My knowledge of the Anglican Third Order of the Society of St Francis stretches back to my youth. My church had several members of a local group of the Third Order and I attended a few meetings but it never seemed to me at that time that I wanted to join in. Sure, I was attracted to somethings I learned about St Francis of Assisi, not least his renunciation of wealth and joyous devotion to Jesus Christ and wanting others to know that salvation that he had found.
There was also my love of creation as found in my bird watching and sense of wonder and joy I often felt when viewing the natural world, which I was told was also found in the life of Francis. Then as I later came to study the Old Testament prophets and their denunciations of inequalities in society this prophetic message seemed to make me see the inequalities of the world around me and therefore the graced need of more sharing in society and less accumulation of things to please myself. So too Jesus seeming demands to love people rather than things to possess.
I had become a Reader (Lay Minister) in the church, and therefore often preaching. But if I was to preach to whom was I to be accountable for my own spiritual growth? How would I be accountable for my own life of prayer and what I was intending to preach to others? I needed some kind of spiritual direction and accountability to some-one. I had a few people in my church who were helpful spiritual friends, including those Third Order members.
Early on in my Reader ministry I had a period of questioning of my vocation and what I thought Christ was asking of me and I attended a series of workshops called “Seeking the Way”. Did God want me to give my full time job and train for full time ministry?
The course was lead interestingly by a Franciscan Brother of the First Order. It was partly an analysis of myself with the tools of the Myers Briggs Personality profile. It helped me to affirm my duel role as a Reader and my normal full time work.
And so it was a few years later that I attended an additional Myers Briggs Spirituality workshop, looking at different aspects of the life of prayer that seem most suitable to one’s MB Personality Profile. What came out of it? Franciscan, Franciscan, Franciscan! That was it. I had no excuses any longer and I made enquires about joining the Society of St Francis as Third Order member and was professed about 3 years later (that was about 10 years ago).
The principles and aims of the Third Order ungird by spiritual walk with Christ and through it I have a spiritual counsellor and other spiritual friends with who I share my commitment to the Franciscan way, and to who I feel accountable for my life of ministry and my working and home life to.
Take a look at the page Third Order. Even if not an Anglican or Catholic I hope the Principles and Aims can also be yours as a way of following Jesus Christ.