Kevin Di Camillo writes regularly for The National Catholic Register and is a Lecturer in English Literature at Niagara University. His latest book is Now Chiefly Poetical, and with Rev. Lawrence Boadt he edited John Paul II in the Holy Land: In His Own Words. His work has been anthologized in Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian-Americana, and he was awarded the Foley Poetry Prize from America Magazine. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he regularly attends Yale University’s School of Management Publishing Course.
Just because Lent is a somber time of fasting, abstaining from meat, and reflecting on the Four Last Things doesn’t mean it can’t also be a time to learn a bit more about our faith—and have some fun while doing so.
To that end, I’ve come up with this completely subjective and unscientific pop quiz: “How Well Do You Know Your Post-Nominals?” This, of course, raises the obvious question: “What’s a post-nominal?”
“Post-nominals” are simply the letters that follow a person’s name to indicate who they are (such as M.D. for medical doctors) or what they do (Esq. for attorneys) or the terminal degree in the field they’ve achieved (Ph.D. for a doctorate).
However, due to the almost endless number of religious orders, congregations, societies and groups in the Catholic Church, we have a plethora of post-nominals, many of which we see all the time.
So far, so good. But now let’s turn it up a notch and see if you can figure out the following—and it goes without saying: no use of Google, Yahoo or the Kenedy Directory. And a final note: most of the following are mainly men’s orders, though some are both for men and women religious. All are currently active (even if with dwindling numbers) and none are totally defunct. Also, I’ve stayed away from newer congregations (those founded in the 20th century).
- O.S.B. Silv.
- O. Cart.
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How’d you do? Let’s see!
- O. Praem.: The Norbertines, or Premonstratensians, are a group of Canons Regular of Premontre founded by St. Norbert in the 12th century. I’ve written more about them here.
- Ss.Cc.: The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, aka “The Picpus Fathers” (though they also contain Religious Sisters and Brothers), were founded in France in 1800 by Fr. Pierre Coudrin. Their most famous saint is perhaps Saint Damien de Veuster, who ministered to the people of Hawai’i.
- C.R.S.P.: The Barnabites, or “Clerks Regular of Saint Paul” were the invention of St. Anthony Maria Zaccaria, a former doctor from Cremona, Italy, in the 16th century. Their motto was “The Light of Christ, The Lightning of St. Paul” and they aimed at reforming the clergy. Also has an order of religious sisters and third-order laity.
- F.S.C.: The Christian Brothers, a group founded by St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle in France that aimed at reforming the education of young people, especially young men. Unique in that its founder was a priest, but all of its subsequent members take a vow NOT to take Holy Orders.
- C.S.Sp.: “The Congregation of the Holy Ghost Under the Protection of The Immaculate Heart of Mary” are now better known as the Spiritans. Founded in 18th-century France as a missionary order interested in freeing slaves and promoting education, they are still active in the United States and Africa.
- M. Afr.: The “White Fathers” are missionary priests who, to no one’s surprise, wear a white cassock and minister mainly in Africa. They were founded by Rev. Charles Lavigerie in 1868.
- O.M.D.: “The Discalced Mercedarians” are now down to some 50 members—though they were originally founded in the 12th century to free Christians who had been taken as slaves by Muslims.
- O.Ss.S.: A contemplative order founded by the mystic St. Bridget of Sweden in 1370, the Bridgettines are famous for the unique headgear their religious sisters wear, and also for the outstanding fudge the monks make in the Pacific Northwest.
- M.S.C.: if you went to Notre Dame, Stonehill College or King’s College, you might recognize this one: It’s the Brothers of Holy Cross (as opposed to the priests of the Holy Cross “C.S.C.”). Also the post-nominals for “The Missionaries of The Sacred Heart of Jesus,” and 19th-century missionary Order.
- O.S.B. Silv.: in good news, you're already half-right: that first part (“O.S.B.”) stands for the Order of Saint Benedict, or the Benedictines, one of the oldest orders in the West founded by St. Benedict himself in fifth-century Italy at Monte Cassino. If the “Silv.” throws you, it stands for “St. Sylvester” the Abbot, who re-founded his own version of Benedict’s vision (we see this again with the Camaldolese of St. Romuald, the Cistercians of St. Bernard, and the Trappists). Put them together and you have “the Sylvestrines,” an autonomous branch of the Benedictines, who are noted for their dark blue (not black) habits and devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.
- O.Cart.: almost a “gimme”: The Carthusians, the strictest of all the monastic orders, founded by St. Bruno in France in the 11th century. Famous for their solitude, liqueurs, their motherhouse “La Grande Chartreuse,” and the 2008 Franco-German documentary on them “Into Great Silence.” Read more about them here.
- C.R.: The Theatines, founded by St. Cajetan in Italy in the 16th century (though some other Congregations use “C.R.,” too). Formal title is “Congregation of the Clerics Regular of the Divine Providence” and their most famous members include St. Joseph Maria Tomasi, and Pope Paul IV (along with their sainted founder).
- P.A.: almost a trick-question: “Prothonotary Apostolic” or more simply a “Monsignor” or honorary member of the papal household. Until the Second Vatican Council there were different levels amongst the members.