FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

7. History of the Franciscan Movement (4)

4) The Friars Minor Riformati

7.20. The Minister General Paolo Pisotti was against reform in the Observant family, and he was naturally all out against houses of recollection. So Francesco da Jesi and Bernardino da Asti, who later on became Capuchins, went to Pope Clement VII who gave them the Bull "In Suprema Militantis Ecclesiae", on 16 January 1532. Each province had the permission to found houses of reform, in order to give the Brothers the opportunity to live the Rule in a more strict way, but according to the papal declarations in "Exiit" and "Exivi" (see Lecture 6). The Brothers could live in extreme poverty, even in the choice of clothing, but their habits were not to be different in form and colour from the official habit of the Friars Minor Observants. These friaries could have a Custos, who was to take part in the Provincial Chapters together with the Guardians.

7.21. The Observant family strongly resisted this reform within its ranks, especially in the period 1532-1579. In 1535 Pope Paul III warned the Minister General that, if the Order would not put into effect the Bull "In Suprema", he would order the Friars Minor Riformati to join the Capuchins. The result was a favourable attitude towards the Reform. The Provincial of the Roman province gave the four hermitages of the Valle Reatina to the Riformati.

7.22. The beginnings of the Riformati were similar to those of the Capuchins with regards to their way of life, the time allotted to prayer, penitential practices, and the like. In 1579 the Riformati asked Pope Gregory XIII the Bull "Cum illis vicem", in order to be autonomous from the Observants. The Bull prohibited friars who became Riformati to return to live in the Observant friaries, but gave permission to the Observants to go and live in friaries of the Riformati.

7.23. The Riformati built a friary at San Francesco a Ripa, in Roma, to be their headquarters. This friary remained the official centre of the Italian Riformati until the Bull of Union of 1897. In 1587 the Minister General Francisco Gonzaga obtained the suspension of the Bull "Cum illis vicem". Pope Clement VIII ordered that the novitiate houses of the Observant provinces were to be in the houses of recollection. Bonaventura Secusi da Caltagirone gave new Constitutions to the Italian Riformati in 1595. In 1596 Pope Clement VIII gave a Procurator General and Visitators to the Riformati, much to the anger of the Observants who accused them of being separatist.

7.24. The tension between Observants and Reformed Friars Minor was a cause of trouble for the leaders of the Order. In 1621 Gregory XV gave the Riformati the right to have their own Procurator, to be nominated by the Cardinal Protector of the Order. Thus the Minister General's jurisdiction over the Riformati was greatly diminished. For a brief period the Riformati even had their own Vicar General, but this office was abolished by Urban VIII in 1624.

7.25. With the spread of the Reform, in 1639, the Bull "Iniuncti nobis" of Urban VIII gave permission to the Reformed custodies in Italy and Poland to become independent provinces in the Order, with the faculty of adding the adjective "Riformata" to the name of the province. The Riformati were to have a Procurator General to be nominated by the Cardinal Protector. The Minister General of the Order retained jurisdiction over the Riformati.

7.26. Thus, in 1639, the Friars Minor Riformati began to exist as an autonomous family within the ranks of the Order of Friars Minor, under the obedience of the Minister General, but with their own General Procurator. This state of affairs would continue officially until 1897, and, in practice, even later in the case of the Italian provinces.

7.27. The Riformati family also gave a good number of saints to the Franciscan Order. The most renowned among them is St. Leonard of Port Maurice (+ 1751), who became a Franciscan friar in the family known as "Riformella", founded by the Blessed Bonaventura from Barcellona in the Reformed Roman Province. The "Riformella" friars lived in the friary of San Bonaventura al Palatino, near the Colosseum.

7.28. The Riformati spread to other parts of Europe, such as in Bavaria, where the Duke Maximilian I requested their presence. The Riformati were also present in Tyrol, Austria, Bohemia and Poland.

© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm



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