The Franciscan family consists of brothers and sisters from all walks of life who are called to follow and imitate our Lord, Jesus Christ in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi to help build a better world.
This spiritual family of the Catholic Church consists of:
- The First Order of Franciscan Friars – who live in community
- The Second Order of Poor Clare Sisters – who live in community
- The Third Order Regular – Religious – who live in community
- The Third Order – The Secular Franciscan Order or to use its international Latin title:
Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis – who live in our every-day world.
The terms First, Second and Third Order are not about a hierarchy or importance but refer only to the chronological conception of each order. The Friars Minor were first brothers to follow Francis, St Clare’s Sisters – the Poor Ladies – were second and the “Brothers and Sisters of Penance” were third. Francis did not refer to the Third Order as secular, third or tertiary but as “Brothers and Sisters of Penance”.
Each Order has its own Rule to follow and they all have their foundation in Francis’ early Rule of 1209 consisting mainly of Gospel readings, including the three verses which Francis and his first two companions, Bernard of Quintavalle and Peter Cantani, turned to at the Church of St Nicholas on 16th April 1209
“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell everything you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” [Mk 10:21]. “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic’” [9:3]. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” [Mt 16:24]. 1
The Secular Franciscan Rule was approved in 1221 by Pope Honorius III, revised in 1289 then again 1883 and the present Rule was introduced by Pope Paul VI on 24th June 1978.
who can be a secular Franciscan?
If you’re a faithful Catholic and over the age of 18 you’re welcome to come and visit us at one of our meetings, either at St Coleman’s Church, Cosham, Portsmouth or Our Lady and St Wilfrid’s Church, Ventnor, Isle of Wight. The OFS is open to men and women in every state of life (the laity) and to secular clergy (deacons, priests and bishops). If you would like to discover more feel free to get in touch using the Contact page.
Secular Franciscans pray, praise and live their Gospel life in ordinary daily living. Daily life is where we meet God. Daily life is where we can be the only sermon others may see and hear this day. We are sermons by example of our lifestyle of simplicity, humility, love and respect for others. And we remember we are all God’s Created Ones, we are all His children – every one of us.
If you’re interested in the Secular Franciscan way of life and you’re not Catholic have a look at the Anglican Third Order Society of St Francis [formed 1934] in the UK known as the TSSF and on our Links Page you’ll find the Order of Lutheran Franciscans [formed in Germany in 1927] and also the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans [a young American ecumenical community].
The World is Our Cloister!
Being secular means that we do not live in a community such as a friary or monastery, instead we in live in the every-day world working, living, loving, crying just as every one does. We live in the word and are of the world and we join together as brothers and sisters at regular Fraternity meetings. We don’t make a profession of evangelical counsels [vows of poverty, chastity and obedience] but we do make a public profession during Holy Mass and are consecrated just like our Brothers and Sisters in the First and Second Orders. Profession gives us God’s Grace to embrace and live out our Baptismal Promises. Our General Constitutions puts it this way:
OFS Article 8:
1. The Secular Franciscans commit themselves by their profession to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their secular condition.
2. They seek to deepen, in the light of faith, the values and choices of the evangelical life according to the Rule of the SFO:
— Rule 7: in a continually renewed journey of conversion and of formation;
— Rule 4.3: open to the challenges that come from society and from the Church’s life situation,
— “going from Gospel to life and from life to Gospel;”
— in the personal and communal dimensions of this journey.
OFS Article 12:
1. Gaining inspiration from the example and the writings of Francis and, above all, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, each day the brothers and sisters faithfully live the great gift which Christ has given: the revelation of the Father. They should bear witness to this faith before all:
— in their family life;
— in their work;
— in their joys and sufferings;
— in their associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the same Father;
— in their presence and participation in the life of society;
— in their fraternal relationships with all creatures.
What does The Church say about Our Order?
Pope Saint John Paul II
On 14th June 1988 to OFS General Chapter Pope Saint John Paul II emphasised the importance of the Secular Franciscan Order, he said “… you are also an “Order”, as the Pope (Pius XII) said: “a lay Order, but a true Order”; also Benedict XV had already spoken of “Ordo veri nominis” (a true Order). This ancient term – a medieval one – “Order” expresses your intimate belonging to the great Franciscan Family. The word “Order” means the participation in the discipline and austerity which is proper of this spirituality, while maintaining the autonomy of your lay and secular condition, which implies often sacrifices that are not less important than the ones associated with religious and priestly life”.
Pope Benedict XV
On 6th January 1921 in his Encyclical on the Third Order of St Francis “Sacra Propediem” Pope Benedict XV said: “He [Francis of Assisi] founded an Order, a true Order, that of Tertiaries, not bound by religious vows like the other two Orders, but likewise shaped by simplicity life of and the spirit of penance. Thus Francis first conceived and successfully implemented, with the divine help, the project which no founder of a regular Order had yet conceived: to make the substance of the religious life something that all could share.”
Pope Pius XII
On 1st July 1956 to the Secular Franciscans of Italy Pope Pius XII said
- “The Third Order was born in the mind of your Seraphic Father the day that a group of souls, moved and urged on by his words, asked to be allowed to accompany him on the path he was travelling, following in the footsteps of Christ, in whose name he was constantly repeating the words: ‘Be perfect’ (Mt. 5.48)…
- The Third Order of St. Francis was born to satisfy this thirst for heroism among those who, though having to remain in the world, did not wish to be of the world. The Third Order, then, seeks souls who long for perfection in their own state.
- The world needs this Franciscan spirit, this Franciscan vision of life. It is expected that you, beloved children, know it deeply, love it with passion, above all that you live it with the perfection that your state allows.”
Canon Law 303 states : 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.
The above law, Encyclicals and words of various Popes emphasis the importance of Secular Orders [Third Orders] to the Church. Their importance is equal to that of Monks and Friars, Nun and Sisters but their state of life is different. We live in the world, living every-day lives.
1 FA:ED Vol 2, The Founder, Page 86