At first, Francis sought a life of solitude and prayer. Within a few years Francis’ life gave new direction to those he encountered. Francis found that other men of Assisi were attracted to the same vision – to follow Christ and His Apostles. Soon there grew a small community which settled on the outskirts of town near the abandoned church of Our Lady of the Angels. Then St. Francis and a band of eleven followers sought permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new order in the Church. Permission was granted in 1209. Today it is known as the First Order. The Second Order of St. Francis (commonly known as Poor Clares) was founded in 1212 in Assisi when Francis received Clare as a follower of his way of life.
Francis also had an impact on a movement already present among the Christian faithful. These were the “Penitents”; people who were seeking holiness in their daily lives. In preaching a “life of conversion,” Francis attracted many men and women from all walks of life who turned to him for guidance in a life of penance. In 1209, Francis gave a norm of life for these penitents living in the world and in 1221 he collaborated with the Church, which granted them a Rule. In 1289, Pope Nicholas IV approved another version of this Rule. Some of the penitents began to live communal life dedicating themselves to works of mercy; others began to live in remote places as hermits. These groups were known as the Religious of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.
The history of the Third Order Regular in Ireland dates back to the later part of the 14th and early part of the 15th centuries. These tertiary communities were small communities of clerical and lay Brothers.* In the early 19th century, responding to the request from Bishops in the United States, the Brothers accepted apostolic works outside if Ireland. Franciscan Brothers traveled to the United States from Ireland to minister as teachers and established permanent foundations in Loretto, Pennsylvania and Brooklyn, NY. The Brooklyn foundation became the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn.
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*Adapted from a work by Fr. Michael Higgins, T.O.R.
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EVERYWHERE AND IN EACH PLACE, AND IN EVERY SEASON AND EACH DAY …
THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS ARE TO HAVE A TRUE AND HUMBLE FAITH