St. Francis of Assisi (Our Founder)
In 1209, St. Francis of Assisi received formal approval for his gospel way of life from Pope Innocent III. Heentitled his community the "Friars Minor," (meaning Lesser Brothers). St. Francis wanted his followers to imitate the humility of Christ and to minister to the least, the neglected and the forgotten in society.
With over five thousand followers in his lifetime, St. Francis soon inspired the energetic and talented friars toward a broader task of helping to transform every level of society. No positive initiative was outside the community's gospel mandate - as long as the good work did not "extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion." The friars quickly became preachers and educators, administrators of royal charities, and advocates of social justice. They spread the faith far and wide as missionaries, and they often spilled their blood as martyrs.
After the Death of Saint Francis
After the death of St. Francis, the burgeoning community struggled to keep a united focus. It becameincreasingly clear that the charism given to Francis and his community could not possibly be contained within one singular expression of gospel life. In 1517, the Franciscan Order was divided into autonomous branches, each following a valid, yet different, observance of St. Francis' Rule.
From the 13th century onward, the friars of the "conventual" tradition have been ministering primarily in urban centers. They banded together in the heart of the European cities where they could touch all levels of society with the Good News of Christ Incarnate. Many of the large churches and ministry centers that were constructed in the earliest years of the Franciscan movement are still administered by the Conventual friars. READ MORE>