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.

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