Franciscan Friars of the United States of America
Who We Are
We Franciscans owe our inspiration to Francesco di Bernardone, an affluent young merchant from the Italian town of Assisi, who in 1206 renounced his wealth and social status in favor of a life dedicated to God and the least of God’s people. Soon, other men and women joined him to begin a vast movement of Gospel renewal within the medieval Church.
Although St. Francis of Assisi began his life of penance as a hermit, devoting himself to prayer, working among lepers and rebuilding churches in the Assisi area, other men were soon attracted to his company. By 1209, there were 12 brothers, and so they approached Pope Innocent III to gain approval of their way of life “according to the Holy Gospel.” The Order of Lesser Brothers (ordo fratrum minorum) — now formally known as the Order of Friars Minor — had begun.
The Gospel life of the Friars Minor, as Francis describes in our Rule, has four central components: first, to be men of prayer, “desiring above all things to have the Spirit of the Lord and its holy operation;” second, to live as lesser ones, “not making anything our own,” but serving the Lord in poverty and humility; third, to create a brotherhood of mutual care among ourselves, “showing we are members of the same family;” and fourth, to “go about the world” entering people’s everyday lives as heralds of God’s reign and agents of Gospel peace.
A history of the Franciscan presence in the US can be found above in the main menu.
The Friar App
The Friar app allows you to post your prayer intention so that Franciscan friars across the country and others pray for your intention. You can also indicate that you are praying for the intentions of other people. The app also allows you to have a candle lit for your intention, or someone else’s intention, in an actual Franciscan church. More information
To get the app, scan one of the QR codes below using your smart phone or click on one of the QR codes to be taken to the appropriate App Store.
These are some blogs written by Franciscans friars in the US. Check them out.
Dan Horan OFM
Dan Horan, a visiting professor at the Catholic Theological Union, blogs his reflections on the world and the church from a Franciscan and millennial perspective.
Kevin Mackin OFM
Words on the journey.
George Corrigan OFM
The musings of a Franciscan friar…
Casey Cole OFM
Casey Cole, a student still in simple vows, blogs about his experiences in formation, Franciscan spirituality and questions about the friars in general.
Christian Seno OFM
A collection of photos and random thoughts chronicling Christian’s journey of learning to imitate St. Francis’s way of imitating Christ.
Lawrence Jagdfeld OFM
Friar Lawrence’s “almost daily” takes its focus from the Scriptures for the day. It is written particularly but not exclusively from the perspective of persons who endure chronic illness or have disabilities.
John Anglin OFM
This blog is a dimension of Friar John’s ministry of preaching with the Franciscan Ministry of the Word.
Tom Washburn OFM
Tom Washburn, executive secretary of the English-speaking Conference OFM, shares his thoughts, reflections, homilies and news of the church and world on a regular basis.
Joe Zimmerman OFM
Occasional reflections on all manner of topics, from a Franciscan perspective, especially race relations and church membership trends.
Recent Books by US Franciscans
Drawn from a two-day symposium at Santa Clara University, Conscience and Catholic Health Care provides a timely and up-to-date assessment of the Catholic understanding of conscience and how it relates to day-to-day issues in Catholic health care.
The process of discerning God’s will is one of the most important Christian practices for any contemporary disciple, and it is ongoing and ever-changing. In Saying Yes, Albert Haase, OFM, a scholar of Christian spirituality and spiritual mentor to hundreds of people, emphasizes the importance of listening to your life in discerning God’s will—your ordinary life is a megaphone through which God talks to you and the world.
If the natural environment is in the precarious state to which many attest, what would this demand of us? What duties are suggested by the observation that our collective behavior threatens the planet, even if no particular individual intends harm? In The Moral Weight of Ecology: Public Goods, Cooperative Duties, and Environmental Politics, Friar Edward Tverdek OFM engages these questions and ultimately argues that the demands of ecology upon all of us are in fact quite substantial.
“And I worked with my hands, and want to do so still. And I definitely want all the other brothers to work at some honest job.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some common questions about the Franciscans.
Why are male Franciscans called friars?
The word friar comes from the Latin word frater, meaning brother. Frater is the root of other English words such as fraternal, fraternity, fratricide, and fraternize.When St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan order, he used the word friar because he intended its members to live as brothers without distinction of rank, title, or education. Friars are first and foremost brothers to each other. Friars live in communities called fraternities, and the building which they live is known as a friary.
The male religious of the mendicant orders (e.g., Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites) are all called friars.
Are Franciscan friars monks?
No. Monks live a cloistered life in a monastery and vow to live in that monastery for all of their lives. Franciscan friars, on the other hand, may live in many different friaries during their lives.
A story from the early days of the Franciscan order says that lady poverty came to visit St. Francis. Francis, being poor, can only offer her bread and water; later, when she wants to rest, the friars can give her only a stone and not a cushion on which to lay her head. And, when she asks them to show her their cloister, they took her to a hill and showed her the whole world and said, “This, Lady, is our cloister.”
A monk’s life is one of stability. Friars are itinerants, that is, they move from place to place.
How can you tell which friars are priests and which are brothers?
You can’t. All Franciscan friars are first and foremost brothers to each other. All Franciscan friars live the same rule of life and wear the same religious habit.
Some Franciscan friars are ordained to the priesthood. These friars usually devote themselves to sacramental ministry. Other friars are not ordained, and these friars work in any number of fields which may include counseling, spiritual direction, teaching, medicine, social work, cultural or social animation, and so on. There is no limit to the kinds of work open to Franciscans, as long as the work does not go against Gospel values.
Despite some friars being ordained and others not, in the spirit of St. Francis, all friars – lay and ordained – see themselves as brothers, as equals, with no one greater or less than the next, respectful to one another and to all of creation.
If you are not sure if a Franciscan friar is a priest or a brother, you can never go wrong addressing him as brother. Within their fraternities, friars generally address one another by their first name or by the word brother. On this website, we use the word friar as the title for all friars.
What is a Franciscan habit?
A habit is the official garb that identifies a religious man or woman as a member of their individual order or congregation. The word came into use as it was the habit of religious men and women to daily dress in their respective, distinctive clothing.
Franciscans wear a brown religious habit with a white cord. The habit has two parts: a tunic and a capuche (hood). The cord has three knots in it which represent the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Traditionally, sandals were worn with the habit. These days, particularly in the northern latitudes, shoes are usually worn instead.
St. Francis of Assisi not only wanted to serve the poor; he wanted to be poor. When he devised a habit for his brothers, he chose the clothing typically worn by the poor of the time: a plain unbleached tunic with a hood for protection, a cord fastened around one’s waist, and sandals for one’s feet. The Poor Clare nuns in Assisi have the habit that was worn by St. Francis and display it in the Basilica di Santa Chiara.
Franciscans wear their habits for special occasions and gatherings. Some wear it every day, while some wear regular clothes instead. Others wear whatever is needed for their particular work.
What are the vows?
When we make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, we are publicly proclaiming, before God and the church, that we will live no longer for ourselves alone — that we will also live for God and for others. The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience allow us to be faithful disciples and to witness to the Gospel life within the particular form of life we have chosen. The vows can easily seem to restrict what we can and can’t do, but they actually do away with whatever keeps us from being the person God wants us to be — in other words, they set us free. Because we are not bound by personal financial concerns, by exclusive relationships, or by own will, we can be available to all people and we can offer our lives for others.
What is a rule?
A rule is the most basic description of a religious way of life. The rule written by St. Francis of Assisi, approved by Pope Honorius in 1223, and lived today by the friars begins this way: “The rule and life of the lesser brothers is this: To observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without anything of our own, and in chastity.”
The rule we live today was the third version of the rule. The first was approved by Pope Innocent III in 1209, so we mark our founding as being in that year.
St. Francis wrote four rules. The first rule is that described above. He wrote the second rule in 1212 for the Poor Clares. St. Clare later revised it, and today it is known as the Rule of St. Clare. The third rule is the Rule for Hermitages, which anyone can follow. For those who could not leave their families and homes, he wrote a rule in 1221 forming the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance, a lay fraternity that, without withdrawing from the world or taking religious vows, would allow ordinary people to live the principles of Franciscan life.
How do Franciscans spend their days?
A Franciscan’s day is composed of prayer, time with the community, and work. The friars – some are priests and some are not – can do any kind of honest work: pastoral work, social work, community work, education, missionary work, and so on. Among Franciscans, you will find social animators, doctors and nurses, cooks, preachers, parish priests, catechists, teachers and professors, journalist, laborers, and more.
Franciscans aim to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, to live a lively and true fraternity, rooted in a spirit of prayer, to which all work comes second. A Franciscan fraternity is a cell of the church, open to all and involved in following Christ and Francis of Assisi for today’s world. In our choice of how we life, where we live and what we do, we emphasize service to those who are most in need. Once each friar has understood and lived this missionary aim, he is encouraged to do honest work according to his abilities and interests… and the needs of his milieu.
Who's in charge of Franciscan friars?
The order has as its head the successor to St. Francis of Assisi called the minister general; each province is headed by a provincial minister, and each friary is headed by a guardian. St. Francis very deliberately selected these terms. He specifically did not use the word superior. In our rule of life, Francis says, that the friars “can speak to [their ministers] and act as lords with their servants; for so it should be, because the ministers are the servants of all the friars.” A guardian is one who looks out for the friars, as Francis said, as a mother takes care of her children. A guardian animates the friars to live the Gospel in the manner that St. Francis lived it as described in our rule, offer them support in time of need, be an attentive ear when they need to talk, correct them when necessary, and ensure that the entire fraternity functions as one brotherhood.
The role of leadership, then, for Franciscans, is one of service.
The provincial ministers are elected by the friars in each province to serve for a term of six years. He can be re-elected for an additional three years. The minister general is elected by the provincial ministers to serve for six years. He can be re-elected to serve an additional six years. Guardians are appointed by the provincial minister to serve for a term of three years. At the end of their term, the ministers return to being simple friars, and new friars are elected to serve in their stead.
What are provinces?
The Franciscan order is divided into various regions, called provinces. Sometimes a province encompasses an entire nation, in other countries, there may be several provinces.
A province is the basic unit of the life and mission of the order. It made of the friars together in friaries and is headed by a provincial minister.
At the current time, there are seven different provinces in the US. You can view a brief story of each one on our history page.
How many Franciscans are there?
It’s said that only God knows how many Franciscans there are! St. Francis of Assisi’s vision was so powerful, that there are literally hundreds of groups who call themselves Franciscan.
There are three groups which belong to what is called the First Order of St. Francis: the Order of Friars Minor (often called just “Franciscans” and whose initials are OFM), the Conventual Franciscan Friars (whose initials are OFM Conv.) and the Capuchin Franciscan Friars (whose initials are OFM Cap.).
We are members of the OFM in the US. There about 11,000 OFM friars in the world, and of whom about 1,200 live and work in the US.
The Second Order of St. Francis are the Poor Clares — contemplative nuns who live a life of prayer, community, and joy.
The Third Order of St. Francis has two parts. Hundreds of Franciscan congregations of both men and women make up the Third Order Regular, also known as the Franciscan Federation.
The Secular Franciscan Order is the Franciscan order for secular lay men and women. Members of this order live their everyday lives in the world and gather together on a regular basis. They make profession to live out the Gospel according to the example of Francis. There are nearly 13,000 Secular Franciscans in the United States today. For information on a local SFO fraternity in your area, call 1-800-FRANCIS (1-800-372-6247) and follow telephone message directions.
And there are more! Anglian Franciscans are members of the Society of St. Francis and Lutheran Franciscans are members of the Order of Lutheran Franciscans. Finally, members of other Christian denominations have come together to form the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans.