I have now requested release from vows, as the Order has moved away from what I joined it for being. I suppose this is in accordance with the Vow of Obedience (part 3: Obedience To Conscience) as well as to the Vow of Simplicity (which to me includes relevance or appropriateness).
Occasionally rumours appeared that I was some kind of monk... it's not true, I'm afraid! I am however a Franciscan Tertiary, that is, a member of a Franciscan Third Order, which means that I lived under a form of the Franciscan Rule, but whereas members of the first and second orders live according to a three-fold rule of complete poverty, celibacy, and obedience, I live according to a three-fold rule of simplicity, chastity and obedience (all of which are basic baptismal requirements for any Christian, anyway; this is just a re-affirmation of the same vows).
So, I never was any kind of monk, although I was a plain-clothes Franciscan, and was part of the Society of St. Francis, a religious order in the Anglican Communion.
|The three-fold rule|
|Poverty / Simplicity||
For the First and Second Orders, this means living without personal or corporate property; their buildings, clothes etc are held in trust for them.
For the Third Order, this means an attitude inclined away from accumulation of wealth, and a concern for how you use what you own.
For me, simplicity is coming to mean discerning what is rubbish and cutting it out of my life, and this includes at least one requirement (annual reports) placed on members of my Order!
|Chastity / Celibacy||
For the First and Second Orders, this means living in celibate community (or for a few, the hermits and solitaries, living alone).
For the Third Order, this can either be within marriage (requiring faithfulness to your partner) or being celibate (but leaving open the possibility of marriage).
For me, the actual meaning of this part of the Rule is not to use anyone, but to treat them as a person.
For all the Orders, this is to the Order, to the Church, and ultimately to God, as discerned by your personal conscience in prayer. It is part of the Rule that nothing in the Rule may override your conscience.
An underlying point of this is that you're not always right.
In the Third Order, each member writes their own Rule according to their circumstances, and sends it to Chapter for approval. Mine is here.
One danger of living according to a Rule is that of a rigid legalism. The proper way to regard the Rule is as not being salvific (i.e. there is no intrinsic merit in it) but as a helpful guide and as a backstop against backsliding.
However, I think the bigger danger is that of ``togetherness'' and ``being part of something.'' (In an interesting contrast from this, both Jesus, and St Francis, seem to have made themselves outsiders.)
Since 1989 I have been a member of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis, hence the letters TSSF after my name. However, I am now in the process of withdrawing from membership of the Order, although not changing the nature of my religious views.
In TSSF, bureaucracy and hierarchy are now prominent, with insistence on filling in report forms (and no doubt much other paperwork at other levels, that is nothing to do with the Franciscan life either)... the Order is talking about reorganizing to work more at the local level, but I doubt this will go far enough.
Here are some things which stand out to me in TSSF these days:
I'm interested in forming a new Order (or split-off from TSSF) to work at a more local level, without bureaucracy and without political correctness -- mail me if you're interested.