The Third Order — An Introduction
The Third Order of the Society of Saint Pius X is a pious union—or, more properly called by Canon Law an "Association of the Faithful"—which exists to allow the faithful to participate more closely with the apostolic work of the Priestly Society of St Pius X.
It is modeled upon the Third Orders of religious congregations, and so has a rule which governs its members.
Responding to the request of many faithful, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre decided in 1981 to provide a structure so the faithful could participate more fully in the life and spirit of the Society. He called it third order for practical purposes, and because its structure and rule is modeled upon the Third Orders of religious orders, providing a rule of life by which to live this life and spirit. It was also a practical consideration. Previously various lay Oblates or Tertiaries followed such rules which aided their spiritual life and sanctification. Following the modernistic changes to religious order, faithful Catholics often could not in conscience enter or continue to particpate in the third orders widely available. Wishing to provide an alternative with a similar rule, in such an extraordinary situation the Archbishop took the initiative to found a group that Society priests could oversee and would be a safe harbour for Catholics wishing that added support of a rule for their sanctification.
The Third Order — Structure
Each District of the Society has a chaplain who supervises and supports the faithful who want to live this rule. In the District of Australia and New Zealand this priest is Fr Jordie Stephens. At priories and chapels, as much as is possible, a priest regularly meets with Third Order members to give a conference and help direct and support them in living that rule. At St Anthony's Church, this priest is Fr Michael Johnson.
Unlike other groups which organize an active apostolate or work, the Third Order exists to foster the spiritual and moral life only. The rule of life demanded of members means that membership is not a thing that is taken lightly, and in fact is meant to be a longer process of discernment.
The Third Order — Membership
Admittance into the Third Order firstly requires discussion with a confessor or director. The director should help determines one fittingness as well as the intentions of the candidate. Also to be considered is the ability of the candidate to live the Rule of the Society of St Pius X. The candidate also must have confidence and desire to keep this Rule.
If after that determination by the confessor or director that the candidate has the proper intentions and capacity to live according to the rule, he presents the candidate with an application for enrollment in the Third Order of the Society of St. Pius X. Attached to it will be a copy of the candidates baptismal certificate. These materials are sent to the Chaplain of the Third Order. The application must then receive the blessing and recommendation of an SSPX priest who knows the candidate.
Upon acceptance, one may enter Postulancy. Postulancy is made by reciting the formula of promise before the Blessed Sacrament and a SSPX priest witnessing this. The priest stands in as delegate of the Superior General of the Society.
Postulancy is a one year probation period test how well one is suited to the rule and the spirituality of the order. During this period, the postulant should report on spiritual progress and fidelity to the rule or failings to his confessor or director. This collaboration is necessary to determine future profession in the Third Order. If the postulate follows the rule well and seems well disposed to continue the necessary disposition and work, he can then be admitted to full profession.