FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

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 So in 1502 the permission given to Juan de Guadalupe was revoked, and the friars were asked to join the Observance in the houses of recollection which the Order in Spain had instituted for the purpose.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


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