• The Order of Malta has three membership classes: Knights of Justice, Knights and Dames in Obedience, and Knights and Dames of Magistral Grace.
  • Members pledge lifelong commitments through religious vows, promises, or oaths, depending on their class.
  • Candidates must be practicing Catholics, demonstrate moral character, and secure sponsorship from a current member.
  • Candidates undergo aspirancy before the investiture ceremony, marking the beginning of their lifelong commitment.

Order member providing medical assistance to the poor

Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta devote their lives to the defense of the faith and the service of the needy, guided by the motto, "Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum" (Defense of the Faith and Assistance to the Poor).

Their lifelong commitment to the Order's mission includes providing humanitarian assistance, medical aid, and support to marginalized communities.

Members formalize their commitment through religious vows, promises, or oaths, depending on their status within the Order. These vows, promises and oaths serve as a testament to their unwavering dedication to the Order and their pledge to actively work towards achieving its objectives.

Three Classes of Membership

According to the Constitution, there are three classes of membership in the Order of Malta:

First Class: Knights of Justice

Knights of Justice are professed religious members who have taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, dedicating their lives to the Order's spiritual and charitable missions.

Second Class: Knights and Dames in Obedience

Knights and Dames in Obedience, while not taking full religious vows, make Promises of Obedience, committing themselves to spiritual growth and service to the Order. They adhere to a rule of life and actively engage in the Order’s charitable activities.

Third Class: Knights and Dames of Magistral Grace

Knights and Dames of Magistral Grace actively support and participate in the Order's charitable works and uphold its values, without taking religious vows. They make an Oath of Fidelity, living by the rules of the Constitution and Code and conducting themselves at all times as members of the Order of Malta.

The habit of the Knights of Justice with the cross of Malta on the left side

Membership Requirements

To become a Knight or Dame of the Order of Malta, an individual must meet certain requirements, as laid out in the Order's Constitution and Code.

  • Be a practicing Catholic: Candidates must be committed to their faith, and possess a solid Christian formation through their involvement in parish activities, religious education, or other faith-based initiatives.
  • Age: Typically, prospective members should be at least 18 years old, although specific age requirements may vary by Association.
  • Moral and ethical qualities: The applicant must demonstrate good moral character, loyalty, and dedication to the principles and works of the Order.
  • Sponsorship: Candidates must be sponsored by an existing member who can attest to their suitability and dedication to the Order's mission. The sponsor guides the candidate through the application process and helps them become acquainted with the Order's activities and expectations.
  • Commitment: Upon entering the Order, Knights and Dames pledge their lives to the defense of the faith and assistance to the poor, committing to participate actively in the Order's works and initiatives, such as volunteering in hospitals, providing disaster relief, or organizing fundraising events.
  • Application process: To become a member, the applicant must submit an application, which may include providing supporting documents, attending interviews, and taking part in an investiture ceremony.

Investiture ceremony

Before making their Oath of Fidelity, candidates of the third class undergo a period of formation called aspirancy, which typically lasts between one and two years. This is a time of discernment, prayer, and education in the history, spirituality, and works of the Order.

Commitment to serve the poor and sick

Candidates are guided by experienced members who serve as mentors, providing support in their spiritual and personal growth.

After completing the aspirancy, candidates are eligible for the investiture ceremony, a public declaration of their commitment to the Order's principles and mission. This significant event marks the beginning of their lifelong dedication to the Order of Malta.

The life commitment and membership criteria of Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta embody the organization's values of faith, service, and dedication. 

By adhering to these criteria, members contribute to the Order's mission to alleviate suffering and promote human dignity, making a lasting impact on the world through their selfless devotion to the service of others.