“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.” (Rule, Chapter 1, Article 1)
The Secular Franciscan Order (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis, OFS), formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis, is an official Order within the Catholic Church and was established by St. Francis of Assisi in 1221 for lay men and women wanting to follow his way of life. At first, he wrote a simple Rule for the Third Order, then later a more formally-worded Rule in 1221, which was approved by Pope Honorius III. Today’s Secular Franciscans follow the Rule approved by Pope Paul VI in 1978.
Unlike religious brothers and sisters, those in secular orders (also known as third, tertiary, or lay orders) don’t remove themselves from the world but remain in it; hence the term “secular”. Married or single Catholic women and men from all walks of life are able to join these orders, as are diocesan priests and deacons.
“Third Orders signify in general lay members of religious orders, i.e. men and women who do not necessarily live in community and yet can claim to wear the habit and participate in the good works of some great order. … Any Catholic may join a Third Order, but may not at once belong to more than one, nor may he without grave cause leave one for another.” (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)
- New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: Franciscan Order (general)
- New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Francis of Assisi
- Rule of the OFS
- Francis: The Journey and the Dream
by Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM
- To Live as Francis Lived: A Guide for Secular Franciscans
by Leonard Foley, OFM, et al