Friars Minor, Gray Friars, Grey Friars, OFMGeneral Information
The Franciscans are members of a religious order that follows the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi. The first Franciscans, called the Order of Friars Minor, followed an ideal of total poverty; they possessed nothing in common or individually. Forbidden to accept money, they lived from day to day by working and begging. When they began studying and living at universities, however, they had to modify their strict ideal of poverty. By the time Saint Francis died (1226), the order had spread from Italy to England, the Holy Land, and all of Europe. The friars were known as the people's preachers. They wore a gray tunic with a white cord at the waist; hence, their English name Grey Friars.
From the beginning, there were disagreements about the direction the order would take. The Franciscan minister general, Saint Bonaventure, sought a balance between the Conventuals, who wanted to adapt their poverty to the needs of the time, and the Spirituals, who wanted a strict poverty. The quarrel intensified during the 14th century when some of the Spiritual Franciscans, known as the Fraticelli, were condemned (1317 - 18) by Pope John XXII. Disagreements about the ideal of poverty brought a permanent division in the 15th century between the Friars Minor Conventual and the Order of Friars Minor. In the 16th century, the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin established a stricter independent branch of Franciscans. Preaching, teaching, foreign missions, and parish work remain the work of the Franciscans today. The Poor Clares, Franciscan nuns, are the second order. The Third Order comprises lay men and women who combine prayer and penance with everyday activity. Many sisters, brothers, and priests follow the Franciscan ideal in communities affiliated with the Third Order. There are Franciscan communities in the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican (or Episcopalian) churches. The English philosopher and scientist Roger Bacon was a Franciscan, as were the philosopher - theologians Duns Scotus and William of Occam. Other famous Franciscans include Saint Anthony of Padua; two Renaissance popes, Sixtus IV and Sixtus V; and Junipero Serra, the founder of the California missions. Cyprian Davis
M D Lambert, Franciscan Poverty: The Doctrine of the Absolute Poverty of Christ and the Apostles in the Franciscan Order, 1210 - 1323 (1961); J R Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order From Its Origins to the Year 1517 (1968); W Short, The Franciscans (1989).
Franciscan OrderAdvanced Information The Franciscan Order is one of four thirteenth century orders of mendicant (begging) friars (Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Augustinian) established to meet the urgent challenge of spiritual decline, urban growth, and the rapid spread of heresy (especially in southern France and northern Italy). It was founded by Francis of Assisi and formally approved by Innocent III in 1210. Unlike earlier monasticism, the friars lived active lives within the world as preachers and ministers to the needy.
Francis' deep suspicion of formal organization and learning and his extreme view of proverty (even physical contact with money was to be avoided) became the center of bitter conflicts within the Order. Early on, tension arose between the Zealots, who advocated strict observance of the founder's rule, and those factions (the Laxists, the Community) who favored various accommodations to reality. Under papal auspices the Order was fully organized by 1240 as one international body with only clerics eligible for office (another departure from the spirit of Francis, who favored laity), and provision was made for property to be held in trusteeship to get around the prohibition against ownership. During the years 1257-74 tensions abated under the conciliatory minister general Bonaventure, who established a moderate balance between structure and vitality. As an outstanding scholar, he also represented the increasing influx of Franciscans into the world of learning within the urban-based universities.
Following the death of Bonaventure a bitter debate ensued over the nature of apostolic proverty. The extreme view of the Spirituals (formerly the Zealots) was rejected by Pope John XXII, who in 1322 officially approved corporate ownership of property, arguing that Christ and the apostles as leaders of the church had owned property. Spirituals who fled became known as Fraticelli. Even outstanding figures such as the minister general Michael of Cesena and William of Ockham went into exile and denounced the pope.
Difficult conditions of plague, warfare, and papal schism during the century and a half before the Reformation led to a general decline within the Order, but another movement for restoration of the strict rule emerged, the Observants. They were opposed by the more moderate Conventuals, who preferred urban residence to remote hermitages. Failure to unite these factions led Pope Leo X in 1517 to officially separate the Order into two independent branches, the Friars Minor of the Regular Observants (strict) and the Friars Minor Conventuals (moderate). Given their reforming instincts, the Observants soon divided into several factions, Discalced (shoeless), Rocollects, Reformed, and Capuchins (pointed cowl). The latter played a significant role in the Counter-Reformation and by 1619 had gained complete autonomy. Again, internal division and the external challenge of the Enlightenment and revolutionary Europe weakened the Order until mounting pressure led Pope Leo XIII in 1897 to unite all Observant branches (except the Capuchins, who retained their independence).
Alongside the Order of Friars Minor, with the three independent branches of Observants, Conventuals, and Capuchins, there emerged two other Franciscan Orders, the Second Order of nuns (Poor Clares), founded by Francis and his follower Clare in 1212, and the Third Order (Tertiaries) of mainly lay persons.
The Franciscans, along with their rivals the Dominicans, represented a new spiritual force within the thirteenth century church. As advocates of the simpler apostolic life of poverty and preaching, they struck a responsive chord among the growing number of townspeople who had become alienated from the monastic and hierarchical establishment. Nonetheless, instead of becoming rebellious heretics, the friars were obedient servants of the established church. Like the town, the university became a major focus of their activity as they sought to prepare intellectually for their worldwide mission, confronting infidel, heretic, and indifferent alike with the truth of Christianity. Virtually every outstanding scholar of that age was a friar, including Bonaventure, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham among the Franciscans. Contrary to the spirit of Francis, however, the Order became aggressively associated with the repressive Inquisition and the anti-Jewish activities of the Western church during its effort to consolidate Christian society. R K Bishop (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
R. Brooke, The Coming of the Friars; J. Cohen, The Friars and the Jews; L. Little, Religious Poverty and the Profit Economy in Medieval Europe; J. Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order from Its Origin to the Year 1517.
Franciscan OrderCatholic Information A term commonly used to designate the members of the various foundations of religious, whether men or women, professing to observe the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi in some one of its several forms. The aim of the present article is to indicate briefly the origin and relationship of these different foundations.
ORIGIN OF THE THREE ORDERS
It is customary to say that St. Francis founded three orders, as we read in the Office for 4 October:
Tres ordines hic ordinat: primumque Fratrum nominat Minorum: pauperumque fit Dominarum medius: sed Poenitentium tertius sexum capit utrumque. (Brev. Rom. Serap., in Solem. S.P. Fran., ant. 3, ad Laudes)
These three orders -- the Friars Minor, the Poor Ladies or Clares, and the Brothers and Sisters of Penance -- are generally referred to as the First, Second, and Third Orders of St. Francis.
The existence of the Friars Minor or first order properly dates from 1209, in which year St. Francis obtained from Innocent III an unwritten approbation of the simple rule he had composed for the guidance of his first companions. This rule has not come down to us in its original form; it was subsequently rewritten by the saint and solemnly confirmed by Honorius III, 29 Nov., 1223 (Litt. "Solet Annuere"). This second rule, as it is usually called, of the Friars Minor is the one at present professed throughout the whole First Order of St. Francis (see RULE OF SAINT FRANCIS).
The foundation of the Poor Ladies or second order may be said to have been laid in 1212. In that year St. Clare who had besought St. Francis to be allowed to embrace the new manner of life he had instituted, was established by him at St. Damian's near Assisi, together with several other pious maidens who had joined her. It is erroneous to suppose that St. Francis ever drew up a formal rule for these Poor ladies and no mention of such a document is found in any of the early authorities. The rule imposed upon the Poor Ladies at St. Damian's about 1219 by Cardinal Ugolino, afterwards Gregory IX, was recast by St. Clare towards the end of her life, with the assistance of Cardinal Rinaldo, afterwards Alexander IV, and in this revised form was approved by Innocent IV, 9 Aug., 1253 (Litt. "Solet Annuere"). (See POOR CLARES).
Tradition assigns the year 1221 as the date of the foundation of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, now known as tertiaries. This third order was devised by St. Francis as a sort of middle state between the cloister and the world for those who, wishing to follow in the saint's footsteps, were debarred by marriage or other ties from entering either the first or second order. There has been some difference of opinion as to how far the saint composed a rule for these tertiaries. It is generally admitted, however, that the rule approved by Nicholas IV, 18 Aug., 1289 (Litt. "Supra Montem") does not represent the original rule of the third order.
Some recent writers have tried to show that the third order, as we now call it, was really the starting point of the whole Franciscan Order. They assert that the Second and Third Orders of St. Francis were not added to the First, but that the three branches, the Friars Minor, Poor ladies, and Brother and Sisters of Penance, grew out of the lay confraternity of penance which was St. Francis's first and original intention, and were separated from it into different groups by Cardinal Ugolino, the protector of the order, during St. Francis's absence in the East (1219-21). This interesting, if somewhat arbitrary, theory is not without importance for the early history of all three orders, but it is not yet sufficiently proven to preclude the more usual account given above, according to which the Franciscan Order developed into three distinct branches, namely, the first, second, and third orders, by process of addition and not by process of division, and this is still the view generally received.
PRESENT ORGANIZATION OF THE THREE ORDERS
Coming next to the present organization of the Franciscan Order, the Friars Minor, or first order, now comprises three separate bodies, namely: the Friars Minor properly so called, or parent stem, founded, as has been said in 1209; the Friars Minor Conventuals, and the Friars Minor Capuchins, both of which grew out of the parent stem, and were constituted independent 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. (On all these lesser foundations, now extinct, see FRIARS MINOR)
As regards the Second Order, of Poor ladies, now commonly called Poor Clares, this order includes all the different monasteries of cloistered nuns professing the Rule of St. Clare approved by Innocent IV in 1253, whether they observe the same in all its original strictness or according to the dispensations granted by Urban IV, 18 Oct., 1263 (Litt. "Beata Clara") or the constitutions drawn up by St. Colette (d. 1447) and approved by Pius II, 18 March, 1458 (Litt. "Etsi"). The Sisters of the Annunciation and the Conceptionists are in some sense offshoots of the second order, but they now follow different rules from that of the Poor Ladies.
In connection with the Brothers and Sisters of Penance or Third order of St. Francis, it is necessary to distinguish between the third order secular and the third order regular.
Secular. The third order secular was founded, as we have seen, by St. Francis about 1221 and embraces devout persons of both sexes living in the world and following a rule of life approved by Nicholas IV in 1289, and modified by Leo XIII, 30 May, 1883 (Constit. "Misericors"). It includes not only members who form part of logical fraternities, but also isolated tertiaries, hermits, pilgrims, etc.
Regular. The early history of the third order regular is uncertain and is susceptible of controversy. Some attribute its foundation to St. Elizabeth of Hungary in 1228, others to Blessed Angelina of Marsciano in 1395. The latter is said to have established at Foligno the first Franciscan monastery of enclosed tertiary nuns in Italy. It is certain that early in the fifteenth century tertiary communities of men and women existed in different parts of Europe and that the Italian friars of the third order regular were recognized as a mendicant order by the Holy See. Since about 1458 the latter body has been governed by own minister general and its members take solemn vows.
New Foundations. In addition to this third order regular, properly so called, and quite independently of it, a very large number of Franciscan tertiary congregations -- both of men and women -- have been founded, more especially since the beginning of the ninteenth century. These new foundations have taken as a basis of their institutes a special rule for members of the third order living in community approved by Leo X. 20 Jan., 1521 (Bull "Inter"). Although this rule is a greatly modified by their particular constitution which, for the rest, differ widely according to the end of each foundation. These various congregations of regular tertiaries are either autonomous or under episcopal jurisdiction, and for the most part they are Franciscan in name only, not a few of them having abandoned the habit and even the traditional cord of the order.
Publication information Written by Paschal Robinson. Transcribed by Beth Ste-Marie. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York
For the vexed question of the origin and evolution of the third orders, see MÜLLER, Die Anfange des Minoritenordens und der Bussbruderschaften (Freiburg, 1885), 33 sqq; EHRLE in Zeitschr, j.k. Theol., XI, 743 sqq; MANDONNET, Les regles et le gouvernement de l Ordo de Paeniltentia au XIII siccle in Opuscules de critique historique, vol. l. fasc. IV (Paris, 1902); LEMMENS in Rom. Quartalschrift, XVI, 93 sqq; VAN ORTROY in Analecta Bollandiana, XVIII, 294 sqq. XXIV, 415 sqq; D'ALENCON in Etudes Franciscaines, II, 646 sq; GOETZ in Zeitschrift for Kirchengeschichte, XXIII, 97-107. The rules of the three orders are printed in Seraphicae Legislationis Textus originates (Quaracchi, 1897). A general conspectus of the Franciscan Order and its various branches is given in HOLZ-APPEL, Manuale, Historia, O.F.M. (Freiburg, 1909); HEIM-BUCHER, Die Orden und Kongregationen (Paderborn, 1907); II, 307-533; also PATREM, Tableau synoptique de tout l Ordre Seraphique (Paris, 1879): and CUSACK, St. Francis and the Franciscans (New York, 1867).