The Cord With Many Threads

“Which type of Franciscan are you?”

While strangers on the street may ask me if I’m in a renaissance fair or am impersonating a Jedi, this is the most common question I get asked by fellow Catholics and other religious. They know that I’m a religious, can tell that I’m probably a Franciscan, but which one?

Benedict Groeschel’s group? No. The friars on EWTN? Nope. Capuchin? Not today. The friars at Stuebenville University? Different friars.

As the conversation continues, we usually end up in one of two places: “Why are there so many types of Franciscans?” or even better, “Which one is the real/original one?” My response? “It’s complicated.”

And it is. Our history is fragmented and diverse. It’s needlessly complicated and unlike all other religious orders. There are three branches of Franciscans, and within each branch there are many different types, either breaking off from previous groups or starting as another order and then be assimilated into the Franciscans years later. There are hundreds, and new ones even created today.

Many have asked me to explain the difference between the groups and I have always resisted. While each group is definitely different and I could probably make some generalizations about many of them, there are also exceptions to each generalization and overlaps to difference. Because the groups developed organically over time, its hard to make clear distinctions between them; we’re all Franciscan… just a slightly different thread of the same cord.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to share, though. In this second installment of Catholicism in Focus, I look at the historical development of the three branches of the Franciscan Order to try to make as much sense of it as I can. It’s not complete, and it’s by no means perfect, but maybe it will help put some things into perspective.

For those reading this through email, click here to watch the video.

7 Comments on “The Cord With Many Threads

  1. Really enjoyed your short brief on the Franciscan Order. I recently started to read of the early years of the Order, and was amazed at all the problems that were encountered back then. Reading about Bernadino Ochino who was General and ending up leaving the Church altogether was a shocker for me. It’s a read that can only be done in small doses!!!

    Anyway many thanks for your insights. You are gifted!

  2. Within the last two years on TV, I heard Fr. Groeschel state that his community, the Franciscan Friars of Renewal, had petitioned to rejoin the Capuchin Franciscans.

  3. I see some of my favorite current Franciscans in your composite photo. Thank you

  4. Thanks for a delightful video – as an associate of the Dubuque Franciscan sisters (a Third Order Regular). The growing presence of associates is adding another type of Franciscan. That’s something to consider.

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