The multitude of confraternities of different kinds, particularly numerous in the South, bound people together both for religious purposes and for cooperation and sociability, and their ‘picturesque diversity’ was such that it baffles generalization. Trade guilds were religious as well as secular organizations but tending to become more secular. The standard types of confraternity found in most parishes would include a sort of vestry guild taking care of the liturgical requirements of the church, one confraternity dedicated to collecting money for charitable purposes, and another, a devotional one, concerned with preparation for death. The Pénitents of southern France were a special case, ostensibly devoted to the disciplining of life in preparation for death, but in practice organizations of sociability and fellowship. The reforming clergy considered the confraternity type of organization ideal as an instrument for evangelism and moral improvement, as is shown most notably by the secret organization known as the ‘Aa’ and by the Jesuit lay congregations.
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