Frequently Asked Questions
What is a brother?
A brother is a single, Catholic layman who lives his baptismal commitment by joining a religious community of vowed members dedicated to serving God and those around them. Religious brothers profess the evangelical counsels (vows) of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They also commit themselves to a life of ministry, prayer and Gospel witness within the context of community.
What are the evangelical counsels?
The evangelical counsels or vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—as taught and practiced by Christ in the Gospel—are a public proclamation of how a person lives his baptismal commitment. These three specific vows are especially proposed by the Church as a means for attaining Christian perfection and holiness of life.
The vow of poverty—by which a person voluntarily renounces all or part of his right to the ownership of material things—frees a religious to live simply and to share what they have in sincere gratitude to God. The vow of celibate chastity—by which an individual offers up the congeal rights of marital intimacy as a visible sign of the Kingdom—allows a person to live in the “family” of their community and to love equally all those with whom and for whom they minister.
The vow of obedience—the voluntary submission of oneself to obey legitimate ecclesiastical authority beyond the demands of obedience prescribed on all the faithful—calls an individual to actively seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as manifest in one’s superior and thus freely respond the needs of the Church.
Through the profession of these vows, received by the Church, brothers are committed firmly to the mission of proclaiming the Good News. The evangelical counsels unite members of a religious community or congregation in love and loyalty to their particular mission and charism.
Why do religious brothers live in community?
Brotherhood in community is a principal source of companionship and a privileged context for personal and spiritual growth. An individual's personality and spiritual life develops as one accepts responsibility to make a unique contribution to the life and mission of the community. It is from community that individuals can be good stewards of the gifts to others. In turn, individuals are enriched as the lives of others touch their own.
What role does communal prayer play?
All religious need a deep life of prayer to fulfill their calling. Communal prayer unites religious into “one heart, one mind and one soul” to fulfill their particular mission within the Church. Besides daily Mass, they must learn to pray together daily using the Scriptures, as well as the Liturgy of the Hours and other means devotional prayer such as Eucharistic adoration, the Rosary and alike. Certain expressions of communal prayer vary according to a community’s traditions and constitutions. Yet prayer serves as a unifying forced to live true brotherhood, allowing God’s Word to shed light on local situations and on the world beyond.
What is the difference between a brother and a priest?
A brother is a layman who commits himself to Christ by the vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, who lives in religious community, and who works in nearly any job: teacher, cook, lawyer, etc. They do not feel called by God to the ordained ministry as priests and deacons are. Thus, since brothers are not ordained, they are not sacramental ministers.
Does it make sense to become a brother when the Church so desperately needs priests?
It makes sense to become a brother if that is what all the signs are pointing towards. It makes sense to become a priest if the signs are in that direction. And it makes sense to get married if that is what it seems God is asking of you, despite the lack of priests and brothers we all know exists.
Whatever your calling, what is most important is that you are open and willing to do what God wants. In all of this, it is most important to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to adequately discern God’s will for your life.
How does a person explore religious brotherhood as a vocation choice?
The first step is to pray that the Lord will guide you in this discernment and to get spiritual guidance from your pastor or parish priest. Secondly, you can also call the local diocesan vocation office or contact the vocation contact for a particular religious community. It is important to ask the right questions and then follow their suggestions as you seek God’s will.
The Internet can also a great source of information on religious vocations, especially www.religiouslife.com, the official website of the Institute on Religious Life. The IRL’s website has a special feature, VocationSearch, that allows individuals to identify particular communities or charisms.
Those interested in the brotherhood can also participate in diocesan vocation events and discernment groups. Such discernment experiences can broaden one’s perspective on the brotherhood vocation and provide a greater appreciation for this particular vocation.
Finally, it is important to make personal contact with a specific community or congregation and spend time with them. Often opportunities for discernment retreats are provide and live-in encounters may able be available so that you can experience firsthand the life and ministry of a particular community.
Once the initial discernment is made, a potential candidate may be asked to begin the formal application process. The person may also be instructed to participate in several assessment interviews and submit academic transcripts, an autobiography, a personal profile, letters of recommendation, baptismal and confirmation certificates, and a formal letter to seek admission. Particular requirements and documentation varies from community to community.
Are there basic requirements for becoming a religious brother?
Most religious communities require that a candidate be a high school graduate before being able to be considered for entrance. Some may encourage some college or work experience before applying for admission.
In general, communities expect a candidate to be in good physical and psychological health. And while specific ages of admission may vary, typically most institutes of consecrated life target individuals between the ages of 20 and 45 who have a firm belief that God is calling them to a particular vocation and specific community.
It is essential that the person have no financial debts or persons dependent upon them. So before getting serious of pursuing a religious vocation, it is vital that potential candidates eliminate all personal and school debts and delegate other responsibilities before seeking admission.
If a person has been married and divorced, can he still become a religious brother?
It varies depending on the community. If a person has received a Church annulment and they have no dependent children or dependent parents, it is possible. Typically, if the person is a single male and a practicing Catholic, he may be eligible for consideration.