One of the most enduring Catholic spiritualities began in the year 1209, when a young Umbrian tradesman heard a stirring sermon, and decided to devote his life to voluntary poverty, service of the poor, prayer, and preaching. St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day the Church observes on October 4th, gathered a small band of men whom he called “little brothers.” Within a year the brother had the approval of Pope Innocent III, and the Franciscan order was born.
Within their first hundred years the Franciscans weathered controversies over how their rule of life should be interpreted, and how their understanding of poverty should be lived. Despite these conflicts, the Franciscan movement continued to grow.
Today the Franciscans include communities of men and women: The Order of Friars Minor (Conventual and Capuchins), the Third Order Regular, The Poor Clares, The Felician Sisters, Franciscan Sisters, the Friars of the Atonement, and of the Renewal, and Secular Franciscans. There are also religious communities in the Anglican communion who follow the spirit and Rule of St. Francis.
Franciscan spirituality embodies a love of nature as God’s creation, a simplicity of life reflected in voluntary poverty, and corporal works of mercy, working with the poor and the alienated. All these elements trace their origin to Francis of Assisi, who gave all he had to the poor, and received in return a life full of joy, service, and a loving spirit that motivates his spiritual descendants today all over the world.