Minimi, (or MINIMS) are the members of the religious order founded by St. Francis of Paula. The name is an allusion to Friar Minor, or to Matt., xxv, 40:”Quamdiu fecistis uni ex his fratribus meis minimis, mihi fecistis”, and suggests, as Leo X in the Bull of canonization of the holy founder says, the great humility which should characterize the religious of this order, and by reason of which, they ought to consider themselves as the least of all religious. With the first Order of the Minims are connected a second and a third order. In this article we are concerned principally with the first.
I. ORIGIN AND RULE. St. Francis of Paula, having in his youth lived one year in a Franciscan convent at S. Marco (Calabria), dedicated himself to solitary life in a hermitage near Paula. In 1435 some disciples joined him, and after a few years he founded convents at Paterno, 1444, and at Milazzo in Sicily, 1469. The new society was called “Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi”. The Archbishop of Cosenza granted them of his own accord, in 1471, exemption from his jurisdiction (Lanovius, “Bullarium“, 9), which privilege was confirmed by Sixtus IV, 1473 (Lanovius, “Bull.”, 11). The same pontiff gave them the privileges of mendicant Friars (q.v.). For 57 years (1435-93) the new foundation had no written rule, but in 1493 the first rule, containing 13 chapters, which was almost a faithful copy of that of St. Francis of Assisi, was confirmed by Alexander VI. (See text Lanovius, ad ann. 1493, and Bull. Rom., V, 352.) A second version of the rule in 10 chapters, which showed more independence of the Rule of St. Francis, was approved by Alexander VI in 1501. Here the fourth solemn vow of vita quadragesimalis appears, which forms the distinctive character of the Minims. In the same Bull of confirmation is inserted the rule of the third order in 7 chapters, for seculars of both sexes. (Text Lanovius ad ann. 1501; Bull. Rom., V, 385.) Hardly different from this second version is the rule confirmed in 1502. (Lanovius, ad ann. 1502.) Finally a third definite text of the rule of the first order, which is still observed by the Minims, was confirmed by Julius II, “Dudum ad sacrum ordinem”, July 28, 1506. (Bull. Rom., V, 421.) The rule of the second order, which is for sisters and which originated in Spain, appears for the first time in the same Bull. It is almost a literal adoption of the rule of the first order, while the rule of the third order here inserted is the same as that confirmed in 1501. The spirit which permeates these rules, especially those of the first and second orders, is that of great penance and abnegation. The fourth vow imposes perpetual abstinence from all flesh and white meats, and only in case of grave sickness by order of the physician may it be dispensed with. The Order of Minims is founded on the same principle of organization as that of all mendicants. The superiors are called correctors. At the head is the eorreetor general, who formerly was elected every three years, but since 1605 every six years. The corrector provincial is elected for three years, while the local superior is elected by each convent for only one year. The habit of the Minims is made of coarse black wool, has broad sleeves, and is girded by a thin black cord. The mozzetta of the capuce reaches below the cord, almost in the form of a scapular. To ensure the stricter observance of the rules of the first and second orders, Francis of Paula drew up a “Correctorium”, consisting of ten chapters corresponding to the number of chapters in the rule, which determines the penance to be inflicted on those who transgress its precepts. This “Correctorium” was approved by Julius II in 1506 and by Leo X in 1517 (Digestum, see below, I, 55).
II. PROPAGATION AND ACTIVITIES., the Order of the Minims, propagated at first in Italy was introduced by special royal favor into France, whither the holy founder was called in 1482. There the earliest convents were at Plessis-Ies-Tours, Amboise, and Nigeon, near Paris. On account of their great simplicity the Minims in France received the appellation of bons hommes. In 1495 Charles VIII of France founded in Rome the convent of Trinita dei Monti, which, by Bull of Innocent X (1645), was exclusively reserved to the French fathers. From France the Minims spread to Spain, where they were called “Fathers of the Victory”, owing to the victory of King Ferdinand over the Moors of Malaga. In 1497 the Emperor Maximilian introduced the new order into Germany (Bohe-mia).At thedeath of St. Francis of Paula, 1507, there existed five provinces spread over Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.
A little later the order counted 450 convents. In 1623 Dony d’Attichi gives the number of members as 6430, convents 359, and provinces 30, distributed in the principal Catholic countries of Europe. Lanovius in 1635 adds to the number of provinces three commissariates, of which one was in the West Indies. In 1646 the Propaganda approved the foundation of a mission in Canada, but it is not known if this plan was ever carried out (Roberti, II, 688). In England the Minims seem not to have had any convents, still some illustrious English members are recorded, as Thomas Felton, martyred in 1588, Henry More, nephew of the chancellor, Blessed Thomas More, d. at Reims, 1587; Andrew Folere, d. at Soissons, 1594. The second order was never very widely propagated. In 1623 there existed 11 convents with 360 sisters. The third order, on the contrary, found many adherents among the faithful in the countries where convents of the first order existed.
To give some indication of its activity we mention some of its most distinguished members. The first to be named is Bernard Boil (see Buil, BERNARDO), the first vicar Apostolic in America, appointed 1493, who, as the documents published by Fita certainly indicate, belonged at that time to the Minims, although the papal Bull of appointment (see reproduction in this ENCYCLOPEDIA, I, 414) used the words ordinis Minorum. See Roberti, op. cit. below, I, 89-102. Distinguished theologians were: Lalemandet, d. 1647; Salier, d. 1707; Boucat, d. 1718; Palanco, d. 1720; Perrimezzi, d. 1740; historians (see bibliography), Giry, d. 1688; Marin, d. 1767; mathematicians, Maignan, d. 1676; Mersenne, d. 1648; philosophers, Saguens, d. about 1718, and some of the previously mentioned theological authors. For the bishops chosen from this order see Roberti (op. cit. below, I, 377, II, 681). The cause for beatification of two Minims has been introduced.
III. PRESENT STATE. Since the French Revolution the Minims are greatly reduced in number. At present there are 19 convents with about 330 friars. There are 15 convents in Italy, 2 in Sicily, 1 in Sardinia, and 1 in Spain. The corrector general resides at St. Andrea delle Fratte, Rome. There are two other convents at Rome, S. Francesco di Paola and S. Maria della Luce. The second order is spread especially in Spain, where it has 10 convents. There are single convents at Marseilles, Rome, and Todi. The third order is spread in Latin countries and also in South America, where secular priests are delegated and authorized to receive members.