The Franciscans of Mary were founded in 1988 by the P. Santiago Martín (Madrid, 1954), in Madrid and received the first ecclesiastical approval from the hands of the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Angel Suquía, in 1993, as an International Public Association of the Faithful of Diocesan Right. Since that time, the Franciscans of Mary began to expand outside their Dioceses of origin, first throughout Spain and then to other areas. Irún, in the Basque Country; Alicante, next to the Mediterranean and Oviedo, in the cradle of the reconquest, were the first dioceses who welcomed the spirituality of gratitude. Then followed by others: Valencia, Barcelona, Granada, Seville… From the year 2000, although already having a presence in America (Dominican Republic), the expansion on the continent began. At this time, the “schools of gratitude” – the typical and characteristic work of the Franciscans of Mary- are open and operating in all the nations of the Americas, from Canada to Chile, except for some of the smaller islands of the Caribbean. Not long after, this expansion moved to Asia, although more timidly (there are “schools of gratitude” in Sri Lanka) and began to create groups of lay people in other countries of Europe: Poland, Holland, Italy, Germany. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Pontifical Council for the Laity, presided over by Cardinal Rylko- gave the pontifical approval corroborating this institution, as well as a “way of holiness” and recognizing the existence of a charism, that of gratitude. The pontifical approval is dated 25 March 2007, the day of the Incarnation of the Lord, the day of the “yes” of Mary, and the presentation of the decree of approval took place in the Vatican on 26 June 2007, the feast of other founder, Saint Josemaría Escrivá. The 28 March 2012 the Pope granted final approval of the statutes of this institution. At this time, the Franciscans of Mary are in 31 countries on three continents, and the number of laity who attend the “schools of gratitude”, and therefore, that are legally part of the Association, is around ten thousand.
The Franciscans of Mary are organized in two levels: the laity and the consecrated persons. Each one of them has a structure and different commitments, although all are participants of the same vocation: to love and make Love be loved, to love God who is Love. The mission of the Franciscans of Mary is to live and spread the spirituality of gratitude, helping everyone to understand that this is the heart of the Gospel, what God expects and has the right to find in the heart of the Christian.
This experience and dissemination of the spirituality of gratitude is done through the imitation of the Most Holy Virgin and of St Francis of Assisi: to imitate Mary in their availability, in her divine motherhood through the practice of unity and in their service to Christ crucified; to imitate Saint Francis in his poverty, in his grateful love of God and in his full fidelity to the Church, especially to the Pope.