What is the first occurrence in Church history of addressing a religious male or female (i.e., one who has taken vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty) with "brother" or "sister," respectively?

  • 2
    But in the NT itself they refer to regular Christians as brothers and sisters... there's nothing special about those having taking vows been addressed by those words.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 0:58
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    @curiousdannii Sure, but that's not the sense I'm inquiring about. I'm specifically asking about addressing vowed religious in this manner.
    – Geremia
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 1:48
  • @curiousdannii This question is similar to if I asked: "When were ordained priests first addressed with 'father'?"
    – Geremia
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 2:12
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    A "religious male or female" in common language is not limited to one who has taken religious orders. Many religious males and females are simply . . . quite religious. The question uses a general term, then attempts to redefine it to a special case, which is bound to cause confusion and elicit answers that aren't what you are looking for. The question would work better if it referred to "males or females who have taken religious orders." If you then want to specify vows of obedience, chastity, poverty, etc., it would fit with the term used, and not cause confusion. Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 14:45
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    @LeeWoofenden This question does not redefine the word religious. It uses a definition that is common to several Christian denominations. The question is tagged religious-orders. While it might not be the most common secular definition of the word, it is not out of place in a forum that claims expertise on the practices of Christians.
    – bradimus
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 23:38

1 Answer 1


It may be possible that St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547) in his Holy Rule is the first recorded instance of maintaining the fact that his religious should not address one another simply by their names.

Chapter 63 states the following:

Let the junior brethren reverence their seniors, and the seniors love their juniors.

In calling each other by name, let no one address another by his simple name alone; but let the seniors call the juniors Brothers, and the let the juniors call their seniors Fathers, by which is understood paternal reverence. But he Abbot, since he is looked upon as representing Christ, be called Lord and Abbot; not that he has taken it to himself, but for the honor and love of Christ. He himself is so to consider it, and so to act as to be worthy of such a dignity.

Wherever the brethren meet one another, let the junior ask a blessing from the senior. When the senior passes by, let the junior rise and give him place to be seated; nor let the junior presume to sit down unless the senior bid him do so, fulfilling thereby what is written: "With honor anticipating one another." - CHAPTER 63 of the Rule of St. Benedict.


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