Frequently Asked Questions
About Being a Secular Franciscan
'Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words.' - St. Francis of Assisi
What exactly is the Secular Franciscan Order?
Is it true that Secular Franciscans cannot get married?
Is it true that Secular Franciscans cannot have a career?
I heard that the Order of Franciscans Secular, and the Third Order Franciscans, are completely two different orders. Is this true?
Is joining the Order of Franciscans Secular similar to joining a club? Is it true that there are no responsibilities?
The Secular Franciscan Order is a community of Catholic men and women, from any of the Rites in communion with Rome--including the Latin, Byzantine, Coptic, Armenian, Russian, and Eastern Rite churches. It is a tertiary order for lay people who seek to pattern their lives after Christ in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Founded by St. Francis 800 years ago, the Order was originally called the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. The Order is approved and recognized by the Holy See with the official name of Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis (OFS). It is open to any Catholic not bound by religious vows to another Religious Order.
If you are not Catholic and are interested in the Franciscan Way, please click For non-Catholics
No! A lay person who is professed into the Order of Franciscans Secular, can get married and have children. Married couples can even be professed together. Secular Franciscans only promise to embrace chastity, not celibacy. It is important to mention that diocesan priests who become Secular Franciscans, do continue to embrace celibacy.
No! Lay people who are professed into the Order can continue to have a career. Lay Secular Franciscans are still part of the secular world, and have responsibilities that require them to continue to work and make money. The only thing Secular Franciscans are called to do, is to not have money as their sole desire.
No! The Catholic Church decided to change the name Third Order Franciscans , to Order of Franciscans Secular . The reasoning for the name change, is to emphasize that the Franciscan Third Order members, who are mostly lay people, are still part of the secular world, and are living secular lives.
Joining the Order of Franciscans Secular is not like joining a club. A Secular Franciscan fraternity is not like a college fraternity which has secret rituals and perpetual parties. The Secular Franciscan Order belongs to the Franciscan Family and is "formed by the organic union of all the Catholic fraternities, whose members, moved by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves through profession to live the Gospel after the manner of St. Francis in their secular state following the Rule approved by the Church" ( Const. 1, 3). Picture a Secular Franciscan fraternity as a large family socializing and worshiping together. Consider that when a person becomes a Secular Franciscan, that person cannot arbitrarily decide to leave the Order, like a person can in a club. Only through the Pope can a Secular Franciscan leave the Order. Remember that when a person becomes a Secular Franciscan, he/she promises to live Franciscan spirituality.
"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 centre of his life with God and people....They should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel." ( Rule Article 4.)
When a person becomes a Secular Franciscan, responsibilities include:
- Praying daily either the Divine Office, the Office of the Passion, the 12 Our Fathers, or the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Financially supporting your local fraternity and giving volunteer support to fraternity ministries
- Attending fraternity meetings
- Going on a yearly retreat
What is the structure of the Secular Franciscan Order?
The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into Fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national, and international. Each of these Fraternities is animated and guided by its Council and a Minister or President.
What do Secular Franciscans use to identify the Order?
Secular Franciscans do not wear robes. The universal habit of a Secular Franciscan is the Tau Cross. As a universal privilege, Secular Franciscans at death may be buried in a Franciscan burial tunic. During the Rite of Profession, fraternities in this region give their members the burial tunic as a reminder of their mystical death at Profession, and as a reminder of inevitable earthly death.
How does St. Francis fit into the OFS?
He was but one man, and the task seemed impossibly difficult. Nevertheless, Francis renounced his family's wealth and set out to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Before long, this itinerant beggar-preacher became widely known for his holiness, his empathy for the poor and his radicaly self-giving to the Lord. Some were amused but many were inspired by his love of creation. Francis considered himself a small part of a remarkable universe inhabited by animals and elements that were all connected as "brothers" and "sisters."
He educated others with his actions by embracing lepers, calming a marauding wolf with kindness, traveling to Syria to preach to a Muslim sultan in the midst of the Crusades. Inspired by his example, many put aside their possessions, joining him as penitent preachers of the Gospel. In 1209 they gave birth to the Franciscan brotherhood, the Order of Friars Minor. The growth of his following was unprecedented: By the time Francis died in 1226, thousands of men had cast aside material possessions to become his brother friars, assuming the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Francis formed his third order because of circumstances that he had not foreseen. As he preached penance in one place after another, devout lay persons who were bound by family responsibilities begged to be taught a more perfect way of life. He showed them how they must lead the Gospel life at home and at their work, and spread the Gospel teaching by word and example among their neighbors, in imitation of the poor and suffering Christ. St. Francis found a middle way: he gave them a rule animated by the Franciscan spirit. The movement he created survived the centuries and lives today in the Friars Minor, in affiliated orders of Franciscan women and men and in the Secular Franciscans. His legacy is an affirmation of the power of faith in action. As Francis believed, we are all instruments of God's peace. And one person can indeed transform the world.
Secular Franciscans are called to make their own contribution, inspired by the person and message of Francis of Assisi, towards a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, shared responsibility, and love may be living realities. They should firmly commit themselves to oppose every form of exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion and against every attitude of indifference in relation to others. They promote the building of fraternity among peoples: they should be committed to create worthy conditions of life for all and to work for the freedom of all people. Secular Franciscans attempt to be in the forefront in the field of public life. They should collaborate as much as possible for the passage of just laws and ordinances. within the Order this is known as Justice, Peace, and Integrity of all of Creation (JPIC).
What is the Pathway to Profession?
The process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan is a journey that involves three separate stages and culminates in a lifelong commitment to live the gospel following the example of St. Francis of Assisi. This formation process unfolds in regularly scheduled formation sessions during which the home study material is thoroughly discussed.
- The first stage is Orientation, providing time for dialogue and developing relationships in fraternity. During Orientation you will be introduced to the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare and share in Franciscan prayer life. You will be given general information about the Secular Franciscan Order. Orientation is a time to discern if the Spirit is calling you to a Secular Franciscan vocation. The period of Orientation is a minimum of three months.
- The second stage is Inquiry, and is the first formal period of initiation. It is a time of in-depth study of the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare. During Inquiry you will learn about the Franciscan charism and Franciscan history. You will deepen your understanding of what it means to be secular and Franciscan. You will continue to discern if the Spirit is calling you to the Secular Franciscan way of life. The period of Inquiry is a minimum of six months. If a vocation is discerned, the Inquirer is received into the Order.
- The third stage is Candidacy, and is the final formal period of initiation. It is a time of preparing for permanent commitment by immersion into fraternity life. Central to this stage of formation is Article 4 of The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order which states, "The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people." The period of Candidacy is a minimum of eighteen months and culminates in profession and a permanent commitment to the gospel life.
The primary goal of those entrusted with the responsibility of admissions to our way of life is discovering the will of God. While we desire to promote vocations and grow in numbers, we avoid what is popularly known as "recruitment." Vocational work is ultimately a service offered to benefit the entire Church and not towards the growth and expansion of one particular religious institution.
Discernment is a time when you pray, reflect on, and discuss your desire for vocation. It is our desire to assist serious and mature men and women in discovering that particular state in life where they can sacrifice themselves for the kingdom of God and grow holy. For most people that state of fulfillment of marriage, yet many others would find it in life as religious, clergy, or in the single state. It is during this time that you get to know the Franciscan way of life and we get to know you.
Franciscans are people of the Gospel who follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi. Those called to the Franciscan way of life, have found the peace and joy which comes from discovering and doing the will of God, and the love for Christ.
- Be quiet in order to hear the Lord's voice calling. Take time to pray and meditate in silence about your vocation, especially in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
- If you can, find a spiritual director. This is not a necessary requirement, but if you can, find a faithful practicing Catholic you can be open with, and can help you to develop your relationship with God, and to know yourself better.
- Ask a Secular Franciscan about his/her journey towards the Franciscan way of life.
- Read up on St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi or another Franciscan Saint.
- Visit one of our fraternities during a community meeting.
- Build a relationship with our community where you have a sense of coming home. Don't just talk the talk-- walk the walk with them as well.
- Wait for the Lord. Discerning your vocation is a process. God's timing is always perfect--but seldom seems soon enough.
To become a Secular Franciscan, you must be an actively practicing Catholic (of any of the rites in union with Rome). If you are Anglican/Episcopalian, please visit the Third Order Society of St. Francis
If you are a member of another Christian denomination or simply prefer an ecumenical Franciscan community, please visit the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans.
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