Why be a brother? Better yet, what is a brother? People often ask me these questions and in attempting to answer them I have discovered that misconceptions about religious brotherhood still abound: “A brother is halfway to being a priest…brotherhood is an alternative for those unable to handle the studies for priesthood…brothers are male nuns…” And the list goes on.
The official title given to the Franciscan Order is “The Order of Friars Minor,” or the Order of Lesser Brothers. Although this well-renowned religious community has given to the church many holy, learned, and saintly priests, it is not an order of priests. From its very inception, Saint Francis desired that his community see itself and show itself to the world as a brotherhood.. The specific word that better reveals the Order’s roots is “fraternity,” a word derived from the Latin word frater, meaning “brother.” Simply put, a Franciscan friar, whether he is ordained or not, is in essence a brother. Saint Francis wanted the friars to be brothers both to one another and to the world. Yet these brothers would be also humble, poor, and powerless; therefore, “friars minor.”