This coming Sunday, CCN Sunday, a new partner will receive their Cross of Nails at Coventry Cathedral: the Third Order, Society of St Francis. As we welcome them into the CCN, here they explain who they are, and why their new partnership with the CCN is so important.
This year, the Third Order celebrates the 800th anniversary of its foundation by St Francis. It was founded in 1221 for those who wished to live according to a Franciscan rule of life but who were unable to be members of a religious community by reason of work, marriage or family responsibilities.
The Society of St Francis is a worldwide Anglican Religious Order which consists of a First Order of men and women who live in community under a Franciscan rule based on the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; a Second Order (Community of St Clare) which is made up of women who feel called by God to an enclosed life of contemplative prayer, coupled with work so as to be self-supporting; and the Third Order, consisting of men and women over the age of 18 who are lay, ordained, married and single, and of various ethnic and educational backgrounds. Every member of the Third Order (who are often known as ‘tertiaries’) live according to a Rule of Life whilst in their own homes, in employment, retired, caring for their families. There are 3000 members worldwide, 2000 of whom are in Europe.
Within the context of their lives, tertiaries follow Christ after the example of St Francis and St Clare. They look to proclaim the gospel, joyfully pursue justice, peace and the care of all creation and, to spread the spirit of love and harmony, making our Lord known and loved everywhere as they do so.
The life of the Third Order is rooted in prayer (both personal and corporate) and Eucharistic worship is at the heart of their service to the Church and to the world. They recognise the importance of making a retreat regularly and of having a spiritual director or accompanier. They aim to live a simple lifestyle in solidarity with the poor of the world and seek to serve God in his creation, pledging themselves to the service of others and to respect all life.
Francis’ most common greeting was: ‘May the Lord give you peace.’ It sums up the meaning of his life for his sole desire was to live as closely as he could to the life, work and example of Jesus Christ, ‘the Prince of Peace’. Peace, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, humility and joy are key attributes of the life of Francis and they also form the substance of the Franciscan charism. This charism is at the heart of the life and understanding of every Franciscan as we too follow Christ after Francis’s example.
All this provides a natural fit for the Third Order’s partnership with the Community of the Cross of Nails. The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation is a prayer that is at one with the intentions and purpose the Third Order.
The Third Order’s partnership with the Community of the Cross of Nails enables the Order to have a clearer focus as it seeks to continue to promote peace, justice and reconciliation within ourselves and in the world. It also enlarges the Order’s scope and purposes so as to help to identify ways in which we (individually and corporately) might be able to take practical steps to pursue these causes. It is an exciting step to formally enter into a partnership with likeminded Christian brothers and sisters with whom to share a common cause across the world. Together, we also join in expressing ways that will hopefully be of benefit not only to the church and to society at large, but also and most importantly, to places where war, poverty and injustice rob people of dignity, health, welfare, their homes and livelihoods – and indeed their very lives.
David White, TSSF