ABOUT THE ORDER
The Order of Friars Minor, founded by St. Francis of Assisi, is a fraternity. In a more complete fulfillment of their baptismal consecration and in answer to the divine call, the friars give themselves totally to God, their supreme love; through profession of obedience, poverty and chastity, which they are to live in the spirit of Saint Francis.
The Friars Minor, embodied in the People of God, paying attention to the new signs of the times and responding to the conditions of a developing world, are always to be of one mind with the Church; they are to adopt as their own and foster as much as they can the Church’s undertakings and aims.
St. Francis taught about the extraordinary love of God for even the littlest of his creatures, and he spoke of the wonderful humility of God who chose to be born in poverty in Bethlehem, and who every day humbles himself to be truly present under the appearance of a little piece of bread on the altar.
In 1209, the first group of friars went on foot from Assisi to Rome and, in an extraordinary example of the working of the Holy Spirit, the ragged band of brothers was received by Pope Innocent III, who approved their way of life.
The number of friars and sisters increased rapidly, spreading out from the tiny church of Our Lady of the Angels, the Portiuncula, and within the lifetime of St. Francis, the friars had established themselves all over Europe. During those early days, the first martyrs of the Order were killed in Morocco, and Francis rejoiced that he had brothers who had given their lives for Christ. Francis himself went to the Holy Land during the Crusades, where he had the respectful meeting with Sultan and spoke to him about spiritual matters.
Later, he received the Stigmata on Mount Alverna – outward signs of his life of intense prayer and devotion to the Passion of the Lord, and confirmation of his following in the footprints of Christ. Despite severe ill-health, he still sang the Canticle of Brother Sun in the praise of God and the Creation, until Sister Death came to visit him in 1226.
RULE AND LIFE
I. In the name of the Lord, the life of the lesser brothers begins.The rule and life of the lesser brothers is this: To observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience without anything of our own, and in chastity. Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Honorius and his canonically elected successors, and to the Roman Church; and the rest of the brothers are obliged to obey Francis and his successors.
II. Concerning those who wish to adopt this life. If someone should wish to adopt this life and should come to our brothers, they must send them to their provincial ministers to whom alone is granted the right to receive brothers. The ministers should examine them carefully regarding the Catholic faith and sacraments of the church.
Chapter 1. Article 1 §1 The Order of Friars Minor, founded by St. Francis of Assisi, is a fraternity. In this fraternity the friars follow Jesus Christ more closely under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; through profession they dedicate themselves totally to God whom they love above all, living the Gospel in the Church according to the form observed and proposed by St. Francis.
§2 The friars, as followers of St. Francis, are bound to lead a radically evangelical life, namely: to live in a spirit of prayer and devotion and in fraternal fellowship; they are to offer a witness of penance and minority; and, in charity towards all mankind, they are to announce the Gospel throughout the whole world and to preach reconciliation, peace and justice by their deeds; and to show respect for creation.
THE FAMILY BRANCHES OUT
Looking at the present organization of the Franciscan Order, we see that the Friars Minor, or first order, is now actually comprised of three separate bodies: the Friars Minor, properly so called and considered the parent stem of the Franciscan friar tree, founded 1209; the Friars Minor Conventuals, and the Friars Minor Capuchins, both of which grew out of the parent stem and were constituted independent Franciscan friar orders in 1517 and 1619 respectively.
All three orders profess the rule of the Friars Minor approved by Honorius III in 1223, but each one has its particular constitutions and its own minister general.
The various lesser foundations of Franciscan friars following the rule of the first order, which once enjoyed a separate or quasi-separate existence, are now either extinct, like the Clareni, Coletani, and Celestines, or have become amalgamated with the Friars Minor, as in the case of the Observants, Reformati, Recollects, Alcantarines, etc. (A fourth body, the Third Order Regulars – the TORs – is also an integral part of the Franciscan family. They are properly considered a part of the Third Order, rather than the First Order.)
The chart below (although not in English!) will show the history of the Franciscan friars – note that many branches that once existed but no longer exist, having been extinguished or absorbed.
As you can see in the chart, the Order is now comprised of three separate bodies: the Friars Minor Conventuals (OFM.Conv.), the Friars Minor (OFM), and the Friars Minor Capuchins (OFM. Cap).
More information on these orders can be found by clicking below.
Material for this page from: https://ofm.org/about/