaching and beliefs, but most work for the Church in some capacity

  • Live in community

  • Attend Mass daily; pray a modified form of the Liturgy of the Hours

Christian brothers
Christian brothers throughout the 18