The Society of Jesus, usually known as the Jesuits, and the Franciscans are both Roman Catholic religious orders. Both have worldwide organizations. Both are engaged in teaching and evangelism. Both build their religious life around the rites and sacraments of the Catholic Church. The two, however, have different histories and organizations. They also attract very different members.
The Jesuits' founder was Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish soldier. When he founded the Jesuits in 1540, he brought to the organization a soldier's discipline and zeal for training. The Francisicans take their name from Francis of Assisi, the order's founder. Francis was the son of a wealthy merchant. He renounced his wealth and devoted himself to a life of service to the poor. His followers, like Francis, strive to divest themselves not only of wealth but also of ambition, arrogance and power. They live among the poor and needy, and spend their lives in service.
The Jesuits are a single organization with a headquarters in Rome. They divide the world by region into assistancies, which are then divided into provinces. Individual Jesuits report to their immediate superiors, who report to their superiors up the line to the Superior General, who is the head of the organization and reports to the pope. Franciscans, on the other hand, are not a single organization but are many organizations that trace their roots to St. Francis. The three most prominent Franciscan orders are the Order of Friars Minor, the Capuchins and the Observants, who are also called the Franciscan Friars. Though all Jesuits are Catholic men, Franciscans have female orders and Protestant orders.
Jesuits are renowned for their scholarship and educational work. The order has founded 189 colleges and universities as well as hundreds of secondary schools worldwide. Jesuit scholars work as lawyers and canon lawyers. Jesuit scientists work at the Vatican Observatory and manage Vatican Radio. Franciscans are known for their work among the poor and needy. They offer food, clothes and health care. They do peacemaking work. They offer basic education and job training. They do advocacy and social work. Franciscans not only serve the poor, but they also work to care for the environment, both the earth and the animals and plants on the earth.
Jesuit spirituality is built on Ignatius Loyola's "Spiritual Exercises," which has been used as a training manual for spiritual warriors since the organization's founding. These exercises engage the entire person -- mind, imagination, heart, body and will -- in a quest for knowledge of God and imitation of Christ. Jesuits focus on spiritual formation. They seek to build people with a fulfilling and productive spiritual life. Franciscans seek to love as Jesus loved. They cultivate humility and inner peace and joy. Their model is Christ. Their goal is to let go of anything that would get in the way of serving as Jesus served.
- Jesuits: The Provinces
- EWTN Global Catholic Network: St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Development of the Society of Jesus
- Franciscans of Canada: Franciscan Spirituality
- Order of Friars Minor: Pilgrims and Strangers in this World
- The Jesuits: Science and Technology
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: Franciscan
- Order of Ecumenical Franciscans: Who is the OEF?
- The Franciscan Story; Maurice Carmody
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