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|Honorius III approving
the Rule of St. Francis
In 1231 Pope Gregory IX appointed a number of Papal Inquisitors, mostly Dominicans and Franciscans, for the various regions of Europe. As mendicants,
they were accustomed to travel. Unlike the haphazard episcopal methods, the papal inquisition was thorough and systematic, keeping detailed records.
This tribunal or court functioned in France, Italy and parts of Germany and had virtually ceased operation by the early fourteenth century
|St. Clare is received by St. Francis
José Benlliure y Gil (1855–1937)
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin
and other countries and areas where the copyright term
is the author's life plus 100 years
One morning in February 1208, Francis was hearing Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, near
which he had then built himself a hut. The Gospel of the day was the "Commissioning of the Twelve"
from the Book of Matthew. The disciples are to go and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic,
dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, he tied it around him with a knotted rope and went
forth at once exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace. Francis'
preaching to ordinary people was unusual since he had no license to do so.
His example drew others to him. Within a year Francis had eleven followers. The brothers lived a simple
life in the deserted lazar house of Rivo Torto near Assisi; but they spent much of their time wandering
through the mountainous districts of Umbria, making a deep impression upon their hearers by their
Pope Innocent III approving the statutes of the Order of the Franciscans, by Giotto, 1295–1300
In 1209 he composed a simple rule for his followers ("friars"), the Regula primitiva or "Primitive Rule",
which came from verses in the Bible. The rule was "To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and
to walk in his footsteps". He then led his first eleven followers to Rome to seek permission from Pope
Innocent III to found a new religious Order. Upon entry to Rome, the brothers encountered Bishop Guido
of Assisi, who had in his company Giovanni di San Paolo, the Cardinal Bishop of Sabina. The Cardinal,
who was the confessor of Pope Innocent III, was immediately sympathetic to Francis and agreed to
represent Francis to the pope. Reluctantly, Pope Innocent agreed to meet with Francis and the brothers
the next day. After several days, the pope agreed to admit the group informally, adding that when God
increased the group in grace and number, they could return for an official admittance. The group was
tonsured. This was important in part because it recognized Church authority and prevented his
following from possible accusations of heresy, as had happened to the Waldensians decades earlier.
Though a number of the Pope's counselors considered the mode of life proposed by Francis as unsafe
and impractical, following a dream in which he saw Francis holding up the Basilica of St. John Lateran
(the cathedral of Rome, thus the 'home church' of all Christendom), he decided to endorse Francis'
Order. This occurred, according to tradition, on 16 April 1210, and constituted the official founding of
the Franciscan Order. The group, then the "Lesser Brothers" (Order of Friars Minor also known as the
Franciscan Order or the Seraphic Order), were centered in the Porziuncola and preached first in Umbria,
before expanding throughout Italy. Francis chose never to be ordained a priest, although he was later
ordained a deacon.
The Poor Clares and the Third Order
From then on, the new Order grew quickly with new vocations. Hearing Francis preaching in the church
of San Rufino in Assisi in 1211, the young noblewoman Clare of Assisi became deeply touched by his
message and realized her calling. Her cousin Rufino, the only male member of the family in their
generation, was also attracted to the new Order, which he joined. On the night of Palm Sunday, 28 March
1212, Clare clandestinely left her family's palace. Francis received her at the Porziuncola and thereby
established the Order of Poor Ladies. This was an Order for women, and he gave Clare a religious habit,
or garment, similar to his own, before lodging her in a nearby monastery of Benedictine nuns until he
could provide a suitable retreat for her, and for her younger sister, Caterina, and the other young women
straw, and mud, and enclosed by a hedge. This became the first monastery of the Second Franciscan
Order, now known as Poor Clares.
For those who could not leave their homes, he later formed the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of
Penance, a fraternity composed of either laity or clergy whose members neither withdrew from the world
nor took religious vows. Instead, they observed the principles of Franciscan life in their daily lives. Before
long, this Third Order grew beyond Italy. The Third Order is now titled the Secular Franciscan Order.
The Order of Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv), commonly known
as the Conventual Franciscans, or Minorites, is a Catholic branch of
the Franciscans who were founded by Francis of Assisi in 1209.
The Order of Friars Minor Conventual (or Conventual Franciscans),
is a mendicant Catholic religious order. It is one of three separate
fraternities that make up the First Order of St. Francis, that is, the friars.
The Second Order is the Poor Clares, an order of women; members of
the Third Order may be men or women, secular or regular.
It is not entirely clear how the term "Conventual" arose. In the Bull Cum
tamquam veri of 5 April 1250, Pope Innocent IV decreed that Franciscan
churches where convents existed might be called Conventual churches,
and some have maintained that the name "Conventual" was first given
to the religious residing in such convents. Another view holds that word
conventualis was used to distinguish the residents of large convents
from those who lived more after the manner of hermits. (Although in
modern usage "convents" are generally understood to mean in particular
the home of female religious, just as monastery denotes that of men,
originally "convent" referred to the entire community of a monastic
The Order of Friars Minor Conventual is spread throughout the world,
and as of August 2018 includes 30 provinces, 18 custodies, 460 friaries
and 4048 friars. There are four provinces of Conventual Franciscans in
the United States. Friars serve in parishes, schools, and as chaplains
for the military and for other religious orders; they serve in various types
of homes and shelters, and with Catholic Relief Services. Particular
characteristics of the Conventuals' tradition are community life and the
The Order of Friars Minor (also called the Franciscans, the Franciscan
Order, or the Seraphic Order; postnominal abbreviation OFM) is a
mendicant Catholic religious order, founded in 1209 by Francis of
Assisi. The order adheres to the teachings and spiritual disciplines
of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as
Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among
many others. The Order of Friars Minor is the largest of the contemporary
First Orders within the Franciscan movement.
|Assisi San Francesco
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Mendicant orders are, primarily, certain Christian religious orders that have adopted a lifestyle
of poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas for purposes of preaching, evangelization, and
ministry, especially to the poor. At their foundation these orders rejected the previously
established monastic model. This model prescribed living in one stable, isolated community
where members worked at a trade and owned property in common, including land, buildings
and other wealth. By contrast, the mendicants avoided owning property at all, did not work at
a trade, and embraced a poor, often itinerant lifestyle. They depended for their survival on the
goodwill of the people to whom they preached.
The term "mendicant" is also used with reference to some non-Christian religions to denote
holy persons committed to an ascetic lifestyle, which may include members of religious orders
and individual holy persons.
Eugenio Hansen, OFS
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Francis came to this manner of life through a period of personal conversion. The Franciscans
spread far and wide the devotion to the humanity of Christ, with the commitment to imitate the
Lord. Many of them were priests and men of learning whose contributions were notable in the
rapid evolution and contemporary relevance of the movement. Notable Franciscans include
Anthony of Padua, who were inspirations to the formation of Christian mendicant traditions