(866)339-0371 rbc@todaysbrother.com

Church Documents

Lineamenta: The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and The World. Synod of Bishops: Rome, 1994


21. The consecrated life of Brothers is today the most visible form of consecration in the variety of its charisms, as exemplified in its rich diversity of apostolic and social services on behalf of humanity. The Second Vatican Council has stated: “the lay religious life constitutes a state which of itself is one of total dedication to the profession of the evangelical councils.”[1] Oftentimes the character of the lay consecrated life for men is not clearly perceived, given that many of the faithful think that it should be joined to the priesthood, while in fact it represents consecration in its utter simplicity.

“Religious life began with a typically lay configuration. It grew out of a desire of some Christian faithful to ‘derive more abundant fruits’ from baptismal grace and, through profession of the evangelical counsels to free themselves from those obstacles which might have drawn them away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship (cf. Lumen Gentium, 44)… Thus the lay religious life in the Church, as an expression of total consecration for the Kingdom, is an expression of the holiness of the Spouse of Christ and contributes in an efficacious and original way to the fulfillment of the Church’s mission of evangelization and her many apostolic ministries. We cannot imagine religious life in the Church without the presence of this particular lay vocation, still open to so many Christians who can consecrate themselves in it to the following of Christ and the service of humanity.”[2]

The members of lay religious institutes are a sign of the multiplicity of the Church’s apostolic services, each according to its proper function in the pastoral mission of the Church. The Decree Perfectae Caritatis has emphasized the “high esteem of such a life, since it serves the pastoral work of the Church so usefully by educating the young, caring for the sick, and discharging other services.”[3] Called in virtue of their vocation to evangelical service of persons and to collaborate in the work of salvation, lay religious, prompted by their proper charism, open themselves to everyone in the universal love of Christ though an integral education of children and young people, through alleviating the pains of the weak and sick, through their contact with the poor and emarginated, and through contributing to establishing true peace and justice in this world, in a universal brotherhood of communion, a fellowship which is inspired by the title they bear, that is, “Brother.”


[1] CONC. OEC. VAT II, Decr. De accomodata renovation vitae religiosae, Perfectae Caritatis, 10.

[1] IOANNES PAULUS II, Ad eos qui coetui plenario Congregationis pro Religiosis et Institutis Saecularibus interfuerunt, coram admissos, 24 ianuarii 1986: AAS 78 (1986) 726.

[1] CONC. OEC. VAT II, Decr. De accomodata renovation vitae religiosae, Perfectae Caritatis, 10.


Lumen Gentium

Chapter VI § 43

[…] This state of life, from the point of view of the divine and hierarchical nature of the church, is not to be seen as a middle way between the clerical and lay states of life.

Vita Consecrata: Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II: Rome, 1996

Religious Brothers

60. According to the traditional doctrine of the Church, the consecrated life by its nature is neither lay nor clerical. [1] For this reason the “lay consecration” of both men and women constitutes a state which in its profession of the evangelical counsels is complete in itself. [2] Consequentially, both for the individual and for the Church, it is a value in itself, apart from the sacred ministry.

Following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, [3] the Synod expressed great esteem for the kind of consecrated life in which religious Brothers provide valuable services of various kinds, inside or outside the community, participating in this way in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and bearing witness to it with charity in everyday life. Indeed, some of these services can be considered ecclesial ministries, granted by legitimate authority. This requires an appropriate and integral formation: human, spiritual, theological, pastoral, and professional.

According to the terminology currently in use, Institutes which, by reason of their founders’ design or legitimate tradition, have a character and purpose which do not entail the exercise of Holy Orders are called “Lay Institutes.” [4]Nonetheless the Synod pointed out that this terminology does not adequately express the particular nature of the vocation of the members of these Religious Institutes. In fact, although they perform many works in common with the lay faithful, these men do so insofar as they are consecrated, and thereby express the spirit of total self-giving to Christ and the Church, in accordance with their specific charism.

For this reason the Synod Fathers, in order to avoid ambiguity and confusion with the secular state of the lay faithful,[5] proposed the term Religious Institutes of Brothers.[6] This proposal is significant, especially when we consider that the term “Brother” suggests a rich spirituality. “These Religious are called to be brothers of Christ, deeply united with him, ‘the firstborn among many brothers’ (Rom 8:29); brothers to one another, in mutual love and working together in the Church in the same service of what is good; brothers to everyone, in their witness to Christ’s love for all, especially the lowliest, the neediest; brothers for a greater brotherhood in the Church.” [7] By living in a special way this aspect of Christian and consecrated life, Religious Brothers are an effective reminder to Religious Priests themselves of the fundamental dimension of brotherhood in Christ, to be lived among themselves and with every man and woman, and they proclaim to all the Lord’s words: “And you are all brothers” (Mt 23:8).

In these Religious Institutes of Brothers nothing prevents certain members from receiving Holy Orders for the priestly service of the religious community, provided that this is approved by the General Chapter. [8] However, the Second Vatican Council does not give any explicit encouragement for this, precisely because it wishes Institutes of Brothers to remain faithful to their vocation and mission. The same holds true with regard to assuming the office of Superior, since that office reflects in a special way the nature of the Institute itself.

The vocation of Brothers in what are known as “clerical” Institutes is different, since, according to the design of the founder or by reason of legitimate tradition, these Institutes presuppose the exercise of Holy Orders, are governed by clerics, and as such are approved by Church authority. [9] In these Institutes the sacred ministry is constitutive of the charism itself and determines its nature, purpose and spirit. The presence of Brothers constitutes a different form of participation in an Institute’s mission, through services rendered both within the community and in the apostolate, in collaboration with those who exercise the priestly ministry.

[1] Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 588 § 1.

[2] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of Religious Life Perfectae Caritatis, 10.

[3] Cf. ibid., 8, 10.

[4] Cf.. ibid., 10; Code of Canon Law, Canon 588 § 3.

[5] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 31.

[6] Cf. Propositio 8.

[7] JOHN PAUL II, Address at General Audience, 22 February 1995, 6: L’Observatore Romano (English-Language edition), 1 March 1995, 11.

[8] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of Religious Life Perfectae Caritatis, 10.

[9] Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 588 § 2.

Excerpts from



Section 2a:

Since the ultimate norm of the religious life is the following of Christ set forth in the Gospels, let this be held by all institutes as the highest rule.

Section 1:

…Indeed from the very beginning of the Church men and women have set about following Christ with greater freedom and imitating Him more closely through the practice of the evangelical counsels, each in his own way leading a life dedicated to God. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, lived as hermits or founded religious families, which the Church gladly welcomed and approved by her authority. So it is that in accordance with the Divine Plan a wonderful variety of religious communities has grown up which has made it easier for the Church not only to be equipped for every good work (cf. 2 Tim 3:17) and ready for the work of the ministry-the building up of the Body of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:12)-but also to appear adorned with the various gifts of her children like a spouse adorned for her husband (cf. Apoc. 21:2) and for the manifold Wisdom of God to be revealed through her (cf. Eph. 3:10).

Despite such a great variety of gifts, all those called by God to the practice of the evangelical counsels and who, faithfully responding to the call, undertake to observe the same, bind themselves to the Lord in a special way, following Christ, who chaste and poor (cf. Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:58) redeemed and sanctified men through obedience even to the death of the Cross (cf. Phil. 2:8). Driven by love with which the Holy Spirit floods their hearts (cf. Rom. 5:5) they live more and more for Christ and for His body which is the Church (cf. Col. 1:24). The more fervently, then, they are joined to Christ by this total life-long gift of themselves, the richer the life of the Church becomes and the more lively and successful its apostolate.

5. Members of each institute should recall first of all that by professing the evangelical counsels they responded to a divine call so that by being not only dead to sin (cf. Rom. 6:11) but also renouncing the world they may live for God alone. They have dedicated their entire lives to His service. This constitutes a special consecration, which is deeply rooted in that of baptism and expresses it more fully. Since the Church has accepted their surrender of self they should realize they are also dedicated to its service.

This service of God ought to inspire and foster in them the exercise of the virtues, especially humility, obedience, fortitude and chastity. In such a way they share in Christ’s emptying of Himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) and His life in the spirit (cf. Rom. 8:1-13).

Faithful to their profession then, and leaving all things for the sake of Christ (cf. Mark 10:28), religious are to follow Him (cf. Matt. 19:21) as the one thing necessary (cf. Luke 10:42) listening to His words (cf. Luke 10:39) and solicitous for the things that are His (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32).

It is necessary therefore that the members of every community, seeking God solely and before everything else, should join contemplation, by which they fix their minds and hearts on Him, with apostolic love, by which they strive to be associated with the work of redemption and to spread the kingdom of God…