Perfectae Caritatis 15

Communal life is today’s topic:

Common life, fashioned on the model of the early Church where the body of believers was united in heart and soul (cf. Acts 4:32), and given new force by the teaching of the Gospel, the sacred liturgy and especially the Eucharist, should continue to be lived in prayer and the communion of the same spirit. As members of Christ living together as (sisters and) brothers, religious should give pride of place in esteem to each other (cf. Rom. 12:10) and bear each other’s burdens (cf. Gal. 6:2). For the community, a true family gathered together in the name of the Lord by God’s love which has flooded the hearts of its members through the Holy Spirit (cf.Rom. 5:5), rejoices because He is present among them (cf. Matt. 18:20). Moreover love sums up the whole law (cf. Rom. 13:10), binds all together in perfect unity (cf. Col. 3:14) and by it we know that we have crossed over from death to life (cf. 1 John 3:14). Furthermore, the unity of the (members) is a visible pledge that Christ will return (cf. John 13:35; 17:21) and a source of great apostolic energy.

The ideal community of Acts 4 is one model, certainly the first noted in Christianity. One might presume that this community is the ideal for all believers, not just religious.

That all the members be more closely knit by the bond of brotherly love, those who are called lay-brothers, assistants, or some similar name should be drawn closely in to the life and work of the community. Unless conditions really suggest something else, care should be taken that there be only one class of Sisters in communities of women. Only that distinction of persons should be retained which corresponds to-the diversity of works for which the Sisters are destined, either by special vocation from God or by reason of special aptitude.

Treating, and skirting a bit, perhaps, the issues of inequities of members.

However, monasteries of men and communities which are not exclusively lay can, according to their nature and constitutions, admit clerics and lay persons on an equal footing and with equal rights and obligations, excepting those which flow from sacred orders.

How does that work in practice, I wonder?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Perfectae Caritatis 15

  1. Fred says:

    Acts 4 is indeed a model for all the baptized, but monastic life started as a grassroots movement to renew the Christian life. Those in institutes of consecrated life follow Acts 4 in a more literal or direct way, while those who are married live it in a way more appropriate to their state of life.

    The permission here for monasteries to admit lay persons on equal footing is due to the Church’s dawning awareness that the personal charisms of the orders are not limited to the consecrated life, but possible for all the baptized. This option has not worked itself out so much with the traditional orders, but is more common among the movements. For example, the Ecclesial Carmelite Movement is a way of following the charism of Carmel in lay or consecrated life. In Communion and Liberation, the Memores Domini (consecrated) form one community with other adherents of CL.


  2. Tim says:

    I think the focus here was that all members of religious communities should pretty much be treated the same regardless of their status in the community. In cloistered orders of nuns, frequently there were (are) two ‘classes’ of members in the monastery: the cloistered nums who professed solemn vows, and non-cloistered ‘extern sisters’ who professed simple vows. The extern sisters were (are) those who (unlike the cloistered nuns) can come and go to do the necessary business of the monastery. Sometimes these extern sisters wore a different habit from the nuns; were ineligible to vote and hold office; went through a different novitiate from the nuns; sometimes lived in a separate part of the monastery. I think this part of PC was intended to minimize these differences. I think in reference to monasteries and other communities of men which have both ordained and non-ordained members, the reference to “lay” is not to “laity” but rather “lay” in the sense of non-ordained brothers. The intent, I believe is that there shouldn’t be a distinction in common life and matters affecting the community as a community, other than those that do actually come from one being ordained. This means no separate habit, no separate novitiate, no distinction among themselves in their own houses. A good example of this is found among the Franciscans. All members whether ordained or not take their turn in housekeeping duties for instance. Routinely, the friars refer to themselves as simply “brother” whether ordained or not in almost all oral and written communications. This extends even to the members of the other branches of the family, including — significantly — the members of the secular Order, who are (with very few exceptions) laity.

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