1- What is the Secular Franciscan Order?
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
2- How do I join the Secular Franciscan Order?
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.
3- Who can join the Secular Franciscan Order
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.
4- What do Secular Franciscans do?
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).
5- Do Secular Franciscans take Vows?
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.
6- Are there any Secular Franciscan Saints?
Yes, there certainly are. In fact there are more Secular Franciscan Saints than among all the branches of the Religious Franciscans combined.
7- Who is St. Clare of Assisi?
St. Clare was born on July 16, 1194. Her baptismal name was Chiara Offreduccio. She is one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life, the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares. She is the patron saint of eye disorders and television. She died August 11, 1253. Secular Franciscans consider St. Francis as spiritual father and St. Clare as spiritual mother.
8- Can I meet your order and see how you live your lives?
Yes, indeed. This is the best way to learn about the Secular Franciscans. Call 1-800-FRANCIS or send an e-mail indicating your interest and location to 1.800.Francis@mail.com. Your information will be shared with members of the closest fraternity to your location. There you can meet Secular Franciscans, get to know us and discern if you are a Franciscan at heart. You can also review the list of local fraternities.
9- What does the Church say about the Secular Franciscans?
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.
10- What is I discern that I am not called to be a Secular Franciscan?
You are free to leave the discernment process at any time. Should you discern this after you have been professed, there is a process to withdraw.
11- Do I have to move from where I live to be closer to a local fraternity?
It is not necessary to move. There are hundreds of local fraternities in the United States and, usually, there is a fraternity relatively close where you can attend the monthly meetings and other fraternity activities.
12- Do I have to live with a group of Secular Franciscans in a convent or monastery?
No, Secular Franciscans live in their own homes. As such the Secular Franciscan way of life is an authentic way of life founded by Saint Francis for those who did not wish to become religious brothers and sisters living in a convent or friary. The commitment to prayer and fraternity are the same in that Secular Franciscans usually meet once a month in a church hall or elsewhere to be strengthened by the fraternal community.
13- How are the Secular Franciscans different from other Secular Orders?
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.
14- How do I know if I am being called to be a Secular Franciscan?
After attending a local fraternity meeting for about three months, you will have some idea if a Franciscan way of life and spirituality suits you, and if you think it does, then you can ask to be admitted to the formation program.
15- Exactly how does one live the Gospel values of Secular Franciscans in the world?
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.
16- How is the Secular Franciscan Order structured?
The Secular Franciscan Order is an Order within the Roman Catholic Church. It is divided into fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national, and international. The OFS is governed by the universal law of the Church; and by its own Rule, Constitutions, Ritual, and statutes. The interpretation of the Rule and of the Constitutions belongs to the Holy See. The interpretation of the Constitutions belongs to the General Chapter of the OFS. The clarification of specific points which require a timely decision is the competence of the Presidency of the International Council of the OFS. The International Council of the OFS has its own statutes approved by the General Chapter of the OFS and confirmed by the Union of the Franciscan Ministers General. National fraternities have their own statutes approved by the Presidency of the International Council of the OFS. The fraternities at different levels are animated and guided by the minister or president, with the council, in accordance with the Rule, the Constitutions, and their own Statutes. These offices are conferred through elections.
17- What does it mean to be a Secular Franciscan?
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.
18- How did the Secular Franciscan Order begin?
The Secular Franciscan Order began with Saint Francis of Assisi. From the very beginning of his ministry Saint Francis found people who desired to follow his way of life and spirituality — yet were married or did not want to become religious. Saint Francis responded by writing “The First Letter to all the Faithful” around 1215. So many people wanted to follow Saint Francis that the Rule of the Secular Franciscans was approved in 1221 — at that time, they were call the Brothers and Sisters of Penance later called the Third Order of St. Francis. One of the earliest Secular Franciscans was Lady Jacoba de Settesoli who was present when Saint Francis died in 1226. From this Order the Third Order Regulars (T.O.R.) emerged in the 15th century. The Order continued as the Third Order of St. Francis, Secular. In 1978, its name was changed to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). In 2011, the acronym changed from SFO to OFS (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis or Order of Secular Franciscans).
19- Are there any well-known or famous Secular Franciscans?
Yes, there are many well-known Secular Franciscans
- Innocent III – 1198-1216
- Honorius III – 1216-1227
- Gregory IX – 1227-1241
- Bl. Gregory X – 1271-1276
- Nicholas III – 1277-1280
- Celestine V – 1294 –
- Martin V – 1417-1431
- Sixtus IV – 1471-1484
- Alexander VI – 1492-1503
- Leo X – 1518-1521
- Sixtus V – 1585-1590
- Innocent XII – 1691-1700
- Clement XII – 1730-1740
- Pius IX – 1846-1878
- Leo XIII – 1878-1903
- St. Pius X 1903-1914
- Benedict XV – 1914-1922
- Pius XI – 1922-1939
- Pius XII – 1823-1829
- John XXIII – 1958-1963
DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH
- St. Francis deSales
- Charles Cardinal Borromeo
- Henry Edward Cardinal Manning
- Herbert Cardinal Vaughn
- John Cardinal Fisher
- BISHOPS (Note that all Cardinals were formerly Bishops)
- St. Francis deSales. PRIESTS
- St. John Vianney (Cures of Ars) Patron of Diocesan Priests
- Fr. Edward Flanagan Founder of Boy’s Town
- St. Joseph Cafasso Diocesan Priest and St. Don Bosco’s Teacher.
FOUNDERS (who were Secular Franciscans before founding a religious order)
- St. Angela Merici – Ursulines
- Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini – Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart
- St. John Bosco – Salesians
- Bl. Peter Julian Eymard – Blessed Sacrament Fathers
- St. Vincent Pallotti – Pallottine Fathers
- St. Michael Gariscoits – The Auxiliary Priests of the Sacred Heart
- St. Mary Joseph Rosello – The Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy
- St. Bridget of Sweden – The Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines)
- Bl. Mary Frances Schervier – Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis.
- Ferdinand and Isabella King and Queen of Spain
- St. Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary Patron of the Secular Franciscan Order
- St. Elizabeth Queen of Portugal
- Louis IX King of France, Patron of the Secular Franciscan Order. STATESMEN
- St. Thomas More
FAMILY MEMBERS OF SAINTS
- Parents of St. Therese, the Little Flower
- Parents of St. Maximilian Kolbe
- Mother of St. Maria Goretti
- Mother of John Bosco
- Brother of St. Bernadette Soubirous.
- Marie Rose Ferron
- St. Bernadette Soubirous
- St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Patron Saint of Beggars
- St. Francis deSales
- St. Joseph Calasanz.
- Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
- Franz Lizst
- Charles Gounod
- Sebastian Temple.
- Dante Alighieri, Coventry Patmore.
- Giotto di Bondone
- John Cimabue
- Bartholomew Murillo
- Christopher Columbus.
- Louis Pasteur
- Andre & Marie Ampere
- Michael Raraday.
- St. Joan of Arc
- St. Roch of Montpellier, Patron Against Contagious Diseases
- St. Catherine of Genoa, housewife.
- St. Conrad of Piacenza.
- St. Ceferino.
- Blessed Peter of Sienna, Comb manufacturer
- Blessed Luchesio, merchant and dock worker
- Matt Talbot