Franciscan Focus

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

13 May 2014

A Brief Overview of the Secular Franciscan Order 

My habit; click to learn more

I frequently get asked, "What's the Secular Franciscan Order all about?" (Runner-up: "What's that thing you're wearing?" ::pointing to my Tau pendant::) So, I thought I'd share with you my high-level overview of who we are and where we come from.

Someday, when I'm feeling extra-adventurous, I'll do a Franciscan Order family tree diagram ... because who doesn't love drawings that look like spaghetti? (Yeah, it's that involved. :-P ) ANYway ...

To answer the question, "What's the Secular Franciscan Order all about?", we've gotta first go back to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).

History

The First Order

In the 1200s was a dude named Francesco Bernardone (St. Francis of Assisi) who was trying to live the Gospel as faithfully as possible. This attracted a lot of positive attention, and several other dudes said, "Hey, Francesco! We really like what you're doin'. Can we join you?" This led to the creation of the Order of Friars Minor (Ordo Fratrum Minorum), the First Order in the overall Franciscan Order.

Spaghetti Twist Alert: The First Order later split into three observances: The Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum), and the Order of Friars Minor Conventual (Ordo Fratrum Minorum Conventualium).

The Second Order

A little while later, a young noblewoman, Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare of Assisi, 1194-1253) saw what was goin' on and wanted to join, too. With Francis' help, she eventually established what's today called the Poor Clares (Ordinem Sanctae Clarae) (then known as the Poor Ladies), the Second Order ... because it came second. :-P

Spaghetti Twist Alert the Seconde: Within the Second Order, there are many different communities and observances. One of the more well-known ones today is the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, the community to which Mother Angelica of EWTN belongs.

The Third Order

A little while after that, in 1221, a married couple, Bl. Luchesio and Buonadonna of Poggibonzi (both died in 1260), also wanted to join the party. (Ain't no party like a Franciscan party!) So, they approached Francis and said, "Yo! We want in! But, we've got worldly responsibilities that we just can't ditch. Plus, as you can see, we're married and we'd really like to stay that way. Can you do anything for us?"

Francis, being a very creative fellow, came up with the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, the Third Order ... 'cause it came third. (See a pattern here?) Today, it's known as the Secular Franciscan Order (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis).

In case you're wondering what's the deal with the term "secular": Unlike religious brothers and sisters, those in secular orders (also known as third, tertiary, or lay orders) don't remove themselves from the world but stay in their own homes, families, and jobs -- that's where the term "secular" comes in. Faithful and practicing married or single Catholic men and women from all walks of life are able to join secular orders (as can diocesan priests and deacons).

For more information on third/secular orders, I compiled some info. explaining them, and some links to other third/secular orders.

Spaghetti Twist Alert the Thirde: Over time, Secular Franciscans began living together in communities, and eventually formed into religious orders. This became the Third Order Regular (Tertius Ordo Regularis).

... See what I mean by spaghetti, peoples?!

Who We Are/What We "Do"

For more general info. on our order -- which is a real order in the Church -- check out this welcome letter from the National Minister of the order in the U.S.

To go deeper, see this fabulous explanation of who we are and what we're all about: "A Specific Vocation for A Particular Mission" by Benedetto Lino, OFS (it's a PDF; sorry).

... And yes, we wear habits. Always have. :-)

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