The Capuchin Franciscans trace their heritage back 800 years to the little poor man of Assisi, whom history knows as perhaps the most clear imitator of Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi followed Jesus’ footsteps so closely and loved humanity and all creation so deeply that he is known as “the universal saint.” He began the Franciscans – the Order of Friars Minor, literally “lesser brothers” – in 1209 and quickly gave them a Rule of Life, which the Pope orally approved that same year. Along with St. Clare of Assisi, Francis co-founded the Poor Clares and established the Secular Franciscan Order.
The Capuchin Franciscan Order began in 1528 as a renewal of the Order of Friars Minor. The friars of this reform movement wanted a life more focused on prayer and a stricter observance of poverty. These men were also fervent preachers of the Gospel and compassionate servants of the sick and suffering in their day. Attracting followers through their preaching, prayer, austerity, and service among the poor, the new reform movement grew rapidly and soon spread throughout all of Europe. The Capuchin Reform movement was given official approval by the Church in Pope Clement VII’s Papal Bull, Religionis Zelus. The Capuchins were established as an independent order within the Franciscan Family.
The Capuchins truly captured the hearts of the people when the Black Plague struck Western Europe killing millions. While many of the clergy and religious fled the catastrophe, the Capuchins remained to care for the people. Over 2,000 friars died from the plague as Martyrs of Charity. Today, the Capuchins number about 10,500 friars worldwide.
For those who would like to know more about the Capuchin Province of St. Conrad, click on the button below for a more detailed history of the Capuchin Franciscans in the territory of Mid-America. This history was written by Fr. Blaine Burkey, O.F.M.Cap.