The month of May is full of great opportunities for both women and men to discern how God is calling them in their lives. There will be a Women's Religious Vocation Discernment Day, two Quo Vadis meetings for young men in high school (Sunday, May 16th at 5:30 p.m. at the Dowling Priests Residence in West Des Moines and Sunday, May 23rd at Queen of Apostles Rectory in Council Bluffs at 5:30 p.m.). If you are a young woman in high school or college interested in learning more about religious life don't forget to sign up for the Nun Run by the end of May--and that's not all.
On this Sunday, May 16th, there is a great opportunity for all lay men and women who feel God is calling them to a little something more in their life. If you have ever felt God was calling you to something more, but family or other obligations kept you from pursuing this idea, then I invite you to attend a "Come and See" event that the Secular Fransican Order will be hosting at 12:00 p.m. at the Basilica of St. John. The event will take place in the old school building next to the Basilica, and is open to any lay men or women who want to learn more about Third Orders and how to be part of a religious order as a lay person.
If you know nothing about Third Orders in our Catholic Church I invite you to check out the article below written by Melody Taninies and join her and others at the Basilica of St. John this Sunday. As always, if you have any questions about this and any other vocational discernment, please feel free to contact the Office of Vocations.
Peace and Blessings,
Fr. David Muenchrath
The term Third Order
designates persons who live according to the Third Rule of a Roman Catholic religious order
. Their members, known as Tertiaries (Latin tertiarii
, from tertius
, third), are generally lay members of religious orders, i.e. men and women who do not necessarily live in a religious community and yet can claim to wear the habit
and participate in the good works of some great order.
A "Secular Order" (also called a "Third Order Secular") is defined according to Canon Law (1983) of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church
in the following way:
Associations whose members share in the spirit of some religious institute while in secular life, lead an apostolic life, and strive for Christian perfection under the higher direction of the same institute are called third orders or some other appropriate name.". (Can. 303) Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church.
The general idea of lay people affiliated to religious orders, as seen in the Benedictine Oblates
or confraters is too natural for there to be any need to seek its origin. Founders and benefactors of monasteries were received in life into spiritual fellowship, and were clothed in death in some religious habit. A Benedictine Oblate is a lay or clerical, single or married, person formally associated to a particular monastery
. Since the sixth century Oblate have sought to live a life in harmony with the spirit of Saint Benedict
as revealed in the Rule of Saint Benedict
and its contemporary expression.
Also among Religious Orders born of the 12th-13th centuries it is often said that there was the first order
or the Male Religious who were first in establishment, then the second order
or the "Nuns or Sisters" who were often established second, and then the third order
of laity who were established third. Saint Francis of Assisi
, for example, is said to have established the Friars Minor
, the Poor Clares
, and the Secular Franciscans
In some cases the members of a third order, wished their order to become regular, meaning that they wanted to live in a more monastic and regulated way of life. Thus one finds the term Third Order Regular.
2. Third Order of St. Francis --
The Third Order of St. Francis in the Roman Catholic Church
is part of the Franciscan
family of religious orders. It is the best known and most widely distributed of the third orders, and has both regular and secular branches. The Franciscan Third Order has always been the principal one, and it received a great impetus and a renewed vogue from Pope Leo XIII
in 1883, in his approval of a new Rule
for the seculars. Pope Paul VI
in 1978 caused the separate Rules for both regulars and seculars to be recast and made more suitable for the requirements of devout men and women at the present day. The secular wing of the Order was renamed as the Secular Franciscan Order
3. Third Order of St. Dominic
-- This was one of the earliest developments of St. Dominic's Ordo de Poenitentia
. It was not indeed the primal organism from which the Friars Preachers
evolved, but rather represents that portion of the Order of Penance which came under Dominican influence. At first vaguely constituted and living without system or form, its members gradually grew more and more dependent on their spiritual guides. 3op.org/
4. The Third Order of Servites
-- The Servite Order
has had both a secular and regular Third Order. The secular Third Order was established in the United States in 1893. The Sisters of the Third Order of Servites was founded by St. Juliana Falconieri
of Florence, who received the habit ca. 1385 from Philip Benizi
, then Prior
General of the Servite friars. newadvent.org/cathen/13736a.htm
- Third Order of the Holy Trinity – Men and women who follow in the footsteps of founder St. John De Matha and Patron St. Benedict Joseph Labre. lay-trinitarians-md.org/index.html
With the advent of the Second Vatican Council came an elaboration of the lay vocation. The lay vocation is a vocation distinct from that of the consecrated state. It involves the sanctification of ordinary life, of ones work, of family life, of all the various secular occupations. It is the leaven in the midst of the world to order the temporal world to God. See Christifedelis Laici (by Pope John Paul II)
As the various third orders secular began to look at each of their houses after the Council they began to revise their Rules and Statutes. This has been a long and fruitful process. The Orders, as they felt they were ready, often after drafts and experimentations, have submitted one by one their new Statutes or Rules or Constitutions to the Holy See for review and approbation. Thus the new Statutes etc. are steeped in the doctrine of the Council regarding the universal call to holiness and the theology of the lay vocation including the secular character of the laity. Interestingly the various Orders have opted to change the name from "Third Order Secular" to "Secular Order" (or add least add it to usage) to emphasize the secular nature of the Order or they used the term "Lay or Laity" to the same effect. Of course "third order" and "tertiary" is still used but other names were added or used in a formal sense. The various documents show how the laity of the various Orders are part of the Order (or family etc) but fully within their particular lay and secular state. They show how tertiaries are to live fully their Christian lay vocation, as well as how they are to live the charism of the Order they belong to within secular life. They also provide various means to tending towards holiness in the midst of the world, which very much is part of the vocation of the tertiary—to strive for Christian perfection (CIC 303).
Mostly established in the 19th Centry, members of secular institutes are "in the world and not of the world, but for the world." They live in whatever providential circumstances God gives them, but they wholly consecrate their lives to God through the evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience, and chastity. They are the newest vocation in the Catholic Church, and many say they are the vocation of the new millennium. See United States Conference of Secular Institutes secularinstitutes.org/directory.htm
One of the more widely known secular institutes is Opus Dei
, formally known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei
, an organization of the Catholic Church
that teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity
. The majority of its membership are lay people, with secular priests
under the governance of a prelate
(bishop) appointed by the pope. Opus Dei is Latin
for "Work of God", hence the organization is often referred to by members and supporters as "the Work".