The preaching of St. Francis, as well as his example, exercised such a powerful attraction on people that many married men and women wanted to join the First or the Second Order, but this being incompatible with their state of life, Francis found a middle way and gave them a rule animated by the Franciscan spirit. In the composition of this rule St. Francis was assisted by his friend Cardinal Ugolino di Conti, (later Pope Gregory IX). As to the place where the Third Order was first introduced nothing certain is known.
The earliest Rule was found in the Guarnacci Library in Volterra. This primitive document is known as the Earlier Exhortation, or the Earlier Version, of "The Letter to All the Faithful" and was likely composed before 1215. An expanded version, the Later Exhortation, was completed by about 1220. Both have been established as having been composed by Francis. Both documents call the lay faithful to a life of penance, i.e., of turning away from sin and toward God.
Francis's spirituality was simply to "observe the Gospel." Pope Pius XII stated in 1956: "There is, then, a Franciscan doctrine in accordance with which God is holy, is great, and above all, is good, indeed the supreme Good. For in this doctrine, God is love. He lives by love, creates for love, becomes flesh and redeems, that is, he saves and makes holy, for love.
The Saint Francis de Sales Fraternity in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA is a community of Catholic men and women who belong to the Secular Franciscan Order (Latin: Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis, post-nominal abbr. O.F.S.; also called the Third Order Secular). The Secular Franciscans seek to pattern their lives after Christ in the spirit of Francis of Assisi. Secular Franciscans are tertiaries or members of the Third Order of Saint Francis founded by Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.