Franciscan Focus

Just a simple blog of a Secular Franciscan trying to live life with a Franciscan focus.

01 March 2011

Catholicism's best-kept secret: Third orders 

'St. Louis King of France with a Page' by El Greco (1590). King St. Louis IX was a Secular Franciscan and is the co-patron of the Secular Franciscan Order
Image detail from St. Louis King of France with a Page by El Greco (1590). King St. Louis IX was a Secular Franciscan and is the co-patron of the Secular Franciscan Order.
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Are you a Catholic who feels attracted to a religious order, but are married? Do you want to stay in your home and at your job, but still follow a rule of life, like that of St. Benedict, for example? Do you want to share your pilgrim journey with other like-minded people? Have I got a deal for you: Third orders!

What are Third/Secular Orders?

According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, "Third Orders signify in general lay members of religious orders, i.e. men and women who do not necessarily live in community and yet can claim to wear the habit* and participate in the good works of some great order. ... Any Catholic may join a Third Order, but may not at once belong to more than one, nor may he without grave cause leave one for another."
(* I can't speak for others, but we Secular Franciscans do wear habits.)

Here's the Code of Canon Law's definition: "Associations whose members share in the spirit of some religious institute while in secular life, lead an apostolic life, and strive for Christian perfection under the higher direction of the same institute are called third orders or some other appropriate name." (Can. 303)

For more information, see the following general resources:
Who Joins Third/Secular Orders?

Married or single Catholic women and men from all walks of life are able to join secular orders, as are diocesan priests and deacons. Like their religious counterparts, seculars (also called "tertiaries") undergo a period of formation according to the processes established by their orders, after which they become professed members. Profession for seculars means they promise to live according to the rules of their orders; it does not consist of taking vows.

What Does "Secular" or "Third" Order Mean?

Unlike religious (monks, friars, nuns, sisters) who remove themselves from the world and live apart in convents or friaries, those in third orders stay where they're at in the world (homes, jobs, families, etc.); hence, the term "secular". For example, as Bernard of Bessa, Secretary of St. Bonaventure, said, "The intention of [Secular Franciscans] is to live honorably in their residences and to busy themselves with pious actions and to flee from the vanities of the world."

You also see "third" used, a term which arose as an indicator of when the lay branch of the main order was established. For example, the Franciscan Order started with a group of men, whom St. Francis of Assisi organized into the Order of Friars Minor -- the first order. After a time, a second order for nuns -- the Poor Clares -- was established. Finally, a third order was established for the laity -- the Secular Franciscan Order.

Links for Third/Secular Orders
Last updated 16-Jul-2014

If you'd like to learn more, check out the following links. I'm not sure that everything listed meets the criteria of being an actual third/secular order, but it's at least something to look into! Also, while oblates are not technically tertiaries, I've included them here, since they're still a way for laity to associate with religious orders. :-)

Please feel free to share any information, or corrections, you may have in the comments.

NOTE: Some of these sites are NOT in full compliance with the Church's Magisterium, so please exercise caution when surfing. I've included them for contact/informational purposes; it doesn't necessarily mean I endorse 'em!

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8 Comments:

Anonymous M said...

Oblates are not Third Order. They are "attached" to a monastery and share in the spiritual life of that monastery only.

01 March, 2011 23:12  
Blogger Lisa, sfo said...

@M: (Is that you, Marco?) Yeah, I know, I included them here 'cause they're still a way for laity to associate with a religious order. I updated the links section to mention that bit. :-)

01 March, 2011 23:21  
Blogger Lisa, sfo said...

Ah, so it is you, Marco! Only noticed your blog link after I posted my comment.

Oh, and I'm still ticked at ya for ditching Facebook. :-P

01 March, 2011 23:23  
Anonymous Roger said...

Thanks for the list. I am a member of St. Vincent de Paul but I don't believe they are classified as a Third Order. We do have the Pallotines at our Parish that are quite active as well as the Secular Franciscans. Roger

22 May, 2011 16:09  
Blogger J. Ambrose Little said...

So to round things out on the OP front, how about for each US province? :)

http://laydominicanswest.org (West)
http://3op.org (East)
http://www.laydominicancentral.org (Central)
http://www.southerndominicanlaity.org (South)

09 August, 2011 17:11  
Blogger CB said...

Just a thought: Also check with your local Archdiocese too. They should have a list of what third order/oblates are available in your area. At least that's the case in Seattle. Not to muddy things, there is also Transitus.

http://www.thelastmartyrdom.com/

26 August, 2011 16:43  
Blogger Elena Cambio Pizarro said...

Thank you for this! It's very helpful as I move through my discernment. May God bless you and your husband.

26 January, 2013 19:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to vows: Secular Carmelites can and do take private (not public as religious do) vows of chastity and obedience, but not poverty. The vow of chastity means according to one's state of life, i.e. married people vow to abstain from sex except within marriage; single people vow to abstain from sex unless they get married, which they remain free to do. This adds the "virtue of religion" to their promises, but does not make them religious. I believe Carmelites are the only third order which may do this; it is very ancient and is entirely optional. One becomes a full member of the Order by making promises for life. Only some time after that may one discern whether to make vows, and it does not change one's status within the Order. Additionally, some third order members can and do make a private (again not public)vow to remain celibate; I believe anyone can do this whether in a third order or not.

02 March, 2017 11:04  

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