What are Third Orders?

A recent announcement was made regarding one of our lay apostolates taking her vows as a third order dominican. Please explain what this means.

Most of the older and some of the more recent religious institutes (as canon law now calls religious orders) have a branch for non-vowed laity. The statement regarding a third order Dominican making vows is inaccurate. Such people do make a commitment, but it is not a vow. Certainly, third order members may make a private vow of their own, but anyone can do that.

The purpose of such lay branches is to share in the spirituality and prayer-life of the religious institute. The nature of the laity’s vocation is to be a leaven in the market place where they live and work. The support of a monastery or active religious institute can be a great support for such people in living the Christian life and being an effective witness.

Benedictines call their third order members “oblates.” Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians, etc. have renewed their third orders and have given them new names (Dominican Laity, Secular Carmelites), but the reality of such branches remains the same.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.