Thanks for your interest in knowing more about our Order. This is necessary for a proper discernment of God’s will for you in life.
1. St. Francis of Assisi
Francis was born in 1182 while his father, a rich cloth merchant, was away on a business trip in France. When he was baptised his mother named him John, but on returning his father renamed him Francis. He had a nice character and was very popular with the youths of Assisi. When he was 24 years old, a war broke out between Assisi and a neighbouring town, and Francis was taken prisoner. He was released after a year because he was sick. It took him another year to recover from the illness, and when it was over Francis was a changed man. He had discovered God and prayed a lot, often seeking lonely places in the countryside around Assisi. One day he found a small abandoned Church, which was falling to ruin, and kneeling down he prayed in front of a wooden cross, which was still above the altar. Suddenly, the crucifix spoke to him and said, " Francis, go and repair my house, because as you see it is falling into ruin".
Francis took these words seriously, and sold all his belongings to get money to repair this small Church. His father was very annoyed with Francis' behaviour and dragged him in front of the bishop of Assisi to convince his son to give back all his property. Francis had nothing left anymore, so he took off his c1othes and gave them back to his father telling him: "I give you back all I have left, and even your name too. From now on I will no longer call you my father, but say Our Father who art in Heaven". With this Francis started living a life of poverty, following the Gospel in everything.
Soon God sent him his first companions. In 1209, when he had 11 companions, he set out to Rome to get approval of his group from the pope. Thus the Order was born. Besides this Order, he founded also the Second Order, the Poor Clares, for women when he accepted St. Clare, and another, The Secular Franciscan Order, for lay people who could not leave their families to live as religious.
The Order grew very rapidly. St Anthony of Padua joined the Order at this time. Francis, however, still found time to seek lonely places to be alone with God in contemplation. By his example he was the model for Franciscan life: to alternate between times of prayer and apostolic activity. He saw God in all creation and considered all creatures as his brothers and sisters, calling the sun his brother and the moon and water his sisters. Even wild creatures submitted themselves to him and he was an instrument of peace among men.
The Franciscan movement brought many novelties in the Church. At a time when all religious were monks living stably in a monastery, the Franciscans became itinerants and became known also as Mendicants because they had a special permission to preach and beg for their living when their work was not enough to sustain them. St Francis sought to give his life as Jesus himself did: to die as a martyr while preaching the Gospel. He did not succeed to die in this way, but managed to resemble Christ by sharing in his suffering. As a sign of this he became the first person to carry the wounds of Christ in his body, a stigmatist.
Francis died in 1226 at the age of 44. He died singing and praising God for everything even for Sister Death, as he called her.
2. Who are the Capuchins?
2. 1. The Capuchin Reform
The growth of the Franciscan Order made the observance of poverty difficult as time went by. For this reason, there have been several attempts to go back to the primitive poverty and simplicity of life of the origins. The first big division of the Order came in 1517, when all the individual small reformed communities were grouped together as a separate Order. It was only 11 years later, however, that a third branch of Franciscans was born. It started very simply in 1525 through Friar Matthew of Bascio, who went to Rome and got a personal permission to live a life of poverty and live an itinerant life. It was not long, however, that many other friars wanted to join him. The first group obtained formal approval in 1528.
They were first known as the Friars Minor of eremitical life, because they lived in lonely places totally dedicated to prayer. Soon, however, they became known as Capuchins because of the shape of their hood. Gradually, they started accepting some forms of apostolate. The first was administering the last Sacraments to the sick who were stricken by plague –a terrible fatal disease at that time. While maintaining their prayerful and secluded life, they were very much sought for Confessions. Some of the early Capuchins became also very good preachers, who knew how to unite sound doctrine and simplicity. Many people came to know them especially through the lay brothers, who used to beg humbly through the streets of many towns. The Order is today blessed with many saints.
2. 2. A Community of Brothers (Friars)
Our community is called the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap). It is an 0rder of Friars because it is a family of brothers (friar comes from the Latin frater, which means brother). St Francis wanted all brothers to be equal. He was aware of Jesus’ ‘The rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them; it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be the first among you must be your slave’ (Mt 20:25-27). Thus, his desire that all be called brothers without any distinction. For this reason, every Capuchin is called Brother (Friar) whether he is ordained or not. Francis also told his friars in the Rule, "and let no one be called Prior or Superior, but all generally should be called Friars Minor". So we call our houses Friary and we have a Guardian, not a superior of the Friary, and a Provincial Minister (servant) for a Province and a General Minister for the whole Order.
2. 3. The Life of a Friar Minor (Lesser Brother)
The life of a Capuchin Friar Minor is living the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in obedience, without property and in chastity. We live in community a life of contemplation mixed with apostolic activity. We are called ‘Friars Minor’ because our Seraphic Father, St Francis, just like Christ, desired to be a minor. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet". Therefore, as minors we undertake manual work. St Francis told us, "Let those who do not know how to work, learn." All offices (ministers or guardians), driving, cleaning, cooking, washing, preaching, etc. are shared among the brothers (priests and non-ordained alike) without distinction, except those ministries that require Sacred Orders.
We undertake all forms of apostolate within the context of fraternity, minority and obedience. The brothers are ready to give pastoral assistance in Parishes, but preferably not to run them. We undertake missionary activities which are among the Order’s priced principal obligations. Other ministries typical of the Capuchin Friars are celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual and bodily assistance to the sick, preaching and charity. We prefer to undertake ministries that are regarded as difficult. There is also the possibility of living a more contemplative life in special houses as hermits, following a short rule, which St. Francis wrote for that purpose.
Minority is also reflected in the way we study. Capuchin friars do not just study for themselves, but for others – just like Christ who became Man for our sake. No friar, therefore, chooses what to study. It is the community that asks one to undertake studies in view of serving the Order, the Church and the society.
We are called Capuchins because of the shape of the hood of our habit (from the Italian cappuccio), which gave the name for our Franciscan reform. 'Our habit, according to the Rule and custom of the Order, consists of a tunic with a hood, chestnut brown in colour, with a cord and sandals or, for a good reason, shoes' (Constitutions 33, 5). We are present in nearly all the countries of the world
2. 4. Poverty and simplicity of life
All religious profess the three vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Even with this vow of Poverty, Francis wanted to imitate our Lord, Jesus Christ, who "did not have anywhere to lay down his head." With the vow of Poverty, we renounce the right to own or inherit anything. Anything given to a brother automatically belongs to the whole fraternity, including cars. This also implies that Friars cannot help their families without the consent of their Minister. We aim for the minimum necessary not the maximum allowed in everything. Franciscan Poverty is not observed only by the Friars individually, but must also be a testimony as a community regarding the number and quality of cars, buildings etc. No Friar can keep money or spend it without the permission of the Guardian.
2. 5. Obedience
The Obedience of a Friar is lived every day. The Brothers should willingly engage in any kind of apostolate, even if it is of private inspiration, under obedience to the competent authority. The vow of Obedience requires a person to abandon himself and all his plans totally in the hands of his Brothers as one says in the formula of profession: "Therefore with all my heart I give myself to this Brotherhood, that through the work of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of our Father Francis and of my brothers, I may fulfill my consecration to the service of God and of the Church".
2. 6. Prayer and Silence
Since, as we earlier highlighted, the Capuchin Franciscan life is a mixture of contemplation and activity, time is dedicated for personal and community prayer. To foster the spirit of prayer, meditation and study, silence is important and required in our friaries.
2. 7. The Capuchin Priesthood
Our primary vocation is to live the Gospel as brothers. The priestly ministry is a calling within a calling and should not become the primary objective of our life. As read above, we not only see, but also designate ourselves as brothers whether one is a cleric or not. Thus, our expression of the priesthood is uniquely founded on being lesser brothers. The priesthood does not confer on one any advantage or right beyond that which every brother possesses. We are a community of brothers!
3. Entry Requirements and Formation Process in Karnataka
Meeting these requirements is necessary for admission to the Capuchin life:
1. The Reception of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.
2. A strong and convinced catholic faith.
3. A generous and strong determination to serve God as a religious.
4. A faith-inspired disposition to put oneself in the hands of his brothers through religious obedience.
5. Physical and mental health.
6. Secular studies in any forms of Sciences. Basically he must complete his SSLC or PUC or Bachelor degree in any stream.
7. A willingness to sacrifice one’s plan and desire for God's.
8. A good reputation.
This is our formation process in:
1. One year of Orientation at Ujire, Belthangadi. Here the candidate is well prepared for the future life. He is well trained in English, music and liturgy. Due to this intense training he is very well helped to grow in his character.
2. Two years of Aspirancy at Ujire, Belthangadi.Here the candidate is allowed to do his secular plus two or PUC studies in the College. For those Candidates who have finished their studies are exempted from this stage of Formation.
3. One year of Postulancy at Mudubelle, Udupi. During this stage of formation the candidate is well prepared for the Novitiate, the candidate comes to know the life of St. Francis, the Church and brushes up some areas of his education.
4. One year of Novitiate at Farangipate, Mangalore.This is an intense year of training in which the person lives the life of a Friar in everything to confirm whether it is the life for him. At the same time his formators(specially the Novice Master) accompany him throughout the year. At the end of this year, the first vows are taken. One becomes a brother after the Novitiate with the first profession of vows.
5. One year of Post-NovitiatePothnal, Raichur. During this year of formation the newly professed Friars live in a village fraternity in simplicity engaging in many apostolic activities, exposure camps and experiences and developing some skills that will be useful to them as a Friars. There are no formal studies.
6. Three years of Philosophy at Bogadi, Mysore. The Friars who have been accepted for the priesthood start their philosophy studies. During these three years they also complete the graduation studies and attain the Bachelor’s degree from the secular university along with the Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.
7. One year of Regency. During this one year of Regency friars individually are sent to different mission fraternities of the Province so as to attain a complete experience of life and live responsibly.
8. Four years of Theology at Kengeri, Bengalore. These four years are intensely spent in religious studies. The Friars are enlightened with the vast knowledge on the Theological subjects. During these year the Friars do their final profession/vows. At the end of the Theological studies the Friars are ordained deacons and are sent to the different Parishes for the diaconate ministry/experience.
Our formation programme may appear long. Do not be discouraged. Embracing a life of total commitment to Christ requires a strong, deep and long preparation.
You can always get more information about the Capuchins in India, Karnataka by contacting the Vocation Director of the Province. Contact via Email, Facebook, WhatsApp or by simply visiting any of our friaries if you happen to pass near one of them and requesting to speak with the Vocation Director:
Friar Jawahar Jerry Cutinho
St Anne’s Friary
Jail Road, Bejai
Dr.Rajkumar Road, P.B.No.1060,
Rajajinagar, Bangalore-560 010
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Accompany the reading of this letter with prayer for God’s guidance. This prayer of St Francis before the crucifix can be helpful in moments of vocation discernment:
Most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me, Lord, a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense and knowledge, so that I may carry out Your holy and true command.
May the Lord bless you, keep you and guide you to a correct decision for your future.