This article is about members of religious orders. For the surnames, see Fryer (surname) and Fryar. For the butterflies, see Amauris. For the college sports team, see Providence Friars.
"Frays" redirects here. For other uses, see Fray (disambiguation).
"Fra" redirects here. For other uses, see FRA (disambiguation).
"First Order" redirects here. For the Star Wars faction, see First Order (Star Wars).
A group of friars; novices of the Order of Augustinian Recollects at the Monastery of Marcilla, Navarre

A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders founded since the twelfth or thirteenth century; the term distinguishes the mendicants' itinerant apostolic character, exercised broadly under the jurisdiction of a superior general, from the older monastic orders' allegiance to a single monastery formalized by their vow of stability. The most significant orders of friars are the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians and Carmelites.[1]


Friars are different from monks in that they are called to live the evangelical counsels (vows of poverty, chastity and obedience) in service to society, rather than through cloistered asceticism and devotion. Whereas monks live in a self-sufficient community, friars work among laypeople and are supported by donations or other charitable support.[2] A monk or nun makes their vows and commits to a particular community in a particular place. Friars commit to a community spread across a wider geographical area known as a province, and so they will typically move around, spending time in different houses of the community within their province.


The English term Friar is derived from the Norman French word frere ("brethren"), from the Latin frater ("brother"), which was widely used in the Latin New Testament to refer to members of the Christian community. "Fray" is sometimes used in former Spanish colonies such as the Philippines or the American Southwest as a title, such as in Fray Juan de Torquemada.


In the Roman Catholic Church, there are two classes of orders known as friars, or mendicant orders: the four "great orders" and the so-called "lesser orders".

Major Orders

The four great orders were mentioned by the Second Council of Lyons (1274), and are:

Conventual Franciscans in their variant grey habits

Lesser orders

Some of the lesser orders are:

Uses by other Christian traditions

Orders of friars (and sisters) exist in other Christian traditions, including the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans and the Order of Lesser Sisters and Brothers. In the Anglican Communion there are also a number of mendicant groups such as the Anglican Friars Preachers and The Society of St. Francis.

Other usage of the name

Several high schools, as well as Providence College, use friars as their mascot. MLB's San Diego Padres have the Swinging Friar.

The University of Michigan's oldest a cappella group is a male octet known as The Friars.[4]

The University of Pennsylvania has a senior honor society known as Friars.

In the order of the Knights of Malta the short form Fra (for Frate) is used when addressing members who have taken vows.

See also


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