Monks are attached to their monastery, subordinate chiefly to their abbot, and are typically Benedictine; the Cistercians are a class of Benedictines, and the Trappists are a division of the Cistercians. The Carthusians, of a quasi-hermit type, are the only non-Benedictine monks of the West. Canons regular are priests living in a community usually attached to a church; such have been the Lateran canons, the religious of the Alpine pass of St. Bernard, the Premonstratensians, and the old Austin canons (see Augustinians). The rest of the religious orders are highly centralized systems and usually have their work outside their house. The friars are the oldest of this type, chiefly Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Carmelites. Clerks regular are represented principally by the Jesuits, the largest single order in the church today. The communities of priests loosely called ecclesiastical congregations number more than 50; they include the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, the Redemptorists, the Vincentians, and Maryknoll. Religious institutes are separate organizations of unordained persons who have taken vows and who are engaged mostly in teaching, as, notably, the Christian Brothers, founded by St. John Baptist de la Salle. Secular institutes (officially recognized since 1947) are organizations of laymen bound by religious promises; they wear no special garb and, except for special purposes, live separately and hold conventional jobs in the world.
Roman Catholic communities of women are generally smaller and more numerous—there are more than 1,000. There are enclosed nuns following the rule of most orders of monks and friars; they are called second orders. Most Roman Catholic women's communities are devoted to teaching or charitable work; many of them are tertiaries (see tertiary).
The term contemplative is ordinarily applied to the life of monks and nuns who are enclosed, i.e., who rarely leave the monastery or convent in which they live and work, but many unenclosed religious also lead contemplative lives. There are also monastic orders of men and women in the Anglican Church.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.