1. What is the Secular Franciscan Order?
The Secular Franciscan Order is a Religious Order for lay people who are striving for spiritual perfection while living in the world.
The members are a true part of the Franciscan Order and were formerly known as the “Third Order of St. Francis” and much earlier, as the “Order of Penitents.” They are still the Third Order, the Second being the “Poor Clares” and the First, the “Order of Friars Minor.” The community life of the Secular Franciscans is fostered in their local fraternity which meets, at least, once a month.
2. What are some of the requirements for reception?
a. Attend the Regular Monthly Meeting. VERY IMPORTANT
b. attend monthly instruction in the Franciscan Way (novitiate).
c. Provide two letters of recommendation:
(1) from the candidate’s Pastor,
(2) from a lay, adult, Catholic, not a relative.
d. After you are professed you will be required to say the Liturgy of the Hours
e. Attend Daily Mass whenever possible.
f. Attend On-Going formation meetings whenever possible.
3. How does a Secular Franciscan strive for spiritual perfection?
He or she does it the Gospel Way. They strive to follow the way, the truth, and the fife of Jesus. They strive to come to KNOW Jesus intimately. First of all, they strive to bring about an inward radical conversion, and they do this by an on-going stripping away of worldly inclinations and taking on Christ Centered-ness. They strive to rid themselves of their own absorption with their own ideas, their own egotism, their own wanting their own way — then take on an openness to the ways, thoughts, suggestions, etc, of other people. It is important for a Secular Franciscan, at all times, to be an example of Gospel-living in the world where he or she lives.
4. Is the Secular Franciscan Way the best way to salvation?
Not necessarily the best, but a candidate can be absolutely sure that there is no more exalted charism than that of St. Francis of Assisi. The very fact that it is called the Gospel Way is proof of this truth. The Gospel Way is the way of Jesus Christ. You can’t top that. HIS way is the perfect way.
5. Is the S.F.O. a purely devotional society?
No. We are lay people. Our life takes place in the neighborhood, in the community, in the marketplace; among people in all walks of life. Our next door neighbor is our concern. Our parish, government, ecology, all of God’s creation is our concern. We live a dual role:
First, devotional — our prayer life, absolutely essential to being a good Franciscan.
Second, our life in the world. As very aptly put in Article 4 of our Rule, we go from Gospel to life and from life to Gospel; one does not end and the other begin, they intermesh, and are bound together. One cannot exist without the other.
6. What is the devotion, the Franciscan Crown?
It is the Franciscan rosary — 7 decades — honoring the 7 joys of the BVM. Plus 2 extra Hail Marys at the end, making 72 Hail Marys in all to commemorate the 72 years the BVM traditionally is said to have lived.
7. Information for inquirers and candidates
It is important for you to understand:
a. You are in a learning period.
b. You are a student of the Franciscan Way of life.
c. If you are serious about responding to the call by God to this vocation as a Secular Franciscan, you need to realize that it will be necessary for you to adjust some of your priorities, at least to the extent that you will be able to participate in the study program. This program is reasonable, it will not be burdensome.
d. As an inquirer you will be required to read one book from cover to cover on the life of St. Francis of Assisi before you are received.
e. As a candidate you will be assigned more books about St. Francis to read during you year of novitiate. You will be required to have a copy of the text book in current use.
f. It is important that you know also that the Secular Franciscan Order is a true Order, not merely a pious organization. The Holy See has repeatedly stated that the Secular Franciscan Order is a true Order even though its members do not take vows. It is an Order of lay people who live in fraternity, in the world, not under religious vows, but ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF RELIGIOUS VOWS.
To back up that statement we have the following: Pope Benedict X, in 1725, said: ‘The Third Order of St. Francis has always been, and is, holy, meritorious, and in conformity with Christian perfection, as well as a true and genuine Order established under its own rules, approved by the Roman See, with a novitiate, profession, and a habit (the Tau cross), as is customary in other Orders.
In more recent times, these sentiments have been echoed by other Popes, including Pope John Paul II, Plus X, Plus XI and Benedict XV. In 1956, Plus XII said: “You are an Order, a lay Order, but truly an Order, an Order in the true sense of the word.”
8. And so, in order for you to become a professed member of this true religious order, it is necessary that you conscientiously strive to follow the requirements that lead to reception and profession. You will be given every possible help, cooperation and encouragement. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t think you can’t do it. If you have doubts come and talk about them. Don’t give up.
Ask questions. The Fraternity will listen, and answer your questions. Be assured, we want you to join us if it is will of God. Our arms are wide open to receive you as one of us.
Secular Franciscan’s Monthly Pledge
Realizing the importance of saving my immortal soul together with working for the spiritual and temporal welfare of others and the great value of the Third Order Rule to achieve these all important goals in life, I hereby resolve to observe this sanctifying Rule not only in part but as fully as human frailty will allow.
With God’s grace, I will participate in Holy Mass and communion on week-days, whenever possible, recite my Seraphic Office faithfully, never omit grace before meals, and examine my conscience each night.
I will strive to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month, attend the fraternity meetings regularly, and contribute according to my means for the charities of our Franciscan Family.
I will always carefully observe the Commandments of God and the Church, wear my holy emblem of membership, avoid extravagance in dress and manner of living, shun dangerous amusements, be temperate in food and drink, set a good example by witnessing Christ to my family and fellow-men, pursue wholesome reading, be at peace with all, avoid vulgar and improper speech, and practice charity towards all with special solicitude toward sick and deceased members.
May St. Francis, so wonderful in penance and love of Jesus Crucified, grant me the necessary spirit of prayer, penance, love and sacrifice so that I may faithfully observe his rule until death. Amen