are a reformed branch of the First Order of St. Francis that date from the 1530´s. The early Capuchins were inspired by the desire to seek greater evangelical poverty, penance and personal solitary prayer. From very early on they also dedicated themselves to the task of popular preaching aimed at conversion, and the direct care of the poor and the sick. Capuchins were noted for preaching the Passion of Christ and promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as for conducting Lenten missions and leading the Forty Hours solemn adoration of the Holy Eucharist. They served in hospices for the poor and cared for the sick, with as many as 2000 friars offering their lives as martyrs of charity as a result of nursing victims of the Plague.
From the outset the Capuchins, like the original companions of St. Francis, were a mixed fraternity of lay brothers and priests. The Capuchin proto-saint, Felix of Cantalice, was an illiterate lay brother who begged for the friars and for the poor on the streets of Rome. He is followed by a long line of other lay brother saints, blesseds and holy men who served as questors, porters, cooks, gardeners and infirmarians. They include the likes of St. Francis Mary of Comporoso - a hotheaded dueler turned friar - who offered his life for the end of the Plague in Milan, and our own St. Seraphin of Montegranaro - a rather clumsy and awkward brother who prayed for those who harassed him and so gained God´s favor for answering prayers and working miracles.
Perhaps the greatest priest-preacher among the Capuchins is St. Lawrence of Brindisi, a Doctor of the Church who practically memorized the Bible, was able to preach in Hebrew and wasn’t afraid to lead troops into the thick of battle. Saints like Fidelis of Sigmaringen and Joseph of Leonessa follow in his footsteps.
The most well known contemporary Capuchin saint is undoubtedly Padre Pio of Pietrelcina who was favored with mystical gifts from his youth and, like his Father St. Francis, bore the wounds of Christ on his body -- in his case, for fifty years. Like another recent Capuchin saint, Leopold of Castelnovo, Padre Pio spent countless hours in the confessional absolving sins and giving spiritual counsel.
Franciscan Friars of the Renewal