This may be a difficult subject to discuss, but here goes. :o Over a period of many years, I’ve intermittently had the idea of joining a Third Order, but wasn’t sure which to join. (NB. I’m using the term “Third Order” as a kind of convenient, short-hand term to cover all types of groups of lay people associated with e.g. Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, and so on.) Last summer I decided to try to take it a step further and asked a priest, a friend, for advice. He made several suggestions, including: choose a Third Order with a fraternity close to you, as attending regular meeting is usually a requirement of membership; and praying for guidance and having the humility accept the indications you receive. I found that there was a Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) fraternity within easy travelling distance, and started attending meetings last summer.
For those who don’t know much about the SFO, there are several stages to joining. Firstly, you attend meetings for a minimum of 6 months as a “visitor”, then you may ask to become an “enquirer”, which is similar to being a postulant. After a further 6 months, there is temporary profession for a year, then full, lifelong membership.
I’m coming to the end of the “visitor” stage and to be honest, I’m really starting to feel that this isn’t for me. I’m not sure whether it’s specific to the fraternity, the SFO in general, or whether it’s general to joining any Third Order. I’ve been praying for guidance since I first started attending meetings. If I’m honest, I felt some reservations right from the first meeting I attended, but persevered with my attendance, thinking that it may be something I’d get over. But the feelings have remained. And it’s got to the stage where I’m asking myself “Why are you still doing this?” I’ve not talked about this to anybody at the fraternity, and I have an impression that successfully passing through the stages to full profession is almost taken for granted. I suppose there’s the possibility that my initial choices were flawed in the sense that I chose the SFO fraternity because it was available.
So I suppose what I really posting this for is to ask: has anybody else been in a similar situation and how did they resolve it? And what is the best way to proceed? Discuss it with somebody at the fraternity? Just keep on attending in the hope that my reservations will resolve themselves? Or just call it a day as I’ve not made any kind of commitment to the fraternity?