|Ordo Fratrum Minorum (Latin)|
|Abbreviation||Post-nominal letters OFM|
|Predecessor||Order of Observant Friars Minor|
|Merged into||On October 4, 1897, the Order of Discalced Friars Minor, Order of Observant Friars Minor, Order of Friars Minor Recollect and the Order of Reformed Friars Minor were merged into a single religious order named the Order of Friars Minor|
|Formation||February 24, 1209|
|Founder||Saint Francis of Assisi|
|Founded at||Assisi, Italy|
|Type||Mendicant Order Institute of Consecrated Life - Men|
|Legal status||Religious institute|
Via di S. Maria Mediatrice, 2500165 Roma, Italia
|12,726 (8,771 priests)|
|Fr. Massimo Fusarelli, OFM|
Pax et bonum
Peace and the good
|Preaching, missionary, educational, parochial, charitable works|
|Subsidiaries||Secular Franciscan Order (1221)|
Third Order of Saint Francis (1447)
|Secessions||Order of Friars Minor Conventual (1209)|
Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (1520)
|Order of Observant Friars Minor|
The Order of Friars Minor (also called the Franciscans, the Franciscan Order, or the Seraphic Order; postnominal abbreviation OFM) is a mendicant Catholic religious order, founded in 1209 by Francis of Assisi. The order adheres to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others. The Order of Friars Minor is the largest of the contemporary First Orders within the Franciscan movement.
Francis began preaching around 1207 and traveled to Rome to seek approval of his order from Pope Innocent III in 1209. The original Rule of Saint Francis approved by the pope disallowed ownership of property, requiring members of the order to beg for food while preaching. The austerity was meant to emulate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Franciscans traveled and preached in the streets, while boarding in church properties. The extreme poverty required of members was relaxed in the final revision of the Rule in 1223. The degree of observance required of members remained a major source of conflict within the order, resulting in numerous secessions.
The Order of Friars Minor, previously known as the Observant branch (postnominal abbreviation OFM Obs.), is one of the three Franciscan First Orders within the Catholic Church, the others being the Capuchins (postnominal abbreviation OFM Cap.) and Conventuals (postnominal abbreviation OFM Conv). The Order of Friars Minor, in its current form, is the result of an amalgamation of several smaller Franciscan orders (e.g. Alcantarines, Recollects, Reformanti, etc.), completed in 1897 by Pope Leo XIII. The Capuchin and Conventual remain distinct religious institutes within the Catholic Church, observing the Rule of Saint Francis with different emphases. Franciscans are sometimes referred to as minorites or greyfriars because of their habit. In Poland and Lithuania they are known as Bernardines, after Bernardino of Siena, although the term elsewhere refers rather to Cistercians.
See also: Franciscans and Franciscan spirituality in Protestantism
The "Order of Friars Minor" are commonly called simply the "Franciscans". This Order is a mendicant religious order of men that traces its origin to Francis of Assisi. Their official Latin name is the Ordo Fratrum Minorum  Which is the name Francis gave his brotherhood. Having been born among the minorum (serfs, second class citizens), before his conversion, he aspired to move up the social ladder to the maggiorum (nobles, first class citizens). After a life of conversion, the name of his brotherhood (Order of Second-Class Brothers) indicates his coming to an appreciation of his social condition on behalf of those who have no class or citizenship in society. 
The modern organization of the Friars Minor comprises several 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" (OFM). According to the 2013 Annuario Pontificio, the OFM has 2,212 communities; 14,123 members; 9,735 priests
The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin or simply Capuchins, official name: "Friars Minor Capuchin" (OFM Cap). it has 1,633 communities; 10,786 members; 7,057 priests
The Conventual Franciscans or Minorites, official name: "Friars Minor Conventual" (OFM Conv). It has 667 communities; 4,289 members; 2,921 priests
Third Order Regular of Saint Francis (TOR): 176 communities; 870 members; 576 priests
See also: Franciscans § History
A sermon on Mt 10:9 which Francis heard in 1209 made such an impression on him that he decided to fully devote himself to a life of apostolic poverty. Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Evangelical precept, without staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance.
The mendicant orders had long been exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop, and enjoyed (as distinguished from the secular clergy) unrestricted freedom to preach and hear confessions in the churches connected with their monasteries. This had led to endless friction and open quarrels between the two divisions of the clergy. This question was definitively settled by the Council of Trent.
Amid numerous dissensions in the 14th century, a number of separate congregations sprang up, almost of sects, to say nothing of the heretical parties of the Beghards and Fraticelli, some of which developed within the order on both hermit and cenobitic principles.
A difference of opinion developed in the community concerning the interpretation of the rule regarding property. The Observants held to a strict interpretation that the friars may not hold any property either individually nor communally. The literal and unconditional observance of this was rendered impracticable by the great expansion of the order, its pursuit of learning, and the accumulated property of the large cloisters in the towns. Regulations were drafted by which all alms donated were held by custodians appointed by the Holy See, who would make distributions upon request. It was John XXII who had introduced Conventualism in the sense of community of goods, income, and property as in other religious orders, in contradiction to Observantism or the strict observance of the rule. Pope Martin V, in the Brief Ad statum of 23 August 1430, allowed the Conventuals to hold property like all other orders.
Projects for a union between the two main branches of the order were put forth not only by the Council of Constance but by several popes, without any positive result. By direction of Pope Martin V, John of Capistrano drew up statutes which were to serve as a basis for reunion, and they were actually accepted by a general chapter at Assisi in 1430; but the majority of the Conventual houses refused to agree to them, and they remained without effect.
Equally unsuccessful were the attempts of the Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV, who bestowed a vast number of privileges on both original mendicant orders, but by this very fact lost the favor of the Observants and failed in his plans for reunion. Julius II succeeded in doing away with some of the smaller branches, but left the division of the two great parties untouched. This division was finally legalized by Leo X, after a general chapter held in Rome in 1517, in connection with the reform movement of the Fifth Lateran Council, had once more declared the impossibility of reunion. Leo X summoned on 11 July 1516 a general chapter to meet at Rome on the feast of Pentecost 31 May 1517. This chapter suppressed all the reformed congregations and annexed them to the Observants; it then declared the Observants an independent order, and separated them completely from the Conventuals. The less strict principles of the Conventuals, permitting the possession of real estate and the enjoyment of fixed revenues, were recognized as tolerable, while the Observants, in contrast to this usus moderatus, were held strictly to their own usus arctus or pauper.
All of the groups that followed the Franciscan Rule literally were united to the Observants, and the right to elect the Minister General of the Order, together with the seal of the order, was given to the group united under the Observants. This grouping, since it adhered more closely to the rule of the founder, was allowed to claim a certain superiority over the Conventuals. The Observant general (elected now for six years, not for life) inherited the title of "Minister-General of the Whole Order of St. Francis" and was granted the right to confirm the choice of a head for the Conventuals, who was known as "Master-General of the Friars Minor Conventual"—although this privilege never became practically operative.
In 1875, the Kulturkampf expelled the majority of the German Franciscans, most of whom settled in North America.
The habit has been gradually changed in colour and certain other details. Its colour, which was at first grey or a medium brown, is now a dark brown. The dress, which consists of a loose sleeved gown, is confined by a white cord, from which is hung, since the fifteenth century, the Seraphic Rosary with its seven decades. Sandals are substituted for shoes. Around the neck and over the shoulders hangs the cowl.