Mendicant orders  

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The mendicant orders are religious orders which depend directly on the charity of the people for their livelihood. In principle, they do not own property, either individually or collectively (see corporate poverty), believing that this was the most pure way of life to copy followed by Jesus Christ, in order that all their time and energy could be expended on religious work.

Christian mendicant orders

Christian mendicant orders spend their time preaching the Gospel and serving the poor.

Both of the two main new orders founded by Saint Dominic and Saint Francis were prompted by a need to reinvigorate the life of the Catholic Church. Francis came to this through a long period of personal conversion. Dominic's concern was to combat the Cathar heresy in southern France by offering a model of God being active within the world. They attracted a significant level of patronage, as much from townsfolk as aristocrats. Their focus of operation rapidly centered on towns where population growth historically outstripped the provision of rural parishes. Most medieval towns in Western Europe of any size came to possess houses of one or more of the major orders of friars. Some of their churches came to be built on grand scale with large spaces devoted to preaching, something of a specialty among the mendicant orders.

Saint Francis, and his follower, Saint Anthony of Padua, were notable inspirations to the formation of Christian mendicant traditions.

In the Middle Ages, the original mendicant orders of friars in the Church were the

  • Franciscans (Friars Minor, commonly known as the Grey Friars), founded 1209
  • Carmelites, (Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Carmel, commonly known as the White Friars), founded 1206–1214
  • Dominicans (Order of Preachers, commonly called the Black Friars), founded 1215
  • Servites (Order of Servants of Mary), founded 1233 by the Seven Holy Men of Florence, Italy.
  • Augustinians (Hermits of St. Augustine, commonly called the Austin Friars), founded 1244 - 1256

The Second Council of Lyons (1274) recognized these as the five "great" mendicant orders, and suppressed certain others. The Council of Trent loosened their property restrictions. Afterwards, except for the Franciscans and their offshoot the Capuchins, members of the orders were permitted to own property collectively as do monks.

Among other orders are the

Non-Christian mendicant orders

The term "mendicant" may also be used to refer to other non-Catholic and non-Christian ascetics, such as Buddhist monks and Hindu holy men. The Theravada Buddhist Pali scriptures use the term bhikkhu for mendicant, and in Mahayana scriptures, the equivalent sanskrit term bikshu is used. In Sufism, Dervishes.

See also

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