The Order of Friars Minor Conventual is a religious community founded by St. Francis of Assisi under the name of Friars Minor. From its earliest times the word conventual was added to this name. The members of the Order are called Friars Minor Conventual.
From its foundation our community, by the will of our Father St. Francis, is a true fraternity. Its members, therefore, as brothers of a single family, share in the life and work of the community, each according to his own circumstances. They have equal rights and obligations, except in those matters pertaining to holy orders. Our Order, however, is classified by the Church as clerical. St. Francis wanted his brothers to be known as Friars Minor “so that… from the very name itself his disciples might realize that they had come to the school of the humble Christ to learn humility”. Our friars are united in a conventual fraternity, in the proper sense of that term, so as to foster greater dedication, a more regular life, a more fervent divine office, a better formation of candidates, the study of theology, and the other works of the apostolate in the service of the Church of God so that, especially under the guidance of Mary Immaculate, the Kingdom of Christ may be extended throughout the world. In the Order, contemplative life is intimately linked to apostolic activity. The apostolate of sacred orders is exercised through the ministry of clerical friars with the cooperation of the others. For the common good of the Lord’s flock the entire Order and each friar is immediately subject to the Supreme Pontiff.
The Order is founded on religious profession by which the friars commit themselves to the gospel life of perfect charity, not simply in using the ordinary means of sanctification but by the public vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity by which they are consecrated to God through the ministry of the Church; and by the observance of common life and the Rule and Constitutions, according to the spirit of the Seraphic Order. Friars are definitively incorporated into the Order by their profession of solemn vows.
Special ways of promoting the Franciscan spirit:
a) loving God, the supreme good whose loving plan is to restore all things in Christ, with undivided heart;
b) conforming oneself to the same Christ the Lord from whom every grace flows as from its source and head, by realizing His mysteries in one’s own life, in union with Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, and with the whole Church;
c) likewise, loving all people by proclaiming and promoting peace, brotherly love, and the kingdom of Christ among them;
d) and, finally, while living in the world, serving the Lord in poverty, humility, simplicity, and gladness of heart.
By their profession of the vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, the friars:
a) dedicate themselves directly and entirely to God in a special manner;
b) are conformed more exactly to the type of life Christ the Lord chose for Himself and are united in a special way to the Church and her saving mission;
c) stimulate the fervor of their charity through a fuller expression of their baptismal consecration, progress in the life of pilgrims and penitents, and voluntarily deny themselves goods otherwise highly esteemed.
The Rule or form of life of the Friars Minor confirmed by Honorius III and interpreted by successive Popes is the fundamental law of the whole Order from which, therefore, the friars should draw inspiration and to which they should conform their lives. The friars should strive to observe the Rule, Constitutions, and statutes as the obligation contracted at religious profession requires, principally out of love for evangelical perfection according to the spirit of the Order.
The Order is divided into provinces to which friars are affiliated. Provinces are formed from friaries or communities in which friars are stationed de familia General and provincial custodies are considered similar to provinces according to the norms of the Constitutions.
St. Francis of Assisi, with his first companions, presented themselves to Pope Innocent III in 1209, seeking oral approval of their evangelical form of life. As a result of this permission, which permitted the penitents of Assisi to also preach penance, the Fraternity saw itself notably expand to become a religion of the Friars Minor of which St. Francis speaks in the final part of the Rule. Shortly after, following the Lateran Council IV, November 29, 1223, Pope Honorius III approved the definitive Rule, which is now followed.
In 1274, at the death of the Minister General, St. Bonaventure, the Order grew ever more divided between the approach of the “Friars of the Community”, also called “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”, at first, and later as “Observants” who professed ideals of absolute poverty and stressed the eremitical and ascetical dimensions of Franciscanism.
At the beginning of the XVI century, Pope Leo X, seeing the impossibility of the Observants and the Conventuals living under the same Rule and government, brought together all of the reformed groups under the Rule of the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance, with the Bull, Ita Vos of May 29, 1517: the others being brought together to form the Order of the Friars Minor Conventual, under the guidance of a Minister General. The separation of the two groups was also confirmed by Pope Leo XIII, who, with the Bull Felicitate Quadam of October 4, 1897, reorganized the Franciscan Orders into four Orders, each with its own Minister General: the Order of Friars Minor; the Order of Friars Minor Conventual; the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins; and the Third Order Regular.
The Order Today
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: ashen grey. They continue to care for, among other things, the Basilica of St. Francis and the Sacred Convent of Assisi, and their principal center of study is the Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure in Rome. Among the centers of formation and culture, one also finds the Theological Institute of St. Anthony the Doctor, in Padua.
The General Curia of the Order is centered in Rome at the Friary of the Twelve Holy Apostles.
As of December 31, 2015, the Order had 4,225 religious (of whom 21 are bishops, 2,907 are priests and 12 are permanent deacons). It had 631 friaries located in 33 Provinces and 20 Custodies. The Order was present in 67 countries (7 countries in Africa, 18 in North, Central and South America, 10 in Asia and 31 in Europe and Australia).
Witness of the Order
The family of the Friars Minor Conventual considers itself in historic and spiritual continuity with the original Order of Minors founded by St. Francis: it is inspired and feels particularly linked to all the saintly figures that the Order, even before the division, has experienced. The greatest among these is the Founder, the Saint of Assisi. Along with him, we cannot forget those who launched the Second and Third Orders: St. Clare of Assisi for the Poor Clares, and Saints Elizabeth of Hungary and Louis IX of France for the lay people, who today are called the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS).
Among the more significant Saints of Franciscan origin, and particularly linked to the Conventual tradition, one must not forget to mention: St. Anthony of Padua, the First Martyrs of the Order, Berard and Companions, St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, the Blesseds Egidio of Assisi, Thomas of Celano, Luke Belludi of Padua, John Duns Scotus, Andrew Conti of Anagni, Oderic of Pordenone, James of Strepa, and Angelo of Monteleone of Orvieto. Following the Division of 1517, we continued to be blessed with Saints recognized and revered by the Church, as well as witnesses who have remained silent and anonymous.
The Church canonized St. Joseph of Cupertino in the XVIII century. In more recent times, Pope John Paul II elevated St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Francis Anthony Fasani to the honors of the altar.
Among the Blesseds we recall: Bonaventure of Potenza, Raffaele Chylinski, Anthony Lucci, the Martyrs of the French Revolution, Jean-François Burté, Jean-Baptiste Triquerie, Nicola Savouret and Louis A. J. Adam, seven Polish Martyrs, and five Martyrs of the Spanish Revolution.
Taken from: http://www.sanfrancescopatronoditalia.it