SAINT, TROUBADOUR, revolutionary, fanatic, clown – whatever impression we may have of Francis of Assisi, no one can deny the inspiration that he has been down the centuries. Europe in the time of Francis (1182-1226) was a place of deep divisions. Towns and kingdoms nourished ancient feuds with their rivals, while the established princes struggled against the growing power of the merchants. Many people lived in poverty, while those at the top fared sumptuously but even the ordinary poor were not so wretched as the lepers, the ultimate outcasts of those days. Meanwhile the witness of the Church was weak, and Francis responded to the call from God to ‘rebuild my church’, with Clare, by founding a religious Order at that time.
Francis and Clare, with their brothers and sisters, met the evident needs of the people by sharing food and shelter, and through preaching and living reconciliation, based on prayer and an active love for Christ. They answered the pain of the outcasts by making them their friends, such as the lepers, and shared the reproaches hurled at them. Their witness incorporated a spirit of conversion and penitence, fortified by times of quiet and withdrawal. Today within the Anglican Church there are three related Franciscan Orders which all started in the early years of the 20th Century:
- The First Order, consisting of men and women who live in community under a rule based on the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They give expression to their mission by a variety of activities, seeking to maintain a balance, corporately and individually, between prayer, study and active work.
- The Second Order, the Community of Saint Clare, which is composed of women who feel called by God to an enclosed life of contemplative prayer, coupled with work to be self supporting.
- The Third Order, which is open to men and women, ordained or lay, married or single who feel that God is calling them to live out their Franciscan vocation in the world. While committed to family responsibilities and engaged in the ordinary tasks of life, the Third Order offers a life of challenge and support for those who are called to a deeper commitment to Christ, their Lord and Master, to a life under vow. There are currently nearly 2,000 members of the Third Order (called Tertiaries) in the European Province throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Sweden. There are Tertiaries also in other Provinces across the world.
We welcome you to our site and we hope that you will consider, as you explore it, whether God is calling you to the life that we share in the Third Order.