CINCINNATI, Ohio — To celebrate the 800thanniversary of the founding of the Order of Friars Minor, St. Anthony Messenger Press has contracted with Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, for a popular history of the Order to be published in early 2009. Tentatively titled Francis of Assisi and His Brothers: A Popular History of the Franciscan Friars, the book will include history of and an introduction to the ministry of the Friars Minor.
The author will focus on the history of the First Order, with some reference to the Clares and the Third Order insofar as they are part of the friars’ story. The book will include the story of the Friars Minor in general and thus the story of the Conventual and Capuchin friars (OFM Conv. and OFM Cap.) as well as the Friars Minor (the OFMs in the narrower sense).
According to Dominic, this history will emphasize not only the medieval developments — although these are absolutely formative of the Franciscan charism — but will also cover the internal evolution and the mission efforts of the friars during the modern period — from the 16th century to the present. Since the book would be written with an English-speaking audience in mind, the author will give particular emphasis to the history of the Order in the English-speaking world (first England and Ireland, and then North America, and the 20th-century expansion of the Order to other English-speaking countries). Dominic said such a work would fill a gap in the current literature; it would, for example, provide vocation directors with a small book that they could give men considering a vocation to the Order that would tell the story of the friars they meet, not simply that of Saint Francis.
He envisions a book similar in style and format to Clyde Crews’s American & Catholic (also published by St. Anthony Messenger Press), with some illustrations and photographs, as well as several sidebars for each chapter that focus on a single Franciscan figure or a particular historical development.
Dominic said, “The closest to such a book in English would be the work by Damien Vorreux and Aaron Pembleton, A Short History of the Franciscan Family (Franciscan Herald Press, 1989), which is only about a hundred pages long. This was a translation of an older French work that is currently out of print.”
“Bill Short’s nice introduction, The Franciscans(Glazier, 1989), offers a portrait of the entire Franciscan movement — not simply its history but its spirituality as well; as a result there are only about 60 pages devoted to the history of the Friars Minor,” he added. ”Short tells how the various branches of friars evolved, but offers little about their work and mission. It is out of print.“
“There are, of course, detailed studies of the history of the friars in the Middle Ages, such as the classic work of J. H. R. Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order, which goes down to the division of the Order in 1517 (Oxford, 1968), and the just-published The Franciscans in the Middle Ages, by the English Conventual friar, Michael Robson (Boydell, 2006), which covers the same turf. But these are detailed scholarly works, not for someone seeking an introduction. And there is no good general treatment, scholarly or otherwise, of the history of the Order after 1517. So, this work would fill a real gap.”
Dominic wrote the epilogue to Peace and Good in America; a History of Holy Name Province, published in 2004.
— Lisa, a 1976 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, is editorial director of books for St. Anthony Messenger Press.