A historic Catholic order inspired by St. Paul, dedicated to charity, education, and the spiritual life.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Catholicism
Founder: St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Bartholomew Ferrari, and James Morigia
Founded: 1530
Location: Italy (originally based in Milan)
Other Names: Clerics Regular of St. Paul, Pauline Fathers

Founded in 1530, the Clerics Regular of Saint Paul, commonly known as the Barnabites, are a religious order in the Catholic Church with a rich history spanning nearly five centuries. The order is marked by a commitment to reforming the clergy, fostering devoutness among laypeople, and establishing community based on the apostolic life.

The Barnabites adopt a distinctive way of life, embracing the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, with the addition of a unique fourth vow: members must never seek nor accept ecclesiastical dignities unless commanded by the Holy See. Their apostolic endeavors are varied, including preaching, catechizing, administering sacraments, education, and charitable works in hospitals and prisons, underpinned by a profound devotion to the study and exposition of St. Paul’s Epistles. Their habit, the black soutane, reflects the attire of Milanese secular priests from the era of their foundation, a time when Carlo Borromeo served as an influential figure, though not a member of the order.

Throughout their history, the Barnabites have embarked on missions across the globe, initially in Europe and later extending their ministry to Asia and the Americas. In addition to their pastoral and educational roles, they have made significant contributions to linguistics, ethnography, and natural sciences, especially noted during their mission in Burma where they published pioneering studies.

The order’s legacy includes several canonized saints, such as their founder Anthony Maria Zaccaria, Alexander Sauli, and Francis Bianchi. Numerous Barnabites have also been recognized for their intellectual contributions, missionary zeal, and pastoral care, becoming cardinals and bishops, reflecting the order’s influence within the wider Church.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the Barnabites faced the challenge of adapting to changes within the Church and society while striving to uphold their charism of renewal and apostolic zeal. They founded new institutes, revisited their constitutions to reflect contemporary needs, and continued to expand their presence globally, even as they faced the universal Church’s challenges of vocations and modernity.

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