Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Third Orders - Extreme Hipster Catholicism

Editor's note: This is another great contribution from the one and only Holly Vaughan. You can follow her on Twitter here!

Many Hipster Catholics I meet are drawn not only to the ancient traditions of the Church, but specifically to monasteries, convents, and archabbies.  This makes perfect sense, of course, since these places carefully preserve the traditions of our Faith, and live them to the fullest.  


If we are fortunate enough to have any type of monastery or the like near us, it’s a beautiful experience to join the monks or sisters for Daily Mass, or any hour of the Divine Office.  Many a monk or sister has found their vocation this way.  But what about those of us who are drawn to the life and charism of the monastery, but have already discerned that our vocation does not lie in religious life?  Do we have to be content to watch from the sidelines?

No, my hipster friends.  We do not.  Religious Orders know our predicament and they have known it for a long time.  They also know that their faith and charisms need to get out into the world and make a difference even in places where the monks and sisters are not readily able to be present.  They want their work to travel far beyond the monastery walls and reach as far as possible.


This is where Third Orders come in.  What is a Third Order, also known as a Lay Order, you ask?  

I’m glad you asked.

Third Orders are lay people that live their life in the world as they always have, but who incorporate the values and charisms of the order which they choose to join.  They are a real part of the religious family - they learn and study, and go through a novitiate period like vowed religious do - but instead of living at the monastery they take what they learn and carry it with them into the world by living it in their everyday life.  In most cases they make promises; some orders renew annually, some are lifetime once the novitiate is over.  These are promises, which should still be discerned and taken seriously, but are not vows like religious take.  

Different Third Orders have different commitments they ask of their members, but most pray at least Morning and Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours daily.  This connects you spiritually to your monastic family, as you pray the same prayers they are praying.  Often the commitments depend on the charism of the order.  Dominicans are very dedicated to the Rosary (it is said that the Rosary in its current form was given to Saint Dominic by Our Lady)  and ask their third order to pray it daily, in addition to the Liturgy of the Hours.  Benedictines are asked to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as stated above, and to try to do Lectio Divina every day.  The motto of the Benedictines is ‘Ora et Labora’ or ‘Pray and Work.’  Benedictines know the Liturgy of the Hours as ‘the Work of God,’ and offer up our normal work of the day as a prayer as well.  Our charism centers on prayer, hospitality, balance, and moderation.

‘Our’ charism?  Ah yes - I didn’t mention that I am a Third Order Benedictine - formally called an Oblate of Saint Benedict!  Obviously I know the most about my specific order, although I do have some knowledge of the Dominican Order as well - that is where my Third Order journey began, until God made it clear that He had another route for me to take.  That route turned out to be the Benedictine Oblates.  


How about a quick run down of Third Orders?  Maybe you will find that God is calling you to a certain religious family!

Here are the main ones, and some basic information about each!

Benedictine Oblates: Oblates are a part of the whole order of Benedictines, but are also connected to a particular ‘house,’ be it a monastery, convent or archabbey.  Their charisms are centered on prayer, hospitality, moderation and balance.  Benedictines are called to pray, to love and welcome people, and to care for the world that God has given us.  Well known member: Servant of God Dorothy Day

Dominicans: Like Benedictines, Lay Dominicans incorporate the charism of the Dominican Order into their lives in the world: prayer, study, and preaching.  The Dominican Order is known as the Order of Preachers.  The vowed religious and the lay members study the Word of God and preach it by their lives and by their words.  Here is an article about becoming a Third Order Dominican, by a Third Order Dominican. Well known member: St. Catherine of Siena

Franciscans: This order lives a simple lifestyle based on the life of Saint Francis. The five main points pulled from their Rule are: 1) love God 2) love one's neighbor 3) turn away from our sinful tendencies 4) "receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ" and, as a result of the above, 5) producing worthy fruits of penance – a renewed life characterized by charity, forgiveness and compassion toward others. Well known member: Christopher Columbus

Carmelites: The Charism of the Carmelites is based on contemplative prayer.  As a part of the Third Order, living in the world, Lay Carmelites find a balance of contemplative prayer, and taking the fruits of that prayer out into the world. Well known member: St. Pope John Paul II (honorary member)

These are only the top four Religious Orders - most all orders have a lay order.  If you have a favorite order that isn’t listed here, check out their website for information on their third order.  If you aren’t familiar with a particular order, research some of the above and see if God puts anything on your heart.  There may be a special religious family out there waiting to welcome you with open arms.  

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