Questions about lay societies


i posted similar question in Spirituality, but thought this might be a good place to ask further questions about lay societies.

my main confusion is why are there unofficial vows, candidacy, etc… for something that is optional, and not an actual vocation, but sort of an accent to your vocation. if i am to understand correctly, a lay society is sort of a prayer/social group that helps you to live along the lines of a certain spirituality (carmelite, benedictine, etc), and to be joined in spirit with the religious order.

how are you joined in spirit with a religious order, if you are laity with your own vocation?

why is there a candidacy period and a profession to a lay society if you already have a vocation (married, etc)

what is the point of profession, with no vows?

please excuse my naivety, i just never really understood the concept. i feel like it’s going over my head for some reason, kinda embarrassing haha


Depends on what you are talking about :wink:

Oblates and at least some Third Orders (the SFO, for example) have Perpetual Vows, but the vows are indeed of a different type than religious vows. With the Oblates/Third Orders the vows are considered as perpetual, but for a serious reason (underline serious) a person may set aside the vows (it is a formal process; ie, there is a procedure–one can not simply walk away).

You could think of them as perpetual vows with a tiny bit of wiggle room. It is probably a good idea to “pretend” to yourself that these vows are perpetual in the religious order sense: this way you take the vow very seriously, as it should be…not as a “well I just joined the Lions Club (for example) and I hate the meetings, so I’m walking” thing.

Joining one of these families binds you to their spirituality, I think. You can walk away (again for very serious reasons only), but I think that the spirituality “stays with you”- even if you end up joining another spiritual family.

Nothing against the Lions, BTW :smiley:

I believe, and I could be wrong, that the confraternities, etc are of a lesser degree. Again: I could be wrong


Joining a third order is very serious and is considered a vocation. It is a little more than a faith/share group. It is a way of life geared to secular people in the world, and that includes priests. Your vocation ot the third order is discerned every step of the way, and it akes a good 6 years to be full professed. Here is information of the discalced carmelite secular order that I belong to at this point. When I joined, I felt I was at home:


it must be that some are more serious and rigid than others. i was wondering, because some only require that you wish to grow spiritually, and that you attend their retreats. others require years of discernment. some require that you are not involved with another group, some couldn't care less. is there a difference between 3rd orders and lay associations?? because what i was referring to was a lay association.. i'm not sure if it's the same thing i guess.


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