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
- 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?
- What can I do as a priest that I cannot do as a layperson working for a charity or NGO?
- Why are there so many different religious organisations?
- 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 do I have to be celibate to be a priest?
- If I become a priest, will I be living with mostly elderly men?
- I hear my local priest say in his homily that there’s a shortage of priests in Ireland, is there really a shortage of priests?
- I’m very attracted to women. Will this pass with time and training or will I always be tempted?
- Why are there so many different religious orders?
- What if as a priest I need to take time out to care for a relative or family member?