Your Thoughts on Third Orders?


#1

I'm drawn to the Dominicans, but it's not going to be possible for me to ever join them. I'm now entering my late 30's, and working to pay off several graduate school degrees. I'm not drawn to the life of a Diocesan priest, and I left the discernment process a bit too late.

I'm wondering whether anyone has some comments on their or others' experiences with being Third Order Dominicans? (Or other religious orders?) I'm not really sure I'm drawn that way but I'd be curious to hear other people's experiences.


#2

Long ago I chose marriage and family but had a strong attraction to the religious life and the Church even tho I wasn't Catholic then. I know now that I chose correctly because the Holy Spirit didn't call me back then. He did call me to convert to the Church! I'm so glad I did hear that call! I'm now 58 yrs old. I had a calling last year! Really loud and clear! To deepen my conversion, deepen my consecration and to serve Our Blessed Mother. The story is deeper than that and somewhat mystical, I don't really understand it all and I simply surrendered to the call and let it lead me. I'm now a Secular Servite. Order Secular Servants of Mary. We are not a third order, but a full order of the Servite family. It's been the best thing that ever happened to me! It's helped me to fulfill my life, to bring more to my family and others. It's helped me to serve in a more meaningful way. Everything I do now is done as a Servant of Mary. It's become who I am. My prayers are with you in your seeking. Pray, Pray, Pray, Listen, Listen, Listen. Surrender all that you are and be open to His call. Ask Our Holy Mother to arrange your life as Her Son wishes for you, she will do just that if you allow her. May you be abundantly blessed.
Mary Teresa, OSSM


#3

These are "Vocations" with strict rules and discernment practices.You have to decide what God is calling you to. There are many charisms. I chose the SFO (Franciscans) and it greatly boosted my spiritual life and secular life. For those who seek to serve God in an even greater way than they are presently doing, I would urge a look at the secular orders.


#4

Mary Theresa, could you tell us more about the Servites? I am not familiar with Servites, but a Secular Order, such as the Secular Fransiscans is the equivalent of a Third Order. They are people who have a deeper prayer and devotional life but live in the world instead of secluded. I almost joined a local Secular Fransciscan Order but the people in this group were not spiritual. Their meetings were mostly about organization, rules, money, news, etc. There was nothing meaty there that I could grasp and no Spirit there. Also, why is it that Secualr Orders in the US do not wear an y type of distinct clothing or habit? Many3rd orders in Europe do wear some type of habit. For me, a Third Order just was not enough--I want to give more of myself.;)


#5

I think a 3rd order can be a really good choice for people who just cannot get out of their debts, or those who must take care of others and can't leave family members. If you can find a strong, spiritual group who have lots of love for lone another and help each other grow with God, then that can be a marvelous fit. Where I am (North Carolina), there is only 1 choice locally. :confused:


#6

I’ll try in my humble fumbling way to set things a bit clearer, forgive me if I make an error but I think I’m wording it correctly here…
Third Orders are essentially the same as Secular Orders, the same really in that they are mostly for lay persons. In the case of a 3rd Order, it is ‘attached’ to the original order. Wording here is tricky and it’s not of huge importance. The OSSM, Order Secular Servants of Mary used to be called a 3rd Order. However it now has it’s own Rule of Life, making it no longer an ‘attachment’ to the original Friar Servants of Mary, but a fully recognized order in the Fraternal family of the Servite Order. A Secular Order with it’s own Rule of Life (in our case, fashioned just like the other branches of our family, yet allowing for the differences in that we are mostly lay people, yet again that is not totally so, diocesan clergy can be Secular Servites! Complicated, I know… sorry) with it’s own Rule of Life… makes it a full order. In the Servite family we have Friar Servants of Mary OSM, enclosed nuns, OSM, religious sisters, OSM… lay persons (and some clergy who are not of an order, i.e. diocesan priests are ‘secular’ priests and can be in secular orders!) and we are OSSM… the Secular word comes in there… and there are also Secular Institutes, a bit different again… and there is a Servite one of those…
To the nitty gritty, we are lay persons for the most part… who live out our baptismal consecraton in the world but also live our life of service, fraternity, community and draw inspiration from Our Sorrowful Mother. We have a rule of life, period of inquiry, novitiate, Promise for life… etc. I have something of a printed thing from one community that explains to persons inquiring what it’s about:

The order of Secular Servants of Mary is made up of laymen and women from all walks of life. This is not a club or a parish organization. It is a religious vocation. As a branch of a religious order, a Secular Servant of Mary has:
A rule of life
A postulancy (a period of probation for prospective members)
A habit (religious garb, the black scapular of our Sorrowful mother)
4 a novitiate (first year of membership during which a members vocation is tested)
5. A profession (A formal promise of lifelong membership received in the name of the church by a properly delegated priest)
A daily prayer obligation
Properly authorized superiors
A common life by means of holy hours, retreats in common, outreach acts of mercy, charity, ect. and social gatherings.
To become a Secular Servant of Mary, interested individuals begin by visiting a Secular Order community. After a period of inquiry of three to six months, individuals can request admission into the initial formation program, generally of one year, that mill prepare them to make the promise as a Secular Servant of Mary. This process introduces the candidates to the Secular Order’s rules of life, the history of the Order and the principles of lay spirituality. Making the promise, the Secular Servants of Mary promise to live their baptismal consecration using the Order’s spirituality as their guide. To be considered for candidacy in the Order of Secular Servants of Mary, one must be at least eighteen years of age, a participating catholic in good standing, and willing to commit to the ‘Rule of Life’ for life.

Some links you may like:
www.servite.org/secserv.htm
ossmlivingtradition.blogspot.com/

Oh, we do wear a habit but it’s a scapular that covers the chest and back… I myself would be willing to wear more of a habit actually… like in some places and like it was in the past in our order… there have been reasons pertaining to not blurring the lines between professed religious and secular orders… we do have the right to be buried in the full habit of the order.

Hope this helps with the subtle differences between 3rd orders and Secular Orders such as ours that are lay persons and is a vocation but we have our own rule within the family of our order, hence we are not a tertiary (3rd wing) of the 1st order but a fully recognized branch of our family that stands on it’s own rule and has papal recognition in such a way.

Blessings to all…
Your Sister in Christ Jesus and His Blessed Mother,
Mary Teresa, OSSM


#7

I’m sorry your experience with the Secular Order you inquired with seemed like so much like business meetings etc. We do that too, have to meet those requirements but we set aside a certain portion of our meetings for spiritual time, we have a Priest who conducts that part of our meeting, it’s all very offical. We have time for ‘formation’ i.e. on going learning of our Charism and way of life. We have social time, Fraternity, Community is part of our way of life. We attend Mass together prior to our meetings. Our ‘service’ in the world happens to revolve around the fact that my Community is located a the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, (The Grotto) Portland, Or. We serve in many capacities to maintain the function and spirituality of the Sanctuary as do the Fathers, Brothers and Sisters there. Many of us are also involved in our own parishes, still all we do in our lives… parish, family… job… is done as a Servite. It’s who we are more than what we do. Every Community will have it’s own personality, some more charismatic than others. I felt that when I was called to where I was called, it was by the working of God. I didn’t question if my Community was big or small, active or more passive, spiritual enough… I felt the call and opened myself to the challenges, the good and the not as good, the work no matter what it was… I just said, ‘use me, Lord’ and have left it at that. I prayed to Our Mother to guide me and if there were areas that needed help or improvement, then let me be that, with the Graces needed to do so… Many good things have come about… I asked to be emptied of myself and filled with Him, and serve no matter what. That way if I fail at something or succeed, it’s His will. I asked for the betterment of my Community first and for myself last. Neither Jesus nor Mary have let me down, I pray to not let them down either!
Pray, Seek and you will be answered, the right place will come in the right time for you. Often it takes an empty-ing of ourselves to leave space for what He wants to fill it with. Pray for Our Lady to arrage the details of your search, your life… She has the perfect plan to lead you to Her Son. A vocation is a call… not of our own making… ask only for His Will. You will find your calling soon, I have a feeling because I can tell you are sincerely seeking.
My prayers are with you, may you be abundantly blessed.
Mary Teresa, OSSM


#8

I cannot speak for the Dominicans, but I can share briefly with you my own call to the Secular Franciscan Order.

I was born and raised a Catholic and had a fairly devout young adulthood. I was active at my parish as an altar server, and I participated in a a Non-Denominational Christian club in High School. My religious inclinations led me to discern a possible call to the priesthood. I chose the closest religious order to home (the Redemptorists) because my family is very close and I could not imagine being very far from them (I know, distance from home is not the best variable to consider in discernment!). I made it one semester. I left the formation house and my Catholic faith and went searching. This period away from the Church is punctuated by the usual behaviors of a single, young man with no moral restraints. But the difference with me is that my sins led to destructive habits and behaviors that nearly ended me. I also got married during this time. I finished college on borrowed money, all the while working in retail to pay the bills. After seven years of marriage colored by depression and constant anxiety which could not be soothed by pleasure, I experienced the grace of conversion. I had my marriage convalidated and made a general confession. Now that I was home (on the doormat, so to speak) I found myself in an odd position. It was a good thing that I was back in the Church, but I hadn’t the slightest clue how to begin healing all of the damage done to my soul over the years. I had habits on top of habits, and disorders piled upon inclinations. So I sought out a way to live a life of penance, of conversion, to heal these wounds. I found St. Francis and his family, and I made the Third Order my home. My wife eventually converted, too.

I have to run to work now. I would love to share more later.

Peace and all Good,

PS - My wife and I were in debt, too, until two years ago when we discovered Dave Ramsey’s, The Total Money Makeover. We’re debt-free and living a simple, joyful lifestyle :slight_smile:


#9

:amen: What can I add to THAT! Many elements of my own story! Thank you for sharing!! Bless You! Bless all who are discerning, may their quest be fulfilled!
Mary Teresa, OSSM


#10

Thanks everyone for sharing their thoughts and experiences. I am learning a lot from these responses. I do want to add one point which some may or may not be aware of when discerning a religious vocation after graduate school:

Like most people with advanced professional degrees (I have both a law degree and a Master's), you know when you sign on the dotted line that you are committing to a repayment schedule for a couple of decades or more. It's basically like taking out a mortgage on yourself.

What you may not know when doing so is that most seminaries will not anymore take on people who are still carrying their grad school loan payments. This is simply practical since once upon a time, there were some people who would enter seminary, have their debts erased by their diocese, and then later drop out of seminary.

I'm fortunate that I make a decent living and that my student loan payments are not a crushing burden. If I am fortunate and my career continues to go up, my income should keep going up along with it. You don't graduate from law school and immediately become a partner in your law firm, after all!

I can remember neighbors of ours back home who had a party to burn the last of their medical school payment books when they finally finished paying everything off in their late 40s. So I know this is just part of life given the way we pay for education in this country. But because I am definitely still quite a ways away from being completely paid off to the student loan people, there's just no realistic possibility of looking into ordination given my responsibilities. Accepting that hasn't been easy, but it's the way things are.

Again, thanks for the ongoing responses. I am finding them very much thought-provoking.


#11

Dear Dret, I can sympathize with your positon. How frustrating that must be! Well, as we know all things are possible with Our Loving God. He already has your name on a place in Heaven and a plan for you here on Earth. Pray for His Holy Will to be known to you, just keep praying. We are often called in ways we had never expected, especially if we just let go and let Him lead us. Not easy when we wish to act in some way... so do what you can and pray for patience and fortitude as well. Pray for humility, the 'secret' of all the Saints. He will reveal His Will to all who ask. May you be abundantly blessed and your efforts bring many souls to Jesus. Best wishes in your career too! My prayers are with you.
In union with Jesus and Mary,
Mary Teresa, OSSM


#12

Thanks so much!


#13

Be very careful, not all third orders are as they have been painted here. I’ll speak about the Franciscan Third Order, because I know them the best. But the Dominican Third Order is very similar.

The Franciscan Third Order is called such only because it was founded third. What Canon Law refers to a Third Orders are not the same the Franciscan Third Order. Canon Law calls third orders public associations of the faithful that are related or associated with a religious order. That is not the case of the Franciscan Third Order. The Franciscan Third Order has secular lay men, secular deacons, secular priests and bishops, friars, sisters and even nuns.

The Franciscan Third Order is properly called the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. It was founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. It was the first of its kind in the history of the Church. No one had ever thought of an order with married lay people. This was its unique attribute. There were many orders of single lay people, most of them were celibate and lived in monasteries and a few were mendicants. The Franciscan Friars are orders of lay men. But they are consecrated religious with vows, living in community, some of them are ordained (not lay), but they are counted as lay men, because they belong to the Franciscan Friars. The friars were founded as a lay order, meaning that it was not to be an order for priests or run by priests. It was to be a brotherhood run by equals. Among the first friars there were some priests and mostly lay men, such as Francis.

He founded three orders. The first order that he founded was the friars. Secondly, he and St. Clare founded the nuns. Third, he founded the Order of Penance. Each order has its own rule, its own government and its own way of life, all of them given to them by St. Francis. The Franciscan Third Order is not like the third orders in canon law, which are lay associations attached to a religious order. This particular order is not attached to the Franciscan Friars. The friars often serve as spiritual directors, when there is a shortage of the same. But if they have their own, the friars keep their hands off them.

They have their own superior general, their own constitution, their own rule written by St. Francis, their own way of life and they are divided into what are called obediences. This means that they are divided into different communities. Some of them are celibate men who live in community and some of these men are ordained, but most are not. Thousands of them are celibate women who live in community, better known as Franciscan Sisters. Then there are the Secular Franciscans, which make up the largest branch the Franciscan Third Order. There are about one million Secular Franciscans governed by a superior general called a General Minister, who resides in Rome and answers to the pope, like any other superior general. They have national, regional and local superiors called Ministers. They also have a very long formation program with its own curriculum, just like any other order. They have the same stages, aspirant, postulant and novice. In the USA the aspirants are called guests, the postulants are called inquirers, and the novices are called candidates. The rest of the members are the professed. These can be temporary professed or perpetually professed. The Secular Franciscans are a true order in the Catholic Church and you may only join them if you have a vocation and you meet the requirements of canon law. As I said before, they are the largest branch of the Franciscan Third Order.

In reality the Franciscan Third Order is made up of over 100 smaller communities, each with their own mission and vision. But they are united by one rule, the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. There are two editions to that rule. There is an edition for the seculars who live in the world and for the regulars who live in convents and friaries. As you can see, there are friars in the Third Order of St. Francis, not just the first order. The friars who run Franciscan University belong to the Franciscan Third Order. They are commonly known as Third Order Regular, though their proper name is the Brothers of Penance. The Many Franciscan Sisters who teach in our schools, run our hospitals and work in our parishes all belong to the Third Order of St. Francis. They all follow the same rule as the seculars, the
Rule of Penance.

The rest of us poor slugs who are also Franciscans follow the Rule of the Friars Minor, which was the first rule that Francis wrote for the first order that he founded. We come out of that tradition. We were all one community. But as it got bigger and bigger, it was subdivided according to ministries, customs and even national boundaries. We do not belong to the Third Order, nor do they belong to us. They have their own way of life and they are completely independent. They are not associated with us as described in canon law. They are our brothers and sisters, because we all belong to the same Franciscan family.

The Third Order of St. Dominic was founded in imitation of the Third Order of St. Francis. They are organized the same way with religious, seculars, lay and clergy. With the Dominicans the Vatican cheated a little. St. Dominic first founded the cloistered nuns. Technically, they are the first order. He later founded the friars and later the seculars.

However, the Vatican was concerned because the ordinal numbers, first, second and third, gave the appearance of ranks. Women are not allowed to have positions above men in religious lfie. The Vatican swapped the numbers around. The Dominican Friars became the First Order Dominicans and the Dominican Nuns became the Second Order Dominicans. But that's not the order in which they were founded, unlike the Franciscans, where the friars were founded first.

I hope this helps someone.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :)


#14

Thanks so much for that clarification; I was certainly not aware of the history involved. I'm still thinking about the question for myself but this is useful information I am sure for many people.


#15

[quote="dret, post:1, topic:204856"]
I'm drawn to the Dominicans, but it's not going to be possible for me to ever join them. I'm now entering my late 30's, and working to pay off several graduate school degrees. I'm not drawn to the life of a Diocesan priest, and I left the discernment process a bit too late.

I'm wondering whether anyone has some comments on their or others' experiences with being Third Order Dominicans? (Or other religious orders?) I'm not really sure I'm drawn that way but I'd be curious to hear other people's experiences.

[/quote]

if you mean Dominican Tertiaries, Secular Franciscans, Benedictine Oblates or other lay associates of religious orders, there is nothing that would prevent you from joining any of them. There are no membership fees, you don't take vows, although you do make a commitment which is not binding under pain of sin as religious vows would be. You do not leave your secular job or vocation. YOu remain in the lay state, in your married or single life, in your career and so forth, and your association with the order is part of your spirituality. There is a sticky above on this topic which may give the specific information you need on the various lay associations, their similarities and differences.\

Neither for that matter is it too late to discern a religious or priestly vocation. Many dioceses and religious orders actually encourage and welcome late vocations.


#16

[quote="puzzleannie, post:15, topic:204856"]
if you mean Dominican Tertiaries, Secular Franciscans, Benedictine Oblates or other lay associates of religious orders, there is nothing that would prevent you from joining any of them. There are no membership fees, you don't take vows, although you do make a commitment which is not binding under pain of sin as religious vows would be. You do not leave your secular job or vocation. YOu remain in the lay state, in your married or single life, in your career and so forth, and your association with the order is part of your spirituality. There is a sticky above on this topic which may give the specific information you need on the various lay associations, their similarities and differences.\

Neither for that matter is it too late to discern a religious or priestly vocation. Many dioceses and religious orders actually encourage and welcome late vocations.

[/quote]

This is not exactly true. ;)

The SFO National charges the local fraternity $50/member/year (or thereabouts). They are assessed that, regardless of whether or not the member has contributed anything to the fraternity....and many do not.

It is, IMO, a ridiculous amount to assess the local fraternity, many of which by their very nature are located in poor parishes.

The Benedictines (well, at least mine ;) ) don't assess anything. People contribute voluntarily, and they all do (at least in my Community).

Not meaning to sound "in your face"; I just wanted to be clear, OK? :)


#17

Dret, a friend of mine is a member of the D.C. Lay Dominicans and has been for a number of years; from what she tells me of her Community, it is an excellent one. Another friend recently was given permission to form a Lay Dominican Group at our parish (Charlotte, NC) and it is slowly growing. I’ve been a Secular Discalced Carmelite for over thirty years and have found this vocation very fulfilling and very humbling as I try to live it as I should. God bless you in your discernment.


#18

[quote="Luigi_Daniele, post:16, topic:204856"]
This is not exactly true. ;)

The SFO National charges the local fraternity $50/member/year (or thereabouts). They are assessed that, regardless of whether or not the member has contributed anything to the fraternity....and many do not.

It is, IMO, a ridiculous amount to assess the local fraternity, many of which by their very nature are located in poor parishes.

The Benedictines (well, at least mine ;) ) don't assess anything. People contribute voluntarily, and they all do (at least in my Community).

Not meaning to sound "in your face"; I just wanted to be clear, OK? :)

[/quote]

yes there might be a nominal fee, or a charge for a devotional book for instance, but nothing like what OP is suggesting that finances would be a barrier to joining. I am only familiar with two groups of secular Franciscans, one here and one in Michigan, and both waive those fees for those who cannot pay, or get donations to help out.


#19

[quote="puzzleannie, post:18, topic:204856"]
yes there might be a nominal fee, or a charge for a devotional book for instance, but nothing like what OP is suggesting that finances would be a barrier to joining. I am only familiar with two groups of secular Franciscans, one here and one in Michigan, and both waive those fees for those who cannot pay, or get donations to help out.

[/quote]

They may indeed waive them, but National still charges the local fraternity the same amount.

In older, poorer fraternities it is such a burden, that they have almost no funds left to "do" anything.

Again, I do not wish to come across as lecturing or condescending, I am just trying to be clear. :)


#20

Let me say this one more time.

Secular Franciscans are NOT lay associates of the Franciscan Order. They are very different from other secular orders. They ARE a CANONICAL ORDER just like friars, monks and nuns. They are the first canonical order of secular people in the Church. Orders are normally for nuns, friars and monks, with this one exception.

They HAVE A RULE of their own, not our rule. We have our own rule. St. Francis wrote four rules with the intention of forming four communities: Friars, Nuns, Hermits and Secular.

They are not lay. They have both lay and clerics. The Third Order of St. Francis follows the same rule, the Rule of Penance. The First Order follows the Rule of Obedience. The Second Order follows the Rule of Poverty. Three rules for three orders. The Franciscan hermits follow the Rule for Hermits. Francis worked very hard to make them very distinct orders and to make them very autonomous, not at all associated with each other. In fact, there is a papal encyclical somewhere that states that the friars have no obligations to any of the other Franciscan orders nor the other way around. But our relationship with each other is fraternal and cooperative, because we share the same Father.

Please do not say that they are our associates. They are not and we don't want them to be, nor do they want to be. Each Franciscan order is very autonomous. We make up one Franciscan family.

The Secular Franciscans do make a canonical liturgical and public solemn profession equivalent to that of the friars, nuns and sisters. They are offended when they are thought of as associates to the Franciscan Order.

The Secular Franciscans are to the Franciscan family what Chaldeans, Ukranians, Romans, Maronites and others are to the Catholic Church. They are a sui iuris order.

Here is the theology for the Profession In The Secular Franciscan Order explained by the Superior General of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars. Rev. Brother Felice, OFM, Cap.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :)


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