The Franciscans was the Order instituted by St. Francis, the Grey Friars about 1210 on. Rejecting the routine of monks in some remote cloister, they chose instead to work among the needy of the towns. In the expanding centers of trade the Franciscans preached and ministered to the poor, stressing the theme of Christian love and brother-hood. Francis was reluctant to found an order, for he believed that formal organization tends to suppress individual spontaneity. Francis feared the effect of wealth, even collective wealth on the ideal of holy poverty.

The Franciscans were to go among men preaching the word and the example of Jesus, and satisfying their simple needs by the alms of their fellow men, to take poverty as a bride. This ideal was followed as literally and as profoundly as "He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Francis was joined by great multitudes of disciples, and so the first Friars of the Franciscan Order, an order of women were set up besides. The Dominicans were the black friars, the Franciscans the grey. Both grey and black became familiar figures on the streets and highways of Europe.

St. Francis formed his companies of friars in the high Middle Ages. Rejecting the routine of monks in some remote cloister, they chose instead to work among the needy of the towns, poor and sick peoples of the world, deepening the faith of folk by their preaching. They were not so much reformers as innovators, creating a new force in the church to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of a new society. They were from the first an order of the poor and wandered the country-side in pairs like the seventy that Jesus sent out. Francis had admonished them in gospel purity, "provide neither gold nor silver not brass in your purses, nor script for your journey etc."

Francis had launched his little company upon an evangelical life of service and devotion, in which the whole common life of devotion, labor, and possessions would be dedicated to Christian obedience Each member was to minister in loving service. 2nd rule of the Franciscans (1223): (Those joining us) sell all their goods and strive to distribute to the poor, appropriate nothing to themselves, neither a house, nor place, nor anything. And as pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go confidently in quest for alms, nor ought they be ashamed, because the Lord made Himself poor for us in this world.
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