The Orders or religious families in the Church are divided in three groups: the First Order which regroups the male religious, the Second Order for the female religious, and the Third Order for the lay people.
The Dominican Third Order traces its origins back to St. Dominic himself and its primitive constitutions date already from the end of the 13th century. Like all Third Orders, its first end is the sanctification of its members: by the practice of the Rule the tertiaries follow a sure path to heaven, knowing that the Church herself has approved this path and promised heaven to all who follow it faithfully. Its secondary special end, which distinguishes it from other Third Orders, is the same as that of the Dominican Order itself, namely the salvation of souls by prayer, penance and preaching of the Word of God. The cry of St. Dominic: "What will become of poor sinners?" resounds as well in the depths of the souls of all his children and they do all they can, according to their state of life, to promote the salvation of souls.
Before the Second Vatican Council there were many flourishing Third Orders in the Church which sanctified tens of thousands of faithful Catholics by enabling them to participate in the life of the various great religious Orders to which they were affiliated. This affiliation was officially recognized and sanctioned by the Code of Canon Law, which contained a whole section on Third Orders and explained how those who belonged to them were true members of their Order, a membership which was manifested by the permission to wear the habit of the Order on certain occasions, and even to be clothed in it at burial. The tertiaries thus share in all the prayers and merits of the religious order to which they belong as true members of the family.
For further information on the Third Order of the Dominicans of the Holy Rosary, please contact:
Director of the Third Order
Dominican Third Order