Guidelines for the Formation of the Friars for Understanding and Assisting the SFO were first published in 1992 by the Conference of General Assistants of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). They are, intended to respond to the felt need of the Franciscans, religious and secular, to prepare themselves better to "walk together in the ways of the Lord” (1).

            A reciprocal understanding and vital communion required by belonging to the same spiritual family does exist and should continue to be developed among all Franciscans (2). The various components "can and must unite their efforts, with a view to cooperation and exchange of gifts, in order to participate more effectively in the Church's mission" (Vita consecrata, 54), this exchange of gifts "often brings unexpected and rich insights into certain aspects of the charism, leading to a more spiritual interpretation of it and helping to draw from it directions for new activities in the apostolate" (VC 55).

            The Rule and the Constitutions of the SFO (3) frequently confirm the principle of belonging to the same spiritual family. They refer to the vital, reciprocal communion and to the duty of the First Order (OFM, OFMConv, OFMCap) and Third Order Regular (TOR) to provide pastoral care and spiritual assistance. There is, in fact, a double substantial relationship between the SFO and the First Order and TOR:

- sharing the common charism:

The Rule of the SFO speaks of the "life-giving union" with one another that must exist between the seculars and all the branches of the Franciscan Family, in order to make present, in various ways and forms, the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church (cf. Rule SFO 1).

- spiritual and pastoral Assistance:

In virtue of this "communion", according to a longstanding tradition, it is the competency of the Superiors of the First Order and TOR to assure the spiritual assistance through "suitable and well prepared religious", and the pastoral visit to the Fraternities of the SFO (cf. Rule SFO 26).

            The Secular Franciscan Order, pledged to "renew its own life, its own formation and the organization of the Fraternities", must count on a spiritual assistance updated and dynamically coordinated with the other components of the Franciscan Family in its single mission. "Consecrated persons should remember that before all else they must be expert guides in the spiritual life, and in this perspective they should cultivate the most precious gift - the spirit” (VC 55).

            The SFO General Chapter of Fatima (1990) says: "As regards the role of animation of the spiritual Assistants themselves, there is need for a particular formation, that is, preparation of the friars regarding the SFO. This preparation must be conscious and must be incorporated into the program of formation - initial and ongoing - of all the friars. Even though not all are, or will be, spiritual Assistants, it certainly is necessary that all know, understand and affirm the truly essential role of the SFO for the realization of their own personal vocation" (4).

The General Chapter SFO, held in Rome in 1996, says in its conclusions: "The Presidency, in collaboration with National Councils, will find ways and moments to ... stimulate a more adequate formation of all the friars in regard to the SFO, so that they can help secular Franciscans to live their form of life better" (5).

            The religious Franciscan Orders, to whom belongs the altius moderamen, have made their own the principle of "life-giving union with each other” and have made it evident in their legislation, but also the General and Provincial Ministers, in Letters and various interventions, continually exhort the friars to know the SFO still more and better, and require an adequate preparation of the spiritual Assistants.

            The present guidelines are presented to all Franciscan religious, possibly to be inserted in their formation programs, for the knowledge of the SFO within the Franciscan Family, in its mission in the Church and in the world, and to prepare those who are called to serve as Spiritual Assistants.


a.         In Initial Formation

1. Postulancy (See Course for Postulants


2. Novitiate

a) In the general theme of the universal call to holiness and of the religious vocation, speak also of the secular Franciscan vocation seen as sharing the common charism in life-giving union with one another in the mission of the Church: "Go, repair...".

b) When treating of the history of the Franciscan Family, speak about the Penitents and about the origins of the Third Order,

c) Read the Rules of the First, Second and Third Orders (Confirmed Rule 1223; Rule of St Clare, 1253, and Rule of the Order of St Clare, called the Urban Rule, 1263; Seraphicus Patriarcha, of Paul VI, 1978, for the SFO, and Franciscanum vitae propositum, of John Paul II, 1982, for the TOR.)


3. Post-Novitiate (See Course for Junior Professed friars)


(1) Cf. Letter of the Ministers General on the occasion of the consignment of the Rule,


(2) Cf. Statutes for the Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the Secular Franciscan Order, Rome 1992, n.l.

(3) Cf. Rule 1; Const. 1.4; 85-91; 92, 94, 95.

(4) Cf. Conclusions of the General Chapter SFO, Fatima 1990, in Bulletin CIOFS, XII, n.2, 1990, p.6.

(5) Cf. Koinonia 1996, n.4; Internet