Welcome. We hope your exploration into the Secular Franciscan Order is a joy-filled journey. Below are some resources we hope answer some foundational aspects of the Secular Franciscan Order.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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 is calling 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 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.
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.
The church accepts the Secular Franciscan Order as part of the Franciscan family. Secular Franciscans are directly under the Pope. A number of the Popes, Pius IX (Papacy 1846-1878); Leo XIII (1978-1903); Pius X (1903-1914); Benedict XV (1914-1922); Pius XI (1922-1939); Pius XII (1939-1958) to Saint John XXIII (1958-1963), belonged to the Secular Franciscan Order. Beginning with Pope Leo XIII the Franciscans and especially the Secular Franciscan Order was seen as the best way to contribute to the transformation of the world by teaching Saint Francis’ vision of universal brotherhood and peace.
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).
Secular Franciscans follow the way of life and spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi – the way of seraphic love. Saint Francis gave the Church a new Religious Order. In fact he founded three Orders, The Order of Friars Minor, Poor Clares and the Secular Franciscan Order (Third Order). Each had its own Rule of Life. Saint Francis was not the first person to begin a Third Order for lay people. There were already groups of lay people approved by the Holy See before the Secular Franciscans. Much later the Rule of the Secular Dominicans was approved in 1285 and the Secular Carmelite Rule in1415. These were approved as Orders because they were seen as an extension of the Spirit and way of life of these Orders. Each Order follows the particular charism of the founder. Secular Franciscans focus on spreading the peace and love of Christ through peacemaking and serving the marginalized.
The “motto” of the Secular Franciscan Order is “…going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.” This is a process whereby Secular Franciscans use the Gospel to discern how to act in real terms during life situations. By developing a deep relationship with the Lord through prayer and reading the Gospel, then Secular Franciscans experience a change in attitude and thus become more aware and able to discern and act with love and compassion.
Secular Franciscans commit themselves to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their secular condition. The Secular Franciscan must personally and assiduously study the Gospel and Sacred Scripture to foster love for the word of the Gospel as it is proclaimed by the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Secular Franciscans, called in earlier times “the brothers and sisters of penance”, propose to live in the spirit of continual conversion. Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to live the spirit of the Beatitudes and, in a special way, the spirit of poverty. Evangelical poverty demonstrates confidence in the Father, affects interior freedom, and disposes them to promote a more just distribution of wealth. They pledge themselves to reduce their own personal needs so as to be better able to share spiritual and material goods with their brothers and sisters, especially those most in need. They should take a firm position against consumerism and against ideologies and practices which prefer riches over human and religious values and which permit the exploitation of the human person. They should love and practice purity of heart, the source of true fraternity.