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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

On Third Orders and ...

Now, at the end of the semester, I asked my student for an idea for a post. "Third Orders" was the answer, so here is a post.

Third Orders have been part of the lay life of the Church for centuries. The origin of Third Orders is truly shrouded in history's mists, as there are many ideas of the connections between laypeople and monasteries or convents.

One can point to the Lay Brothers who worked with the Benedictines early on, remaining lay, but wearing the habit and doing manual labor in the monasteries. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Knights Templar allowed lay members to work alongside them, but whether these lay men were knights, sergeants, or farmers (obviously, not priests), is not clear.

Agreeing that the Benedictines most likely invented the idea of the lay oblate, one can trace other third orders as later developments.

But, the "regular" that is, laity who live in monasteries or convents no longer exist, as this order was suppressed, but lay brothers do, as most men who live in monasteries who are not to be ordained are now called lay brothers. Franciscan houses hold many lay brothers. The distinction has been blurred as some take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, which technically make them "religious" and not "lay".

The old division of lay and choir brothers or nuns exist rarely in some orders. 

The other term for a person in a third order who lives in the world is "secular", but this is also confusing, as diocesan priests are also called "secular priests" as opposed to "religious" priests who belong to orders.

The real term for a third order lay person is "tertiary". 

But, the secular who is a lay person does not make vows. Lay third order members may be found among the Benedictines (Oblates), Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and other new orders.

I am a member of a third order which is new, but at this time I do not want to share the name.

Being a member of a third order involves more prayer than what many lay people desire to do and the prayer is specific to the order.

However, lay third order members do have some prayers in common, such as some of the Divine Office.
I, for example, do not say all the seven hours of prayer at this time, although some days I am able to do so.
When I am working, I can only say one or two of the hours.

I am very Benedictine in my spirituality, but sadly, have not been able to be an oblate, as one must live close to a monastery, which I have not.

Other prayers said by the tertiary are the rosary, and set prayers of the specific order. Canon Law notes this:

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.

Just to complicate matters, there are other associations of lay people with different canonical status.

These are: secular institutes, associations of the faithful, communities, movements and groups. If you really want an indepth look at these, here is the link concerning the Canon Law.

A list is found here:

It is important to remember that members of these orders are all lay. For many years in my youth, I was a member of such a group, but never made a solemn promise. I made yearly promises.

I can refer to one group, and a blog post which I am putting here, which explains more about such groups. Here are some quotations from man who started a lay association of the faithful, Ferdi McDermott:

There is no ontological difference between a professed religious and a layman. There is an ontological difference between an ordained man and a layman. Hence the nature of a vocation to the priesthood and a vocation to the religious life is completely different. Secular priests, for example, do not live the evangelical counsels in a special way (although they are usually celibate and obedient to a bishop), but they are certainly called to the priesthood. They also tend to respond to the invitation to the evangelical counsels in a generous way, according to circumstances and custom.

Marriage is also a state which is – it seems to me – profoundly ontological: the two people become one flesh, and this can never be undone, except by death. Although they are free to marry again if one partner dies, it is likely that marriage has some kind of effect on the soul, which is, after all, inextricably bound up with the flesh. This question has always been a mysterious one.

Vocations to the ordained ministry and to marriage depend on sacraments instituted by Christ himself. Also, marriage – in some sense - is part of the original blueprint of creation. Priesthood is an accident of history (even if a happy one) which would not have come to pass but for Adam’s sin, for without Adam’s sin, no great sacrifice was called for.

....May I add here that one should join a third order or association of the faithful if one shares a charism with the group.

So, in the twentieth century the evangelical conception of the ministry of the Church is restored, with a variety of callings, but the same Spirit to animate them all. (cf. Corinthians 12)

Thus, while the single state may be a transitional one, it is not necessarily so. In the context of a real vocation to a kind of diakonia in the Church or the world (such as teaching or nursing, for example) it can be where God wants someone to be for a whole lifetime.

This is because the Church needs such people in the midst of the world: “the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.” It was this freedom, within the world, that enabled Pauline Jaricot, Joan of Arc and Catherine of Siena to immerse themselves in politics, for the good of all, as well as in a life of prayer.

It was this freedom, in our own age, that allowed Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, to minister to the prostitutes of Dublin, and to cut though the political red tape that stood in the way of helping them to improve their lot.

The choice, then, of this evangelical freedom, for the reasons which St Paul explained in his first letter to the Corinthians, is a radical option that is still valid today; one which remains open to single people seeking to do God’s will in the world. As such, it is a witness to perfect charity, inasmuch as it is ordered to the giving of self in the lay apostolate.

In the modern Church, as at different times in the past, various associations and secular institutes, approved by the Church, assist single lay people to persevere in their way of life. These organisations, such as the Third Orders, Opus Dei, and various other groups, are useful to such people and can make their apostolic efforts more fruitful.

Another famous blogger, Anita Moore, is a Third Order Dominican, and the famous tweeter and blogger, CatholicBandita, Lisa Graas, is a Third Order Passionist.  It would be interesting to know if more bloggers were in third orders.