The Third Order
The origins of the Third Order may be found in the movement known as the Penitents, going back to the sixth century. The original Penitents were people who sought to grow in holiness through their daily lives and work. This desire for holiness assumed many forms, such as pilgrimages to holy sites; constructing, repairing and rebuilding churches; and caring for the poor and sick.
The first Franciscans were, in fact, known as "penitents of Assisi." Men and women who were attracted by Francis' way of life, but could not leave their homes and families to become wandering preachers or cloistered nuns, banded together. Thus the Third Order was born.
Early on, small groups in the Third Order formed more structured communities, publicly professing the Church's traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and often uniting around specific works of charity or common prayer. Since then, numerous congregations of lay people and religious have developed throughout the world. In each instance, the call to conversion and simplicity of life animates the members: In the Secular Franciscan Order, men and women follow the way of Francis, but are not vowed religious living in community. The Third Order Regular, on the other hand, is an international community of priests and brothers who emphasize works of mercy and on-going conversion to the Gospel.
The Third Order Regular is also known as the Franciscan Friars, TOR. This branch of the Franciscan family was originally founded in 1447 by a papal decree uniting several groups of Third Order hermits. Today, the TORs are a thriving religious community serving God's people across the world.
With Francis, the TORs have accepted the challenge to "rebuild the Church" in areas of high school and college education, parish ministry, church renewal, social justice, campus ministry, hospital chaplaincies, foreign missions, and other ministries in places where the Church is needed. And, in imitation of our founder, we pray to be instruments of peace, pardon, and hope in a world yearning for the good news of Jesus Christ.