The Secular Franciscan Order

 

San Damiano Crop 1

The Secular Franciscan Order (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis)

 

The Secular Franciscan Order is a “Third Order” of the Franciscan spiritual family.  The First Order, or Order of Friars Minor (OFM), are ordained priests and brothers of the Franciscan Order.  The Second Order, the Poor Clares, are the Franciscan sisters.

The Third Order, or the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) are Catholic men and women who live in the world in whatever state God has placed them.1  We are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, single men and women, and members of the diocesan clergy (deacons, priests, bishops and sometimes popes).  We all strive to the best of our ability to live the Gospel and to bring the Gospel to life with the joy and faithfulness of our seraphic father, St. Francis of Assisi.2

We proclaim the Gospel to our brothers and sisters in the world by the example of our lives.3   We strive to live with complete faithfulness and trust to God and the Catholic Church, and in submission to God’s vicar on earth, the Pope.4  We realize that obedience to the Church and its shepherds gives us the freedom to perform the work of God wholeheartedly.  Because we do not live in formal community as the Friars Minor and the Poor Clares do, we are free to go to places where they cannot go.  We bring our witness to the Word of God in imitation of St. Francis to all we meet in our lives in the world.5

During St. Francis’ life, as the Franciscan Order grew and spread, it not only drew men and women who wanted to join the Friars Minor and the Poor Clares.  It also attracted many married men and women and single people who wanted to serve the Church while observing the rules and spirit of the Franciscans.

In response to this, St. Francis formed the Third Order, called at the time “The Brothers and Sisters of Penance.”   He wrote a simple, clear Rule for the Secular Franciscans to follow, which allowed them to fulfill their duties and live their lives in the secular world.  St. Francis wanted to be sure that these new followers of his Rule would not sacrifice the needs of their families and work.  His vision was that lay Franciscans could follow the Rule while fulfilling all their responsibilities in the world, and bring the message of God to all they met.

In plain words, the Rule urges us to:

  1. Love God6
  2. Love our neighbors7
  3. Turn away from our sinful tendencies8
  4. Receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ9
  5. Produce worthy fruits of penance – a renewed life characterized by charity, forgiveness and compassion towards others10

We do our best as Secular Franciscans to do the same to this day.  While caring for our families, working at our jobs, and actively participating in our parishes, we live the Gospel and bring the Gospel to our lives in the spirit with the joy of St. Francis.

As Secular Franciscans, we try to live our lives:

  1. In communion with Christ, poor and crucified11
  2. In the love of God12
  3. In obedience to the Church and the Pope13
  4. In brotherhood and sisterhood with all people and all creation14
  5. Participating in the life and mission of the Church15
  6. In continual conversion16
  7. In a life of prayer – liturgical, personal and communal17
  8. As instruments of peace18

 

Blessing of St. Francis (1226)

“May whoever observes all this be filled in heaven with the blessing of the most high Father, and on earth with that of His beloved Son, together with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.”

 T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T  T

 

1    General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 1, Article 2, “2.  The SFO is open to the faithful of every state of life.  The following may belong to it:  – the laity (men and women); – the secular clergy (deacons, priests, bishops).”

2 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 1, Article 3, “2.  Their secularity, with respect to vocation and to apostolic life, expresses itself according to the respective state, that is:  – for the laity, contributing to building up the Kingdom of God by their presence in their life situations and in their temporal activities; – for the secular clergy, by offering to the people of God the service which is properly theirs, in communion with the bishop and the presbytery.  Both are inspired by the Gospel options of Saint Francis of Assisi, committing themselves to continue his mission with the other components of the Franciscan Family.”

3 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, 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.”

4 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 1, Article 4, “1.  The SFO is governed by the universal law of the Church, and by its own;  the Rule, the Constitutions, the Ritual, and the particular statutes.

 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, Article 20, “1.  Rule 14  Secular Franciscans, committed by their vocation to build the Kingdom of God in temporal situations and activities, live their membership both in the Church and in society as an inseparable reality.”

5 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, Article 23, “1.  Rule 19  Peace is the work of justice and the fruit of reconciliation and of fraternal love.  Secular Franciscans are called to be bearers of peace in their families and in society; they should see to the proposal and spreading of peaceful ideas and attitudes; they should develop their own initiatives and should collaborate, individually and as a fraternity, with initiatives of the Pope, the local Churches, and the Franciscan Family; they should collaborate with those movements and institutions which promote peace while respecting its authentic foundations.”

6 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 4, “4.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this:  to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.  Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to Him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.  Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.”

7 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 5, “5.  Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity.  The faith of Saint Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except in His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.”

8 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, Article 13, “1.  Rule 7  Secular Franciscans, called in earlier times “the brothers and sisters of penance,” propose to live in the spirit of continual conversion.  Some means to cultivate this characteristic of the Franciscan vocation, individually and in fraternity, are:  listening to and celebrating the Word of God; review of life; spiritual retreats, the help of a spiritual adviser, and penitential celebrations.  They should approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently and participate in the communal celebration of it, whether in the fraternity, or with the whole people of God.”

9 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, Article 14, “2.  Rule 8  The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church.  Christ unites us to Himself and to one another as a single body in it.  Therefore, the Eucharist should be the center of the life of the fraternity.  The brothers and sisters should participate in the Eucharist as frequently as possible, being mindful of te respect and love shown by Francis, who, in the Eucharist, lived all the mysteries of the life of Christ.”

10 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, Article 13, “2.  In this spirit of conversion, they should live out their love for the renewal of the Church, which should be accompanied by personal and communal renewal.  The fruits of conversion, which is a response to the love of God, are the works of charity in the interactions with the brothers and sisters.”

11 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, Article 10, “Rule 10  ‘Christ, poor and crucified’, victor over death and risen, the greatest manifestation of the love of God for humanity, is the ‘book’ in which the brothers and sisters, in imitation of Francis, learn the purpose and the way of living, loving and suffering.  They discover in Him the value of contradictions for the sake of justice and the meaning of the difficulties and the crosses of daily life.  With Him they can accept the will of the Father even under the most difficult circumstances and live the Franciscan spirit of peace, rejecting every doctrine contrary to human dignity.”

12 General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order; Chapter 2, Article 12, “3.  Rule 8  The brothers and sisters should love meeting God as His children and they should let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.  They should seek to discover the presence of the Father in their own heart, in nature, and in the history of humanity in which His plan of salvation is fulfilled.  The contemplation of this mystery will dispose them to collaborate in this loving plan.”

13 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 6, “They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession.  Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.  Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the Pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.”

14 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 19, “Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.”

15 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 8, “Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.  Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.”

16 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 7, “United by their vocation as brothers and sisters of penance, and motivated by the dynamic power of the Gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deedfs to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the Gospel itself calls conversion.  Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.”

17 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 8, “Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.  Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.”

18 The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II, Rule 19, “Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.”

tau