What are Third Secular Orders


So I hope I used the proper name in the title. So; a couple days ago I discovered the exsistance of third orders. I was curious as to how these are different for first or second orders? What do members of third orders do? I've heard that members of these live secular lives and are lay people; how does this work with any responsibilies that might come with being in a third order? I also heard that some memebers of third orders can be married, since they're members of the layity, is this true? If so how does that work; are they supposed to be married before enetering like in the permanent Diaconet or can a lay person in a third order marry after entering?



The third order has two kinds: secular and religious.

Secular third order people meet with their group every month. They live secular lives, but they are also members of the religious order, so they must fulfill the requirements of the order. Examples: going to Daily Mass, praying the Divine Office, assigned readings that will be discussed at the next chapter meeting, etc.

I think but am not 100% sure:
The first orders are men who live in religious communities.
The second orders are cloistered nuns.
And the religious third orders are people like sisters who live in communities but not in monasteries, have active apostolates, etc.


I am a member of the Third Order Lay Carmelites. We go through a period of formation that can last anywhere from 12 to 24 months. Then we are received into the order in a ceremony. (Reception). After that comes two more years of formation (a two hour class that usually takes place after the monthly meeting). After that they make their First Profession in the order. Then comes another three years of formation, at the end of which time they make their final Profession. Members must be at least 18 years of age, and need letters of recommendation if they are 70 or over and want to join.

Our obligation is to attend daily Mass if possible, say Morning, Evening, and Night Prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours, do spiritual reading, and devote one half hour a day to mental prayer.

I was a mother of eight when I first joined, at age 37. It was okay with my husband for me to attend the monthly meetings. When my children were all in school I was able to attend weekday Mass several times a week. My vocation in life did come first (marriage), and so at that time I was unable to go on the yearly retreat. I needed to be with my children.

The community interaction is great and an important part of our monthly meeting which begins with Mass, then Morning Prayer, time for coffee and a bit of food, a business meeting of 1/2 hour, Lectio Divina with the whole community for 1/2 hour, then two hours of spiritual study of a Carmelite saint that includes 1 1/2 hours of small group discussion.

We take seriously our attendance at monthly meetings, and it needs to be a good reason not to come. (Illness,Illness in close family member, wedding in family,…)

At noon the meeting is over, except for those who are attending formation classes for another two hours.

For me it has been a life changing experience, and I find the monthly meetings with contact with the rest of the community to be very inspiring.

We have a rule to follow, and we live our ordinary lives as lay people. (married, single, doctor, lawyer, student, etc.) One can be single when they enter, and can marry later.

We wear our ceremonial Brown Scapulars (6" x 8") at our meetings, and other special occasions for Carmelites. We can be buried in the full habit if we wish to be, or in our lay clothing with the large Brown Scapular on top of the clothing.


You’ll find a lot of information about Secular/Third Orders at this “sticky”



This discussion of third secular orders is encouraging and inspiring.


Thanks for the information; it has been very helpful. So in reading I found that members of Secular Third Order make promises instead of vows; how do these differ from the vows taken by a person entering religious life?


Most Secular Orders make promises instead of vows. The primary difference being who they are made to (i.e. the fraternity vs. the church). There is also differences in how someone is released from vows vs. how someone is released from promises. Both should be taken very seriously.

See the following thread for some explanations in relationship to the Secular Franciscan Order.



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