Joining the Secular Franciscan Order
Q: When and How did the OFS Begin?
A: The Secular Franciscan Order was approved by The Church in 1221 while Saint Francis of Assisi was alive. Many people were attracted to his style of ministry and how he enlivened faith, there was something unique about Francis and his spirituality that drew people to him and towards God’s Holy Trinity – many of these people were husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and single men and women with jobs they couldn’t leave. These people of the Middle Ages could not ignore their family or work commitments to become monks and nuns and join monasteries or convents, yet inspired by the example of Francis, they wanted to radically live a Christ-like life for God and the betterment of all those around them. So almost 800 years ago Francis founded an order for people who lived in the every-day world, but aspired not to be of the world. This Catholic Order was then called the order of “Brothers and Sisters of Penance”, it has also been referred to as the Franciscan Third Order, the Secular Franciscan Order and today it’s know by it’s international Latin name “Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis”
Q: How do you live Gospel Values as a Secular Franciscan?
A: In Chapter Two – The Way of Life – our Rule 4 includes “Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.” This is what our life is about. We use the Gospel to discern good thoughts and good actions in all areas and situations of our life. We aim to become little Gospel Verses or Sermons for God showing Christ-like qualities to everyone we meet. Reading and meditating on the Gospel helps us know if our attitudes are right, it teaches us to be aware of ourselves in relationship with others and from this we learn to discern and act with love and compassion.
Q: What do Secular Franciscans Do?
A: We live our lives as everyone else does. We live, work, play, praise, pray, sing, hurt, cry, suffer, love and enjoy life with an intentional focus on our Seraphic Father, Saint Francis, who reminds us to keep Christ in our hearts, God in our thoughts and to know His Holy Spirit is within us – always.
Secular Franciscans are often involved in Parish life – they may be Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers and Readers at Mass, they might assist on Parish Councils or be members of Evangelical Strategy Teams and they may also be assistant sacristans, look after flowers or be involved with cleaning the church and whenever possible share the Franciscan Spirituality with others.
Q: Can anyone Join the Secular Franciscan Order?
A: To be a Secular Franciscan and join the Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis you should be a practising Catholic and over 18 years of age. You can be married or single, laity or clergy – even a pope can be a Secular Franciscan [as many have been]
Q: What is expected of Me if I Join the Order?
A: In addition to attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and regular confession Secular Franciscans make a deeper commitment to their Catholic faith by aiming to live a Christ-like life, a Gospel life. We are encouraged to join the Church in her liturgical prayer life by praying Morning and Evening Prayer from the Divine Office. We also have a commitment of a daily examination of conscience and associated penitential acts, attendance at monthly fraternity meetings, and engaging in ongoing spiritual formation.
Secular Franciscans are an Order of the Church:
Q: Do you live like Monks and Nuns in Monasteries or Convents?
A: No we live at home and meet in Fraternity usually in local Church buildings. The OFS is a secular life, it is the authentic way of living founded by Saint Francis and approved by the Holy See in 1221 for people who did not wish to become Religious Brothers and Sisters, Friars or Nuns, living in a convent or friary, priory or abbey.
Q: Am I called to be a Secular Franciscan?
A: After being with us at our local monthly fraternity meetings for about six months you will have a feel for our way of life and spirituality. You will begin to understand what St Francis and St Clare of Assisi have to tell us about following in the footsteps of Christ, praising God and knowing God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us. You will begin to get a feel of Franciscan Spirituality, the care for God’s Creation and to learn to see others with Christ-like eyes.
We are each guided in our discernment process by God’s Holy spirit as we listen to the Gospel and the Psalms, to writing of St Francis and St Clare of Assisi, as we listen and feel in prayer, as we listen to the Franciscan Charism – our Rule – and as we listen in Sisterhood and Brotherhood in Fraternity – this is the lived charism of Franciscan spirituality [Rule 22]. You will also get a feel for whether this suits you and your own way of living – if it does then you can formally ask to be admitted into formation. The first stage is Enquiry and lasts for about 6 months, and the final stage is Candidacy and is usually for two years – during Enquiry and Candidacy there are a variety of learning modules to complete and guide you on your way to Profession.
Q: What’s the Best Way to Find Out about Joining the Secular Franciscans?
A: The best way to learn about us is firstly travel around our website and discover who St Francis was, to know he’s more than the garden bird-bath saint. It might be helpful to read our Rule and other pages about discernment. Then if you’d like to know more please get in touch by email – we would love to invite to meet our fraternity at one of our monthly meetings where you can get to know us better.
Q: Do Members of the OFS Take Vows?
A: We make a public profession during Holy Mass, our commitment and profession joins us to the whole Franciscan family and is for all our life.
It is the Brothers and Sisters, Friars and Nuns, of the First and Second Orders, and the Third Order Regular, who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Franciscan Religious Orders include the Friars Minor Conventual, the Friars Minor Capuchin, the Poor Clares, Franciscan Brothers and Sisters of the Renewal and the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.
Q: What if I realise I’m not called to be a Secular Franciscan?
A: Franciscans are aware of freedom of each of us deserves and you are absolutely free to leave the discernment process at any time. This is why the candidacy stage is all about discernment to help you and us discover how suited you are to the Order.
Q: What if I’m not a Catholic?
A: As you travel through our website you will get a feel for our Catholic faith and the Franciscan Secular Order founded by St Francis of Assisi and approved of by The Church almost 800 years ago. If you’d like help on your spiritual journey you are welcome to our meetings. If you’d like to consider converting to the Catholic faith get in touch with your local Catholic Priest or consider having a chat with Father Jonathan Redvers Harris on the Isle of Wight, or John Maunder in Portsmouth, to find out how the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham can welcome Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
The Catholic Church of England and Wales
Inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 the personal ordinariate is set up for the reunion of former Anglicans with the Catholic Church and preserves elements of a distinctive Anglican patrimony. The ordinariate is under the patronage of John Henry Newman, a former Anglican himself. To find out more contact: Isle of Wight : Father Jonathan Redvers Harris firstname.lastname@example.org Portsmouth Father John Maunder at St Agatha’s Church on mobile 07454 815 968
If the spirituality of St Francis and St Clare inspire you and your tradition of faith is with the Church of England you could get in touch with the Anglican Third Order Society of St Francis – the TSSF. The TSSF is based at Hilfield Friary in Dorset and has fraternities throughout the country. It was founded only a little over 80 years ago when during 1936 the Church of England established its own three Franciscan orders.
Franciscan Coat of Arms – Elizabeth Wolfendale
Our Lady & St Wilfrid’s Church, Ventnor – Sarah Galloway Associates
St Mary’s Church, Ryde – Webrarian on Flickr
Medieval Style Crucifix – French Enamel – Elizabeth Wolfendale
Freshwater Bay – James Whitesmith on Flickr
St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Cowes – Elizabeth Wolfendale
Exterior of Our Lady & St Wilfrid’s Church, Ventnor – Sarah Galloway
Quarr Abbey, Ryde, Isle of Wight – Yáng on Flickr