The Third Order

1.  What is the Third Order of Saint Pius X?

The Third Order is the fifth family of the Society of Saint Pius X. You probably know that the first family in time was the priests and seminarians. This is the most important family of the Society of Saint Pius X, since the latter is a “priestly society of common life without vows.” The Priesthood is indeed the main concern of the Society. All our faithful know our American seminary in Winona, which is one of the five major seminaries of the Society of Saint Pius X, a Society which now has over three hundred and fifty priests and about a third of that amount of seminarians.

The second family is the sisters of the Society of Saint Pius X, which now has more than seventy-five members, professed, novices, and postulants. They are the helpers of the priests by their daily prayer life ( Mass, Rosary, Divine Office, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), by their active apostolate (sacristy, catechism, visits to the sick), and their practical work (kitchen, washing, etc.). Their mother house is in Saint Michele-en-Brenne, France and several young American women have joined their convent.

The third family is the brothers. They have, at present, twenty members who devote themselves all over the world to supporting the priests. Several young Americans belong to this family, and at present the American Novitiate is at Jesus & Mary Brothers’ Novitiate in El Paso, Texas.

The fourth family is the Oblates, persons living in common with the priests, seminarians, brothers, and nuns but without taking vows. They remain lay-persons but are nevertheless a great help in the different houses in which they are to be found.

The fifth family to come into being is the Third Order, which was founded in 1980.

2.  What was the occasion of the foundation of the Third Order?

For several years, a number of Catholics had been suggesting the idea. Even pressing demands for it were not uncommon. A sample letter: “Dear Father,.. often my rosary is the for the intentions of the Society of Saint Pius X. In this connection, I would like to know if there exists a Third Order in the Society of Saint Pius X and what its requirements are. I would like to live a more consecrated life.. .a more total gift of myself in the spirit of the Society. Is this possible? Please advise me.”

The priests, therefore felt the need of providing the faithful with a means of living the evangelical ideals, of keeping Faith, Hope, and Charity in the midst of the unprecedented upheaval in the Church, and thus of finding the protection of an unassailable spiritual strength. They told Archbishop Lefebvre of their concerns and desires, and of the pressing appeals from the anguished faithful, abandoned without defense in the ruins of the structures of the Church, which formally secured and maintained their faith. The realization of the Third Order was the answer to the Archbishop.

3.  What is the purpose of the Third Order?

The Third Order of Saint Pius X. is an “Order set up to secure for souls living in the world a school of sanctity.” Sanctification of individuals and those for whom members of the Third Order are responsible for; such is the purpose of the Third Order. Like the old traditional Third Orders (Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan…), the Third Order of the Society of Saint Pius X is a state of life midway between the cloister and the world, or to put it in different words, a religious Order which will penetrate into Christian homes in the midst of the world.

Do you think that it is important for someone who is able to fulfill the obligations of the Third Order to decide to become a member?

Definitely yes. Listen to this story:

Saint Pius X had a deep understanding of the needs of the Church and therefore” often had penetrating insights. Happening to be one day amidst a group of Cardinals, the Holy Father said to them ‘What is the thing most necessary at the present time to save society?’¬† ‘Build Catholic schools’, one said. ‘No.’¬† ‘Multiply churches’, replied another. No again’. ‘Increase the recruiting of the clergy’ said a third. ‘No, no’, replied the Pope. ‘What is most necessary at the present time is to have in each parish a group of lay persons at the same time virtuous, enlightened, determined, and really apostolic.'” (Soul of the Apostolate, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard)

To save the world, Saint Pius X counted on fervent Catholics devoting themselves to the apostolate by word and action, but above all by example.

Therefore, what is the most important thing in each of our US missions is to have a small group of fervent souls seriously practicing the interior life. This body of elite Christians will be as the leaven and will lift up the spiritual level of the whole parish by their prayer life, by their discreet but efficacious apostolic action, but above all by their good example. The Third Order provides souls thirsting for perfection with a set of rules which can help them to attain this goal and thereby to sanctify their family and the whole mission. For instance, if ten persons in the congregation were to stay after Mass for the thanksgiving (because they are members of the Third Order), I am sure that within a few months the whole parish would be making a proper thanksgiving!

4.  What is the spirit of the Third Order?

It is centered on the devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is nothing else than the Sacrifice of the Cross renewed on the altar in an unbloody manner. The members of the Third Order unite themselves to Our Lord, the Divine Victim, offering Himself up out of love for His Father and for souls. In this they find the strength that they need on the difficult path to holiness. Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, to Saint Joseph, and to Saint Pius X are also present in the soul of the member of the Third Order.

5.  What are the main obligations for a member of the Third Order?

Some may be called negative: for instance, habitual abstinence from television.  Why?  Not only because most of the shows are near occasions of sin by their indecent pictures, but also because even when not featuring sex or violence, TV remains essentially imbued with the spirit of the world.  This spirit is a spirit of love of self, of pride, of comfort, of self-enjoyment, of earthly pleasure.  This spirit is quite opposed to the spirit of Our Lord, which is a spirit of love for God, of humility, of sacrifice, of the Cross, of true spiritual joy.  Radio and newspapers are sufficient means to keep oneself aware of the news.

6.  But are there other positive obligations?

Yes, for instance morning and evening prayer, daily rosary, confession once a month.¬† But since these obligations are common to all good Catholics, some other obligations are proper to the members of the Third Order:¬† Fifteen minutes of mental prayer every day (or daily Mass where it is possible) and a retreat every two years (Here in our country we have retreats year round in California and Connecticut and at certain times of the year in Colorado, Saint Mary’s, KS, Winona, MN,¬† Post Falls, ID and Florida).

N.B.¬† A monthly spiritual letter, Sursum Corda, which is also available online, will be sent to all the members which will keep contact with the whole family of the Third Order, and will renew the fervor of each one to be more faithful to God’s grace.

7.  How can I become a member of the Third Order?

Once you have read and meditated upon the rules of the Third Order, just fill out the application form and send it back to the address noted. Dear reader, God is expecting your generosity.¬† God took upon Himself a body and a soul to die for you out of the excess of His love. And you, what do you do for Him?¬† “Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us.” Pray to God so that He may give you the courage to enroll yourself in the Third Order of the Society of Saint Pius X, for the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity and for the salvation of your soul and of many others!¬† God bless you!

(taken from the website of SSPX in USA,