Secular third orders with full habits

Curious, are there any of these? I know such a thing was perfectly common back in the long day but how about now?

As your signature contains the famous words of the blessed Virgin to Dominic, I think it is appropriate to talk about the Order of Preachers first. :wink:

We know from the singular facts of history that St. Martin de Porres, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Louis de Montfort were tertiary Dominicans. The first two chose to wear the male and female Lay habit, respectively. As St. Louis was already a priest upon his being received by the Preachers, he continued to wear priestly garments in lieu of a habit. St. Martin always wore the simple white habit and black scapular of the Third Order. I’ve heard that Vatican II abolished the distinction between Lay/Secular/Third Order Dominican habit and the Friars’ habit. I don’t know if this is true or, what!

as a novitiate in the Secular Franciscan Order, we were the Tau. To me that is my habit and no it isn’t like the friars where in the 1st Order. I haven’t read the rule of 1883 to know if at the time Secular Franciscans wore full habit or not or even today if some by chance still observe that rule instead of the 1978 rule updated by Pope Paul VI. But I will look into it.

When I was in the Third Order Franciscans (from 1979 to 1988) I wore a habit over my secular clothes. It looked like a friar’s habit, with the hood and a beanie on the head. But the wearing of the habit was discouraged by the higher ups in the Provincial food chain.

Thanks for shedding some light on the habit

That’s unfortunate, our world needs the witness value of habits (and for that matter, clerical attire, too) more than ever.

Tertiaries should wear the habits of their orders.



There were a lot of troubles with ‘some’ of the higher-ups because we wanted to wear our habits. Of course, not out in the street; just in the setting of our monthly meetings and doing things such as attending retreats or Congresses, or on pilgrimages.

I still have my old Third Order Franciscan habit. I even wore it when I went to Fatima in 1980 and Assisi, Italy in 1981. I always wore my secular ‘outer clothes’ underneath it-that was a ‘given’.

I might also add that, in addition to the habit and the ‘beanie’ [looked like the Papal skullcap, only brown instead of white], we wore a Franciscan scapular, a cord around the waist (my first one was made of yarn, but I got a ‘real rope’ a few years later), and a Franciscan Crown Rosary tied to the cord.

Some of us also wore a silver San Damiano Crucifix, though not with the scapular.

We were ‘very Italian’, though I was one of the few non-Italians in the fraternity! :smiley:

Who knows? Perhaps one day in the future, we will see tertiaries wear their full habits in public. I am looking forward to that!.:stuck_out_tongue:

In Christ,


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I understand that back in history at some point, Third Order members did wear the religious habit of their Order. Does anyone know the actual reason or reasons that this ceased and was legislated against within each Order and Third Order members had to abandon the religious habit per se, while adopting some rather indiscreet (it seems to me) symbol of their Third Order membership. From what I have read on different Catholic Discussion Sites, it does seem that quite a few Third Order seculars would like to wear a religious habit, even if it differed in some way from the habit of the religious per se as the white veil most often will mark a novice in the Order.


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This is for the Franciscans…

The full habit was worn by all Franciscan tertiaries until the 1500s, when it became too inconvenient for people both in high positions and craftsmen to wear. In view of the many complaints, Pope Julius II established the scapular held by the cord as the tertiaries’ habit, which could be concealed underneath any kind of clothing.

Pope Clement XI in 1704 further decreased the scapular in size until it was reduced to two small pieces of material hanging on tapes, without coming into contact with the cord.

In 1957, in the publication of the Franciscan Third Order Constitutions, the possibility of replacing the scapular and cord with a medallion was discussed and accepted. This paved the way to the donning of the wooden TAU pendant suspended on a cord with three knots.


I know of one Franciscan tertiary order that has all its members in a habit:

The Franciscan Third Order of the Immaculate

They are connected with the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate.

However, I thought you might be interested to know that any third order or oblate member is allowed to be buried in the habit of the order when they die. I always thought that was really neat. :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing this information. As a novitiate I still have a lot to learn about the Secular Franciscan Order

I think it’s neat too. My great-grandmother was a Franciscan tertiary and she was buried in her habit :thumbsup:

On another note, though they are different than a Third Order, the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary are a Secular Institute and they wear a habit,

I am a tertiary Dominican, and so am in a position to address this. There did used to be a distinctive tertiary habit with a black scapular, at least for lay brothers (St. Martin de Porres is sometimes depicted wearing this habit); this has been suppressed. Some tertiaries wear the habit at their monthly chapter meetings (e.g., the Dominican tertiaries of Vietnam). We are allowed to wear the habit in a priory. We may be buried in the habit. Other than in these settings, we do not wear it. At our chapter meetings, we wear either our profession crosses or white scapulars. We are encouraged always to wear some sign of our membership in the Order of Preachers; I personally wear a lapel pin with the Dominican shield. I do not own a habit, and I do not know of anyone in my chapter who does.

I think there are some misunderstandings here. The original habit of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance was a tunic without a hood, a scapular and chord. It was usually worn under the street clothing.

The comparison with the Lay Dominicans is not a good one, because the Lay Dominicans are not a canonical order of Pontifical Right. They are an association that is attached to the Dominican Friars. Dominic never intended for them to be an autonomous order. That’s why they wore the same habit as the friars and the nuns. Actually, the black scapular was worn by the Dominican Lay Brothers and Extern Sisters. The Lay Dominicans wore the same habit.

The Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Poor Clares, the Order of the Brothers of Penance, and the Order of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance are all Franciscan, because we are all sons and daughters of Francis of Assisi and he founded all four orders. But they are autonomous. That’s why we never wore the same habit. Even the friars wear different habits according to region, ministries, and the different obediences.

In 1978 Pope Paul VI promulgated the new rule for the Third Order Secular Franciscans. He made several changes to the previous rule.

He changed the name of the order from the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, to the Secular Franciscan Order. He wanted to make sure that the Secular Order was not confused with the Regular Franciscan Order, which is known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.

He abolished the habit, because he wanted the Secular Franciscans to project secularity without embracing secularism. He wanted you guys to persevere in the traditions and customs of the Franciscan order, without being confused with the friars, sisters and nuns. It was decided that the Tau would replace the habit. However, those fraternities that had worn the habit for more than 100 years were allowed to keep it.

It was also Pope Paul’s desire to see the Secular Franciscans more involved in the apostolic work of the local diocese as a group that would set the example for other secular men and women. It was his opinion that the use of a habit would not be effective, because you would look like religious. Therefore, other secular men and women would not be inclined to follow.

Since the rules of the four Franciscan obediences are issued with Papal Bulls, the current rule for the Secular Franciscan Order is canonically binding on all Secular Franciscans and on the rest of the Church. This means that those of us who are not Secular Franciscans, must accept the Secular Franciscans as they are described in the rule and neither laity nor bishops can interfere with them or dictate to them. Nor may we friars or the sisters and nuns dictate to them in any way, unlike the Dominicans and Carmelites who do have authority over their third orders, because they are not canonical pontifical orders as are the Secular Franciscans.

Until such time as another Pontiff raises the Papal Bull and authorizes a rewrite of the current rule, the SFO rule must be observed as is. The problem is not the rule nor the absence of a habit. The problem are the constitutions of the SFO. Those were not dictated by the pope. Those were written by the delegates to the General Chatper of 2000 and voted on by the membership of the order. In my opinion, those constitutions fail to apply the rule correctly. They confuse secularity with secularism and include an excessive enphasis on secular life of the brothers and sisters and fail to say enough about fidelity to Franciscan tradition and spirituality.

If you read the consitutions of any of the branches of friars, they are very spiritual and very theological. They have very few references to what to do when to do it and why do it. They speak about the spirit of St. Francis and provide an explanation for each point. For example, it speaks about fraternity and then explains what constitutes fraternity and why it was important to our Holy Father. Things like this are missing from the constitutions of the SFO.

Even if they wore a habit, without the spirituality, the habit is just a costume.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

When you “were”? Did you leave before profession or did you ask for permission to leave?

I only ask, because it’s important for people to understand that profession into the Secular Franciscan Order is binding until death, unless the person asks permission to leave. The permission may be granted by the Minister and his or her council, but it must be recorded that the person has left the order. Otherwise, the person is simply an inactive member of the order, but remains a Franciscan until death and is bound to keep the promise that he made to follow the rule.

We do not want those who are not Franciscans to think that the Secular Franciscan Order is an organization like the Legion of Mary where people can join and leave at will. It is a commitment to a way of life until death, unless one leaves using the proper chanels. The profession into the Secular Franciscan Order is a public liturgical act equivalent to the profession of the Friars, nuns and sisters who make up the Franciscan family. The difference is in the rule, not in the seriousness of the commitment. The difference between an SFO and an OSF is that the SFO makes a solemn promise to observe the Gospel according to the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order and the OSF make three vows: chastity, poverty and obedience according to the Rule of the Friars Minor and the Constitutions of the congregation.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

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Hi Br. JR:

If this is true, then we have a big problem here. In my opinion, the strength of the 1978 Rule lies in the Constitution, since the provisions here are elaborations of the rule. Because the constitutions were drafted in 2000, I say we have to wait for decades before these can be revised. Before that time comes, many of us would be mislead!

(By the way, the topic regarding Third Order Habit keeps popping up every now and then. It seems that not a few people are interested in getting it back into circulation. I, for one, think it is ok for admission, profession, anniversaries and burial…;))


WHOAH! Slow down. Mislead is a strong word. The constitutions have weaknesses, but they are not in error. The weakness of the constitutions is the lack of Franciscan theology and the fact that they need to be more emphatic about Franciscan tradition. They are doctrinally sound. Let’s not get carried away. They are not heretical. They are just weak. By the way, that’s my opinion. Many Secular Franciscans think that I’m too conservative and too traditional. :shrug:

(By the way, the topic regarding Third Order Habit keeps popping up every now and then. It seems that not a few people are interested in getting it back into circulation. I, for one, think it is ok for admission, profession, anniversaries and burial…;))


Burrying in the habit is still an option. Wearing the habit at any function is no longer an option. Once a pope has banned something and put a bull on the rule, there is no appeal. The pope is the highest ranking authority in the Franciscan family.

Your reasponse is a good example of what is missing in the SFO constitutions. For example, our constitution explains how Francis was docile whenever the Holy Father and the local bishop spoke and how he never expressed any opinion or raised questions when they spoke. Therefore, the brothers, as true sons of St. Francis shall observe the same reverent and loving submission to the Holy Father and the bishop.

If the Holy Father took the habit out of our rule, we would never bring it up again. It is his right to do so and we submit with love and joy. Those who find it difficult to submit, offer it up as a penance, because Francis said that such submission is pleasing to God and man.

It’s little details like this that are missing in the new constitutions. You don’t have to wait decades to renew them. Constitutions can be rewritten at a General Chapter, with the permission of the pope, if you are an order of Pontifical Right, which the SFO is. In a community of Diocesan Right the diocesan bishop grants the permission to revise the constitutions.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Thanks, Brother JR for your response. Maybe I should have clarified things a bit, but you did explain right it in the first paragraph… the weakness - and how this weakness affects the members of the order.

Regarding expression of one’s opinion… well you got me there:p… Overlooked that one! Hehe…Thanks brother.:smiley: