First printed Ceremonials and ‘Way of Life”




(1536 – 1641)




a work of

from I Frati Cappuccini, a work of Costanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, volume I, pages 1767-1786.

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

Despite the continual efforts of the General Superiors of the Order it took more than fifty years for the first volume of the Annales by Boverio to be printed in 1532.[1] It also took years, beginning with the first decades of the sixteenth century before the Capuchins were able to set out their way of life in an acceptable book of ceremonies. Once again, the work was undertaken by Zaccaria Boverio, who was told to do so by the Minister General Giovanni Maria da Noto. He had it printed in Naples in 1626. The following year the Sacred Congregation of the Index issued a decree in which it said that it was not to be observed donec corrigetur (until it had been corrected).[2]

Two handwritten manuscripts that are preserved in the Archivio Generale make it quite clear more editions were produced. These documents contain the results of the corrections and improvements that were made at the General Chapter in 1637. The first document was approved by the General Chapter in 1637, when Giovanni da Moncalieri was General.[3] Like the one published in 1437, the second document contains further corrections and additions which were developed during the ten years between 1637 and 1663.[4] A good edition was printed for the entire Order two hundred years later even though various Provinces were making good use of their own books of ceremonies.[5]

Nevertheless, Boverio’s text even though it had been reprinted and slightly changed remains the obligatory point of reference since it is the first to hand down and interpret the ordinary manner in which the Capuchins conducted their way of life.

The material is organised in a perfectly structured manner. What emerges is a flowing work made up of two volumes. The first volume is mainly concerned with liturgy and ritual. The second volume is mainly concerned with the domestic aspects of Capuchin life concentrating on the traditions and customs that prevailed. Both volumes are divided into three sections which are called “books” in the first volume and “parts” in the second volume.

The first “book” presents its material in a general way describing how the Superior of the friary presides over the liturgy in the Church during the religious ceremonies and in the choir during community prayers. It also outlines how all the friars perform their duties when they are celebrating or serving Mass or carrying out specific roles: including priests, sacristans, clerics who help in the sacristy, the ministers, hebdomadaries and acolytes. Boverio goes on to analyse the liturgical actions, when they should stand or sit, prostrate themselves, kneel, bow, make the sign of the cross, join their hands, beat their breast, use the cope or the thurible. In this context he introduces the role of the preacher as it is tied in with the liturgy and is meant to proclaim the liturgy. While describing this he also develops the concept of solitude, being a hermit and contemplative, the practice of penance and the role of an evangelical preacher. This takes up twenty-five chapters.[6]

The “second book” contains twenty-six chapters. It deals with the celebration of the liturgy of the hours and how they are distributed throughout the hours of the day, and follow the seasons. It speaks about the sound of the bell and how it calls the friars to prayer. He also speaks about the rubrics, the sound of voice to be used during the Divine Office in choir, the ritual of the Office according to the old divisions, simple feasts, or days of the week of first or second class, special and Sunday offices. He also treats many other rubrical details. He speaks about The Office of Our Lady on Saturday, the Name of Jesus, St Gabriel the Archangel, feasts of the Saints of the Order, prayers for the dead, Christmas, the Epiphany, the Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, and Holy Week. He makes room for public and private processions such as the one for the Pardon of Assisi, and those that come after the General and Provincial Chapters, mental prayer, taking the discipline in common which he links with the Divine Office.[7]

The “third book” deals with the administration of the Sacraments and Sacramentals and, in fifteen chapters, treats the furnishings in the church, the decorations on the altar, various blessings (the one with holy water at the Asperges on Sunday, the ashes on Ash Wednesday, the candles, and other sacred objects), the various types of Masses (Conventual, Solemn, Votive, those during Holy Week, on the Vigil of Pentecost, or during the Chapter). He sets out details for giving the kiss of peace, what to do at the Collect, the Preface, and the Canon of the Mass. He also speaks about the Forty Hours Devotion, the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the First Mass of a newly ordained priest.

After speaking about The Eucharist, he goes on to deal with Sacramental Confession stating how the friars should receive this and how the Confessor should give absolution. He then speaks about Viaticum and the anointing of the sick and everything that accompanies death and the passing of a friar. The title of the introduction to the first volume is De sacris ritibus and it finishes humbly presenting the image of a friar who is standing, dressed in cope and stole beneath a cloudy, stormy sky giving his blessing and praying to be delivered from the scourge of the storm and the hail.[8]

The second volume is humbly called “Appendix.” It is an addition that is not all that sacred and deals with more external things (de externis quibusdam ritibus), which are still a very important part of establishing the structure of Capuchin life (ad religionis politiam et domestica munera recte obeunda). Although the first volume had indicated how the Order was developing according Roman regulations (“regola romana”) and had used appropriate terminology, here the emphasis is to move beyond rubrics and to describe Capuchin life being more liberated. It needs to adapt itself to the traditions of many saintly fathers, to what went on in the old days and to follow the way of life of the Franciscan Order. (ex variis sanctorum Patrum, nec non antiquissimis nostril seraphici Ordinis institutionibus decerpta). The content of twenty-five chapters of the “First Part” was set out in such a way as to cover the various responsibility of “those who held office” within the Order. It began by treating what was required of each of those who held office. It was the responsibility of the Minister General and the Ministers Provincial to visit the friars. It went on to outline the responsibilities of the Custodes, Guardians, Vicars. the Master of Novices, the work of those who were clerics, the responsibilities of “those who summoned the friars to veracious activities”, the duties of lectors as well as the duties of students, the work of the one in charge of answering the door as well as the one who had to attend to guests and welcome visitors, the friar who took care of the wardrobe and the sandals, the friar who went questing, the infirmarian, the gardener, the one who made the habits. The description of what these friars had to do gave a clear picture of what took place in a Capuchin fraternity.[9]

On the other hand, the “Second Part,” which contains seven chapters, deals with aspects of the daily life of the friars such as “the chapter of faults”, behaviour in the refectory, fasting on bread and water, how to wear “sandals”, how to maintain and clean a cell,[10] the tonsure and the times of silence, being recollected and cultivating heartfelt devotion. What is striking here is how the word “disciplina” is emphasised where the first part emphasised the word “officio.” Here “disciplina” implies having a spiritual frame of mind when practicing prayer and meditation and letting it flow over into our actions so that we treat people with deference and respect.

The “Third Part” of the “Appendix” contains twenty chapters that deal with the procedures for running elections during Chapters. These Chapters appoint superiors both in the Order and in the Provinces. In the Order they elect the Minister General and, in the Provinces, they elect the Minister Provincial. It deals with how to convoke the General Chapter and elect definitors, the Minister General, and the Procurator. The same thing should be done at the Provincial level with respect to the discretes, definitors, the Minister Provincial and the Custodes, and finally the Guardians. Since they are the animators of the fraternity, they should be treated with reverence and obeyed. However, they should also respect everyone and practice fraternal charity when dealing with the friars, especially those who are sick.[11] Since the friars were not always locked away in their friaries, in the final chapters Boverio describes how Capuchin friars ought to behave when they are going about their work and ministry in the city where they must deal with outsiders, visit family homes where there are sick people and how they should eat with seculars inside and outside the friary.

Once again, we note the repetition of the word “disciplina.” At first this might appear to show the influence of Trent and the Counterreformation, but it is something far more subtle.

Nevertheless, when we read Boverio we should remember his mentality which is the mentality of his day. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the Order was trying to appear to be well organised and had developed into a society that could cope with what it had to do and was not just a turpis ac deformis Babylonia (filthy and corrupted Babylon), but a portrait that contained many rites and ceremonies that were like the colours in a painting. In fact, it aspired to be “a replica of the house of God in which many things were going on, with many people at work in an orderly manner with each one having a specific responsibility.”[12]

Because of this the book of ceremonies is set out in sections that treat theology, ecclesiology, spirituality and even philosophy. It aims at engendering respect for the whole institution, the minister and ministries of the Church and the observance of what must be done in the sacred ceremonies.

In line with the ecclesiology of the day, the first image depicts the hierarchy. It presents several Guardians and their link with liturgical ceremonies of which they should be animators. They alone ought to correct others, “not in a rough manner” but “peacefully and gently,”[13] and appoint the liturgical ministers each week. The ceremonies should radiate divine worship and observe the appropriate rites for the administration of the Sacraments and the Sacramentals and the rubrics contained in the Breviary, the Missal, and the Roman Ritual. All this was essential to the perfect observance of the Franciscan Rule.

Boverio was also aware that “there were certain things that the Church had allowed our Order to do in the past” which were contrary to the new liturgical regulations. However, he still collected the rites and ceremonies that had been approved as what was usually done in the Order but not printed in the legal regulations of the Order: Hactenus nullo scripto aut lege proditae (So far this has not been written in any law) as he said. He tried to comment on all these matters and support them by quoting what the saintly father had said. In this way even the humble Capuchin Reform could apply to itself the words of St Paul: Omnia honeste et cum ordine fiant (they should do everything in an authentic and orderly manner).[14]

As we flip through the Books of Ceremonies that were written by Boverio we should also keep in mind the sources that he used. They usually appear in the margin of the pages in an abbreviated form. They include the Eastern and Western Fathers, medieval authors, Doctors of the Church, Councils and Synods, theologians, canon lawyers, Papal documents, and decrees from the Sacred Congregation of Religious and various books of ceremonies. It is a veritable stronghold filled with documents that increase the importance of the text.[15]

A third feature that dominates the entire book of ceremonies and which was strongly desired by those in authority in the Order and the Church was the principle of “holy uniformity.” Notwithstanding the differences in situations, culture, and the local environment there should be substantial uniformity in liturgical ceremonies and the management of the fraternity to maintain “unity of spirit in the bond of peace.” This is expounded by the Minister General, Giovanni da Noto, in his introductory letter.[16]

We thought that it was appropriate to also include another similar document that was published in 1627 and 1634 and which, as it says on the front piece, outlines the regulares et religiose partum capuccinorum exercitationes (the rules and religious exercises that were practiced by the Capuchin Fathers). The author is Francesco Gagnand di Chambéry (+ 1634) who had been a lawyer and senator in Chambéry before he entered the Capuchins and was professed in 1596, when he had finished a year as a Novice under Giovanni da Maurienne. His formation and ability equipped him to carry out the work of local superior and provincial. He was Commissary General of Savoy from 1614-1618 and Definitor until 1626. After that he retired to the friary in Belley where he wrote the book just mentioned and other writings. Together with Cherubino di Maurienne, he was a great apostle of Chablais and St Francis di Sales who affectionately called him “tres bon et digne capucin.”[17]

It is interesting to note how both Boverio and Gagnand, who were great apostles and missionaries, found is necessary to write a book of ceremonies describing what the Capuchins did as if they had always been locked up in the friary. However, real missionaries felt the need to do this because they were exposed to the distractions that accompanied their work outside the friary and felt great longing to keep in touch with the source of the spirit that had inspired their apostolic dynamism.

In his book Francesco da Chambéry accurately sets out the behaviour that is necessary to observe the Franciscan Rule and the Capuchin spirit. He does this in an emotional manner that emphasises what is practical and devout, without placing too much stress on ritual, on what the fathers said, on liturgical rules or laws but still that these can be observed devoutly. A Capuchin ought to be a person who is in love with the consecrated life and his Order and who wants to share his spiritual joy with others.

On 13th January 1627, while in his cell at Belley, he dedicated his work to the Minister General, Giovanni M. da Noto. In doing so he wanted to defend the Spirit of Jesus Christ which is conceived and protected in religious by three things: the Rule, the Constitutions, and the customary way of life. In fact, he did not write a ceremonial. He described like this: “It will speak about the spirit of religious life and how we should offer all that we do to God who is the ultimate truth and the complete fulfilment of human desire.”[18] He did not want what he was writing to be either new or original. He wanted to preserve the spiritual documents that contained, passed on and, exposed the fervour, the religious spirit, the goodness, the mortification,[19] and the holy way of life of many priests and brothers in the past and present “so that how they lived, prayed, shed flowing tears and endured suffering might not be lost.”

All of this was based on the customs and traditions that prevailed in the Province of Lyon which established the Province of Savoy. At that time the Province of Lyon was revising and improving its Réglement sur les coustumes et cérémonies des capucins, which were approved at the Provincial Chapter in 1645. What this book of ceremonies contains needs a special study.[20] Father Gagnand only touched on a few details but it contains many more important points including information on the development of the liturgical ceremonies, the Divine Office, the Conventual Mass, regular silence, the lay out of the church and the sacristy, and all that pertains to liturgical and religious conduct in choir and outside choir. The second part touches on what goes on in the friary including the duties of the superiors, the conduct of friars when they are in the friary and when they go out, fraternal charity, especially towards those who are sick or who are guests, Capuchin courtesy in the refectory and outside the refectory during and after meals, the “chapter of faults,” how to perform the “penance,” how to take the discipline, to fast and to abstain, how to wash the dishes and do everything “with decorum, honesty and religious moderation.”[21]

On the other hand, Francesco di Chambéry treats the daily activities of a Capuchin friar which he divides into three parts that he calls: Regularis religiosa et nocturna exercitation, matutina. pomeridiana, et vespertine exercitation. These parts are preceded by a general introduction (generalis exercitation), that he says involves “how to live in a religious way.”[22] In sixteen of these chapters he deals with the dignity of religious life, its benefits and how it provides the norms for all our activities which should be carried out with a generous heart and perseverance, that is “aggressio rei et aggressae continuation usque ad finem.” To acquire such religious fervour a friar must live in the presence of God observing the three vows, and having great love for the Order and for religious life: “Amemus illam tamquam matrem sapientissimam, quae nos in novitiate spiritualiter concepit, in professione paperit et in perseverantia mansionis fovet et conservat (We should love him like a very wise mother who conceived us in the Noviciate, gave birth to us at profession, reared us and preserved for us in long-lasting homes).”[23] Gentle love does not despise other people and, what is more, it does not despise other Franciscan brothers. Rather, “zelus noster, singularis noster affectus appareat in stricta et rigida Regulae et instituri nostril observantia. (our fervour and our main desire are to observe the Rule and the regulations of our Institute)”[24] This would be possible if the anniversary of the day when the friars entered the Order was celebrated every year in recognition of the part played by God while making a solemn retreat.

Other topics included having respect for superiors,[25] and how he should try to “amare et animare fratres [love and animate the friars]” (ch. 13). The document then goes on to treat some of the religious rules and customs that should be observed in religious life. He has a very positive and optimistic approach to the concept of religious life which he expresses in the following words: “Religio prudenti quadam industria inteiorem hominem ita disponit et conponit, eius passions reprimebdo, affecriones corrigendo, ut de foris nihil emittat quod non sit interioris optima dispositi indicium infallibile, et tale ut omnes ad sui admirationem rapiat, ad imitandum alliciat et ad devotionis ardorem provocet. (A wise religious should always be trying to have an inner desire to restrain his passions, by controlling his desires so that he does nothing that contradicts his inner upright judgement so that all may be drawn to imitate him and want to imitate his devotion.”[26]

Having completely reviewed the way to approach religious life in our thoughts, he goes on to discuss the habit which he said ought to be simple, poor, and neat, and accompanied with bare feet covered with “simplicibus et pauperibus sandalis calcerati (by wearing simple, poor sandals),” like the Apostles, but what is interesting for us moderns “aliquantulum lutuosi et sordibus quibusdam semper maculate, ne nimia illorum mundites apud nos et caeteros sordescat (when at times they become soiled and stained they should be cleaned so that they do not soil us or other people).” St Felice da Cantalice said the same thing.[27]

In the final point, after describing the habit and painting an image of the poor friar he moves onto giving a description of the “plan of a poor Capuchin friary.” He sees it predominantly as a house of prayer and as a “place” that has special spiritual characteristics because it should be designed “ad aedificationem, non a destructionem spiritualis aedificii, dum temporale elevator (“to promote not destroy spiritual values although it is a temporary building).” Then he adds a personal note:[28] I have known many friars who built our friaries. As soon as it was time for the Divine Office, they put aside the hoe or whatever they were doing and stopped work immediately. They fell on their knees and uncovered their heads in the open, even when it was hot, and said the breviary. It was an admirable sight and it edified everyone who saw it.”

After this Francesco di Chambery begins to describe how a Capuchin spent his long day. In chapter 17 of the second book, he deals with what the friar did during the night. The day began with midnight. The friar in charge of waking the others went through the corridor making a loud noise with a rachet or knocking on doors with a small hammer. The friars arose immediately as if as our old friars used to say there was a fire. The friar loved to pray at night and not give his body too much rest because “vestitus enim et super duro decumbere deber verus minorita (being clothed and lying on something hard was a sign of genuine minority)”[29] He wanted to consecrate the first moments of the day to God in imitation of the Psalmist and the and the wise virgins who were waiting for the Groom. Since according to Ovid sleep is like death, to be alive rather than dead, a friar divided his rest into two parts during which he performed various spiritual exercises. “Being awakened at the sixth hour when the Word of God is spoken from the royal throne (Wis. 18:14-15), the hour when the cry was heard: Here is the Groom, go and meet him (Mt. 25:6), we all gather to recite the Psalms with heartfelt devotion and to engage in mental prayer, invoking the Saints and mortifying our frail bodies.”[30]

The Capuchin friar hurries to the choir reciting what the Magi said: “This is the sign of the King of Peace. Let us go and offer him gifts with loving hearts.” As he is approaching the choir he says: “I shall enter your house and reverently adore you in your holy temple.” He then makes the sign of the cross with holy water saying Asperges etc., and goes to his place after prostrating himself and kissing the ground.[31] He then fervently prepares to pray. He invokes the Most Holy Trinity, the Madonna, his Guardian Angel without saying too many prayers allowing himself time to prepare himself spiritually to celebrate the liturgy of the Office. (Ch 4).[32]

He also treats this subject in chapter 5 where he makes four points. He speaks about the place where the Divine Office is celebrated and that is the choir except when it is sometimes celebrated in the friary, the cell, the garden, or somewhere else. He has something to say about the position of the body which could be standing upright, bowed, seated, or kneeling according to the rubrics. He deals with the time which could be “midnight if it was Matins or Lauds, dawn for Prime and Terce, some time between the Conventual Mass and the afternoon for Sext and None according to the custom in various Provinces. Vespers was recited in the middle of the afternoon and Compline about two hours later.” Finally, he deals with how this should be done. It should be done “simply, attentively, and devoutly.” [33]

After celebrating Matins and Lauds and knowing that life is a constant battle against spiritual enemies, the friar invokes the intercession of the Saints by reciting the Litanies as was customary in the Order (Ch. 6).[34] Then he begins praying to the Madonna (Ch. 7) by reciting the Rosary and the small office known as Benedicta, bowing, genuflecting, and saying the intercessions. Next, he prays to his Guardian Angel (Ch. 8), to the Saints (Ch. 9) and interceded for the Souls in Purgatory using the prayers composed by Alessio Segala da Salὸ observing the Capuchin tradition.[35] Boverio produced many spiritual works on mental prayer where he stressed the value of inner emotions, aspirations, and the need for continual recollection. We have selected the most important chapters that portray how to pray in a spiritual manner. (Chs. 11-15).

It took about two hours to complete all these pious exercises. During the winter, before they went back to bed, the friars walked a short distance to a “scaldario” (heated room), (Ch. 16), where they lit a small fire amongst dry straw and wooden splinters. Here they prayed for the benefactors by saying the gradual or the penitential psalms, “They continued to be recollected, mortified, meek and gracious.” Those who were not elderly or sick lifted the habits a little to warm their feet without bending their backs. Finally, after making a small genuflection, “they greeted each other in the Lord, and returned to their cells” to rest for a little longer while some went to the choir or into the dark church to pray in secret. In fact, especially in the larger friaries, there was hardly a moment in the day or the night when there was no a friar there in prayer.”[36]

The second part of the day was the time for Matins. Father Gagnand treated this in sixteen small chapters under the following headings: “At the time when Christ rose from the dead …, early in the morning, we rise again and, after asking to serve God well as the day begins, we begin once more to sing the psalms. Then we celebrate or assist at Mass and receive Communion after making a sincere penitential Confession. After that we retire to our cells, and go and give the animals what they need, perform manual work, and attend to the needs of the fraternity.”[37]

In the summer the friar rose again at sunrise or just before that in the winter. A friar knocked on the door of the cells. Then you had to rise velociter (quickly) just like St Peter did when the Angel said: “Surge velociter” and his chains fell off, we rise from bed and let the chains of sloth fall off. “This was Christ who was calling.” (Ch. 2).[38] Then we did what we had done at night and recited some ejaculations and prepared ourselves spiritually for the liturgy of the Hours and the Conventual Mass. The celebrant spent some time on this since he had to compose himself interiorly to be immersed in the Passion of Christ so that he could celebrate “attente, bene, clare et devote,” (with anticipation, well, meticulously and devoutly), in line with the first four letters of the Italian alphabet.[39]

Thanksgiving should go on for about half an hour. He also indicates how to assist at Mass and how to serve Mass, (Ch. 5), how to approach the Sacramental Confession (Ch. 6), how to receive Communion (Ch. 7), after which one should spend at least half an hour in thanksgiving. “Then he should sit still like Maddalena did at the feet of Christ, laboriose otiando (idly), listening to what the Lord is saying within us and being very attentive. He pleads with us to maintain the “old custom of making a thanksgiving” and renewing our religious profession cum ardentissimo zelo.[40]

When the spiritual exercises are completed, manual work begins. The friars go to tidy their cells and work like bees who are cleaning the hives where they store the honey. (Ch. 8).[41] They visit those who are sick even three or four times a day. (Ch. 9).[42] Some go to work in the garden while the cooks go to the kitchen to prepare lunch. Those who are questing go into the town and the countryside. There are suggestions on how to arrange their cell (Ch. 12) and the friars are reminded that there is a tradition that no one visits the cell of another friar. (Ch. 13).[43] If they are to take part in a public procession (Ch. 11) they should prepare themselves mentally “and go to the place two by two like devout pilgrims.”[44]

After Sext and None have been recited “the bell” sounds for the refectory. The friars gather for lunch. They go down on their knees, kiss the floor and recite their faults to the Superior. And receive a penance. (Ch. 14). Then they eat in silence and undertake some mortification. Some may not eat everything but leave most of it on the plate to mortify greed. They continue making acts of the love for God while they are sitting with part of their napkin on the table and part stretched out so their habit does get soiled. If it is time for fasting (Ch. 16), animas refection (feeding the soul) takes precedence over refection corporis (feeding the body). The prayers and the spiritual fast become more intense because “an empty vessel makes more noise and Scripture says it is better to join prayer and fasting.”[45] Finally, when the Superior gives the signal, all rise, clear the poor table and giving thanks to the Lord go to the choir to pray for the benefactors and the hebdomadary and two friars carry the dishes into the Kitchen to wash them and to pray for the benefactors. Then the others move about in the garden or the choir until the Sacristan gives five strokes on a gong to proclaim the great silence. Then everyone goes to their cell.

Next comes the third part of the Capuchin’s day. It took place in the afternoon and the evening. Francesco di Chambéry described it in seventeen chapters. What happened in the afternoon was different in summer to what happened in winter. What happened in the evening was always the same. He said: in summertime we gather about eleven o’clock to recite None and the Litany of the Saints and prepare ourselves for mental prayer. In winter we do this in our cells and undertake mental prayer after the Litany of the Saints. We remain in our cells doing what is necessary until we gather at the sound of the bell for Vespers. Then we go back to our cells to prepare for mental prayer which we perform after Compline.” After we have recited the first part of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “After meditation we go to the refectory to eat in silence. We have one course with some fruit without any bread, except for those who are sick or elderly. At mealtime some devotional book is read.”[46]

Apart from some other specific activities, such as questing (Ch. 9), the external apostolate (Ch. 12), travelling (Ch. 10), making guests welcome (Ch. 11) and study for those who are students (Ch. 5), most of the Capuchin’s times was taken up with spiritual matters. This is why Father Gagnand outlines various aspects of regular observance, and obligatory and evangelical silence (Ch. 3) from an austere perspective. “Austerity is one of the main features of our Order.”[47] A friar should be careful of “idle gossip.” A friar needs to be on guard “especially when dealing with those who are poor and outcasts and remain silent rather than continue to chatter.”[48]

Since the friars ought to spend some time in their cell in study and meditation, he also deals with spiritual reading (Ch. 4), which he calls attentat et affectuosa lectio (attentive and emotive reading) because it keeps the fire of devotion burning. There are three kinds of books that a Capuchin should read: those on theology, those dealing with moral behaviour and those that deal with mysticism. The first kind deal with “the many debates that go on.” The second kind deal with preaching, spiritual conferences and give advice on how to conduct the spiritual life. The friar should try to follow what these books say since “they enlighten the mind, enflame the will and inspire him to be contrite.” He should not easily put a spiritual book aside. He should ready it “intelligently and attentively.” What he is reading should not be tedious but full of spiritual consolation. It is important for him to interrupt what he is reading so that he can dwell on the concepts, and if he has made resolutions let him act on them immediately. Even if someone was like a broken vessel once he has been immersed into spiritual reading, he will still get wet even if he cannot hold all the water. [49]

The treatment of spiritual reading raises the subject of clerical studies which are necessary for preaching which an essential work of the Order. (Ch. 5). The foundation of all of this is fraternity Ch. 6). This is made up of people who love one another as brothers, who value each other as being the house and tabernacle of God, to be supported with love and repaired by correctio fraterna et amicabilis (fraternal correction that is given in a friendly manner). However, if someone is incorrigible he should be sent to his cell for a period and assigned to a spiritual director who will assist him to meditate on the last things until he is converted.[50]

The fraternity should also rejoice in receiving friars who are guests welcoming and embracing them after the Porter, who is mentioned in the Rule, has announced their arrival. Exhausted from their journey they should be shown into a small room where the Superior and the Vicar shall kneel and wash their feet with sweet-smelling water while the other friars provide them with a change of clothes. Finally, everyone will kiss their feet and sing a psalm, or, if they are superiors, sing the Te Deum.[51]

So, after one thing or another, night falls. The Capuchin friar retires to the choir to make an examination of conscience and to pray. The Guardian says a prayer and the entire fraternity recite five Pater noster with arms outstretched in the form of a cross and are blessed with holy water. Then they all retire to their cells for the first period of evening rest. The capuchin’s day has come to an end. It will begin again with “santa uniformità.”[52]

Francesco di Chambréy adds other reflections and thoughts concerning the time of rest. If one is unable to sleep, he should repeat the name of Jesus who is sweeter than honey and breathe it in and out on his lips, (spirando et respirando). Sleep, imago mortis (the image of death), prompts the author to finish with three chapters about death (15-17). One chapter is about how the Capuchin friar ought to prepare himself for death by living a faithful and devout life. However, when he suffers from an illness, the Capuchin friar is warned to gather small bundles of love and devotion and immerse them in the wounds of Christ, as protection against the trick of the serpent who is continually plotting against his final destiny.[53] This is when there are obvious temptations to doubt and we need the support of our brothers by assisting the one who is dying to abandon himself like a child into the love of God to whom he has dedicated his life.[54]

Finally, we should remember that these ceremonials, these presentations “of a way of life”, these books containing Capuchin customs came about through a vivid experience of God. It was this search to know God through the love of the Crucified, through contemplating the Virgin and the Saints, that penetrated the heart of the Capuchin and made him long for the discipline that prevailed in a friary. In fact, there is no real freedom unless life is properly planned. This is not a tyrannical burden as it might seem to be to those who have not tried it. Rather it is essential for spiritual emancipation.

  1. Cf. [Eduardus Alenconiensis], Epistolae P. Ioannis Mariae a Noto ad P. zachariam Boverium aliosque de compositione Annalium seu Chronicarum Ordinis (1627-1631), in AO10 (1894) 283-288; Melchior a Pobladora, De cooperatoribus in compositione Annalium Ordinis fratrum minorum capuccinorum, in CF 26 (1956) 9-47.
  2. So far, we have been unable to find this decree which was dated 12th July 1627. Therefore, it is difficult to say why this prohibition was issued. Even Boverio wanted the work that he had written and which was about to be published to be known as The Ritual. The Father General, who was in Spain, had entrusted the revision to a group of Fathers who after making some changes had it printed in Naples. The General mentioned the author’s name in his introductory circular letter. He suggested that Boverio should come to Rome “where he could hear why the Decree had been issued” and see what were the necessary corrections. He also wanted the text to be presented to the next General Chapter to bring out a new edition that had been revised, corrected and would be the official edition. To achieve this the Capitulars had to come prepared. Because this edition had been printed in Naples in1626 and had not been widely circulated within the Order outside the Provinces in the south of Italy. The General asked Boverio “to compose a summary of the ceremonies and make a booklet that set out the issues and that could be read quickly by the Fathers who were coming to the Chapter etc. and fifteen or twenty copies would be enough.” Meanwhile he distributed the remaining copies of the 1626 edition to the Provinces beyond the Alps which did not have copies. These details can be found in a codex that contains important letters and diaries written by Fr Giovanni M. da Noto which is held in AGO, AB 102, p. 142 (lett. Data Napoli, 7 marzo 1628); p. 148 (Parigi, 26 agosto 1639); p. 149 (Magonza, 2 gennaio 16-30, p.131 (Friburgo, 15 maggio 1630).
  3. Cf. AGO, AB 117; cod. Cart., 21 x 15,5 cm.; 515 pp. These documents are written in a flowing hand interspersed with occasional inserts, corrections and comments in the margin which provide a few clues towards understanding why the 1626 edition that was printed in Naples was placed on the Index.
  4. Cf. AGO, AB. 104, cod. Cart., 21 x 15cm., 458 pp; This codex is full of corrections, inserts, and additional folios.
  5. Melchior a Pobladura deals with this, Historia Generalis OFM Cap. I, 121s, II/1, 84-87; Lexicon cap., 288s (= Caeremoniale-Rituale).
  6. From these we have chosen chapter 12 which deals with the role of the preacher and chapter 22 which speaks about praying with open arms in the form of a cross.
  7. The last topics (mental prayer and the discipline) are included in our collection and correspond to the last chapters (23 and 24).
  8. We have chosen chapters 30 (assistance to the dying), 31 (the spiritual last testament), and 33 (the blessing to scatter the storm).
  9. We have chosen five chapters from the first part of the “Appendix,” three that deal with what pertains to the Master of Novices and the Novices (Chs. 5-7), one about the friar who looks after guests (Ch. 15), and another that deals with the work of the gardener (Ch. 24).
  10. We have chosen chapter 5.
  11. We have chosen chapters 11-12 and 16 from this part. They treat mutual esteem and charity, engaging in conversations regarding religious matters, visitation, and assistance to the sick.
  12. Cf. De sacris ritibus,17s (in the prologue).
  13. Ibid., 19-21.
  14. Cf 1 Cor. 14:40.
  15. Cod. AB 117 (see above, note 3) contains an Index auctorum qui in hoc volumine vel tacito vel expresso nominee citator (pp. 1-7) (a list of authors whom the author quotes or refers to in this volume). It contains about 147 names and titles of works.
  16. Father Giovanni da Noto’s circular letter was reprinted by Father Melchiorre da Pobladora in 1969 in Litterae circulares superiorum generalium O.F.M. Cap. (1548-1803) Cf. MHOC VIII, 43-49.
  17. Cf. P. Felix [de La Monte-Servolex], Les enfants de St. François au Val d’Aoste. Les Capucins, Aoste 1858, 24-27’ The author says that the book Regulares was also published in Lyon in 1624 and 1626 (p. 26) and Lexicon cap., 622.
  18. Regulares et religiosae P. P. Capucinorum exercitationes, 6s.
  19. Ibid., 7.
  20. This book of ceremonies was published in an official edition following the legal acknowledgment of Religious Orders in France. Cf. Réglement sur les coustumes et cérémonies des Capucins de la province de Lyon de St Bonaventure. Revue et mis en meliueure forme par ordre de la Defint[ti] et des principaux péres de la Province Réproduction litterale d’un manuscript du XVIIe siècle conserve dans le convent des FF. Mineurs Capucins à Aix en-Provence, Marseille 1871, 185 pp.
  21. This Réglement, which is divided into two parts, is made up of 33 chapters, 20 of which are in the first part.
  22. Cf. Regulars cit., 2 (in the preface).
  23. Ibid., 67.
  24. Ibid., 69.
  25. The superior is defined in the following words “Ipse est pater noster, mater, soror, propinquus, cognatua etc. et nullus usquam erit, quo egeamus cuius opertam in praelato nostro non inveniamus” (ibid., 87).
  26. Ibid. 95.
  27. Ibid. 104. – For St Felice da Cantalice see MHOC X, 60.
  28. Ibid., 108. “Vidi ego permultos operam suam in aedificiis nostris conferentes qui ubicumque officii hora illos adoriebatur, abiecto statm ligone, aut alio quovia instrument, cessabant ab opera, flexisque gentibus et detecto capite, etiam sub dio et in ardenti sole, persolvebant pensum suum divinum, quod astantibus non tantum erat admiratioi, sed et aedificationi maxime.”
  29. Ibid., 117.
  30. “Non igitur fratres minores, ne mortui potius quam vivi censeamur, parcae admodum, ast et bipertitae quieti nos reficimus, eidemque spiritualis quaedam exercitia quotidie interserimus. Expergefacti enim illa ipsa hora quam omnipotens Sermo Dei, de regalibus sedibus venit (Sap 18m 14-19). Illa inquam, qua clamor factus est, Ecce sponsus venit, exite obviam illi (Mt 25, 6). Psalmodie, oratoni mentali, sanctorum invocation, corporeis macerationibus et humiliationibus, quietis illis et antelucanis horis sacras excublas cum totius interioris nostris devotione, et maximo quo possumus fervore observantes vacamus” (Ibid., 113s).
  31. Ibid., 114-124.
  32. Ibid., 124-133
  33. Ibid., 133-142.
  34. Ibid., 142-146. De pia litaniarum maiorum prece.
  35. Ibid., 146-170. He has this to say regarding the Rosary: “Among all the prayers that he might have chosen, he chose the Rosary from which he plucked small buds. In doing this he combined petition with devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and meditate on what was consoling, sorrowful and glorious. If I am right, the same Saint [Alessio da Salὸ] recommended the Memoria of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday. He also recommended devout bows, humble genuflecting and intercessions based on the hymns and antiphons drawn from Sacred Scripture.” (Ibid., 151s). After stressing devotion to the Guardian Angel and prayers for the Holy Souls he concludes: “No one should think that there is any better mode of devotion than to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers.’ (Ibid., 170).
  36. Ibid., 292-2o5. Concerning the warming of the friars (Ch. 16) “When the prayers were finished, we greeted each other in the Lord with a small nod, and some returned to their cells for a little bit of rest, some went to sleep, some to the church to pray. During the day or the night there was seldom less than two or three at prayer in the church or the choir. (p. 205).
  37. “At the time when Christ rose from the dead … we rise again early in the morning and lifting our minds up to heaven we pray to start the day well and go to recite the psalms. We then celebrate or assist at Mass, receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, after making a good Confession. We clean our cell, care for the sick, undertake manual work, and do what is necessary.” (ibid., 216s; dal cap. 1; De exercitationibus matutinis, 215-217).
  38. Ibid., 217-220. De secunda experrectione.
  39. “Representing the Angel of God, he proceeds solemnly to the altar with downcast eyes. The first four letters of the alphabet A. B. C. D. indicate this and show how the Mass ought to begin, with anticipation, meticulously, and devoutly.” (ibid., 230s).
  40. “Sancte inebriati hoc per semihoram ad minus seceamus in aliquam locum, ut charis et castis Christi amplexibus occupatis, debits commendationibus et humilibus gratiatrum actionibus vacemus … Sedeamus ergo quasi altera Magdalena ad pedes eius laboriose otiando, ut audiamus quid loquatur in nobis Dominus et bene notemus omnia…. At unum et multum profuturum exposco, ut inveterate apud nos consuetudo servetur, et sic ne a gratiarum actione discedamus, quin prius professionis nostrae verba cum ardentissimo zelo, quasi de novo vota illius emissuri, repetamus.” (ibid., 251, 253).
  41. Ibid., 253-257. De convienti cellae compositione.
  42. Ibid., 257-262. De visitandis et inserviendis infirmis
  43. Ibid., 273-277. De propria cella custodienda; 277-280. De alena cella fugienda.
  44. Ibid., 270-272. De publicis et privatis processionibus.
  45. Ibid., 295.
  46. “Aestate ergo ad cellam nos recipiamus circa hora undecesima advenimente, ut Nonae et litaniarum maiorem recitation vacamus, et postmodum orationi mentali accingamur, donec sonitu campanae citemur ad vespertinas horas decantandas, quibus rite et devote persolutis, … charam cellam nostrum repetimus, ut inter cetera serio inibi agenda, denuo et cum maiori spiritus fervore si fieri possit, nos praeparemur ad orationem mentalem, quae semper fieri solet toto penso divino, recitatione completorii illo die persoluto … Ad cœnaculum seu refectorium postea declinamus, in quo aut tantisper diebus ieiunii cum silentio reficimur, unico potu contenti cum nonnulis fructibus absque pane, quo tamen valetudinarius ac senibus ex gratia ut conceditur, aut leviter cum lectione ordinaria cœnanus, ut nullo quasi cibo gravati media nocte expeditus ad officium divinum decantandum surgamus.” (ibid., 300-302).
  47. Ibid., 312.
  48. Ibid., 308.
  49. Ibid., 313-122. De lectione librum spiritualium.
  50. Ibid., 327-335. De mutua fratrum conversatione.
  51. Ibid., 360-365. De charitativa fratrum advententium receptione (Ch. 11).
  52. Ibid., 376-385. De quotidiano et seratino conscientiae examine (Ch. 13); 385-395: De nocturnae quietis capessendae religioso modo (Ch. 14).
  53. Ibid., 398s.
  54. Cf. Ch 16. De tentationibus agonisantes invadentibus et eraum remediis (ibid., 400-407) Ch. 17 De spirituali fratrum agonisantium sollicitudinr et auxilio (ibid., 407-417).