For the purpose of giving all Catholics, whether priests or laymen, a share in the spirit of the Society of St. Pius X, the Third Order of the Society was founded in 1980. It helps in personal sanctification by associating its members with the life of the Society, under the patronage of Pope St. Pius X, an example of steadfastness in doctrine, purity in morals and Eucharistic devotion. The Third Order is in a way the family of the SSPX, with a rule of life, Catholic fellowship and mutual assistance.
The Third Order
The SSPX’s Third Order was founded on November 1, 1980, by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre for the faithful who, animated by the desire for their personal sanctification, wish to be affiliated in a special way to the Society of St. Pius X. Its members must aspire to holiness and strive to work for the salvation of other souls, primarily those of the persons who are entrusted to them.
St. Pius X as patron of the Third Order
Archbishop Lefebvre writes in the statutes:
“Sanctification is attained today in a world that opposes it by subtle heresies that have been introduced in all Catholic circles under the name of modernism.
Now Pope St. Pius X was beatified for having courageously denounced these modern errors and for having given an example of holiness by his steadfast doctrine, purity of morals and devotion to the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
This saintly pope is therefore held up as the model for souls that wish to be sanctified in our age.”
Union with the Society of St. Pius X
In each district a priest of the Society is responsible for the Third Order, which is animated by the same spirit and connected with the Society of St. Pius X.
The Third Order was founded by the Society, and therefore the chaplains of the Third Order are designated by the district superiors and approved by the Superior General.
The members of the Third Order participate in the graces of the Society acquired by the prayers and merits of its members.”
Conditions for admission
Admission is possible for all Catholics: priests, laymen as well as young people who accept the spirit of the Third Order.
In the present confusion of the Faith, what is demanded of the tertiaries above all is unconditional fidelity to the perennial Catholic Faith and to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The members are also expected to show a sense of communal life, loyalty and confidence in the leadership of the Society.
The spirit of the Third Order
“The spirit of the Third Order is the spirit that animates the Priestly Society, namely, the spirit of the Church, of its living Faith manifested by all of its Tradition, of its infallible magisterium, expressed and exposed in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, in the Vulgate, in the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, in the liturgy of all time.
It is characterized by a spirit of attachment to the Roman Church, to the popes, to the bishops; a spirit of obedience to the authorities of the Church according to their fidelity to the purpose of their office, which is none other than to spread the Catholic Faith and the reign of Our Lord.
It is a spirit of vigilance with regard to anything that can corrupt the Faith.
The members will have a tender and filial devotion towards the Virgin Mary according to the spirit of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, to St. Joseph, and to St. Pius X.
They will seek to rediscover the capital importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and of its mystery, in order to find therein the meaning and source of Christian life, a life of sacrifice and of co-redemption.”
The following spiritual exercises are necessary today in order to aspire sincerely to holiness:
- Morning and evening prayers, which may be Prime and Compline or the prayers from the retreat book.
- Recitation of the rosary.
- If possible, attendance at the traditional Mass and Communion—or a quarter of an hour of mental prayer.
- Attendance at the traditional Mass and not at the Novus Ordo Missae, because of the danger of acquiring a Protestant spirit.
Every Other Week:
- If possible, the sacrament of penance every other week or, as at least, once a month.
Every other year:
- A retreat.
Practical advice: Recommended reading: the writings of St. Pius X, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the New Testament, The Imitation of Christ, the lives of the saints. Circulate good reading material.
- Fasting on Ember Days, on Vigils, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence on the Fridays of Lent and all Fridays.
- Abstain from television, from all indecent reading, practice sobriety.
(For those who are in the bonds of marriage)
To observe, in a spirit of submission to Our Lord, the laws of marriage in order to have a large family. To renounce absolutely any positive action to avoid having children.
To make of the family home a sanctuary consecrated to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, where family prayer is said at least in the evening as well as the Rosary if possible; where the liturgical life reigns on Sundays and feast days; where anything that can tarnish the souls of the children is rejected, e.g., television, indecent magazines.
To choose schools that are truly educational and traditional, and to contribute to their foundation.
To be prudent in the choice of leisure and vacations places.”
Professional and social obligations
“To follow the example of the Holy Family and to fulfill one’s duties in justice and charity, whether one is an employer or an employee.
To foster and defend the Social Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ in society; to combat Liberalism and Modernism, the scourges of modern times which are delivering the Church to its enemies.”
How does one become a member of the Third Order?
If you are interested and wish to be formed in the spirit of the Third Order and to have a share in its spiritual fruits, follow these steps:
- Enrollment: The request is addressed to the priest in charge of the Third Order or to the District Superior. The priest sends in reply, a sheet with a few requests for information. Then, if the enrollment request is accepted, he sends a duplicate of the enrollment form.
- A one-year postulancy: During this year the fidelity of the postulant in fulfilling his obligations and his adherence to the spirit of the Third Order are being examined.
- Engagement: During a ceremony, the postulant pronounces his engagement in front of the delegated priest. He then receives the medal and crucifix Third Order member card.