Reflections on Formation Topics in the "For Up To Now" Manual

The SFO—An Integral Part of the Catholic Church

This Reflection is based on material found on page 17 of 24 ff, in the "Identity of a Secular Franciscan" section of the F.U.N. Manual

"In Canon Law the Secular Franciscan Order falls within the category of a Public Association of the Faithful. (cf. Canon 303)

"Associations whose members share in the spirit of some religious institute which 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."

The SFO General Constitutions, further define our status in Article 1.5 and states:

"The Secular Franciscan Order is a public association in the Church. It is divided into fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own juridical personality within the Church."

"The Secular Franciscan Order differs from other Third Orders in a significant way, and it is important that we are aware of the characteristics specific to the SFO.

  • The SFO shares a common founder with the First and Second Order—St. Francis of Assisi
  • The SFO is not associated or affiliated with the First Order or TOR—it is autonomous and self-governing.
  • The SFO shares in vital reciprocity with the other branches of the Franciscan family and has equal dignity.
  • The SFO was given the same charism and mission as the other branches of the Franciscan family. In our Secular state, we, too, continue the mission of St. Francis to rebuild God's Church.
  • Our Rule and Constitutions are approved by the Holy See and not by the Ministers General of the First Order and Third Order Regular.
  • Members of other third orders may belong to more than one third orders. Secular Franciscans may not.

The above is found on page 18 of 24 in the "Identity of a Secular Franciscan" section of the F.U.N. Manual, and it is crucial to how we think of ourselves. This is a major difference from the old "Third Order" system. Unfortunately, many older members' understanding of our role as an Order in the Catholic Church sides with the old system, and not enough realize that we are a self-governing order in the Church, and that our Rule and Constitutions are approved by the Holy See.

What does this all mean to the individual professed member? Well, not so much really. We strive to obey the Rule of St. Francis as best as possible, and that is hard enough. However, it does make a difference on the level of fraternity ministers, because of our relationship with the Church. St. Francis tells us what our identity must be if we are to be true to our calling.

The Conclusions on page 19 and 20 of 24, are important and should be taken to prayer or meditation. This is followed by a "Prayer Service" which is too long to reproduce here, but is great for fraternity use.

Peace and Good,

Fred Schaeffer, OFS
June 20, 2012