Obediences for Preaching








(1536 – 1641)








from I Frati Cappuccini, a work of Costanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, volume I, pages 1639-1642.

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

Table of Contents

Introduction by Costanzo Cargnoni

31 Obedience to Girolamo da Dinami

Introduction by Costanzo Cargnoni

According to the Rule, well specified in the constitutions, no friar can preach without a prior examination by the general or provincial superiors, for which the title and obedience of preacher is obtained. This reason is usually mentioned in all forms for the preaching license.

The research and collection of these significant forms of a fundamental activity of the Capuchins and also distinguishable according to their origin, that is, whether issued by the general or provincial minister, had, as usual, a happy outcome only for the time after the Council of Trent. Examples of licenses before 1567 have not been found, nor have any examples of preaching obediences for already licensed preachers been found before 1564. Obviously, as is understandable, it was not an exhaustive search. But the sample of the collected texts is equally expressive and characteristic.

There is a preaching license issued by Fr. provincial of Venice Lorenzo da Fognano to Fr. Ludovico da Udine on 15 October 1567 in Latin (doc. 33) which can be compared with two different formulas, in Italian, used in the secretariat of the general curia towards the end of the 17th century (docs. 38-39). The header is the same. The structure of the document generally develops according to these parts: 1) exaltation of the importance of preaching in the history of salvation brought about by Christ; 2) the example and ordination of Saint Francis; 3) the need, therefore, to exercise this ministry; 4) positive judgment on the subject’s suitability; 5) official election of the subject to the office of preaching in obedience to superiors and to the Church according to the Tridentine conciliar decrees. The document ends with a corroboratio [confirming] and an autenticatio [authentication] and a best wishes.

The formulas sometimes seem to follow certain phrases of the Capuchin constitutions. This scheme, however, has its variations: for example, it can, for brevity, abolish the aforementioned members no. 1 and 3, to underline only the nos. 2 and 4. The formula of the corroboratio and the best wishes can also vary; or, like the patent to Ludovico da Udine already cited, it can insist only on the example of Jesus Christ, with splendid references to the love of Christ crucified, to the zeal for the conversion of souls and to the baptismal spirituality to be inculcated in the faithful.

The office of preaching had to be reconfirmed by the individual general ministers. For this there is also the confirmation formula (doc. 39), which is like renewing your driving licence. The tax to be paid for these obediences was always set in spiritual terms with the formula: “pray, pray for me”.

Then there are obediences to licensed preachers for the various preaching schedules in various cities and places: preaching cycles for Advent and Lent (docs. 31, 32, 34, 36, 37, 41-44), at the request of local civil authorities (docs. 32, 34, 37) or religious authorities (docs. 37, 38, 39, 43); or for single occasional discourses (doc. 47). And since the preacher must never go alone, but with a companion, there is also “obedience for the preachers’ companions” (doc. 46). All obediences are transmitted with an accompanying letter from the superiors, of which we give an example out of curiosity (doc. 45).

Observing the different forms used both by the general curia and by the provincial ministers, beyond some stereotyped expressions there is great freedom of intervention, with letters sometimes very personal, normally written in Italian, while the Latin ones, more frequent after the Council of Trent, tended more towards fixed formulas.

However, the mix of motivations is varied, so it seems that each superior adds or removes expressions according to his particular spiritual sensitivity.

The heading “evangelical preacher” which always accompanies the name of the preacher who receives obedience is interesting (docs. 31, 32, 34). This title, taken from n. 117.4 of the ancient constitutions of the Order (“since we are evangelicals”), disappears in the obediences from the end of the 17th century onwards (docs. 36, 37, 44), probably to avoid ambiguity with the innovators from beyond the Alps who liked to define themselves in this way: an understandable attitude in the climate of tension of the counter-reform.

Another emerging aspect is preparation for preaching, which is based on the study of Holy Scripture and theology, on catholicity and holiness of life, that is, the conditions that make one suitable for this ministry. Here the formulas tend to become stereotyped and are an echo of the text of the constitutions n. 110.3; however, with a particular emphasis on the aspect of doctrinal orthodoxy, according to the modules of counter-reformist preaching, also underlined by the indispensable “license of the Ordinaries” and obedience to the Tridentine decrees (docs. 39, 40 eсt.).

Another suggestive formula refers to the object of preaching, expressed with the phrases: “to announce the sacred Gospel of Christ, indeed, Christ himself crucified for us” (doc. 33); or: “announces… the Word of God and the Gospel of the Kingdom” (doc. 34), “preach the holy Gospel of Christ, of God” (doc. 35, 36, 41, 44), “preacher of the Word of God” (doc. 37), “announcing the Gospel of God to the people” (doc. 38), “proposing the Word of God”, “carrying out the ministry of the Word of God” (doc. 39, 43) and, according to Saint Francis, “announce vices and virtues, punishment and glory” (doc. 44).

The way of preaching is described with particular emphasis: “with respect” (doc. 34), “with great power” (doc. 36, 37, 39), “with freshness of spirit and tireless industriousness” (doc. 37), “faithfully (with diligence) according to the grace received from God” (doc. 37, 43); or “with commitment according to the grace given to you from Above” (doc. 36), “with controlled and chaste discourses” (doc. 44).

The “return” aspect is evident in the conclusion (and this also applies to other formulas of obedience which require leaving the friary), because the friar must return promptly: “When you have finished, you will make sure to return to your place” (doc. 34, 41), “you will be quick to return to your province” (doc. 36), “you will hurry to return to the friary intended for you” (doc. 37).

The purpose of preaching is presented in various ways: now looking at the example of Christ to imitate him (doc. 36), now grasping the nucleus of a true pastoral theology based on the “salvation of souls” (doc. 38) “repurchased with the most precious blood of the Lord and recommending the charitable zeal and exemplary conduct of his evangelical preachers” (doc. 45), explained more adequately by Lorenzo da Fognano’s formulary: “so that (souls) once again renounce the devil and his pomp … return as promptly as possible to their most pious Redeemer” (doc. 33) or by the general minister Fr. Mario da Mercato Saraceno: “the souls of the faithful who lie in the darkness and shadows of death, return to the light and live again” (doc. 34); or even from Fr. provincial of Umbria Bonaventura da Gubbio: “to provide the faithful who are hungry with the nourishment of the most holy Word of God” (doc. 37). The image of sowing and abundant harvest also appears in one form (doc. 42). The purpose of preaching can also be connected with the reason for founding a friary, as we read in the obedience to Marco da Bergamo of 10 September 1564 “so that they would preach some sermons and take some places there, or rather they would begin to live with them” (doc. 32).

All these formulas of obedience find a wonderful synthesis, due to the variety of their contents, in the obedience issued by Girolamo da Polizzi Generosa on 20 June and 1 August 1587 to the religious, among which is Saint Joseph of Leonessa, who go on a mission to Constantinople (doc. 35). It is a document of great historical value to be compared with the brief Cum vos of Sixtus V of 27 June of the same year (see above, section I, doc. 9).

31 Obedience to Girolamo da Dinami

[page 1643]

[Cesena, 21 June 1564]

1650 Father Evangelista da Canobio[1] an unworthy Capuchin sends greetings in the Lord to Ieronimo di Diami who belongs to the same Order.[2]

Being aware in the Lord God that you profess Catholic teachings and live according to the Rule, I command you in virtue of holy obedience to go to our friary in Bologna to preach in Forli during Advent, and in the city of Cesena in the coming Lent. You are to preach only where your superior tells you.

Bene in Domino valete, and pray for me.

Given at our friary in Cesena on 21st June 1564.

Take one of the friars from Calabria with you.

Br Evangelista.

  1. Evangelista Ferrattina da Cannobio was Vicar General from 1564 to 1567. He died in 1595.
  2. Concerning Girolamo da Dinami from the Province of Calabria who was the author of a history of the origins of the Capuchins and a work on preaching in 1566, see section IV of part II.