SSPX Third Order explanation

The Third Order allows the laity to participate more closely with the apostolic work of the Society of St. Pius X.

What is a third order and its advantages?

Third Order signifies membership of the laity in a religious order. The laity has always been distinguished from clergy or religious. A third order gives the laity a degree of participation in what is proper to the clergy or religious. What is the purpose of granting this participation? Ultimately, the reason for third orders is the sanctification of the laity. As Tertiaries, the laity possess and additional means of sanctification through the Order or a religious congregation; they are instructed in the spiritual life by the specific character and spirit of the order; and they partake in the spiritual treasures of the Order.

What is the origin of third orders?

Collaboration of the laity with the ministers of Christ is as old as the Church.

And I commend to you Phebe, our sister, who is in the ministry of the church that is in Cenchrae. That you receive her in the Lord as becometh saints; and that you assist her in whatsoever business she shall have need of you.  For she also hath assisted many, and myself also. Salute Prisca and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus.” (Rom.16:1-3)

St. Paul often enumerates by name those who help in his apostolate.

It seems logical that this collaboration of the laity would eventually find some legal expression. And so it is that the Church has granted a kind of affiliation of the laity with religious orders, primarily for obtaining of the graces and indulgences of the Order. The Church thus legislates for these associations and enumerates the specific privileges that can be obtained.

What kind of involvement may laity have in a religious order?

Lay men and women who join a third order can be either regulars—those living in convents; or seculars—those outside a convent. Regulars take vows; seculars can make only solemn promises. These promises distinguish them from members of mere confraternities and constitute them legally part of religious order.

Who may join a third order?

All Catholics may join a third order. Tertiaries may not belong to more than one order at once, nor transfer to a different without grave cause. Third orders are regulated by a rule which is to be kept by each member. If one is able to keep the rule and the spirit of the order, he may be admitted to the order. Rules for membership are regulated by the order.

What is the Third Order of the Society of St. Pius X?

In 1981, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre established a Third Order within the Priestly Society of St. Pius X. This establishment was to associate the laity with the spirit and mission of the Society. The spirit as described by the founder “is essentially a priestly spirit, enlightened by the radiance of our Redeemer’s Sacrifice on Calvary and in the Mass, ‘the Mystery of Faith’”. (Cor Unum, January 14, 1982) The laity seeking membership in the Society are to foster this spirit and collaborate in the apostolate to form and preserve priestly vocations. This is done under the direction of the chaplain of the Third Order and one’s individual confessor.

What are the obligations of Tertiaries?

Obligations of Tertiaries are detailed in the Rule of the Third Order. These obligations exist to direct and form the members. Keeping the Rule will allow the growth and development of candidates in the spirit of the Society. The Rule and its obligations are never ends in themselves; they are rather a means to becoming the ideal Tertiary. It is necessary for the applicant to understand that membership in the order is not a question of what one must do, but rather what one must become.

How do I become a Third Order member?

Admittance into the Third Order firstly requires discussion with a confessor or director. The director should help determines one fittingness as well as the intentions of the candidate. Also to be considered is the ability of the candidate to live the Rule of the Society of St. Pius X. The candidate also must have confidence and desire to keep this Rule.

Fill out the application for enrollment in the Third Order of the Society of St. Pius X, attach a copy of you baptismal certificate, and mail to the Chaplain of the Third Order. The applicant must receive the blessing and recommendation of an SSPX priest. On the application, one’s pastor is to sign indicating this approval.

Upon acceptance of the application, one may enter the postulancy. Postulancy is made by reciting the formula of promise before the Blessed Sacrament and a SSPX priest witnessing. The priest stands as delegate of the Superior General of the Society.

Postulancy is a one year probation period test how well one is suited to the rule and the spirituality of the order. During this period, the postulant should report on his/her progress to a confessor/director. This collaboration is necessary to determine future profession in the Third Order.