Approved by Pope Pius XI
by a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Religious
April 23, 1923
The Nature and Object of the Third Order
The Third Order of Penance of Saint Dominic, also called the Militia of Jesus Christ, is an association of Christians living in the world who, sharing in the religious and apostolic life of the Order of Friars Preachers, according to their own Rule approved by the Holy See, strive to attain to Christian perfection under the government of the same Order.
The end of the Third Order is the sanctification of its own members by the practice of a more perfect Christian life and the promotion of the salvation of souls in a way that is suitable to the state of the faithful living in the world.
The means of obtaining this end, over and above the common precepts and duties of one’s state in life; – the observance of this Rule, continual prayer, and as far as possible, liturgical prayer, the practice of penance, apostolic and charitable works for the Faith and the Church according to one’s condition and particular state in life.
The associations into which the Third Order is divided are called fraternities. Nevertheless a person may be received into the Third Order who for some special reason cannot be enrolled in a fraternity.
Fraternities cannot be validly erected without the consent of the ordinary of the place. As far as possible, there should be separate fraternities for men and women.
What is said of tertiaries in the masculine applies also to women unless from the context or the nature of the case the contrary is evident.
Insofar as possible, there should be erected fraternities of secular priests, who, under the direction of some father of the Order, shall strive to lead a more apostolic life.
Concerning those to be received and the Conditions required
Since the increase and progress of the Third Order depend chiefly on the good qualities of the members, no one should be admitted into its ranks until he has been examined and then subjected to a term of probation. It should be proved to the satisfaction of the Director that the postulant is a good Catholic of honest life, good reputation, sincere in his desire to tend towards perfection, giving a well-founded hope, especially if he is young, of persevering in his good resolutions. Nay, more, he should be filled with a burning zeal for the promotion of the truth and should be characterized by a devoted loyalty toward the Church and the Pope.
All the faithful who have these qualities may be admitted into the Third Order of St. Dominic. Men and women, clergy or laity, married or single, may become members provided they have completed their eighteenth year and do not belong to a Religious Order or to any other Third Order. With the permission of the Father Provincial for a good reason one may be admitted at the completion of his seventeenth year. Married persons ordinarily should not be admitted without the consent of the marriage partner unless there be a good reason for doing otherwise.
The following have the power to receive into the Third Order:
1. The Master General of the Order or the Provincial within the limits of his jurisdiction;
2. The Director of the Third Order legitimately instituted for his Fraternity or in particular cases his delegate;
3. Any priest delegated by the Master General or by the Father Provincial.
In places where a Fraternity has been legitimately erected, no one, without the permission of the Director of the Fraternity or without special permission of the Superior who delegated him, may make use of these faculties. Delegation received from the Master General is for life. Delegation received from a Provincial needs confirmation by his successor.
In order that one may be admitted to a definite Fraternity of the Third Order, besides the favorable decision of the Director, the consent of the Council of the Fraternity is required.
The Habit of the Brothers and Sisters
The Habit of the Third Order should be made of common wool. It consists of a white robe, gathered at the waist with a leather belt, a black cloak with a hood for the Brothers and a linen guimpe for the Sisters.
Tertiaries ordinarily wear a scapular of white wool under their secular dress, in place of the Habit of the Order.
With the permission of the Ordinary of the place Tertiaries may wear in public religious functions the full Habit of the Order, or some special insignia according to custom. When they meet in a body wearing their insignia at such functions, they should march behind the cross of the Fraternity.
It is forbidden to wear the Habit of the Order publicly without the consent of the Master General and the permission of the local Ordinary.
After death, Tertiaries may be clothed with the full Habit of the Third Order, or even that of the First Order or of the Second Order.
The attire of Tertiaries should be according to approved custom and age. That Christian modesty may shine in the dress of Tertiaries; all worldly vanity should be shunned, especially in the form of fashion of one’s garments. This is becoming to the servants and the handmaids of Jesus Christ.
Reception into the Third Order and the Blessing of the Habit
The time of probation having expired, the postulant is received by the Director or by his delegate before the altar of the Church or in some convenient place, according to the ceremonial of the Third Order, in the presence of at least some of the members of the Fraternity. Witnesses are not required if the postulant is not to be enrolled in a Fraternity.
Having received the Habit, the postulant is admitted to a share in all the spiritual favors of the Brothers and Sisters of the Order.
Every new Scapular should be blessed. Besides those having the faculty of receiving to the Habit, all the priests of the Dominican Order may give this blessing. In places where there is neither a priest of the Order nor a Director of a Fraternity, any priest approved for hearing confessions has the power to bless the scapular.
The Novitiate and Profession
Before being admitted to Profession, Novices should devote themselves to the study of the Rule for one year under the direction of the Novice Master, so that they may know their own obligations and try to become imbued with the spirit of our Holy Father, St. Dominic.
At the end of the year of probation or even before, if the particular circumstances of the person seem to demand it, the Novice may be admitted to profession by the Director with the consent of the majority of the Council of the Fraternity.
Those who are received privately into the Third Order may be admitted to profession according to the prudent judgment of anyone having the legitimate faculty.
Profession consists in the formal promise, but without a vow, of living according to the Rule of the Third Order of Friars Preachers.
The profession is made in the following manner: “To the honor of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Blessed Dominic, I … before you, the Director, and the Prior (or Prioress) of the Fraternity of the Third Order of Penance of Blessed Dominic, of this place, who hold the place of the Most Reverend Master General of the Order, do make profession that henceforth I will live according to the Rule and form of the Brothers and Sisters of this same Order of Penance of Blessed Dominic until death.”
There should be a register in every Fraternity for its own members in which are noted the name of the one received and the day of Reception and of Profession. Those who receive Tertiaries privately should send this same information to the Provincial of that territory in which the said tertiary resides, or to the Superior, from whom they received their faculty.
After Profession, which holds until death, Tertiaries are bound to perseverance in the Order and they may not, without a just cause, pass to another Third Order.
The Recitation of the Office
Tertiaries should say the Office every day: either the old Office known as the Pater Noster, or the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the Dominican Rite or the entire Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If they be hindered from saying any of the above, they should say one of the little Offices approved by the Order, or a third part of the Rosary.
In reciting the old Office known as the Pater Noster, Tertiaries should say 28 Our Fathers and Hail Marys for Matins; 14 for Vespers and 7 for each of the other five Hours. The Apostles Creed should be recited before Matins and Prime and at the end of Compline. Matins are usually said on the evening of the preceding evening or in the morning; the Little Hours before mid-day; Vespers and Compline before the end of the day. They may, however be said at any hour of the day provided the regular order of Hours is observed.
Priests and those in major Orders will satisfy this obligation by the mere recitation of the Divine Office. They should say once a day the Responsory O Spem Miram with versicle and prayer in honor of Saint Dominic.
Tertiary priests having obtained the permission from the Master General of the Order may use the Breviary and Missal according to the calendar of the Order.
Confession, Communion, And Other Pious Practices
Tertiaries should approach the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist at least twice a month unless legitimately hindered. If they wish to be refreshed more frequently, even every day, by the Most Holy Body of Christ, their devotion is to be commended.
Tertiaries should make an effort to be present, as far as they are able, at the daily Sacrifice of the Mass and to follow the priest with devout attention during the course of the Mass. They should devote themselves to mental prayer and apply themselves to pious works suited to the spirit of the Order.
They should cultivate a special devotion based on a particular attraction toward the most faithful Patroness of the whole Order, the Virgin Mary; Saint Joseph, her spouse; our Blessed Patriarch, Dominic; Catherine of Siena, Virgin, Patroness of the Third Order; and all the Saints and Blesseds of the Order.
They should conduct themselves in churches with great reverence, particularly during the divine mysteries, and they should always show a good example to all the faithful.
It is strongly recommended that a retreat of three days, at least once a year, be made in each Fraternity.
Besides the fasts and abstinences instituted by the Church, Tertiaries, if not legitimately hindered, should fast on the vigils of the Most Holy Rosary, our Holy Father, Saint Dominic, and Saint Catherine of Siena. Moreover, adhering to the spirit of penance characteristic of the Order and of the ancient Rule, they should observe the Fridays of the whole year as fasts and exercise themselves in other works of penance-with the advice, however, of the Director or a discreet confessor.
The Avoidance of Worldliness
Tertiaries should refrain from visiting places of worldly amusement. They should not go to dances or worldly banquets or frivolous shows. If, however, it is impossible to abstain from all these, they should ask the permission of the Director or at least inform him.
Reverence toward Prelates and Clergy
Tertiaries should have the deepest reverence for the Bishops and the priest of their respective churches, and they should faithfully fulfill their duties towards them according to the rules and customs of each place. They should also hold all other clergy in honor according to their various positions and offices.
Apostolic and Charitable Works
Following in the footsteps of the Apostolic Patriarch Dominic and of the Seraphic Virgin Catherine of Siena, all Tertiaries should devote their lives to the glory of God and the salvation of their neighbors in an ardent and generous spirit.
Mindful of the traditions of our ancestors, Tertiaries should labor in behalf of the truth of the Catholic Faith and for the Church and the Pope, in word and deed, showing themselves to be ardent defenders of their rights in all things and at all times. They should also help in apostolic works, particularly those of the Order.
They should devote themselves to works of charity and mercy according to the conditions of time and the necessities of place, either privately or as a body, according to their limits and capabilities under the direction of their Superiors.
They should also willingly assist the parish priest in pious works and particularly where there is a necessity in imparting religious instruction to boys and girls.
Visiting and Assisting the Sick
In every Fraternity there should be named Visitors for the sick that shall take pains to visit members according to the wish of the Director and assist them spiritually and temporally.
Death of the Brethren and Suffrages
The death of a member of the Fraternity should be announced to the other members of the Fraternity as soon as convenient, and all the members should be present at the obsequies of the deceased member, unless legitimately hindered.
Moreover within the eight days immediately following the death notice, each member of the same Fraternity shall recite a third part of the Rosary, hear one Mass and apply one Communion for the repose of the deceased member’s soul.
Tertiaries should say, every day, one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and Eternal rest… for the living and the dead of the whole Order.
Every member within the year should have three Masses said (or should at least hear three Masses) for the welfare of the Brothers and Sisters, living and dead.
The Superiors of the Third Order
The Third Order of Friars Preachers is placed under the immediate direction and correction of the Master General, to whom, therefore, all Fraternities, all Directors, and individual Tertiaries are subject as regards those things that pertain to their living according to the Rule.
In virtue of their office, Provincials, also, within the limits of their own Provinces have care of the Third Order.
The Master General and Priors Provincial have the right to visit the Fraternities every year and more frequently if the situation demands it. They may conduct their visits through a delegate. What they deem profitable in the Lord by way of counsel, admonition, orders, or correction, even the removal of some official, should be received by all with a grateful and humble spirit.
Tertiaries who are not members of some Fraternity should regard the Master General or the Prior Provincial as their Superior in the Third Order. Others who have been enrolled in some Fraternity depend also on the Director and other Superiors of this same Fraternity.
The institution of the Director of each Fraternity in the churches of the Order is exclusively reserved to the Master General or the Prior provincial. In churches not belonging to the Order the consent of the local Ordinary is also required beforehand.
The office of Director lasts for three years at the end of which time the same Director may be reappointed.
The Director during his term of office can, by virtue of the said office, do those things, which pertain to the spiritual instruction and direction of the Brothers and Sisters. The laws of the Church should be observed in regard to the sermons to be preached.
At least once a year secular directors must send to the Provincial a statement concerning the condition and progress of the Fraternity committed to their care.
In every Fraternity there should be a Prior, a Sub-Prior, a Novice Master and other Officials and Councilors.
The Council of the Fraternity should not exceed twelve members. The Prior, Sub-Prior, and Novice Master are members of the Council in virtue of their offices.
In establishing a Fraternity all officers will be installed by the Provincial. The same will be done after the dissolution of the Council, which takes place as often as the Council for any cause leaves office.
The term of office of the Officials and Councilors, lasts for three years; but each year a third part of the Councilors will be renewed by the Director with the cooperation of the remainder of the Council. In the year in which the Officials are to be removed, let the Council be first completed. Then let the Prior and other Officials be instituted by the Director conjointly with the completed Council. In case of dissension between the Director and Council, recourse should be had to the Prior Provincial.
The Office of Prior and Other Officials
It will be the duty of the Prior to take care that the Rule is observed by all. He should also take care that nothing in deportment, manner of life, and dress be done by any Brother of the Fraternity that can give disedification. If he sees any transgression or negligence, he should charitably rebuke and correct it, or if it seems more advantageous, he should have recourse to the authority of the Director.
The other Officials of the Fraternity should perform those duties, which, according to those particular customs and necessities of each Fraternity, seem most fitting.
The Sub-Prior holds place of the Prior in his absence.
The Council should be called by the Director, who presides at it in person, each time the vote of the Council is required according to the Rule, or when matters of greater moment are to be handled according to its particular rule.
The Meetings of the Brethren
Once a month the members of the Fraternity, should assemble to hear instructions given by the Director and to assist at Mass if the hour makes this possible.
The Director, himself, should read and expound the Rule, he should inform the Brethren of the activities, he should correct and rebuke carelessness as occasion demands and as he deems expedient, according to God and the Rule.
The Suffrages should be said for the living and the dead with absolution from faults because of transgressions of the Rule.
The Correction of the Brethren
If anyone shall have committed a notable fault and, admonished by the Director, will not reform, he should be corrected according to his condition and according to the grave or light nature of the fault. He may be excluded for a time from the companionship of the Brethren or even entirely – with the consent, however, of the Council of the Fraternity. If after one or more admonitions he neglects to mend his ways, he cannot be readmitted without the consent of the Council.
Only the Master General or the Provincial has the right to dismiss anyone for grave reasons from the Third Order, and, in case of grave scandal, without previous warning.
The Master General has full power to dispense from any precept of this Rule. Moreover, the Provincial within the limits of his jurisdiction, or even the Director in his Fraternity, or one delegated by them has the power to dispense the Tertiaries in particular cases for a reasonable cause.
The precepts of this Rule, except those which are divine or ecclesiastical laws, do not oblige the Brothers and the Sisters under pain of sin before God, but only under penalty fixed by the law, or to be fixed by the Prelate or Director as was stated in Chapter XVIII. However, mindful of their Profession, all the Brethren should fulfill the precepts of the Rule with the help and grace of our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, God, forever and ever. Amen.