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The constitution "Conditae" of Leo XIII (8 December, 1900) charges bishops not to permit sisters to open houses as hotels for the entertainment of strangers of both sexes, and to be extremely careful in authorizing congregations which live on alms, or nurse sick persons at their homes, or maintain infirmaries for the reception of inform persons of both sexes, or sick priests.
The Holy See, by its Regulations (Normae) of 28 June, 1901, declares that it does not approve of congregations whose object is to render certain services in seminaries or colleges for male pupils, or to teach children or young people of both sexes; and it disapproves their undertaking the direct care of young infants, or lying-in women.
Tertullian distinguishes between those virgins who took the veil publicly in the assembly of the faithful, and others known to God alone; the veil seems to have been simply that of married women. Augustine addressed to the nuns a letter of direction from which subsequently his rule was taken.
In early times the nuns gave Christian education to orphans, young girls brought by their parents, and especially girls intending to embrace a religious life.
(1) As regards their they may be purely contemplative, seeking personal perfection by close union with God; such are most of the strictly enclosed congregations, as Premonstratensian Canonesses, Carmelites, Poor Clares, Collettines, Redemptoristines; or they may combine this with the practice of works of charity, foreign missions, like the White Sisters of Cardinal Lavigerie, and certain Franciscan Tertiaries; the eduction of young girls, like the Ursulines and Visitandines; the care of the sick, orphans, lunatics, and aged persons, like many of the congregations called Hospitallers, Sisters of Charity, Daughters of St. When the works of mercy are corporal, and above all carried on outside the convent, the congregations are called active.
Teaching communities are classed rather among those leading a mixed life, devoting themselves to works which in themselves require union with God and contemplation.
The profession itself might be expressed or implied.
One who put on the religious habit, and lived for some time among the professed, was herself considered as professed.
For nearly three centuries the Holy See refused all approbation to convents bound by simple vows, and Urban VIII by his constitution "Pastoralis" of 31 May, 1631 abolished an English teaching congregation, founded by Mary Ward in 1609, which had simple vows and a superior general. So great were the services rendered by these new communities to the poor, the sick, the young, and even the missions, that the Holy See expressly confirmed several constitutions, but for a long time refused to confirm the congregations themselves, and the formula of commendation or ratification contained this restriction (without approbation of the congregation).
This strictness led to the foundation of pious associations called secular because they had no perpetual vows, and leading a common life intended for their own personal sanctification and the practice of charity, e.g. As political difficulties rendered less easy the observance of solemn vows, especially for women, the Holy See from the end of the eighteenth century declined to approve any new congregations with solemn vows, and even suppressed in certain countries, Belgium and France, all solemn professions in the old orders of women.
The constitution of Benedict XIV, "Quamvis justo" of 30 April, 1749, on the subject of the Congregation of English Virgins was the prelude to the legislation of Leo XIII, who by his constitution "Conditae" of 8 December, 1900, laid down the laws common to congregations with simple vows, dividing these into two great classes, congregations under diocesan authority, subject to the bishops, and those under pontifical law.
These services should be given only in exceptional circumstances.
(2) As regards their , congregations are either connected with a first order or congregation of men, as in the case of most of the older congregations, Carmelites, Poor Clares, Dominicans, Reformed Cistercians of La Trappe, Redemptoristines etc., or are founded independently, like the Ursulines, Visitandines, and recent institution. 19, 52, the Holy See no longer approves of double foundations, which establish a certain subordination of the sisters to similar congregations of men.