INSPIRATION AND INSTITUTION
WAY OF LIFE
CUSTOMS OF THE PROVINCE
(1536 – 1641)
CAPUCHIN LIFE AS IT WAS DESCRIBED
IN DOCUMENTS GRANTING AN OBEDIENCE,
ASSIGNING WORK TO THE FRIARS,
AND IN LETTERS OF AFFILIATION
OBEDIENCES FOR NOMINATIONS AND OFFICES IN THE ORDER
from I Frati Cappuccini, a work of Costanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, volume I, pages 1689-1719.
Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap
Table of Contents
In the vastness of its geographical and juridical structure, the organization of the Order makes use of various subsidiary offices to the central “ministerium et servitium” of the general minister for the unity and coordination of the various provinces and of the provincial minister in the individual provinces. And here multiple formulas of both general and provincial obedience flourish and thicken.
The general minister, according to the Franciscan Rule, has the grave obligation to spiritually animate the provinces of the Order through the canonical visit. Towards the end of the sixteenth century the Capuchins had decisively opened up to the various European regions, and the father general’s task became increasingly more onerous. We know how tiring journeys were then, even if they were sometimes done in a carriage or on horseback. Fr. Girolamo Errente da Polizzi had been elected general in 1587 for six years of government so as to be able to also visit the provinces beyond the Alps such as Switzerland, France and others then still in their infancy. However, he was unable to carry out this enormous task and had to make use of general commissioners. So here is a first group of appointments and obediences. We used some historical documents: the appointment of Mattia da Salò as general commissioner for the Swiss province, when in 1591 Errente was visiting Milan (doc. 67); another nomination of the same for the province of Tuscany, issued three years later by General Silvestro da Monteleone (doc. 68). The form specifies the entire scope of authority that the general commissioner possesses in this task, who is thus authorized by the friars as if he were the same person as the general minister.
An intermediate formula, however, is the appointment, again by Bellintani, as vice-commissioner of the provinces of Bohemia and Austria, made by Saint Lawrence of Brindisi through the then vice-commissioner of the same provinces, Fr. Amedeo da Verona, in 1604. The curiosity of this document consists in the fact that it contains two obediences: one for the previous vice-commissioner Fr. Amedeo when he was nominated by Saint Lawrence in 1602; the other for Fr. Matthias as successor. However, being a vice-commissioner, there is no authorization to “take or build other friaries, nor call friars from other provinces” (doc. 69).
Among the forms of general commissions, then, those that refer to direct orders of the Supreme Pontiff are proposed (doc. 70); while a different form establishes the duration of the commissioners’ office until the “next inclusive chapter”, in which the provincial minister will be elected as “ordinary superior” (doc. 71).
A second group of forms refers to the general confirmation of the provincial vicars. They, elected “canonically”, are “authenticated” by the document of the general minister so that they know how to “serve all the friars of the province according to the Rule and laudable customs” (doc. 72).
Two formulas used by p. Gianmaria da Tusa underline on the one hand with greater vigour and spirituality, the task of the vicariate which must be exercised “according to the norms of regular observance with all rigor, blocking wandering friars, correcting the restless, punishing the dissolute and penalizing the guilty”, always in the style “of our father Francis, or rather of our Lord Jesus Christ” (doc. 73); on the other hand they point out that it is a continuity in tradition, being an “ancient custom”, “the custom of the ancient fathers of our congregation” (doc. 74).
Moving now to the forms of the provincial curiae, still on the same subject, we find the obedience to send the custodians to the general chapter (doc. 75) with a formula similar to the obediences for travel and transfers. Out of curiosity and similarity, as it is linked to the general chapter, we wanted to report, almost in brackets, the form of the circular that the provincial minister used to send to the local superiors at the time of the general chapter, with the obligation of “acknowledgment of receipt”, to recommend fervent prayers “for eight days” before the elections, remembering the prescriptions of the constitutions and above all to “have the Venerable exposed” on the day “destined for the elections” (doc. 76).
In analogy to the obediences for general commissioners, p. Gianmaria da Tusa proposes a form for the establishment of a provincial commissioner” (doc. 77).
Other superiors in the provinces are the father guardians, to whom a whole series of obediences is connected: for the appointment (doc. 78) and, in anticipation of the forthcoming provincial chapter, for those who conclude the years of their guardianship (doc. 79) or they have not yet “finished the course” (doc. 80). The same goes for the vicars elected in the chapter or in a definitory (doc. 81), or for those who replace the current vicars in chapter time as “vicari quaresimali” [Lenten vicars/stand-in vicars] (doc. 83).
The formulas underline the meaning of their supplementary service: to pray for the chapter, not to neglect “the usual and necessary diligence” and everything that concerns the “maintenance of the friary”; but above all “the regular observance of our constitutions and general and provincial orders, as a more precise part of the duty required of us”.
To conclude this group of obediences, we have added the faculty for the confessions of seculars (doc. 86), first only general and then, by pontifical indult, also provincial. The last curiosity refers to the form of a letter sent to the guardian accompanying the obediences of transfer of the friars according to the list of renewed stable family of the friary (doc. 84). The text is very significant and reveals the difficulties of obedience, the replies or the discontent of some friars, or the danger for someone of being a tourist and wasting time “on the journey” of transfer, and of “diverting from the common and shorter road to go and stay in the homes of secular people”, or, at least, to stay “longer than necessary in our intermediate places”. There is also a delicate touch of social sensitivity: the provincial minister forbids the friars to send him acknowledgment of receipt “in order to thus avoid the useless burden of the post office and the despicable failure towards holy poverty with the vain writing of letters”.
1689 To Very Reverend Father Mattia da Salὸ, a preacher in the Capuchin Order of St Francis.
Br Amedeo da Verona, a member of the same Order, and Vice-Commissary of Bohemia and Austria sends greetings and peace in the Lord.
Because you Very Reverend Father General, in the letter that you sent me from Bada in Switzerland on 1st March 1602, have appointed me Vice-Commissary of these Provinces with the words: “By means of the present letter and in virtue of holy obedience I appoint you General Vice-Commissary of the Provinces of Bohemia and Austria, I authorise you to act in utroque foro, but you cannot demolish or build friaries other than those which I have established or call friars from Italy or other Provinces without my express permission in scriptis. I order and command all the present and future friars who live in these Provinces to acknowledge you as their superior, and to obey you as they would obey me. This will apply until I issue another command or decree.” Now that I am about to depart from these Provinces after receiving your letter of 20th June from Salerno, before I relinquish caring for them, I would like you to nominate another friar to do this. I recommend Br Mattia da Salὸ as Vice-Commissary of Bohemia and Austria, giving him all authority in utroque foro, with the reservations of not demolishing or building friaries or calling friars from other Provinces as mentioned above.
Prague, 16th August 1604.
1692 To Reverend Father N. di N. in Christ, a preacher in the Capuchin Friars Minor, Fr N. di N. Minister General of the same Order (although unworthy), sends greetings in Him who is our salvation.
Since you were elected Vicar Provincial at the Provincial Chapter of the Capuchin Friars Minor in the Province of N., and recognising that you are worthy to fulfil this office because of your prudence, zeal, and exemplary conduct, and at the request of the Father Definitors, we confirm your election, by means of the present letter and, under holy obedience, we command all the friars in the Province to obey you in accord with the Rule and praiseworthy customs of our Order.
Signed and sealed with our seal.
1695 To Most Reverend Father N. di N. a preacher, Definitor, Ex-Provincial or Guardian of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor of St Francis and Custos of the Province of Bologna, and Fr N. di N. a member of the same Order and Minister Provincial, we send greetings in the Lord.
Since at the recent Provincial Chapter in the Province of Bologna you were canonically elected as Custos for the General Chapter to be celebrated in Rome at Pentecost, in virtue of holy obedience I command you to come to Rome at the proper time and to do what you must do by law during the Chapter.
Fr N. di N. who is a preacher and priest (or even N. di N. who is a lay brother) shall accompany you and return with you to the Province of Bologna at the end of the Chapter.
- Amadeo da Verona, a preacher, was Vice Commissary in Bohemia and Austria from 1602 to 1604, and Minister Provincial in Venice from 1604 to 1607. In 1628 he wrote two volumes. entitled Relatione di vite esemplari for the Annali Minori in Verona. Cf. Arturo da Carmignano, S. Lorenzo II, 259-262. ↑
- Cf. Const. 1536, n. 101 and 127 (cf. nn. 314, 393); Rb 10, 5. (FF n. 101). ↑