Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans: O.F.M.)
The Middle Ages were still in mid-channel; the Crusades had but half run their course. As kings and emperors vied with the Papacy for power, so vied feudal castles with the monasteries for the highest hilltops. City warred against city; chivalry and knavery walked hand-in-hand. While the troubadors sang in the Courts of Love, and while the spires of magnificent Gothic cathedrals were beginning to pierce the skies, off in the green hills of Italy the Order of Friars Minor was quietly, humbly born. The year was 1210. The founder-Saint was Francis of Assisi.
In his mediaeval city perched upon a pinnacle high above the Umbrian plain, there were definite class distinctions. There were the majores and the minores, the popolo grasso and the popolo minuto. Francis was the son of a wealthy, important merchant, and a mother reputed to be of noble birth; so it is difficult to say now to which class he rightfully belonged. But it is certain that in naming his followers and himself "Friars Minor," he forever stamped his Order with the insignia of the lowly.
It was when his father, Pietro Bernardone, the merchant of rich textiles and rare silks, was on a journey to France that Francis was born in the year 1182. His mother, the Lady Pica, had chosen to call him John; but upon his return her husband insisted that the new child be named Francis, then meaning "a child of France," probably because of his love for that land. As soon as the boy could talk he was taught to speak French along with the Italian and the Latin of the day.
But in that era the education of a merchant's son was sketchy, at best. Francis was educated mainly to assist in his father's business (which with his brother he was destined to inherit), to take his place socially among the wealthy young nobles of the town, to dress lavishly and spend recklessly, and to bear arms, if necessary, for his city.
Born with a winning and merry personality, he soon became the leader of his gay contemporaries, outdistancing them all in frivolity and folly, and in the lavishness of the feasts at which he presided. The incomparable beauty of Assisi and its lofty setting, with every view a picture; the brilliant flowers tumbling everywhere in profusion; the birdsong and the blue skies which arch above it all, formed a perfect setting for youthful revelry. Romance hung in the perfumed air. And Pietro Bernardone, rather than being displeased with his spendthrift son was proud of the undisputed leadership he held among the town's reckless young aristocrats. His pious mother sighed, but assured her friends that, if it were God's will, her son Francis would yet end as a good Christian. For she knew privately that despite his reckless adventures, he constantly showed compassion to the poor and the suffering.
Soon, however, the light-hearted youth with his love of song was to be exposed to sterner influences. In the year 1201, when he was nineteen, the powerful city of Perugia, lying just across the Umbrian plain, made war upon Assisi. With a company of defenders the merchant's son went blithely forth from the city gates and down the steep grade to meet the enemy. In the ensuing battle the gallant Assisians were defeated, and Francis was taken prisoner and borne off in chains to Perugia.
He was imprisoned with many of his erstwhile debonaire companions who were now greatly downcast; but even confinement, hardship, and hunger were unable to subdue the natural light-heartedness of Francis. Throughout one year of imprisonment it was he who kept the others from utter despondency, although at times, with his songs and jests in the midst of dungeon discomforts, they considered him a trifle mad.
But it was not long after a peace had been arranged and the prisoners released, that Francis, possibly due to the hardships at which he had made merry, fell desperately ill in his father's house. Months passed before he was able to walk, and when at last, supported by a staff, he ventured out to seek that beauty of the outdoors which he had always loved, to his surprise it brought him no consolation. He had gone out to the city walls to dream about the high deeds he would do, and the fair women he would woo in the courts of chivalry, as he had heard them sung by the troubadors. But whenever he turned his gaze outward to the poplar-strewn Umbrian plain, or upward to the green heights of Mount Subasio, it was immediately and unaccountably diverted inward toward his soul.
What he saw there, filled him with revulsion. Everywhere about him were the suffering poor who needed succor. The civil inequities of his city stood out in bold relief. The burghers fought the nobles, and the minores starved. The monks, high up in their monasteries, were wrapped in contemplation and prayer; or tolling over their vellum manuscripts. To be sure, they fed their neighboring poor and tilled their own fields, but this was not enough. The poor of the cities, and the abhorred, neglected lepers, went hungry. God was forgotten. Many of the churches lay in ruins, their forlorn priesthood half starved and ignored.
And he? He had spent his youth in laughter and song, in drinking and revelry. He looked down in distaste at the fine garments with which he was clothed. How they differed from the filthy rags of those poor lepers who stood begging there, just beyond the city gates! Ever before repelled by these, he now struggled valiantly against his repugnance, and saw them as children of God and his brothers. He went down to meet them, and even kissed them, giving one money, another, his own tunic.
Soon after, feeling the need of prayer, and passing on the road the little dilapidated church of San Damiano, he entered and fell upon his knees before the painted, Byzantine crucifix hanging above the altar. Suddenly the lips moved, "Go, Francis," whispered the Figure, "go, and repair My Church which thou canst see has fallen into ruins."
Francis, with the literal mind of a child, gazed about him and saw that in truth the little church was sadly in need of repair. With a heart full of joy that his Lord had spoken to him, he hastily set about the assignment. The poor priest, entering soon after, saw a young madman at work. Of all things, it was the wild son of the rich merchant, Bernardone! Fresh oil and new wicks filled the long darkened sanctuary lamps; mortar and stones were flying as the youth in his fine brocades set about pulling down the crumbling arches.
There arose a little matter of money, from the sale of some of his father's merchandise. Such had always been freely his, for wine, revels, and fine garments. Now he needed it to restore God's church, and it never occurred to him that it would be begrudged. But the priest refused to accept it, feeling that trouble might ensue, and it lay neglected upon a broad window ledge of the church. But the feverish work of repair went on.
Meanwhile, the revels in Assisi languished, his friends could not find him, and his parents began to worry, for he had not returned home. Apprised of the situation, Pietro Bernardone fell into a great anger. His son had gone mad and become the town laughing-stock; but he would soon cure that. When the irate parent came to find him, Francis at first hid in terror; but finally went forth to seek his father and to tell him that he had chosen quite a different manner of life than that which had been planned for him. Bernardone promptly imprisoned him in a small dungeon within the house, from which he was eventually released by his mother during her husband's absence. The youth returned at once to his beloved San Damiano. But upon Bernardone's return, the merchant was so incensed at his son's stubborn determination never to return home that he had him hailed before the Bishop for public disinheritance.
There, in the public square of Assisi, before a large assemblage of townspeople, Francis joyfully accepted his disinheritance. "Hitherto you have been my father. From now on, I have no other Father but He Who is in Heaven!" And forthwith casting the money retrieved from the window ledge at Bernardone's feet, and stripping off his garments also to lay them there, he stood before the assemblage naked and possessed of nothing in this world. The Bishop, touched by such total dedication to poverty, covered him with a cloak. These were Francis's public espousals at the age of twenty-two with that "Lady Poverty" whose praises he sang and whom he cherished all the days of his life.
Liberated at last from all family ties, he sought the open road, working for his daily bread, and returning to take up his abode for a time with his friends, the lepers, whom he nursed and comforted as though they had been his children.
Within four years he had completed the rebuilding of San Damiano, having begged the stones, or money with which to buy them, from the good people of Assisi who were moved by his striking conversion and his constant works of charity. Living upon alms or what he could earn, bravely he had endured the scorn and contempt of his family and former companions.
Down below Assisi there lay another ruined church, long abandoned Santa Maria degli Angeli, which came to be known as the Portiuncula and was destined to become the cradle of Franciscanism. It was an ideal spot for prayer and contemplation. With the consent of the Benedictines of Mount Subasio who owned the building, Francis set about repairing it as he had that of San Damiano. And to his joy, he was able to induce a priest to come there occasionally and celebrate Mass. It was upon one such occasion in the year 1209, that he felt his call to the apostolate of preaching.
In the restored church, now garnished and made clean by its self-appointed custodian, as the priest turned to read the Gospel of the day, Francis knew suddenly that its words were being addressed by Christ directly to him.
"And going, preach, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. Freely have you received; freely give. Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff; for the workman is worthy of his meat.'"
Francis, stripped of all but his poor tunic, sought the high hill to Assisi and began his preaching in the open square. At first, to but one or two who knew him as the holy man who lived like a hermit, down there below in the old church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. But soon others laid aside their tasks and their errands, standing silently to listen. The words were of great simplicity and love; they repeated only the lessons spoken by Christ. Here was no priest; merely the reformed son of Bernardone, the merchant. But for five years they had observed his total abandonment to God, not as a long-faced penitent, but with the cheerful mien he had always borne, enhanced now by love of his fellow-man and great compassion. His lips were as ready for a smile and a song as they had ever been when he was the carefree master of revels. Men, women, and children came to sit at his feet and listen. He had the gift of touching all hearts.
It was not long before others, drawn irresistibly to his mission, asked to join him. The first requisite was that they should possess nothing. The rich Bernardo of Quintavalle, observing the Gospel precept, sold all his possessions, and distributed the money to the poor. Soon, with Francis, they were twelve, dwelling about the Portiuncula in shelters made of trees, and each day going forth in pairs, to preach penance and love, to tend the sick and the lepers; earning their own bread when possible, begging it otherwise.
"He would say unto them," wrote the Three Companions, "for unto this have we been called even that we may heal the wounded and bind up the broken-hearted."
One list gives the names of the first brothers as Brother Bernardo, Brother Pietro di Catana, Brother Giles, Brother Sabatinus, Brother Moricus, Brother John of Capella, Brother Philip, Brother Barbarus, a second Brother Bernardo, Brother Angelo Tancredi, Brother Sylvestro, and Brother John of Saint Constantia. They were twelve in all, as had been the Apostles of Christ.
But while Bernardo of Quintavalle, Giles, Angelo, and a few of those first friars live on in the Franciscan tradition, other names, intimately associated with Francis as his work progressed, have come down to us also in the fascinating literature left by those who knew him, and those to whom his story remained fresh.
One of his friars, Brother Thomas of Celano, wrote two biographies of the founder: one in 1228, two years after the death of Francis, and the other in 1247. The Legend of Saint Francis, by the Three Companions Brothers Leo, Angelo, and Rufino, of whom Brother Leo was his most intimate friend was written in the year 1246. Saint Bonaventura, who served as minister-general of the Order, wrote a life of Francis in 1260. The exquisite collection, the Fioretti, known as the "Little Flowers of Saint Francis," with its accounts of the first friars, and of the enchanting Brother Juniper, that "jester of the Lord," was written about 1385. These, with the Speculum Perfectionis that "Mirror of Perfection," as Francis was regarded which appeared in 1504, are the main sources from which modern biographers have drawn. They preserve the fragrance of a life which had cast its spell and exercised its indescribable charm upon the Italy of the day, and many other lands.
The temptation of all who had been touched by that charm is to dwell upon the child-like sweetness of the character portrayed in the early chronicles his tenderness for all living creatures, his conquest of the fierce Wolf of Gubbio, his sermons to the birds, his paean of praise to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, and Sister Water. He regarded also as a friend Brother Fire, reminding him of his love, when in his declining days a cruel cauterization had to be effected. To his own body, which he wore out with constant fastings and mortifications, he gave the friendly if contemptuous appellation, "Brother Jackass."
Poet to the core he was, but far more than this; for it is doubtful if ever man lived who was at once so appealing as a leader of men, and so profound a mystic. The gift for leadership had evidenced itself early in his young unregenerate days, when he had been the favored master of revels. But it is difficult to assess the power of a personality which induced men, almost at first sight, to renounce all their worldly possessions, and voluntarily in truth, joyously to embrace a life of utmost poverty, dedicated to nothing else but the relief of human suffering and the love of God.
Within a year after he had begun his first preaching, and constantly approached by new followers, he had decided to write a simple Rule for his friars, whom he sometimes styled "Brothers of Penitence," and to journey to Rome to ask its approval by the Pope. With some misgivings as to their strict formula of poverty, Pope Innocent III, in the spring of 1209, gave his sanction to their work, but required that they should become clerics, and also elect a superior. Francis being chosen, all received the tonsure in Rome. Later he was to be ordained a deacon, but never a priest. The "Little Poor Man of Assisi" considered himself quite unworthy of such an honor.
He had carried his love of song into his new life, and he and the friars went singing the praises of God up and down the Umbrian hills, calling themselves the "Troubadors of God." Upon their return from Rome, for a time they occupied an abandoned hut they had come upon within close reach of Assisi at Rivo Torto. The worked with the common laborers to earn their daily bread; and when they preached, it was not as theologians for in truth they knew only the Gospel of Christ, upon Whose life on earth their leader was closely patterning his own. The discourses were simple and addressed to those with whose practical, everyday problems they were familiar. And "the poor had the Gospel preached to them." Soon the nobles and the wealthy were listening as eagerly as the peasants. Italy sighed, turned over in its sleep, and suddenly awakened to a new and profound spiritual rebirth. Men threw away their material existence, to follow "the Little Poor Man"; and before many years had passed, the friars were numbered in thousands.
Not only men, but women, desired to emulate the pattern set by Francis; and in 1212 he was besought by the young Clare, daughter of the noble family of Sciffi, to admit her to his Order. With her sister and other pious maidens, he installed her in the little church of San Damiano, where the Crucified Christ had once spoken to him and which he had repaired with his own hands. This church too had been a gift from the Benedictines of Mount Subasio. Thus was created the "Second Order," composed of nuns "Poor Ladies" dedicated to follow the way of the Little Poor Man. About ten years later, Francis formed his "Third Order" of men and women who were unwilling or unable to withdraw from the world, but who desired to live as closely as possible to the Franciscan ideal. Now there were three orders, each separate and distinct, yet all one. The mystical numeral "three," the pattern of the Blessed Trinity, followed Francis continually throughout his life.
Consumed with a desire to die for Christ, the founder made several attempts to achieve martyrdom: first, on a pilgrimage to the infidel-held Holy Land, which was frustrated by shipwreck; then to the Moors in Spain, where illness stopped his preaching and forced his withdrawal; and lastly, in 1219, by following the Crusaders to Egypt, where he was taken prisoner and led before the Sultan Melek-el-Kamil. Rejoicing, he yet found himself a victim of conflicting desires: one, to be martyred for Christ; and the other, to convert the Sultan and his people to Christ. He accomplished neither, and somewhat to his chagrin was liberated by the Sultan and sent beck to the Christian camp. For even the fierce Melek had fallen a victim to his charm, and if unwilling to renounce Islam for this odd, compelling friar from Italy, he yet would laden him with gifts and have no harm befall him.
By this time the brothers were bent on missions to Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, as well as to the Holy Land. Greece, Portugal, England, and Morocco soon were added. It was in Morocco that the first five Franciscan martyrs died. In 1219 only ten years after the movement had been launched it became necessary to establish provinces, each to be governed by a provincial minister. No longer was it possible for the entire family of Friars Minor to gather once a year for a chapter meeting at the Portiuncula. Their numbers were too great; their missions too far flung. Henceforward these meetings could be attended only by the provincial ministers and other officials.
Administration problems had grown during the rapid spread of the society and the absence of Francis in Palestine. There, he had been dismayed to learn that a movement had sprung up through which the Friars would be assimilated by one of the old monastic orders. Hastening homeward with Elias of Cortona, the provincial minister of Syria, Francis summoned an extraordinary chapter of his followers at the Portiuncula, first having won from Rome the appointment of Cardinal Hugolino of Ostia, as official protector of the Order. Pope Honorius III issued a Bull, dated September 22, 1220, which formally approved the Order of Friars Minor, decreeing that all who entered it should first pass through a novitiate of one year, and making it unlawful for anyone to leave it after his profession. The Order was now officially and ecclesiastically approved.
At the extraordinary chapter which convened on September 29, 1220, Francis laid down the post of minister general, and delegated its duties to Pietro di Catana, a doctor of law. He no longer felt himself capable of directing so numerous a family. He could not stretch his wings far enough to cover them all. In his humility, he was anxious to yield leadership to another whom he believed more capable than he. He also wanted time to revise and perfect the Rule, and was eager to return to that simpler life of prayer and his apostleship with the poor, which he had adopted at the start.
Pietro di Catana lived but a few months after his appointment, and was succeeded by the able Elias of Cortona. About this time came the news that the friars' mission to Germany, headed by Caesar of Speyer, had succeeded beyond their fondest hopes, with Franciscan centers established in eight of the most important cities. Before the death of Francis, five of his sons had laid down their lives as martyrs in Morocco. Others had established foundations in England at Canterbury, London, and Oxford.
But as the power, and necessarily the holdings of the Order were augmented, increasingly the founder spoke to his sons, warning against possessions and against learning gleaned from books, as an inducement to pride, and ever upholding the primitive virtues of poverty and humility. His example alone, as he dwelt in a simple hut or sought out a rugged cave hidden in his native hills one of those carcieri hallowed by the first brethren there to spend his days in solitary prayer, caused many of the friars to turn from more progressive ideas and back to the ideals of the first days and the simplicity exemplified by their father, Francis.
Two years before he died, with four of his most cherished companions, he climbed the wooded slopes of the mountain of Alverno, there, in imitation of Christ, to spend forty days in prayer and fasting. Toward the completion of his vigil, on an early dawn in September of 1224, in the solitude of Alverno he was vouchsafed the famous vision of the Seraph, and received the mystical sign of the Stigmata, the veritable marks of the Crucified One, upon his own body.
Weakened and ill from his long fast, his eyesight almost gone, he nevertheless returned to his friars, working joyously with them as his strength permitted; and in the garden of Sister Clare's convent, his beloved San Damiano, composing in his blindness his great "Canticle of the Sun."
All during his labors he had borne mercilessly upon "Brother Jackass"; and now, nearing the age of forty-five, Brother Jackass told him in his own way that he could not carry him much longer. Francis received the news joyfully, and wrote his Last Will and Testament, a moving message to his sons to follow total obedience always; to observe the Rule implicitly, particularly in regard to poverty; and to labor daily with their hands.
His worldly task completed, he closed his eyes among his sorrowing friars on the evening of October 3, 1226. Saint Bonaventura, the distinguished Franciscan who later wrote the life of Francis, reported that, "at the hour of the passing of the holy man, the larks birds that love the light and dread the shades of twilight flocked in great numbers unto the roof of the house, albeit the shades of night were then falling; and wheeling round it for a long while with songs even gladder than their wont, offered their witness alike gracious and manifest unto the glory of the Saint who had been wont to call them unto the Divine praises."
Less than two years after his death, amidst the great rejoicings of all the people, he was canonized a Saint by Pope Gregory IX, who as Cardinal Hugolino had served as protector of the Order. The first of a long series of Franciscan Saints, his canonization was to be followed within four years by that of the beloved Saint Anthony, Francis's humble friar of the great intellect who had preached with such eloquence as to effect mass conversions; and who has been called "the Saint of all the world."
But upon the death of the founder the divisions of opinion as to the development of the Order of Friars Minor, inherent in its phenomenally rapid growth, became more evident. Brother Elias, until recently vicar, soon began the construction in Assisi of a friary and great basilica as a repository for the body of Francis.
The earlier companions resented this vast project as a departure from the Holy Poverty which Francis had established as the keystone. Elias had been ejected as minister general in 1227; and John Parenti, who belonged to the opposition, had replaced him, only to be replaced himself by Elias in 1232. The able administration of Elias greatly enhanced the growth, the missions, and the holdings of the friars; but it also increased the opposition of those who clung to the primitive Rule, and who were distressed to see their brethren now looming large in importance at universities and seats of learning. Elias was again deposed in 1239.
That mystical number, three, continued to play its role in the work Francis had established, for the Friars were now divided into three parties: the Zealots (or Spirituals), who stood for literal observance of the founder's Rule and Testament; the Moderates, who wished to follow poverty and yet believed that the Order must develop along established monastic lines, and in pursuit of scholarship (these were then the most numerous); and a group which would abandon almost entirely the early ideal of simplicity and poverty. The Moderates deposed Elias, but eventually in 1247 the Zealots, in the person of John of Parma, came to govern the Order for a period of ten years. Saint Bonaventura, who became minister general in 1257, did much to effect a compromise; but the divergencies continued for almost three centuries.
About the year 1370, the reform movement of the Observants was launched. They stood for mitigated poverty and organization along established lines. But it was not until the year 1517 that temporary harmony was achieved, when Pope Leo X divided the Order into two distinct and independent groups, each with its own minister general, its own provinces, provincials, and chapters: the Conventuals, authorized to own property corporately, of whom Brother Elias was the prototype; and the Observants, who were bound to as strict a conformity to the primitive ideal as was compatible with the times.
In the ensuing years, reform movements were launched among the Observants, ever looking backward, striving to approximate more nearly the pure ideal of Francis; and of these the Capuchins became a distinct order of Franciscans in 1619. (The histories of both Conventuals and Capuchins are traced in later chapters.)
The mystical three again asserted itself in modern times, when in 1897 Pope Leo XIII united all the reforms among the Observants, as the Order of Friars Minor of the Leonine Union, preserving as distinct Orders, however, the Conventuals and the Capuchins. Together these three constitute the First Order of Saint Francis. The Second Order remains that founded by Saint Clare, whose members are known as "Poor Clares." Members of the Third Order, established for laymen, are known as Tertiaries, and include both men and women. Some of these lead the life of religious, bound by solemn vows, while others live in the world but follow in varying degrees the Franciscan way of life. (The former are known as the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis, whose history follows in a later chapter.)
In spite of a long history of seven centuries frequently torn by division, the Franciscans have been the most numerous of all the religious congregations. Down through the years, the three branches of the First Order have carried with glory the great traditions of their founder. Constantly ministering to the poor, to whom their missions and preaching have been dedicated, they have yet produced famous scholars, philosophers, scientists, and theologians, such as Alexander of Hales, Roger Bacon and John Duns Scotus (both Conventuals), and Saint Bernardine of Siena.
They have died in great numbers as martyrs on missions to non-Christian lands in Asia, Africa, China, Japan, and India and in the early colonization of Mexico, and North and South America. As recently as 1900, twenty-nine Franciscan martyrs died for their faith in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. Records are not complete of their martyrdom in lands currently dominated by Communism, but the second world war witnessed the heroic martyrdom of Father Maximilian Kolbe, O.F.M. Conventual of Poland, who in 1941 voluntarily laid down his life for the intended victim of a Nazi prison-camp slaughter.
They were the first missionaries to reach the Western Hemisphere, accompanying Columbus himself, who was a member of the Third Order; and it was a Franciscan who celebrated the first Mass in the New World. Here they have left a long record of tireless labor and heroism, much of which played an important part in spreading civilization over territory which was later to become the United States of America. Someone has said that the map of California whose history is inseparable from that of the great pioneering Franciscan, Father Junipero Serra, reads like a Litany of the Saints because of the names bestowed by the friars upon their early missions in the wilderness, around which the cities grew San Francisco, for their founder; Los Angeles, for the angels; San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Jose, and the others.
From Florida, throughout all the Southwest, they have left upon the face of the land their indelible mark, strikingly individual; and which, even after all the centuries, is possessed of something of the charm of their father, Francis. The old Franciscan missions which thread our western coast, with their picturesque outlines and belfries from which, when the country was young and virginal, pealed out the call to prayer over the mountains, over the valleys; to the Indians and the Mexicans, to the pioneers and the first settlers are mute testimony to their work in civilizing America, and to that peculiar fragrant charm of Francis which did not die with him, but lingers on among his sons to our present day.
The Friars Minor of the Leonine Union (Observants) are the most numerous of the three branches of the First Order. They include priests and lay brothers. Specifically, they carry a great trust, that of the custody of the Christian Shrines of the Holy Land, entrusted to them in the year 1342 by Pope Clement VI, and starred with the martyrdom of many thousands. In Washington, D.C., Mount St. Sepulcher is American headquarters of the Commissariat of the Holy Land, and helps to supply personnel and assistance to this trust.
Perhaps the most unusual activity of this branch of the friars in the United States is the maintenance of an Eastern Rite community established in 1945, to prepare for the conversion of Russia and other Communist-dominated territory. (The Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, for many centuries traditional in Russia and other lands, is distinct from the Latin Rite as practiced generally in the West.) In monasteries at Seibertsville, Pennsylvania, and New Canaan, Connecticut, American friars are perfecting themselves in the Eastern Rite and the Russian language, against the day when, as missioners of Francis, they may carry Christianity to the Kremlin itself.
Other activities in this country include missions, education, direction of parishes, spiritual-retreat guidance for laymen, and general works of charity among the poor.
The total membership throughout the world of the Order of Friars Minor is 26,151. In the United States there are a total of 3,800 members, which group is divided mainly into six provinces, each of which is subject to the Minister General at Rome.
The Province of Saint John the Baptist, with the headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, was established in 1844; the Province of the Sacred Heart, based in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1858; the Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pulaski, Wisconsin, in 1887; the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, New York City, 1901; the Province of the Immaculate Conception, New York City, 1910; and the Province of Saint Barbara, Oakland, California, 1915.
The distinguished St. Bonaventure University at Allegany, New York, of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, was established in 1857 and is the largest Franciscan university in the world.
The Friars Minor also maintain eight commissariats in the United States, based respectively in Lemont, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Roebling, New Jersey; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Chicago, Illinois; Kennebunkport, Maine; Washington, D.C.; and New Canaan, Connecticut. The American fathers also conduct three foundations of Mexican Provinces, in Texas and New Mexico.
At large the Friars Minor are established in thirty-two countries: Ecuador, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Czechoslavakia, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, England, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Holland, Palestine, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the United States, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Morocco, Paraguay, and Venezuela.
They conduct foreign missions in Norway, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Somaliland, Belgian Congo, Union of South Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, China, Formosa, Japan, the Philippine Islands, Indochina, and New Guinea.
Today these first sons of Francis, mindful of their holy father who set out to restore the primitive purity of Christianity by living its primitive poverty, hearken also to his words which echo down to them across seven countries:
"For unto this have we been called, my brethren: even that we may heal the wounded and bind up the broken-hearted."
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