Like the other mendicant Orders, there are three separate components, or Orders, of the movement: the friars, contemplative nuns and a Third Order of laypeople who live in the spirit of the Order in their daily lives. At present there are only two fraternities of the Minim tertiaries; both are in Italy.
The founder of the Order, Saint Francis of Paola, was born in 1416 and named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. The boy became ill when he was only one month old, and his mother prayed to St. Francis and promised that her son would spend a year in a Franciscan friary if he were healed. Her prayer was granted, and at 13 years of age Francis fulfilled that votive year. After this year he dedicated himself to a life of solitude and penance as a hermit.
In 1435, two followers joined Francis and began the community, which was first called the "Poor Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi." Francis and his followers founded hermitages at Paterno in 1444 and Milazzo, Sicily, in 1469. The Archbishop of Cosenza approved the group and established them as a religious Order on November 30, 1470, and this approval was confirmed by Pope Sixtus IV in his Bull Sedes Apostolica of May 17, 1474. At that time, the Pope also changed their status from that of hermits to mendicant friars.
The name Minims comes from the Italian word minimo, meaning the smallest or the least, and their founder would call himself il minimo dei minimi. Francis of Paola wanted to distinguish himself as being of even less significance than the Friars Minor founded by his patron saint. Francis composed a rule for the community in 1493, which was approved under the name of "Hermits of the Order of the Minims". The definitive version of the rule was solemnly approved by Pope Julius II in the Bull Inter ceteros, July 28, 1506, who also simplified the name of the community to the Order of Minims (Latin: Ordo Minimorum).
In addition to the standard three religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, the Rule contains the vow of "a Lenten way of life" (Latin: vita quadragesimalis), which is considered to be the distinctive feature of the Minims. This vow is for perpetual abstinence from all meat and dairy products, veganism, except in case of grave illness and by order of a physician. Because of asceticism, The Order is also discalced in character and there are other acts of humility.