Who are we? What is the Secular Franciscan Order?
The Secular Franciscan Order is not a regular church group, club, or civic organization. It is one of the Orders in the Church, and profession in the Order is a life-time commitment.
The Order was founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in the late 13th Century. It is the only Secular Third Order that traces its roots directly back to the founder of the First and Second Orders and whose founder wrote its first Rule. (Saint Francis founded the First and Third Orders, and Saint Francis and Saint Clare founded the Second Order.) It is canonically recognized by the Catholic Church as a member of the Franciscan family. Formally known as the ‘Franciscan Third Order’, Pope Paul VI changed our name to its current designation, Saecularis Franciscanus Ordinus - O.F.S., in 1978.
Members of the Secular Franciscan Order live to make a difference! We are inspired by Christ’s Gospel call to repent from sin and build up the Kingdom of God by fostering a sense of fraternity among all people, secular Franciscans are peacemakers and focus on building loving relationships in our communities. Freeing ourselves from the prevalent materialism and consumerism of our day, we opt to live simpler lives as a counter-culture alternative. We work for social justice on all level, with a preferential option for the poor, pledging our solidarity with the marginalized, powerless and the outcast, and promoting a greater respect for the sanctity of human life on all levels. Opening ourselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we strive to be agents of positive change, being a unifying force, building a civilization of love and life. Since we treasure all that God has given us as a gift, environmental concerns urge us to care for all God’s creation and practice good stewardship. As consecrated lay persons living in a secular state of life, we Franciscans do all of this in our families, work places, parishes, and in the societies in which we live. Our vocation calls us to be the leaven of the world.
We are divided into fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national, and international, and are governed by the universal law of the Church as well as the OFS Rule, Constitutions, Ritual, and Statutes. The final interpretation of the Rule and of the Constitutions belongs to the Holy See. Our Order is for those Catholics, not in a religious order, who are called by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the goal of holiness by embracing the Franciscan charism. It is for those Catholics who want to serve God and the Church by following in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi. The call is a gift from God and must be discerned by the person and by the Order. We seek to deepen a spirituality that is centered on Jesus Christ and rooted in the Gospel. We endeavor ‘to bring life to the Gospel and the Gospel to life’ through our daily interaction in the secular world. Persons seeking to enter the Order seek to be transformed by Christ, just as St. Francis was radically changed into a witness to people of his day through his love of God and everyone.
To be admitted into the Order, one must be a faithful, committed Roman Catholic, in good standing with the Church and absolute loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy Father and the Magisterium. The minimum age for Perpetual Profession is 21 (Temporary Profession may be accomplished at 18). Individuals should have a strong faith, attend Mass on Sundays, Holy Days of Obligation, and desire to actively participate in Church activities.
The process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan involves a commitment of up to 36 months of formation (may differ by Region). Formation involves three separate phases… Orientation, Initial Formation, and Profession. The process unfolds in regularly scheduled formation sessions, (normally once a month for one-two hours), during which home study material is discussed. At home, prayer and study are expected.
Orientation - The Orientation stage is a time for determining a person's interest, eligibility and disposition to enter the rest of the process.
Initial Formation - Initial Formation, is broken down into periods of Inquiry and Candidacy.
Inquiry - The period of Inquiry begins with a ‘Ceremony of Introduction and Welcoming’ and is a time of learning about the Franciscan charism and history. It is an important time of discernment if the individual has a vocation to the Order. If a vocation is discerned, both by the individual and the local fraternity, the inquirer is received into the Order and becomes a Candidate.
Candidacy - The period of Candidacy focuses on learning and living the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order in preparation for a lifetime commitment to follow the Gospel daily and to meet in Fraternity monthly with other professed sisters and brothers.
Profession - After Candidacy, the candidate publicly undergoes the ‘Rite of Profession’s (normally during Mass) and his/her permanent commitment to the Gospel life.
After Profession, all members participate in On-going Formation.
So, if you feel called to a vocation in the Secular Franciscan Order, The Channel of Peace fraternity might be a good place to start your online inquiry. You might like to read more about St. Francis and St Clare. You could also pick-up your phone and call 1-800-FRANCIS (toll free) for more information. And you could click on http://www.nafra-sfo.org/regions.html to find all Regions and Fraternities across the United States, to see if there is a fraternity near you. So, contact us… The Holy Spirit might just be giving you a nudge to become a Franciscan. May the Lord bless you and keep you always!
Franciscan Factoid – The National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order (NAFRA)reports that in the United States, there are currently 30 regions, 700 Fraternities, and over 14,500 Professed Members. In 2001 the International Fraternity (CIOFS) reported a world-wide membership of over 400,000 members of the Order.