The Catholic Church has undergone numerous reforms in their history; in particular, Monastic Reform, Mendicant Reform, and has fought against heretical movements. The Monastic Reforms were a series of changes that restored traditions of the church, encouraged art and care for the poor.
The initial reform movement of the papacy began at Cluny Abbey. Here, the church recognized that they had become too entangled in worldly affairs, and that they need to extricate themselves. This reform made sure the church was focused on only ecclesiastical matters.
Benedictines and Cistercians were apart of this monastic reform. In Benedictine Monasticism, Benedictines took vows to God of poverty, chastity, and obedience. As a community under the authority of a bishop, they were separated from the secular world and economically self sufficient. Additionally, they were people of equality and their leader was an abbot or abbess. Inside the walls of their community, they spent a lot of time on contemplation of study and prayer. One notable abbess was Hildegard of Bingen. She was a jutta, a mystic and a visionary.
She wrote theology based on her visions. Additionally she was very involved in arts. Hildegard entered a cloister at age fourteen and eventually was elected a magista. These monks had a special relationship with the nobility. Nobles often granted land to religious orders, such as the Benedictines, in the form of charters. When nobles gave to monasteries, it established a relationship between the church and the family. Noble families would also sometimes establish their family vaults on the property of monasteries. These vaults were where nobles buried their deceased family members.
Not only did it connect the family to the church, it helped nobles establish and record their lineage. In return, the monks at the monastery would pray for the family members of these donors. Some families even paid a stipend for the eternal prayer of the family’s deceased souls. This is also known as chantries and intercessory prayer for the dead. The other monastic group was the Cistercians. They were an order of monks whose goal it was to return much more closely to the practice of the Rule of Benedict had intended it to be lived.
These monks were austere. They were poor, had a strict diet (vegan), and performed labor. Bernard of Clairvaux was a member and primary reformer of the Cistercian order. Next is the Mendicant Movement.
Mendicants lived in poverty and traveled preaching the word of the Lord, especially to the poor. They avoided owning property and embraced their poor lifestyle. This is a main contrast to Monastic monks who all lived on a shared property together. Additionally, Mendicant friars were much more active in the outside world. They were not confined to monasteries. The two main mendicant groups are the Franciscans and the Dominicans. From the Franciscan group, Francis of Assisi formed the Friars minor. This group lived a life of poverty and roamed cities helping the sick, ill and poor.
The group also preached to the poor. A main thing they did was help alleviate the burden of the social need to take care of poor and sick due to migration to the cities by peasants who have no family network to support them. The Dominicans were also preachers, which you can tell by their alternative name the Order of Preachers. This group provided good homilies for the lay people and filled the need for good, orthodox Christian teaching.
A final movement that took place in the Catholic Church during this time was the heretical movements. Heretical movements were those that contradicted orthodox Christian doctrine. Two heretical movements include Peter Waldo’s Waldensian movement, and the Cathars. Peter Waldo was the founder of the Waldensian movement. He himself criticized the clergy and denied sacramental authority of the clergy. At the Fourth Lateran Council the principles of his movement were declared a heresy. Secondly, the Cathars were a group that originated in France that professed a form of Manichean dualism and sought to achieve great spiritual purity.
In an attempt to end these heretical groups, the inquisition was launched. This was a group of institutions within the government system of the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. It started in 12th-century France in particular the fight the Cathars. In conclusion, the Catholic Church has undergone many movements and branched off many sectors. These include monastic reform which created benedictine monks and cistercians, mendicant reform which created our franciscan and dominican friars, and heretical movements that were met with fierce opposition. All three add to the rich history of the Catholic Church and the religious orders so many people are members of today.