7. History of the Franciscan Movement (5)
5) The Friars Minor
Alcantarines or Discalced
7.29. The Spanish reform was born before the division of the Order in 1517. In
1480 Juan de la Puebla had began an effort at reform, followed by Juan de
Guadalupe in 1495. At this time this reform was under the obedience of the
Minister General, and developed independently of the Observant Vicars General.
In 1496 the Minister General Francesco Nanni gave him permission to live the
Rule in the most strict observance. In 1499 the group of friars formed the
Custody of the Holy Gospel.
7.30. The famous reformer Cardinal Cisneros, with the approval of the Spanish
monarchs Fernando and Isabella, wanted to eradicate from Spain all religious
who wanted to start reforms outside the Regular Observance. So in 1502 the
permission given to Juan de Guadalupe was revoked, and the friars were asked to
join the Observance in the houses of recollection which the Order in Spain had
instituted for the purpose. But these reformed friars did not accept and
declared their obedience to the Minister General of the Order. In 1515 these
friars were known as "fratres de caputio", or "Discalced" Friars Minor and were
given the Custody of Estremadura. They were also known as Reformed
Conventuals, because of their obedience to the Minister General.
7.31. The "Ite vos" of 1517 commanded them to join the Order of Friars Minor,
made up of the Observants and the other reformed groups. The Custody of
Estremadura became the Province of St. Gabriel in 1520.
7.32. In 1515 Juan Pascual joined these friars. Later on he would ask to be
left under the obedience of the Friars Minor Conventuals. Paul III gave him
permission to accept novices and other Observants who would like to join the
reform. When Juan Pascual died in 1554 he had laid the foundations for the
Custody of San Josè.
7.33. A key figure in this Custody and a great reformer in Spain was St. Peter
of Alcantara. He was a Minister Provincial of the province of St. Gabriel of
the Reformed Conventuals. In 1557 the Minister General of the Conventuals gave
him permission to become General Commissary of the Reformed Conventuals in
Spain. Peter founded the hermitage of Pedroso. In 1559 the Custody of San
Josè became a Province. The Alcanatarine reform was one of the
strictest in the history of the Order. The same year in which Peter of
Alcantara died, in 1562, the Province of San Josè left the Conventual
obedience and entered the Observant family. Peter of Alcantara was
instrumental in helping St. Theresa of Avila in the reform of the Carmelite
Order, when she founded the Discalced Carmelites.
7.34. The Alcanatarine family was very intransigent in its sense of autonomy
from the Observant mainstream and way of life. In 1621 the Alcantarines were
given a General Commissary and a Procurator General.
7.35. By the end of the 18th century the Discalced or Alcantarine family of the
Order of Friars Minor had spread to Italy (Naples and Lecce), Brazil, Mexico,
East Indies, Japan and the Philippines. The Alcantarines were also a school of
sanctity, with eminent figures such as St. Paschal Baylon, St. John Joseph of
the Cross, and Saints Peter Baptist and companions, missionaries in the
Philippines and martyrs in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1597.
© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm