The Order of Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv.)
Franciscans, sometimes also known as "Black Franciscans," "Greyfriars"
(in England), "Cordeliers" (in France and Switzerland), and "Minoriten"
(in Germany), are one of the three main branches of the First Order founded
by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. The other branches of the
First Order are know as the "Observants" or "Brown Franciscans" and the
The roots of our Conventual tradition reach back to Francis himself at
the time of the founding of the Order. Particularly toward the end of
his life, in the Ordo Fratrum Minorum (or OFM), i.e. the Order of Lesser
Brothers, 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. This soon developed into a pronounced emphasis on the study
of theology as well.
The radical poverty and avoidance of privileges which had been required
by Francis were moderated for different reasons and the use of material
goods was permitted, but without the right to ownership. This development
led to violent controversies in the Order (above all with "Spirituals,"
who -- true to their name -- sought to live Francis' legacy even more
radically, and later with the "Observants").
These different viewpoints become more pronounced over time and alongside
the Conventual tradition there emerged a number of reform communities.
currents continued in one Order until the early part of the 16th century
when Pope Leo X, in 1517, formally separated the Conventual and Observant
branches of the First Order. The Capuchin Friars became a third branch
of the First Order in 1528.
The Conventuals continue to carry on the earlier Franciscan conventual
tradition, identifying themselves particularly with the interpretation
of Francis promoted by the great Franciscan theologian St. Bonaventure.
Special accents of this tradition are community life and the apostolate
in the cities. The "convent" (friary) is the fundamental organizational
unit, which holds crucial organizational and spiritual importance, and
is merged into a regional federation called a Province.
The nearly 5,000 Conventuals world-wide are active in an abundance of
different apostolates and missions. Of particular importance are those
places steeped in the tradition of the Order such as Assisi, where the
Friars of the "Sacro Convento" care for the tomb of St. Francis, in Padua,
where the Friars tend the tomb and Basilica of St. Anthony, or the churches
of other great cities, such as San Francesco in Bologna, Santa Croce in
Florence or the Frari in Venice.
Depending on the part of the world where they live, Conventual Friars
wear a black or gray habit with a white cord and a small cowl attached
to the capuche which covers the shoulders.
The headquarters of the Order today is at the Basilica of the Twelve
Apostles in Rome. The Most Reverend Joachim Giermek, the 118th Minister
General of the Order, who served from 2001 to 2007, is a
member of the Province of St. Anthony of Padua, USA.
For more information, you may want to consult the following sources:
Bodo, Murray, "Francis. The Journey and the Dream", St.
Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, 1988.
Carney, Margaret OSF, The First Franciscan Woman: Clare of Assisi
and Her Form of Life, Franciscan Press, Quincy University, 1995.
Chesterton, G.K., "Saint Francis of Assisi", New York, 1924.
Englebert, Omer, "Saint Francis of Assisi", Franciscan Herald
Press, Chicago, 1965.
"Francis and Clare. The Complete Works." Translation and
Introduction by Regis J. Armstrong OFM Cap. and Ignatius Brady OFM, (Paulist
Press), New York, 1982.
Habig, Marion A. OFM, Secular Franciscan Companion, Franciscan
Herald Press, Chicago, 1987.
Habig, Marion A. OFM, The Franciscan Book of Saints, Franciscan
Herald Press, Chicago, 1979.
Moorman, John, A History of the Franciscan Order from its Origins
to the year 1517, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1988.
Moorman, John, "Saint Francis of Assisi", Franciscan Herald
Press, Chicago, 1986.
St. Francis of Assisi. Writings and Early Biographies. English Omnibus of Sources for the Life of St. Francis, edited by Marion
A. Habig, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1983.