St Francis and the Capuchin Beginnings

Francis embraced sister death on October 3rd, 1226 after saying to the friars kneeling around him: "I have done my part; may Christ teach you yours".

The followers of Francis have struggled, almost from the beginning, with the twofold need to accept required changes and to preserve the principles on which the Franciscan family was founded.

Often, during the eight centuries of Franciscan history, groups of friars, usually with the blessing of the Church, have joined efforts in renewing the Order by more closely striving to imitate the spirit and life of Francis. In fact, by 1897, such reform movements had split the friars into six separate branches.

It was then that Pope Leo XIII reduced their number to three, by leaving independent the two extremes - the Capuchins and the Conventuals - and joining the other four into a branch known as the Observants, or simply the Franciscans.

The CAPUCHIN REFORM had begun through the personal efforts at renewal by Matthew Serafini from Bascio (Italy) in 1525. The split between the Conventuals and the Observants had no sooner become permanent in 1517, than Matthew and other Observant friars set out to take the reform a step further by simplifying the structure of the community and returning to the concept of small hermitages and wandering preachers. The resulting Capuchin reform obtained approval from the Pope on 3rd July, 1528 with the Bull Religionis Zelus.

Next: Capuchins throughout the World