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The Orders of the Future
by Rev. Richard S. Kirby, Ph.D., Nov 29, 1999
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1. Introduction
2. The Religious Orders of the Past and Present
3. The Theology of Order
4. The Religious Orders of the Future
5. The Order of the Future and its Rule of Life
Bibliography and suggestions for further reading
Appendix: The Rule of the Order of St. Francis

1. Introduction

Who cares about Religious Orders? Isn't that an old-fashioned idea? And what do they have to do the future? Aren't they medieval organizations?

These are reasonable questions deserving a thoughtful answer.

Obviously, members of existing Religious Orders care about Religious Orders, present ones anyway, their own Religious Order. But the future? Why would anyone imagine such an antiquated idea as Religious Orders has a future in our hi-tech, billionaire-driven age, the age of Space Colonies, Genetic Engineering and Artificial Intelligence?

One answer might be that religion has a future; faith has a future; God has a future. In these cases, Religious Orders have a future too. And if they have a future, it deserves to be studied. Religious Orders, like stock markets or sports championships, like wars and fashion, deserve to be studied for their possible, probable, preferable and ideal futures.

Who needs Religious Orders, though? Aren't they for people to want to escape from the world, or religious fanatics, maybe for 'losers,' folks who can't stand very much reality?

Yes — they have been all these things; and they have also been the chosen habitat of some of the greatest souls and lights of the human story: Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict, Thomas Merton, St. Thomas Aquinas, Karl Rahner, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, Gautama Buddha and thousands of others. They are the stamping ground of many saints, heroes and heroines and "humanity's top note": the mystics, contemplatives and supreme visionaries of the human race. They are a breeding place for big winners in the reality stakes as well as the religion game. They grow champions in the fields of education, science, and travel.

Religious Orders are for specialists. They are for folks who really believe in God, who experience God as the ens realissimus [most real being]. Put it another way — Religious Orders are especially for theists. They tend to attract mystics, monks, nuns, and missionaries. They are for passionate people. People with a passion not for religion necessarily, but for God, for the Supreme Spirit. God is their Beloved. They are for people who want to 'bet the farm' on the 'existence of God'

But religious Orders, like chemistry or physics or math or baseball or theater or computers, did not spring from anywhere full-grown. They have a history; they are evolving. Their best days are not yesterday but tomorrow; for the future is God's.

We are at the gates of the third Christian Millennium. Around 1000 years ago there was another Millennium: the first of the Christian period. The Year 1000.

While some thought the world's end to be imminent — just like today — others crested a wave of intellectual and religious innovation that was to give birth to two of the great innovations of the second millennium: the University; and the Religious Order.

The University of Paris, France, came first; then the University of Oxford. The University was in some ways an amalgamation of Plato's philosophical Academy and Aristotle's scientific Lyceum. Its name, University, derived from the idea that it was open to all comers and did not just serve local students. There was also a subtle undercurrent of meaning implying that the subject matter was all things, and things of universal value. In this respect the University reflects the 'catholic' [= universal] synthesis of knowledge of the late Middle Ages and the unity of knowledge. All true knowledge, a theologian might assert, comes from, and leads to God. [A lie, by definition, is not knowledge — though, of course, it pretends to be knowledge! — and so cannot come from God.] An inquiry into the meaning of universities, and their improvement, is a subject for the 'theology of [higher] education' — and for the 'teaching' Religious Orders of the Third Millennium.

As to Religious Orders: the best way to understand them is to look at their founders and the mission each founder envisioned. Thus we shall glance at the founders of the Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican and Ignatian [Jesuit] Orders. These represent successively the 'domestic,' the followers of Lady Poverty [Franciscans], the Order of Preachers [Dominicans] and the scholar-soldier educators and civic change agents [Jesuits].

2. The Religious Orders of the Past and Present

In writing about The Religious Orders of the Past I will be following the grand tradition of monasticism and its sequel in the development of missionary orders. [Also see Workman, Herbert B. [1927] The Evolution of the Monastic Ideal.]

This is primarily a story of what would be now be called Catholic Christianity, although I am not writing as a Roman Catholic, nor on behalf or Roman Catholicism, but as a scholar in the history of religious ideas and practices.

St. Benedict of Nursia ca. 545 - an Italian

St. Benedict of Nursia, Founder of western monasticism, was born at Nursia, c. 480; he died at Monte Cassino, 543.

Benedict, the father of religious community and religious orders, will receive the lion's share of my attention as I describe the religious orders of the past, for his story illustrates so many of the issues which must still be faced by religious orders of the present and the future.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II [1907] gives us the following picture of Benedict, his Rule and his Order. I have freely adapted it to make its examples relevant to 21st century concerns and idioms.

Benedict was the son of a Roman noble of Nursia [Italy], a small town near Spoleto, and a tradition, which St. Bede accepts, makes him a twin with his sister Scholastica. His boyhood was spent in Rome, where he lived with his parents and attended the schools until he had reached his higher studies. Then "giving over his books, and forsaking his father's house and wealth, with a mind only to serve God, he sought for some place where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose; and in this sort he departed [from Rome], instructed with learned ignorance and furnished with unlearned wisdom" (Dial. St. Greg., II, Introd. in Migne, P.L. LXVI).

If we accept the date 480 for his birth, we can fix the date of his abandoning the schools and quitting home at about A.D. 500.

Benedict does not seem to have left Rome for the purpose of becoming a hermit, but only to find some place away from the life of the great city.

He took his old nurse with him as a servant and they settled down to live in Enfide, near a church dedicated to St. Peter, in some kind of association with "a company of virtuous men" who were in sympathy with his feelings and his views of life. Enfide, which the tradition of Subiaco identifies with the modern Affile, is in the Simbrucini Mountains, about forty miles from Rome and two from Subiaco. It stands on the crest of a ridge, which rises rapidly from the valley to the higher range of mountains, and seen from the lower ground the village has the appearance of a fortress.

At Enfide Benedict worked his first miracle by restoring to perfect condition an earthenware wheat-sifter (capisterium) which his old servant had accidentally broken.

Miracle! Monks, and mystics, like movie stars, often have a 'celebrity problem". The notoriety which this miracle brought upon Benedict drove him to escape still farther from social life, and "he fled secretly from his nurse and sought the more retired district of Subiaco".

Benedict's purpose of life had also been modified. He had fled Rome to escape the evils of a great city; he now determined to be poor and to live by his own work.

"For God's sake he deliberately chose the hardships of life and the weariness of labor" (ibid., 1). He was being formed, by his destiny for the work which was to be his main legacy. This was to organize holy societies or communities. But for this he must first complete his own formation as a seeker of God.

On his way from Enfide, Benedict met a monk, Romanus, whose monastery was on the mountain above the cliff overhanging the cave. Even saints need mentoring! Romanus had discussed with Benedict the purpose which had brought him to Subiaco, and had given him the monk's habit. By his advice Benedict became a hermit and for three years, unknown to men, lived in this cave above the lake. St. Gregory tells us little of these years, He now speaks of Benedict no longer as a youth (puer), but as a man (vir) of God. Romanus, he twice tells us, served the saint in every way he could. The monk apparently visited him frequently, and on fixed days brought him food.

These three years of solitude were broken only by occasional communications with the outer world and by the visits of Romanus. During them, Benedict matured both in mind and character. He grew in knowledge of himself and of his fellow man. He became well respected locally. Thus, on the death of the abbot of a monastery in the neighborhood (identified by some with Vicovaro), the community came to him and begged him to become its abbot.

Benedict was acquainted with the life and discipline of the monastery. He knew that "their manners were diverse from his and therefore that they would never agree together: yet, at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent" (ibid., 3). The experiment failed; the monks tried to poison him, and he returned to his cave. Like many reformers he faced death for his reformation attempts.

But Benedict's cave was no wall to keep out his destiny. From this time his miracles seen to have become frequent, and many people, attracted by his sanctity and character, came to Subiaco to be under his guidance. Benedict began to do what comes so naturally to founders of Religious Orders: establishing religious communities. For those who came to him, he built in the valley twelve monasteries, in each of which he placed a superior with twelve monks. In a thirteenth he lived with "a few, such as he thought would more profit and be better instructed by his own presence". He remained, however, the abbot [or 'father'] of all.

Again, as with so many founders of Religious Orders, Benedict also founded schools. With the establishment of these monasteries began the schools for children; and amongst the first to be brought were Maurus and Placid.

The remainder of St. Benedict's life was spent in realizing the ideal of monasticism which he has left us drawn out in his Rule, a way of life for holy, peaceful community. It is a way of life which still today provides a model and an inspiration for those who want to live together in a spirit of worship and community. [See Esther de Waal for a recent example of a book about contemporary life inspired by the Rule of St. Benedict.]

The Benedictine Rule

St. Benedict's Rule is written for laymen, not for clergy.

Benedict's purpose was not to institute an order of clerics with clerical duties and offices. His aim was to design and build an ideal non-clergy organization. His goal was a community with a set of rules for the 'domestic' life of dedicated Christians. These would be people who as wished to live as fully as possible, but not in solitude, the type of life presented in the Gospel. "My words", he says, "are addressed to thee, whoever thou art, that, renouncing thine own will, dost put on the strong and bright armor of obedience in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King." (Prol. to Rule.)

Later, the Church imposed the clerical state upon Benedictines. This was perhaps understandable. The achievement of holiness on living is supposed to be a goal of the professional 'minister,' the priest! In this sense, Benedict was a thousand years ahead of Martin Luther and the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. When Benedictines were predominantly ordained ministers, the Church gave them many clerical and sacerdotal duties. But the impress of the lay origin of the Benedictines has remained, and is perhaps the source of some of the characteristics which mark them off from later orders.

Another characteristic feature of the saint's Rule is its view of work. His so-called order was not established to carry on any particular work or to meet any special crisis in the Church, as has been the case with other orders. With Benedict the work of his monks was only a means to goodness of life. The great disciplinary force for human nature is work; idleness is its ruin. The purpose of his Rule was to bring men "back to God by the labor of obedience, from whom they had departed by the idleness of disobedience". Work was the first condition of all growth in goodness. It was in order that his own life might be "wearied with labors for God's sake" that St. Benedict left Enfide for the cave at Subiaco.

It is necessary, comments St. Gregory, that God's elect should at the beginning, when life and temptations are strong are strong in them, "be wearied with labor and pains". In the regeneration of human nature in the order of discipline, even prayer comes after work, for grace meets with no co-operation in the soul and heart of an idler. When the Goth "gave over the world" and went to Subiaco, St. Benedict gave him a billhook and set him to clear away briars for the making of a garden. "Ecce! Labora!" go and work. Work is not, as the civilization of the time taught, the condition peculiar to slaves; it is the universal lot of man, necessary for his well-being as a man, and essential for him as a Christian.

The religious life as conceived by St. Benedict is essentially social.

Life apart from one's fellows, the life of a hermit, if it is to be wholesome and sane, is possible only for a few, and these few must have reached an advanced stage of self-discipline while living with others (Rule, 1). The Rule, therefore, is entirely occupied with regulating the life of a community of men who live and work and pray and eat together, and this is not merely for a course of training, but as a permanent element of life at its best. The Rule conceives the superiors as always present and in constant touch with every member of the government, which is best described as patriarchal, or paternal (ibid. 2, 3, 64). The superior is the head of a family; all are the permanent members of a household. Hence, too, much of the spiritual teaching of the Rule is concealed under legislation which seems purely social and domestic organization (ibid. 22-23, 35-41). So intimately connected with domestic life is the whole framework and teaching of the Rule that Benedictine may be more truly said to enter or join a particular household than to join an order.

The social character of Benedictine life has found expression in a fixed type for monasteries and in the kind of works which Benedictines undertake, and it is secured by an absolute communism in possessions (ibid. 33, 34, 54, 55), by the rigorous suppression of all differences of worldly rank - "no one of noble birth may for that reason] be put before him that was formerly a slave" (ibid. 2) and by the enforced presence of everyone at the routine duties of the household.

Although private ownership is most strictly forbidden by the Rule, it was no part of St. Benedict's conception of monastic life that his monks, as a body, should strip themselves of all wealth and live upon the alms of the charitable; rather his purpose was to restrict the requirements of the individual to what was necessary and simple, and to secure that the use and administration of the corporate possessions should be in strict accord with the teaching of the Gospel. The Benedictine ideal of poverty is quite different from the Franciscan. The Benedictine takes no explicit vow of poverty; he only vows obedience according to the Rule. The rule allows all that is necessary to each individual, together with sufficient and varied clothing, abundant food (excluding only the flesh of quadrupeds), wine and ample sleep (ibid., 39, 40, 41, 55).

Possessions could be held in common, they might be large, but they were to be administered for the furtherance of the work of the community and for the benefit of others. While the individual monk was poor, the monastery was to be in a position to give alms, not to be compelled to seek them. It was to relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to bury the dead, to help the afflicted (ibid. 4), entertain all strangers (ibid., 3). The poor came to Benedict to get help to pay their debts (Dial. St. Greg., 27); they came for food (ibid., 21, 28).

St. Benedict originated a form of government which deserves of study. It is contained in chapters 2, 3, 31, 64, 65 of the Rule and in certain pregnant phrases scattered through other chapters. As with the Rule itself, so also his scheme of government is intended not for an order but for a single community. He presupposes that the community have bound themselves, by their promise of stability, to spend their lives together under the Rule. The superior is then elected by a free and universal suffrage. The government may be described as a monarchy, with the Rule as its constitution. Within the four corners of the Rule everything is left to the discretion of the abbot, the abuse of whose authority is checked by religion (Rule, 2), by open debate with the community on all important matters, and with its representative elders in smaller concerns (ibid. 3).

The reality of these checks upon the willfulness of the ruler can be appreciated only when it is remembered that ruler and community were bound together for life, that all were inspired by the single purpose of carrying out the conception of life taught in the Gospel, and that the relation of the members of the community to one another and to the abbot, and of the abbot to them, were elevated and spiritualized by a mysticism which set before itself the acceptance of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as real and work-a-day truths.

When a Christian household, a community, has been organized by the willing acceptance of its social duties and responsibilities, by obedience to an authority, and, further, is under the continuous discipline of work and self-denial, the next step in the regeneration of its members in their return to God is prayer. The Rule deals directly and explicitly only with public prayer. For this Benedict assigns the Psalms and Canticles, with readings from the Scriptures and Fathers. He devotes eleven chapters out of the seventy-three of his Rule to regulating this public prayer, and it is characteristic of the freedom of his Rule and of the "moderation" of the saint, that he concludes his very careful directions by saying that if any superior does not like his arrangement he is free to make another; this only he says he will insist on, that the whole Psalter will be said in the course of a week.

The practice of the holy Fathers, he adds, was resolutely "to say in a single day what I pray we tepid monks may get through in a whole week" (ibid., 18). On the other hand, he checks indiscreet zeal by laying down the general rule "that prayer made in common must always be short" (ibid., 20). It is very difficult to reduce St. Benedict's teaching on prayer to a system, for this reason, that in his conception of the Christian character, prayer is coexistent with the whole life, and life is not complete at any point unless penetrated by prayer.

The form of prayer that thus covers the whole of our waking hours, St. Benedict calls the first degree of humility. It consists in realizing the presence of God (ibid., 7). The first step begins when the spiritual is joined to the merely human, or, as the saint expresses it, it is the first step in a ladder, the rungs of which rest at one end in the body and at the other in the soul. The ability to exercise this form of prayer is fostered by that care of the "heart" on which the saint so often insists; and the heart is saved from the dissipation that would result from social intercourse by the habit of mind which sees in everyone Christ Himself. "Let the sick be served in very deed as Christ Himself" (ibid., 36). "Let all guests that come be received as Christ" (ibid., 53). "Whether we be slaves or freemen, we are all one in Christ and bear an equal rank in the service of Our Lord" (ibid., 2).

Secondly, there is public prayer. This is short and is to be said at intervals, at night and at seven distinct hours during the day, so that, when possible, there shall be no great interval without a call to formal, vocal, prayer (ibid., 16). The position St. Benedict gave to public, common prayer can best be described by saying that he established it as the center of the common life to which he bound his monks. It was the consecration, not only of the individual, but also of the whole community to God by the oft-repeated daily public acts of faith, and of praise and adoration of the Creator; and this public worship of God, the opus Dei, was to form the chief work of his monks, and to be the source from which all other works took their inspiration, their direction, and their strength.

Lastly, there is private prayer, for which the saint does not legislate. It follows individual gifts - "If anyone wishes to pray in private, let him go quietly into the oratory and pray, not with a loud voice, but with tears and fervor of heart" (ibid., 52). "Our prayer ought to be short and with purity of heart, except it be perchance prolonged by the inspiration of divine grace" (ibid., 20). But if St. Benedict gives no further directions on private prayer, it is because the whole condition and mode of life secured by the Rule, and the character formed by its observance, lead naturally to the higher states of prayer.

As the Saint writes: "Whoever, therefore, thou art that hastenest to thy heavenly country, fulfill by the help of Christ this little Rule which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God's protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken " (ibid., 73) for guidance in these higher states the Saint refers to the Fathers, Basil and Cassian.

From this short examination of the Rule and its system of prayer, it will be obvious that to describe the Benedictine as a contemplative order is misleading, if the word is used in its modern technical sense as excluding active work; the "contemplative" is a form of life framed for different circumstances and with a different object from St. Benedict's. The Rule, including its system of prayer and public psalmody, is meant for every class of mind and every degree of learning. It is framed not only for the educated and for souls advanced in perfection, but it organizes and directs a complete life which is adapted for simple folk and for sinners, for the observance of the Commandments and for the beginnings of goodness. "We have written this Rule", writes St. Benedict, "that by observing it in monasteries, we may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness in life and a beginning of holiness. But for him who would hasten to the perfection of religion, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, the following whereof bringeth a man to the height of perfection" (ibid., 73).

Before leaving the subject of prayer it will be well to point out again that by ordering the public recitation and singing of the Psalter, St. Benedict was not upon his monks a distinctly clerical obligation. The Psalter was the common form of prayer of all Christians; we must not read into his Rule characteristics which a later age and discipline have made inseparable from the public recitation of the Divine Office.

The monastery became the protector of the poor, their trustee (ibid., 31). their refuge in sickness, in trial, in accidents, in want. It was a kind of a higher aspect of the State, and a miniature ecclesiastical think-tank of its time.

Thus during the life of the saint we find what has ever since remained a feature of Benedictine houses, i.e. the members take up any work which is adapted to their peculiar circumstances, any work which may be dictated by their necessities. Thus we find the Benedictines teaching in poor schools and in universities, practicing the arts and following agriculture, undertaking the care of souls, or devoting themselves wholly to study. No work is foreign to the Benedictine, provided only it is compatible with living in community and with the performance of the Divine Office.

This freedom in the choice of work was necessary in a Rule which was to be suited to all times and places, but it was primarily the natural result of the which St. Benedict had in view, and which he differs from the founders of later orders. These later had in view some special work to which they wished their disciples to devote themselves; St. Benedict's purpose was only to provide a Rule by which anyone might follow the Gospel counsels, and live, and work and pray, and save his soul.

Perhaps the most striking characteristics in St. Benedict are his deep and wide human feeling and his moderation. The former reveals itself in the many anecdotes recorded by St. Gregory.


St. Francis of Assisi — from Italy; Founder of the Franciscan Order, born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181 or 1182 — the exact year is uncertain; died there, 3 October, 1226. His father, Pietro Bernardone, was a wealthy Assisian cloth merchant.

The Franciscans are probably the world's best-known religious order. The friars have been famous figures in many parts of the world for three-quarters of a millennium. Their commitment to poverty and humility in obedience to Christ's example has caused their name to be held in great affection and respect among millions who have benefited from their work. To this day the Order of St. Francis flourishes and is the occasion of new vocations to the religious life. For more information on the Franciscan Way, please see Appendix.


St. Dominic — from Spain, The founder of the Friars Preachers [The Dominicans].

Dominicans are preachers! Their founder referred to himself and his small group of followers as "The Preaching of Jesus Christ and "The Holy Preaching."

The founder of the Friars Preachers was born of a Castilian family, and his early years were uneventful. When he was about twenty-six he became one of the canons regular who formed the cathedral chapter at Osma; in 1206 the turning-point of his life came, when his bishop, Diego, became unofficial leader of a papal mission to the heretical Albigenses, who were firmly established in Languedoc.

The bishop chose Dominic as his companion; they lived simply and in poverty, and undertook discussions with their opponents for which they prepared very carefully. These methods contrasted with the formality and display of the official missioners, and a house of nuns founded at Prouille became the center of the new preachers.

The death of Bishop Diego at the end of 1207 coincided with the murder of the papal legate Peter de Castelnau by the Albigenses, and Pope Innocent III ordered a military campaign against their leader, Count Raymund of Toulouse. There followed five years of bloody civil war, massacre, and savagery, during which Dominic and his few followers persevered in their mission of converting the Albigenses by persuasion addressed to the heart and mind.

In 1215 Dominic was able to establish his headquarters in Toulouse, and the idea of an order of preachers began to take shape: a body of highly trained priests on a monastic basis, bound by vows with emphasis on poverty, but devoted to the active work of preaching and teaching anywhere and everywhere.

The enterprise was formally approved at Rome in 1216, and in the following year the founder sent eleven of this brothers, over half the then total, to the University of Paris and to Spain. He himself established friaries at Bologna and elsewhere in Italy, and traveled tirelessly to superintend the nascent order, preaching as he went. St. Dominic always gave importance to the help of women in his work; one of his last undertakings was to install nuns at San Sisto in Rome; another was to send thirteen of his friars to Oxford.

Famous Dominicans after the founder have included St. Thomas Aquinas, Savonarola, and the mystics Tauler, Suso and Meister Eckhart. The name Blackfriars is derived from the Dominican 'habit' [costume] - a black top over a white robe or cassock.

Please see http://www.op.org/english/ for the Dominican site.

Pope Honorius III writing to St. Dominic and his brothers in these words expressed the purpose of the Order:

"He who ever makes His Church fruitful with new offspring, wanting to make these modern times measure up to former times, and to propagate the Catholic faith, inspired you with a holy desire by which, having embraced poverty and made profession of regular life, you have given yourselves to the proclamation of the Word of God, preaching the name of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world."


St. Ignatius Loyola- from Spain

Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was the Founder of the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits) The Society of Jesus is a Roman Catholic religious order. Its members are popularly known as the Jesuits. The order grew out of the activities of its founder Ignatius of Loyola and six companions who bound themselves by vows of poverty, chastity, and apostolic labors in the Holy Land or, if this latter plan did not prove feasible, to any apostolic endeavor enjoined by the Pope. The history of the Jesuits is a rich, though controversial, one. During the course of its 400-year history, the Society of Jesus has had an impact in a number of areas. Jesuits have been scientists and theologians, poets and philosophers, explorers and missionaries, pastors and preachers. Famous Jesuits of the 20th century include Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan. The Jesuits, because of their long-standing interest in science, education and culture, could be considered as a kind of religious counterpart to UNESCO: the United Nations' Education, Science, and Cultural Organization. The recent formation of a United Religions Organization is perhaps a herald of a formal religious counterpart to UNESCO.

Please see http://maple.lemoyne.edu/~bucko/jesuit.html for Jesuit resources on the Internet.

Hermits unite!

Religious Orders of the past derive from the experiments of the hermits. Such hermits as St. Antony the Great lived in the desert seeking religious perfection, and seeking to vanquish the devil from his lair. They saw themselves as living out the maximum imaginable level of commitment to the cause of Christ.

Later, hermits banded themselves together and it was then that the eremitical [hermit] life gave way to that of the cenobitic [community] monasticism. Here we have the prelude to religious Orders. St. Benedict codified the community life of such dedicated monastic mystics; St. Francis sent his friars out into the world to serve the poor. St. Dominic made his friars men of knowledge and eloquence, and St. Ignatius added science and politics to the apostolic works of preaching, teaching and healing. In the ensuing few hundred years, many other orders have been founded, and dedicated to such fields as medicine, clergy life and nursing.

The big picture, however, the broad trajectory of the evolution of religious orders, remains clear enough. The shape of the ideally effective Religious Order is discernible from the series we have described. It is an Order which has a home base or series of "Mother Houses', a school of preparation for the postulants, and then a rhythm of life which alternates, between periods of contemplation, and vigorous mission to society in all its branches. The Religious Order is not dedicated to worshipping the past, but to introducing the new, God's new thing for society and civilization. The Religious Order breasts the wave of the New; it is a society of supreme ethical innovation. It is the ideally moral organization.


3. The theology of Order

The concept of Order is a very important one in metaphysics and theology. It is a cousin, and a counterpole, to the ideas of chaos, and disorder. It implies a Creator and a sustaining Power in the cosmos, the created world. It suggests pattern, meaning and hope. But the concept is a rich one. Theologians such as Paul Tillich speak of or imply several dimensions of divine Order or Ordering of creation, providence, and reality. These include the Order of Creation, the Order of Redemption and the Order of Completion or Fulfillment. These have in common one particular reality: Love. And God is Love.

There is more Love coming into the world, by the continuing creativity of God's Spirit. Therefore, The Order of the Future is the Order of Love. The Orders of the Future and the Order of the Future share this reality — or should. The Orders of the Future draw from the Order of the Future in being a great movement of Love.

The Orders of the Future are thus schools of love. Their task is simple enough: to define and inaugurate the Order of the Future, which is a conception of civilization: so that it may be on earth as it is heaven. The Orders of the Future, these schools of new love, are architects and midwives of a new kind of civilization: a civilization of love.

Mystics such as Richard J. Spady are calling for a new ‘Civilization Theory.’ This ‘Civilization Theory aims to beget a spiritual civilization. Such mystics as Dick Spady are prophets of 21st century society. They are a kind of voice of society’s deepest yearnings. Through them, what Spady calls the Zeitgeist or spirit of the times speaks with a vision of a loving society, a society of love, as a real possibility.


4. The Religious Orders of the Future

The thoughtful, prayerful, ethical study of the Religious Orders of the past, present and future is a vector [force or speed, with direction]. It is a description of the journey of a great Ideal passing like a luminous body through the night skies of Homo Sapiens over the last two thousand years. Like a church, it is an effort to discover an archetype of an ideal organization.

We have learned from Aristotle in his Politics to study any set of organizations by comparing their constitutions or mission statements, determining which is best, then asking what would be even better, in fact what we would be the best imaginable. To apply this method to Religious Orders is our pleasant task now! But, we should not confine ourselves to Christian Religious Orders but should cast our net as wide as possible. We are looking at what John Hick called a 'global theology' of Religious Orders [see Death and Eternal Life by John Hick, 1976, on the method of 'global theology'.]

The question restated for the Third Millennium becomes: What is the ideally ethical [ideally holy, ideally effective, ideally profitable] Religious Order — based on what we have seen from all those which have been founded heretofore. To ask this question is one of the great tasks of religious futurists, and therefore of the World Network of Religious Futurists.

Our brief, elementary analysis in this article has given us a preliminary answer to this question. It was this: The Orders of the Future are schools of love. Their task is simple enough: to define and inaugurate the Order of the Future, which is a conception of civilization: so that it may be on earth as it is heaven.

This answer implies a profound and exciting agenda for the Religious Orders of the future. They, like their predecessors a thousand years ago, are to be apostles of civilization building, through founding in word and deed the educational scientific and cultural organizations of the coming millennium. They must plant seeds of cities of love, schools of healing, laboratories of prayer, and train scientists of the Spirit. And they must transform corporations into ideally profitable societies of love. Yes – businesses of love! For love is their business.


5. The Order of the Future and its Rule of Life

5a. Origins and history of The Order of the Future

I first met Jay Gary in January 1996. I knew then that my life had changed! It was one of those meetings every few years when you know that something really profound has happened.

Jay, whom I met at Sea-Tac airport, signed with me a little scrap of paper on which was written just ‘O.F’ — the Order of the Future. It was our way of indicating that our shared interest in Religious Orders [we each had founded one] must result in a shared, new order, which we nicknamed 'the Order of the Future.' This would be the Order for Religious Futurists. We knew it would take years to build, or even to design, or even to imagine. And we were right.

But we have begun. Recently some of the principals of the ‘Order of the Future’ met and formed the "Sea-Tac club". This is a group from England and America who can meet quarterly or thereabouts, at Sea-Tac airport, Seattle, WA. USA. In the ensuing series of meetings of this ‘club’ [the next will be in February 2000] we will work with such leaders as Graham Clinton, of International Christian Mensa, to determine the way forward for the ‘Order of the Future.’

5b. The present situation of The Order of the Future and its work and connections

The Order of the Future is the offspring of two parents: The Order of Global Servants, founded by Jay Gary; and the Order of the Academy of Christ, founded by Richard Kirby and many friends, relatives and colleagues over the last twenty years. Its work will be in fifty areas of culture; and its connections are international. We are most well established in India and Pakistan, and we have a special sense of mission to universities and schools of higher education. Indeed we have a mission to 'The Academy' in the broadest sense.

Please see http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~electron/oac/oac.htm for an introduction to the Order of the Academy of Christ. Our thanks to Order Trustee Gordon D. Arthur in London, for designing and sustaining this site.

5c The Rule of Life of The Order of the Future

Religious Orders define their work and life by what is known in their specialist realm as a Rule of Life. This "Rule" is another expression of "Order" — principles governing the discovery and enjoyment of reality, God's reality — creative, miraculous reality. The Rule of Life expresses divine Order, a moral order of holiness, mission, and love. It expresses within the Religious Order the Order of Heaven: divine Love, the communion of Divine Persons.

The Rule of Life constitutes and directs a community; it contains the moral and organizational ideals of the society within the larger society that a Religious Order is.

We have seen that the Religious Orders of the future are to be businesses of love, societies of love, science and civilization. They, like their predecessors at the last millennium, are to be architects of civilization and teachers of civilization building. Their calling is the founding in word and deed of the educational, scientific and cultural organizations of the coming millennium. Since they must plant seeds of cities of love, and innovation, communities of courage and schools of healing and hope, since they must create gardens of the soul, laboratories of prayer, and train artists of the Spirit, and since they must transform corporations into ideally profitable societies of love, their Rule of Life must express these tasks. Their Rule of Life is a set of principles for the ordering of life and society so that others may have life, and have it with joy and peace.

For so great a set of purposes, the Rule of the Religious Orders of the Future must be a Way of Life, a pattern of growth, and not a static reality. The Rule is a Way, and the Way is a journey of learning. The Religious Orders of the Future require a life-long period of learning [called 'formation' in Religious Orders], and so they are schools even for their own members and associates. What kind of schools? Schools of love, community and effectiveness — schools of the Supreme Spirit.

The Rule of the Religious Orders of the Future will echo much of St. Benedict’s Rule, such as:

A. First, Private and public prayer. The Opus Dei [work of, to, for God]

Secondly, there is public prayer. This is short and is to be said at intervals, at night and at seven distinct hours during the day, [Ps. 119:164] so that, when possible, there shall be no great interval without a call to formal, vocal, prayer (ibid., 16).

B. Mission - to cities; its tasks including building a healing community wherever it visits.

The Rule of the Religious Orders of the Future will also emphasize outreach, civic mission.

The Rule of the Religious Orders of the Future will differentiate the duties and privileges of different categories of adherents:

C. Members, Oblates and Tertiaries [Third Order]

Religious Orders of the Future, like those of the past, will probably distinguish three kinds of adherents, supporters, and participants. These are the 'vowed' members, the inner core of the Order; associates, sometimes including 'Oblates' [those who offer themselves to the Order'; and Tertiaries [Third Order]. In the Order of St. Francis, for example, the Franciscans Tertiaries practice a Franciscan lifestyle without belong wholly to the Order. They have regular jobs but live their life in accordance with Franciscan ideals. They are also nourished by the life of the inner circle of vowed friars. Likewise the Order of the Holy Cross, among many others which could be cited [it is an American Anglican Order] has a Rule for Associates. These are people, priests and laity, who visit the monastery annually if possible, prayer for one another and generally live a life of intense focus on the spirit of the Order.

5d. Participation opportunities in The Order of the Future


How to 'join' the Order of the Future? How to join in its work? Write Richard Kirby c/o <http://www.wnrf.org>.

We will be launching in 2000 the WNRF Academy that will be a School of the Order of the Future. Those who are serious about associateship, third-Order membership or even full membership in the Order of the Future can study a curriculum over one to three academic years which will prepare them for, and accompany their entry into, the life of the Order of the Future. Training and formation can be short or long: Years of preparation might be from zero to fourteen in number.

"There is only one tragedy in life — not to be a saint."

Welcome to the Order of the Future!

Please complete the following form* and paste it into an e-mail and send it to Richard Kirby c/o DrRSKirby@wnrf.org


*Yes! I wish to get more information about undergoing training to become:

Member of the Order of the Future

Associate/ Oblate of the Order of the Future

Tertiary [Third Order] of the Order of the Future

My name is:




Mailing address:


Groups which I would like to see affiliated to the Order of the Future include:



Thank you!



Bibliography and suggestions for further reading

1. Louis Bouyer, The Meaning of the Monastic Life. London: Burns and Oates; New York: Kennedy, 1955.

2. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. 1907, Robert Appleton Company

3. Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium

4. Hick, John Death and Eternal Life. London: Collins [?] 1976

5. Newman, J.H. The Idea of the University, 1852.

6. Panikkar, Raimundo. Blessed Simplicity: The Monk as Universal Archetype. NY: Seabury, 1982.

7. Spady, Richard J., and Bell, Cecil H., Jr. The Business of Civilization Building [forthcoming, 2000]

8. De Waal, Esther: Seeking God - The Way of St. Benedict;

[Foreword by Archbishop Robert Runcie & Basil Cardinal Hume]

Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1984.

9. Underhill, Evelyn [1913] Mysticism [many editions].

10. Workman, Herbert B. [1927] The Evolution Of The Monastic Ideal: From the Earliest Times Down to the Coming of the Friars, A Second Chapter in the History of Christian Renunciation Boston, Beacon Press, 1962.




Our thanks to Franciscan novice Gordon D. Arthur in London, for providing this information. We invite you to contemplate this Rule as a work of art, a great cultural document. Enjoy!


All members of the Society of St Francis, under the inspiration and patronage of St Francis, aspire to live in fellowship as brothers and sisters according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has said:

"This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3

"In very truth I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains that and nothing more; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest. Whoever loves himself is lost, but he who hates himself in this world will be kept safe for eternal life." John 12:24-25

"I have come that they may have life, and may have it in all its fullness." John 10:10

In the example of his own sacrifice, the Master declares the secret of fruit bearing. Surrendering himself to death he becomes the source of new life for myriads. Lifted up from the earth in sacrifice, he draws unto himself all those multitudes of whom the earnest and prophecy were those Greeks whose coming kindled his vision. The life that is cherished decays, but the life that is renounced is preserved unto life eternal.

This law of his own life and fruit-bearing the Master lays upon his servants also. He bids them follow in the same path of renunciation and sacrifice, and promises to those who hear and obey the supreme reward of union with himself and acceptance by the Father.

The Object of the Society of Saint Francis is therefore to build up a body of those who, accepting Christ as their Lord and Master, are dedicated to him in body and spirit. Their life in this world they surrender to him as an act of witness and for the loving service of his people.

Within the Society of St Francis are three Orders:

1. The Brothers and Sisters of the First Order live a community life under vows and express their dedication to Christ by outward service to others.

2. The Sisters of the Second Order live under vows and maintain a life of prayer within the enclosure of their community.

3. The Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order are vowed to lifelong commitment to Christ and bear witness to the Gospel of life in their homes and in the occupations to which they believe God has called them. They are those married or single, ordained or lay, who though following the ordinary patterns of life, feel called to a lifelong dedication under a definite discipline, in accord with St Francis' intention when he encouraged the first formation of a Third Order, recognizing that unlike Friars Minor and the Sisters who followed St Clare, many of God's children are called to serve him not in a literal acceptance of the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, but in an observance of their spirit in the ordinary professions of life.

The members of the three Orders are bound together in the one Society by their prayer and the contemplation of him who is the source of their strength and of their common life. This is the heart of Franciscan spirituality, expressed through vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience in the First and Second Orders, and through living daily in the spirit of these three Evangelical Counsels, in the Third Order.

The Rule of Life in the Third Order is designed to further this aim within the particular situation of each Tertiary.


The Evangelical Counsels which Tertiaries share with all members of the Franciscan Order, and are to make conditions of life, are Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. St Francis said, "The Rule of Life of the Friars Minor is this, namely to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property and in chastity". This is done within the context of the Church. To love God means to let oneself be absorbed into life with God and to practice goodness and courtesy to all.

Freedom from Self: Poverty

"Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs." Matthew 5:3

It is as we stand before God stripped and poor, knowing our human limitations and needs, that we can open ourselves to God and lose our ambition to be self-sufficient. Material poverty is blessed when it is the sign of a much more profound poverty, the poverty of spirit.

Poverty may be seen as reverence for the integrity of creation. God himself has this attitude towards the work of his hands. He does not manipulate the universe from the outside to accomplish his will but works from within it, obeying his own laws, allowing life to reproduce itself into all possible forms. Yet through this process he brings forth men and women in his image.

Poverty is the refusal to exploit or manage the natural world to suit one's own ends. It recognizes the beauty, the sanctity, and the goodness of things. It values them too highly to reject or despise them, for it receives them as the work of God; yet it seeks not to possess them but to use them for God's glory, and for the welfare of all people and of the universe itself.

For all the Brothers and Sisters of our Society, our clothing, means of transport, the manner in which we spend our holidays and express our relationship with all types of people must be characterized by simplicity. We must be ever watchful for ways in which to practice evangelical poverty in our time.

We shall strive to avoid dominating or exercising power over other Brothers and Sisters, remembering the words of Jesus:

"Let the greatest among you become as the youngest." Luke 22:26

The Brothers and Sisters of the First and Second Orders live as families sharing everything. They will avoid all extravagance and will strive for that simplicity that is the fruit of humility. Their buildings will be unpretentious and their life-style simple. They accept no salary for themselves and own no personal possessions but receive only what the necessities of their life and work require. Their reserves ought not to exceed what is strictly necessary.

The members of the Third Order, though possessing property and earning money in support of themselves and their dependants, should also aim at being free from all attachment to wealth and material gain, keeping themselves aware of the poverty of the world and of its claim upon their stewardship.

So we shall reflect in spirit our Lord's counsel to sell all, give to the poor and follow him.

The Total Gift of Self: Chastity

Jesus said:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37

Chastity is the dedication of our whole being to God. Wholly given to him, we recognize that we belong to God alone, and in the light of this knowledge, we see all other people as belonging only to him.

For the married, the unmarried and the celibate, the pledge of chastity means a commitment of love to others, involving the risk and openness of Christ's love, without either demands or expectations of return. It means to love but not to possess: to give but not to count the cost. Love is voluntary, habitual and a very part of one's being. Within love, the emotions and intimacy of sexual relations are expressed only in married life; a limitation that sets us all free to love many people with openness and generosity.

In marriage the partners make and renew a vow of fidelity, not only in regard to sexual intimacy but also to the giving and sharing of all that they are and have.

For those who are unmarried, the pledge of chastity makes clear their commitment to the love of the Lord, neither exploiting nor withdrawing from other people.

In celibacy a vow, similar to the marriage vow, makes known to others the intention to make common life together as brothers and sisters. For the celibate, chastity in no way involves withdrawal from people. The Gospel pictures Christ as affectionate and outgoing. Celibacy without love is not only senseless, but humanly degrading to the personality.

For all, chastity is not the rejection of one's own or of anyone else's sexuality but the appreciation of it as the sacramental expression of loving human relationship.

Within the Society, all should behave as real members of one family. In our fellowship we should support each other in the belief that the Lord dwells among us. This mutual concern, in good times and in bad, will strengthen us in our relations with others, in our work and in our contacts with the world.

In our love for people, we are pledged to fight against the ignorance and prejudice that breed injustice or partiality on account of distinctions of race, or class, or creed or of status. Our chief object will be to reflect that openness to all which was the characteristic of Jesus.

Joyful Abandonment to God: Obedience

Jesus said:
"If you love me you will obey my commands". John 14:15

Obedience is the acceptance of our vocation as lovers - lovers of God and of all human beings-by which we achieve integrity and fulfillment.

We are to fulfil two functions in the universe. In the first place, each of us is to be the priest, offering for ourselves and on behalf of all creation the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Creator. That sacrifice is expressed in obedient love.

Secondly, we are called to co-operate with God in creating a society of love. We as human beings have an essential part in this because such a society cannot, even by God, be established from without by force, but can only be developed from within by love. It does not, however, have to be initiated by us. It is the kingdom of God which our Lord Jesus Christ has brought into our midst. We can enter it here and now by committing ourselves in faith to him. To the extent that we do this, he can use us as the agents through whom he extends his love to others.

Obedience is not fulfilled in passively accepting and obeying the directions of others, for it involves the offering of our whole personality with all its gifts. For members of the First and Second Orders it means taking our full part in the common life, and, for all three Orders, it means contributing not only our abilities but also our ideas and initiatives to the creation of love within the Society and in the world around it. In order that all may make their true contribution, members of the Society must bear in mind that all other members and aspirants to membership are adults with a responsibility to God, to society and to themselves, which they alone can discover and exercise. They must therefore be treated as mature people, not as children or servants, whose only obligation is, in the narrowest sense, to obey. Neither should the individual act like a child or a servant by refusing to take adult responsibility.

We ought not to strive for superior positions, but where we are called to bear office and to exercise leadership, we must endeavor to be at the service of all, to be gentle, peaceable and a source of light. If we are poor before God in this manner, we shall be able to live as joyful and carefree human beings, prepared to extend our love and care to all.

Obedience can never be imposed from without but must be the inner, loving response of each member to God, manifested in obeying the Rule and Chapter of our Society.

The principal task of the chapter is constantly to confront the reality of our life with its ideal.

We are all under obedience to the Rule and Chapter; those called to leadership in the Society have the responsibility of administering the Rule and of seeing that the decisions of Chapter are carried out. On no authority, however, may anyone act contrary to the guiding of his or her own conscience.


The aims of the Society of St Francis are to make our Lord Jesus Christ known and loved everywhere as Brother Francis did, to spread the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, and to live simply. This is the obedience which the Gospel lays upon us and which shapes our lives and attitudes.

To make our Lord Jesus Christ known and loved everywhere

The Society of St Francis is founded on the conviction that in Christ the perfect revelation of God has been given; that by his Incarnation and Ministry, by his Cross, Resurrection and Ascension, and by the sending of his Spirit, the true life has been made available to us; and that this gospel of salvation is committed to his Church to declare to all people. The Society therefore accepts the duty of bringing men and women to the saving knowledge of Christ, praying and working for the day when he shall establish his kingdom with power and great glory.

The first aim of Tertiaries is therefore to make Christ known. This is the obedience which the Gospel lays upon them and which, shaping their lives and attitudes, will reflect the obedience of those whom our Lord chose to be with him and sent forth as his witnesses. Like them in spirit, Tertiaries will desire that Christ may be proclaimed "unto the uttermost parts of the earth." By word and example they will bear witness to him in their own immediate environment, in the land where they dwell; and by prayer and sacrifice they will try to forward the fulfillment of his charge to make disciples of all nations.

To spread the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood

Franciscans set out, further, to break down in the name of Christ all the barriers which stand in the way of human brotherhood, and would unite on terms of equality and fellowship those of different nationality, race or upbringing.

Tertiaries accept, therefore, as their aim, the spreading of the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood among all people. They are pledged to fight against all the ignorance, pride and prejudice that breed injustice or partiality on account of distinctions of race, sex, or color, class or caste, creed, status or education. They will combat such injustice in the name of Christ their Master, in whom there can be neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, for in him all are one. But their chief object will be to reflect that openness to all which was characteristic of their Master. Such an aim can only be sustained by a spirit of chastity which sees others in God and does not seek in them a means of self-fulfillment; as our Lord made clear, when he counseled some to renounce even family ties for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake.

Tertiaries should be prepared to propagate the principles of social justice and international peace, not only by word of mouth but by giving practical expression to such principles in their own lives; and will cheerfully face such scorn or persecution as their teaching or conduct may incur.

To live simply

The Society of St Francis, in standing for simplicity of life, is inspired by the faith of the first Christians whose complete surrender to our Lord and reckless giving of all offered to the world of their day a new vision of a divine society in which a fresh attitude was taken towards material things. This vision was renewed by St Francis who, choosing the Lady Poverty for his bride, desired that all barriers set up by privilege based on wealth should be destroyed by love.

Tertiaries, therefore, though they possess property and earn money in support of themselves and their families and dependants, must yet, by their readiness to live simply and share with others, show themselves true followers of the Christ of Bethlehem and of their patron saint. They recognize that for some of their members there may come the call to a literal following of the Poverello in a life of extreme simplicity. All however will accept that they are bound to avoid luxury and waste, and, regarding their possessions as a trust from God, whose stewards they are, will limit their personal expenditure to what is proper to the health and true well-being of themselves and those dependent upon them. They will aim at being free from all attachment to wealth, keeping themselves constantly aware of the poverty in the world and its claim upon them. Since complete love gives everything, Tertiaries will be concerned for the generosity that gives all, rather than for the value of poverty itself. So doing they will reflect in spirit the acceptance of that counsel of their Master's to sell all, give to the poor and follow him.


The Gospel calls us constantly to a death to self-centredness and a rising to new life. This means a radical transformation of our being so that henceforth the Holy Spirit will fill us and act through us. It is in the different situations of our life and in the daily choices we are called upon to make that we shall find this permanent transformation taking place. We recall that the new life of the Gospel began for St Francis when he embraced a leper and we, too, begin this way by giving ourselves in love to the needy, the unloved and the unattractive and so come to experience the newness of conversion. It is from this new birth that the particular virtues of humility, love and joy flow - virtues that flowed so fully in St Francis and that are to be the marks of all his followers.

The humility, love and joy which should mark the lives of Tertiaries are all supernatural graces which can be won only from the divine bounty they can never be obtained by unaided human exertion. They are miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet it is the purpose of Christ to work miracles through us, and if his servants will but be emptied of self and utterly surrendered to him, they will become chosen vessels of his mighty working, who is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that they ask or think.


Jesus said:

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29

Humility, as its root implies, is the situation of the earth. The earth is always there, taken for granted and rarely remembered. It is trodden on by every creature. Yet it is from this same earth that life blossoms. The earth lies open to the sunshine and the rain, is ready to receive any seed we may sow and is capable of bringing forth a rich harvest. So also humility is the fertile ground from which springs every virtue. It cannot be deliberately cultivated but is the fruit of a growing awareness that God is all, that we are nothing and have nothing of ourselves. This creates a state of self-forgetfulness which enables us to listen to God and to hear what he is saying to us. This attentive listening to God is a way in which we may share in the building of his Kingdom in the world.

Humility is the apparent weakness through which God manifests his power and it was the secret of St Francis' inspiration and the source of his love and joy.

Tertiaries will keep always before them the example of Christ who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and who on the last night of his life humbly washed his disciples' feet. After his example they will gird themselves with humility to serve one another.

Humility confesses that we have nothing that we have not received and admits the fact of our insufficiency and dependence upon God. It is the first condition of a happy life within any family or fellowship.

Tertiaries will refrain from all contemptuous thoughts of others. The faults they see in another will be subjects for prayer rather than criticism. They will be careful to cast out the beam from their own eye before offering to remove the mote from someone else's. They must be ready both to accept the lowest place when bidden and of their own accord to take it. Nevertheless, when entrusted with a work of which they feel unworthy or incapable, they will not shrink from it [on a] plea of humility, but will confidently attempt it through the power that is made perfect in weakness. Tertiaries will try to show their Master's humility, welcoming gladly any opportunity for humble service that may occur and not looking for recognition or praise.


"We love because God first loved us. If someone says, 'I love God', yet hates his brother, he is a liar." 1 John 4:19

Our love is a response to God's love. It is as we love God with our whole heart and mind and strength that his love fills us and we can love all people with his love. "Love is the distinguishing feature of all true disciples of Christ. God is love, and for those whose lives are hid with Christ in God, love will be the very atmosphere that surrounds all that they do."

Jesus Christ is the perfect pattern of authentic love, for in his life and death we see a self-giving, complete and utterly free because it was deliberately chosen. Love is the road to God and through love we encounter God in the way. When we stop giving, we stop loving: when we stop loving, we stop growing. Unless we grow, we shall never attain personal fulfillment, nor shall we ever be open to receive the life of God.

Love is not a matter of emotion or of feeling but is the gift of oneself to others.

LOVE involves risk.

LOVE demands renunciation.

LOVE is a movement towards death for the purpose of LIFE.

All true LOVE sooner or later leads to the CROSS.

It is this costliness of love which often makes us draw back from a genuine love-relationship. We are afraid of receiving no return for our gift and so are content with half measure. False forms of love, which are rooted in possessiveness and the desire to dominate, always lead to disappointment and frustration.

The mark of our love for God is that we love our brothers and sisters. We shall have a special affection for those to whom we are bound by ties of family or friendship and within the Society and this will be expressed in the quality of our life together. We will love then not less but more as our love for Christ grows deeper. This love will also flow out to all, Of whatever race or class or color and, after the example of St Francis, will embrace the natural world as well.

So the Society will know itself to be a Christian family whose members, though of varied race, education, and character, are bound into a living whole through this supernatural love. This unity of those who believe in him will then become, as our Lord intended, a special witness to the world of his divine mission.

"If someone does not love a fellow-Christian whom he has seen, he is incapable of loving God whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20

Tertiaries will be on their guard against anything that may injure this love - the bitter thought, the hasty retort, the angry gesture - and not fail to ask forgiveness of any against whom they have sinned. They will love equally those with whom they have little natural affinity, for this love of brothers and sisters is no mere welling up of natural affection, but a supernatural bond forged through their common union with Christ.


Jesus said:
"I have spoken thus to you, so that my joy may be in you, and your joy complete." John 15:11

Joy flows from humility and love and is another mark of the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a divine gift and comes only from union with God in Christ. It is not an exciting emotion which leaves us exhausted but a happiness that springs from a steady faith in the goodness of all things and of their maker, God. Such joy we may feel in the midst of anxiety, suffering and even agony, because the joy is in the depth of the soul. Nothing can disturb such a faith in the ultimate triumph of what is honest, good and holy.

Joy must not be confused with mere pleasure, which may be defined as the happiness of the body or mind. Rather it is a reality of the spirit and has an eternal quality that is not dependent on the pleasures or the hardships of the moment. As we welcome joy into our life, we experience something of eternity. We gratefully accept such pleasures as come to us and are a gift of God, but once we stop along our way to seek pleasure as an end in itself, true joy is lost.

Joy has to be awakened by continual giving and this, once more, demands a renunciation that involves a death to self. It is nothing less than the new life we find in losing the old life of sin, for it is a characteristic of the risen life. Many of us have come from imperfect belief or nominal Christianity into friendship with Christ, and through the joy and renewal which this friendship has brought us, we discover that the greatest service we can render people is to help them enter into direct, personal relationship with Christ, and into an authentic love of God in joy.

Tertiaries, rejoicing in the Lord, will show forth in their lives the grace and beauty of divine joy. They will remember that they follow the Son of Man, who came eating and drinking, who loved the birds and the flowers, who blessed little children, who was the friend of publicans and sinners, who sat at the tables alike of the rich and the poor. They will therefore cast off all gloom and moroseness, all undue aloofness from the common interests of people, and will delight in laughter and good fellowship. They will rejoice in God's world, its beauty and its living creatures, calling nothing common or unclean. They will mingle freely with all kinds of people, ready to bind up the broken-hearted, and to bring good cheer into other lives. They carry with then an inner happiness and peace which people may feel even if they do not guess its source.



Prayer, study and work are the three principal ways by which we declare our devotion to the Lord and serve our neighbor. In the life of every one of us, room must be found for some expression of each of these three ways of service, though it is not expected that everyone will apply themselves equally to each. Every Brother and Sister of our three Orders will either employ the abilities that God has given, or will find fulfillment by gratefully offering them in sacrifice. In the life of our Society as a whole these three ways of service will find a balanced expression.


After the example of the primitive Church, in which all were of one heart and mind, we too must persevere in the faith, in the fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. In this way we all become the local embodiment of the Church, the Body of Christ.

For Christ said:

"Where two or three meet together in my name, I am there among them." Matthew 18:20

We make our faith in this promise live through prayer. The heart of our life and prayer is the Holy Eucharist. Together with the Saints and all who put their trust in God, we express our thanks to him for his mighty works and place before him our needs and the needs of all people. We place our life within the life of Christ, ready to fulfil the will of the Father. We gather round the table of the Lord to listen to the Word of God and to give assent to it; to receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, for the renewal of our strength and as a foretaste of eternal life. All our prayers derive from the Eucharist and prepare us for it.

In our reflection on our life, we shall be conscious of our shortcomings and of our sinfulness. For that reason we recognize the necessity of constant conversion and renewal, and repentance will form a regular part of our spiritual life.

All other works are subservient to the work of prayer, for contemplation of God is of the essence of the Franciscan calling. In order to preserve a spirit of prayer in our daily life, there must be times each day for personal reflection. In this we ought to help and strengthen one another. As isolation may increase difficulties, it will at times be a good practice to bring the topic of prayer into our discussions, and some will find that in communal periods of private prayer they can stimulate each other to pray. This unity in prayer will help each one of us to maintain the practice of personal prayer and will lead to the deepening of communal worship.

Tertiaries, like the Brothers and Sisters in community, are to live in an atmosphere of praise and prayer. Their ideal is to be in so constant a recollection of God's presence that they do indeed pray without ceasing. The hidden source of their strength and joy will be their ever-deepening devotion to the indwelling of Christ.

Since there is no weapon more potent than the prayer of intercession for furthering the purposes of Christ's Kingdom, Tertiaries will seek after a continually deepening fellowship with God in personal devotion, and will desire constantly to lift up before him, through the mediation of our great High Priest in heaven, the needs of his Church and of the whole world.

Our prayer together and our personal reflection demand an atmosphere of peace and quiet in which each of us can discover him- or herself. Peace and quiet are not to be sought for oneself alone; others are equally entitled to them and they are to be shared by all. Days set aside for reflection are also necessary in order that we may remain sensitive to the attraction of the Holy Spirit.

Communal and personal prayer support one another and both find their source in holy Scripture and in the fullness of the Christian mystery. Therefore, the study of the Bible should be an established custom and the liturgical celebration of the Church's year should receive full attention.


Like all Christians, the Brothers and Sisters of our Society are constantly listening to the Word of God. We need not only to hear the Word but also to understand it. Thus, in the explanation of the parable of the sower, we read:

"When anyone hears the word that tells of the Kingdom, but fails to understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what has been sown in his heart." Matthew 13:19

God speaks to us, not only through the Holy Scriptures but also through the life and liturgy of the Church, through the events of the world in which we live and through our relationships with people. In our study we shall therefore be seeking to widen our knowledge and understanding of the Church's mission, of our Christian calling and of God's world. All the things of this world may be examined and studied with reverence. Such study is one possible and powerful means to enable us to become men and women of God, sensitive to his presence and to the inspirations of his will, filled with his spirit of wisdom, diligent in his praise, able to serve him in every situation in the life of the Society and to make his presence evident by the witness of our lives. There should be in the Third Order those who accept the duty of forwarding its special aims, by contributing through their researches and writings to a better understanding of the Church's world-wide mission, of the application of Christian principles to the use and distribution of wealth, and of all questions that pertain to human freedom and justice.


The source of our life and happiness is God, who so loved that he gave us his Son, Jesus Christ, the gift of life and joy in human form. Through his love Christ formed friends with whom he shared his thoughts, to whom he revealed his heart and for whom he offered his very life. Christ asked that his disciples live in brotherly love as proof of their discipleship and as a sign that they share his love for the Father and for their fellow human beings.

It is in this spirit that we undertake the works of our Society. In our three Orders and in our various ways we shall seek to promote human dignity, development and liberation; we shall express this mainly in our care for the sick, the under-privileged and the oppressed. We shall also have a special place in our hearts for those who long for a new meaning to life and who thirst for fullness of truth. We are concerned primarily with individual people in their needs and particularly with those who are neglected or rejected. Yet we recognize that our concern for individuals must also mean condemning systems and laws which are wrong and working for the reform of conditions that cause poverty, injustice and miseries of every kind.

We show the nature of our brotherhood and sisterhood by the spirit in which we undertake our daily work, whether in the house or in the job by which many of us earn our living. In these ways we express the simplicity of our life, our love for Christ, for each other, and for all people. In our work we shall aim to reflect the one who came among us as the servant of all; by the quality of our labor and manner in which we perform it, we shall express the dignity of all human endeavor.

In our work the Sisters of St Clare have a central role, for they exercise their apostolate to the poor and needy through sacrificial prayer. They are a channel through which the power and healing love of Christ flow into all the world and they are a particular source of strength to the Brothers and Sisters of our Society in all the works they do in Christ's name.

Christ challenges us in this age to be a light to shine in the world, to be a city set on a hill and to be salt to give savor to people's lives. He took on himself the form of a servant and came not to be ministered to, but to minister. He went about doing good, healing the sick, preaching good things to the poor, binding up the broken-hearted.

We are to be involved in the life of the world, not so as to be conformed to the spirit of the age but in order to transform it, as we seek to reflect the love of Christ, who, in his beauty and power, is the inspiration and joy of our own lives.



Christ calls us to follow this way so that he may send us, like Francis, to be heralds of the Great King, offering all that we have and all that we are. We shall strive to be living witnesses among all nations to the great truth that in Christ "there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free, between men and women"; that there are no barriers of race or nationality in God's family. There is only one Father and, through his divine Son, Jesus, there is one people, one family and one communion in the Holy Spirit.



Every Tertiary is required to have a spiritual director, ordained or lay. Each Tertiary is also required to have a rule of life, which is drawn up in consultation with the spiritual director and/or his/her novice counselor. This is an important part of the discipline and obedience which is a foundation of the Tertiary's life.

The purpose of the rule is to give practical expression, in the particular circumstances of each Tertiary's life, to the three ways of service - Prayer, Study and Work - and to help the Tertiary fulfil the Principles of the Order. Consideration will be given to the Tertiary's personal gifts, as well as to the duties and responsibilities of his/her life.

The rule is drawn up under the following headings:

1. The Holy Eucharist

2. Penitence

3. Personal Prayer

4. Self-denial

5. Retreat

6. Study

7. Simplicity

8. Place in society: work and family

9. Obedience

A Tertiary is required to see his/her spiritual director at least twice each year. The rule must be reviewed annually and revised when necessary.

[Concluding comment on behalf of the Order of the Future: The comments about humility are a clear antidote to much of the scientism currently in vogue, but our main point relates to love. Taking risks in any field to direct research towards the needs of the poor, rather than towards making money, or even more effective means of exploitation, is the classic mark of Religious Orders past and present. It is applied love for the unlovely, which marks out a community of faith. Whatever emerges, this should be at the center.]

URL: http://www.wnrf.org/cms/orders_future.shtml

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