Third order

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Third orders are predominantly lay communities who have joined one of the great orders in the Catholic Church . Together with the men and women religious who live in a monastic community, they each form a religious family with a common spirituality, often related to a founder personality. Its members are also called terciars or terciars .

to form

There are different forms of third order communities:

  1. regulated third orders whose way of life has a monastic character, for example various religious orders of the Franciscan Sisters
  2. Third orders, whose members live alone or in a family in the world and belong to different classes and professions. They are based on the spirituality of the respective order and make a promise for life after a trial period ( novitiate ). This type of third order members is also called familial in some religious communities .

The oldest third orders have the Franciscans ( Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis ), the Premonstratensians , the Dominicans (brothers and sisters of the penance of St. Dominic, more recently also called Dominican lay communities ) and the Carmelites (Third Order of the Carmel (Carmelites of the ancient Observance) or Third Order of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and the Seraphic Holy Virgin Theresa (Disconsolate), now usually referred to as the Carmelite Community and Teresian Carmel Community for short).

Religious families (selection)

Religious family first order second order third order
Franciscan Order Franciscans (OFM)
Capuchins (OFMCap)
Minorites (OFMConv)
Poor Clares (OSCl)
Capuchin Sisters of Eternal Adoration (OSClCap)
Franciscan Sisters (regulated)
Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Cross (FFSC, for example)
Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis (OFS)
Dominican order Dominicans (OP) Dominicans (OP) Dominican lay communities
Premonstratensians Premonstratensian (OPraem) Premonstratensian choir women Premonstratensian-Tertiary Sisters, Premonstratensian-Tertiary Sisters (Norbertine Sisters)
Carmelites Carmelites (OCarm) Carmelites (OCarm) Carmelite Community
Discalced Carmelites Discalced Carmelites (OCD) Discalced Carmelites (OCD) Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum saecularis or Teresian Carmel Community
Religious family of St. Johannes Bosco Salesians Don Boscos (SDB) Don Bosco Sisters (FMA) Salesian employees of Don Bosco (SMDB)

There are also religious families of this type in the Protestant Church , such as the Tiers Ordre de l'Unité (third order of the Community de Grandchamp , which lives according to the rule of the community of Taizé ).


Blessed Jeanne of Toulouse (* 14th century), the founder of the third order of the Carmelites
Hermitage of the Franciscan Tertiary Sisters in Ebingen , 1344–1605

The beginnings go back to pious associations of both sexes. The third orders also arose out of the intention of individual people to live according to the rule and spirituality of a particular order, although their living conditions prevented them from entering a monastery . Such third orders go back to St. Francis who, when numerous men and women demanded admission to monasteries in 1221, gave them a rule in 20 chapters. These Tertiaries mostly wore an ash-gray habit , girded with a rope, and the sisters also wore a white veil .

Emperor Charles IV and the French King Louis IX. as well as many other princely persons belonged to third orders. At the end of the 13th century, some tertiary took their religious vows and became religious , which resulted in the regulated tertiary (regulated penitential orders). In the 19th century in particular, a large number of congregations emerged according to this pattern .


  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Benediktineroblaten (Ed.): Under the leadership of the Gospel: Manual of Benedictine oblates. 5th edition. Beuron 2013.
  • Johanna Domek, Ursula Theresa Dippel: To be close to the Benedictine spirit. Münsterschwarzach 2010.
  • Hermine Koller: Third-born children of Benedict. History and present of the Benedictine wafers. EOS Verlag, 2009.
  • Miltenberger: The Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi. Kuthal & Gesele, Aschaffenburg 1947.
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  • Burkhardt Conrad: The other preachers. The Dominican Community as part of the Ordo Praedicatorum . In: Ordenskorrespondenz - magazine for questions of religious life, vol. 52/2011, no. 2, pp. 133–142.
  • G. New Yilik: Some reflections (not only) on the lay people in the Order of the Preachers . In: W. Hoyer (Ed.): God praise, bless, proclaim. 75 years of the Dominican Province of St. Albert in southern Germany and Austria. Freiburg 2014, pp. 216–249.
  • Klaus-Bernward Springer: Sermon in the world. About the history of the Dominican lay people . In: contact. Gift of friend of the Dominicans of the Province of Teutonia 2014, pp. 17–20.
  • Johannes Weise (ed.): Everyone is a word of God for the other. Basic texts of the Dominican lay communities (=  Dominican sources and testimonials, vol. 13). Leipzig 2009, ISBN 9783746227641 .

Web links

General information about third-party orders

Individual third order communities