Friday, July 03, 2009


I have always had a soft spot for the idea of "Brothers", in the old days they were the workers in a monastery, the muscle, sometimes they were skilled artisans, sometimes people "in need of care and protection". What often divided the "brothers" from "choir monks" or "the fathers" was social class, "the fathers" were gentleman, "the brothers" were not.
Nowadays, in a spirit of equality, few communities will welcome someone who wasn't at least literate and many would reject those without a degree. Psychological testing tends to eliminate those unable to live their lives without the support and discipline of a caring community.
One of things many of the "new movements" offer is a place for those who need "care" and support.


Crux Fidelis said...

Fr Ray, not all choir monks were ordained. Pre Vatican II the Cistercians only ordained the bare minimum of choir monks (enough to say mass for the community) and most would remain brothers throughout their professed lives. IMHO the fact that there is no longer any distinction between "choir" and "lay" is a good thing. All monks now play a full part in the life of the community whether it be in choir or in the fields and workshop.

Thomas said...

I would have to agree with the previous post. I think it is a good thing that their is not longer any difference between the "lay" and the "choir". All monks are the same now and can fully contribute to the community, which is great.

USLawStudent said...

The Carthusians still retain the distinction between lay brother and choir monks. I think it is a good idea. It allows an individual to pursue a different type of vocation. Some are not called to participate in a community to the extent of a choir monk. The should remain an option. This especially makes sense in the setting of a Charterhouse where there is a great difference between the two lifestyles. I think the lay brother should still be given the opportunity to participate in the hours of a choir monk, for the most part, as the Carthusians allow with their lay brothers.

I suppose all the psychological testing serves its purpose, but I think that it keeps too many people from being able to live the lifestyle they may want to. I have had friends who have had to put their vocation for at least a year because they had a fluke psych. exam which kept thme from being allowed into the seminary or monastery!

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I think the distinctive vocation of a lay brother - which is still clearly evident among the Carthusians - is of great value. I think much harm was done after the council by putting choir monks and lay brothers together.

Fr. J.

berenike said...

Is lay and choir only distinguished by ordination. among monks?

The Carthusian nuns have retained the distinction between converse nuns and choir nuns, as has at least, I think, Ryde Abbey (though I could be wrong about the latter). Though it's often more a choice of what suits someone personally.

Fr Blake has a point, which Fr Mark of Vultus Christi also made some months ago.

berenike said...

Incidentally, there is a contemplative community in France which was founded for women with Down's syndrome. Disciples of the Lamb. There's an article or two about them out there on t'interweb.

Terry Nelson said...

The Carmelite monks of Wyoming actually promote the lay brother vocation.

Enbrethiliel said...


Father, this post reminded me of Sebastian Flyte from the end of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisted. He was quite a bit of trouble, perhaps, but a religious community would be poor indeed, if it could not find some room for the likes of him.