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Order of Friars Minor Conventual

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Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, the most important church of the Order, where the saint's body is preserved.

The Order of Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv), commonly known as the Conventual Franciscans, or Minorites, is a branch of the Catholic Order of Friars Minor, founded by Francis of Assisi in 1209.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

 
A Conventual Franciscan

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.[1] (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 establishment.)

The Order of Friars Minor Conventual is spread throughout the world, and as of 2017 includes about 4500 priests and brothers, all commonly called Friars. There are four provinces of Conventual Franciscans in the United States. Friars serve in parishes, schools, as chaplains for the military and for other religious orders; they serve in various types of homes and shelters, and with Catholic Relief Services.[2] Particular characteristics of the Conventuals' tradition are community life and the apostolate in the cities.[3]

HistoryEdit

Even during the early days of the Franciscans a difference of opinion developed in the community concerning the interpretation of the rule regarding poverty. Towards the end of Francis' life, there was a growing trend for the brothers to live in larger communities (“convents”) and to be engaged in pastoral work, particularly in the cities. As the order grew, the literal and unconditional observance of this came to appear impracticable by the great expansion of the order, its pursuit of learning, and the accumulated property of the large cloisters in the towns.[4] Some favored a relaxation in the rigor of the rule, especially as regards the observance of poverty, and other preferred to keep to its literal strictness. The tendency towards relaxation became more marked after the death of Francis in 1226, and was encouraged by his successor, Brother Elias. A long dispute followed in which the “Friars of the Community”, who had adopted certain mitigations gradually came to be called Conventuals, while those who were zealous for the strict observance of the rule were called Zelanti, and afterwards named Observants. Notwithstanding this division in the order formally sanctioned in 1415 by the Council of Constance, both Observants and Conventuals continued to form one body under the same head until 1517.[1]

In that year Pope Leo X called a general chapter of the whole order at Rome, with a view to effecting a reunion between the Observants and Conventuals. The former agreed but requested permission to observe the rule without any dispensation; the latter declared they did not wish for the union if it entailed their renouncing the dispensations they had received from the Holy See. Leo X thereupon incorporated with the Observants all the Franciscan friars who wished to observe the rule without dispensation, abolishing the different denominations of Clareni, Colletani, etc.; he decreed that the members thus united should be called simply Friars Minor of St. Francis, or Friars Minor of the Regular Observance, and should have precedence over the Conventuals; he moreover conferred upon the Observants the right of electing the minister general, who was to bear the title of Minister General of the Whole Order of Friars Minor. Those who continued to live under dispensations were constituted a separate body with the name of Conventuals (Bulls "Omnipotens Deus", 12 June, 1517, and "Licet Alias", 6 Dec., 1517) and given the right to elect a master general of their own, whose election, however, had to be confirmed by the Minister General of the Friars Minor. The latter appears never to have availed himself of this right, and the Conventuals may be regarded as an entirely independent order from 1517, but it was not until 1580 that they obtained a special cardinal protector of their own.[1]

In 1565 the Conventuals accepted the Tridentine indult allowing mendicant orders to own property corporately, and their chapter held at Florence in that year drew up statutes containing several important reforms which Pope Pius IV subsequently approved. In 1625 new constitutions were adopted by the Conventuals which superseded all preceding ones. These constitutions, which were subsequently promulgated by Pope Urban VIII are known as the "Constitutiones Urbanæ" and are of importance, since at their profession the Conventuals vow to observe the Rule of St. Francis in accordance with them, that is to say, by admitting the duly authorized dispensations therein set forth.[1] In 1897, Pope Leo XIII reorganized the Franciscan Orders, giving each its own Minister General.[5]

ApostolateEdit

Friars are different from monks in that they are called to live the evangelical counsels (vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience) in service to society, rather than through cloistered asceticism and devotion. In the life of the friar, the exercise of public ministry is an essential feature, for which the life of the cloister is considered as but an immediate preparation. Whereas monks live in a self-sufficient community, friars work among laypeople and were supported, at least initially, by donations or other charitable support. A monk or nun often takes an additional vow of "stability", committing themselves to a particular community in a particular place. Friars commit to a community spread across a wider geographical area known as a province, and so they may move, spending time in different houses of the community within their province.[6]

While monasteries had a tradition of assisting the poor and the sick, and provided access to religious services, as people began to move into towns, it was the friars that had the flexibility to relocate there. After the death of the Minister General, Bonaventure in 1274, the Order grew even more divided between the “Conventuals”, who had been given permission to have their communities in the cities in order to preach the Gospel and be of service to the poor, and that of the “Zealots” or “Spirituals”, later known as “Observants” who emphasized absolute poverty and the eremitical and ascetical dimensions of Franciscanism.[5]

The Conventuals enjoy the privilege of caring for the tomb of St. Francis at Assisi and that of St. Anthony at the Basilica in Padua,[3] and they furnish the penitentiaries to the Vatican Basilica and to the sanctuary at Loreto.[1]

The Order of Friars Minor Conventual sought to spread the ideals of Saint Francis throughout the new urban social order of the Middle Ages. Some friars settled in the urban slums, or the suburbs of the medieval neighbourhoods where the huts and shacks of the poorest were built outside the safety of the city walls. In London, the first settlement of the friars was set in what was called "Stinking Lane."

Since the suburbs were also the place where hospitals were set up, the friars were often commissioned by the city government to facilitate the care of the sick. The friars also helped to construct sturdier buildings, replacing the previous huts, and constructed churches. Robert Grosseteste, then Bishop of Lincoln, marvelled that the people "run to the friars for instruction as well as for confession and direction. They are transforming the world."

The Friars of the Community sought to take Francis's ideals to the far reaches of a universal Church. After the founder's death, they began the task of translating Francis's earthly existence into a socially relevant spiritual message for current and future generations. The Conventual Franciscans nestled their large group homes into small areas of land surrounded by poverty. They used their abilities to combat the hardships and injustices of the poverty stricken areas where they settled.

HabitEdit

The habit of the Conventuals consists of a serge tunic fastened around the waist with a thin white cord; to the large cape, which is round in front and pointed behind, a small hood is attached.[1] Today the Friars Minor Conventual wear a black habit, in those countries which had undergone a suppression, while, in the mission lands, and beyond, they have begun to return to the original color of the Franciscan habit, grey.[5] Conventual Franciscans are sometimes also known as "Black Franciscans". The original color gave rise to the nickname Greyfriars, used to denote the Conventuals in England.[3]

Saints and Blesseds of the OrderEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRobinson, Paschal (1908). "Order of Friars Minor Conventuals". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 4. New York: Robert Appleton. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  2. ^ Conventual Franciscans
  3. ^ a b c Our Lady of the Angels Province, OFM Conv.
  4. ^ Bihl, Michael. "Order of Friars Minor". The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 21 December 2017  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b c "History", Curia OFMConv
  6. ^ Cleary, Gregory. "Friar." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 22 December 2017  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ a b c "Franciscan Saints", Conventual Franciscans, St. Joseph of Cupertino Province
  8. ^ a b Wysoczański OFM Conv, Jarosław. "Witnesses of Hope", Polish Conventuals

SourcesEdit

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