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The Catholic Encyclopedia
Confraternities of Priests
Three confraternities of priests the Apostolic Union, the Priests' Eucharistic League, the Priests' Communion League have reached a stage of unprecedented diffusion throughout the Church and receive special treatment elsewhere in this ENCYCLOPEDIA. Confraternities of a local character form the subject of this article. A confraternity is a society of persons associated for some pious object. The members are linked together by a bond of brotherhood for mutual co-operation in the pursuit of a specific object of religion or charity by means of prayer, example, and counsel. This definition will exclude societies among the clergy formed for purely scientific or literary work. The clergy funds of English dioceses, even though they include certain religious obligations towards the living and the dead, fall outside its limits. The "Societas pro clero defuncto" is a mutual engagement to pray for the deceased clergy of a district; it is an association but not a confraternity. On the other hand the numerous societies of secular clergy in all parts of Spain, called by the name of "Monte-pio", will doubtless, many of them, fall under the title of confraternity, on account of the importance assigned to the duty of visiting the sick brethren and affording them not only material aid but spiritual consolation, and administering to them the sacraments. Two or more of the associates are appointed to visit the sick at least every three days.
A confraternity of priests in the strict sense of the word seeks before all else the personal sanctification of its members. Sacerdotal confraternities in different parts of the world present a close family-likeness, their common object being to preserve priests from the dangers of spiritual and social isolation, and to afford them something of that mutual support which belongs to a religious community. "Conjunctæ vires plus valent quam singulæ" is the expression by which the Holy See has recently consecrated the principle. The particular aims of priests' confraternities may be reduced to three: personal holiness, ecclesiastical learning, and mutual financial aid. The first two are universal, the third appears occasionally. The religious exercises almost invariably insisted upon are: the half-hour's meditation, Mass with preparation and thanksgiving of fifteen minutes, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, the devout recitation of the Breviary, rosary, weekly confession, monthly recollection, and biennial retreats. Ecclesiastical learning is understood to comprise the study of those subjects which are proper to the various departments of the ministry, and great importance is attached to associated study by means of conferences and discussions. Financial assistance embraces cases of sickness and old age, as well as loans, medical attendance, and legal advice.
The uncertainty of the position of ecclesiastics under a hostile Government has led to the display of considerable activity, of late years in different parts of Spain, in the establishment of the "Monte-pio", an association for the help of priests in sickness or old age. Such societies are to be found in the Dioceses of Córdova, Madrid-Alcalá (founded 1909), and for the clergy of the cities of Valencia (1897), Toledo (1901), León (1902), Orviedo (1903), Saragossa (1904), Palencia (1905), Astorgia (1906), Urgel (1906), Orense, Salamanca (1907), and in the districts of north Aragon, Ayerbo, and Bolea in Huesca. In Granada there is the "Refugio de San Pedro Nolasco" under the care of the religious of St. John of God for priests who by reason of age or infirmity are ordinarily unable to celebrate Mass. Should there be further accommodation after these have been provided for, priests over sixty years of age who are able to celebrate regularly are also admitted. There is a society of clergy for mutual aid in the Diocese of Majorca (established 1846) and Vitoria (1846), also in the cities of San Sebastian and Guernica; another called "La Providenza" is found in the Diocese of Tarragona. A brotherhood for mutual assistance in case of illness exists among the clergy of the town of Vich (1846) in the Diocese of Barcelona. Masses are said for all deceased members once a year, and for individual members shortly after death. The co-operative society called "The Spanish Clergy Association", established in Ambrona (Soria) for the purchase of provisions, hardly falls within the scope of the present article, nor does the society now being projected in Madrid by Fr. Armendariz for the vindication of the clergy from the calumnies of the anticlerical press. In Ciudad Real, Cadiz, and other dioceses there exists a brotherhood in which each priest prays for his fellow members. At his death his mass-register is shown to the brotherhood, and if it appears that he has faithfully offered Mass for deceased members, each living member offers a Mass for him. The brotherhoods framed upon the type of the "Associación de Sacerdotes del Obispado de Jaén", under the title of Our Lady of Capilla and St. Euphrasius, dedicate their lives to the apostolate of the working-class in any of the forms required by the present social conditions. They teach Christian doctrine in the schools; they distribute wholesome literature; they attract the young to confraternities and the practices of religion; and they are always ready for work in the confessional, so as to make it easy for people to approach the sacraments. They hold a day's retreat every month, during which the charitable duties for the next month are allotted. In case of sickness three of the associates are selected to minister spiritually to the sick brother.
The "Venerable Congregación de Sacerdotes de San Felipe Neri y Nuestra Señora de la Presentación" took its rise under the invocation of St. Philip in the parish church of St. James, Valladolid, as early as the year 1645. Later on the members erected the church of the Oratory, where the congregation is now installed, and in 1609 united with the ancient but languishing confraternity of the Presentation. The personal sanctification of the associates, and as a consequence the greater spiritual profit of the faithful, form the objects of the Institute. Priests and clerics in sacred orders are eligible for admission, and on entering take an oath of fidelity to the rules which prescribe certain religious duties and in particular visitation of the sick, attendance at the funerals of the brethren, and prayers for the dead. As a type of other forms may be taken the ancient "Hermandad [Brotherhood] de San Pedro de la Ciudad de Xerez". Its aim is the performance of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The confraternity supplies a legal adviser and two medical doctors at a low fee; moreover, it also provides decent interment for parents of the brethren, and for sacristans who have assisted the society in its charitable offices. There are likewise brotherhoods of the clergy in Seville, Puerto de S. Maria, in Santucar de Renameda, Carmina, Ecija, and in the principal cities of Andalusia. To these must be added the association of priests entitled "Hermandad de Sacerdotes operarios Diocesanos del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús", founded in 1872 by Manuel Domingo y Sol (died 1909). This association, which has received the approval of the pope, takes charge of the discipline in the seminaries, of which it has several in Spain, one in Mexico, and the Spanish College in Rome, whose late rector, Benjamin D. Miñana, became superior of the society on the death of the founder.
A confraternity has existed in Lisbon from the year 1415 with the title of "Veneravel Irmandade dos Clerigos Pobres" under the protection of the Holy Trinity and is now installed in the suppressed convent of St. Martha. It is composed of secular and regular priests and clerics in orders. Its chief works are to render special homage to the Blessed Trinity, to afford spiritual and temporal succour to the brethren, and to aid primary education. In 1887 the brotherhood took up the functions of a benefit society.
Austria possesses several confraternities of the clergy. The "Associatio Perseverantiæ Sacerdotalis", founded in 1868 for secular or regular priests, has its seat in Vienna. The aim proposed to members is their sanctification and perseverance. The zealous promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart is a prominent feature of the association. Much is made of intercourse between members; the anniversary day of ordination is observed with fitting solemnity. The society has a monthly journal called the "Korrespondenz der Associatio" (Vienna). The "Priester-Sodalität zum heiligsten Herzen Jesu" of Botzen was established in 1866. Candidates are admitted after a year's probation. The key-note of the association is personal holiness by the thoughtful and reverent discharge of priestly duties. It supplies a guide to life by fixing a minimum for certain religious exercises likely to be crowded out: thus, meditation, twenty minutes, and when this is impossible its place is to be supplied by spiritual reading or ejaculatory prayer; confession, at least fortnightly; retreat, at least every second year, with three days' recollection other years; preparation for Mass and thanksgiving (fifteen minutes) in the church for example's sake; night prayers with the congregation. Stress is laid on regular application to the studies of the ministry; specialization is encouraged as promoting interest. Other points are: careful preparation of all instructions, zeal in the work of the confessional, special care of talented boys and of neglected children."Der Marianische Kongregation im Priester-seminar" in Brixen has for its object to foster sacerdotal piety among its members and to cultivate the ecclesiastical spirit among the students of the seminary. The means insisted on are a personal devotion to Our Lady, public devotions with sermons twice a month, and mutual admonition. Its journal is the "Priester-Konferenz-Blatt". At Innsbruck there is a confraternity connected with the Jesuit College entitled "Priestergebetsverein", consisting of priests and seminarians in theology. The essential object of the association is to maintain the bonds of spiritual companionship established in the seminary when the young priests leave to take up their pastoral work. The means employed are prayer (particularly associated devotion to the Sacred Heart) and correspondence (the periodical of the confraternity being sent to members, and members writing to the committee at least once a year).
A peculiar feature of the "Association des Prêtres séculiers du Sacré-Cœur" (Issoudun, France) is its intimate relation with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, of whose congregation it is the offspring. "Le soutien d'un prêtre, c'est le prêtre" is the principle which has guided the missionaries in founding an association whereby they may co-operate in the sanctification of the secular clergy. The confraternity was founded in 1858, blessed by Pius IX in 1860, and enriched by him with special favours in 1867 and 1874. In 1882 the roll of the association contained 700 names. At that date a journal was inaugurated, to be succeeded three years later by the monthly review entitled "Le Sacré-Cœur". Each member under the advice of his director arranges his rule of life with sufficient detail to forestall omissions and yet with a certain elasticity so as not to interfere with parochial duties [see the "Manuel" (Issoudun), published by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart].
The "Pia Unio S. Pauli Apostoli", established in Rome, may be accepted as an approved type of a priestly association. It dates back to 1797, when it was instituted as a confraternity of priests for the corporal and spiritual assistance of sick brethren. With the co-operation of the laity the good work extended and ultimately embraced the distinct works of fostering vocations to the priesthood, the care of the young on festival days, and the holding of discussions on moral subjects. It was reorganized by Pius X in a decree dated 26 May, 1910, and attached to the church of S. Maria della Pace. The central idea of the association is sanctification by the exercise of the sacred ministry. On the economic side financial aid is given in time of sickness and a loan committee has been projected. Provision is also made for the legal defence of the clergy when this is desirable.
The needs of the teeming, active, and diversified population of America have called into being a number of agencies for dealing with the spiritual and social problems which are constantly arising. Mention therefore should be made here of the following societies of priests: "Association for the Protection of Belgian and Dutch Immigrants"; "Association of the Secular Polish Clergy"; "Catholic Board for Mission Work among the Coloured People"; "The Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions"; "Catholic Missionary Union", which provides funds to enable bishops to defray the expenses of giving missions to non-Catholics in their dioceses. Finally the "Priests' Total Abstinence League" appears to come nearest to the true idea of a confraternity whose central idea is self-sanctification. [See the "Catholic Directory" (Milwaukee, 1910), 725-731.]
It must suffice here to give the names of several societies of priests in certain districts of South America: Argentina, the "Associación Eclesiástica de S. Pedro" with centres at Buenos Aires and Córduba; Colombia, "Asociación de sufragios del Clero" at Bogota; Brazil, "Liga Sacerdotal Riograndeza" at Porto Alegre. In Mexico there is the "Asociación del Espíritu Santo" and the "Asociación de S. Juan Nepomuceno" at Guadalajara, and the "Asociación de Socorros mutuos de Clérigos" in the City of Mexico.
In Germany almost all the associations for priests have as their object either the cultivation of the ascetical life among the clergy or the assistance of the members in their temporal necessities. One of the most important of the pious societies is the "Associatio Perseverantiæ Sacerdotalis" (see III. AUSTRIA). The association has already been introduced into about 27 dioceses in Germany. The "Eucharistic Association of the Priests of the Adoration" was founded in 1858 for secular priests, and was canonically erected into a confraternity on 16 January, 1887. Its objects are to foster among the clergy truly priestly sentiments and a lively love and veneration for the Blessed Sacrament. Each member is to spend each week one hour without intermission in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and to celebrate one Mass yearly for deceased members, to whom he is also to apply once monthly the plenary indulgence granted for each hour of adoration. The official organ, "S. Eucharistia", is published in six languages; the membership is about 7000 in Germany. Among this class of associations may be also mentioned the "Priesterabstinentenband" (with its organ "Sobrietas") for promoting total abstinence, and the Katechetenvereine in Munich, etc.
There are three important associations for priests with the primary object of the rendering of assistance to members in temporal matters. These are;
- (1) the "Priesterverein zur Unterstützung kranker Mitglieder";
- (2) "St. Josephs-Priesterverein" in Görz;
- (3) the "Pax".
The first, which is essentially an insurance society, pays to sick priests three marks daily, provided they have been members for at least one year. The entrance fee varies from 2 marks to over 100 marks according to the age of the applicant; the annual tax is 10 marks. Founded in 1882 it paid 127,192 marks to 513 members in 995 cases of sickness in the first twenty-five years of its existence. The association has almost 1000 members (600 in the Archdiocese of Cologne). St. Josephs-Priesterverein in Görz (primarily an Austrian association) was founded in 1876 by Mgr Filippi in Meran, and was transferred in 1882 to Görs; its object is to secure places in sanatoria for sick priests who need to take a cure to recover their health. The fee for membership is three Kronen yearly (about 60 cents), or a single payment of fifty Kronen. The "Pax", or the "Association of the Catholic Priests of Germany", was founded in 1905 to supply good and cheap insurance for ecclesiastical corporations; the foundation of a pension fund, the affording of legal protection, and the procuring of abatements at sanatoria and hotels are also in contemplation and to some extent attained. Specially favourable terms have been secured from the life insurance company "Concordia", at Cologne, and the fire insurance company "Rhineland" at Neuss. Any priest who takes an insurance with either of these companies becomes thereby a member of the association. The members (about 1500) come from all parts of Germany, although the southern and eastern dioceses (except Fulda) are not equally well represented. The Polish priests have founded a separate insurance society, the "Unitas".
KROSE, Kirchliches Handbuch, II (Freiburg, 1909), 377-79.
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Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Confraternities of Priests'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/c/confraternities-of-priests.html. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.
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