The Secular Franciscan Order (Latin: Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis (O.F.S) also called the Third Order Secular) is a community of married Catholic men and women in the world (staying in their respective families) who seek to pattern their lives after Jesus in the spirit of Francis of Assisi. Secular Franciscans are tertiaries, or members of the Third Order of Saint Francis founded by Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.
How did this movement come in to existence?
There is a story told of Luchesius Modestini, a greedy merchant from Poggibonzi, who had his life changed by meeting Francis about 1213. He and his wife Buonadonna were moved to dedicate their lives to prayer and serving the poor. While many couples of that era who experienced a religious conversion chose to separate and enter monasteries, this couple felt called to live out this new way of life together. Francis was moved to write a Rule for them which would allow them to do so. Thus began the Brothers and Sisters of Penance in the Franciscan movement, which came to be called the Franciscan Third Order. The Chiesa della Buona Morte in the city of Cannara, (Church of the Good Death, previously named, "Church of the Stigmata of S. Francesco") claims to be the birthplace of the Third Order. Another contender from the same city is the Church of S. Francesco.
This way of life was quickly embraced by many couples and single men and women who did not feel called to the stark poverty of the friars and nuns, especially widows. They zealously practiced the lessons Francis had taught them concerning prayer, humility, peacemaking, self-denial, fidelity to the duties of their state, and above all charity. Like Francis himself, they cared for lepers and outcasts. Even canonical hermits were able to follow this Rule and bring themselves into the orbit of the Franciscan vision. The Order came to be a force in the medieval legal system, since one of its tenets forbade the use of arms, and thus the male members of the order could not be drafted into the constant and frequent battles cities and regions waged against one another in that era.
The Secular Franciscans commit themselves to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their secular condition. The Secular Franciscan must personally and assiduously study the Gospel and Sacred Scripture to foster love for the word of the Gospel and help the brothers and sisters to know and understand it as it is proclaimed by the Church with the assistance of the Spirit. Secular Franciscans, called in earlier times "the brothers and sisters of penance", propose to live in the spirit of continual conversion. Some means to cultivate this characteristic of the Franciscan vocation, individually and in fraternity, are: listening to and celebrating the Word of God; review of life; spiritual retreats; the help of a spiritual adviser, and penitential celebrations. Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to live the spirit of the Beatitudes and, in a special way, the spirit of poverty. Evangelical poverty demonstrates confidence in the Father, affects interior freedom, and disposes them to promote a more just distribution of wealth. They must provide for their own families and serve society by means of their work and material goods, have a particular manner of living evangelical poverty. To understand and achieve it requires a strong personal commitment and the stimulation of the fraternity in prayer and dialogue, communal review of life, and attentiveness to the instructions of the Church, and the demands of society. They pledge themselves to reduce their own personal needs so as to be better able to share spiritual and material goods with their brothers and sisters, especially those most in need. They should give thanks to God for the goods they have received, using them as good stewards and not as owners. They should take a firm position against consumerism and against ideologies and practices which prefer riches over human and religious values and which permit the exploitation of the human person. They should love and practice purity of heart, the source of true fraternity.
This Secular Franciscan Order is very active in Asia. In India most of the communities are animated by the Capuchin Friars. In Karnataka we have many communities who spiritual animation is headed by Fr Manohar Dsouza, Capuchin.
Here below are the names and addresses of the spiritual assistants of different regions of Karnataka.
Regular meetings are arranged those who join the Secular Franciscan order who follow the spirituality of St.Francis of Assisi.They are around thousand members in the Mangalore region and they run the secular Franciscan News Paper.