Third order

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Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), as a Dominican tertiary, lived outside religious institutions, and had a diplomatic career Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale's Golden book of famous women (1919) - St. Catherine of Siena (p. 239).jpg
Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), as a Dominican tertiary, lived outside religious institutions, and had a diplomatic career

The term third order signifies, in general, lay members of Christian religious orders, who do not necessarily live in a religious community such as a monastery or a nunnery, and yet can claim to wear the religious habit and participate in the good works of a great order. [1] Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Anglicanism all recognize third orders.


Third orders were a 12th-century adaptation of the medieval monastic confraternities. Members of third orders are known as tertiaries (Latin tertiarii, from tertius, "third"). In some cases, they may belong to a religious institute (a "congregation") that is called a "third order regular". [2]

Roman Catholic canon law states:

"Associations whose members share in the spirit of some religious institute while in secular life, lead an apostolic life, and strive for Christian perfection under the higher direction of the same institute are called third orders or some other appropriate name." [3]


Religious orders that arose in the 12th-13th centuries often had a first order (the male religious, who were generally the first established), the second order (nuns, established second), and then the third order of laity who were established third. Saint Francis of Assisi, for example, is said to have established the Friars Minor, the Poor Clares, and the Third Order of Saint Francis. [4]

The term tertiary comes from the Latin tertiarius, meaning "third". The term has been used for centuries to denote those who belonged to a third order. Tertiaries are those persons who live according to the Third Rule of religious orders, either outside of a monastery in the world, or in a religious community. The idea which forms the basis of this institute is typically that persons who, on account of certain circumstances cannot enter a religious order, may, nevertheless, as far as possible enjoy the advantages and privileges of religious orders. This is most clearly expressed in the Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis which, although not the oldest, has, nevertheless, become the model for the rule of almost all other Third Orders. Tertiaries are divided into Regular and Secular. [5]

In some cases the members of a third order, wishing to live in a more monastic and regulated way of life, became "regulars" (religious living under a rule, in Latin, regula) as members of a religious institute. These religious institutes or "congregations" are classified as belonging to the third order regular.[ citation needed ]


The old monastic orders had attached to their abbeys confraternities of lay men and women, going back in some cases to the 8th century. The Confraternity Book of Durham is extant and embraces some 20,000 names in the course of eight centuries. Emperors and kings and the most illustrious men in church and state were commonly confraters of one or other of the great Benedictine abbeys. The confraters and consorors were made partakers in all the religious exercises and other good works of the community to which they were affiliated, and they were expected in return to protect and forward its interests; but they were not called upon to follow any special rule of life. [6]

The general idea of lay people affiliated to religious orders, such as the Benedictine Oblates or confraters developed as founders and benefactors of monasteries were received into spiritual fellowship, and later clothed in death in some religious habit. So too the Templars had a whole system whereby layfolk could partake in some sort in their privileges and in the material administration of their affairs. But the essential nature of the tertiary is really an innovation of the thirteenth century. [1]

At that date many of the laity, impatient of the indolent and sometimes scandalous lives of the clergy in lower Europe, were seized with the idea of reforming Christendom by preaching. This admirable intention caused the rise of among others, the Fratres Humiliati. The Humiliati soon became suspect and were forbidden by Pope Lucius III to preach, until in 1207 Pope Innocent III gave a section of them permission to resume their work, provided that they limited themselves to moral questions and did not venture on doctrinal subjects. Some became priests, were gathered into a cloister, and took up religious life. Others remained outside, yet spiritually dependent on the clerical portion, and for the first time called a Third Order. [1] The Humiliati seem to have been the first to have 'tertiaries' in the twelfth century. These lived a rule of life within the world.

The name was used to a great extent in the Franciscan Order, [7] which possibly had the most popular third order. Other orders too had tertiaries such as the Trinitarians and the Dominicans. These were followed over time by a number of others such as the Carmelites, Servites, Augustinians, Augustinian Recollects, Discalced Carmelites and others. But by whatever name they were called in the inception, there have been lay persons who have professed to live according to either the Rule of the brothers adapted to their secular life or a rule drawn up particularly for them. They shared the same spirituality, the same superiors, and even aspects of the same habit such as the scapular. Eventually, the name "tertiary" became popularized and attached to all who lived in this way. There have been a number of beatified or canonized tertiaries.

With the advent of the Second Vatican Council came an elaboration of the lay vocation. The lay vocation is a vocation distinct from that of the consecrated state. It involves the sanctification of ordinary life, of one's work, of family life, of all the various secular occupations. It is the leaven in the midst of the world to order the temporal world to God.

As the various third orders secular began to look at each of their houses after the Council they began to revise their Rules and Statutes. The Orders submitted their new Statutes or Rules or Constitutions to the Holy See for review and approbation. Thus the new Statutes etc. are steeped in the doctrine of the Council regarding the universal call to holiness and the theology of the lay vocation including the secular character of the laity. Various Orders have opted to change the name from "Third Order Secular" to "Secular Order" (or at least add it to usage) to emphasize the secular nature of the Order or they used the term "Lay or Laity" to the same effect. "Third order" and "tertiary" is still used but other names were added or used in a formal sense. The various documents show how the laity of the various Orders are part of the Order (or family etc.) but fully within their particular lay and secular state. They show how tertiaries are to live fully their Christian lay vocation, as well as how they are to live the charism of the Order they belong to within secular life. They also provide various means to tending towards holiness in the midst of the world, which very much is part of the vocation of the tertiary—to strive for Christian perfection (CIC 303).

Historical third orders secular of the Catholic Church (all still in existence)

There also are third or secular orders in the Protestant denominations, such as the Anglican and Episcopal Church.


Members of third orders are thus either (a) regulars, living in common under a religious rule of life, or (b) seculars, living in the world. The regulars take the three canonical religious vows; the seculars make promises, which are not considered binding under pain of sin, as are the vows of religious institutes, or in some cases may take private vows [8] of obedience and chastity or in some cases even poverty, chastity and obedience (all according to their lay state). [9] Their link with a religious institute is what distinguishes them from members of other "associations of the Christian faithful" and entitles their associations to be "called third orders or some other appropriate name". [3]


Any Roman Catholic, Lutheran or Anglican may join a Third Order of their respective religious tradition. The laying aside of the distinctive sign or prayers for any space of time does not in itself put an end to membership with a Third Order, but the deliberate wish to dissociate oneself from it is sufficient to produce that effect (S. Cong. Indulg., 31 January 1893).[ citation needed ]

Roman Catholic third orders

Third Order Secular of the Most Holy Trinity

The Order of the Most Holy Trinity was founded to ransom Christian Captives (especially those in danger of renouncing their faith). There have been tertiaries of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives since the beginnings of the Order though they were known by many names. Lay confreres were admitted already in 1198 by the permission of Pope Innocent III. Statutes attributed to William the Scotsman, the third Minister General of the Order (1217–1222), give some idea of the primitive organization of the Trinitarian Fraternity. [10]

The first known Statutes of the Trinitarian Third Order were published in 1584, and were approved by the General of the Order, Father Bernard Dominici. The first Rule of Life for the Third Order attached to the Discalced Trinitarians was approved by Pope Leo XII on 6 June 1828. [10]

Third Order of Saint Francis

The preaching of St. Francis of Assisi, as well as his own living example and that of his first disciples, exercised such a powerful attraction on the people that many married men and women wanted to join the First or the Second Order. This being incompatible with their state of life, St. Francis found a middle way: he gave them a rule animated by the Franciscan spirit. [6]

The Third Order of St. Francis in the Roman Catholic Church is part of the Franciscan family of religious orders. It is the best known and most widely distributed of the third orders, and has both regular and secular branches. The Third Order was created by Francis of Assisi, and was the exemplar after which the others were fashioned. [6]

Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (also named Lay Carmelites) are the third order associated with the Carmelites. It was established in 1476 by a bull of Pope Sixtus IV and is known for devotion to Virgin Mary, under her title as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Discalced branch is termed Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.

The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Siena by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1460 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Giovanni di Paolo The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Siena.jpg
The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Siena by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1460 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Third Order of Saint Dominic

This was one of the earliest developments of Saint Dominic's Ordo de Poenitentia. It was not indeed the primal organism from which the Friars Preachers evolved, but rather represents that portion of the Order of Penance which came under Dominican influence. At first vaguely constituted and living without system or form, its members gradually grew more and more dependent on their spiritual guides. Their two greatest saints are Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima, who both lived ascetic lives in their family homes, and whose spiritual influence was great in their societies.

Third Order of Servites

The Servite Order has had both a secular and regular Third Order. The secular Third Order was established in the United States in 1893.

The Sisters of the Third Order of Servites was founded by St. Juliana Falconieri of Florence, who received the habit c. 1385 from Philip Benizi, then Prior General of the Servite friars. The Servite Sisters' traditional habit consisted of a black tunic, secured by a leather belt, and a white veil. The sisters devoted themselves especially to the care of the sick and other works of mercy; because the gown had short sleeves to facilitate work, people called the Sisters of the new order "Mantellate." There were, in the early 20th century, two congregations, with a membership of 400.

Third Order of Saint Augustine

These are the men and women who follow the spirit of the Rule of St. Augustine in their daily lives under the spiritual guidance of the Augustinian friars.

Secular Augustinian Recollects

The Secular Augustinian Recollects (Spanish : Agustinos Recoletos Seglares) is the official Third Order of the Order of Augustinian Recollects. Today, the SAR is present in 19 countries in 111 Local Chapters with at least 3,500 members.

Lutheran Churches

There are in the Lutheran Church, Lutheran Franciscan Third Orders in Germany, Sweden and North America, as well as other third orders, such as the Humiliatenorden.[ citation needed ]

Lutheran Franciscan Tertiaries

In Germany, the Lutheran Franciscan Tertiaries, officially known as the Evangelische Franziskanerbruderschaft der Nachfolge Christi, were founded in 1927; the emphasize the Rule of Saint Francis and pray daily from their breviary. [11]

Franciskus Tredje Orden

The Franciskus Tredje Orden is a Lutheran third order of the Church of Sweden. [12]

Anglican Communion

Third orders in the Anglican Communion have in common that they are composed of both men and women, single and married, who are living and working in the world in their various life callings.

Franciscan tradition

Third Order, Society of St. Francis

The Third Order (TSSF) of the Society of St. Francis was founded in 1950. [13] The TSSF consists of lay and ordained people. It is divided into five provinces: Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the Americas. [14]

Third Order, Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion

The Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion (FODC) was founded in the United States in 1981. Its third order is also known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.

Dominican tradition

Anglican Order of Preachers

The Anglican Order of Preachers is the primary manifestation of Dominican spirituality within the Anglican Communion, which has no primary religious orders in the Dominican tradition, [15] It holds to a third order-style structure for all of its members, who follow the Dominican Rule, and are a designated 'Christian Community' (secular religious order).

Other traditions

Third Order of St. Andrew

The Order of Saint Andrew is an Anglican ecumenical order. Any member in good standing of any Christian Church in apostolic succession may make application to join. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carmelites</span> Roman Catholic religious order

The Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, known as the Carmelites or sometimes by synecdoche known simply as Carmel, is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order for men and women. Historical records about its origin remain uncertain, but it was probably founded in the 12th century on Mount Carmel in the Crusader States. Berthold of Calabria, as well as Albert of Vercelli, have traditionally been associated with the founding of the order, but few clear records of early Carmelite history have survived. The order of Carmelite nuns was formalised in 1452.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franciscans</span> Group of religious orders within the Catholic Church

The Franciscans are a group of related mendicant Christian religious orders within the Catholic Church. Founded in 1209 by the Italian saint Francis of Assisi, these orders include three independent orders for men, orders for nuns such as the Order of Saint Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis open to male and female members. They adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary. Several smaller Protestant Franciscan orders exist as well, notably in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions.

A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. It is usually composed of laypeople and, in some orders, clergy. Such orders exist in many of the world's religions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Friar</span> Member of a Christian order

A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders of the Roman Catholic church. The term, first used in the 12th or 13th century, distinguishes the mendicants' itinerant apostolic character, exercised broadly under the jurisdiction of a superior general, from the older monastic orders' allegiance to a single monastery formalized by their vow of stability. A friar may be in holy orders or be a brother. The most significant orders of friars are the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Carmelites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scapular</span> Short cloak or cloth pieces, worn with ecclesiastical dress

A scapular is a Western Christian garment suspended from the shoulders. There are two types of scapulars, the monastic and devotional scapular; both forms may simply be referred to as "scapular". As an object of popular piety, a scapular serves to remind wearers of their commitment to live a Christian life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mendicant orders</span> Type of religious lifestyle

Mendicant orders are, primarily, certain Roman Catholic religious orders that have adopted for their male members a lifestyle of poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas for purposes of preaching, evangelization, and ministry, especially to the poor. At their foundation these orders rejected the previously established monastic model. This model prescribed living in one stable, isolated community where members worked at a trade and owned property in common, including land, buildings and other wealth. By contrast, the mendicants avoided owning property at all, did not work at a trade, and embraced a poor, often itinerant lifestyle. They depended for their survival on the goodwill of the people to whom they preached. The members of these orders are not called monks but friars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trinitarians</span> Catholic religious order

The Trinitarians, formally known as the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives, is a mendicant order of the Catholic Church for men founded in Cerfroid, outside Paris, in the late 12th century. From the very outset, a special dedication to the mystery of the Holy Trinity has been a constitutive element of the order's life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lay Carmelites</span> Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also known as the Lay Carmelites, is a third order of the Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance, established in 1476 by a bull of Pope Sixtus IV. It is an association of people who choose to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its guidance. Its members are mainly lay people.

A religious is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Society of Saint Francis</span> Religious order of Anglicans

The Society of Saint Francis (SSF) is an international Franciscan religious order within the Anglican Communion. It is the main recognised Anglican Franciscan order, but there are also other Franciscan orders in the Anglican Communion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discalced Carmelites</span> Catholic religious order

The Discalced Carmelites, known officially as the Order of the Discalced Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or the Order of Discalced Carmelites, is a Catholic mendicant order with roots in the eremitic tradition of the Desert Fathers. The order was established in the 16th century, pursuant to the reform of the Carmelite Order by two Spanish saints, Teresa of Ávila (foundress) and John of the Cross (co-founder). Discalced is derived from Latin, meaning "without shoes".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglican religious order</span> Community in the Anglican Communion living under a common rule of life

Anglican religious orders are communities of men or women in the Anglican Communion who live under a common rule of life. The members of religious orders take vows which often include the traditional monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, or the ancient vow of stability, or sometimes a modern interpretation of some or all of these vows. Members may be laity or clergy, but most commonly include a mixture of both. They lead a common life of work and prayer, sometimes on a single site, sometimes spread over multiple locations. Though many Anglicans are members of religious orders recognized by the Anglican Communion, others may be members of ecumenical Protestant or Old Catholic religious orders while maintaining their Anglican identity and parochial membership in Anglican churches.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discalced</span> Religious order whose members go barefoot or wear sandals

A discalced religious order is one whose members go barefoot or wear sandals. These orders are often distinguished on this account from other branches of the same order. The custom of going unshod was introduced into the West by Saint Francis of Assisi for men and by Saint Clare of Assisi for women.

The Third Order of Saint Francis is a third order in the Franciscan tradition of Christianity, founded by the medieval Italian Catholic friar Francis of Assisi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Augustinian Recollects</span> Mendicant Catholic religious order of friars and nuns

The Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR) is a mendicant Catholic religious order of friars and nuns. It is a reformist offshoot from the Augustinian hermit friars and follows the same Rule of St. Augustine. They have also been known as the "Discalced Augustinians".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Secular Franciscan Order</span> Third branch of the Franciscan Family

The Secular Franciscan Order is the third branch of the Franciscan Family formed by Catholic men and women who seek to observe the Gospel of Jesus by following the example of Francis of Assisi. Secular Franciscans are not like the other third orders, since they are not under the higher direction of the same institute. Brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order make a spiritual commitment (promises) to their own Rule, and Secular Franciscan fraternities can not exist without the assistance of the first or second Franciscan Orders. The Secular Franciscan Order was the third of the three families founded by Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites</span> Third order of Catholic lay persons

The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, formerly the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and of the Holy Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, is a third order of Catholic lay persons and secular clergy associated with the Discalced Carmelites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franciscan spirituality in Protestantism</span> Influence of the spirituality of Catholic saint Francis in Protestant Christians

Emerging since the 19th century, there are several Protestant adherent and groups, sometimes organised as religious orders, which strive to adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of Saint Francis of Assisi.

A religious brother is a member of a religious institute or religious order who commits himself to following Christ in consecrated life of the Church, usually by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He is usually a layman and usually lives in a religious community and works in a ministry appropriate to his capabilities.

When referring to Roman Catholic religious orders, the term Second Order refers to those communities of contemplative cloistered nuns which are a part of the religious orders that developed in the Middle Ages.



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  5. PD-icon.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain : Heckmann, Ferdinand. "Tertiaries." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 28 July 2019
  6. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Baber, Edward Cresswell (1911). "Tertiaries". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 660–661.
  7. Iriarte, Lazaro (1982). Franciscan history : the three orders of St. Francis of Assisi. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. ISBN   0819908312.
  8. "Code of Canon Law - IntraText".
  9. Cf. Angelus a S.S. Corde, O.C.D., "Manuale juris communis Regularium", Ghent, 1899, q. 1067
  10. 1 2 "Trinitarian laity", Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives
  11. Brunn, Stanley D. (3 February 2015). The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics. Springer. p. 602. ISBN   978-94-017-9376-6.
  12. Mike, Chaplain (8 November 2019). "Franciscan Friday: Franciscan and Lutheran |". Internet Monk. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  13. Society of St. Francis
  14. "Third Order of Franciscans". Third Order of Franciscans.
  15. "Brothers & Sisters". Anglican Order of Preachers. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  16. "The Order of Saint Andrew: An Anglican ecumenical religious order of both men and women, single and married". Retrieved 5 September 2019.


Roman Catholic

Third Order, Society of St. Francis, Anglican Communion