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.