The Third Order Regular of St. Francis, male and female, was not born as a duplicate of the First and the Second Franciscan order, but it has its roots on the penitential movement that developed behind the itinerant preaching by the “Penitent of Assisi” and it is legitimated by its peculiar style that concerns multiple aspects:
- The spontaneous origin f the movement and of the friaries as a desire for greater Christian perfection without entering in the traditional monastic systems;
- The close relationship with the Christian laity, ecclesial and sociologic matrix of the movement;
- The stress of the metànoia or penitence, understood as the liberation itinerary «from vices and sins», so as a permanent convention to God, supreme and immersive good, supreme centre of attraction;
- The typology of the socio-pastoral and charitable options (the various works of mercy);
- The different way to profess the poverty not as an ascetic idealism, but in a functional prospective, that is in order to sustain the charitable works;
- Ordinarily, the Tertiaries of the origin live with the fruit of their hard work, without resorting to the collecting of alms;
- The minor organizational centralization and a huge space left to the personal initiative, animated by the Holy Spirit;
- The great pluralism expressed in a extraordinary richness of charisma’s existential shades and of the charitable services.
These features, of historic-ascetic and charismatic, were not often perceived at the outside by many and, anyway, they were not widely shared. We know the resolute oppositions and the “covered routs” to obstruct the vitality of the Order.