1. What is the
Third Order of the Society of St. Pius X?
The Third Order is the
fifth family of the Society of St. Pius X. You probably know that the first
in time was the priests and seminarians. This is the most
important family of the SSPX, since the latter is a "priestly society of
common life without vows." The priesthood is indeed the main concern of
the Society. Our faithful know of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, MN,
which is one of the five major seminaries of the SSPX, a Society which now has
worldwide nearly 500 priests and nearly 200 seminarians.
The second family is
the sisters of the SSPX, which has over 200 hundred members, including
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 formation house
in the United States District is the Sacred Heart Novitiate located in
The third family is
the brothers. Presently they have about 50 members who devote themselves all
over the world to supporting the priests. Several young Americans belong to this
family, the brothers' novitiate in the United States District is located at St.
Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, MN.
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 St. Pius X. In this connection, I
would like to know if there exists a Third Order in the Society of St. 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
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 SSPX's Third Order 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 SSPX's Third Order 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
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
Definitely yes. Listen to this
St. 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, OCSO)
To save the world,
St. 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 United States' 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 St. Joseph, and to St. 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
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: 15 minutes of mental prayer every day (or daily
Mass where it is possible) and a retreat every two years (see
the retreat schedule for a listing of dates and locations in the
United States District).
7. How can I become a
member of the Third Order?
Once you have read and
meditated upon the
Rule, just fill out the
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 SSPX's Third
Order, for the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity
and for the salvation of your soul and of many others! God bless you!