Franciscan Friars Conventual
Teaching, Nursing, parish priests; university campus ministry; outreach to the poor; any work that serves Christ and His Church is work you can do as a Franciscan friar!
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Vocation Director: Br. Nicholas Romeo, OFM Conv. (202-681-6051)
Headquarters: Ellicott City, MD; Our Lady of the Angels Province covers the East Coast, along with jurisdictions in Canada, Great Britain, and Brazil
Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community
Francis of Assisi
Anthony of Padua
Joseph of Cupertino
The Franciscan Friars Conventual (sometimes referred to as the “Grey Franciscans" due to the color of our habits) are one of the three branches of the First Order of St. Francis. The word conventual comes from the Latin meaning to come together; we live together in convents, usually called friaries.
Francis indicated two fundamental Gospel values as essential to the spiritual charism (the way a particular group puts faith into action) of the Order: fraternitas and minoritas.
In his final Testament, Francis rejoiced in the fact that “the Lord gave me some brothers.” Franciscan spirituality gives primacy of place to the fraternal life of the friars. From the Conventual perspective, our life in fraternity is the primary ministry we offer to the life of the Church. For most religious orders, community life is the means to an end; it makes doing the order’s ministry more practical. For Conventual Franciscans, community life is an end in itself.
In a world fallen and fractured, the Franciscan life of conventual brotherhood—active participation in the fraternal life, liturgical prayer, shared ministry, communal decision-making, and the common table—witnesses to a radical alternative way of living amidst an increasingly divisive culture.
Minoritas is a characteristic way of following the poor and humble Christ that urges the friars to reject power, to be subject to all, to serve one another, to be in solidarity with the most marginalized of society, to foster peace wherever they might be, and to embrace a continual process of self-emptying.
The Conventual Charism is further marked by: fidelity to the Pope and Magisterium; flexibility in apostolic endeavors; encouragement of the highest standards of preaching and liturgical expression; pioneering academic development.
In 1209, Saint Francis of Assisi received the permission of Pope Innocent III for his growing community of brothers, a small group of men from the Italian hillside city of Assisi who had abandoned family and former way of life to follow Francis. The earliest friars rebuilt chapels, ministered to the lepers, and preached penance.
Rather quickly, the Franciscan Order began to spread outside the boundaries of medieval Italy, eventually becoming a worldwide religious order of the Roman Catholic Church.
After the death of Francis in 1226, the friars began to discuss among themselves what the “authentic” shape of Franciscan life really was. What was Francis’ main vision and mission? Some friars emphasized a more eremetic lifestyle, believing Francis was more focused on solitary prayer in rural hermitages, while others put primacy of place on the common life lived in larger houses in populated urban centers. This latter group became known as conventuals (because of their emphasis on living together in large religious houses called convents). There was much historical division between these two approaches to the Franciscan charism. In 1517, this division was formalized as the Franciscan Order was officially divided—by papal decree—into the Conventuals and the Observants. The Capuchins were formed later, in 1525.
Thus, the Conventuals trace our heritage directly to Francis and his first companions. Indeed, Conventual friars have deep connections to some of the most important physical sites in early Franciscan history. Conventuals are the caretakers of the Basilicas of Saint Francis in Assisi and Saint Anthony of Padua (where those Saints’ bodies are entombed), and also serve as confessors in the Vatican Penitentiary. Five popes have arisen from the Conventual branch of the Franciscan family. It was Conventual Pope Sixtus IV who established the Vatican Archives and commissioned the construction of the Sistine Chapel. His nephew, Pope Julius II (also a Conventual) established the Vatican Museums, began the building of St. Peter’s Basilica, started the Swiss Guard, and commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the ceiling of the chapel built by his uncle Sixtus. In brief, the Franciscan Friars Conventual have been an important presence in the Church’s life for more than 800 years!
The first Conventuals came to the United States in the middle of the 19th century, eventually settling on the East Coast to minister to German Catholic immigrants. From those humble origins, the Order spread, now having four provinces across the country, with some 400 friars.
Common liturgical prayer is an essential component of the Conventual charism. The friars together celebrate Eucharist, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, adore the Blessed Sacrament, and practice common meditation. And there is time for individual friars to develop their own private prayer life.
Transitus: a commemoration of the death of Francis of Assisi (his transition from death to eternal life) on the evening of October 3
Greccio: the living Nativity scene, named for the town where Francis initiated the devotion in 1223
Epiphany Extractions: on the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the community gathers together for each friar to extract the name of a Saint, who then serves as his patron for the year ahead. The celebration usually also includes extracting a special spiritual maxim or the name of another friar for whom to pray throughout the year