Secular Franciscans: A Way of Life
The Secular Franciscans are an international community of men and women throughout the world (over 1,000 fraternities in the USA) who seek to pattern their lives after Christ in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. The Secular Franciscan Order (SFO), also known as the Third Order of Francis was started in 1221 by St. Francis. Lay people came to him with a deep hunger to live an authentic Christian way of life. The Franciscan charism includes penance, prayer, a conscious choice to conform to God’s will, a love for all creation, and simple living. Secular Franciscans can be married or single. They are not First Order Franciscans, celibate vowed religious men or Second Order Franciscans, celibate vowed religious women. Most live and work in secular society.
My Mom’s death and my last precious night with her gave me a spiritual hunger that I cannot fully explain. As I opened my heart to God, I had many experiences, too numerous and awesome to explain here, that have truly been “Beyond Chance”. I can only explain them as God working in my life. This spiritual hunger led me to become a Franciscan Associate with The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls. I became fascinated with St. Francis and his deep spirituality. I developed a desire to live the Gospel and help to “rebuild God’s Church” for others. I couldn’t do it alone. An unfulfilled spiritual hunger nagged within me. I knew of the SFO, but did not pursue it.
As I walked through the church at San Damiano and the Basilica of St. Francis in 2003, during a spiritual pilgrimage, I felt a strong calling to follow more closely the Franciscan way of life. I heard myself say to others on the trip, that “I would start the process of becoming a Secular Franciscan” upon my return home and I did! I contacted The San Damiano Fraternity at St. Andrew’s in Elk River.
The process of becoming a Secular Franciscan involves orientation (6 months) to discern your call, inquiry (6 months) to learn about the Order, and candidacy (12 months) to understand the Franciscan Rule by which we profess to live. A formal, permanent profession is made to live one’s life in community with others who share a common response to the Gospels, work toward a deep evangelical life, and toward communion with all people. We pray alone and together; learn about Christ, Francis, Clare and ourselves; share our journeys, and live with the Gospels as our guide to reach out to others. We meet monthly, attend retreats, and work together to change our lives and our world.
Carol Schiebold, SFO
San Damiano Fraternity
Elk River, Minnesota