Saint Peter's Fraternity welcomes all individuals aspiring to join the Secular Franciscan Order. Whether you become a professed member of the Third Order or a life long friend of Sts. Francis and Clare, we avail ourselves to you and the discernment of your faith journey. Part of our assistance to you is this page, which was created to help you in your discernment process. On this page you will find information on eligibility requirements, the process of becoming a Franciscan, and a few key aspects of Secular Franciscan life. If at any point in time you would like to take the next step and connect with our fraternity, please visit our Contact page. Our Minister will contact you to discuss your vocation to the Third Order.
Before going further, it is important that you understand the eligibility requirements for joining the Third Order. There are six requirements that you must qualify for in order to proceed joining the Secular Franciscan Order. Please take the time to review the following eligibility requirements:
- That you live in communion with the Church
- You are found to be of good moral standing
- That you show clear signs of a vocation
- You must profess the Catholic faith
- You must be at least 18 years old, the minimum age of profession for Secular Franciscans in Canada
- If you belong to another Third Order or to another religious order, you can not join the Secular Franciscan Order
Once eligibility has been established, an individual begins the three part process of becoming a Franciscan:
- The Time of Initiation (Inquiry)
- The Time of Formation (Candidacy)
- The Profession or Promise of Evangelical Life
The Time of Initiation (Inquiry)
The Time of Initiation is the beginning of a discovery of the Secular Franciscan Order and fraternity life. After an initial contact with our fraternity has been made and the eligibility requirements have been met, an aspirant begins his/her Franciscan journey by coming to our general monthly meetings. Our fraternity gatherings are the special times where we live our Franciscan vocation together, where being a Secular Franciscan is best experienced as a family. It is a time of inspiration and strengthening, a time of instruction and growth. Becoming a Franciscan is in essence, a closer following of Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and it is during this initial period that an aspirant should strive to understand what this means. In addition to observing and participating in fraternal life, we encourage all aspirants to embark on personal reading on the life on St. Francis. Two sources that will help you with this is: an article by Paschal Robinson entitled, Francis of Assisi, and a highly recommended book God's Fool, The life and Times of Francis of Assisi, by Julien Green. Understanding who St. Francis was, the charism of St. Francis, what it means to live the Gospel life, and Franciscan Spirituality, is essential to thoroughly discern if you are being called to follow Christ in the example one of the Church's greatest saints!
The Time of Formation (Candidacy)
The Time of Formation is when the Franciscan journey takes on a more committed and structured format. Together with others who have been called, guided by a Master of Formation (Formation Director) and Formation Assistant, a candidate journeys on a period of reading, learning, sharing and growing. Formation is organized with dedicated separate monthly meetings, 1-2 hours in length. One has already committed oneself to Christ, now in Formation, that commitment deepens with a time of serious study of the writings of St. Francis, scripture, the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order and Constitutions. It is also a time of greater and more intense prayer. We encourage all candidates to embark on a personal time of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament and the daily recitation of the Rosary, imploring the Blessed Virgin Mary's assistance and protection on your faith journey. Formation is a time when one gains a greater understanding of Franciscan Spirituality and living the Gospel life. Formation is only the formal beginning of a life long process of ongoing formation.
The Profession or Promise of Evangelical Life
The Profession or Promise of Evangelical Life, is a formal recognition from within the Secular Franciscan Order, of a candidate's successful formation and commitment to live as St. Francis lived. Profession is a solemn ecclesial act whereby candidates renew their baptismal promises and publicly affirm a personal commitment to live the Gospel life following the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order.
Becoming A Franciscan
Although the above mentioned eligibility requirements and process, details the journey of becoming a Franciscan, there is more to consider. The desire to become a Franciscan can correctly be thought of as a greater conversion to Christ, one that will be strengthened and take on a more profound meaning by life in fraternity. Becoming a Franciscan is the embracing of the charism of St. Francis of living the Gospel life, with a greater focus on Scripture to understand God's will and guidance. Becoming a Franciscan is a commitment to know St. Francis and his life and how you too can respond positively to what ever God is calling you to do. Becoming a Franciscan is a vocation to live in fraternity with others, who God has called to be single minded in the goal to know, love and serve Him.
The Charism of St. Francis
Charism is a term that indicates a personal gift of the Spirit used for the good of all the Church. When a charism is approved by the Pope, the charism is said to participate in the official mission of the Church in making Christ present in the world. The charism of St. Francis of Assisi is simply to live the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel Life
In the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II The Way of Life states, “The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.” Scripture for Franciscans is not something we refer to only as an act of the intellect, but an implementation into our daily lives. As Franciscans it does not suffice for us to only refer to scripture, but to study it. In the General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order, Form of Life and Apostolic Activity, Article 9.2 states, “The secular Franciscan, committed to following the example and the teachings of Christ, must personally and assiduously study the Gospel and Sacred Scripture...” We make use of modern scriptural study to deepen our understanding of God’s word and to acquire a greater sense of who God is. We compare scripture to our life experiences and allow God to guide us in individually and collectively in fraternity. Like our Seraphic Father St. Francis, we recognized the Word of God as the preeminent source for knowing and following the Will of God, and refer to Scriptures in our decision making process.
Poverty is a word that you will often encounter in your readings of the life of St. Francis and Franciscan Spirituality and is a term that can be easily misunderstood. Poverty for St. Francis was never an end in itself, but a means to the indwelling of God and a way of life that makes present the Kingdom of God. Saint Francis loved poverty for two reasons. The first is that poverty stands above all other virtues that prepare in us a dwelling place for God. The second, is that Jesus loved this virtue. Jesus entrusted holy poverty as a light into the hands of those who enter the door of faith. The other virtues promise the Kingdom of Heaven, but poverty makes the Kingdom present here and now.
Like our brothers and sisters in the First and Second Orders, we too in the Third Order see poverty as a means for making God present in our lives. Although we do not renounce all of our possessions and live in community, we strive to obtain the needs of our lives with a light of faith, trusting and confident that God will provide for us. The virtue of gospel poverty frees us from an unreasonable or slavish attachment to things. Gospel poverty invites us to think about money, possessions and all of creation as a gift, to be used and desired within the proper framework of our needs. To quote the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Chapter II The Way of Life:
Trusting in the Father, Christ chose for himself and his mother a poor and humble life, even though he valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God's children. Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power. (11)
In essence, poverty is a total reliance and trust in God. Saint Francis had no need to grow his own food or obtain employment because he trusted that God's providence. The more that we rely and trust in God, the more He will accomplish through us. For He is the vine, we are the branches and as Jesus himself stated, "you can accomplish nothing without me." Keeping connected to Jesus our vine is essential for Franciscans.
An Instrument of God's Peace
Becoming a Franciscan means becoming a peace maker and recognizing those opportunities that God calls to action. As the Secular Franciscan Rule Chapter II The Way Of Life, states, “Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.” As the first group of Secular Franciscans, the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, responded to St. Francis way of life by positively impacting their war torn and violent society by refusing to bear arms and in so doing, put a crimp in the war machines, we too must meet those challenges facing our society of today and like our brothers and sisters of the past, reject violence and seek ways of reconciliation and peace.
One of the most well known examples of Franciscan peacemaking was by St. Francis himself when God call him to resolve the problem of the Wolf of Gubbio. To read about this story, please visit our Wolf of Gubbio page.