In using the designation "Third Order Regular of St. Francis," we mean the male
branch of the Order whose generalate is at Sts. Cosmas and Damian basilica in Rome. Since
1447 it has been an independent entity recognized as a religious order within the church.
On July 20 of that year Pope Nicholas V, with the bull Pastoralis officii authorized the
Tertiary regulars of Italy, who until that time had been living more or less independently
in scattered hermitages and friaries, to come together in general chapter to elect a
Visitator General and four councillors to govern the Order in the same fashion as other
religious institutes.(1) From that time on, the Third Order Regular has
had an uninterrupted series of Visitators or Ministers General, with the exception of an
eighteen year period from 1568 to 1586.
1. The Order of Penance
The Third Order Regular finds its beginnings in the primitive Order of Penance to
which St. Francis gave a new impetus and new motivation. We know from Thomas of Celano and
Jordan of Giano that Francis became part of the Order of Penance immediately after his
spiritual experience at San Damiano and continued therein for more than two years.(2)
In their earliest preaching mission Francis and his companions identified themselves as
"penitential men." Both the Legend of the Three Companions and The Anonymous of
Perugia attest that to those who asked who they were or where they came from, "they
confessed with simplicity to be penitents coming from Assisi" (Omnibus of Sources, p.
When Francis and his first companions began their itinerant preaching in 1209-1210,
there was soon noted a remarkable reawakening and numerical growth within the penitential
movement, giving rise to what the historians call "the movement of Penance" or
"the penitential movement raised up by St. Francis."(3) And it
is precisely that which by the end of the century was known as "the Third Order of
St. Francis." In fact, during the thirteenth century the penitential movement took on
such a notable Franciscan character that Nicholas IV in the bull Supra Montem (August 18,
1289), promulgating the revised Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, described the
actual state of the movement in these words: "The present way of living Penance
springs as an institution from blessed Francis."(4)
2. Toward Religious Life
It is important to note at once that even during the life of Francis some hermits
and recluses were becoming part of the Order of Penance, considered at that time
juridically as true religious. Some of them were received by St. Francis himself as, for
example, Veridiana of Castel Fiorentino, the noblewoman Praxedes of Rome, and Gerard of
Villamagna near Florence. There is also record of a community of penitents, that of
Bartholomew Baro, directly instructed by Francis himself.(5) During the
thirteenth century, the Order of Penance experienced remarkable growth and solid
organization, and the steps toward religious life moved ahead by degrees. There were two
important features of this development: the eremetical life and that connected with
hospitals and hospices. The former found penitents living alone or in small groups; the
latter were penitents engaged in charitable works which contributed greatly to Third Order
Franciscanism reaching the religious state. It should be noted that this step toward a
community and religious life within Third Order Franciscanism happened contemporaneously
and independently in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and Germany.
Among these Tertiary Penitents of community life in the early 1300s there soon
arose the custom of professing one or more of the religious vows. The earliest recorded
profession of the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the Third Order
Regular, which is legally documented, is that of Friar Augustine Rapondo of Lucca,
professed August 28, 1307.(6) This practice of professing religious vows
was the decisive step toward the full religious life form one part of the Order. Pope John
XXII, with his bull Altissimo in divinis (Nov 18, 1323) praised this practice and thus
gave approval to the "regular and religious life," properly so called, of the
Third Order of St. Francis.(7)
During the fourteenth century, small Tertiary communities continued to spread,
which tended to solidify the normal religious life. This did not happen, however, without
marked difficulties, both from the Roman curia engaged in opposition to the
"Fraticelli" (Franciscan spiritualists), and from a mean spirited zeal on the
part of visitators, usually from the Friars Minor. Bishops and prelates regularly confused
the Tertiary small communities with those of the "Fraticelli" who had been
repeatedly condemned by the church.(8) On the other hand, there were
visitators who held that the Rule of Nicholas IV, followed by the Tertiaries, did not
foresee or provide for community life. This opposition continued for almost a century, up
3. The Unification and Centralization of the Order
With the bull Pastoralis officii (1447) of Nicholas IV in the fifteenth century,
the Italian Third Order was granted a canonically autonomous unity and centralization, as
we have already noted.(9) Recent studies have shed light on the
circumstances which were a part of that important event.(10) Within the
movement to unify the Tertiary Regulars of Italy, the orthodox Clareni (spiritual
Franciscans) were active, probably hopeful of finding a recognized niche for themselves as
well.(11) In fact, at the first General Chapter held at Montefalco in
1448, as called for by the Papal bull issued a year earlier, it was a Clarene Friar
Benamati of Perugia, the superior of a group of Embrun Clareni, who was elected the first
Visitator General. The bull Pastoralis officii had also granted the authority to compile
statutes for the community, something which had to be done in the same General Chapter.
This brought about an immediate reaction within the young community and Pope Nicholas V,
to whom some friars had recourse, intervened with a second bull, Romanus Pontifex (1449)
by which the decisions of 1447 were annulled.(12) It is evident that the
Clareni wanted to impose a way of life much stricter than that which the regular
Tertiaries believed called for by the rule of Nicholas IV, which they had professed.(13)
After their connection with the ultra-orthodox Clareni was severed, the Tertiary
Regulars, after a decade of prudent silence, took up once again the work of unification
celebrating by common agreement a general chapter every three years, the first in 1458. In
1467 the bull Excitat arcanum of Paul II ratified what was in practice taking place,
"The congregation of Lombardy of the friars of the Third Order of Penance may
henceforth extend the privileges, faculties, and indults, given by Eugene IV and Nicholas
V to friars of the kingdoms of Castille and Lyons and the Leodine dioceses to friars of
other places who belong to the same Order and who have become part of the congregation of
the aforementioned friars."(14) The principal privilege here
intended was that of living in a congregation under the jurisdiction of a single Minister
General. In a very few years this voluntary and free association of friars resulted in the
Third Order Regular in Italy.
To be exact it should be noted that the Italian Tertiaries were not alone, nor were
they the first to be accorded their own central and autonomous government. Other
congregations had already obtained the same status: Holland in 1401, Belgium in 1413,
religious in the diocese of Cologne in 1427, Spain in 1442, and religious of Liege in
1443, and in 1456 Tertiaries of Ireland. It is clear that, contrary to the spread of the
Friars Minor, the Third Order Regular was not an Italian export but sprang up autonomously
in every country as a direct and spontaneous flowering of the Third Order Secular,
remaining always independent and autonomous with its own superior general. Nonetheless of
all these Tertiary Regular congregations which covered vast regions of Europe, only that
in Italy was able to survive Papal decisions, persecutions, and civil suppressions, and
was the only one to constitute an authentic and real "religious Order with solemn
4. The Division into Provinces
The Third Order Regular of Italy, now unified under the direction of its own
Visitator or Minister General, was soon divided into religious provinces as is evident
from a letter of Pope Sixtus IV in 1476 which was directed to "the Minister General
and provincials of the Third Order of St. Francis." We have no certainty as to how
many these were in the first decades of the unified life, but in the course of the 1500s
the following eleven provinces were clearly established: Milan, Brescia, Venice, Bologna,
the Marshes, Umbria, Rome, Abruzzi, Naples, Calabria, and Sicily.(15) Up
until 1595 the provincials were elected in the general chapter, with the exception of
Sicily and Calabria; then the practice became common of celebrating a chapter in each
5. A Step Backwards
A little after the middle of the sixteenth century a regrettable event occurred
which placed the very existence of the Order in danger. The reforming Pope St. Pius V,
giving as his motive the absence of any great progress of the Third Order Regular,
suppressed the office of Minister General and placed the entire Order (friars and sisters)
under the government of the major superiors of the Friars Minor, whose Minister General
was to govern the Regular Tertiaries through a general commissary. All of this was decreed
with the bull Ea est officii nostri (July 3, 1568).(16) This reform of
Pius V, which was directed at the Third Order Regular, was then extended to all the
congregations then existing in Europe.
Very few historians have written about this very unfortunate affair,(17)
hence we know very little about the life of the Order during its years of dependence on
the Friars Minor. The Papal bull did, however, retain the office of ministers provincial
for the Third Order Regular under whom there were many signs of vitality. It is sufficient
to note that in the second half of the century thirty five new friaries were opened in
6. The Restoration of Autonomy
In 1586 Pope Sixtus V, with the bull Romani Pontificis (March 19) restored the
Italian Third Order Regular to its previous autonomy - after eighteen years of dependence
on the O.F.M.s - granting them once more their own Visitator General. "Contrary to
the dispositions of our predecessor Pius V," says the bull, "we have decided
that the Tertiaries of Italy may celebrate a general chapter every three years as
prescribed by their rule for the election of the visitator and other officials, with no
interference or imposition of obstacles of an historical nature from the Minister General
of the Observants."(18) The Third Order Regular in Italy was the
only institute to regain its autonomy, probably for this reason primarily it is the only
one to have survived up to the present.
7. An Age of Splendor
By the sixteen hundreds the Third Order Regular was already in its third century of
unified life. This was certainly one of its greatest centuries in light of the progress
made in each province once autonomy was regained, the illustrious friars to be found in
all the province, and the union of the congregations of Dalmatia and Belgium with the
The most noteworthy fact was the growing number of houses, together with that of
the religious who inhabited them. In examining the list of the religious houses in
existence at the midpoint of the sixteen hundreds (found in the catalogue prepared by
Francis Barton in 1653-1658), we see that from 1600 to that date the Order increased by
more than sixty friaries. It is sufficient to mention two of them, well known from later
times, St. Antonio in Assisi (19) and S. Paolo alla Regola in Rome.(20)
Pope Clement VIII with the bull Pro nostra pastoralis muneris (September 2, 1602)
united the province of Dalmatia to the Order,(21) granting all the rights
and privileges of the other provinces. A half century later (June 27, 1650),(22)
Pope Innocent X united to the Order the friars of the Tertiary Belgian congregation,
according to their expressed wish dating from 1621. With these new provinces, the unified
Third Order Regular reached the number of thirteen provinces, the highest of its history.
The number of houses, according to Barton's listing, was 170 in 1650,(23)
with between 2000 and 2500 friars, many of them priests.
With one notable exception, the number of provinces remained substantially
unchanged until the second half of the seventeen hundreds. In 1652 Pope Innocent X decreed
the extinction of small friaries of any order or religious congregation.(24)
For this reason the province of the Marshes lost the greater number of its houses and
subsequently in the General Chapter of 1653 was united to the province of Umbria. This new
entity was designated the Umbria-Picena province until 1957 when it became known as the
province of St. Francis of Assisi. For more than a century, until 1773, the
representatives of the twelve provinces were faithful participants at the general chapters
of the Order, as we know from Luconi's Comitia generalia.(25)
8. The Seventeen Hundreds: A Different Face
As in the case of many other religious institutes, so too for the Third Order
Regular, with the end of the seventeenth century, the story of growth was concluded. As a
matter of fact, signs of weariness, if not decadence, were evident for a number of
decades. Worldly customs of the time, introduced into Italy by foreign domination,
exercised a negative influence even on friaries and monasteries, favoring a type of
conduct contrasting sharply with a spirit of penance and mortification. This is one of the
reasons, we believe, that the resistance and fight against the anti-religious politics of
the various Bourbon governments, which began about this time, was not very decisive or
efficacious. Some worthy Ministers General of the period made appeals for a traditional
religious austerity but all too frequently their words went unheard."
A notable sign of decadence became evident among the "learned" friars, i.e.
those who were degreed in the public universities and who taught there. To make this
passage to a secular professorships, it was required that one teach in the schools of the
Order for at least seven years. But what frequently happened was that as soon as the
doctorate was obtained, the responsibility to the Order was bypassed and a place was
sought in the public university, where certain privileges were accorded. By degrees this
had negative repercussions on studies within the Order, with the more competent professors
seeking work in the state schools rather than retaining less desirable positions within
the Order. The Clementine Constitutions of 1734 tried to remedy the situation, but the
evidence from that time shows a general decline in the studies within the Order.
9. The Civil Suppression
To this anything but ideal situation, there was soon added the anti-church spirit
of the civil society which led to repeated suppressions. Toward the middle of the
eighteenth century that complex philosophical and social movement known as the
Enlightenment was very much to the fore. It brought a current of thought which quickly led
to a general disdain and even open denial of those values like religion which theretofore
had enjoyed a high esteem in society. When some of the principal ruling dynasties of
Europe, like the Bourbons, became influenced by these trends, there were soon worries on
the horizon for religious orders. Governments soon passed from a consideration of whether
these religious bodies should continue to exist or not to a more aggressive threat to
their activity and even existence (a program often called by the allusive title:
"Mani morte," hand of death). The Third Order Regular, considering its
relatively small numbers, was one of the hardest hit. In the space of roughly thirty
years, we witnessed the suppression and total disappearance of many provinces. The first
government to move in this direction was the republic of Venice. In 1767 by unilateral
decision it suppressed the province of Brescia, incorporating it into Venice. Then the
emperor of Austria Joseph II followed suit by suppressing important houses in the Duchy of
Milan and in parts of present day Emilia, all part of his jurisdiction. Absent from the
General Chapter of 1779 were delegates from the provinces of Milan, Venice, Dalmatia, and
Belgium. The reasons noted by the secretary of the chapter speak quite eloquently:
"ob notum impedimentum eorum Principis" and "ob nota saeculi motiva."(26)
Luconi sadly observes in his Comitia that at the General Chapter of 1791 the
provinces of Milan, Venice, Abrus, Naples, Calabria, and Belgium were all absent. In view
of the notorious revolutions and catastrophes, the impoverished Order (TOR) is now limited
to the Papal states.(27)
The French Revolution (1789-1794) recognized in theory and practice the principles
of the Enlightenment with visible consequences both at home and in the nations to which it
was quickly exported. The republican regime, inaugurated with Napoleon Bonaparte in
various sections of Italy in the last three years of the century, suppressed the greater
number of friaries in Romagna and later in the Roman province. This had a destabilizing
effect on the provinces of Abruzzi, Celabria, and Naples. The Minister General, Joseph
Galgani (1804-1814), left the general curia because it was occupied by the French (1808)
and withdrew to the friary at Massa Martana (Perugia). Then, expelled from there, he
retired to Lucca, his native city. Only in 1814 was he able to return to Rome. The Order
was by then reduced to the Papal states and the provinces of Dalmatia and Sicily, both of
which, however, for a number of years had been impeded from attending general chapters and
had lost contact with the center of the Order.
After the tempest of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries there was
no quick revival of the Order's life, especially where the enforced dismantling had
endured for a long time. In the provinces of the north (Milan, Venice, and Bologna) the
suppression and dispersal of the friars lasted fifteen or twenty years. When the
possibility of restoring religious life arose, there was no one to take the initiative.
Thus, from 1824 onward, in the few general chapters that were held, only the delegates
from the Marshes-Umbria, Sicily, and Dalmatia were present. The various subversive laws
that accompanied the unification of Italy (1861-1866) resulted in the closing of the few
houses of formation still standing. But one of these, "the college of philosophy and
theology," mandated by the General Chapter of 1837, first erected at Sts. Cosmas and
Damian in Rome, then moved to Camerino, produced a number of learned and saintly friars
who became the restorers and leaders of the Order after the suppression.(28)
Due to their efforts, two houses of formation were finally opened, one in Assisi in
1882 and the other in San Ginesio (Marshes) in 1884, for students of the two remaining
Italian provinces. In 1885 Emidio Maricotti was elected Minister General and he turned his
attention to the formation of new young religious with the establishment of a new
seminary. These three educational institutions remained active in education almost to the
present era. Through positive efforts such as these a very difficult period in the Order's
history was brought to a close.
10. Rebirth in the twentieth century
Practically speaking there were only three provinces of the Order existing at the
dawn of the twentieth century. The period opened, however, with encouraging signs notably
in the union with the Order of independent congregations which arose in the nineteenth
century on the ruins of former Tertiary communities. The first was the Spanish
congregation. Begun by a group of young secular Tertiaries on the island of Majorca in
1877, the new congregations experienced a rapid growth. The request to unite with the
Third Order Regular happened almost casually in 1906.
Procedures moved ahead quickly and on May 7 of the same year St. Pius X approved the
union. The congregation soon became a province of the Order under the title of the
Not long after, small communities of Tertiary Regulars in the United States,
located in Spalding, Nebraska (1906) and Loretto, Pennsylvania (1908), sought union with
the Order. The progress of these communities was such that in 1910, the new province of
the Sacred Heart of Jesus was erected. The province staffs Saint Francis College, the
oldest continuous apostolate of Third Order men in the United States.
In 1909 the pastors of two parishes that ministered to Italian imigrants in towns
near Loretto were not able to continue their ministry. The bishop of Altoona was desperate
and persuaded Fr. Jerome Zazzara and Fr. Anthony Balestieri, who were pervious sent from
Italy to assist in the union, to provide services on Sundays. To meet the pastoral needs
of the people these friars began to spend more and more time away from Loretto. Tensions
resulted which eventually led to the formation of a province, dedicated to the Immaculate
Conception, to minister to the Italian immigrants of western Pennsylvania.
In 1921, on the occasion of the seventh centenary of the Third Order, Pope Benedict
XV issued the letter Tertii Ordinis a Poenitentia in which he recognized the rebirth of
the institute and granted to the Third Order Regular all the privileges and favors granted
to the Franciscan families of the First Order, and to the Minister and Procurator General
participation in the pontifical family and the "Papal chapel."(29)
From that point on, the Third Order Regular was recognized officially as the fourth
In 1950 the interobediential Congress was established to favor collaboration among
the different congregations of Tertiary Regulars. This was later superseded by the
International Franciscan Conference in 1985, made up of all male and female congregations
which follow the rule of the T.O.R.
In 1954 the French congregation of Tertiaries became part of the Order. This
institute grew out of the ashes of a flourishing community, made up of four province,
which was suppressed in 1792 during the French revolution.(30) The final
province established in 1971 was that of India, thus crowning the missionary work of the
friars of the Sacred Heart Province (USA) begun in that country in 1938. The territory
given to the friars was made an Apostolic Prefecture in 1956. With the rapid growth of
both religious and diocesan clergy, it became a diocese in 1965. It was then made a
province in 1971 with the name of St. Thomas the Apostle.
In 1982, in conjunction with the eighth centenary of the birth of St. Francis (
1981-1982) , two other communities were united to the Order and became two vice provinces
The congregation of the Franciscan Familiars of St Joseph in the Republic of South Africa,
united on January 1, 1982, and became the Vice-Province of St. Joseph. The congregation of
the Franciscan Friars of St. Vincent de Paul in the Republic of Sri Lanka, united on
November 13, 1982, and formed the Vice-Province of Our Lady of Sri Lanka.
In 1987 a group of Swedish tertiary regulars were united to the Order and formed
the Delegation of St. John the Baptist.
Finally in 1992, the two commissariats of Paraguay, one under the jurisdiction of
the Province of St. Francis (Italy), the other, the Immaculate Conception Province (USA)
were fused to form the Vice-Province of St. Anthony of Padua.(31)
At the same time, the three separate entities in Brazil had shown growth, largely due to
the many years of missionary work of the French province, joined later by the Spanish and
American (Sacred Heart) friars, and thus were fused to form a single vice province called
Our Lady of Aparecida.(32)
11. The Present State
The Third Order Regular is now officially made up of the following entities:
1. St. Francis of Assisi (Italy)
2. Sts. Joachim and Ann, Sicily (Italy)
3. St. Jerome (Croatia)
4. Immaculate Conception (Spain)
5. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (USA)
6. Immaculate Conception (USA)
7. St. Thomas the Apostle (India)
6 Vice Provinces
1. St. Joseph (South Africa)
2. Our Lady of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)
3. Our Lady of Aparecida (Brazil)
4. St. Anthony of Padua (Paraguay)
5. Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico)
6. St. Francis of Assisi (India)
1. Peru - dependent of the Spanish province
2. United States - dependent of the Spanish province
3. United States - dependent of the Croatian province
4. Philipines - dependent of the Province of St. Francis, Italy
All dependents of the General Curia
1. Delegation of Our Lady of the Assumption, France
2. Delegation of St. John the Baptist, Sweden
3. Delegation of St. Bonaventure, Bangladesh
B. STRUCTURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
1. The Rule
The first Franciscan Tertiaries who moved toward religious life, first in terms of
community life and then the profession of the three vows, continued to follow the only
Rule then existing, that of Nicholas IV (1289), with the addition of particular statutes
which governed their way of life. This was the case throughout Europe wherever the move
toward the religious life within Third Order Franciscanism prevailed.
In Italy, after the bull of unification and centralization of Nicholas V (1447) and
after the aforementioned difficulties,(33) the General Chapter of
Florence (1472) compiled the various statutes (also called Rules at the time), which were
in turn approved at the subsequent chapter also held in Florence (1475). These statutes no
longer exist, but it is safe to say that they served as the first draft of the later
statutes (1549), about which we will have occasion to speak. Practically, it can be said,
they were an adaptation of the Rule of Nicholas IV.
In 1521, Leo X approved a new Rule directed to the "Brothers and Sisters of
the Third Order of blessed Francis living in congregation under the three essential
vows."(34) It would seem that the intention of the Pope was to have
this Rule replace that of Nicholas IV for all those male and female congregations which
formed part of the Franciscan Third Order. Thus they would pass from the secular to the
religious state. What it failed to do was to recognize that a number of these
congregations, dating back to the 1400s, had pontifical recognition that normally gave
them the authority to elect their own Visitator or Minister General which meant their own
properly recognized autonomy.(35) Those congregations of brothers and
sisters of the Third Order. the first among them the Italian Third Order- Regular, which
had received such recognitions did not follow the new Rule but continued with that of
Nicholas IV, with their own proper statutes.(36)
The Italian Third Order Regular prepared new statutes in 1549, in which those of
1475 undoubtedly played a part. This text, as we have noted, is no longer available. It
was redacted by the noted Minister General Bonaventure of Vicenzas with the text
subsequently bearing the title "Rule of Fr. Bonaventure of Vicenza."(37)
This new redaction of the Rule, made up of thirty chapters, was given apostolic approval
by the Cardinal Protector of the Order, Rodolfo Pio da Carpi, with an accompanying
commentary by the noted historian of the Order, Fr. Antonio de Sillis.(38)
It had several printings until 1889 when the General, Emidio Maricotti, had it translated
and published anew with the title "Rule of the enclosed Third Order of St. Francis of
Assisi" (Rome Vat. Press, 1889). It remained in force as the official Rule of the
Order until the Rule of Pius XI (1927).
In 1925 a commission of the four Franciscan families, created by Pius XI, was given
the task of preparing a new Rule for all the male and female congregations of the Third
Order Regular, in line with the directives of the new code of canon law. The text,
"written with the agreement of the four generals of the four families," was
promulgated on October 4, 1927, with the apostolic constitution Rerum Condicio.(39)
In recent years, especially from 1972 to 1982, there was a major movement within
the male and female sectors of the T.O.R for work on a new spiritual document or Rule,
which would more accurately represent the Order's Franciscan charism. This desire
eventually became a virtual groundswell. After years of work and collaboration on the part
of these communities, the new Rule was approved by Pope John Paul II on December 8. 1982,
with the Brief Franciscanum vitae Propositum.(40) It is the present
"Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St.
2. The Constitutions
The Third Order regular in Italy did not have an authentic text of the constitutions,
approved by the church, before 1638. During the 1500s, however, there was a series of
chapter decrees, called "constitutions" or "statutes," issued by
general chapters held every three years.(41) The first official set of
constitutions was drawn up by the General Chapter of 1635; they were approved the
following year by Urban VIII and are known as the Urban constitutions.(42)
They remained in effect until 1734 when a new text was prepared and approved by Clement
XII.(43) This Clementine text remained in effect until the General
Chapter of 1926 when the constitutions were revised in the light of the code of canon law
and approved by the Holy See on March 7, 1929. This latter text was modified to include
new methods of provincial elections during the generalate of John Parisi (1936-1947) and
then was updated in the light of Vatican Council II at an extraordinary General Chapter
(1969). The text was given church approval in 1974.
In more recent times the constitutions were again renewed, with the unified
collaboration of the entire Order at all levels, to bring them into line "with the
(contemporary) research and reflection on our specific charism" (largely accomplished
during the long period of preparatory work on the new Rule) and "with the renewed
norms of the universal church," as found in the new code of canon law (1983).(44)
According to the directives of the code of canon law, the new text is divided into
constitutions and general statutes. Discussed, modified, and approved by the General
Chapter of 1989, the text was approved by the Holy See on February 2, 1991.
a.) Government of the Order
The Third Order Regular has always remained faithful to the structures determined
by Nicholas V in the bull of unification. The Pope determined that the institute should be
governed by a Visitator General assisted by four councillors. This has remained the norm
up to the present time.
According to the norms of that bull, the general chapter was to be convoked every
three years, at which time the Visitator or Minister General and the four councillors were
to be elected. This practice lasted for two hundred years, until 1647, when Innocent X
granted that the general chapter be held every six years, with the terms of the general
and his councillors to run concomitantly. This norm still remains in effect.
b.) Government of the Provinces
The system of province government and the method of provincial elections did not
have the permanence achieved by the general administration. Immediately after unification,
provincial chapters were held every year, except the year in which a general chapter was
held. The latter, besides electing the General Curia, also appointed the vicar provincials
of each province and the ministers of each friary. In 1595 Clement VIII permitted these
elections to be held in provincial chapters. Both the chapters and the nomination to
offices occurred each year.
The Clementine Constitutions (1734) determined that province chapters be held every three
years, a norm which continued almost uninterruptedly until modern times. In the General
Chapter of 1971 it was decided that "the election of the minister provincial, his
council and secretary be held every four years" (art. 343), and so it is to the
The constitutions of 1993 provide that the ordinary provincial chapter be held
every four years, even if the provincial curia is not elected therein, i.e., if the
province should choose to elect the curia by a direct election (individual balloting
outside of chapter). Furthermore, the Minister Provincial may be reelected only for a
second four year term immediately following his first term (art 210, 2); the Vicar
provincial and councillors may be repeatedly reelected unless provincial statutes
determine otherwise (art 210, 3). Every province is to have its own statutes, which
determine particular points left to province choice by general directives. The statutes,
in turn, are to be approved by the General Council.
4. The Habit
In the Rule of 1289, Nicholas IV described the habit of the penitents thus:
"They should wear a habit of plain and inexpensive cloth, neither completely white
nor black in color." This was probably the already existing habit of the Tertiaries
who initiated the move toward formal religious life in its ermetical and community forms.
In the bull Pastoralis officii, Nicholas V authorized the friars to design a habit which
would distinguish them from simple hermits. From a document in Assisi dating from August
5, 1449, (45) it is evident that this new habit consisted of a long
tunic, a capuce, and the traditional Franciscan cord. This form of the habit is even more
precisely defined in the Rule of Bonaventure of Vicenza (1549) where it states that the
capuce should be angular, that is, come to a point in both front and back; the color of
the habit, as well as the cloak, should be ashen which, according to the description of
Barton, was a grey (on the black side). In the early years of the 1700s the scapular or
capuce lost its pointed form in the front and the color grey became black, as it is today.
It is important to remember that in the Penitential movement prior to Francis,
known and accepted by him, there were already fixed features of spirituality. The Third
Order then took its spiritual orientation from the convergence of two currents: one the
evangelical witness of Francis, the other the Penitential movement. This blend of two
strains is simply called "Penance." The numerous studies in recent years
illustrating both the spiritual and historical aspects of the Penitential movement,(46)
which followed both the directives and ideals of St. Francis, give ample evidence of the
fact that this "penance" was composed of two principal and equally defining
features: an "ongoing conversion" or the biblical metanoia, i.e., a redirecting
oneself toward God, a constant "tending" toward him, that which implies leaving
behind an instinctive life centered on the "ego" and adopting a new life in
which God stands at the center of action and aspiration; an active and practical love of
neighbor, a sense of outreach to the neediest, a multi-faceted dedication to the spiritual
and corporal works of mercy.(47)
Thus, from the beginning the Third Order as it moved toward religious life followed
two directions. The first was a decisive tendency toward the interior life and union with
God through the practice of the ermetical (penitential and contemplative) way of life, in
secluded locations, according to the Franciscan ideal; of interest is the fact that the
orthodox Clareni (spiritualists) leaned toward the Tertiary Regulars to live their ideal
literally. The second direction was toward the witness of works of charity, principally in
hospitals, at times in which social assistance was a far cry from the modern forms of
available assistance. Among the city hospitals in the hands of the Third Order was that of
Florence, known as St. Paul, which flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries, and that of
Bologna, in existence from 1236. Pope Paul II in 1467 entrusted it to the Order's General,
John Camolesi of Verona; it became one of the more important houses of that province,
known as St. Mary of Charity. The Order had other hospitals in Imola (Bologna), Forlis,
Rome, and Messina.(48)
We have already addressed the charitable activity which characterized the Third
Order Regular from the beginning. After the revival, followed by the civil suppressions of
the 18th and 19th centuries, and with the international growth of the 20th century, the
Order was given a new thrust largely due to the actual situation of the Church at the
time. The friars dedicated themselves to pastoral work in numerous parishes, to the
education of youth in colleges and universities, and to other forms of evangelization,
including missionary activity.
Among the major educational institutes to be noted are, the Institute "Santa
Maria" in Syracuse (Italy); the electrical institute Pius XII in Rome, founded by the
General, John H. Boccella (1947-1965), with a speciality in radio and television
installation (1948-1973);(49) in Spain St. Francis College and the
Porziuncula College (Majorca) and the university residence Raymond Lull for 2000 students
(Madrid). In the United States the two major institutions are St. Francis College
(Loretto, Pennsylvania) and the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Steubenville,
In the foreign mission field there has been considerable expansion. In India the mission
was entrusted to the Sacred Heart Province (USA) as the first missionary endeavor. Other
provinces followed soon thereafter. The province of St. Francis (Italy) began work in
Paraguay in 1950. The French province united to the Order in 1954 contributed half of its
members to the mission of Mato Grosso (Brazil). The Spanish province sent missionaries to
Mexico and Peru, and the Immaculate Conception province (USA) in turn opened a new mission
in Paraguay. All of this meant a considerable mission commitment for an Order of this
7. Saints and Blesseds
Among its more noteworthy men of holiness the Third Order Regular lists the
Blessed Januarius of Valtellina,
called the flower of the Alps because he lived his ermetical life of holiness on Mt.
Biogio near Mello in Valtellina. He died at any advanced age at the beginning of the
Blessed Jeremiah Lambertenghi of Como.
Born of a noble family, at age twenty he entered the Third Order Regular in the
friary-hermitage of St. Donatus on Mt. Brunate. He was called "the martyr of the
cloister" because of his severe penances. In 1483 he was called to Imola (Bologna) to
supervise the construction of the shrine of Our Lady of Piratello. He remained there for
twenty years "affable and kind as an angel". He died at Forli in 1513, venerated
as a saint. His cause of beatification is in progress.
St. Conrad Confalonieri (1290-1351), a
nobleman of Piacenza, lived as a hermit near the city of Noto. His cult was approved by
Urban VIII in 1625.
Blessed Paul Ambrosi of Cropani was
distinguished by his love of solitude. Ordained a priest by obedience he joined the life
of a hermit with that of the active apostolate. Gifted with prophecy and discernment of
spirits, he offered freely light and comfort to all those who turned to him. He died in
Many other religious, especially in the older provinces (e.g., Sicily) were
recognized as noteworthy servants of God and in some cases the process of being
beatification was initiated. Among these were Venerable Luca Nicastro of Cerarni (+ 1602)
, Brother Philip (+ 1598), and brother Clement Mazzola of Assoro (+ 1711) , Vincent
Ferreri of Palermo (1591-1662) , Stephen Scuderi of Partinico (+ 1710) , Mariano
Postiglione (1752-1841), buried in the church of St. Catherine Chiaia, Naples, and Anthony
The Third Order Regular is also identified with a number of noteworthy shrines.
There are two in Sicily: at Calvaruso (Messina) where a likeness of Christ in wood
("Ecce Homo") is venerated and the other dedicated to St. Calogero the hermit on
Mt. Cronio near- Sciacca (Agrigento). The Province of St. Francis has the sanctuary of the
Madonna of Piratello near Imola (Bologna). In Spain on the island of Majorca there is the
shrine of the Madonna of Cura on Mt. Panda where blessed Raymond Lull gave himself to
solitude before beginning his apostolic life.
9. Noteworthy Members
The Order has had men learned in both the sacred and secular disciplines, some of
whom from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are listed here.
Fr. Francis Barton (1595-1671) is
undoubtedly the most noteworthy person in the history of the T.O.R. He was a theologian,
jurist, and historian. Gifted with great versatility, he received his education at the
Studium Parmense, where he then taught for twenty years as a member of the College of
Theologians. He was a Marian specialist, having written three volumes on the Immaculate
Conception of Mary. His juridical and moral treatises, however, form the greater part of
Anthony de Sillis (+1636) was a prominent
jurist and theologian who wrote the commentary on the Rule of Bonaventure of Vicenza.(51)
He also collected early documentation and information on the beginnings of the Order. He
was an important source for Barton.
Fr. Anthony Cottoni of Nicosia (1613-1682)
is the most celebrated friar of the Order in the 1600s after Barton. Degreed in various
disciplines, a theologian and orientalist, he held the ordinary chair of metaphysics at
the celebrated University of Padua. He taught there for eighteen years and was highly
esteemed by his peers. His main concern, however, was for the theological institute of his
Sicilian province, open at St. Paolo alla Regola in Rome. Bardoni speaks of him in
flattering terms, saying that he was proud of such a confrere.(52)
P. Dominic Pasini (+1705) was a
doctor of the University of Bologna as well as an esteemed orator. He left unpublished a
number of poems on the Immaculate Conception.
Fr. Francis Cupani (1657-1710), a
student of the natural sciences, was the director of the botanical gardens of Misilmeri,
near Palermo and author of the impressive work Hortus catholicus. The herbal stock
"Cupani" is named for him.
Fr. Angelo Predieri (1655-1713), musician,
was the professor of Fr. Giambattista Martini, OFM Conv.
Fr. Angelo Fardella (1650-1719) was a
scientist, mathematician, and Cartesian philosopher.
Fr. Gregory Alberti of Massa Martana (+ 1637),
a renowned doctor of theology, was also a noted orator who spoke in many of Italy's major
1.Cf. Pastoralis officii in BF, nova series, I, n. 1083, pp. 547-48. A summary can be
found in Raffaele Pazzelli, Il Terz'Ordine Regolare di S.Francesco attraverso i secoli,
Rome 1958, pp. 122-24.
2. See the presentation of this point in R. Pazzelli, San Francesco e il Terz'Ordine. Il
movimento penitentiale pre-francescano e francescano, Padova 1982, pp. 161-168.
3. GG. Meersseman, Disciplinati e Penitenti nel Duecento, Perugia 1962, p. 45.
4. Cf. R. Pazzelli, L'orientamento francescano del movimento penitenziale lungo il secolo
XIII, in Angela da Foligno Terziari Francescana. Edited by E. Menestò. Centro italiano di
studi sull'alto Medioevo. Spoleto 1992, pp. 3-16.
5. R. Pazzelli. Il Terz'Ordine Regolare, cit., pp. 42-59. For Bartholomew of Bari see the
results of the most recent research in G. Andreozzi, Il B. Bartolomeo Bari nelle fonti
storiche e nella tradizione, in A.A.V.V., Prime manifestazioni di vita comunitaria
maschile e femminile nel movemento francescano della Penitenza (1215-1447), edited by R.
Pazzelli and L. Temperini, edition Analecta TOR, Vol. XV (1982), 507-541.
6. Cf. R. Pazzelli, Il Terz'Ordine Regolare, cit., pp. 83-85.
7. Cf. Altissimo in divinis in R. Pazzelli, oc., p. 98, note 2. See the various questions
relative to the same bull in Pazzelli, La personalità di Giovanni XXII e la Bolla
"Altissimo in divinis" in Prime manifestazione, cit., pp. 39-65.
8. The principal bulls were: Sancta Romana of December 30, 1317, (BF, V, n. 297) and
Gloriosam Ecclesiam of January 23, 1318 (BF, V, n. 302). A summary can be found in R.
Pazzellli, Il Terz'Ordine Regolare, cit., pp. 120-128.
9. See the specifics in R. Pazzelli, Il Terz'Ordine Regolare, cit., pp. 120-128.
10. Cf. Mario Sensi, Le Osservanze francescane nell'Italia centrale (Sec. XIV-XV). Ed.
Istituto Storico Cappuccini, Rome, (in particular chapter VI, "Dossier sui Clareni
della Valle Spoletana," pp. 137-170).
11. On the identity of the Clareni of Umbria and the Marches in that period, see R.
Pazzelli, Movimenti, congregazioni e ordini con la Regola di Niccolò IV nei secoli
XIII-XIV, in La "Supra Montem" di Niccolò IV (1289): genesi e diffusione di una
Regola, edited by R. Pazzelli and L. Temperini. Edition Analecta TOR, Vol. XX (1988).,
12. Romanus Pontifex in BF, n.s. I, p. 671.
13. This is clear from the tenor of the bull of Nicholas V who decided that if some friars
wished to live a more rigorous life they could become part of the First Order in which the
rule of St. Francis was observed; the rest should remain Tertiaries: "Volumus autem
quod, si aliqui vitam voluerint ducere arctiorem aut alias aliquid in dicto suo ordine
commutare, illi ad ordinem fratrum Minorum huiusmodi se transferre et illius regulam
obsevare omnio teneantur."
14. Cf. G. Andreozzi, San Giovanni da Capestrano e il Terz'Ordine di san Francesco, Rome
1987, pp. 155-158. Cf. the bull Excitat arcanum in Franciscus Bordoni, Archivium Bullarum,
Pamae, Vigna, 1658, pp. 269-271.
15. This occurred at the General Chapter of 1589, held at the friary of St. Maria of
Piratello, near Imola.
16. The origins, or better the cause, of such a decision is still shrouded in obscurity.
It should be remembered that in the preceding year the same Pope, with the brief
Superioribus mensibus (April 16) decreed the suppression of the Tertiary Regulars of
Spain, committing them to the Friars Minor. Correspondence between the Secretary of State
of Pius V, Cardinal Alessandrino, and the Apostolic Nuncio in Spain shows that political
persons in Spain led the Pope to believe that the Regular Tertiaries of Spain did not
differ From the Friars Minor and could be considered part of the First Order, "as
were the Conventuals". In the aforementioned brief, in fact, St. Pius V decreed that
the Tertiary regulars were to become part of the Friars Minor "as also the Conventual
Friars,": "Illos [i Terziari Regolari] ad observantiam fratrum dicti Ordinis S.
Francisci [i frati Minori]... eo modo et forma, quibus sunt reducendi Fratres
Conventuales, omnino reducendos eese decernimus et declaramus." For a more complete
discussion of the Third Order Regular in Spain, see R. Pazzelli, Il Terz'Ordine Regolare,
cit., pp. 313-318.
17. F. Bordoni, Historia tertii ordinis S. Frnacisci, Parmae, Vigna 1658, 162, 169.
18. Cf. Romani pontificis providentia in F. Bordoni, Archivbium Bullarum, cit., p. 532.
19. The Tertiary Regulars had a house in Assisi from 1448 It was at the beginning of the
Via S. Paolo, known as the "Monasterium Continentium Tertii Ordinis sancti
Francisci" The first general congregation was held there on August 5, 1449. This
monastery still was standing when in 1607 a nobleman of Assisi donated his own home to the
Tertiaries to which a small church was attached dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. The
Tertiaries rebuilt both places. The architect of the church was the painter Caesar Sermei
of Orvieto. The "friary of St. Anthony" was distinguished early on for its
regular observances and from the 1600s on, like Martogna in Sicily, was designated a
center for retreat. Many general chapters were held there and many noted friars lived
there as Fr. Dominic Venarucci who left the well known manuscript Notizie storiche di
Assisi on which the historian Anthony Cristofani depended. The house was suppressed by
Napoleon in 1810. Reopened in 1815 it was again suppressed in 1860. The friars who were
not dispersed took lodging in a house on the Via san Francesco, near Mt. Frumentario. It
was they who worked for the rebirth of the Order in Italy. The Danish author John
Jorgensen who came to know the friars in that house during one of his early visits to
Assisi was impressed by their fervor and simplicity and wrote about them in that fashion.
In 1912 the friars acquired a house on the via S. Pablo and a little later reacquired the
care of the church of St. Maria sopra Minerva where they had already been in possession in
the 17th and 18th centuries.
20. This is the locale which tradition identifies with the dwelling of St. Paul during his
two years spent in Rome. The Tertiaries of Sicily obtained it in 1619. There they also
built a college of philosophy with a well stocked library. Toward the end of the century
the famous Academy "Conferenza Dommatica" was established there and later
transferred to the University "Sapienza" in Rome.
21. See the bull in Bordoni, Archivium, cit., pp. 557-59.
22. See the bull in Bordoni, o.c. pp. 670-71.
23. Short accounts of each of these houses can be found in Raniero Luconi, Comita
Generalia Tertii Ordinis Regularis sancti Francisci eorumque Acta selecta, in Analecta
TOR, Vol. III (1941), pp. 411-509.
24. Cf. the related bull in Magnum Bullarium Romanum, edited by L. Arnaud and P. Borde,
Lugduni 1673, tomus IV, 281-83.
25. Cf. Analecta TOR, Vol. III (1941), pp. 411-509.
26. Cf. R. Luconi, Comitia Generalia, cit., p. 510.
27. Ibid. p. 521.
28. The following should be noted: Louis Mentini, Emidio Maricotti, Felix Pius Cecca,
Aneglus De Mattia, John Baptist Perticarani.
29. See the letter in R. Luconi, Comitia Generalia, cit., pp. 215-216.
30. It is important to remember blessed Severinus Girault, "the first victim of the
massacre at the Carmelites," recognized as a blessed by Pius XI on October 1, 1926.
31. Cf. Acta Tertii ordinis regularis, vol. XIII (1992), p. 66.
32. Cf. Ibid., p. 67.
33. See above.
34. This is contained in the bull Inter cetera nostri regiminis (January 20, 1521). For
the text, see Seraphicae legislationis textus originales. Ad Claras Aquas (Quaracchi)
1987, pp. 287-297.
35. In chapt. 5, under government and jurisdiction (De Praelatorum et officiorum
ordinatione), the Rule states that every superior of a local community of the friars and
sisters "must obey completely, in that which regards the observance of the Rule, the
ministers provincial of the Friars Minor and the visitators designated by them.":
"Qui Ministri et Matrea obedient per omnia quae as praesentem Regulam spectant
Provincialibus Ministris Ordinis minorum B. Francisci et Visitatoribus deputatis ab ipsis
Ministris, quamdiu in dictis officiis fuerint." Ibid., pp. 292-293.
36. None of the congregations which did not follow this Rule were reproved and none were
ordered openly to accept it.
37. Hence the title: Generalia Statuta sive Decreta Fratrum Tertii Ordinis Sancti
Francisci, de poenitentia nuncupati, regularis observantiae congregationis Longobardae in
habitu heremitico degentium, Venetiis, apud Aldi filios, 1551.
38. In the valuable historical study entitled Studia originem, provectum atque
complementum Tertii Ordinis de Poenitentia S. Francisci concernentia, Neapoli, Vitali,
39. For the particulars on the genesis of this rule, see R. Pazzelli, Le Suore
Francescane. Lineamenti di storia e spiritualità. Ed. Messaggero, Padova 1989, pp.
40. The various phases of this work are described in in R. Pazzelli, Le Suore Francescane,
Ibid., pp. 162-171.
41. Important recent discoveries, decided by the General
Chapters of 1546, 1589, and 1595 are published in Analecta TOR, Vol. XIII (1976), pp.
42. Urbane Costituzioni generali Romane dei Frati del Terz'Ordine di S. Francesco
Regolari Osservanti fatte nell'anno 1638. E ristampate per ordine del R.P.M. Ippolito
Rossini Generale, Roma, Rumolo, 1684.
43. Constitutiones Fratrum Tertii Ordinis S. Francisci Regularis observantiae, confirmatae
a Sanctissimo Domino nostro Clemente XII Pont. Max. Anno 1734. Romae, Tip. Camerae
44. See the introduction of the Minister General José Angulo Quilis TOR, on pages 5-13 of
45. For the text, see R. Pazzelli, Il Terz'Ordine Regolare, cit., p. 129, note 1.
46. Note especially the six historical conventions, held in different Italian cities, all
now published: 1. L'Ordine della Penitenza di S. Francesco d'Assisi nel secolo XIII. Atti
del [1°] Convegno di Studi Francescani (Assisi, 3-5 luglio 1972). A cura di O. Schmucki,
Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, Roma 1973. Ristampa anastatica 1988. - 2. I Frati
Penitenti di san Francesco nella società del Due e Trecento. Atti del 2° Convegno di
Studi Francescani (Roma, 12-14 ottobre 1976). A cura Di Mariano D'Alatri, Istituto Storico
dei Cappuccini, Roma 1977. - 3. Il movimentofrancescano della Penitenza nella società
medioevale. Atti del 3° Convegno di Studi Francescani (Padova, 25-27 settembre 1979). A
cura di Mariano D'Alatri. Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, Roma 1980. - 4. Prime
manifestazioni di vita comunitaria, maschile efemminile, nel movimentofrancescano della
Penirenza (1215-1447). Atti del [4°] Convegno di Studi Francescani (Assisi, 30 giugno - 2
luglio 1981). A cura di R. Pazzelli - L. Temperini, Commissione Storica Internazionale
TOR, Roma 1982, e Analecta TOR, XV(1982). - 5. La "Supra montem" di Niccolò IV
(1289): genesi e diffusione di una Regola. Atti del 5° Convegno di Studi Francescani
(Ascoli Piceno, 26-27 ottobre 1987). A cura di R. Pazzelli - L. Temperini, ed Analecta
TOR, Roma 1988. - 6. Terziari Francescani in età moderna. Antico e nuovo mondo. Atti del
6° Convegno di Studi Francescani (Milano, 22-24 settembre 1992). A cura Di Lino
Temperini, ed. Analecta TOR, Roma 1993.
47. For a more throrough discussion, cf. L. Temperini. La spiritualità penitenziale nelle
Fonti francescane, in Analecta TOR, XIV (1980), 543-589; Pazzelli R. and Temperini L., La
tradizione storica e spirituale del nostro movimento, ed. CSI-TOR, Roma 1980; R. Pazzelli,
La spiritualità del Terz'Ordine Regolare di san Francesco, Roma 1989.
48. Cf. L. Temperini, Il Penitente francescano nella società e nella Chiesa. Attività
socio-caratativa, in La Supra Montem di Niccolò IV (1289): genesi e diffusione di una
Regola, in Analecta TOR (1988), pp. 352-369.
49. About 2,311 students obtained a diploma in various electrical specializations. The
Institute was closed when the Minister of Public Instruction began similar programs in the
50. Cf. Giovanni Parisi, Florilegio Serafico del Terz'Ordine Regolare di S. Fracncesco, S.
Lucia del Mela (ME) 1968.
51. See above, footnote 38.
52. He wrote in these words: "Glorior me tantum habere confratrem et filium, quia
gloria patris est filius sapiens," Historia Tertii Ordinis, cit., p. 549.
53. For more information on these illustrius members of the Third Order Regular, see R.
Pazzelli, Il Terz'Ordine Regolare, cit., pp. 224-234; 244-251; 270-284.
CALL OF GOD TO "REBUILD HIS CHURCH" IS STILL
HEARD BY THE FRANCISCANS IN THE T.O.R. TRADITION.
Franciscan Third Regular
Nancy Celaschi, OSF
Piazza Risorgimento 14
The Third Order Regular, like the Secular Franciscan Order, was not founded as a single entity. There were local fraternities/communities
which have sprouted up over the centuries in various places, often as a result of the
preaching of the friars. In the 14th-15th century one group of friar/hermits united in a
national federation in Lombardy (now part of Italy) and received official status from the
Church. Over the centuries other national federations were formed and recognized and many
of these eventually melded into the Third Order Regular (T.O.R.) friars with
their generalate at SS. Cosmas and Damian here in Rome.
Third Order Regular (for the sake of clarity, I will use the initials
TOR in this excursus) were primarily autonomous groups. The oldest in continual existence
that I can find record of is the Sisters of Maria Stern (Germany), a TOR community dating
from 1246; the Dillingen Franciscans (also TOR) can document their continued existence as
a Franciscan group since 1289, although both groups probably trace their roots to beguines
who embraced the Franciscan rule.
The first attempt at a federation of TOR women's houses was in the late
15th century, with Angelina of Marsciano in Umbria, Italy. Not much is available in
English about Angelina, but Roberta McKelvie will soon publish her doctoral dissertation
on this topic. Unfortunately, Angelina's federation was not welcomed by the Church (Roman
Curia and friars) and the houses were forced to remain autonomous.
A large growth in the foundation of TOR communities occurred during the
Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. At this time many of the ancient TOR groups
also sent missionaries to the Americas and, especially in the late 19th century, these new
houses retained contact with their mother-house in Europe. Thus the old
"monasteries" could now be considered congregations.
Another factor in the diversity of the groups within the TOR is the fact
that it was not until the 1917 code of canon law that the Church officially recognized
such modern concepts as " perpetual simple vows", "sisters" as
distinct from nuns, etc.
Today there are approximately 400 separate congregations in the Third
Order Regular; 17 of these groups are male and of these 17, three are predominantly
clerical (the TORs, the Society of the Atonements, and the Tertiary Capuchins of the
Sorrowful Mother; the latter is a Spanish foundation). A few brothers groups have a few
There are also some 60 monasteries of T.O.R. nuns, women living under
solemn vows with enclosure, just like the Poor Clares, but
observing the Rule of the Third Order Regular, not that of St. Clare. (Predominantly in
Spanish-speaking countries, particularly Spain and Mexico).
The rest of the world does not make such distinctions about initials as
we do in the USA. Many TOR congregations (male and female) simply use the initials OSF,
but some others in use in the USA are: FMM, CSSF, FMIC, FSP, TOR, SA (male and female),
and God only knows what other initials.
The Franciscan Federation (USA) is an organization representing the
various TOR congregations in North America. Founded in the 1960's, it is not a single
congregation/order but a group that promotes communication, collaboration and education
among the various Third Order Regular congregations.
The International Franciscan TOR Conference is a similar organization,
founded in 1985, and making similar efforts at the international level. Our 1993
statistics showed 379 congregations with a total of 116,000 members. Our office is in Rome
near the entrance to the Vatican Museums. Every four years we have an international
assembly to which the 400 general superiors are invited; at that time they discuss topics
of common interest, elect a new council of general superiors who in turn hire a new
secretary-general (executive director). The next conference is in May 1997 in Santa Maria
degli Angeli, right next to the Porziuncola.
Nancy Celaschi, OSF
Piazza Risorgimento 14