top of page

Third Order FAQ

The Third Order is an international association of lay faithful who observe the Rule of St. Francis for the Third Order with adaptations by Pope Leo XIII. It was started by the Marian Friars Minor in 2020.

What is the purpose of the MFM TO?

To promote the personal sanctification of its members through detachment from the world, prayer and the practice of virtue. 

Do Third Order members (aka "tertiaries") take vows?

Tertiaries do not take vows. They promise to observe the statutes given in the Rule of St. Francis for the Third Order, and to live in poverty, chastity and obedience according to their state in life.

I already pray and go to Mass. Why should I become a tertiary?

Since its inception, and especially in the last two centuries, the Popes have encouraged “all Christian men not refuse to enroll themselves in this sacred army” (Leo XIII). By striving to live Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience according to their station in life, tertiaries consecrate their secular state and enter a nobler company of the Church Militant. They promise to observe a rule which obliges them to detach from the world, renounce vice, and acquire virtue, leading many others toward salvation by their good example. The Third Order gives the laity a structure and form to guide them not just to salvation, but to sanctity. More than ever the Church needs men and women of all states who pray and practice heroic virtue. The Church and the world need you to become a saint. The Third Order is here to help you do it.

What is your Canonical Status?

The MFM TO is a De Facto Association of the faithful. We function according to the relevant Canons (215, 298 & 299, 310 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law) which govern such assemblies. “The Christian faithful are at liberty freely to found and direct associations for purposes of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world and to hold meetings for the common pursuit of these purposes” (Canon 255). This is the first stage for any group moving toward official canonical recognition in the Church.

Is the MFM TO real religious life?

Yes. The members of the MFM Third Order, by following the rule given by St. Francis and living Poverty, Chastity and Obedience according to their station in life, are true secular religious.

What is the habit of the MFM Third Order?

At present the formal habit consists of a brown woolen scapular with an image of Our Lady on the front and the insignia of the MFM on the back, along with a cord made of course rope with four knots worn around the waist. It is highly encouraged, though not required, that these be worn at Holy Mass and other liturgical services, as well as at Third Order chapter meetings. We also consider the modest and dignified attire which MFM tertiaries are to wear in all circumstances to be a sort of habit. With the way people dress today, simply wearing clothing which appropriately covers the body and communicates the dignity of a member of the Body of Christ distinguishes tertiaries from the rest of the secular world. Without being eccentric or pretending to be in a different time period, they show that they have set themselves apart for Christ, and have renounced the vanity and sensuality of the world.

Wearing an ankle-length skirt hinders me while I’m working. Do I have to wear a skirt while I’m working?

The commentary on the Rule grants dispensation for the wearing of long pants with a somewhat shorter skirt (still below the knee) over top. The friars wear their ankle-length habits year-round, no matter what kind of work they’re doing: carpentry, gardening, construction, logging, etc. So also in all circumstances should tertiaries wear their “habit”. Others will learn the value and beauty of modesty when they see that you don’t just practice this virtue at Sunday Mass, but also at home and during vigorous work.

It’s too hot where I live to wear long sleeves and slacks year-round. Can I wear short sleeves and shorts in the Summer?

A man who wants to be a brother of the Order of Penitents should be willing to endure a little discomfort for the sake of Christian modesty, decorum and good example. When he puts on his “habit” he should remember that he has put off the old man and put on Jesus Christ. Dressing thus also provides opportunities for evangelization. When someone asks, “Aren’t you hot?”, you can humbly explain why you’re wearing long sleeves and slacks in Louisiana in the middle of Summer.

Are enrollment in the Brown Scapular and Consecration to the Blessed Virgin required in order to be a Tertiary?

Though enrollment in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is not strictly necessary to join the MFM Third Order, it is highly encouraged.
   Consecration to the Blessed Virgin on the other hand is a strict requirement for membership in this Third Order, in particular under the form handed down to us by St. Maximilian Kolbe. Our understanding of Franciscanism is such that we do not follow this form of life without or apart from Our Lady as Her "Possession & Property", per the example of St. Francis and all the great Saints of the Seraphic Order.

Does membership in another Third Order preclude my admission into this group?

Yes, because a Tertiary is a Religious and one can only be a Religious of one congregation.

Can I be a Benedictine Oblate and a member of the Third Order?

Yes. An Oblate merely assists a monastery and participates in their prayers, while they themselves aren’t Religious. In this way, being an Oblate can even help a Tertiary have a structured prayer life and stay close to the Sacraments.

My duties prevent me from doing everything in the Third Order Rule. If I can’t do everything in the rule, why should I even try to be a Tertiary?

The rule provides Tertiaries with a structure to help sanctify themselves in the performance of their duties. It isn’t meant to be a hindrance but a support. This is why the office can be adapted, and it is just as good to say an Our Father at each hour, if that is all your duties permit you to do that day, as it is to pray the whole Roman Breviary. If it sometimes happens that you cannot say the prayers due to your circumstances, it is not a sin. Whether you are able to pray the whole Roman Office or just the Our Father’s, you are participating in the official public worship of the Church. As the adage goes, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Is it a sin if I fail to fulfill some precept of the rule?

It is always permitted to omit something that the rule prescribes in order to fulfill one’s duties. The Church wants Tertiaries to get the merit for fulfilling their promise without being culpable when they are unable to do so. On the other hand, failing to fulfill one’s promise out of willful negligence or pure laziness is always at least somewhat sinful, even if not as grave as breaking a vow.

Why do I need my husband’s permission to join?

As the head and authority over the family, the husband is responsible for the material and spiritual welfare of his household. Because a wife’s membership in a third order could affect her performance of her duties, it falls upon the husband to give his approval, having determined that it will be good for her and for the family as a whole.

What is the apostolate of the MFM TO?

The primary apostolate of the MFM TO is to lead others to holiness by the good example of lives of virtue and prayer. Organized efforts to perform spiritual or corporal works of mercy are determined by the local chapters at their discretion and upon their initiative.

How do I form an MFM TO chapter in my area?

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” All you need is one or two others who are interested in applying to the Third Order and begin meeting together every second Saturday of the month to attend the Zoom formation conferences. This can be done at a private home or, with the pastor’s permission, at the parish. We are also more than willing to come to your area to give a talk to promote the Third Order, if you think others would be interested.

Does the MFM TO have any groups of male or female tertiaries who live together somewhat like consecrated religious?

Not currently, but we are open to the possibility if God’s will should so dispose.

Are tertiaries required to donate to the Marian Friars Minor?


Are tertiaries allowed to listen to music?

We don’t try to dictate what people should do in this matter, but we offer these guidelines for those striving for greater recollection and union with God. Music which is chaste and modest in lyrics, rhythm and melody may be enjoyed with temperance. Anything of a worldly, sensual, or immoral nature, either in the lyrics or the rhythm and melody, is to be absolutely avoided. There are some types of music which, though they may not have an explicitly immoral character, nevertheless arouse the passions in such a way as to impede the development of the life of prayer, such as overly sentimental or exciting music. These are not necessarily harmful in moderation. In general, one who wishes to cultivate the Franciscan spirit of recollection and mortification should try to cut back on unnecessary noise and diversion, which distract him from the continual awareness of the presence of God.

The Rule says tertiaries aren’t allowed to take up lethal weapons. Does this mean I can’t have guns?

The Rule does not prohibit the use of weapons in defense of self, family, country, or the Faith. It is permissible to bear arms both for recreation and self-defense. What the rule forbids is taking up lethal weapons against another in an unjust cause, such as in the petty conflicts between feudal lords so common in St. Francis’ time. It is worth noting that this very precept largely helped to end the feudal system because so many men became tertiaries that the feudal lords could no longer raise armies to go to war with each other. On another note, some of the Church’s greatest crusaders were tertiaries, such as St. Louis IX of France and St. Ferdinand III of Spain.

Are tertiaries allowed to vote?

Absolutely. It is a duty of all Christians to promote the common good and especially the interests of the faith through local, state, and federal elections.

Are tertiaries allowed to be in the military?

Yes. Two of the greatest tertiary saints, St. Louis IX (patron of the Third Order), and St. Ferdinand III of Spain were kings who spent much of their careers campaigning against the Moors. It is always permissible to fight in defense of self, country, or Faith.

Do I still have to get rid of streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) if I only use them to watch "wholesome" content?

In the Rule for the Third Order it says, “They shall not go to unseemly parties or to shows or dances. They shall not donate to actors, and they shall forbid their households from donating.” In our day digital media has largely taken the place of shows and dances, but St. Francis’ rationale for prohibiting the Third Order from attending them still holds. He wanted his followers to avoid the scandal and occasion of sin caused not just by viewing such shows, but also by supporting those who present them. Regardless of what you watch on any streaming service, your subscription supports a company which promotes things which are offensive to God and irreconcilable with the Christian Faith, both in its content and how it uses its funds. Tertiaries are prohibited from giving monetary support to such propagators of impurity, indecency, vulgarity, impiety and error. Besides all this, even “wholesome content” can be an occasion of temptation by arousing the passions. What’s more, the sensory onslaught they deliver is no small impediment to recollection, prayer and true holiness. Such strong distractions drag the mind away from God and bog the heart down with vanity and sensuality.

The commentary says that smart phones are forbidden except if required by work. Are you saying that all technology is evil?

Technology, inasmuch as it is merely a tool, is not evil in itself. Smartphones and computers have become so commonplace in our society that it is almost impossible for many people to perform their duties without them (though this number is much smaller than most would like to admit). What we abhor is the attachment and dependency that many smartphone users have to their device, constantly bearing it on their person, some even as if it were an extension of their hand. Whether at work or at home, alone or with others, they are cripplingly absorbed in the noises and colors perpetually emitted from it, opening their minds to every distracting snippet of information that it feeds them. Need we even mention the grave and abominable sins which both men and women become addicted to through the agency of these devices? Again, we uphold that smartphones are not evil in themselves and that they are indeed necessary in many fields of work. But because their detrimental effect on men and women of all ages cannot be ignored, we prohibit their use for anything outside of such necessary circumstances.

I use my phone to listen to Catholic talks while I’m working. Why should I get rid of it?

Many people refuse to admit it, but their smartphone does them much more harm than good because of the attachment they have to it, even if they use it for “spiritual things”. Not to mention that those “harmless devices” constitute a near occasion of mortal sin for countless people. Any confessor will tell you that sins against the sixth commandment committed with those phones are distressingly common, even among “Traditional Catholics”. It may be hard to believe, but it’s actually possible for most people to get by with a phone that just has call and text, such as the LightPhone.
To the point that you use your phone to listen to “spiritual talks”, it’s not necessarily helpful to one’s spiritual life to have a continuous stream of information coming in, even if it be on the holiest of subjects. In addition to knowledge, the soul needs time in silence to ponder the Truth and to stir up the heart to love of God. Thus, listening to an endless stream of talks about the faith can become an impediment to the very end of those talks, namely contemplative union with God. With the Apostle St. Paul, we recommend striving to pray at all times by keeping the presence of God in one’s mind and heart while working, and frequently lifting the heart to him with short ejaculatory prayers. 

The Basics
Habit, Modesty, and Dress
Consecration, Scapular, and Other Orders
Fulfulling the Rule
Apostolate, Chapters, and Donating
Tertiaries Allowed To
bottom of page