Today Most Holy Father Pope Francis canonized Blessed Pope Paul VI!! This is hugely significant for all Secular Franciscans, as we follow what is called the “Pauline Rule”.
Auspicato Concessum, (Sept. 17, 1882) Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter glorified St.Francis of Assisi on the occasion of the seventh centenary of his birth. In this encyclical, the Pope presented the Third Order of St. Francis as a Christian answer to the social problems of the times. The constitution Misericors Dei Filius (June 23, 1883) expressly recalled that the neglect in which Christian virtues are held is the main cause of the evils that threaten societies. In confirming the rule of the Third Order and adapting it to the needs of modern times, Pope Leo XIII had intended to bring back the largest possible number of souls to the practice of these virtues.
Although his intentions were good, to make the rule easier to follow with hopes of growing the order in size, an increase in piety did not follow with the successful increase in numbers.
The Third Order of St. Francis as it was called then became more of a social club, a group that met for food and prayer, rather than a true order of penitents who certainly met and prayed, but must spend their lives devoted to “Living the Gospel according to the rule of St. Francis of Assisi”. (Rule 4)
The Rule of St. Paul VI approved in 1978, the “Pauline Rule”, brought our beloved order back to its roots as penitents of a true Third Order of St. Francis, renamed the Secular Franciscan Order. We wear a Tau as our “habit” and live our lives in the world, while in prayer and helping others in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.