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The difference between a Friar and a Monk

We fortunate Anglophones are given a nudge by the very strong difference between the words ‘monk’ and ‘friar’ that there is something important to attend to here. Monks predate friars, and their name comes from the Greek for ‘single’ or ‘solitary’, not because most monks were hermits, but because their communities were intended to withdraw from the everyday world to concentrate on prayer. To achieve this, they were expected to be self-supporting, relying economically on their own landed estates, to minimise contact with disruptive secularity. The movement which produced the friars in the late 12th century represented a criticism of this expectation and of the separateness of the monastic way of life, which many felt led to laziness and self-indulgence. The new reforming orders of friars made sure they would never be tempted to withdraw in the same way by the simpleImage result for Monks 

Image result for Friars

structural device of forbidding their communities to hold property.

Friars consequently could only survive by begging for their living from the laity (hence Bettelmönch), and that would necessarily bring them into everyday contact with the whole of European lay society. Laypeople would only go on funding friars if they received benefits in return: these spiritual consumer services were principally preaching the Christian message and hearing confessions, but since such services brought the friars much esteem, friary churches also became greatly in demand for intercessory masses in the purgatory industry. Because the friars rapidly became the Western Church’s specialists in preaching, they needed to be intellectually alert and well informed, so they quickly moved to university towns to get the best intellectual training they could, and produced many academic stars before Martin Luther.

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