The Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), in its attempt to remain faithful to the intentions of the founder, St. Francis of Assisi, went through many difficulties in the course of its history, which led to disagreements and divisions. The three major branches of the First Order for Religious men, the Franciscan Friars Minor, the Conventual Friars Minor and the Capuchin Friars Minor have their own organization and legal structure, but share Francis as their Father and Founder. The Capuchins are the youngest branch, going back to 1525, when some Friars Minor in the Marches wanted to live a stricter life of prayer and poverty to be closer to the original intentions of St. Francis. Thanks to the support of the Papal Court the new branch received early recognition and grew fast, first in Italy, and since 1574 all over Europe.
The name Capuchins refers to the peculiar shape of the long hood. Originally, a popular nickname, it has become the official name of the Order, which now exists in 104 countries all over the world, with around 18,000 brothers living in more than 1,800 communities (fraternities, friaries). Simplicity, closeness to the people, a fraternal spirit in our houses and our apostolate are visible signs that mark our lifestyle, while the emphasis on penance and prayer in the life of the first Capuchins needs to be revived.
Besides the Capuchin Order for Religious men, there exist many contemplative monasteries of Capuchin nuns and a multitude of religious congregations for women with the Capuchin spirit, often founded with the assistance of a Capuchin friar. The Secular Franciscan Order for lay people is an independent organization encompassing the whole Franciscan spectrum. Franciscans, Conventuals, Capuchins and other members of the Franciscan Family give spiritual assistance to the Secular Franciscan Order. All these groups of professed religious and secular Franciscans form the Franciscan Family.