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Religious and Military Orders




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The following pages may be found to give a succinct account

1. Of the nature of religious profession, in respect to the vows, taken by persons entering into religion, of obedience, poverty, chastity, and stability :

11. Of the Eastern monks :

III. Of the Western monks, or Benedictines; of the congregations, which have diverged from them; and of the introduction of lay brothers into the monastic state :

iv. Some account of the Canons Regular of St. Augustin:

v. Of the four Mendicant orders, the Franciscan, Domi. nican and Carmelite friars, and the Hermits of St. Augustin:

VI. Of the Society of Jesus : and,
VII. Of the Military Orders of the Church of Rome.

Those, who wish to see these subjects more fully treated, may consult l'Histoire des Ordres Monastiques, Religieux et Militaires, 8 vol. 4to. by father. Helyot, a Franciscan Friar.


I. Every Christian is bound, by his baptismal vows, to practise the precepts of the Gospel. A religious person, in the sense, in which that word is used in ecclesiastical law, is a person, engaged by a solemn vow, to practise, during his whole life, the counsels of the Gospel, in a mode, prescribed by a rule, approved by the Pope. A vow, is a promise made to God, to perform a good work, which is not a duty of obligation. A simple vow, is a vow made secretly, and without solemnity; a solemn vow, is a vow made, with certain public ceremonies. The vow, made by a person who professes himself of a religious order, is a solemn vow.

The person received into it, pronounces, in public, the formulary of the vow prescribed by the order, and signs it with his hand; it is then registered. To the validity of THE RELIGIOUS Vow of Profession, the Council of Trent requires, that the party should have completed his sixteenth year, and should have passed through a year's noviciate.

In the early ages of the monastic state, those, who engaged in it, did not bind themselves to it by vow: when a vow was first made an essential part of monastic profession, is uncertain.

The vows of every religious order oblige the persons, who make them, to obedience, poverty, chastity and stability.

I. 1. The vow of obedience obliges them to a perfect submission to the rule of the order ; and also to the will of the superior, in all things, not inconsistent with the word or spirit of the rule.

I. 2. The vow of poverty renders the person who takes it, incapable of inheriting or acquiring property, except for the benefit of the order, and renders his enjoyment, even of the slightest article of property, as a book or a watch, absoa lutely dependent on the will of his superior. In respect to his inheriting or acquiring property for the benefit of the order, it is to be observed, that, in some countries, as in certain parts of Italy, it is modified, in others, as in France, it is altogether prohibited, by the national law. Where it is prohibited, the religious person, in respect to property, is supposed to be civilly dead. This was the case in England before the Reformation ; and it deserves attention, that the English law did not then notice or admit the proof of foreign profession, and therefore did not interfere with the property, in this country, of any person, professed abroad. The reason was, that if, in the English secular courts, it became necessary to ascertain whether a person were a professed religious, the judges issued a writ, addressed to the bishop of the diocese, in which the party was alleged to have been professed, directing him to inquire and certify, whether the party were a professed monk, or not; and the bishop's certificate was the only regular evidence of the fact. Now, as a foreign bishop was not amenable to the jurisdiction of an English court, such a writ could not be effectually served on him..

I. 3. The vow of chastity consists in the renunciation of marriage. · I. 4. In the formulary of profession used in the Benedictine and some other orders, the party expressly vows stabia lity, or perpetual residence, within the monastery, unless the superior dispenses with it. Where the vow does not express stability, it is always implied. But, stability is understood, in some orders, in a much looser sense, than it is in others.


The Monastic state originated in The East. In the earliest ages of Christianity, many persons, in imitation of


the Rechabites, the prophets, and St. John the Baptist, under the Judaic dispensation, embraced a life of solitude, and dedicated all their time to prayer, fasting and other exercises of a penitential life. Cassian mentions that, in the neighbourhood of Alexandria, a large number of Christians lived in separate houses, apart from the world, and wholly devoted to prayer, pious meditation, and silent labor. They were called “Monks,” from a Greek word, signifying, a person living alone. For the same purpose of pious retirement, others, particularly in times of persecution, retired to inaccessible mountains or lonely deserts. Of these, the first whose name has reached us, is St. Paul, usually called the first hermit. In the 250th year of the Christian æra, he retired to the Upper Egypt; and having attained his 113th year, died in 341. About the same time, St. Anthony, after spending many years in perfect solitude, permitted a numerous body of men to live in community with him, and to lead, -under his direction, a life of piety and manual labor, sanctified by prayer.

St. Pachomius was the first, who composed a written rule for the conduct of monks. The communities under his direction inhabited the desert of Tabenne, a small island in the Nile, between the town of Girge and the antient Thebes. Thirty or forty of them occupied one house; thirty or forty houses composed a monastery, and the desert of Tabenne contained about thirteen monasteries. A dean was placed over every ten monks ; every house had its superior, every monastery its abbot, and a general director superintended all. Every Sunday, all the monks of the monastery met at its common oratory; ar:d, at Easter, the monks of all the communities, sometimes amounting to 50,000, assembled in one body, for its celebration. It sometimes happened that, after passing several years of a monastic life, a monk, aiming at higher perfection, retired,

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