What’s the difference between a brother and a priest?
Both brothers and priests can be part of the same religious institute. Both, therefore, take the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and operate under the rule or constitutions of the institute. The difference is that priests receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and can therefore celebrate Mass, hear confessions, proclaim the Gospel and preach the Word.
Brothers are technically referred to as ‘lay religious’ men. In other words, they are men who take vows of poverty, celibate chastity, and obedience and who live in a community but who are neither ordained ministers nor are studying to be ordained ministers. They can be teachers, nurses, or missionaries or they might be involved in other activities which are different but complimentary to parish life, e.g. directing and guiding retreats.
Traditionally, the life of a religious brother mostly involved assisting priests in manual or administrative work, but nowadays their work is not defined so narrowly. Often the only difference between a priest and a brother is ordination.
Most popular questions
- If I request information about joining a religious organisation, will I be pressured into joining?
- Can I become a bishop or cardinal and not a priest?
- I feel I have a specific charism to youth outreach. Can I live this charism out as a priest, or must I follow the charism of the order I join?
- Can a gay man become a priest?
- As a priest if I decide that I no longer want to do something, such as work in a specific parish, do I have any say or is it all out of my hands?
- What’s the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest in a religious order?
- The idea of public speaking is very challenging to me and I avoid it if possible. How can I be a priest when I hate public speaking?
- Why are there so many different religious orders?
- What can I do as a priest that I cannot do as a layperson working for a charity or NGO?
- I read stories of religious communities merging or closing down. Are religious organisations dying out?