(1900), to which may be added to institutions of deaconesses, many of whom live in community under rule.
This charitable activity, however, distinguishes the modern sister from the nuns of primitive and medieval times, who were cloistered and contemplative, and left external works to deaconesses, or to laywomen of a " third order," or to the freer societies like the Beguines.
They speak of the ordination of bishops (the so-called Clementine Liturgy is that which is directed to be used at the consecration of a bishop, cc. 5-15), of presbyters, deacons, deaconesses, subdeacons and lectors, and then pass on to confessors, virgins, widows and exorcists; after which follows a series of canons on various subjects, and liturgical formulae.
There is no precise arrangement; but the subjects, following a general introduction, are the bishop and his duties, penance, the administration of the offerings, the settlement of disputes, the divine service, the order of widows, deacons and deaconesses, the poor, behaviour in persecution, and so forth.
We have " widows having precedence " or presbyteresses, three in number, deaconesses, virgins, and widows who are in receipt of the alms of the Church; and the first-named occupy a place of very great dignity, which is almost unequalled elsewhere (excepting in the earlier form of the apocryphal and Montanistic Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew, where the relation of the IrpeO(3ETC and deaconess corresponds with that of the Testament), and which was formally condemned by the Council of Laodicea in Phrygia.