TABLE OF CONTENTS:
CHAPTER I: The Nature of the Third Order and its Statutes
The Premonstratensian Order, founded by St. Norbert, has its secular Tertiaries serving under these statutes.
Blessed Thibault of Champagne, known in history as Thibault the Great was the first to be received into the Third Order. He was the grandson of William the Conqueror, and the brother of King Stephen of England. He was induced by the example of Count Godfrey of Cappenberg to seek entrance into the first Order (that is, to become a priest). Since many amateur historians are not well informed in regard to Third Orders, we refer them to authoritative books. Among these we find in Die Orden und Kongregationen der Katholischen Kirche by Max Heimbucher in the 1907 edition, Volume II, page 58 that Blessed Thibault received the white scapular in 1123. Ellen Scott Davidson in Forerunners of St. Francis (edition of 1928) set the date at 1122. It was near the end of 1122 or the beginning of 1123. Pope Benedict XIV, when he approved the revised rule, May 22, 1752, called it the oldest Third Order in the Church. Pope Pius XI, on March 30, 1923, the eight centenary of its founding wrote: "The oldest of these bodies of Tertiaries is the one that flourished in connection with the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré." Cardinal Gasquet in Monastic Life in the Middle Ages (page 244) wrote: "It is worth remarking that the Prémontré Canons were the first to conceive the idea, afterwards so largely developed by the mendicants of the thirteenth century, of uniting to them by formal aggregation, laymen and women in what was known as a Third Order. These associated brethren, though not bound by the stricter obligations of religious life, still, while engaged in their ordinary secular employment, followed a mitigated observance somewhat akin to that of the Canons themselves." The rules for these Tertiaries were first formally approved by Pope Honorius, February 16, 1126. They were revised and approved by Pope Benedict XIV, May 22, 1752. The second revision was approved by Pope Pius XI, March 30, 1923. The third revision was approved by Pope Pius XII, June 6, 1949.
Individual members as well as groups (Chapters) of Tertiaries should be affiliated with some canonry (Abbey, Priory, or Provostry) of the First Order, which they should hold as their paternal home and should live in close union with it.
Members runners of the Third Order have their names carefully preserved in the records of the Canonry to which they are attached. At Chapter, the Canons read the necrology which includes with the dead of the First Order, those of the Third Order. The Third Order members share in all the Masses, prayers and good works of the whole Order to the end of time. Naturally, the First Order shares in the good works of the Tertiaries. In the reception and profession of Tertiaries, this union with the First Order is made more distinct than in any of the other Orders. Blessed Thibault was inscribed in the necrology of the Abbeys of Prémontré and of Valsecret. The necrologies of our ancient Abbeys contain the names of numerous kings, princes, nobles and vassals of every rank.
The Third Order of Premonstratensians aims that its members should strive to lead a life in the world consonant with Christian perfection, according to the spirit of the Order (Canon 702, paragraph 1).
It was because Blessed Thibault desired perfection that he asked to be received into the First Order. Only after mature deliberation, did St. Norbert refuse his request. Then it was that he gave Thibault a simple rule that embodied the principles for perfection according to his Order. St. Bernard wrote of him in letter XXXVIII in part "A word from him is for us equivalent to an oath, and a slight untruth is regarded by him as a grave perjury; since of all the virtues which dignify his high rank and render his name celebrated throughout the whole world, the chief and most extolled is his steadfast truthfulness." It is interesting to know that in his charity, he protected Peter Abelard from St. Bernard. He was known as a father to the orphans, widows and the downtrodden. He died a holy death on January 10, 1151.
In accordance with the ideal of the First Order, Tertiaries should, according to their ability, develop a love for the liturgical life and a true zeal for devotedness to the Blessed Virgin Mary, after the example given them by St. Norbert.
St. Norbert, following the ideas of the Apostles, considered the incentive for holiness must come from great love of Jesus (through the Eucharist) and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This should instill an interior reform of the individuals under a true penitential spirit. Then after having put on our Lord Jesus Christ, the person gives glory to God in a two fold manner: directly by liturgical prayer and service, and indirectly by zeal for souls. As St. Thomas Aquinas said so aptly, "Zeal for souls is love in action."
Tertiaries enjoy only those indulgences and privileges which have been given them directly by the Holy See.
The new Canon Law has cut off the former interchange of privileges and indulgences between the various Third Orders. Now Tertiaries of our Order have the numerous privileges and indulgences of our Order, only.
The observance of these Statutes does not oblige under the pain of sin; but this fact should not be a reason for observing them less diligently.
The Statutes are enable one to gain virtue, not to cause sin. A faithful observance of these rules will bring many graces to the Tertiary.
If it should happen that anyone cannot observe certain Statutes, the matter should be referred to the Moderator, and his judgment should be diligently followed.
The moderator is empowered to grant dispensations from such Statutes as a Tertiary is not able to observe.
CHAPTER 2: Love of the Liturgy
Tertiaries, unless they are legitimately prevented from doing so, should attend the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily.
Many Tertiaries may find it impossible to attend Mass daily. Attendance at Mass should not be an unpleasant burden; it won't be, if a person tries to see the privileges and blessings of Mass. We will find a great source for love of God when we understand and appreciate the Mass. Our Lord said, "The children of this world are more clever in their own sphere than are the children of light." Consider how worldlings cultivate the friendship of powerful persons. Yet who is more influential or powerful than Jesus Christ. Through the Mass, we obtain ready access to God and to the storehouse of all grace; besides, we form a partnership with Jesus Christ. If we were not such clods of earth, we would see the greatness of the Mass and would attend even under the most difficult circumstances. If we could receive a million dollars every time we went to a certain place twenty five miles away, we would go no matter what the trials. The grace of one Mass exceeds the value of a million dollars by more than the brilliancy of the sun exceeds that of a tiny electric light.
If possible, being properly disposed, they should frequently, even daily, receive the Most Holy Eucharist at the Sacrifice of the Mass.
It is most proper for a person to receive Holy Communion each time he attends Mass. That is what the early Christians did. If he cannot receive sacramentally, he should receive spiritually. Naturally there will be circumstances that prevent Sacramental reception of the Eucharist.
It is recommended that Tertiaries who are able should daily recite the Canonical Office, at least in part; the others should recite the little office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Since the canonical office of the Premonstratensians has not been translated into English, Tertiaries in the United states are excused from this recommendation. The little office of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been translated and is ready for the press. It is hoped that all Tertiaries will avail themselves of this privilege and get copies as soon as it comes off the press.
Those who cannot fulfill the obligations of Article 10 should daily recite a third part, that is, five decades of the Rosary, or the Sacramental Crown of the Blessed Virgin, or else the Apostles' Creed with seven Our Fathers and Hail Marys adding each time, "Praised be the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar and the Immaculate Conception of Mary!" and they should add at the end the antiphon, versicle, and oration of St. Norbert, as follows:
"Norbert, as a burning light placed on a candlestick, enlightened all who dwelt with him.
V. Pray for us, St. Norbert
R. That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us Pray:
O God, who has made of St. Norbert, Your Confessor and Bishop, a great preacher of Your Word and through him has enriched Your Church with a new offspring, grant that by the intercession of his merits, we may practice with Your help what he taught by word and deed. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Tertiaries who are priests and others bound to the recitation of the Breviary, can satisfy the obligation by using the Premonstratensian breviary according to the calendar (the "ordo") proper to the Order, provided they are not bound to any choir; for Mass they must observe the Calendar of the place (Sacred Congregation of Rites, March 8, 1922).
Tertiaries, who are priests, may use the Premonstratensian breviary and calendar unless they are bound to choir. For saying Mass, they must use the calendar of the place.
Priests who do not use the privilege in Article 12, should daily recite the above mentioned antiphon, versicle, and oration of St. Norbert.
Priests need not avail themselves of the privilege of Article 12, but then they should recite the Antiphon, versicle, and Oration of Article 11.
CHAPTER 3: The Sacrament of Penance
Tertiaries are urged to confess their sins at least twice per month.
Since Rome has decreed that one must confess bi-weekly in order to gain all the indulgences possible by a daily intention, Tertiaries, in their love for the Souls in Purgatory, should gladly embrace this practice. It is a valuable way for making spiritual progress.
Moreover, all are advised to choose a priest as a spiritual director, to whom they can go with confidence for help in their doubts and anxieties.
In perfecting oneself, a guide is most important. The great saints have not only approved but have urged lay people as well as priests and sisters to seek a good spiritual director. Just as few people would pass beyond elementary schools without good teachers, so few souls will pass beyond the elements of Christianity without a good spiritual director. We should look earnestly for such a one, and then follow his counsels faithfully. Many learned men are poor teachers, many pious priests are incapable directors. St. Theresa of Avila and St. Jane de Chantal suffered from such directors until they found extraordinarily good ones. St. Theresa warned people against mere piety as a surety for being a good director.
CHAPTER 4: Meditation
On Sundays and holy days, Tertiaries should spend at least a quarter hour in mental prayer or spiritual reading; and if possible, they should do this daily.
Without a doubt, it is very important for us to spend a quarter of an hour in mental prayer every day. If people only knew how easy it is to meditate and how much good they can gain from it, they would all try it. Spiritual reading is necessary for meditating. It would be well to spend fifteen minutes in spiritual reading and another fifteen minutes in meditation. The meditation may be made at any time and anywhere that one can find a bit of seclusion.
Tertiaries should particularly read the Bible, and especially the New Testament.
Of all reading, the Bible and especially the New Testament is the most valuable. It is for this reason that articles on READING THE GOSPELS FOR PROFIT have appeared in the Annals of St. Joseph for the past three years. We should read the Bible in such a way that we may know God's will in our regard. Tertiaries should know that Goffine, the author of Goffine's Devout Instructions on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holydays was a Premonstratensian Canon of one of our German Abbeys.
CHAPTER 5: Prayers for the Deceased
Mass should be offered, for a deceased Tertiary, as soon as possible in the canonry to which he belonged.
Since the Premonstratensian Order is one based on love, we should have great love for our beloved dead. Every chapter should arrange to have a mass said for their deceased brothers and sisters as soon as possible.
At the funeral of the Abbot, the Moderator, or any deceased Tertiary, all members of the Chapter concerned should be present, as far as possible, and they should not easily excuse themselves from this testimonial of fraternal charity.
As a testimonial of fraternal charity, Tertiaries should earnestly try to attend the funeral of members of their own chapter, of their Abbot, or of their Moderator.
For a deceased Abbot, Moderator or Tertiary, the members of the Chapter concerned should recite the Psalm, De Profundis daily for seven days; or they may recite, once, five decades of the Rosary or the Sacramental Crown of Our Lady.
De Profundis Psalm 129:
Out of the depths, I cry unto thee, O Lord,
Lord Hear my voice!
Let thine ears become attentive to the voice of my supplication
If thou, O Lord, keep the memory of offenses, Lord, who shall stand?
But with thee there is forgiveness of sins, so that thou art served with reverential fear.
I hope in the Lord, my soul hopes in his word;
My soul longs for the Lord, more than watchmen for the dawn.
More than watchmen for the dawn, Israel longs for the Lord,
Because with the Lord there is mercy and with him plentiful redemption:
And he shall redeem Israel from all her iniquities.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
Amen (end of Article 20)
Each month, all Tertiaries should hear at least one Mass for their deceased brethren.
Each month, Tertiaries should make the intention of offering one Mass that they attend for their deceased brethren. They do not have to attend an extra Mass besides those at which they usually assist.
CHAPTER 6: Zeal for Souls
Tertiaries should burn with an intense love for souls, according to the example of St. Norbert.
If we truly love God, we will try to help souls come to a love and understanding of God. That will show itself by: first, being good faithful Catholics, humble and docile to proper authority; secondly, it will manifest itself in a desire to know the teaching of the Church most thoroughly so that he can give a "reason for the faith that is in him."; thirdly, it will show itself by directing his children to Catholic schools wherever possible. It will also be expressed by a readiness to explain Catholic teaching to the best of his ability. Fourthly, it can be fostered by reading good Catholic papers, magazines and books.
To all priests, and especially to those of the First Order and particularly of their own canonry, they should give help through a life of prayer and penance, and should willingly assist them according to their ability.
Every Tertiary should reveal to his or her pastor who the fallen-aways are in his or her neighborhood. He should kindly heal the breach between them and the Church. If their pastors seem uninterested or inadequate, he should contact priests of his canonry so that these may be brought back. When a Tertiary finds a well disposed Protestant, through literature, or by contacts with priests, he or she can help such a one come to a knowledge of the Church.
They should be prepared at all times to help their neighbor in both spiritual and temporal necessities, and, after the example of St. Norbert, should strive to reconcile enemies and promote peace everywhere.
Tertiaries should be motivated by both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Many people leave their Church either through fallout with their pastor or because of enmity toward their neighbor. St. Norbert was the great Peace Maker; we, his children should do all in our power to reconcile enemies and promote peace. Our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, said: "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called Children of God."
CHAPTER 7: The Spirit of Penance
Tertiaries should lead a life of penance and mortification.
The life of penance and mortification is the earnest effort to eradicate sin and to implant virtue. Physical penance may be largely external and so leave the soul hard and cruel like that of the Pharisees of our Lord's time. But if we humbly try to conquer our faults by prayer and penance, we will acquire a true Christlike spirit.
As an example to the rest of the faithful, they should observe to the letter the laws of fast and abstinence imposed by the Church, and in addition, they should fast on the vigil (July 10) of the feast of St. Norbert.
The more we observe the laws of God and of the Church, according to the spirit, the more we do God's will. The laws of God and of the Church are the manifest will of God. If you say you love God, yet pay little attention to these commandments, the regulations of your diocese, the expressed desires of your pastor, and the spirit of the Third Order, you are "deceiving your ownself and your religion is in vain."
It is left to the Moderator, or to the prudent confessor, to dispense those who are not able to fast, by substituting another mortification or work of mercy.
A prudent confessor or your Moderator may substitute some other mortification in the place of fasting, if your health or your work prevents you from fasting.
Even in daily life, Tertiaries should strive to be led by a truly Christian spirit.
A truly Christian spirit is one of meekness, of forgiveness, and of generous charity toward all.
Avoiding not only sin but even what smacks of the world, Tertiaries, though in the world, should nevertheless live a non-worldly life; and therefore they should not attend shows, events, and entertainments which are unbecoming to them.
A true Tertiary will avoid amusements that may ensnare unsuspecting or weak Christians. Even though he may attend them with no outward harm to himself, he will follow the spirit of St. Paul (Romans XIV, 21): "It is a noble thing not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do anything by which your brother is tripped up, or scandalized, or weakened."
CHAPTER 8: The Habit
Tertiaries should wear under their clothing the white scapular, as the external sign of their affiliation with the Order of St. Norbert.
Tertiaries should wear under their clothing the small white scapular of St. Norbert showing their dedication to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin. Those who wear the white scapular of St. Norbert are dedicated to Mary as surely as those who wear the brown scapular of Mount Carmel. Actually, the Blessed Virgin gave the white habit to St. Norbert on the feast of Our Lady of the Snows (August 5). The Bollandists, who cast out doubtful visions and revelations from the Church Annals and Martyrology have put their stamp of approval upon this. You may obtain new scapulars by writing to:
- National Moderator, Third Order
- St. Norbert Abbey
- 1016 N. Broadway
- De Pere, WI 54114
In sacred functions that are performed publicly, they may wear the full habit, with the special permission of the Ordinary of the place (Canon 703, no. 3)
With special permission of the local bishop, Tertiaries may wear the regular habit in sacred public functions. For men, this habit is exactly like that of the members of the First Order. For women, the habit consists of a white skirt attached to a shirtwaist, a scapular and sash like that of the First Order, and a white rayon or nylon veil for their head.
If Tertiaries are present in a group at public processions, funerals, and other ecclesiastical functions, they should walk with their insignia, under their own cross or banner (Canon 706).
In public processions, the chapters of Tertiaries should be headed by their insignia, a banner embroidered with the Eucharist on one side and the Immaculate Conception on the other.
It is permitted secular priests living in a canonry to wear the full habit of the First Order.
Secular (diocesan) priests who are Tertiaries have a general permission to wear the full habit of the First Order when they are in a Premonstratensian canonry.
It is recommended that all Tertiaries be buried in the full white habit.
Tertiaries are to be buried in the white habit that they use for sacred functions, that is the full white habit of the First Order. These can be obtained through the National Moderator.
CHAPTER 9: Admission and Dismissal of Tertiaries
Only those should be admitted as Tertiaries who are of upright life, high morals, and bent on attaining Christian perfection.
No one should apply for admission to the Third Order of St. Norbert unless he or she desires to attain perfection through his method of Christlike charity.
Aspirants should have a testimonial of good character from their pastor or spiritual director, unless their integrity has otherwise been clearly proved. Upon receipt of this testimonial, the Abbot or Moderator admits them.
Aspirants must be personally known or must give a testimonial of good character from their pastor or spiritual director before the Abbot, or Moderator should receive them.
Tertiaries must spend a postulancy of six months, and a novitiate of at least a year, before they make their profession.
An aspirant must be observed for six months before they should enter the novitiate, that is, receive the white scapular. They must spend a year as a novice before they may make their profession.
It is unlawful for them to be admitted to a novitiate unless they have completed their sixteenth year; for profession, completion of the eighteenth year is required.
This new regulation is not retroactive, that is, where persons younger than this have been received or professed, they are truly valid members of the Order. Since members of the Third Order are truly religious, they must have completed their sixteenth year before they may receive the white scapular. They must have completed their eighteenth year before they may make their profession. These provisions are to prevent mere children from becoming members of the Order through the pressure of older people. The serious side of desiring and attaining Christian perfection should be presented to young people.
Vestition and profession of Tertiaries should preferably be conducted by the Abbot, Prior, or Provost of the canonry to which the Tertiaries belong, or by the Moderator, according to the proper ceremonial.
Vestition and profession should be conducted by the chief officer of the canonry, or by the Moderator, or his assistant. The Moderator is empowered to delegate a secular, or religious priest to receive a person into the Third Order, or to witness their profession. They must receive the formal proper delegation and must follow the prescribed ritual. They must make a report of the ceremony on an authorized form to the Moderator.
For a reasonable cause, anyone can be transferred to another canonry, with the permission of the Abbot or Moderator of both the canonry FROM WHICH and TO WHICH the transfer is made.
A person may ask to be, and be transferred in allegiance from one canonry to that of another with the proper consent of the chief officers of the canonries involved, or of the Moderators. They may also be transferred (if they ask it) from one chapter of a canonry to that of another. This must be formally approved by the Moderator.
Members of another Third Order desiring to transfer to ours lose the rights and obligations of the Order from which they came; and, after being newly clothed in our Third Order, they must make a complete year of novitiate before being admitted to profession.
The Holy See has granted Tertiaries permission to sever their allegiance with one Order and freely attach themselves to another. This should not be done lightly. One should not join a Third Order without considering carefully the way to perfection presented by that Order. St. Norbert stressed love; St. Francis, humility; St. Dominic, penance; etc. If a certain way appeals to you, it is a sign that you will do best in that Third Order. When one leaves a Third Order, ordinary courtesy requires that you notify the priest in charge of the Third Order that you have dropped your obligations. It is much more charitable to be frankly truthful than to hedge about your feelings.
Anyone who pronounces religious vows in an Order or Society, by that very fact ceases to be a member of the Third Order; but if he returns to the world released from the vows, his former membership is automatically resumed (Canon 704).
A member of the Third Order who pronounces vows in some religious order, congregation, or society, ceases to belong to the Third Order. In fact, the rules of the Third Order are set aside when such a person enters the novitiate of an order, congregation, or society. If such a person leaves before or after vows, his former standing in the Third Order is resumed.
Tertiaries can leave the Order freely, or can be dismissed by the Moderator for any just cause, but the Moderator should make known to the dismissed the cause of his dismissal.
No one should be dismissed without a hearing unless their conduct has become open scandal. Even then the Moderator should notify such a person as to the cause of dismissal and a warning that such conduct may endanger their soul.
CHAPTER 10: Government
The government of chapters and of members is in the hands of the Abbot, whom all should revere and cherish as a father, and they should obey him diligently.
All the members of the Third Order belong to the great family of the Abbey. The members should cherish and reverence their spiritual head.
To carry out the work of government, the Abbot should appoint a priest of the Premonstratensian Order as Moderator, who, in his name, should direct the chapters and the individual members; he may add as many assistants as necessary.
Since the work of governing and directing the Tertiaries involves much time and care, the Abbot wisely delegates this work to a Moderator who acts in his name. His position and that of the assistants is subject to instant recall.
For reasons of age, sex, or circumstances, Tertiaries should be divided into several groups called chapters, if this is feasible.
Chapters of Tertiaries may be formed according to professions, age, or sex. Thus there may be chapters of Priests, of lawyers, of doctors, of business men, of men, of women, or of students. However, a chapter should be large enough to do good work and not to multiply the need of special priests. Often, a chapter may be composed of both men and women, although this is not the ideal for Norbertine Tertiaries.
Chapters cannot be validly erected without the consent of the Ordinary of the place; but once they are canonically erected, they should be directed through their own officers.
In whatever diocese the Premonstratensians are working permanently, chapters may be established without special consent. No one is prevented from joining the Third Order in any diocese, but if the Bishop objects, chapters may not be organized. Once chapters are set up, they govern themselves according to the rules approved by the Holy See.
The Abbot, on request of the Moderator, should give each chapter a Prior, a Master of Novices, and other officers according to the size of the chapter. They are removable at any time by the Abbot, at the Moderator's request.
In the United States and Canada, the officers of the chapter are: Prior, Subprior, Circator, Secretary, Treasurer, and Master of Novices. In a small chapter, several of these offices may be combined. In a large chapter, several additional council members may be chosen. These officers are chosen by Tertiaries in good standing. Only professed members may hold office. The Master of Novices is a director for the novices. The Circator is a spiritual director for the whole chapter and therefore it is very proper that he should have held the office of Prior. In female chapters, the names are feminized (e.g., Prioress, Circatress, Mistress of Novices). In the United States and Canada, these officers are chosen for only one year and are not to be re-elected to the same office.
Each month, or at least every three months, the members of a chapter should be called together, under the leadership of the Moderator or his assistant, or another priest delegated for this by the Moderator.
If this meeting cannot be held because of the paucity of members present, or for any other good reason, instructions bearing on the spiritual life of chapter members should be sent at least every three months to the individual Tertiaries.
In College, University, and high school chapters, it is strongly advised that the chapters meet every two weeks, or rather twice monthly, except during examination periods, or recesses, or vacation time. In other chapters, it has worked out well to have meetings once a month except during June, July and August. Chapters should always have a priest present, if at all possible, to prevent erroneous doctrine from being spread. Premonstratensian Tertiaries have through the ages been known as faithful to Church authorities and doctrine.
Isolated members should subscribe to the Annals of St. Joseph and thus get much instruction. Isolated chapters can obtain from the National Office, printed instructions that the Prior may read to the Chapter. These instructions can be obtained at a nominal cost, and on a variety of phases of spiritual life.
The Moderator should exercise paternal care to promote and arouse friendly relations not only among the Tertiaries themselves, but also toward the canonry to which they belong.
The Moderator must promote the best charitable relations in the Tertiaries toward themselves, toward their canonry, and toward all.