What Are Franciscan Nuns (What Does It Mean to Be a Franciscan Nun)?

Back in Theology College, I was intrigued by the kind of lives nuns led after observing them for a while. To settle my curiosity, I decided to visit a nearby convent – I later learned they were Franciscan nuns and sisters. During my two-week visit, I interviewed many nuns and sisters about their lives and service to the church. I even got a special sit down with the Abbess, from whom I learned exciting details about the order of Franciscan nuns. Recently, during one of my theology classes, there was a heated debate about whether Franciscan nuns are similar to Dominican nuns and what the difference between them and other orders is. The debate arose because the new college nurse was a Franciscan sister. The students turned to me to settle the debate. Armed with all the answers, I comprehensively answered the question and ended the class debate. So, what are Franciscan Nuns?

The Franciscan Nuns are a Catholic group of women who live their lives; in prayer and reflection (contemplation), in enclosed areas (convents and monasteries), and following the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi (a 13th-century saint) and his close followers (for example Saint Claire of Assisi). Unlike sisters, nuns may only leave their monasteries and convents for essential reasons like seeing a doctor. Otherwise, all their time is spent in prayer inside enclosed areas. Although they also work, all the work or service is done inside their convents and monasteries.

I invite you to join me in this article as I discuss what it means to be a Franciscan nun, their history, and much more. Keep reading for more information.

What does it mean to be a Franciscan nun?

What Are Franciscan Nuns?
What does it mean to be a Franciscan nun? Image source: Pixabay

Being a Franciscan nun means being a member of the second Franciscan order, also known as Poor Clares. Their principal ideals are poverty and charity and following the rules and teachings of Saint Clare of Assisi. Franciscan nuns have to live in poverty (no earthly possessions), obedience (living by the will of God and that of the superiors), chastity (remaining celibate), and enclosure (living in a community without much interaction with the outside world).

What is the origin and history of the Franciscan nuns?

The roots of the Franciscan nuns go back to 2012. On a Palm Sunday that year, a young woman (Saint Clare of Assisi) was inspired by the teachings and preaching of Francis (Saint Francis of Assisi) and requested to start leading the kind of life Francis was living and preaching. Soon, she was joined by other women, and later, Francis allowed them to use a monastery close to the church as their living quarters. Since there was a Franciscan First Order (Friars) solely made up of men, Claire and her fellow women became the Second Franciscan Order, with Claire as the first Abbess (mother superior).

What is the order of the Franciscan nuns?

The Franciscan nuns belong to the Second Order of the three Franciscan orders. Franciscans follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi, with poverty and service as their primary values. The Order of Franciscan nuns, also known as Poor Clares or the Order of Saint Clare, is the order of nuns who follow the rules of Saint Clare of Assisi, the foundress. The nuns must remain poor, obey God and their superiors, remain unmarried, and live in an enclosed community. The nuns have no earthly desires; most of their days are spent praying and contemplating (reflecting).

Who are the Franciscan Sisters?

The Franciscan Orders are divided into three, the first order, the second order, and the third order. The first order is the Friars, the second is the Franciscan nuns or the Poor Clares, and the third is made up of both men and women (religious and lay people) who follow the teachings of Saint Assisi.

The third order is divided into two, third-order secular and third-order religious. The third order secular consists of laymen and women who follow the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi but live ordinary lives. They have occasional prayer meetings, but they are ordinary Christians. The third order religious consists of consecrated men and women who have taken religious vows. It is in this category that the Franciscan sisters fall.

Franciscan sisters follow the footsteps of Saint Assisi and lead lives of poverty, but they do not live in enclosures (like Franciscan nuns). They help people through charitable works, mostly in health and education (teachers, lecturers, doctors, and nurses).

Examples of Franciscan sisters are the Franciscan Sisters of Charity, Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

Are Franciscan nuns cloistered?

Franciscan nuns lead a cloistered (Secluded) life. Their days are spent praying and contemplating. They do not leave the monasteries or convents without a special reason. Work is done as quietly as possible whenever they have something to do in the monasteries and convents. Work in the monasteries is considered an extension of their prayers and reflection.

Do Franciscan nuns take a vow of poverty?

Franciscan nuns take the vow of poverty together with the vows of chastity, obedience, and enclosure. The Franciscan vow of poverty aims to ensure they remain like the poor and the oppressed in society, who suffer much injustice. In Mark 12:38-40, Jesus shows His disciples the same example of the rich oppressing the poor. Franciscans take this as an example of how they should live.

What are the Franciscan sisters’ values?

What Does It Mean to Be a Franciscan Nun?
What are the Franciscan sisters’ values? Image source: Pixabay

The following are the core values of Franciscan sisters:

  • Living a life of love just like God loves all of us. Franciscan sisters express much love to each other as well as to others. All of God’s creations deserve love.
  • Service to others. Franciscan sisters serve all people, especially the poor and those in need.
  • Treating people fairly and justly. To Franciscan sisters, everyone deserves brotherly love. No one should be unfairly or unjustly treated.
  • Living a life like the Gospels. The lives of the disciples should be emulated, and their teachings and examples followed.
  • Taking good care of the planet. Everything on the planet is God’s gift to humanity and should be cared for and natured.
  • Living simple and prayerful lives. To Franciscan sisters, prayer and simplicity are the driving forces of everyday life. No earthly desires or accumulation of personal wealth.

What differentiates a nun from a sister?

Nuns and sisters are both commonly referred to as women religious. The main differences are in how they live and work. Nuns live in enclosed areas where they dedicate their lives to praying for the world. Sisters work and take part in charitable works in the outside world. They interact with the common people on a day-to-day basis.

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