Canons Regular of the Lateran
The Canons Regular of the Lateran (abbreviated as C.R.L.), formally titled the Canons Regular of St. Augustine of the Congregation of the Most Holy Savior at the Lateran, is an international congregation of an order of canons regular, comprising priests and lay brothers in the Catholic Church.
The canons regular trace their origins to the 4th century reforms of the clergy by St. Martin of Tours in France and St. Eusebius of Vercelli in Italy. They and other bishops sought to model the accepted lifestyles of their clergy in a domestic model, based on the communal pattern followed by the first Christians as depicted in the Acts of the Apostles. The premier example of this effort was the life and work of St. Augustine of Hippo, who himself lived as a monk before being called to take up the office of bishop for his North African city. He later wrote a small monastic rule to guide a community of women who wanted to live the monastic ideal. This document became the official guide for the earliest of the religious communities to emerge in the church in later centuries, in parallel to that of the Rule of St. Benedict. From this comes the title "regular", meaning one following a "rule" (Latin: regula).
Under the guidance of Cardinal Hildebrand (later to become Pope Gregory VII), the Lateran Synod of 1059 organized and recognized these developing communities and recommended them as the preferred pattern of clerical life, at a time when mandatory celibacy was being made a universal requirement for the clergy of the Roman Church.
The Lateran Canons are descended from the Canons Regular of Santa Maria in Portu on the isle of Corizo near Ravenna, which is first mentioned in 1103. By the 15th century, the moribund community nearly slipped into extinction on account of the absence of leadership and direction that was a direct result of the practice of commendatory abbots, until finally in 1419 the community dwindled to just two: the prior and one canon. However, a pious aristocrat from Ravenna, Obizone, arranged a union between Santa Maria in Portu and the newly founded Canons Regular of Fregionaia.
The Canons of Fegionaia were formed in 1402. In 1408 Gregory XII erected a chapter for three independent houses. In 1449 the Canons of Fregionaia welcomed the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Mortara, which had been founded in 1082 along one of the most important pilgrimage routes in Europe between Rome and Santiago de Compestella. Due to political instability and social unrest, the canons and their houses declined. The heart of the congregation had been Fregionaia, where the first reform canons lived. However, that changed when the canons were called to Rome in 1431 by Eugene IV, to take over the Basilica of St. John Lateran. In 1446, with the papal bull Cum ad sacratissimam, Eugene confirmed the position of the canons regular at the basilica and changed their name to the Canons Regular of the Lateran.
This congregation traces its roots to three ancient communities:
The clergy serving the Lateran Basilica in Rome for much of the Middle Ages comprised a community with this title. They later left, to be replaced by secular canons in the 17th century. In general the canons did not do parish work per se. They were not parish priests. Rather they returned to more primitive apostolic work, especially that of popular preaching and catechesis. They also rendered spiritual guidance to lay organizations and houses of nuns, canonesses and other woman's communities as well as supporting hospitals, lazariums, free education for the poor and every kind of work of mercy.
In 1823, following the devastation of many religious communities in the Napoleonic invasions, the survivors of these two congregations joined into this one congregation, at which time it acquired its present title.
In the 12th century the Canons Regular of the Lateran, otherwise known as the Augustinian Canons, established a priory in Bodmin. Bodmin Abbey became the largest religious house in Cornwall. The priory was suppressed on 27 February 1538 and the buildings were destroyed and despoiled; the persecuted Canons dispersed and disappeared from England altogether. After three hundred years, the Canons Regular of the Lateran returned to England, when in 1884 Dom Felix Menchini was constituted as Prior and Novice master of St. Mary's Priory, Bodmin. The Priory at Bodmin gained the status of an Abbey in 1953. The foundation stone of the present church was laid in 1937 but the war caused the building works to be delayed for many years, and it was not until 24 June 1965 that Bishop Restieaux consecrated the church. The Catholic Church in Cornwall was greatly aided by the Canons Regular, who founded the great majority of the present Catholic churches in Cornwall. Members of the community are buried in the Canons Regular cemetery in Bodmin on land adjacent to the church.
In 2010, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley asked the priests of the Canons Regular to live in the presbytery of St Michael's Church, Birmingham and to serve the needs not just of the Polish and the English-speaking Catholics of the city. Archbishop Longley celebrated Mass on Saturday 27 April 2013 to consecrated the new altar with the Abbot General of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, Giuseppe Cipolloni, and the Provincial Superior of the Polish province of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, Marian Szczecina.
Among notable canons was Abbot Giuseppe Ricciotti (1890-1964), who wrote on Scripture and ancient history.
The congregation is based near the ancient Basilica of St. Peter in Chains, where the current Abbot General lives with the General Curia of the Order. Provinces exist in Argentina, Belgium, Italy, England, Poland, Spain and the United States. It is a member of the Confederation of Canons Regular.
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