About the Third Order of Penance

The Dominican Third Order

I heard that you have a Third Order. What is a Third Order?

In each Religious Order, the secular Third Order constitutes, as its name indicates, the third part of the Order (after the Brothers and Sisters or Nuns), which is given to persons living in the world to permit them to associate themselves in order to live according to the spirit and the spirituality of the Order to which they attach themselves, in a manner adapted to their state in life. The Third Order secular of Friars Preachers, which goes back to Saint Dominic himself, is also called the “Third Order of Penance of Saint Dominic”.

What is its purpose?

It has two ends:

One general purpose which consists in promoting the personal sanctification of its members by the practice of the Christian (Catholic) life in a more perfect manner (Constitutions, art. 2);

And a specific purpose, based on the special end of every Order of Saint Dominic, that is; to procure the salvation of souls by means in conformity with the state of the faithful living in the world (ibid.).

These means aid the tertiary to advance more easily, more surely and more rapidly towards that Christian Perfection to which he aspires, giving him a spiritual family and making him contribute to the great work of the propagation of the Faith which Saint Dominic assigned to his sons.

What are these means?

  • Prayer, especially liturgical prayer (the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary), meditation and the Rosary of Our Lady;
  • The practice of penance and the struggle against the spirit of the world;
  • The study of Doctrine and the works of the apostolate for the defense of the Faith and the Church;
  • The works of fraternal Charity.
  • Wherever the Societies of Tertiaries are organized, regular reunions are carried out with the Dominican Fathers, to pray (Mass, Rosary, Little Office), to be instructed in Doctrine, to exchange with one another and find themselves in an atmosphere of Christian emulation and of fraternal Charity.

What are the conditions for entering the Third Order?

Rather than conditions, one should speak of dispositions. To enter the Third Order of Saint Dominic, one must sincerely desire to attain Christian perfection, as the Rule states (article 8). Nevertheless, the rules don’t mean to say that one must already be advanced in the ways of the spiritual life: entrance in the Third Order isn’t a reward but a beginning, a help offered to Catholics who desire to work on their own sanctification and who want to help save souls and spread Catholic Truth.

All the faithful who come with these good dispositions, male or female, working or retired, married or single, can then become members of the Third Order of Friars Preachers.

Can such a Third Order be relevant or a reality in the Twenty First Century?

More than ever! The Catholic Faith has never been attacked as much as it is being today, and in the most insidious ways. We are approaching the time predicted by Our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 128.8).

The attacks against the Catholic Faith are not only coming from the outside of the Church, but the smoke of Satan even introduced itself into the Church (said Paul VI) and the wolves are in the sheepfold.

The Third Order of St. Dominic, also called the Militia of Jesus Christ (from the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers, art. 233), is a small army of laypersons in the world who help the Order of St. Dominic to lead the good fight for the Faith.

We know that our Order has, from the beginning, been specially instituted for preaching and for the salvation of souls. This is why we must apply ourselves principally to being useful to the souls of our neighbors. To this end is tied the work of teaching and the defense of the truth of the Catholic Faith, as much in word as by various forms of writing. (Constitutions O.P. art. 3).

Any questions should be addressed to the :

Couvent de la Haye aux Bonshommes, 49240 AVRILLE. France.    Or, contact us online.

Our Convent and Apostolates

The Convent of the Haye-aux-Bonshommes

“We know that our Order, from the beginning, was especially for preaching and the salvation of souls.  That is why our efforts must mainly enable us to be useful to the soul of our neighbor.   Intimately associated with this end are education and defense of the truth of the Catholic faith, by speech, in the courts, and numerous writings.   This requires that we obtain this purpose by preaching and teaching the abundance and fullness of our contemplation, following the example of our Holy Father Dominic, who to win souls, spoke of God or to God. ”  

(Constitutions of the Order of Preachers)

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A Meditation on Christmas


December 25:  The goodness and usefulness of Christ’s birth

(a meditation of saint Thomas Aquinas)

« The goodness and kindness of God, our Saviour, appeared. » (Titus 3, 4.)

It must be remembered that Christ showed to us His goodness in communicating His Divinity, but He showed His mercy in assuming our nature. Hence, Saint Bernard says, « The power of God appeared in the creation of things, his wisdom, in the government of things, but His goodness especially appeared in his assumption of our nature. » For God revealed a wonderful sign of his goodness when He willed to add the name of God to humanity, for « Not from works of justice which we did, but by His mercy are we saved. » Did He not show forth His mercy, when He received and took upon Himself our misery ? What was so full of holiness as the Word of God, which was made flesh for us and dwelt amongst us ? Hence, the Church sings, « Oh ! Christ, the Redeemer of all, the Only God of the Father. » And Isaias (63, 16) says, « Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer, from everlasting is Thy Name. »

Moreover, concerning the blessings and usefulness of our Saviour’s birth, Isaias (11, 6) says, « A child is born to us, » that is for our benefit and welfare. ln truth, there are four great blessings Which have come down to us from the birth of Christ, which we may consider from the four special virtues which children possess ; namely, purity, humility, lovableness and pleasingness. These are found in the Christ Child in a most excellent manner.

First, we find in Him the greatest purity because He is the brightness of eternal Light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of His goodness. (Wis. 6, 26.) Moreover, He demonstrated His purity in being conceived and born without sin. Hence, Alcuin observes that, « The Maker of aIl men, in order that He might become Man for the sake of men, had to select such a mother for Himself, and He knew that it was becoming that she should be Immaculate and most pleasing to God. Therefore, He willed that she should be a Virgin Immaculate, and from the Immaculate was born the Immaculate Child, Who will purge the sins of all mankind. »

Secondly, in this Child, we find the greatest humility, for « He, God, emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave. » (Phil. 2, 7.) He showed this humility, as saint Bernard says, in being born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling c1othes, and laid in a manger.

Thirdly, we find in the Christ Child the highest kind of lovableness. He was the most beautiful of the sons of men and the delight of the Angels. The union of His Divinity with the humanity caused this lovableness in a certain manner. Hence, Bernard said, « Behold the Man, the Maker of Man, filled with every manner of sweetness. »

Fourthly, we find in the Christ Child the greatest pleasingness for, « He is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of evil. » (Joel 2, 13.) Wherefore, saint Bernard says, « Christ is a Child and is easily pleased. Who does not know that a child easily gives ? Behold if Christ were not great and kind to us, we could never be reconciled to Him in the least thing ; but the least thing, l say, done for Him is pleasing to Him. » And just as the kindness of God appeared as something beyond aIl hope and expectation, so we can, if we repent, hope for a similar manifestation of God’s mercy at the judgment.

(The Kindness of Christ.)

(Saint Thomas Aquinas Meditations for every day, translated and illustrated by Fr E. C. McEniry O.P., Columbus [Ohio], Long’s College Book Company, 1951)

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Besides our regular publications, we also occasionally publish other articles on various subjects.

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