The Secular Franciscan Order began as a movement founded by Saint Francis of Assisi of lay men and women inspired by Francis’ life of poverty and charity, called, “The Brothers and Sisters of Penance.” When the movement spread rapidly a Rule of Life was needed to live a life of the Gospel in the world and was formulated and approved by Pope Honorius III in 1221 and then by Pope Nicholas IV, who approved a more uniform rule in 1289. Throughout the centuries the order became known as The Third Order of St. Francis. The rule was renewed by Pope Paul VI in 1978 and was renamed the Secular Franciscan Order.
The Secular Franciscan Order is a community of secular laity and clergy who seek to pattern their lives after Saint Francis of Assisi, and through him, Christ Jesus. Secular Franciscans still strive, as it has been from the very beginning, to live the life of the Gospels. The Order stresses fraternity life, a quest for personal holiness, personal and fraternity apostolates with the aim to work for social justice and peace in the world.
It is an equal and authentic part of the Franciscan family sharing its charisms with the friars of the Franciscan First Orders (the Friars Minor, the Conventuals, and the Capuchins), the sisters of the Franciscan Second Order of Poor Clare nuns, and the various congregations of the Third Order Regular religious.
The Tau cross is the distinctive sign of the Secular Franciscan Order. It is an ancient Christian symbol that can be traced back to the words of the prophet Ezekiel to signify those who belong to God. St. Francis saw the Tau as a symbol of the cross of Christ, the sign of salvation, and used the Tau to sign his name.
The Order is divided into local, regional, national, and international fraternities. Each fraternity has an elected Council to minister to the needs of the brothers and sisters. Each has a Spiritual Assistant who keeps Saint Francis’ unique way of following Christ alive. Fraternities generally meet once a month members meet for prayers, ongoing formation, and support under the leadership of an elected Minister.
There are three active Secular Franciscan fraternities within the Diocese of London:
Each Secular Franciscan Fraternity continues to invite new members to join its numbers. If you are interested or would simply like more information, please contact either one of the above contacts.