The Order of Capuchin Friars Minor (in Latin: Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum – abbreviated: O.F.M.Cap.) is an Order of Franciscan friars Minor, one among the chief offshoots of the Franciscans Order founded by St. Francis of Assisi. The Order of Capuchin Friars Minor was founded way back in 1528 by a group of Friars who felt the need to interpret a little more better the vow of poverty from the way it was already being lived at the time. A short account of history can be illustrated in the following account:
“The Order arose in 1520 when Matteo da Bascio, an Observant Franciscan friar native to the Italian region of the Marches, said he had been inspired by God with the idea that the manner of life led by the friars of his day was not the one which their founder, St. Francis of Assisi, had envisaged. He sought to return to the primitive way of life of solitude and penance as practiced by the founder of their Order. His religious superiors tried to suppress these innovations, and Friar Matteo and his first companions were forced into hiding from Church authorities, who sought to arrest them for having abandoned their religious duties. They were given refuge by the Camaldolese monks, in gratitude for which they later adopted the hood (or cappuccio) worn by that Order – which was the mark of a hermit in that region of Italy – and the practice of wearing a beard. The popular name of their Order originates from this feature of their religious habit. In 1528, Friar Matteo obtained the approval of Pope Clement VII and was given permission to live as a hermit and to go about everywhere preaching to the poor. These permissions were not only for himself, but for all such as might join him in the attempt to restore the most literal observance possible of the Rule of St. Francis. Matteo and the original band were soon joined by others. Matteo and his companions were formed into a separate province, called the Hermit Friars Minor, as a branch of the Conventual Franciscans, but with a Vicar Provincial of their own, subject to the jurisdiction of the Minister General of the Conventuals. The Observants, the other branch of the Franciscan Order at that time, continued to oppose the movement.”
By 1529, the newly founded movement already had four houses and so they held their first chapter to order their life. The result of this chapter was the particular rules which provide a clear definition of what the friars were expected of in terms of their life, prayer, work, fraternal living and relation to the world. The particular rules today are found in a compiled document called the Constitution of the Capuchin Friars Minor, a newly revised edition of these was just approved by the church less than a year ago.
Generally the most important features of the Constitution resulting from the 1529 Chapter were as follows:
1. Eremitical idea was abandoned 2. Definition of the life style of the friars was drawn: austere, simple and poor
The idea portrayed in this Constitution was to move as closely as possible to the idea of the founder; St. Francis of Assisi in matters of practical life. Accordingly, friars were to possess nothing, but have only what was needed for their simple life style, in principle, they were to obtain everything by begging and by working with their own hands. A typical Capuchin community was to have friars not less than eight and not more than twelve. Today though with the new challenges, it is possible to find friaries with less brothers and some friaries could be even bigger in view of collaboration, especially as regards formational programs.
The distinctive mark of a Capuchin friar is a brown habit, which in principle reflects the spirit of simplicity; that is, a tunic, with the distinctive large pointed hood attached to it, girded with a woolen Cord with three knots. The life of a capuchin friar minor revolves around: prayer; which includes Divine Office, fasts and discipline of life, preaching and spiritual ministry among the poor.