Communities for Men
ST. FRANCIS FRIARY
of Assisi (1181-1226) founded the Order of the Friars Minor (the
Lesser Brethren or Little Brothers). After his death (and ever
since) there have been many reforms breaking the Order into different
groups. In 1897, Pope Leo XIII regrouped the Friars Minor into
The Order of Friars Minor of the Leonine Union
The Order of Friars Minor Conventual
The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
and the Capuchins were already in existence but the Friars Minor
of the Leonine Union were brought together from smaller groups;
they are also called quite simply “The Order of Friars Minor”,
“Observants” or “Franciscans”. All three Orders are
truly Franciscan; they all follow the Rule of St. Francis: they
differ in their constitutions and there are slight differences in
their habits, for instance the Capuchins are bearded while the others
are the strictest observants of the Franciscan Rule, while the Conventuals
are the most relaxed. The Observants or the Franciscans are in
between but perhaps closer to the Capuchins. The Capuchins were
started in 1525 in Italy by Blessed Matthew of Basci; he wanted
to return to the pure spirit of St. Francis. Even our habit is
closer to the original. The name comes from the Italian “cappuccino”
(“ little hood”) : the children made fun of the new friars’
hoods which were not little but big in comparison with the other
Franciscans’. Capuccino coffee gets its name from its color, which
is supposed to be like our habit also.
me souls and take the rest!"
of St. Francis
ideal was to follow and imitate Christ poor and crucified: poor
in His birth in the stable, poor in His ignominious death on the
Cross, poor in the Blessed Sacrament under the humble appearance
of bread and wine.
The first Capuchins
wanted to live as close as possible to this ideal by a life of prayer
and penance in poverty, chastity and obedience according to a strict
interpretation of St. Francis’ Rule; our Constitutions have remained
the same since 1525 undergoing only very minor modifications such
as in 1909 when the General Chapter set our Constitutions in order,
tying up loose ends and correcting abuses which had crept in: these
revised Constitutions (revised, not new) were approved by Pope St.
Pius X. In 1925, they were adapted to the revised Code of Canon
Law; however these adaptations and revisions were nothing like the
sweeping changes made in 1968.
Vatican Council called upon the religious Orders to revise their
constitutions “conveniently” each according to the “original spirit
of the institute”; in no way did the Council ask for a new constitution.
However what happened in 1968 was a revolution. The Capuchins changed
their constitutions completely, changing their whole way of life
and their conception of themselves. Many tried to resist but were
obliged to leave and start up new groups but they were no longer
was founded by the late Father Eugene of Villeurbanne (1904-1990
R.I.P.) who was a very active member of the Order before the Council.
After the Council he got permission to live outside the community
as a hermit. When young men started coming to him who did not want
to join the modern Capuchins but wanted to become real capuchins
like him, Father Eugene saw it as a sign of God that he should begin
a novitiate to keep alive the true capuchin and Franciscan spirit,
and that is how our community started.
Fr. Eugene de Villeurbanne (+ June 10, 1990),
the Founder of the Traditional Branch
Way of Life
Our way of
life is mainly contemplative, but our priests also go out into the
world to preach missions and retreats and they hear confessions.
A large part of our day is taken up with the recitation in common
of the Divine Office. We go to bed at half past eight, then rise
at midnight for Matins and Lauds and we go back to bed after Matins
and Lauds at about ten to one. We next get up at twenty to five
for mental prayer, so that makes seven hours of sleep even though
it is interrupted. Not all the friars can do this; those studying
for the priesthood, the lay brothers for the time of their novitiate
and the three years of simple vows, as well as the priests who have
a heavy charge like teaching or getting ready to preach a mission
or retreat, are not obliged to follow this program in its full rigor;
but the friars who do, generally have a siesta in the early afternoon.
We have two
hours a day of mental prayer, in the morning and evening. Then
there is the rest of the Office and the Mass: during our thanksgiving
after Mass, another Mass is celebrated; we leave the choir after
the Pater. There is the Rosary as well, Stations of the Cross and
private devotions and spiritual reading. Every morning for half
an hour, we read the Bible.
have three “Lents” or period of fasting, from All Saints’ to Easter.
The first is from All Saints’ to Christmas. The second is from
Epiphany (or the day after rather, the seventh of January) for forty
days (however there is no fasting on Sundays). This Lent is called
the “Benedetta” (the Blessed Lent) because St. Francis promised
us great blessings if we kept it. Then of course there is the Great
Lent of the Church. We fast every Friday as well.
The fast consists
of a very light breakfast and supper, but the midday meal is a full
meal. During the rest of the year (and every Sunday), we have three
meals a day. The friars who find it too hard to fast for six days
of the week can do it every second day. We abstain from meet every
Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; but we eat meat at the midday
meal the other days. We have wine with our meals – but not for
breakfast! We have coffee.
kept from eight o’clock in the evening till after the Mass the next
morning: also in the early afternoon for an hour or so. During
the day, if we have to speak, the novices and those who have made
simple vows talk to each other kneeling, so as to stop us from “chatting”
and to make us only to say what has to be said. After the midday
and evening meal we have a community recreation: the community spirit
is a very important aspect of the Franciscan.
How to Become
First of all you enter as a postulant: the postulant is in civil
garb but lives in the community. The period of postulancy is two
months for a cleric (a candidate for the priesthood) and six months
for a lay-friar (however he does wear the habit).
The second step is the novitiate which is for a year. Now the habit
is worn with the hood. The novice does manual work and studies
Franciscan spirituality and the religious life.
The third step is the profession of simple vows of poverty, chastity
and obedience which are binding for three years. The lay brothers
continue studying Franciscan spirituality, the religious life and
the catechism, while the clerics start philosophy.
The fourth step is the profession of solemn vows which are binding
for life; it is at this stage that the cleric starts theology.
the Difference between the Priests and the Lay Brothers?
The lay brothers
(lay friars) have a more contemplative life than the priests because
their life is more hidden and withdrawn. They do gardening, cooking,
look after the sacristy, and the brother who answers the door is
traditionally a lay brother.
are of course involved with their ministry and are often away from
the friary. However “often” does not mean “always”: it is the priests
who instruct the novices and young religious in catechism, etc.,
who give spiritual conferences and who preach the monthly retreat
to the community. They also look after the library, and teach philosophy
and theology to the clerical brothers.
Student to the Priesthood
friar begins as a postulant for two months; then he is a novice
for a year and he wears the habit; he does manual work like helping
in the kitchen, cleaning and gardening and he attends courses and
reads books on Franciscan spirituality, the religious life and Christian
Next he makes
simple vows for three years and begins philosophy; after three years
he makes profession of solemn vows for life and starts theology.
He is ordained to minor orders during philosophy, and to major orders
during theology; he is ordained a priest after three years of theology
and then continues for another year studying pastoral theology and
sacred eloquence (learning how to preach). So, two months as a
postulant, a year as a novice, three years of simple vows and philosophy,
then the solemn vows and four years of theology in the third year
of which he is ordained to the priesthood.
and clerics wear the clerical tonsure or “crown”, i.e. the circle
of hair; the lay friars are close-cropped completely.
also study Church history, the history of the Order and the Fathers
and Doctors of the Church. We also teach Latin, but if you can
learn, even a little, before you come, it would be better.
First of all, of course, the elementary conditions required by Canon
Law for all aspirants for the religious life.
To be at least sixteen, and no more that thirty-five.
To be a Catholic, faithful to the Church and Pope.
Having a good health and sound judgment.
Moreover to be well decided to live according to the Gospel, following
To be a friend of peace and concord.
We would also
advise you very strongly if you want to come here to Morgon and
join us, that you try and learn French before you come: you should
do a part-time course or even a full-time course. For Latin, it
would be helpful, but for French almost indispensable. Don’t worry
about time: time is nothing. The Friar who is writing this article
for you, went to University and did a full-time course in French
and Latin, for the express purpose of coming here. What difference
is one, two or three years going to make if you’re going to live
for the rest of your life in the monastery? You can only be better
off for it.
known Capuchin saints are: St. Felix Cantalice (+1587); St. Lawrence
of Brindisi (+1619); St. Fidel of Sigmaringen (+1622); St. Crispin
of Viterbo (+1750); Bl. Diego-Jose of Cadiz (+1801); St. Conrad
of Parzham (+1894); St. Leopold Mandic of Castelnuovo (+1942). The
most famous Capuchin saint is certainly Padre Pio (+1968), the stigmatized
Italian priest. It is said that he was afflicted by all the changes
in the Order and in the Church and that he asked God to take him
out of this valley of tears which is the world.
life is not easy: it is hard. But it is not impossible. One of
the Popes described our life as “una vita disparata” – a
disparate life. “Disparate” is not “desperate”! “Disparate”
means completely unlike, not the same, utterly different or even
“at odds”. When Our Lord first called St. Francis, he said to him
by inspiration, “Francis, leave now the worldly and vain pleasures
for the things of the spirit; prefer what is bitter to what is sweet,
despise yourself, if you want to know Me. Once you have changed,
you will understand the truth of My words, even if the order of
things seem upside-down.”
shortly before his stigmatization (in 1224, two years before his
death) by which God set His seal on the Rule, some dissatisfied
friars came to him to complain that the rule was too hard. This
Rule was the second that St. Francis had drawn up; the Pope had
deemed that his first rule was a bit harsh: the second rule is the
one that we follow today. When these friars came to complain about
the second revised Rule, a voice was heard from Heaven, Christ voice
Himself, saying, “Francis, let them understand that it was I
who inspired you this rule. If they cannot follow it, let them
leave the Order. I know how fragile human nature is: let them know
how much I want to help those who embraced this Rule.”
Morgon is in
Beaujolais, sixty kilometers north of Lyon.
Rev. Father Guardian
Couvent Saint François