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 earnest exhortations.

Honorius III approving
the Rule of St. Francis

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.

St. Clare is received by St. Francis       
José Benlliure y Gil  (1855–1937)
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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 establishment.)

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 urban apostolate.

Assisi San Francesco
Berthold Werner
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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.

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.

Conventual Franciscan
Eugenio Hansen, OFS
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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.

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