What is a Franciscan? And why is Franciscanism important at Marian University?

by Ed Ventura | Feb 02, 2018

Edited by Susan Sullivan | February 2, 2018

The term “Franciscan” refers to followers of three orders within the Catholic Church founded by Francis of Assisi, namely the Third Order of Saint Francis, the Order of Saint Clare, and the Order of Friars Minor.

Who was Francis?

The story of Francis of Assisi begins in 1207. The son of a wealthy merchant, Francis left his life of privilege behind in order to pursue his faith. He cut ties with his family, began wearing a simple tunic that is symbolic of the orders he later established, and pursued a religious life with a small group of like-minded brothers in Christ.

The group lived for a time in a deserted leper colony, but traveled throughout the region, living an ascetic life of poverty and preaching repentance.The austere rules were meant to echo the life of Jesus.

Two years later, Francis traveled to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III to formally establish the new orders, which didn’t allow followers to own property and required them to beg for food while preaching.

The doctrines and principles of the three orders, which the pope approved in 1209, are based on the spiritual teachings of Saint Francis, Clare of Assisi, Elizabeth of Hungary, Anthony of Padua, and religious scholars.

Members of the Assisi orders lived their lives as street beggars who preached the word of God. Francis would spend the rest of his days living a life of intense prayer and ministry, moving from one city to the next preaching the gospel by day and sleeping in churches by night.

What is Franciscanism?

Franciscan traditions are steeped in Catholicism and focus on many of the same values, beliefs, and traditions of the Catholic faith, like the importance of charity, benevolence, and selflessness.

Franciscans do not believe in living lavishly while other Christians live in poverty and misery. Founding principles of Franciscanism include:

  • God exists as a community of love through the Trinity
  • God is generous and loving
  • We are all brothers and sisters in God’s image

The symbol representing Franciscan orders depicts a Tau cross and two arms: the right arm is Jesus’ and shows his hand wounded from being nailed to the cross and the left belongs to Francis of Assisi and shows his hand wounded from the stigmata.

Their motto is the Latin pax et bonum which translates as “peace and the good.”

How is Franciscanism part of Marian University’s culture?

Marian University is a Catholic college built on the Franciscan philosophies of our founders, the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis. The campus culture emphasizes four fundamental values:

  • Peace and justice
  • Dignity of the person
  • Responsible stewardship
  • Reconciliation

Students at Marian are encouraged to embrace these values throughout their college journey and after graduation. Students are challenged not just academically, but are required to take part in activities and opportunities focused on serving others.

Faculty advisors are focused on helping students take what they’ve learned in their chosen career path to change people’s lives for the better through service and transformational leadership.

Learn more about our Franciscan heritage.

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