Obispo Protector

Orden Franciscana de la Divina Compasión

Diócesis Latina de la Santa Cruz

The Third Order of Saint Francis

 Fraternities in the United States

The Third Order consists of men and women, single or in committed relationships, who, though following ordinary professions, are called to a dedicated life of service to our Lord through prayer, study, and work. Like the First Order, Tertiaries make a lifetime commitment to live a Rule of Life in company with the sisters and brothers in their Order. Tertiaries follow Francis in prayer and action by striving to be peacemakers, working for social justice, and deepening our relationship with God. We share Francis’ concerns for the well-being of the earth, the poor, and the marginalized.


The Third Order Formation Process

The formation process has been designed to support a person to explore their vocation within the Third Order. It takes place over a period of two – three years and consists of three phases: Enquirer, Noviciate and Profession.

If you want to know more, or if you feel sure God is calling you to explore a vocation in the Third Order, you should contact your Regional Minister.

Your Regional Minister will write to you explaining the next steps. She or he will ask you to write down some of your spiritual journey to help you both to discern how God has led you to this point. The Regional Minister will also help you write a Rule of Life and help you find a Spiritual Advisor.

When the Regional Minister feels the time is right, you will be invited to a meeting of your local Area.

If you still wish to proceed, and if the Regional Minister discerns that you should be testing your vocation within the Third Order at this time, she or he will allocate you your personal guide for the novitiate. This person is called your Novice Counsellor and will be someone who has been a Tertiary for some time. The Regional Minister will admit you as a Novice in a simple ceremony.

During the next two, or three, years, your Novice Counsellor will guide you through a process not only of learning about the Franciscan way of being a Christian, but more importantly allowing both what you are learning and the community itself to shape your life in Franciscan patterns.

For most people, this process of formation is exciting, sometimes challenging, sometimes needing courage to step into the unknown. Your Novice Counsellor and Spiritual Adviser will explore with you the dimensions of this journey of formation.

Most novices are ready to be admitted to full membership (Profession) of the Third Order after two years. Some need three years, which is the normal maximum time of the noviciate.

Professed members of the Third Order give themselves to our Lord Jesus Christ, to serve Him for the rest of their lives in the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis. This pledge or profession is renewed annually, and continues throughout life to shape our lives as Christians in the Franciscan way.

Our profession is a solemn commitment. For those who should make it, it provides deep joy and solidarity as they live out their Christian commitment in God’s Church and world.

The Holy Eucharist:

Since we see the Eucharist as the heart of our prayer, our personal rule would call us to frequent participation in this Sacrament.


Regular examination of our obedience to Christ is necessary. To be reconcilers we must first be deeply reconciled to God. We practice daily self-examination and regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Personal Prayer:

We set aside a definite time for prayer each day to spend time with God, to pray for others, to meditate and to express our thankfulness. Prayer is the root from which our lives and ministries grow and are nourished.


This is the discipline of saying “No” to oneself by putting God first. We are often aware of the places in our lives where additional self- discipline is needed, but our Spiritual Directors should be asked to help in this area. We also focus on eliminating the ways we may manipulate others to our own ends.


Silent retreats and quiet days provide an opportunity to rest and grow physically, mentally and spiritually. At least once a year, we participate in organized or private retreats.


We all need to learn more about God and His will for us. Study of the Scriptures and of Franciscan spirituality is important to our Christian growth.

Simplicity of Living.

Simplicity calls us to examine our giving of self as well as the material things over which we have control. Our cluttered lives, our preoccupations with “belonging”, can interfere in our relationships with God and our brothers and sisters. We are called to a life of simplicity, eliminating those aspects of ourselves and our lives which prevent our full expression of God’s love.


Service has always been an important part of the Franciscan vocation. Daily work is one way in which Tertiaries serve God and others; we are often also called to serve God and our brothers and sisters in individual ministries, ranging from prayer to social activism.


All Tertiaries are obedient to the decisions of Third Order Chapter. We say the Daily Offices, we support each other by prayer, attendance at Fellowship meetings and a pledge of financial support to the Third Order. We report regularly to the Order on the keeping of our Rule. We have Spiritual Directors whom we see a minimum of twice a year.


The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order





Exhortation of St. Francis to the Brothers

and Sisters of Penance (circa 1210-1215)


* Concerning Those Who Do Penance


All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and

mind, with all their strength, and love their neighbors as themselves and

hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and

Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.


Oh, 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" and he will make "his home and dwelling among them", and

they are the sons of the heavenly Father, whose works they do, and they

are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.


We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with

our Lord Jesus Christ, we are brothers to him when we fulfill "the will

of the Father who is in heaven".


We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body through divine

love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a

holy life which must give light to others by example.


Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh how

glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy



Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved,

beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our

Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep and prayed to the

Father saying:


"Oh holy Father, protect them with your name whom you gave me out of the

world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they

received it. They have known that in truth I came from you, they have

believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the

world. Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their

sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will

belive in me through their word that they may be holy by being one as we

are. And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see

this glory of mine in your kingdom."


* Concerning Those Who Do Not Do Penance


But all those men and women who are not doing penance and do not receive

the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and live in vices and sin and

yield to evil concupiscence and to the wicked desires of the flesh, and

do not observe what they have promised to the Lord, and are slaves to the

world, in their bodies, by carnal desires and the anxieties and cares of

this life.


These are blind, because they do not see the true light, our Lord Jesus

Christ; they do not have spiritual wisdom because they do not have the

Son of God who is the true wisdom of the Father. Concerning them, it is

said, "Their skill was swallowed up" and "cursed are those who turn away

from your commands". They see and acknowledge, they know and do bad

things and knowingly destroy their own souls.


See, you who are blind, deceived by your enemies, the world, the flesh

and the devil, for it is pleasant to the body to commit sin and it is

bitter to make it serve God because all vices and sins come out and

"proceed from the heart of man" as the Lord says in the Gospel. And you

have nothing in this world and in the next, and you thought you would

possess the vanities of this world for a long time.


But you have been deceived, for the day and the hour will come to which

you give no thought and which you do not know and of which you are

ignorant. The body grows infirm, death approaches, and so it dies a

bitter death, and no matter where or when or how man dies, in the guilt

of sin, without penance or satisfaction, though he can make satisfaction

but does not do it.


The devil snatches the soul from his body with such anguish and

tribulation that no one can know it except he who endures it, and all the

talents and power and "knowledge and wisdom" which they thought they had

will be taken away from them, and they leave their goods to relatives and

friends who take and divide them and say afterwards, "Cursed be his soul

because he could have given us more, he could have acquired more than he

did." The worms eat up the body and so they have lost body and soul

during this short earthly life and will go into the inferno where they

will suffer torture without end.


All those into whose hands this letter shall have come we ask in the

charity that is God to accept kindly and with divine love the fragrant

words of our Lord Jesus Christ quoted above. And let those who do not

know how to read have them read to them.


And may they keep them in their mind and carry them out, in a holy manner

to the end, because they are "spirit and life".


And those who will not do this will have to render "an account on the day

of judgement" before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ.



The Secular Franciscan Order


* Chapter 1


The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by

the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of

God--laity, religious, and priests-- who recognize that they are called

to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. In various

ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to

make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and

mission of the Church.


* Chapter 2


The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle.

It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout

the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities

the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity

in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to

live the gospel in the manner of St. Francis by means of this rule

approved by the Church.


* Chapter 3


The present rule, succeeding "Memoriale Propositi" (1221) and the rules

approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the

Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church

in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the

Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions

and particular statutes.



The Way of Life


* Chapter 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



Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful

reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.


* Chapter 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 his most holy body and blood," should be the

inspiration and pattern of their eucharistic life.


* Chapter 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.


* Chapter 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 deeds 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.


On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged

sign of the Father's mercy and the source of grace.


* Chapter 8


As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and

contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.


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.


* Chapter 9


The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to his every word

and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and

declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular

Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her

complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.


* Chapter 10


United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed his

will into the Father's hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties

proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the

poor and crucified Christ, witness to him even in difficulties and



* Chapter 11


Trusting in the Father, Christ chose for himself and his mother a poor

and humble life, even though he valued created things attentively and

lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment

from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be

mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods

received for the benefit of God's children.


Thus, in the spirit of "the Beatitudes," and as pilgrims and strangers on

their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their

hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.


* Chapter 12


Witnessing to the good yet to come and obliged to acquire purity of heart

because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves

free to love God and their brothers and sisters.


* Chapter 13


As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn

of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle

and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image

of Christ.


A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves

on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom

they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed

by Christ.


* Chapter 14


Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to

build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God

may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone "who follows

Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself," let them

exercise their responsibilities competently in Christian spirit of



* Chapter 15


Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting

justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous

initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make

definite choices in harmony with their faith.


* Chapter 16


Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation,

redemption, and service of the human community.


* Chapter 17


In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace,

fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world

already renewed in Christ.


By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should

bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for his Church. They

should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual

journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being

attentive to the vocation of each child.


* Chapter 18


Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which

"bear the imprint of the Most High," and they should strive to move from

the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of

universal kinship.


* Chapter 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.


Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true

meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate

encounter with the Father.



Life In Fraternity


* Chapter 20


The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various

levels--local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its

own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are

coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the



* Chapter 21


On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council

and minister (or president) who are elected by the professed according to

the constitutions.


Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready

and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to

the community.


Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways

according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various

needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their

respective council.


* Chapter 22


The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the

basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the

community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a

sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the

apostolic life of its members.


* Chapter 23


Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented

to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new

brothers and sisters.


Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of

initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of

the rule. The entire community is engaged in this process of growth by

its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive

Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.


Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.


Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss

their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue.


Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act

of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.


* Chapter 24


To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular

and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other

Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt

appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and

encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. This communion continues with

deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.


* Chapter 25


Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs

of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and

sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local

fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher

fraternity councils.


* Chapter 26


As a concrete sign of communion and coresponsibility, the councils on

various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable

and well-prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make

this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families,

to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.


To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and

to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or

president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a

regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as

for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to

the norm of the constitutions.



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.