Original Franciscan "Third Order" -- Confraternity of Penitents
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Third Order? Confraternity?
The Confraternity of Penitents is both like a Third Order and like a Confraternity.
A Third Order is a generally accepted term for laity living a religious rule of life at home. Most Third Orders are associated with a specific Religious Order of consecrated men or women. The laity in the Third Order generally support the religious and have a similar although lay charism. Third Orders are bound by their religious family, not by geography.
A Confraternity is a group of laity organized for a specific religious purpose who are subject to their Bishop. Generally a Confraternity will exist within that Bishop's diocese only.
The Confraternity of Penitents is subject to the Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, but it is an international group, not a Diocesan group. Its members are single and married men and women who live a religious rule of life in their own homes, worldwide. This Rule is Franciscan in spirit in that it is the Rule of 1221 which St. Francis gave to the laity in 1221, even though that Rule was written by a Cardinal of the Church, not by St. Francis. While the Confraternity supports Franciscan Orders, it also supports all other religious Orders as well.
The photo shows penitents in 2013 who were penitents at the time of the refounding of the Confraternity ten years previously in 2003.