Today’s Religious Brother
What I love about being a Brother is the opportunity to serve the Church and the people of God. As a Brother, I’m not held down to one thing, but I’m available for many roles of service. – Brother Gerard Despathy, FPM
For the past 32 years, my life as a Brother has been enriched by the people I’ve met and worked with. As a Brother, I believe God has stretched me to try and accomplish things I would never have attempted otherwise. Working with students in our Catholic schools today gives me hope for the future of the Church. – Brother Peter Zawot, CFC
Religious Brother – FAQ
What is a Religious Brother and Why Do Some Men Feel Called to this Vocation?
A Brother is a man committed to living the Consecrated Life in response to a call from God. As a male religious, he is a lay Christian committed to Christ and the Christian community through vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. He becomes a member of a religious brotherhood with elected leadership, based on a particular spirituality (ex: Passionist, Redemptorist, LaSalette). The promise of a community prayer life and extensive opportunities for a wide variety of ministries encourage acceptance of this call.
What are the Differences between a Religious Priest and a Religious Brother?
Religious priests and religious brothers share much as members of a religious community. Both live a community life and share in the spiritually of their founder.
Religious priests are called to the celebration of Mass, the administration of the other sacraments, and often the administration of a parish. Religious Brothers are called to other ministries: care of the sick and poor, education, health care, journalism, fine arts, and justice works. A brother may profess perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but will not choose to be ordained.
What Personal Qualities are Needed in a Religious Brother?
A love for God and a dedication to the life of the gospel! A Brother is a person of truth and zeal. He sincerely wishes to minister with others as “servant.” He is attracted to a life in a prayerful community and sincerely loves others in faith. He is able to channel his natural desires for family and children into a loving service, and finds his greatest fulfillment there.
Do Communities Have Guidelines about Age and Health for Acceptance as a Brother?
Yes, they do. The best way to become familiar with these guidelines is to write, email or call the communities in whom you are interested. These guidelines vary widely from one community to another.
Is a Brother Encouraged to Maintain His Bonds With Family and Friends?
Definitely! Some changes will certainly take place, as his commitment to his community deepens and his time for sharing with family and friends may become shortened, but a Brother’s family becomes part of the larger family of the community, thus enriching the lives of his family and the community itself.
Are there Brothers Who Live a Monastic or Cloistered Life in Community?
Yes, there are. Benedictine Brothers, for example, live a monastic lifestyle. They remain members of their original monastery for their lifetimes. Their daily schedule is a monastic one, with ministry fitted into the schedule for community prayer. Silence plays a greater part in their lives than in an apostolic Brother’s life (ex: Presentation Brother).
Some Brothers are monks (Trappists) who live an enclosed lifestyle. They do not leave the monastery grounds except in special circumstances. Their work, prayer, and recreation occur on their monastery grounds. They may produce crops, food products (cheese, bread, wine) or make altar breads or vestments to support the community.
What is the Process for Becoming a Religious Brother?
The spiritual formation process for a man who is called to serve as a Religious Brother has several stages and may last 3 – 9 years.
Inquirer– Faithful prayer, rooted in complete openness to God’s will, is the starting point of a man’s discernment. Seeking information about religious communities may take him to vocation periodicals, the web, friends, and family. But the most reliable source will be religious Brothers with whom he can discuss his hopes and anxieties. If no religious Brothers live in his area, phone conversations and email can be very helpful for information-gathering at this point.
When the Inquirer finds one community’s spirit / charism with which he feels a connection, he asks to visit and pray with the members as frequently as possible. When the time is right, and the community vocation director encourages him, he may ask for acceptance into the spiritual formation program.
Candidate – During one / two years as a Candidate, a man may live in a local community, praying, ministering with the members, receiving spiritual direction, learning the history of the community, and learning to enjoy being a community member.
Novice– The novice immerses himself in the spiritual traditions of his chosen community. He studies theology, philosophy, prayer, religious life, and community history and traditions. He continues spiritual direction and participates in community ministries.
Profession of Vows – At the close of his one / two year novitiate, a novice may request permission to profess vows of p poverty, chastity, and obedience. These vows expire at the close of one year, and must be renewed if the man wishes to retain his membership in the community. At the close of the period of initial profession, a Brother may profess his perpetual vows in the community.
Who Should I Talk With About My Interest in Becoming a Religious Brother?
Start with your closest friends whom you think will be open to understanding your desires for union with God and service for others. Talk with your parents, your pastor, and the vocation director of the communities in which you are interested.