The Secular Franciscan Order
Would you like to give more time to God, but wonder how to do that when your life is so busy? Do you long for holiness, and feel a need for support in growing spiritually? Perhaps your heart has been moved by stories of St. Francis of Assisi, or the Peace Prayer attributed to him, and you are seeking that same holy simplicity, true peace and perfect joy? If so, Christ may be calling you to explore the Secular Franciscan life. We would be happy to meet with you to share about the Franciscan journey. We invite you to contact us.
The Secular Franciscan Order is a religious order within the Catholic Church, founded by St. Francis of Assisi during his life time, and canonically established in 1221 by Pope Honorius III.
Our foundations come from the desire of ordinary people living in the times of St. Francis who wanted to join his new order. St. Francis counseled them not to leave their families or abandon their work in the world, but to embrace the Gospel in the ordinary circumstances of their lives. He wrote a Rule of life for these men and women who came to be known as the “Brothers and Sisters of Penance.” In later year these brothers and sisters were called members of the Third Order of St. Francis. Today we are known as Secular Franciscans, and our initials are “OFS”.
The Secular Franciscan Order is made up of women and men, single or married, or members of the diocesan clergy. We live in our homes and with our families but come together on a regular basis with our local Franciscan communities which we call Fraternities. Generally, we gather in fraternity once or twice a month to pray, to share with one another about our lives, and to continue our life long journey of formation. Both individually, and as fraternities, we engage in apostolic work and various ministries, with a particular outreach to the poor and marginalized, and a focus on peace, justice and care of creation. As Franciscans we are called to prayer and contemplation, as well as to an active presence in the world.
The Secular Franciscan Order is a world-wide Order with over 300,000 members. In the United States there are over 600 local fraternities and approximately 12,000 professed members. The Holy See has entrusted the pastoral care of the Secular Franciscan Order to the Franciscan Friars of the First Order and Third Order Regular who serve as spiritual assistants to the OFS.
Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation and a period of formation. It is a journey that involves three stages, culminating in Profession. Profession is a solemn ecclesial act by which the candidate publicly affirms their personal commitment to live the Gospel according to the Rule, and a commitment to the fraternity. To be admitted to the Order a person must be a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church. In the United States the minimum age for perpetual profession is 21; for temporary profession, 18. Youth and young adults who may be interested in Secular Franciscan Order, but are not ready to make a lifelong commitment, may be interested in our program for Franciscan Youth.
I would like to become a Secular Franciscan
Filling out the simple form is a great way to start. We will put you in contact with a local fraternity.
Secular Franciscans, as the name implies, live their lives in the world rather than in religious communities. They may be single or married, women or men, in all walks of life. They live the Gospel in a Franciscan manner according to their own Rule which they profess after a period of initial formation. Profession as a Secular Franciscan is a lifelong commitment. Formation and profession of the Secular Franciscan takes place within a local community called a fraternity. Life in fraternity is an essential aspect of the Secular Franciscan vocation. The fraternity is a community of love, the privileged place for the sisters and brothers to develop their sense of Church and the Franciscan call. Although a self-governing Order, each Secular Franciscan fraternity receives guidance in spiritual matters from a spiritual assistant, usually a friar from one of the other Franciscan Orders. These relationships are particularly strong between Secular Franciscans and the Franciscan friars with whom they share common roots in the Franciscan penitential tradition.
St. Francis of Assisi was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone around 1181 a.m. In his youth, Francis was known for his drinking and partying. He was captured and imprisoned during a battle between the cities of Perugia and Assisi. Once released, he had an encounter with the Lord when he heard the Jesus say, “Rebuild my church.” He abandoned his life of luxury and turned all his attention to service to the Lord. Through his example, he inspired men and women to join him — thus the Franciscan family began. He died on October 4, 1226 at the age of 45. Francis is considered the founder of all Franciscan orders and the patron saint of ecologists and merchants.
The process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan is a journey that involves three separate stages and culminates in a lifelong commitment to live the Gospel following the example of St. Francis of Assisi. This process unfolds in regularly scheduled formation sessions during which the material is discussed.
- The first stage, Orientation, provides time for dialogue and developing relationships in fraternity. During the Orientation phase, one is introduced to the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare and share in the Franciscan prayer life. Seekers will be given general information about the Secular Franciscan Order. Orientation is a time to discern if the Spirit is calling you to a Secular Franciscan vocation. The period of Orientation is a minimum of three months.
- The second stage, Inquiry, is the first formal period of initiation. It is a time of in-depth study of the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare. The Inquiry phase is focused on learning about the Franciscan charism and Franciscan history. You will deepen your understanding of what it means to be secular and Franciscan, and continue to discern if the Spirit calls you to the Secular Franciscan way of life. The period of Inquiry is a minimum of six months. If a vocation is discerned, the Inquirer is received into the Order.
- The third stage, Candidacy, is the final formal period of initiation. It is a time of preparing for permanent commitment by immersion into fraternity life. Central to this stage of formation is Article 4 of The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, which states, “The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.” The period of Candidacy is a minimum of eighteen months and culminates in a permanent commitment to the gospel life. After profession of the Rule and permanent commitment to the gospel way of life, the newly professed member joins the rest of the fraternity in “ongoing” formation.
- The fourth stage, Commitment …
To be a Secular Franciscan one has to be a Catholic of good standing, single or married (your spouse agreeing). A diocesan priest can also become a Secular Franciscan, indeed a pope can be a Secular Franciscan. A practicing Catholic is one who attends Mass on Sundays weekly. Being a Secular Franciscan is a deeper commitment to your Catholic faith as a single or married person to live a Gospel-orientated life. You must be at least 18 years of age. Conditions for admission are: to profess the Catholic faith, to live in communion with the Church, to be of good moral standing, and to show clear signs of a vocation.
Essentially Secular Franciscans live and do their work as anyone else does, but with a consciousness of trying to live the Gospel values in their lives especially in family and work life. In particular, their daily lives are most usually involved in the life of the parish (serving as lectors, Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers often taking Communion to the sick, sacristans, Parish Council members, volunteers with St Vincent de Paul and other charities and where possible promote St Francis and his spirituality (work in soup kitchens, volunteer in hospitals, work for justice, peace and integrity of creation).
No, only Religious in the Church take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Secular Franciscans make a public profession to live the OFS Rule, usually during a Mass. This profession is a lifetime commitment.