The Franciscan Third Order




Tertius Ordo Franciscanus



“The whole aim of the Third Order is to attract men to the love of Jesus Christ, of the Church, and to the practice of Christian virtues.”                                                    Encyclical Humanum Genus, Pope Leo XIII 









Excerpts on the Franciscan Third Order


From the Address to Tertiaries- Pope Pius XII, July 1956

  • “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 him to be allowed to accompany him on the path he was traveling, following in the footsteps of Christ, in
    Whose name he was constantly repeating the words “Be ye perfect ” (Matt. 5, 48).  But since it was not possible for
    everyone to follow the Gospel counsels, Francis remembered that all, as long as they wished it, could tend to the
    perfection of their own state of life and reach it without embracing the state of perfection.  By denying themselves, all
    could be docile instruments in the hands of Christ: prompt to answer His every desire, His every suggestion.  And that
    complete and continual clinging to the will of God, that affectionate yet strong dedication to Him and to His wishes,
    that fullness and perfection of life in the light of the Gospel, can belong to all Christians, and in fact has been the treasure of so many in every age.”
  • “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.”
  • “You are an Order: a lay Order, but truly on Order, “an Order in the true sense of the word” as our Predecessor
    Benedict XV of holy memory called it (Encycl. Letter Sacra propediem, 6 Jan. 1921). You will not be – this should be
    obvious – an assembly of the perfect; but you must be a school of Christian perfection.  Without that resolute resolve it
    is impossible to be a suitable member of so chosen and so glorious an army.”

From the Encyclical “Sacra Propediem” by Pope Benedict XV on the Third Order of St. Francis:

  • “The striking and immortal services rendered by Francis to the Christian cause, which have shown in him the defender whom God in such troubled times reserved for the Church, found, as it were, their coronation in the Third Order… Profoundly saddened by the misfortunes which the Church was then passing through, Francis conceived the incredible design of renewing everything conformably to the principles of the Christian law.  After having founded a double religious family, one of Brothers, the other of Sisters, who pledged themselves by solemn vows to imitate the humility of the Cross, Francis, in the impossibility of opening the cloister to all whom the desire of being formed in his school drew to him, resolved to procure, even for souls living in the whirlpool of the world, the means to tend to Christian perfection. He founded, then, an Order properly called Tertiaries, differing from the two other Orders in that it would not bear the bond of the religious vows, but would be characterized by the same simplicity of life and the same spirit of penance.  Thus the project which no founder of a regular Order had yet imagined, to cause the religious life to be practiced by all, Francis first conceived the idea of and the grace of God gave him to realize it with the greatest success.”
  • “This Order, having for its object, as we have said to form its members in Christian perfection, even whilst they may be plunged in the embarrassments of the age, so true is it that no state of life is incompatible with sanctity, it happens, as it were, necessarily, where the Tertiaries in numbers observe faithfully their rule, that they are for all about them a source of encouragement in fulfilling their duties, and even to tending towards a perfection of life superior to the exigencies of the common law. The testimony rendered by the Divine Master to those who attached themselves closely to Him: ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John xvii:16) may justly be applied to the sons of Francis who, if they observe the evangelical counsels of mind and heart as far as possible in the world, may lawfully put to their account the words of the Apostle: ‘As for us, we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which comes from God’ (1 Cor., 11:12).”
  • “They will seek, then – completely strangers themselves to the spirit of the world – to introduce the Spirit of Jesus Christ in the current of social life on every side to which they have access.”
  • “Here comes back to us the memory of the counsel of the Apostle Peter, asking Christians to be, by the holiness of their lives, models for the Gentiles, and this in order that, ‘remarking your good works, they glorify God in the day of His visitation’ (Peter II.: 12).  Like them, the Franciscan Tertiaries ought, by the integrity of their faith, the holiness of their lives, and the ardor of their zeal, spread abroad the good words of Christ, to warn those of their brethren who have gone out from the road, and to press them to reenter upon it.”

From our Constitutions

  • “The Third Order Secular of Saint Francis is an association of the faithful who try to achieve Christian perfection in the world, under the direction of the Franciscan Order and according to its spirit, but in a manner suited to life in the world. This they do according to the Rule drawn up for them by the Seraphic Father Francis, as approved and interpreted by the Apostolic See (cf. Can. 702, §1).”  Article 1
  • “The life of the Franciscan tertiaries is this: to observe the holy gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ while living in the world, and this in such a way as to be an example to others; to seek out the glory of God by sanctifying themselves and their neighbors, to which they are bound by virtue of the profession they made before the Church; to live faithfully in the spirit of penance, by observing the Rule with care in their individual and social life.”  Article 2
  • “Since Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), tertiaries should have the deep conviction that, by reason of their baptism and holy profession, they must become like Christ crucified, and must follow his gospel as their rule of life. For, the observance of that gospel in a perfect way is the reason for the Rule of our holy Father Francis.”  Article 41
  • “Tertiaries shall meditate on and put into practice before all else that well-known two-fold commandment of Christ: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole mind. This is the greatest of the commandments, and the first. And the second, like it, is this, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew, 22: 37-39).”  Article 40
  • “Tertiaries shall love the most Blessed Virgin Mother of Jesus with a tender and filial affection, and honor her as Queen and Patron of the Order with special devotion and reverence.”  Article 69

From “The Seraphic Highway” by Rev. Fulgence Meyer, OFM

  • “The Third Order of St. Francis is a religious order in the true, though in a wide, sense of the word.  Strictly speaking it is not an order in the same degree as is that of the religious men and women who live in community and profess vows; but in a broad sense it contains those elements that we find in a religious order, namely: a rule of life, a superior or director, a religious garb, the daily divine office, the novitiate and the profession.  It is therefore not merely a pious sodality, league or confraternity, but in reality, as Leo XIII has expressly declared, a religious order.  It s members are consequently Religious really and truly.  Their homes, provided they are faithful followers of St. Francis, are in a figurative sense transformed into convents.”