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Catholic Dictionary




A member of a clerical religious order or congregation who is not a priest and who is not preparing for the priesthood. The term was originally used to identify those men religious who were not clerics (hence brothers), and who were not bound to the chant or recitation of the Divine Office, hence lay, as distinguished from choir monks, who were also not clerics. But in modern times the term is more commonly applied to all male religious who are not, or will not be, ordained. It is customary, however, to simply call them "brothers" without the prefix "lay." The reason is that brothers are full-fledged members of the religious community to which they belong, although their rights and privileges in the community are determined by their respective rule or constitutions. the term "lay brothers" is not applied to the members of the nonclerical men's religious institutes. They are called brothers.