3rd Orders - How did you choose yours?

Presently discerning a Third Order Vocation - feeling strong pulls to both the Dominicans and the Franciscans. I would love to hear from some of you who have joined third orders, what drew you to yours? What was the formation process like? How do you live your daily life as a member of your order?

In Christ,

One would proceed similar to any vocation…

“come and see”…
and pray…read …etc

One would inquire…seek admission if one thinks one is called there…continue to discern during formation…

This may help you in terms of knowing what is out there:
Historical Third Orders Secular:*

(the names have been otherwise in the past…have changed over time…ie being called the Third Order…but now being called Secular Order etc):

Secular Franciscan Order
Lay Dominicans
Third Order Secular of the Carmelite Order
Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites
Secular Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Third Order Secular of the Most Holy Trinity)
Mercedarian Third Order (Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy)
Servite Secular Order (Secular Order of the Servants of Mary)
Secular Augustinians
Secular Augustinian Recollects
Minims Third Order
Praemonstrian Third Order


Find out if there are some communities a reasonable distance away from where you live, and get in touch with them. Mention that you would like to attend a meeting or maybe more to see what it is like.

I am a Lay Carmelite, and have been so for forty years. I had always been attracted to St. Therese of Lisieux, and also St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. I had read biographies of the latter two, and the book A Story of a Soul which is Therese’s autobiography.

So, when in my late thirties a dear friend took me with her to her Third Order Carmelite meeting, it was like a ton of gold bricks fell on me! I had never even heard of Third Orders! And I needed that community and discipline badly! It changed my spiritual life for the better.

It is different for everyone…some take longer to discern, and the beginnings of being in a Third Order still has a discernment period.

For me it changed my life, and I still attend monthly meetings.

We promise to (not under pain of sin, but we take these promises seriously) to pray Morning, Evening and Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. We also are asked to do one half hour a day of quiet prayer of our choice, such as reading scripture and pondering it (that is Lectio Divina) or a Rosary.

Depending on our state in life, we should attend weekday mass when possible. When I first started most of my children were very young, so I couldn’t do that, but when they were all in school it worked for me.

At our meetings we do Lectio Divina altogether as a community for about 35 minutes, as a community; and we also read the Carmelite Doctors and saints and then discuss questions and share . Those studies are ongoing.

Peace, and fruitful searching for what is right for you!


It would have to be a good reason to not attend a meeting.

Read about the different spiritualities and the lives of the saints in the Orders. Lots of prayer and discernment is helpful too. Walk with the Saints and live like them and see what path God takes you on, if it be his will :slight_smile:

I was drawn to the Franciscans because I work right by a Church where I listen to and interacted with many First Order Franciscan Friars.Observing their life wanted me to imitate them and their simplicity. The formation was about 4 years and is a wonderful time to walk with the Saints and decide if this how you want to live your life for eternity. The daily life of a Secular Franciscan is to live the Rule given to the Third Order. Praying the Liturgy of Hours morning and evening prayer is important, trying to go to mass and confession frequently if possible. Continuing to read about the Order and attending fraternity gatherings are also important. I always think of the fraternity gatherings as of course a smaller version of going to mass. You need to be refreshed and restored and this helps you.

I’m in the process of joining the Carmelite Third Order.
Their charism appeals to me personally, also my Patron Saint is Prophet Elijah, and I’m kind of a fan of St. Mary, so it all kind of fits.
I looked into the others, and I like them, particularly the Franciscans, but the Carmelites fit me best.

Franciscan here, weighing in. I agree with Dorothy - visit. When I was discerning I visited one order that sounded great on paper, but in person I realized what a bad fit it was. When I visited the Secular Franciscans, I felt at home right away. That was over 30 years ago!

Also, hope you will be fairly close. Of course, moving can make you end up quite a ways from the nearest fraternity. We used to be about 45 minutes from the nearest fraternity, now we’re an hour & 15 minutes. Carmelite friends travel about 2 hours to their meetings.

Note too…they all still exist -do not let the term “historical” throw you.

Carmelite (TOC) here. 2nd year of Formation—next year, God willing, I’ll make my Temporary Profession.

As Dorothy said, visit.

The Carmelite charism is Prayer. Prayer is my personal stumbling block. A great bunch of people, I felt welcome from the first moment–we pray together, we learn together (reading and discussing Way of Perfection), Lectio Divina, LOTH, etc.—like belonging to another family.

I was attending college in Louisville, KY, and found a Dominican church a couple of blocks away from my dorm. For whatever reason, I looked more closely at the sign outside of the church, and saw “Third Order of St. Dominic” and the words seemed to enlarge. I didn’t know what ‘third order’ meant, though.

It wasn’t until I was at another college that I was reading “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis” and all the threads came together, so to say. I called the Dominican friar with whom I’d made acquaintance, and he told me about the Third Order of St. Dominic. He was the group’s chaplain.

My mom was generous enough to come to pick me up from school and take me to the meetings for years until I graduated.

Mrs. Cloisters, OP

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