Persons living as consecrated religious (1983 Code of Canon Law: canons 573.2, 576, 607, 1192.1; 607-709; http://www.vatican.va for Vita Consecrata) profess public vows and bear public witness to Christ and to the Church according to a specific charism. Religious men may have a membership made up of brothers, priests or both. There are also communities of religious women.
Institutes of Religious Life
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC#925) outlined the distinctiveness of religious consecration from the general pursuit of holiness in this way: “[Religious Life]…is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, public profession of the evangelical counsels, fraternal life lived in common and witness given to the union of Christ with the Church."
The distinct essential components to the religious way of life as a particular form of consecrated life include:
- Public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience professed freely to God and accepted in the name of the Church. This profession obligates and liberates the consecrated religious priest, brother or sister to strive to love as God loves and to abide in his love.
- Public witness or visible presence in the Church witnessing to the Person of Jesus Christ who is present here among us, loves us to the end and gives rise to this great hope.
- Life lived in common according to the charism of the founder or foundress.
- Through a certain separation from the world proper to the charism of the institute, consecrated religious are called to be salt and light—a prophetic countercultural sign—whose focus is on God who illuminates all things.
- A corporate or common apostolate which gives concrete expression to the purpose of the institute and is a source of unity and identity among its members.
The spiritual life of the consecrated religious is nourished with prayer, the Eucharist, the Word of God and a critical reading of the signs of the times. The main categories of consecrated religious who profess public vows are:
- Consecrated religious monks (men) and nuns (women) live and work primarily within the enclosure of their community setting, and have given their lives in support of the Church through prayer and hidden sacrifice.
- Apostolic religiouis priests, brothers and sisters communities are frequently engaged in works related to education, health care, communication, social work or administration, for example.
Secular Institutes were officially approved as an original form of consecrated life within the church in 1947. Their members have the special mission “to work for the sanctification of the world from fully within the world.” Members of Secular Institutes exercise a powerful timely lay apostolate in the midst of the world – the world of politics, economics, medicine, art, education, technology, family life and labor. Members of each Secular Institute gather periodically for spiritual renewal and mutual support but ordinarily do not live together in community.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis has a number of Secular Institutes whose single lay members and priests profess the evangelical counsels and spread Gospel values according to a specific charism and spirituality. Like religious institutes each has a period of formation for new members. Most members live alone while striving for holiness in the “marketplace” and provide for their own living expenses, health insurance, and retirement.
For further information visit the United States Conference of Secular Institutes website.
Societies of Apostolic Life
Alongside the different forms of consecrated life are Societies of Apostolic Life, bound by simple vows, renewed annually, rather than perpetual vows, which are professed for life. Societies of apostolic life live in community with their lifestyle and spirituality in support of their apostolic goal. Some serving in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are the Vincentians, Daughters of Charity, Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and Society of Christ. See Canon 731.
Consecrated Religious Men Contemplative Women
Apostolic Women Consecrated Virgins