Mendicant Friars (Latin mendicare,"to beg") are members of religious orders in the Roman Catholic church,
who take a vow of poverty by which they renounce all personal and communal property.
They live chiefly by charity. After
overcoming the initial opposition of the established clergy, the chief societies were
authorized in the 13th century. They include:
Friars Minor, or Franciscans
(received papal approval in 1209);
Friars Preachers, or Dominicans (1216);
and Augustinians (1256).
A fifth order, the Servites, founded in 1233, was acknowledged as a mendicant order in
frater,"brother") is a term applied to members of certain
religious orders who practice the principles of monastic life and devote themselves to the
service of humanity in the secular world. Originally, their regulations forbade the
holding either of community or personal property, and the resulting dependence of friars
on voluntary contributions in order to live caused them to be known as mendicant orders.
The founders of the orders used the term friar to designate members; Saint Francis of
Assisi called his followers Friars Minor, and Saint Dominic used the name Friars
Preachers. The larger orders were given popular names, derived usually from the color or
other distinguishing marks of their habits, such as Black Friars (Dominicans), Gray Friars
(Franciscans), and White Friars (Carmelites). Friars differed from monks in that the monk
was attached to a specific community within which he led a cloistered life, having no
direct contact with the secular world. The friar, on the other hand, belonged to no
particular monastic house but to a general order, and worked as an individual in the
secular world. Thus, friar and monk are not synonymous terms, even though in popular usage
monk is often used as a generic term for all members of religious orders.
The Franciscan movement began in the year 1208, when
Francis of Assisi, having lived two years as a penitent (one who seeks to reform his life
and draw closer to God through daily life and works,) was joined by a few like-minded
followers. Eventually, three major orders arose from
the Franciscan movement.
The First Order
When Pope Innocent III approved the Franciscan Rule in
1209, he made them a structured religious order. This became the First Order, known as the
Friars Minor (Little Brothers). Over the centuries, the Friars Minor experienced many
distinctions and reorganizations based on their understanding of the Franciscan way of
Today, there are three branches:
Friars Minor Conventual
Friars Minor Capuchin
While different opinions on living the
Franciscan life originally divided the branches of the First Order, these have given way
to a common desire to serve the Lord and to live the Gospel message in joy and enthusiasm.
The Second Order of St. Francis, commonly
known as Poor Clares, was founded in 1212 in Assisi when St. Francis received Clare
Offreduccio as a follower of his way of life.
The Poor Clares are a religious community of
women. They observe a cloistered, contemplative life based on the Gospel, a life of prayer
and penance in the Franciscan tradition of joy and simplicity.
The Third Order
||The origins of the Third Order may be found in
the movement known as the Penitents, going back to the sixth century. The original
Penitents were people who sought to grow in holiness through their daily lives and work.
This desire for holiness
assumed many forms, such as pilgrimages to holy sites; constructing, repairing and
rebuilding churches; and caring for the poor and sick.
The first Franciscans were, in fact, known as
"penitents of Assisi." Men and women who were attracted by Francis' way of life,
but could not leave their homes and families to become wandering preachers or cloistered
nuns, banded together. Thus the Third Order was born.
Early on, small groups in the Third Order
formed more structured communities, publicly professing the Church's traditional religious
vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and often uniting around specific works of
charity or common prayer. Since then, numerous congregations of lay people and religious
have developed throughout the world. In each instance, the call to conversion and
simplicity of life animates the members: In the Secular Franciscan Order, men and women
follow the way of Francis, but are not vowed religious living in community. The Third
Order Regular, on the other hand, is an international community of priests and brothers
who emphasize works of mercy and on-going conversion to the Gospel.
The Third Order Regular is also known as the
Franciscan Friars, TOR. This branch of the Franciscan family was originally founded in
1447 by a papal decree uniting several groups of Third Order hermits. Today, the TORs are
a thriving religious community serving God's people across the world.
With Francis, the TORs have accepted the
challenge to "rebuild the Church" in areas of high school and college education,
parish ministry, church renewal, social justice, campus ministry, hospital chaplaincies,
foreign missions, and other ministries in places where the Church is needed. And, in
imitation of our founder, we pray to be instruments of peace, pardon, and hope in a world
yearning for the good news of Jesus Christ.
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