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.
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.
ImageThe two main categories of consecrated religious who profess public vows are 1a) consecrated religious monks and nuns and 1b)consecrated apostolic religious priests, brothers and sisters.
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 communities are frequently engaged in works related to education, health care, communication, social work or administration, for example.