I’ve started my official period of formation as a secular Franciscan. It always seems a bit complicated to explain this to people. I’m learning not to say, “Well, it’s like a religious order but you don’t live in community.” In fact it is a religious order, and it does have a strong community element.
The “third order” has been a part of the Franciscan family almost from the beginning. Francis himself had a strong vision for the “brothers and sisters of penance” who would live the Gospel in their daily lives in the world.
The book we’re using for formation is To Live as Francis Lived: A Guide for Secular Franciscans. In the very beginning, it has the “Franciscan Creed,” which is a lovely summation of the Third Order Rule. It might just be the answer I need when people ask what it is that I’m doing. Here are the first few lines:
Inspired by the vision of St. Francis, we commit ourselves to the Gospel as our way of life.
Our world-view is centered in Christ; we see Jesus Christ as the beginning, the way, and the goal of all creation.
This world vision reveals to us a God who is Father and a life that is love. This demands of us a life as brothers and sisters of all people and of all creation.
We are in pilgrimage, trying to reach our Father, trying to live a life of love. We have not yet arrived; we are sinners, but we are called to be saints.
My favorite line, though, comes toward the end: “Joy sustains our lives and fulfills our lives; we seek the same for others.” This, to me, is the essence of the Franciscan charism, and if I focus on this, I will go a long way toward living as Francis—and Jesus—lived.