An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The term is from the French, frère, and the Latin, frater, both meaning “brother.” Friars were members of mendicant (begging) orders that were founded in and after the thirteenth century. The mendicant friars wandered freely. They were not bound to a particular monastery or abbey by a vow of stability. This mobility freed them for a direct apostolate and active ministry of preaching, teaching, and service to the needy. Their active and contemplative life was a departure from previous monastic practice in which the community's life was in many ways enclosed within the monastery. They depended on begging or their own work to survive. Mendicant orders did not hold corporate possessions. The absolute ban on corporate ownership of property proved impractical. Most mendicant orders relaxed this rule in favor of community control of the order's resources and individual poverty. The four great mendicant orders in England were the Black Friars (Dominicans), the Grey Friars (Franciscans), the White Friars (Carmelites), and the Austin Friars (Augustinians).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.