Main 4

1. Following the Footsteps of Francis and Clare

2. Living the Gospel

3. Reflections on the SFO Rule

4. Post-Novitiate Course 

 5.Franciscan Children

6. Holy Land Commissary












            The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order was revised several times since its first inception. The earliest known written “Rule” or Form of Life for the laity was the document produced by Cardinal Hugolino in 1221 called the Memoriale Propositi. This document made no mention of St Francis but was readily accepted by the first tertiaries who were called “The Brothers and Sisters of Penance.” They were inspired by St Francis’ way of life and they wanted to imitate him in some way while still remaining in their homes with their families. They gathered together to pray and carry out works of penance. In fact, it was not until 1289 that Pope Nicholas IV wrote his Rule for these penitents and deliberately included the name of Francis who had inspired them.


            The Rule of Nicholas IV remained for five hundred years until the time of Pope Leo XIII who wrote a new Rule for these penitents. His version of the Rule had a social bent and this was because he wanted to use these men and women to carry out the social message of the Church. He saw this as his opportunity to have a big influence on Catholic life because the tertiaries were engaged in many charitable works in all spheres of society.


            It was not until Pope Paul VI that there was another major change in the Rule of the Third Order of St Francis – as it was known at the time. Pope Paul VI was greatly influenced by the Second Vatican Council which insisted that all religious go back to the spirit of their founder and to renew their congregations in order to give a ‘face-lift’, as it were, to the image of religious life and religious groups. In 1978 the new Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order was published after a great deal of consultation and discussion.


            The new Rule of Paul VI went back to the spirit of St Francis and concentrated more on spiritual principles for action rather than a series of laws to be observed. He breathed a new spirit into the Rule and gave the Order a new name to mark this change. They were no longer to be called the “Third Order of St Francis”, but the “Secular Franciscan Order” in order to bring out the secular nature of the Order. Within the Rule was contained a spirituality for the faithful and it is this aspect that I am seeking to bring out in the series of reflections that follow.


            In presenting these reflections I have also added some stories with a sense of humour to give a sense of joy to our lives. Note that each reflection can be taken individually, even though I have tried to follow a rather logical order in their presentation. My wish is that many Secular Franciscans may find inspiration from these reflections and bring new life into their fraternities.


            Wishing you every blessing,


                                                                         Norbert Pittorino, ofm


                                                                                    Feast of St Clare, 2007





Introduction: The Importance of the SFO Rule         1


Chapter 1: Listening to Francis (The Prologue)          2


Chapter 2: The SFO Identity              6


Chapter 3: Members of the Franciscan Family           8


Chapter 4: Brothers and Sisters in St Francis             10


Chapter 5: Franciscan Reading of the Scriptures       13


Chapter 6: Christ-Centred Spirituality            18


Chapter 7: Witnessing to the Gospel              20


Chapter 8: Sin and Forgiveness          22


Chapter 9: Brothers and Sisters of Penance               24       


Chapter 10: Conversion: A Change of Attitude         26


Chapter 11: Praying the Liturgy of the Hours                        28


Chapter 12: The Sacramental Life of the Church       30


Chapter 13: Praying the Liturgy: The Eucharist         32


Chapter 14: Adoring the Lord in Humility                 34


Chapter 15: Eucharist: The Source of Life of the Fraternity  36


Chapter 16: Franciscan Devotions                  38


Chapter 17: Living in Franciscan Simplicity               40


Chapter 18: Seeking “Purity of Heart”           42


Chapter 19: The Gift of Working                   44


Chapter 20: Promoting Justice and Peace       46


Chapter 21: Secular Franciscans as Peace-Makers      48


Chapter 22: Marriage, a Sign of Commitment and Love       50


Chapter 23: Respect for all creatures  52


Chapter 24: Franciscan Devotion to Mary      54


Chapter 25: Our Father, St Francis                 56


Chapter 26: Our Mother, St Clare of Assisi               58


Chapter 27: Patron Saints of the SFO - 1                   60


Chapter 28: Patron Saints of the SFO – 2                  62


Chapter 29: Patron Saints of the SFO – 3                  64


Chapter 30: Being Missionaries for Christ      67


Chapter 31: Being Born to Eternal Life         69


Conclusion                  71


Bibliography               72