Name and demographics
The name of original order, Ordo Fratrum Minorum ("Friars Minor"), means "lesser brothers", and stems from Francis of Assisi's rejection of extravagance. Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, but gave up his wealth to pursue his faith more fully. He had cut all ties that remained with his family, and pursued a life living in solidarity with his fellow brothers in Christ. Francis adopted the simple tunic worn by peasants as the religious habit for his order, and had others who wished to join him do the same. Those who joined him became the original Order of Friars Minor. The modern organization of the Friars Minor comprises three separate families or groups, each considered a religious order in its own right under its own minister General and particular type of governance. They all live according to a body of regulations known as the Rule of St Francis.
- First Order
The First Order or the "Order of Friars Minor" are commonly called simply the "Franciscans". This Order is a mendicant religious order of men, some of whom trace their origin to Francis of Assisi. Their official Latin name is the Ordo Fratrum Minorum. St. Francis thus referred to his followers as "Fraticelli", meaning "Little Brothers". Franciscan brothers are informally called friars or the Minorites.
The modern organization of the Friars Minor comprises three separate families or groups, each considered a religious order in its own right under its own minister General and particular type of governance. They all live according to a body of regulations known as the Rule of St Francis. These are
- The Order of Friars Minor, known as the "Observants", most commonly simply called Franciscan friars, official name: "Friars Minor" (O.F.M.).
- The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin or simply Capuchins, official name: "Friars Minor Capuchin" (O.F.M. Cap).
- The Conventual Franciscans or Minorites, official name: "Friars Minor Conventual" (O.F.M. Conv).
- Second Order
The Second Order, most commonly called Poor Clares in English-speaking countries, consists of religious sisters. The order is called the Order of St. Clare (O.S.C.), but in the thirteenth century, prior to 1263, this order was referred to as "The Poor Ladies", "The Poor Enclosed Nuns", and "The Order of San Damiano".
- Third Order
The Franciscan third order, known as the Third Order of Saint Francis, has many men and women members, separated into two main branches:
- The Secular Franciscan Order, O.F.S., originally known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance or Third Order of Penance, try to live the ideals of the movement in their daily lives outside of religious institutes.
- The members of the Third Order Regular (T.O.R.) live in religious communities under the traditional religious vows. They grew out of the Secular Franciscan Order.
The 2013 Annuario Pontificio gave the following figures for the membership of the principal male Franciscan orders:.
- Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.): 2,212 communities; 14,123 members; 9,735 priests
- Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Conventual (O.F.M.Conv.): 667 communities; 4,289 members; 2,921 priests
- Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (O.F.M.Cap.): 1,633 communities; 10,786 members; 7,057 priests
- Third Order Regular of Saint Francis (T.O.R.): 176 communities; 870 members; 576 priests
The coat of arms that is a universal symbol of Franciscans "contains the Tau cross, with two crossed arms: Christ’s right hand with the nail wound and Francis’ left hand with the stigmata wound."