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The Religious Orders Quiz

By Bill Dodds
How much do you know about religious orders?

Catholic Channel - -

Franciscan, Jesuit, Oratorian, Salesian, Poor Clare—how familiar are you with these titles? Knowing about religious orders isn’t just a task for religious—all of us are members of the one “family” of the Church. Test your knowledge of some popular orders.

For centuries, men and women have been drawn to religious orders, living out their vocations as priests, brothers, and sisters. How much do you know about orders? Begin with No. 1 and then just follow the directions.

1. St. Benedict of Nursia (c.480–c.550) is considered the patriarch of Western monasticism. A book he wrote is still being published today and used by monks and lay people. What is it?

a) Rule. (Go to 12.)

b) Spiritual Exercises. (Head for 40.)

2. Almost all the monasteries that opened between the sixth and the 12th centuries used St. Benedict’s book. Then an Italian—nicknamed “the Frenchman”—came along and began an order that lived and worked outside monastery walls. What was his last name?

a) Di Bernadone. (Move to 15.)

b) De Guzman. (Go to 32.)

3. Three centuries after St. Francis and St. Dominic, a secular Franciscan (a member of the “third order” or “lay member”) named Angela Merici began an order of sisters that dedicated themselves to God under the protection of St. Ursula. What was the single ministry they chose?

a) Nursing. (Go to 33.)

b) Teaching. (Head for 36.)

4. No. St. Philip Neri, who founded the Oratorian order in 1575, isn’t a doctor of the Church. (The 400th anniversary of his death was 1995.) Return to 22.

5. No. Return to 21.

6. Prior to gathering followers at Monte Cassino, St. Benedict was asked by a group of monks to become their abbot. They agreed to follow his strict rule, but later decided that lifestyle was too harsh. Their solution was what?

a) Complain to the pope. (Head for 20.)

b) Poison him. (Move to 35.)

7. No. St. Clare (1194-1253), a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi (but not his sister), began the “Poor Ladies,” later known as the Poor Clares. Return to 18.

8. In addition to Maryknoll (officially the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America), another 20th-century order is the Missionaries of Charity. Who was its foundress?

a) Mother Cabrini. (Go to 38.)

b) Mother Teresa. (Head for 41.)

9. St. Scholastica is considered the first Benedictine nun. She was St. Benedict’s sister and may have been his twin. Now head for 6.

10. St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), a doctor of the Church and patron of Catholic writers, and St. Jane Frances de Chantel (1572-1641) began an order of nuns most commonly known by what name?

a) Salesian. (Go to 14.)

b) Visitation. (Head for 26.)

11. No, that’s the abbreviation for the old Latin phrase “the senate and people of Rome” (senatus populusque Romanus). Return to 30.

12. Yes. The Rule of St. Benedict was derived from the writings of earlier Fathers of the Church, including St. Basil (c.329-379) and St. Augustine (c.354-430). It played a key role in shaping monastic life in the West. Lay men and women have also found it helpful in leading a more devout life. Now head for 18.

13. Sorry. Return to 16.

14. No. Sometimes, but not most commonly. Return to 10.

15. Yes. The Italian lived in a town called Assisi. Giovanni di Bernadone (c.1181-1226) was called “Francis” because at one time, prior to living a life of poverty, he preferred French fashions. He began the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans. Now move to 30.

16. In this quiz, we’ve been able to include only a dozen or so of the hundreds of orders serving the Church throughout the world. But of the orders of men we’ve mentioned, which has the most members?

a) The Benedictines. (Go to 13.)

b) The Jesuits. (Move to 24.)

17. No. Fathers Thomas F. Price and James A. Walsh began Maryknoll in 1911. Return to 25.

18. Strictly speaking, St. Benedict didn’t “found” the Benedictines but the monastery of Monte Cassino in Italy that was the first—of many—to follow his rule. His sister is credited with beginning the Benedictine nuns. What was her name?

a) Clare. (Move to 7.)

b) Scholastica. (Head for 9.)

19. During that same century, at the time of the Protestant Reformation, St. Ignatius Loyola began the Society of Jesus. When he died in 1556, how many Jesuits were there?

a) Only 14. (Move to 29.)

b) One thousand. (Go to 39.)

20. No, apparently they had a more severe answer. Return to 6.

21. According to recent statistics, there are some 48,000 thousand priests in the United States. How many belong to a religious order?

a) Half of them. (Go to 5.)

b) One-third. (Move to 28.)

22. Last year the Redemptorists celebrated the 300th anniversary of the birth of their founder. Who was this doctor of the Church?

a) St. Philip Neri. (Go to 4.)

b) St. Alphonsus Liguori. (Move to 27.)

23. Correct. The Order of Preachers (Ordo Praedicatorum). Now head for 3.

24. Yes. The 10 largest (and their membership total) are: Jesuits (23,300 members); Franciscans-Friar Minor (18,200); Salesians (17,600); Franciscans-Capuchin (11,700); Benedictines (8,800); Brothers of Christian Schools (7,700); Dominicans (6,500); Redemptorists (6,000); Society of the Divine Word (5,700); and Marist Brothers (5,600). Now head for 43.

25. Church historians tell us that, by the early 19th century, there were less than 300 Catholic missionaries in the entire world. Then a number of new orders were founded, including the Marists, the White Fathers, and what other group?

a) Maryknoll. (Go to 17.)

b) Oblates of Mary Immaculate. (Head for 34.)

26. Yes. The purpose of this contemplative order was to offer the religious life to women who—for any number of reasons, including physical or mental weakness—couldn’t endure the harsh lifestyle demanded by other orders at that time. (A part of their early ministry was visiting the sick, which is how they came to have the name.) Now go to 37.

27. Yes. St. Alphonsus wanted his order to be missionaries, preaching and evangelizing among the poor. Now go to 25.

28. About 32,000 are diocesan priests and 16,000 belong to a particular order. Now go to your last question, 16.

29. No. Return to 19.

30. Members of the group founded by St. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) use what abbreviation after their names?

a) S.P.Q.R. (Go to 11.)

b) O.P. (Head for 23.)

31. No. (That seemed too easy, didn’t it?) Return to 37.

32. No. “De Guzman” doesn’t sound like an Italian or French name, does it? The Spaniard Dominic de Guzman also began an order during this same era. It’s commonly referred to as the Dominicans. Return 2.

33. Sorry. Return to 3.

34. Correct. The Oblates began in 1816, the Marists in 1817, and the White Fathers in 1868. Now move on to 8.

35. Yes! Fortunately, they failed and St. Benedict returned to Subiaco before moving on to Monte Cassino. Now head for 2.

36. The Ursulines—the order St. Angela that began in 153—was the first devoted exclusively to teaching, especially teaching poor children. (Ten years earlier, Pope Clement VII had asked her to head a congregation of nursing sisters, but she declined.) Now move on 19.

37. All right, then, who founded the Salesian order of men?

a) St. Francis de Sales. (Move to 31.)

b) St. John Bosco. (Head for 42.)

38. No. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) began the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1880. Return to 8.

39. That’s right. And, only five years later, there were some 13,000! Now move on 10.

40. No. St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—wrote that. Return to 1.

41. Yes. Mother Teresa began the order in 1950. Now head for 21.

42. St. John Bosco founded the religious congregation in 1859, and named it for St. Francis de Sales. The Salesians teach boys and young men, especially the poor. Now head for 22.

43. Let’s end with a quote from a bishop who helped found one order, and has another named after him. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Religious orders are not formed for the purpose of gathering together perfect people, but those who have the courage to aim at perfection.”

Copyright © 2000 Bill Dodds

Bill Dodds is a national columnist, a full-time freelance writer and the author of 20 books. His latest books are Your One-Stop Guide to How Saints Are Made (Servant Publications) and What You Don't Know About Retirement: A Funny Retirement Quiz (Meadowbrook Press). For more information about his writing, visit his Web site at

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