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The Order of Friars Minor Conventual sought to spread the ideals of Saint Francis throughout the new urban social order of the Middle Ages. Some friars settled in the urban slums, or the suburbs the medieval neighbourhoods where the huts and shacks of the poorest were built outside the safety of the city walls. In London, the first settlement of the friars was set in what was called "Stinking Lane."
Since the suburbs were also the place where hospitals were set up, the friars were often commissioned by the city government to facilitate the care of the sick. The friars also helped to construct sturdier buildings, replacing the previous huts, and constructed churches. Robert Grosseteste, then Bishop of Lincoln, marvelled that the people "run to the friars for instruction as well as for confession and direction. They are transforming the world."
The movement of the Conventual Franciscans into the cities was controversial and split the Franciscan Order into two factions: those who desired the traditional Franciscan life of solitary meditation in rural areas, and those who desired to live together in friaries and work among the urban poor like the Conventual Franciscans. This latter group was first known as the "Friars of the Community," but by 1250 they were also referred to as Fratres Conventuales, however, their official title remained Fratres Minores until the division of 1517, when these followers of Saint Francis became definitively known as Fratres Minores Conventuales or the Friars Minor Conventual.
Though keeping Francis' remains in the Basilica of St. Francis, generally the Conventuals did not remain at the sites associated with Francis's actual presence. The Friars of the Community sought to take Francis's ideals to the far reaches of a universal Church. After the founder's death, they began the task of translating Francis's earthly existence into a socially relevant message for current and future generations.
The Conventual Franciscans nestled their large group homes into small areas of land surrounded by poverty. They used their abilities to combat the hardships and injustices of the poverty stricken areas where they settled. The friaries focused on disciplined austerity, generosity, harmonized prayer, and service to others.
Saints of the Order
After the separation from the OFM Franciscans, the Order has three saints:
- Ordo Fratrum Minorum Conventualium - Conventual Franciscans
- Conventual Franciscan Friars in the United States
- Order of Friars Minor Conventuals Article from the Catholic Encyclopedia
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