“What are ‘Canons Regular’?” is probably one of the questions that people most frequently have in their minds when they hear of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. And this shouldn’t be surprising, for few Catholics these days are acquainted with the many facets and rich variations of the religious life.
The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius:
were founded in 1998 by Fr. C. Frank Phillips, C.R., with the approval of Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., and the approval of the Congregation of the Resurrection.
have members from across the United States and Canada.
practice a sacramental and liturgical apostolate within the context of parish ministry.
offer the liturgy of the Roman Rite in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms.
preserve and foster the devotional, musical, catechetical, and artistic traditions of the Catholic Church.
live in community under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, following the rule of St. Augustine.
There have always been many different types of religious life in the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit to serve various needs throughout its 2000-year history. Benedictines, for instance, are monks who live in monasteries. Friars, on the other hand, are religious who went out among the people to preach, such as the Dominicans and Franciscans. Canons Regular are just another type of religious with their own very distinct characteristics.
One of the guiding principles for canons regular is the common life, which finds its inspiration in the common life of the early Church described in the Acts of the Apostles: “Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God. For is it not precisely for this reason that you have come to live together?” Canons, originally groups of clerics gathered around a local bishop, were an ancient phenomenon and theirs is the oldest form of clerical religious life in the West. St. Augustine was the first to do this, and in order to help his clergy, who lived the common life together with him, he wrote a Rule of Life for them to follow.
Another element that is essential to this type of religious life is the clerical state of life. Although some communities of canons regular include religious brothers, the majority of its members are normally destined for the priesthood in fulfillment of the Church’s duty to give praise to God through liturgy, which is central to the concept of a priestly vocation in the Church. And although religious brothers cannot serve at the altar as priests do, the liturgy is also central to their vocation, which they fulfill by means of other non-sacerdotal roles in the sanctuary. Therefore, because the spiritual life of canons regular centers on the service of the sanctuary in the solemn celebration of the Mass and the Divine Office, the solemnity and liturgical splendor of their service in the sanctuary was especially important for them.
In keeping with the tradition of canons regular, which have their roots in the earliest centuries of the Church, the spirituality of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius is therefore essentially liturgical by means of the solemn celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office in the full richness of the Church’s liturgical heritage. For us, these two official liturgies of the Church are the perfect fulfillment of the church’s unceasing obligation of praise due to our God who is the source of all life. They are the center of our spirituality and religious life by being for us the primary means by which we are daily drawn closer to God. An essential aspect of this liturgical apostolate of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius is the celebration of the Church’s liturgies in conformity and faithfulness to Her directives, as well as in their full richness as found in the Church’s liturgical tradition.
In a broader sense, the mission of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius is to help Catholics rediscover a profound sense of the sacred through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art and sacred music, as well as instruction in Church heritage, catechesis and Catholic culture in the context of parish ministry. Because the Eucharistic Sacrifice “is the summit and the source of all Christian worship and life,” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 897) members of the Canons Regular order their own lives, as well as their pastoral work, above all to the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and the sacraments—the primary sources of life and grace within the Church. The sacrament of Penance plays an especially prominent role in the pastoral ministry of the Canons as a rich source of grace, particularly for those approaching the Eucharist (from the Constitutions of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius).
The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius feel that the call to holiness is addressed to all people in all ages. It is a radical call to not only follow Christ in His teachings but also to follow His example—to “be holy as [He] is holy.” They answer this call and seek personal sanctity by imitating Christ in radical opposition to the values of this world. They wish to Restore the Sacred in the Church, in the world and in their own lives in pursuit not only of their own sanctification, but also the salvation and sanctification of all. They desire to be faithful to the call they have received from God to “Restore the Sacred” and seek to nurture a continuing renewal of the Christian life as fed by the mysteries of the liturgical patrimony of the Church (from the Constitutions of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius).