“O, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon them …” St. Francis of Assisi
The Third Order of St. Francis began sometime in the Fall of 1211 and its members were referred to as “The Brothers and Sisters of Penance”.
There are two documents written by St. Francis for this community of penitents. The first one, considered to have been written in 1215, is the Recensio Prior, also known as “The Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance”. In this document, considered the Proto-Rule (“proto” meaning “first” or “primitive”), St. Francis presents five principles considered to be the essence of a life of penance. He expands on these principles in his second document to the penitents, “The Letter to All the Faithful”, considered written in 1221. These five fundamental principles are the basis of the way of life Francis intended for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. They are the core of the spirituality of the Third Order of St. Francis.
The 5 principles in the life of the Tertiary
1- Love of God: “All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength …”
2- Love of neighbor: “… and love their neighbors as themselves …”
3- Hatred to the sinful tendencies of our fallen nature: “… and hate their bodies with their vices and sins …”
4- Love for the Eucharist, the source of life: “… and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ …”
5- Bring forth worthy fruits: “… and produce worthy fruit of penance.”
“… and He will make His home and dwelling among them…”