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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What is the difference between a priest, a friar and a monk? When should they be called either a priest, a friar or a monk?

A. 1. First of all, "A priest in the Catholic Church is a man who has received the sacrament of Holy Orders and has therefore undertaken the duties of celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass, hearing confession, giving absolution and other sacraments “in persona Christi” and to perform other duties of pastoral ministry and, sometimes, administration."

[Source: http://aleteia.org/2015/12/07/what-is-the-difference-between-a-friar-a-monk-and-a-priest/]

The difference between the three types of priesthood is as follows, a priest may be associated with the monastic life (an abbey or priory/convent), a religious Order or a Diocese.


The word “monk” comes from the Latin monachus, a word for hermits, rooted in a meaning of “solitude.”

The priest associated with the monastic (cloistered) life is referred to as a monk.

The monk is bound by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to his abbot (if living in an abbey) or prior (in a priory).


When associated with a religious Order, the priest is referred to as a friar.

The word "Friar" means "brother." Friars live in a "friary."

Saint Francis of Assisi called his followers "little brothers."

Friars are called to go out among the people to preach, to pray, to educate and to care for the sick.

The friar is bound by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to their Superior called the "Provincial."


This kind of priest, associated with a Diocese, is referred to as a diocesan priest.

The priest is bound by the vows of chastity and obedience to his Bishop. He may own property, inherit assets or operate a business aside from his ministry.


Some friars or monks may not be priests. They are called religious brothers.

"Monks and nuns are at the lowest level of the Catholic Church hierarchy. Religious brothers and sisters aren’t members of the clergy, but they aren’t members of the lay faithful, either. They’re called consecrated religious, which means that they’ve taken sacred vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

In each of the hundreds of different religious orders, communities, and congregations the spirituality of the group is based on the founder of its congregation. For example, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity whose members vow to serve “the poorest of the poor.” Some communities specialize in teaching and others in hospital work. Some engage in several active missions, and a few devote themselves to a cloistered life of contemplative prayer.

Consecrated religious live in community with other members of their order. They share all meals together and try to work together, pray together, and recreate together. Because they take a vow of poverty, they don’t own their own car, and they have no personal savings or checking accounts. The religious order they belong to provides all this, and they must ask their superiors when they need or want something. This is where that vow of obedience kicks in."

[Source: http://www.dummies.com/religion/christianity/catholicism/the-role-of-catholic-monks-and-nuns/]

"Finally, it is possible for a priest to be neither “secular”, nor “friar”, nor “monk” but still be a religious. A Jesuit priest (Society of Jesus), or a Pauline priest (Society of Saint Paul), or a Salesian priest (Society of St. Francis de Sales, aka Salesians of Don Bosco) is fully a priest and will make the same vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to their religious superiors, just like friars and monks, but they are simply priests of their respective communities.

[Source: http://aleteia.org/2015/12/07/what-is-the-difference-between-a-friar-a-monk-and-a-priest/]

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