Rule of the Third Order
The Marian Friars Minor Third Order professes the Rule of St. Francis for the Third Order under the form confirmed by Pope Leo XIII.
However, for the purpose of better observing this Rule, we encourage all to strive to conform themselves to the ancient form of the rule as found in the "Rule of 1221".
The two forms of this Rule are not contradictory, but are intended to be complimentary to one another, inasmuch as the ancient and modern forms jointly provide a complete Rule of Life for Tertiaries today.
RULE AND COMMENTARY OF THE THIRD ORDER
OF SAINT FRANCIS FOR THE LAITY (1221)
Here begins the Rule of the Continent Brothers and Sisters: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The memorial of what is proposed for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, living in their own homes, begun in the year of our Lord 1221, is as follows.
* Marian Friars’ Minor Commentary
† Explanation of rule from Seraphic Guide, Benzinger Brothers, 1884.
CHAPTER I: DAILY LIFE
1. The men belonging to this brother-hood shall dress in humble, undyed cloth, the price of which is not to exceed six Ravenna "soldi an ell", unless for evident and necessary cause a temporary dispensation be given. And breadth and thinness of the cloth are to be considered in said price.
*Here we consider name brand and designs on clothing purchased according to the tag or mark of the product.
2. They shall wear their outer garments and furred coats without open throat, sewed shut or uncut
but certainly laced up, not open as secular people wear them; and they shall wear their sleeves closed.
* All modesty according to Christian dignity is to be observed.
• Sleeves must come to elbow and collar should not exceed three fingers bellow collarbone.
• Skirts should arrive at the ankle.
• All form-fitted clothing in fashion is to be avoided absolutely!
• Shorts are not to be worn by either men or women except in appropriate time of recreation for the former.
• Both men and women should avoid the common trend to “dress down” or the ever present “casual look.”
• Men should prefer non-jean slacks with tucked-in collar, button-down shirt for less formal situations and a tie and jacket for Holy Mass on Sundays and Holydays, as well as all formal functions.
• Women should prefer the classical feminine attire of skirts and dresses, avoiding pants except when certain times of work demand it, and unless this is dictated by a work place, a skirt of shorter length should be worn over that.
• It especially falls to women to make the sacrifice of combating the evils of immodest and masculine dress, so rampant in the current culture, by embracing this feminine dignity, which so uplifts the race of man, and is noticed first in modest feminine attire.
3. The sisters in turn shall wear an outer garment and tunic made of cloth of the same price and humble quality; or at least they are to have with the outer garment a white or black underwrap or petticoat, or an ample linen gown without gathers, the price of an ell of which is not to exceed twelve Pisa denars. As to this price, however, and the fur cloaks they wear a dispensation may be given according to the estate of the woman and the custom of the place. They are not to wear silken or dyed veils and ribbons.
4. And both the brothers and the sisters shall have their fur garments of lamb's wool only. They are permitted to have leather purses and belts sewed in simple fashion without silken thread, and no other kind. Also other vain adornments they shall lay aside at the bidding of the Visitor.
* Vain attire shall be laid aside except in the case that these are pleasing and helpful to a wife’s husband. As the world has become overly sexualized, despising all beauty, especially of women, a wife’s beauty can be of great consolation to her husband in these dark times.
† Tertiaries should carefully maintain a spirit of modesty and simplicity in their dress, and abstain as much as possible from expensive fabrics, jewelry, bracelets, watches and chains, which are inconsistent with the spirit of their vocation. If compelled to wear them by the circumstances in which they are placed, or to avoid giving needless offence to their relations and friends, they would do well to wear something penitential under their clothes, which would remind them of their real state before God, remembering always that clothing was given to us as a covering for sin, and should be a matter of humiliation rather than vanity.
5. They are not to go to unseemly parties or to shows or dances. They shall not donate to actors, and shall forbid their household to donate.
* Or other forms of entertainment where the vice of the world is put on display. Nor are they to pay for use of entertainment platforms for secular means such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, and the many others. This is how we are interpreting “donate to actors.”
• The computer or phone, too is not to be used for any type of secular entertainment which brings our faculties to their base function.
• Here we are including secular news sources as worldly entertainments and base use of our faculties, as we know that mostly all news has become sensationalized, anti-God, and ideologically-driven and so must be avoided. This is especially the case for men who become very easily addicted to these forms of sensory gratification.
• iPhone, Androids, and all like phones are forbidden unless mandated by our work place, in which their use is permitted for work but not personal use.
• All phones are to be simple.
† “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world” (John 2:15). This contempt of the world and its pleasures passed from the Heart of our Divine Redeemer to that of His Apostles. The Rule of the Third Order, being drafted from the counsels of evangelical perfection, naturally bears the impress of this same spirit, and declares that the noisy turmoil and dissipation of the gay world is incompatible with the sanctity of a Christian life.
Let the Tertiaries, then, never forget that in their profession they have renewed before God and men the vows made at their baptism, to renounce the devil and all his works. They must observe not merely the letter of the Rule in this respect, but also the spirit of it. They are forbidden balls, where modesty is so often imperilled, and theatres, where human passions have their full sway, and where the most solid virtue suffers some taint. Let us hear on this subject an eminent master of spiritual life:
“Were the theatre to confine itself to the representation of memorable historical events, to the reproduction of the edifying actions of great men, it would not be objectionable. But this is not the case. We find there, on the contrary, everything combined to excite the passions. The splendor and fascination of the stage, the artful representations enhanced by seductive decorations, the ensnaring pantomimes and indecorous dress of the actors and actresses — what can they produce but temptations? Add to this the subjects which compose the plays: what are they but a glorification of the passions? Very often, also, religion and sacred persons and things are held up to ridicule, and made subservient in a most unworthy manner to the gratification of a morbid curiosity. And were it even possible for a person to witness such spectacles without arousing his passions, it is nevertheless sinful to expose ourselves to temptation, because it is our duty always and everywhere to watch over our senses and to repel dangerous thoughts and ideas. Can it, moreover, be excusable to spend money for such things, whilst poverty and distress surround us and clamor for relief?”
As to dancing — it is at best a frivolous amusement, usually fraught with dangerous consequences for soul and body, and therefore an abomination to virtuous persons. The propensity to indulge in it betrays a great levity of character and want of religious zeal. We may therefore reasonably conclude that dancing is an insurmountable obstacle to that perfection, which members of the Third Order are supposed to profess.
The members should also avoid public houses, and, in fact, any places of loose public resort. Gambling of any sort is strictly for-bidden, as well as acting, or taking part in any conversations or actions inconsistent with modesty and purity. At the same time innocent recreations are not forbidden. Tertiaries must, then, try to steer the middle course between the pernicious follies of the age and a moroseness and melancholy which are incompatible with the real Christian spirit of love and joy. They must strive to edify the world by their modesty and charity, so as to make virtue and piety attractive, by a greater sweetness, kindness, and benevolence, towards all with whom they are brought in contact. So will they win souls to Christ, and their apostolate will bring forth fruit a hundred-fold.
The reading of bad books, papers, novels, plays, in a word of the trashy literature of the day, in which vice and passion are clothed in the most seductive colors to insinuate their fatal poison into the soul, is one of the chief causes of prevalent immorality and infidelity. Tertiaries should have recourse to their spiritual director or prefect for advice in the selection of reading matter, and they will be sure of partaking of wholesome mental food.
CHAPTER II: ABSTINENCE
6. All are to abstain from meat save on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, except on account of illness or weakness, for three days at bloodletting, in traveling, or on account of a specially high feast intervening, namely, the Nativity for three days, New Year's, Epiphany, the Pasch of the Resurrection for three days, Assumption of the glorious Virgin Mary, the solemnity of All Saints and of St. Martin. On the other days, when there is no fasting, they may eat cheese and eggs. But when they are with religious in their convent homes, they have leave to eat what is served to them. And except for the feeble, the ailing, and those traveling, let them be content with dinner and supper. Let the healthy be temperate in eating and drinking.
7. Before their dinner and supper let them say the Lord's prayer once, likewise after their meal, and let them give thanks to God. Otherwise let them say three Our Fathers.
† The main object of St. Francis in instituting the Third Order was to stem the tide of sensuality and self- indulgence, which threatened to overwhelm society in the era in which he lived. Thoroughly imbued with the spirit of mortification, he made himself a holocaust of penance, and in order to encourage his followers in a path so painful to the senses, he gave them abundant proofs of the way in which the devils fled from those whose lives were mortified and austere.
“They that are Christ’s,” says St. Paul, “have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences” (Gal. 5:24). By this voluntary expiation of their own sins and those of others, Tertiaries will gain daily victories, not only over themselves, but over the world, which is so bitter an enemy to everything like penance and mortification.
Therefore the Rule advises them to be temperate in eating and drinking. They should look upon their meals as humbling though necessary acts, to be performed in a penitential spirit. They should eat what is set before them, without complaint or over-delicacy. All luxury and superfluity should be banished from their tables. That they say grace before and give thanks after each meal is a simple act of gratitude to the tenderest of Fathers, which no true Christian should omit.
CHAPTER III: FASTING
8. From the Pasch of the Resurrection to the feast of All Saints they are to fast on Fridays. From the feast of All Saints until Easter they are to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, but still observing the other fasts enjoined in general by the Church.
9. They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day until Christmas, and throughout the greater fast from Carnival Sunday until Easter.
* Perpetual fast of two small meals that do not exceed the quantity of the main meal. The two fasts specified begin after Nov. 11 (St. Martin) until Christmas and on Ash Wednesday (Carnival Sunday) until Easter.
10. Sisters who are pregnant are free to refrain until their purification from the corporal observances except those regarding their dress and prayers.
11. Those engaged in fatiguing work shall be allowed to take food three times a day from the Pasch of the Resurrection until the Dedication feast of St. Michael. And when they work for others it will be allowed them to eat everything served to them, except on Fridays and on the fasts enjoined in general by the Church.
CHAPTER IV: PRAYER
12. All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. The clerics are to say them after the manner of the clergy. Those who know the Psalter are to say the Deus in nomine tuo (Psalm 54) and the Beati Immaculati (Psalm 119) up to the Legem pone (Verse 33) for Prime, and the other psalms of the Hours, with the "Glory Be to the Father..."; but when they do not attend church, they are to say for Matins the psalms the Church says or any eighteen psalms; or at least to say the Our Father as do the unlettered at any of the Hours. The others say twelve Our Fathers for Matins and for every one of the other Hours seven Our Fathers with the "Glory Be to the Father..." after each one. And those who know the Creed and the Miserere mei Deus (Ps. 51) should say it at Prime and Compline. If they do not say that at the Hours indicated, they shall say three Our Fathers.
* The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin is also permitted.
13. The sick are not to say the Hours unless they wish.
14. All are to go to Matins on the fast of St. Martin and in the great fast, unless inconvenience for
persons or affairs should threaten.
† The intention for which Tertiaries should recite their prayers is the same for which the Church ordains the prayers of clerical and religious persons, viz,, to offer to God, in the name of the universal Church, sentiments of adoration, praise, gratitude, and atonement, and to invoke the assistance of His grace for the temporal and spiritual welfare of all through the merits of Christ and the Saints, and to obtain for the souls of the faithful departed relief and the beatific vision of God. To these general intentions each member may add his own particular ones.
Mental prayer or meditation was one of the exercises of piety most dear to the heart of St. Francis. He knew well the immense advantages to be derived from it, Doth in the spiritual advancement of his children, and in the correction of their faults and bad habits. Faithful to the spirit of their great founder, all Tertiaries should devote some portion of each day to this practice ; and by meditating on the eternal truths and ineffable mysteries with which they are surrounded, they will realize more vividly the goodness and mercy of God, and His special dealings with His creatures.
They should also be careful to attend the divine services and public devotions in their parish churches. Their exactitude in this duty will console the Heart of their divine Master, which mourns over the emptiness of His temples, and they will edify their neighbors by their example and devotion.
CHAPTER V: THE SACRAMENTS, OTHER MATTERS
15. They are to make a confession of their sins three times a year and to receive Communion at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. They are to be reconciled with their neighbors and to restore what belongs to others. They are to make up for past tithes and pay future tithes.
16. They are not to take up lethal weapons, or bear them about, against anybody.
17. All are to refrain from formal oaths unless where necessity compels, in the cases excepted by the Sovereign Pontiff in his indult, that is, for peace, for the Faith, under calumny, and in bearing witness.
18. Also in their ordinary conversations they will do their best to avoid oaths. And should anyone have sworn thoughtlessly through a slip of the tongue, as happens where there is much talking, he should the evening of the same day, when he is obliged to think over what he has done, say three Our Fathers in amends of such oaths. Let each member fortify his household to serve God.
CHAPTER VI: SPECIAL MASS AND MEETING EACH MONTH
19. All the brothers and sisters of every city and place are to foregather every month at the time the ministers see fit, in a church which the ministers will make known, and there assist at Divine Services.
20. And every member is to give the treasurer one ordinary denar. The treasurer is to collect this money and distribute it on the advice of the ministers among the poor brothers and sisters, especially the sick and those who may have nothing for their funeral services, and thereupon among the poor; and they are to offer something of the money to the aforesaid church.
21. And, if it be convenient at the time, they are to have some religious who is informed in the words of God to exhort them and strengthen them to persevere in their penance and in performing the works of mercy. And except for the officers, they are to remain quiet during the Mass and sermon, intent on the Office, on prayer, and on the sermon.
CHAPTER VII: VISITING THE SICK, BURYING THE DEAD
22. Whenever any brother or sister happens to fall ill, the ministers, if the patient let them know of it, shall in person or through others visit the patient once a week, and remind him of penance; and if they find it expedient, they are to supply him from the common fund with what he may need for the body.
23. And if the ailing person depart from this life, it is to be published to the brothers and sisters who may be present in the city or place, so that they may gather for the funeral; and they are not to leave until the Mass has been celebrated and the body consigned to burial. Thereupon each member within eight days of the demise shall say for the soul of the deceased: a Mass, if he is a priest; fifty psalms, if he understands the Psalter, or if not, then fifty Our Fathers with the "Requiem aeternam" at the end of each.
24. In addition, every year, for the welfare of the brothers and sisters living and dead, each priest is to say three Masses, each member knowing the Psalter is to recite it, and the rest shall say one hundred Our Fathers with the "Requiem aeternam" at the end of each.
25. All who have the right are to make their last will and make disposition of their goods within three months after their profession, lest anyone of them die intestate.
† The necessity for this act is daily inculcated by the many unprepared deaths. The Apostle also reminds us: “For
we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). This and other passages of Holy
Scripture proclaiming loudly the vanity of all things here below, must be ever present to the mind of a Christian. It
should inspire Tertiaries especially with that; spirit of detachment and poverty inseparable from their holy vocation,
and should help to fix their thoughts and desires on eternal riches. To make a will in the proper dispositions, the
testator should imagine himself as at the hour of death, when all human considerations will find their proper level,
and no voice but that of conscience will make itself heard.
26. As regards making peace among the brothers and sisters or nonmembers at odds, let what the ministers find proper be done; even, if it be expedient, upon consultation with the Lord Bishop.
27. If contrary to their right and privileges trouble is made for the brothers and sisters by the mayors and governors of the places where they live, the ministers of the place shall do what they shall find expedient on the advice of the Lord Bishop.
28. Let each member accept and faithfully exercise the ministry of other offices imposed on him, although anyone may retire from office after a year.
29. When anybody wishes to enter this brotherhood, the ministers shall carefully inquire into his standing and occupation, and they shall explain to him the obligations of the brotherhood, especially that of restoring what belongs to others. And if he is content with it, let him be vested according to the prescribed way, and he must make satisfaction for his debts, paying money according to what pledged provision is given. They are to reconcile themselves with their neighbors and to pay up their tithes.
30. After these particulars are complied with, when the year is up and he seems suitable to them, let him on the advice of some discreet brothers be received on this condition: that he promise he will all the time of his life observe everything here written, or to be written or abated on the advice of the brothers, unless on occasion there be a valid dispensation by the ministers; and that he will, when called upon by the ministers, render satisfaction as the Visitor shall ordain if he have done anything contrary to this condition. And this promise is to be put in writing then and there by a public notary. Even so nobody is to be received otherwise, unless in consideration of the estate and rank of the person it shall seem advisable to the ministers.
31. No one is to depart from this brotherhood and from what is contained herein, except to enter a religious Order.
32. No heretic or person in bad repute for heresy is to be received. If he is under suspicion of it, he may be admitted if otherwise fit, upon being cleared before the bishop.
33. Married women are not to be received except with the consent and leave of their husbands.
34. Brothers and sisters ejected from the brotherhood as incorrigible are not to be received in it again except it please the saner portion of the brothers.
CHAPTER VIII: CORRECTION, DISPENSATION, OFFICERS
35. The ministers of any city or place shall report public faults of the brothers and sisters to the Visitor for punishment. And if anyone proves incorrigible, after consultation with some of the discreet brothers he should be denounced to the Visitor, to be expelled by him from the brotherhood, and thereupon it should be published in the meeting. Moreover, if it is a brother, he should be denounced to the mayor or the governor.
36. If anyone learns that a scandal is occurring relative to brothers and sisters, he shall report it to the ministers and shall have opportunity to report it to the Visitor. He need not be held to report it in the case of husband against wife.
37. The Visitor has the power to dispense all the brothers and sisters in any of these points if he finds it advisable.
38. When the year has passed, the ministers with the counsel of the brothers are to elect two other ministers; and a faithful treasurer, who is to provide for the need of the brothers and sisters and other poor; and messengers who at the command of the ministers are to publish what is said and done by the fraternity.
39. In all the above mentioned points no one is to be obligated under guilt, but under penalty; yet so that if after being admonished twice by the ministers he should fail to discharge the penalty imposed or to be imposed on him by the Visitor, he shall be obligated under guilt as contumacious.
HERE ENDS THE RULE OF THE CONTINENT.
Author: Cardinal Hugolino dei Conti dei Segni who wrote this Rule at the request of St. Francis of Assisi, 1221
Source: Franciscan Omnibus of Sources