Capuchin Franciscans Western America Province

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What's the difference between a "Capuchin" Franciscan and a regular Franciscan?

A. The Franciscan Order is divided up into various groups, and the Capuchins are one of these groups, who look to St. Francis of Assisi as their founder.

Q. How many kinds of Franciscans are there anyway?

A. Francis of Assisi’s vision was so powerful, that there are literally hundreds of groups who call themselves Franciscan. There are three groups which belong to what is called the First Order of St. Francis: the friars of the Leonine Union (often called just “Franciscans” and whose initials are O.F.M., Order of Friars Minor),

the Conventual Franciscan Friars (whose initials are O.F.M., Conv.) and the Capuchin Francisan Friars (whose initials are OFMCap.).

Q. Is your Order named after the coffee drink called "cappuccino"?

A. Cappuccino (Italian for "Capuchin") is named after the Capuchin Franciscans. Legend has it that the whipped cream rising to a point reminded some Italian wag of a Capuchin friar with his long, pointed hood, or capuche, up and he dubbed the coffee beverage "cappuccino".

Q. Are you guys named after the "capuchin monkey"?

A. No, in fact the monkey is named after us. These creatures reminded the early Spaniards of the friars because their heads appeared shaved (like the friars who wore the tonsure) and they seemed to have beards, a trademark of the Capuchins. So they called the monkeys capuchinos, which has caused the friars delight and embarrassment ever since.

Q. What does "Capuchin" mean?

A. The word “Capuchin” is a reference to the long hood that these friars adopted, in Italian a ‘capuce.’

Children would call them the ‘Cappucini’, which became ‘Capucin’ in French, ‘Kapuziner’ in German, and Capuchin in English.

Q. What are "Provinces" and how many are there?

A. The Capuchin Order, like many others, is divided into various regions, called provinces. Sometimes a province encompasses an entire nation, at other times there may be several provinces in a single country. For example, in the United States there are six provinces, and two in Canada. The Capuchin friars of Western America comprise the Province of Our Lady of Angels, with friaries in California and Northern Mexico.

Q. If I join the Capuchins in California, could I be stationed anywhere in the world there are Capuchins?

A. It is possible for a friar to serve anywhere in the world where there are Capuchins. In practice, a friar usually stays within his own province. Thus, friars in Our Lady of Angels Province are usually assigned to our houses in California or Northern Mexico.

Q. Are there Capuchin bishops?

A. While St. Francis wanted his friars to be humble and avoid high offices, sometimes the Church does call Capuchins to be bishops, usually in missionary lands. However, this happens even in the United States. Both Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia are Capuchin Franciscan Friars.

Q. How long does it take to become a "full-fledged" Capuchin?

A. In many ways one never becomes a full-fledged Capuchin Franciscan friar, because the vocation of a Capuchin is to continue growing in the Spirit throughout his entire life. However there is a period of initial formation leading up to the profession of perpetual vows, and this can be from three to six years. If a friar is studying to be a priest, he will also be involved in theological studies for several years.

Q. Do I need a college degree to be a Capuchin?

A. A college degree is not necessary to join the Capuchins, although some experience of life and work is desirable. For some of the ministerial work friars are given professional and technical education, as St. Francis wanted us to use our gifts and talents in service of Jesus and the Church.

Q. Was Padre Pio a Capuchin? Is he a saint?

A. Padre Pio was a Capuchin friar who belonged to the Province of Foggia in Italy. Although he is known for his extraordinary holiness and, of course, miracles such as the sacred stigmata, in many ways his life was that of an ordinary friar. He prayed, lived a fraternal life, and ministered to the people who came to the friary, especially for confession. Padre Pio, of course, was canonized by Pope John Paul II and thousands of pilgrims continue to visit his tomb at San Giovanni Rotondo, where the friars still work to serve their spiritual needs.

Q. Do I have to be a Catholic to be a Capuchin?

A. The Capuchin Franciscans are a religious order within the Roman Catholic Church, and so membership comes from among Catholics. Some friars have been Catholics from childhood, while others are those who came into the Church later in life.
Q. Is the Capuchin Order only for men?

A. The order of friars is a brotherhood, open to Catholic men. However, there are also Capuchin Poor Clare sisters who lead a contemplative life, and various communities of Sisters founded within the Capuchin ideal. There are also Secular Franciscans, men and women who try to follow the ideals of St. Francis within lay life.

Q. Why do Capuchins live in celibacy? Isn’t it very difficult and lonely?

A. We believe Jesus called some Christians to witness to the kingdom as celibates. Like any form of Christian life, this has its challenges. For the Capuchins this celibacy is lived within a fraternal life, where the friars strive to support each other. The friars also seek God’s help in prayer to remain faithful to their vow of chastity. They also nurture life-giving friendships, among themselves and with others, especially those with whom they minister.

Q. Why do the Capuchins take a vow of poverty ? How do you pay for stuff?

A. St. Francis wanted his followers to learn to put all their trust in God. While we look on all creation and the things of this world as good gifts of God, we try to live simply and trust in the Lord’s providence. Sometimes we are compensated for the work we do; often, especially in serving the poor, we have to depend on the generosity of our benefactors. It’s all part of learning to trust in God’s love for us.

Q. What about the vow of obedience? Does it mean you have to do what your told or else?

A. Like the other vows, obedience is meant to help us grow in God’s grace. We believe that God acts through the ministers of our Order and our friaries in guiding us in grace. Our obedience is not “blind obedience,” but a faith-filled openness to going beyond our own desires and fears. Ultimately, this vow is meant to help us mean it when we pray: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”