Capuchin tradition yesterday and today

by Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap

(2008; updated 2015)

Translated by Gary Devery OFM Cap

(Translators note: where the 1990 version of the Constitutions have been quoted, the 2012 Constitutions have also been inserted by the translator for ease of comparison)

Table of Contents

When we speak of “tradition” we are immediately led to look back to the past, to old things, to the reality of a finished story that has only remained in the memory, like that of a time that was and is no more. If we then add to this word “tradition” the adjective “Capuchin”, we are then forced to rethink and reread the history of a Franciscan family, born as a reform of the Franciscan experience five centuries ago in Italy. It underwent an amazing expansion by way of an evangelical form of life that animated and inspired strong and fervent social and missionary apostolates, while conserving at its heart a formable interiority.[1]

1. Two points of observation of the “Capuchin tradition”

Looked at from the its historical dimension, tradition can seem to assume diverse significances according to different points of observation. If you look at the first Capuchins by way of the spirit of renewal that had inspired and characterised their beginning and development, the tradition that then emerges is their way of reading and interpreting the evangelical experience of Francis of Assisi.[2] It drew together the complexity of lively reflection on the diverse attempts at reform that continued for over two centuries up until the beginning of the sixteen century. The diverse attempts at reform, beginning with that of the Spirituals, introduced into the interpretation of the Rule the seeking of the intentio and the mens of saint Francis in his rule and life. Another line of reflection was by way of the tradition that was inculcated from Francis’ experience of prayer, penance and apostolate.[3] Consideration also needs to be given to their writings that have transmitted a way of thinking and living the Franciscan spirit, and those forms of social life that matured from the primitive eremitical expressions of the small friaries constructed according to a plan of spiritual and social life.[4]

If, instead, we look at the word Tradition by way of today’s mentality, it is necessary to see in the event of Vatican Council II a change or a transformation or a development. Therefore, it is necessary to make reference to the numerous indications within the Council documents that have indicated a way of spiritual renewal based upon the charism of the Order with a twofold gaze of “a continual return to the sources of every Christian life and to the primitive spirit of the institutes and the adaption to the changing conditions of the times”. This signifies anything but an involution and conservatism. It is an encouragement to leave behind a tradition by now obsolete, outdated, irrelevant and formalistic, for a pluriformity of expressions of the charism according to the needs of the times. This is an aspect of “updating” that, however, calls for a specific critical reflection and a lucid discernment, as we will treat further ahead. Here it is important to underline the primary and fundamental element of renewal, which is the return to the original sources. The necessity of knowing with clarity the essential features of one’s own Order is connected to the indispensable duty imposed by the Church of faithfully safeguarding “the intention and undertakings of the founders, sanctioned by the competent authority of the Church, with regard to the nature, purpose and spirit of the institute, as well as its sound traditions, all of which constitute the patrimony of the institute”.[5] Therefore, it is necessary to refer back to the genuine documentary sources of origin, from the beginning of the earliest years until the period of the stabilisation of the Order.

The Order has worked according to this method and we can now retrace all the stages of this journey, which is not yet finished. There is the first period, which we could call “the period of the return to the sources”, which is the effort to extract, as in separating gold from dross, the spirit of the founders. This has led to the discovery or rediscovery of an extremely rich patrimony of early texts. From this follows a second period in which we ourselves have had to compose texts of great importance for the life of our Order, that we have had to revise and rewrite our Constitutions, cross-referencing all the documents, especially with the Plenary Councils. These two periods are not exactly successive of one to the other, but intersect, one inspiring and pushing the other, like the ebbing and flowing of the tide. Finally, there is the present period, that still wants to be attached to the second period because we want to still improve the text of the Constitutions, and also appreciate the vitality that this process of renewal and adaption has produced. This leaves us with two types of texts: the early texts of the original sources of our Order, and then, the new Constitutions, along with the collection of the Plenary Councils.[6] This current period is about knowing how to authentically read, understand and translate this into our life. This needs to be worked out from a great love for the Capuchin and Franciscan vocation. We need to find our way forward with precision. We are dealing with foundational texts, what meaning do they have for a religious institute? How are we to read these texts today so as to make them fruitful in our everyday life?

Before anything else, we need to verify the language we are to use, connecting it with history, as André Duval has done by studying the meaning of the rule and of the religious constitutions.[7] There have been three stages in this development: 1) Until the ninth century, the word regula was used with the meaning of the spiritual and normative organisation of the life of a community. 2) From the Carolingian reform until the end of the Middle Ages, the binomial regula et institutio appears. This adds, alongside of the fixity of the rule, an inculturation that develops uses and customs gathered from written documents that are variously defined as consuetudines, constitutiones et institutiones, as happened, for example, with the Dominican Order. 3) A third period opens in the sixteenth century with the foundation of many groups of regular clerics (canons regular) that obtained their juridical and ecclesiastical approval based upon a forma vitae or forma vivendi in regard to a pastoral activity at a universal level. It was very different from the simple work of organising the life of the friary, as seemed to be the literary genre of the ancient monastic rules.

The actual Code of Canon Law promulgated on 25 January 1983 has somewhat banalized and used in a too generic way the term regola, whereas, from among the variegate vocabulary used throughout history, it has conserved only the word constitutiones, such as appears in canon 662: “Religious are to have as the supreme rule of life [here it should simply say ‘norm’] the following of Christ proposed in the gospel and expressed in the constitutions of their own institute”.[8] While the monastic model privileges reference to the rule, other traditions and experiences of inculturation require accompaniments by way of constitutions, or by the use of customs often collected into the so called “ceremonials”. To this can also be added the general chapter ordinances. Customs and ordinances constitute what are called “statutes”.

There is an interplay of texts and legislative documents that define the diverse adaptations or historical renewals and the diverse historical applications. Also within the same well-defined tradition one can observe this interplay. From the very beginning there were pluralistic aspects at work, as is the case with the Franciscan Rule that had at least three different redactions, in 1209-1210, 1121 and 1223. To this pluriform beginning, each religious institute has added its own spiritual and cultural patrimony that makes for an even more complex dialogue between all these texts. This complexity is being strongly experienced by us as the new Constitutions are currently being worked on. This work needs to be embraced and understood with fidelity to the original intuitions. Finally, even within the same text, there needs to be acknowledged a rich complexity of relationships. For us, the Constitutions integrate the rule, and the renewed text also needs to cross reference biblical and Franciscan sources, and also give particular attention to the more recent Church documents. This is the work ahead of us.

Let us now look at the significance of a fundamental text tied to the foundation of a religious institute. We are led to think of it as simply a return to the origins in which we find the form of life put forward by the founding fathers. Such documents inspire and give order to the life of the institute, of the Order. However, we also need to think more broadly of how such documents correspond with the living tradition and a patrimony of the institute in its historical development. These texts and documents have the function of assuring the base identity of the group. Among these texts, a few serve a special function, those which in the new code are called “constitutions”. These were approved by means of a discernment of the Church and make the Order a “gift made to the Church” and are, for this reason, an essential link with the Church, since the Church approves all that which represents the life of a religious institute. These are texts that can never be held in isolation. In fact, they are in direct relationship with the character of the founders, and their work and activities. At the same time, they express an experience lived out in a clear and well-defined communitarian way. Over the centuries the Constitutions have maintained a capacity to remain both unchanged and open to changes, up to this last revision which is still in process. There has always been a strong determination to express with renewed precision those which we place in the category of “fundamental texts”, as they are experienced and understood by all the members of the whole Order.

The experience of reworking and revising the Constitutions has now been going on for around forty years. It has required and continues to demand great attention in remaining docile to the Spirit, so as to facilitate the relationship between law and freedom, and to assemble with fraternal respect the diverse suggestions and sensibilities by which to find the words that most respect the basic insights of the Order. It has been an experience, often painful, that has helped the collective mentality to reflect upon itself, meditating on the fundamental values of what is our identity as a form of consecrated life. This is a very important exercise for formation. If, in the first instance, the original ancient texts were judged as outdated and no longer suitable, this, however, left us without precise references to propose to the novices and young friars. With this labour of revision, that has required a notable effort to be able to describe in the present the foundational insights. It was indispensable that new attention be given to the tradition of the Order and to the experience of the early founding fathers. That we have benefited from all this in the result of a cohesion between religious of different generations. This return or reference to the sources can stimulate our interior life and help us better recognise the richness and originality of our patrimony, the identity of our vocation and a clearer sense of our responsibility to the Church and the world.[9]

In the light of the new Constitutions, we can now examine and review the significance of our sources, ancient patrimony and our history and spiritual tradition from the prospective of language, lived experience, and with what methodologies can be used to pass from a letter of these texts and sources to that which does not simple remain purely historical; how a document of the past, fit for a museum, can still be alive, enriched by the spirit of the Church today as living tradition that continues with the same insights and inspirations, in fidelity to the Spirit of Christ, and so proposes anew the same grace, gifts and charism.[10]

2. Capuchin tradition in the new Constitutions

The explicit references to Capuchin tradition in the new Constitutions are numerous. I have counted at least 63 in around 47 of the 186 articles of the new legislative text. Implicit references, or if one is referring to the early Constitutions, are around 100. In the Introduction the Capuchin are presented: “By the Bull Religionis zelus, published on July 3, 1528, Clement VII approved the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor. From the beginning this Order has been dedicated to the faithful, simple and pure observance of the spiritual patrimony of Saint Francis, the Founder, according to his Rule and Testament and under the magisterium of the Church, and to the transmission of these to future generations of brothers”.[11]

This way of observing the evangelical rule of saint Francis is better described in n. 5 where it exhorts to the assiduous study of the rule according to spiritual comprehension (eius intelligentiae spirituali sedulo incumbamus), and “let us observe it simply and purely with [the Spirit’s] holy activity” (simpliciter et pure cum sancta operatione); and all of this according to the admonitions and exhortations of saint Francis in the Testament and “according to the spirit and evangelical intentions of the first Capuchins and of the living tradition of the Order, following the example of our saints”. Whereas, at n. 8, with full focused on the Testament, according to the tradition of our Order, what is underlined is that the Testament needs to be considered as “the primary spiritual exposition of the Rule and an outstanding source of inspiration of our life” (n. 8, 4).

If we now want to draw some consequences from these clear words, without letting the text remain just historiographic and literary words, we need to say that: 1) there is needed a more vital contact with the Rule; 2) it needs to condition our behavior as a guide to our spiritual life; 3) we need to walk according to the spirit, as saint Paul says in chapter 8 of Romans, and let ourselves be guided in our life by this rule, by the Spirit of the Lord and by what He wills and works in us, for us and with us. As Tommaso da Olera wrote, we need to listen before acting, like a touch, a push, an impulse, a movement of the heart that says to us: Do this or do not do that. The same constitutions at n. 9,3 says with other words the same thing: “We observe these Constitutions … not as slaves but as sons yearning to love God above all else, heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit who teaches us…”. The inspiration of all that we have to glean from the Testament of saint Francis is like a review of life under the light of the Gospel and an interpretation of the most pure, simple and concentrated Franciscan spirit. 4) This fourth consequence is lucidly expressed by n. 9,4: “Let us lovingly devote ourselves to the personal and communal study of the Rule, the Testament and the Constitutions so that we absorb their spirit”. This is to imbue oneself with their intimate spirit and their most profound meaning.

The Decree of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes of 25 December 1986 approved the new Constitutions. It offered an alternate description of the tradition and charism of the Capuchins: “The members of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin propose to live their life according to the form of the holy Gospel and according to the intention and aims of the Founder saint Francis and the praiseworthy traditions that constitute a inestimable patrimony of the Order. Therefore, sustained above all by the spirit of prayer, they are committed to evangelical fraternity as their form of life. As Franciscan minors, united to all by fraternal relationship, they strive to wholly commit to a holy life, among other things, especially to the perennial dissemination of the Word of God, by way of popular preaching and missionary evangelisation, assistance to the poor and sick, and the administration and promotion of the sacrament of reconciliation”. Everything begins “from the intimate union with God in the name of and by mandate of the Church”.[12]

Many observations could be made of these descriptions of the Capuchin identity proposed by the Introduction and by the Decree. The first synthesis is concentrated on the spiritual patrimony of saint Francis in the faithful, simple and pure observance of the Rule and the Testament. The second synthesis is more articulated, inculturated and affected by the influence of the revision of the text of the Constitutions, especially in the underlining of the “form of evangelical fraternity” and the sacrament of reconciliation.

The Constitutions insist on the necessity to “diligently cultivate spiritual inheritance of our Founder in our life and work” (n. 3,2); and “To this end let us frequently read the life and writings of Saint Francis, as well as other books that reveal his spirit. Let us also ensure that we are familiar with the Franciscan sources and with Capuchin tradition, especially everything referring to our brothers renowned for their holiness, apostolic work, and erudition” (n. 6,2). In the volumes of the “fonti cappuccine” there is an enormous collection of documents of these early and holy friars: the published and unpublished writings of the first saints and the testimonies of their processes of canonisation; the first writings of the general superiors; the first Capuchin spiritual writers; the first preachers and missionaries; the first accounts of the works of social transformation that developed in the works and diverse ministries of mercy, and so forth.

3. Five values of the Capuchin tradition

The IV Plenary Council dealt with Capuchin identity. The more significant aspects of that Council find a synthesis in n. 4 of the [1990] Constitutions. It seems opportune to me to meditate and comment on this text.[13]

The first paragraph begins thus: “As Capuchin Friars Minor we should renew our knowledge of the genius and ideals of our Fraternity [that is, the nature and end of our Order: indolem atque proposita] so that, correctly adapted to the times, our life may be inspired by the wholesome tradition of our brothers” (1990: n. 4,1). [2012 Const. n. 5,2: It is necessary, therefore, to know the nature and purpose of our brotherhood in order to remain faithful to the Gospel and to our genuine tradition.] This text, in practice, states that we cannot realise a correct renewal as desired by the Council without inspiration, therefore, we require the interior vitality, guides and perceptions of our spiritual tradition. However, to do this we need before anything else to appreciate this tradition – to know, study, to deeply understand the nature and finality of our Order, the character and purpose of our Capuchin reform. How can we do this, if not by re-reading, recovering and interiorising the early sources, the “foundational” texts that transmit the authentic values of our way of life?

This study of our tradition needs to already be part of initial formation. In this period, as we read in the text of the Constitutions, “[t]he brothers in formation should acquire a thorough knowledge of the Capuchin Franciscan spirit and its practice not only by studying the life of Saint Francis, his mind concerning the observance of the Rule, the history and sound traditions of our Order, but, most of all, by assimilating internally and practically the life to which they are called” (1990 n. 25,5).  [2012 Const. n. 26,5: the brothers shall acquire a thorough knowledge of the Capuchin Franciscan spirit and its practice by studying the life of Saint Francis, his mind concerning the observance of the Rule, the history and sound traditions of our Order, and, most of all, by assimilating internally and practically the life to which they are called.] It is particularly during the novitiate that there “is the period of a more intense initiation and a more profound experience of the Capuchin Franciscan life of the Gospel according to its basic demands and presupposes a free and mature choice of religious life” (1990:n. 29,3). [2012 Const. 31,1: The novitiate is a period of more intense initiation and more profound experience of the Capuchin Franciscan gospel life in its fundamental demands. It requires a free and mature decision to try out our form of religious life.]

After novitiate this study needs to continue in the post-novitiate, during which “the brothers, according to each one’s gift and grace, apply themselves to a more profound study of sacred scripture, spiritual theology, liturgy and the history and spirituality of the Order” (1990:n. 30,3). [2012 Const. n. 32,3: According to each one’s gifts of nature and grace, they are introduced to a more profound study of sacred scripture, spiritual theology, liturgy, and the history and spirituality of the Order.]  The same is to be said for the ongoing formation of all the friars, which involves “ a two-fold dimension: spiritual conversion through a continual return to the sources of Christian life and to the primitive spirit of the Order and their adaptation to the times; and, cultural and professional renewal” (1990:n. 41,2). [2012 Const. 41,3:  a twofold dimension: in the first place, spiritual conversion achieved through a continual return to the sources of Christian life and to the primitive spirit of the Order, carried out in forms adapted to times and cultures; secondly, cultural and professional renewal, achieved through educational and specialized adaptation to the conditions of the times.]

In article n. 4, the Constitutions suggest the way in which we can rediscover these authentic values. It also gives a list of these essential values. Primary is by way of conversion of the heart that allows for the essential recovery of the primitive inspiration, the return to the life and rule of our Father saint Francis, and guarantees a continual renewal, which is the imitation of the most important spiritual traditions of the Capuchins. These consist of a series of values, of virtues, of spiritual graces, of charismatic gifts that – if we truly want to follow in their footsteps – need to revive and manifest. There are five virtues outlined that are joined to one another, linked like a chain of love.

1) In first place is the life of prayer, especially contemplation: “Following their footprints [namely, the first Capuchin friars], let us strive to give priority [that is, the principal part, priorem partem, the maximum importance] to a life of prayer, especially contemplative prayer” (1990: n. 4,3). [2012 Const. n. 5,3: For this purpose we make every effort to give priority to a life of prayer, especially contemplative prayer.] Further on, in chapter III, a forceful and decisive return is indicated: “Let us preserve and promote that contemplative spirit that shines in the life of Saint Francis and our forebears. Therefore let us give a greater place [ampliorem locum] to it by fostering mental prayer” (1990 n. 52,1). [2012 Const. n. 54,1: We preserve and promote the contemplative spirit that shines in the life of Saint Francis and of our first brothers. Therefore, we give greater importance to it by cultivating mental prayer.]

Further ahead, it is again strongly reemphasised: “Let the primacy of the spirit and of a life of prayer be totally brought into effect [it is an absolute primacy: primatus spiritus et vitae orationis omnia in effectum perducatur] both by the fraternities and the individual brothers, wherever they may be, as the words and example of Saint Francis and sound Capuchin tradition demand” (1990:n. 53,1). [2012 Const. n. 55,1: The fraternities and the individual brothers, wherever they may be, must make the primacy of the spirit and life of prayer a reality as required by the words and example of Saint Francis and by genuine Capuchin tradition.] In this context there is a recovery of the beautiful expression of the early Constitutions on prayer of the heart and the contributions of various modern studies that characterise Franciscan prayer as affective.[14]

This interior spirit and affectivity of prayer is proposed as “the charism of our Capuchin fraternity” and “seeds of genuine renewal” and a particular aspect of our popular apostolate, as the Constitutions opportunely and with historical precision state at (1990) n. 53,6: “Above all let us cultivate among the People of God the spirit and the development of prayer, especially interior prayer, for from the beginning this was a charism of our Capuchin Fraternity and, as history testifies, the seed of genuine renewal”. Now this spirit of prayer needs to be draw from the “genuine sources of Christian and Franciscan spirituality” (cf. 1990: n. 52,5). [2012 Const. n. 54,6: May we also foster among the People of God the spirit and growth of prayer, above all interior prayer. This has been from the beginning the charism of our Capuchin brotherhood and, as history testifies, the seed of genuine renewal.] It is here that the recovery of the Capuchin sources opens up a great possibility of knowledge and practice of mental prayer, interior and contemplative, as appears in the diverse prescriptions, regulations, Capuchin spiritual writers, and the witness of the saints. This is the primary value of our tradition and identity.[15]

2) The second value is “to cultivate, together with a spirit of minority, radical poverty, both personal and communal” (1990: n. 4,3). [2012 Const. n. 5,3: we practice, both individually and communally, radical poverty inspired by minority…] If the words here are not to remain simply flatus vocis, the significance of poverty cannot be minimalised to a token, it must be real and incarnated into existence, freely desired and chosen, and integrated into the everyday lifestyle of each fraternity. Reaching beyond necessitous external limitations, it is a radical poverty drawing from the depth of being anawin, poor, detached, self-abnegating and seeking the last place (minority). In other words, an interior and spiritual poverty which gives meaning and authenticity to the exterior expression of poverty, and only in this way can it be called radical. The writings and testimonies of our history insist on this value as fundamental, for which the zeal for and practice of poverty becomes an authentic Franciscan and Capuchin criterion and engages the personal and social life of the friars. This can be read in the early Constitutions, commentaries on the Rule, letters, chronicles, customs, and so forth. It becomes noticeable how this value, also in its external manifestations, is highlighted and given attention.[16]

3) Concomitant with these aspects, the new Constitutions add a third important value: a life of austerity and joyful penance, out of love of the Lord’s cross (cf. 1990: n. 4,3c). [2012 Const. n. 5,3: a life of austerity and joyful penance out of love for the cross of the Lord.] In other passages of the Constitutions this aspect is explained; it is a recovery of the spirit of the ancient text: “The spirit of penance in an austere life is characteristic of our Order; for we have chosen a strict life after the example of Christ and Saint Francis” (1990: n. 101,5). [2012 Const. n. 109,6: A spirit of penance in an austere life is a particular characteristic of our Order; for, following the example of Christ and Saint Francis, we have chosen in fact the narrow way of the Gospel.] This can be compared with the ancient text: “… abstinence, austerity and strictness are highly praised in the saints; and since we have chosen to live a harsh life according to the example of Christ our Lord and of Saint Francis”.[17] It is an austerity that is not morbid, with the sacrifice always being accompanied by a radiant and joyful penance that renders all things lovable. This aspect is also referred to in the new constitutions: “Penitent Franciscans must always be conspicuous by their gentle and affectionate charity and joy like our saints who, while harsh with themselves, were filled with kindness and respect toward others” (1990:n. 102,2). [2012 Const. n. 110,2: Franciscan penitents should always be noted for their gentle, affectionate love and joy, like our saints: strict with themselves but full of goodness and respect toward others.] Further ahead: “To lead a truly gospel life and mindful of the passion of Christ, let our life be simple and frugal in all things as is appropriate for the poor, after the example of Saint Francis and our holy brothers” (1990: n. 104,1). [2012 Const. n. 112, 1-2a: Our life conforms to the gospel command to do penance and is, therefore, simple and frugal in all things, as befits poor people. Mindful of the passion of Christ, after the example of Saint Francis and of our saints…]. The renewal of this practice of an austere and penitential life is indicated as a quest that is attentive to the signs of the times and in obedience to the superiors, and in such a manner as to find new ways expressing, translating, incarnating and living it. However, it can be observed that it is not wise to throw out the old while waiting for the new, living void of penitential practices of austerity. This seems to have happened in many places to the traditional Capuchin life where modern and post-modern cultural sensibilities were considered to have risen above these types of practices, and so they were immediately abolished, without giving them new tangible expression, contenting themselves with beautiful theoretical articulations of the new spirit of austerity and penance, throwing – as it is said – the baby out with the bathwater.[18]

4) The fourth element of our identity is taken up in the Constitutions as fraternity (cf. 1990 n. 4,4 [2012 n. 5,5]), observed above all in some characteristics that make it animated and creative, that is, spontaneous and hospitable (spontaneitatem fraternam) that can overcome every barrier that impedes the brothers from being open and transparent, in communion and in profound interaction, mutually attentive to both their own needs and that of the others, full of esteem and respect, without forced and heavy formalism of purely juridical obligation, but with joyful, simple, humble and heart-felt conviction, that expands into charity and openness to all, always disposed to charitable obedience.

This fraternal spontaneity, this “relationships that are fraternally spontaneous”, as they are translated in the new Constitutions, must first exist amongst us, inter nos, and only if this interior fraternity exists between us, can it then open itself out ad extra, enjoying to be with the poor, weak and sick; dialoguing with them while sharing in their experience of life, being interested in their needs and wretchedness, so as to relieve them and raise them out of it. It is not merely a technical, organisational, charitable and social assistance problem. It can be possible to overcome these problems. However, before all else, it must arise from a great capacity of mercy and compassion, that is daily drawn and recharged by prayer, meditation on the mysteries of Christ, and, above all, from his Passion and Eucharistic presence. It needs to be tested and forged by charitable obedience, full of humility and compassion, exercised in one’s own local and provincial fraternity.[19]

The Capuchin friars, out of love for their own spiritual renewal as a Franciscan reform, sought to fathom the spirit of Saint Francis by way of imitation and conformity inspired by his life and his sayings. The spirit of Saint Francis immersed them in the Gospel of the suffering and love of Christ crucified, which innately moved them to love for the poor and lowly and those in any form of human suffering. The history of the works of mercy among the Capuchins is the true history of the Order that chose as its specific Franciscan charism the culture of compassion, mercy and love of the poor, weak, powerless, humble, suffering and sick, in body and spirit. This was the reason for the popularity of the Capuchins, and their successful expansion and fruitful works.[20]

These characteristics, linked to fraternal hospitality, that arise from the fullness of a pure heart and chaste mind, thereby giving rise to an excess of merciful and compassionate love, learnt from God, rich in mercy, and from the grace of Jesus Christ, find multiform expression in our Capuchin history, in the sources of the Order. They manifest the interior life of the small Capuchin friaries and the friars’ attention to mercy towards the poor who came to the friaries, to the needy they met along the paths, to the powerless, sick, and cholera and plague-ridden. It showed forth in willing and creative actions, often heroic, towards the poor and afflicted. One only needs to dig into our sources to find these shining examples of mercy and compassion towards the poor, in their manifold dimensions of poverty: material, moral, spiritual, corporate and social. For all these reasons the Capuchin friar became, in the collective memory of our people and with whom simple people felt at ease, the teacher of engagement with all social classes. This was given artistic expression by Manzoni, whereby he gave us a type of photographic snapshot of our tradition. It is found in the famous section of chapter 3 of Promessi Sposi, which I think would be opportune to reproduce here:

“[B]ut, such was the condition of the Capuchins, that nothing appeared to them either too high or too low.

      • To minister to the basest, and to be ministered to by the most powerful;
      • to enter palaces or hovels with the same deportment of humility and security;
      • to be sometimes in the same house the object of ridicule and a person without whom nothing could be decided;
      • to solicit alms everywhere, and distribute them to all those who begged at the convent:—

a Capuchin was accustomed to all these.

Traversing the road, he was equally liable to meet a noble who would reverently kiss the end of the rope round his waist, or a crowd of wicked boys, who, pretending to be quarrelling among themselves, would fling at his beard dirt and mire. The word frate was pronounced in those days with the greatest respect, and again with the bitterest contempt; and the Capuchins, perhaps, more than any other order, were the objects of two directly opposite sentiments, and shared two directly opposite kinds of treatment; because,

      • possessing no property,
      • wearing a more than ordinarily distinctive habit,
      • and making more open professions of humiliation,
      • they exposed themselves more directly to the veneration, or the contumely, which these circumstances would excite, according to the different tempers and different opinions of men.”[21]

Likewise, the new Constitutions exhort us “to preserve our closeness to the people”, or with a more exact translation, “maintaining our characteristic closeness to the people” (peculiarem nostrum ad populum aditum servemus) (2012: n. 5, 4b). Here it seems opportune to me to observe how this capacity of contact should not transform into an excessive familiarity with the laity, so as to avoid the danger of falling into the trap of secularisation that renders the friar “one just like everyone else”. When the people find in us their identical customs, they no longer have need of us, they no longer come among us, they are no longer willing open their hearts to us. It is in this very separation, in our diversity, as said Paul VI in his prophetic discourse to the Capuchins, that makes us current and alive. But perhaps in some, as writes Vittori Messori,

There is no longer sufficient awareness of the importance for all people – but in a most particularly way for those who are religious – that signs and symbols have, nor of how necessary these symbols are for the preservation of identity and for the sense of belonging to a community by way of its Tradition, rules, duties, and its characteristics. The fact that a Catholic did not eat meat on Friday, went to Mass on Sunday, participated in processions on certain days and fasted on other days, and buried, rather than burned, their dead, was not a return to Pharisaic legalism, but a precise feature of belonging. Now, no one remembers the precepts of ‘abstinence’ and ‘fast’; one can go to Mass also on Saturday evening and there are no lack of theologians that stamp as ‘anachronistic formalism the ancient duty of sanctifying the feast days; processions (even the most solemn Corpus Domini) are often abolished; cremation is allowed. As the other two monotheistic religions show, Jewish and Islamic, so rich in ‘rules’ carefully respected, the strength of a religious community is by being, when necessary, not ‘like the others’. Perhaps also this forgetfulness is not foreign to that loss of Catholic identity [or here I could add: Capuchin identity] which the bishops themselves note with alarm.[22]

The same could be said about the external sign of the religious habit and the post-conciliar renewal of religious orders, as writes, again in a provocative way, the same Messori:

At dinner with Franco Cardini, the famous medievalist, to speak about his Francis of Assisi that was going into the bookstores. I immediately challenged him on what seemed a contradiction: from one side Cardini is among those who want the people dedicated to the service of God and the Church (as priests or lay brothers and sisters are) to continue to distinguish themselves also from the aspect of the habit, by their external signs. He says, you have to be able to immediately see that they are “not like others”; that, to speak as in the New Testament, they have been “set apart” for God. From the other side, this historian knows well that that habit with the hood that Francis wore and wanted those who follow him to wear, using as a belt a simple cord, was for certain not clerical attire. It was the more simple and cheaper garment worn by the poor, the beggars. He replies decisively to me that there is no contradiction, but rather, confirmation. “The time of Francis” he says “was a sacralised, hierarchical time, where no one dressed just as he wanted, but where everyone had a status within the society and the Church. It was delineated by precise and recognisable markers. It was the same with the Franciscan habit: it was an external sign that the one who wore it came from the “class” of beggars and was accompanied by bare feet or sandals, never shoes. It was the habit of “sister turtledove”, with that greyish colour (the cloth was of a natural colour, without dye, to save money) that immediately indicated that the one who wore it was like “the birds of the air to which only the Providence of God assures nourishment. Well then, Francis and his followers were not dressed in any unremarkable way, unrecognisable: in the medieval society, where nobles, craftsmen, merchants, farmers, unmarried women and those married, the young, the old, pilgrims, lepers, all had their particular “marker” that made them recognisable. Also, the friars minor had their marker. It was impossible not to immediately recognise them”. Therefore, derived Cardini, “the lack of any historical comprehension (unfortunately happening much more often now, in whatever field among the Church appointed) of those friars and priests that contest the wearing of clerical attire, which they have substituted for blue-jeans, has them saying that today even Francis would have dressed like this. Anyone who knows the Middle Ages – and, in general, the epoch in which the society had a religious comprehension – knows well that such was not in the least bit true. Today, even the lawyer Agnelli wears blue-jeans, so the rich also parade around in them. They have imposed, for reasons of fashion, that type of clothing that is called casual: made torn in appearance, headwear that artificially has been given a “lived in” look, purposely patched and tattered. Clothing, today, “like everyone else” is a sign of worldly conformism, not of evangelical radicalism, and transmit no message. On the contrary, such is transmitted by the habit, cord and sandals that Francis wanted for himself and his friars.[23]

In regard to the renewal-updating of religious Orders he adds these scathing remarks:

The general law on which the post-conciliar reforms of religious life are based is the following: all the reforms, without exception, are from the difficult to the easier or at least the less difficult. Never, instead, from the easy to the difficult or less easy. Here it is worthwhile noting that such a general law of post-conciliar reform is the reverse of what has always appeared in the history of religious societies. All reforms, in fact, have arisen out of dissatisfaction of the easing of the discipline and from a desire for a more spiritual life, with more prayer and austerity. For example, they swarmed from the Cluniacs into the Cistercians, and from these into the Trappists. From the Minors, from successive aspirations towards severity, arose (to leave aside the Fraticelli) the Observants and then, again, the Reformed, the Capuchins. It was always a movement of ascent and detachment from the worldly, and never, as for the first time has happened today in the Church, from a tendency of descent [into worldliness]. In effect, for those who know the history of the Councils and their proposals and outcomes, and when compared to what happened after Vatican II, an uncommon anomaly cannot go unnoticed. The Councils were always convoked under the pressure of necessity, so as to respond to a crisis. All the decisions made to resolve the crisis can be synthesised into a few and persistent imperatives: put the brakes on, reinforce the discipline, increase austerity, tighten the ranks. It is the opposite of what happened – and for the first time – after Vatican II, at least in the interpretation that was made by many, also amongst those of the ‘updaters’ of religious life. They were those who (as Cardinal Ratzinger says) exchanged renewal with accommodation. Reform with relaxation and conformity to the world.[24]

5) The final element, the fifth of our identity and tradition, the new Constitutions express with these words: “In many ways, above all in the work of evangelization, let us promote an apostolic dynamism that is carried out in a spirit of service” (n. 4, 5 [1990]). The last renewed edition of the Constitutions states: “We promote the apostolic dimension of our life by proclaiming the Gospel and in other various ways that are in harmony with our charism, while always preserving a spirit of minority and service” (n. 5, 5 [2012]). Many passages of the Constitutions and in particular chapters nine and twelve, that respectively deal with the “the apostolic life of the brothers” and the “spreading and fostering the faith”, insist on our apostolic charism as characterising our tradition. To cite a few passages: “Wherever we may be, we contribute to the good of the particular church through our fraternal and prophetic presence, working together for its growth and progress in accordance with our charism and under the guidance of the diocesan bishop, offering our apostolic service to the People of God and to the entire human community” (n. 11, 30 [2012]. And again: “In our apostolic activity let us express the characteristics of our charism in forms best suited to the conditions of time and place” (n. 147, 1) [2012]; as well: “Let us willingly take on any ministry or apostolic activity as long as it is in keeping with our form of life and meets the needs of the Church” (n. 147, 6) [2012]; “Let the ministers, as far as they are able and in accordance with our charism, gladly accept the invitations of bishops inviting us to serve the people of God and to work together for the salvation of all people” (n. 148, 2)[2012]. Following this: “It is the responsibility of the provincial chapter to adapt apostolic work to the needs of the times, while preserving our Capuchin Franciscan identity” (n. 148, 3) [2012].

From these passages it is clear that every form of our apostolate needs to be commiserated on the tradition or characteristic of our Order. In the apostolate of the word and in the pastoral care of the sick the friars need to follow the example of Saint Francis and “the traditions of our Order” (n. 153, 1) [2012]. As well as in the parish apostolate the friars need to be available “in keeping with the character and tradition of our Order” (n. 154, 1) [2012].

An observation in direct regard as to the apostolic choices of the Capuchins can be made here: the new Constitutions have enumerated the various forms of apostolate, also citing the new forms that have arisen within the Church in recent times. Such as, pastoral care involving the sacraments, especially that of reconciliation, as this “ministry is particularly appropriate to us as lesser brothers” (152, 1) [2012]; “After the example of Saint Francis and the enduring tradition of the order, we willingly undertake the spiritual, and even bodily, care of the sick and infirm” (153, 1) [2012]; “In keeping with the character and tradition of our Order, let the brothers be ready to offer pastoral assistance in parishes to the clergy of the local Church” (154, 1) [2012]; and many other services.

Preaching, above all, that has to be the fundamental ministry of the apostolate that enlightens and absorbs every other ministry (remembering nos orationi et ministerio verbi instantes erimus of the Acts of the Apostles 6:4) is given only one article, number 150 [in the current 2012 Constitutions], that wants to summarise the entire chapter of which the first Consititutions of 1536 dedicated to it (Chapter IX), analogous to the Rnb (chapter XVII) and the approved Rule (chapter IX); it is real little gem of a treatise, well-articulated and deeply imbued with Franciscan spirituality. They have tried to compensate for it by cross referencing PCO III (Mattli 1978), dedicated to missionary life and activity, and PCO V (Garibaldi 1986), that had as its theme our prophetic presence in the world. However, the change of title from “Preachers” of Rnb, Rb and Constitutions 1536 to “Our Apostolic life” in the current Constitutions, while it may be motived by the diversification of the apostolates the Order has undertaken over the centuries, and by the just need to include the apostolic ministry in the life of the friars, such a change in attribute has blurred and reduced, at least in the legislative context, the dimension of preaching.[25]

To make a comparison between the four paragraphs of the [1990] Constitutions and Chapter nine of the ancient could be worthwhile, but it would reveal a regrettable mutilation of a vision of preaching that is profoundly charismatic and in the Spirit, even if the [1990] desired to conserve the central nucleus of it in the third paragraph: “Let the brothers make every effort to imprint the word of God, Christ, upon their own hearts and give themselves totally to Him, so that He may impel them to speak out of an abundance of love. In this way they shall preach Christ Himself by their life, work and speech” (n. 148,3). The current [2012] text says: “Let us do all we can to imprint on our hearts the Word of God, who is Christ, and give ourselves totally to Him, so that He may move us to speak out of an abundance of love. In this way we will preach Christ Himself by our life, our actions, and our speech” (n. 150,4).

To conclude this analysis, one fact remains clear: the definitive Constitutions of 1982, approved on 25 December 1986, after being adapted to the new code of Canon Law that was promulgated on 15 January 1983, and were thus reworked in the General Chapter of 1988, and finally ratified again by the Congregation on February 3, 1990 (and then put back into the melting pot by will of the last General Chapter and now published in 2015), proceeded by a desire to reappropriate the original “Capuchin” values and models, that is, the tradition of the Order. The most appropriate means, suggested by the Church, is the spiritual and scientific comparison with the “original sources” of the Order’s charism, promoted and animated by the publication of the documents on the life and spirituality of the Capuchin origins.

4. Capuchin tradition in the teaching of the Popes

The Capuchin tradition, viewed from its historical components and from the renewal and updating desired by the Church, offers us another possibility of analysis and comparison by way of the exhortations of recent popes, so as to see which of the fundamentals of our charism, identity and tradition of the Order the popes have wanted to set out and delineate. We will choose only the Popes of our modern period, not those belonging to the ancient regime.

Leo XIII, receiving in tribute the great volume Saint François d’Assise, published by the French Capuchins on the occasion of the Franciscan centenary, among other things, exhorted the Capuchins to be always faithful to the Apostolic and Roman See, as a characteristic of their own and particular grace of the Order.[26] With the apostolic constitution Felicitate quadam of 4 October 1897, uniting under the particular denotation O.F.M. the various Franciscan groups (Discalced, Reformed, Recollects, Alcantarians), he spoke of the Capuchins as those who imitated “animose ac severe” [courageously and austerely] Saint Francis.[27]

Saint Pius X, in the apostolic letter Vicarium Pastoris of 8 September 1909, approving the Capuchin constitutions, affirmed that the specificity of the Capuchins is a more severe imitation of Saint Francis.[28]

Pius XI, in the letter to the General Minister Melchiorre da Benisa on the occasion of the IV Capuchin centenary (23 June 1928) wanted to describe from an historical viewpoint the apostolic activity of the friars, insisting on the specific characteristic of the Order as being a more severe imitation of Francis.[29] On 5 June 1930 on the occasion of the beatification of Conrad of Parzham, in the speech that the made after the address of the Postulator, he underlined as a Capuchin characteristic the spirit of penance, with these words: “the humble Capuchin, the apostle of good example and edifying words whispered in the ear and heart; apostle of an exemplary lived life, bloodless martyr of penance, a reality that has no need of proof to one who considers just the harshness, the true penance, the spirit of penance that pervades and constitutes – to begin from the habit – the characteristic of the family of Capuchin minority.[30] On 21 May 1934, in front of 3000 Franciscan tertiaries under the obedience of the Capuchins, the pope invited all to follow “the Capuchin holiness, a holiness commensurate to our times, a holiness that knows how to be sympathetic, approachable, wherever it finds itself, and not just from yesterday but for centuries, a holiness so close and accessible to all, such is its attractiveness in its simplicity, humility and charity”.[31] At the end of the solemn audience conceded to the General Chapter on 11 June 1938, with the new General Minister Br. Donato da Welle, Pius XI uttered memorable words that were almost prophetic, the last to be given to the Capuchins before his death. These merit to be remembered here. The Holy Father with joy defined himself as “one of the oldest Tertiaries in the world” and he considered, in his combative style, how “the General likes to find himself not just in the midst of chosen soldiers, but among those elected from the chosen, in the midst of a representation of a whole distinct militia, of a crowd that is not a crowd, but all the elite together; there is no crowd, in fact, where everyone is distinct, is special”. Adding:

A General Chapter is a great point of arrival and a great point of departure, because a great religious family cannot be gathered together without feeling the need, as has His Holiness many times, when climbing high mountains, has felt the need, at a certain point, to look back and measure the journey made so far. For this it is also a point of arrival, after an impressive journey which has spread the work of the Capuchins throughout the world …. The Capuchin Family works so well and with so much fruit: well then, the point of arrival: how was this journey made and how did it need to be travelled? A profound examination of conscience is needed when treating of such good works, so numerous and zealous. Certainly, there was also an examination of conscience, with just and reasonable satisfaction for the received, lived and enjoyed fervent actions of the grace of God’s great blessings: it was a great consolation to them, a consolation which can renew the hearts in the recognition of their beautiful and holy vocation. In all parts of the world the Capuchins do great good for the spreading of Christ’s kingdom.

This is the point of arrival and of departure, which likewise inspires a weighing up of works and efforts. This examination of conscience is a weighty appraisal, because the field is the same, or rather, it is now greater, because the good, like the truth, invites to every greater heights, always higher: it is a natural tendency and it is likewise a joy, a glorious necessity, felt also by your Family, especially because in the spiritual field not to progress is to regress: one either grows or diminishes. It is a very grave matter, serious because it interrogates us as to what remains to be done, what is the Church asking of us, and the Heart of God, our great Friend. Then the phrase comes to mind: nothing has been done if there remains something more to do. Woe to us if we begin to rest on our laurels: they wither. As a point of arrival therefore your General Chapter needs to be a thanksgiving, as a point of departure it really needs the motto: nihil actum quid agendum [nothing has been accomplished if there is still something to be done].

He concludes with a strong exhortation and well directed to traditional Capuchin formation:

… You are severe! A hard word, but full of love, because only sternness can satisfy the true and dignified love of the friends of Our Lord; especially a certain type of strictness, when one treats of the discipline of the Order, of the families, of the individual houses, because it is the discipline that vivifies the life, of which, without such discipline can it cannot survive, but rather, it tires, weakens, becomes listless … because, unfortunately, today’s air is full disordered principles: indiscipline and independence. We must stop these from spreading amongst the ranks of the clergy. In fact, if you want to preserve the splendour of religious life, it is necessary to be rigorous, above all with vocations, because the grace of God assists, rather than destroys, human nature; and so within religious life the battle remains serious. Therefore, it is necessary to remove the danger of unsuitable elements filtering into the religious family. They will not only be of no benefit, but rather, become obstacles, stumbling blocks, they are the weeds… It is not an exaggeration, since experience teaches us that in crowds, even little ones, there are almost always deficiencies. It is not, therefore, that a religious family has to decrease its own numbers, indeed it needs to increase them, but it must ensure that its members are well chosen, specially recruited soldiers. It is a difficult thing …, but necessary. In fact, when many men join together, their good qualities, especially the choicest, are not added together, each one holds his own; while on the other hand, deficiencies and bad qualities add together and merge.

The Holy Father addressed these strong, decisive and long-sighted words to the Capuchins so that they “conserve their beautiful, glorious, holy family in the beauty of life, merit and holiness in which it has always been an example”.[32]

Pius XII did not give many speeches to the Capuchins. However, he gave one on 25 November 1948 that is of great assistance in laying out the problem of renewal, already anticipated by the Order immediately after the first world war. At the audience conceded to the Capuchins at the interprovincial Congress on “Today’s needs of the apostolate”, held at Rome from 21 to the 27 November 1948, there were present 250 friars along with the General Minister, Br. Clemente of Milwaukee. The Holy Father gave an important speech so as “to awaken the animating spirit” of the Order and, beginning from “the willingness to undertake new works and initiatives” in accordance with the argument of the Congress, he translated this theme with the expression: “the conjunction of the new with the old”. He explained it thus:

Therefore it is good that you have conserved that ideal of life with jealous care, you are intended for its practice and actualisation in the Church. That which your glorious fathers set out to be realised in themselves, their companions and followers, even those distant in time, by way of putting into practice after careful and attentive study, is evangelical poverty, according to the norm and example of the Holy Patriarch of Assisi. How much evil derives from the appalling thirst for riches: from it arises wars, sedition, hunger, moral degradation, social upheavals!

The disorderly imbalance between those who exploit their excessive riches and those who languish in misery and starvation is the source of deadly corruption. The remedy to such calamity and corruption is the example of evangelical poverty. It is this which is the companion to work commanded by God, it is the friend of the virtues, it is the teacher of the people, it is guardian and boast to the kingdom of Christ; like a faithful guarantor, to it is connected the hope for the future that is coming. His noble banner we entrust into your hands: keep it unblemished. Refrain from professing it only in words, which in this case is mere externality, put it into practice by deeds. That clear poverty that shines forth in your everyday religious garb, the habit, do not let it be miserably obscured by sumptuous houses and refined living and comforts! Let there be no dissonance between the way of living and of speaking! … With the same fervour, love honoured poverty in external things, so that you accumulate the treasures of the interior life, spiritual riches: the love of God and of neighbour, the distinction in the practice of penance, the sacred sciences, the burning desire to spread the Kingdom of Christ. It is a characteristic of you all to manifest simplicity, candid goodness and holy joy, to serve with humility in your sacred ministry those considered the least, preferring and helping especially the poor, whom the wicked and evil, with their wicked arts, try to keep bound to themselves.

Your primary adornment to be noted is Christian humility, which, always joined with kindness and goodness, knows well how to win over and get close to the people. They live in dark shadows, and to break through and catch them is something very difficult. The way to human trust is opened by humility; with it you can count on victories to be celebrated. The Saints were champions of such abundant virtue, of which so many have come from your Institute, the likes of Felice da Cantalice, Lorenzo da Brindisi, Fedele da Sigmaringa, Corrado da Parzham.

Move forward then, with the ancient virtues, which are still agreeable to your religious profession, to assist you in the new enterprises, so as to bring remedy to this present century in such turmoil.

Be diligent cultivators of seraphic charity that needs to be nourished interiorly and demonstrated externally. What can be more precious than charity, in which you are to become rich so as to enrich others? … From you who are happy, free and not weighted down by useless things, needs to be sung with voice and deeds the canticle of charity.[33]

It can be noted in these words how Pope Pacelli considered as primary characteristics in the tradition of the Capuchins not fraternity but poverty and humility, simplicity and joy, humble service, love for the poor, and finally, as a completion of all, the seraphic charity, that corresponds to fraternity today, but without the psychological-sociological connotations with which it is often proclaimed today.

Paul VI, with his enlightened and intense “Capuchin” teaching, is the pope, I believe, who has most profoundly understood and appreciated the characteristic elements of the Capuchin tradition in the most attractive way.

In several ways and on several occasions he has openly and strongly shown his concerns and interpretations regarding the Capuchin life. He has thrown out to the Order, so to speak, the prospect of a renewed research, precise verification and authentic recovery of: “The Franciscan charism and the characteristics of the Capuchin life, that emanate from the healthy tradition of the Order. They need to be more clearly defined and explained … It is necessary that the particular tradition of the Capuchins by which the Order is distinguished from the Franciscan families be more profoundly examined and more fully demonstrated …”.[34] “This requires you to carefully turn to the origins, to the beginnings of your family. It is not a matter of archaeology in returning to your roots, to your own initial and inspired core.”[35]

The Pope expressed what he hoped for and thereby distinguished two types of research: 1) A historical research; 2) A research by way of existential tensions. The first requires a deeper, broader and clearer examination that can arrive at delineating the characteristics peculiar to the Capuchin life within the great Franciscan family. The second calls for an open-ended balancing of tensions (“healthy tradition”, “conserving the spirit”, “remaining solid”, etc) and a continual interior confrontation with the initial inspiration. This needs to be founded on a “clear understanding” of the two realities held together “in a unique vision: the historical reality and the spiritual reality of the sources of a religious institute and the practical and apostolic reality of the present needs; the past and the present; tradition and experience; fidelity to the original Constitutions and adherence to the needs and responsibilities of our own time. The ancient and modern is therefore to be your life”.[36]

The Christian experience and the worldly experience are a violent contrast. The Pope does not want “thoughtless conformism to the tastes of the world, to the profane forms of modern mores, to the indiscriminate currents of secular thought”.[37] He also hopes that this antithesis always becomes every clearer and stronger and puts us on guard in front of the modern tendency to do away with every sacrifice. He said this in his discourse on the beatification of Ignazio di Santhià on 17 April 1966: “The desire to remove from religious life every semblance of asceticism and arbitrary exteriority so as, as it is said today, to make it more human and conforming to our times, infiltrates here and in the modern mentality of some Christians, also some religious …”.[38] Modernity lies in remaining faithful to one’s own “school of ascetics”.

The note of perfection that takes on a particular character in the Capuchin school of ascetics is the note of literal fidelity to the form and, if God wants, to the spirit of the primitive Franciscan observance. Already, before the Protestant crisis, an internal reform and a return to the letter of the Rule and Testament of the Founder Saint Francis was being sought after. It was nourished in the golden period of the Capuchins by the masters of that spirit, great in name and influence: to cite for example, Giovanni da Fano, Mattia Bellintani and Alessio Segala, both from Salò … and above all, Saint Lorenzo da Brindisi, and hundreds of others … splendid and rich spiritual and literary traditions of the Capuchin Order … And it is this note of fidelity that describes, not only, the iconographical profile, but also the spiritual profile of the Capuchins, that still today makes them popular.”[39]

The Capuchins are not “individuals who seem to have come from the Middle Ages along who knows what path”; their witness is of great value – the Pope continues in an improvised speech he made when Cardinal of Milan and was making an apostolic visit to

a city [Lecco] that had become modernised and which manifested itself in the phenomena of a city totally transformed civilly, politically, industrially, technically and socially into the modern world. This witness has an even greater value than 300 years ago. Why? Because the world today is much more distanced from this witness and the clash between the present world and that which this voice, this example brings. They seem to be incommunicable; an abyss between the modern world and the humble habit of the Franciscan friar. Instead it is precisely this very distance that brings these friars closer, because of this very exasperation with this experience of modern life: the profane, materialistic, without God, without heavenly hope, so self-serving and with the loss of memory of the true hope that is needed to support life. It is precisely in this that the modern world has such need of the Gospel, has such need of an authentic witness, almost literally, of the Gospel that was present in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ: poverty, humility, service to the poor, love of the neighbour, benevolence, sacrifice, all these evangelical virtues …”.[40]

This is the predominant thought in the mind of the Pope when he speaks to the Capuchins. He also expresses it in other ways:

Your tradition walks a difficult path, we could say, by the narrow path of the Gospel, and arrives to our present days as the wonder of the world, by which we know not how to justify the great anachronism that you represent in a society animated by ideas that in the major part are opposite to your own. Nevertheless, at the same time it still bears – and to what extent! – fascination for your inexplicable survival …. From here arises a question that you have already solved, in theory and in practice, and who knows how many times: how is it possible that such a rigorous style of life, so strange in your habit, so deformed to the style of modern life, that still finds today numerous and faithful followers, admirers, and people devoted to you, across such a wide array of the world, a world that seems to be so refractory, often even hostile, to the manifestations of religious life, especially one that is traditional and authentic? The answer you have given is this: because it is a type of perfect life; difficult, yes, but perfect; perfect in its forms of humility, simplicity and the poverty of the Gospel; perfect in its intentions, in its seeking ways to adapt … the reality of religious observance lived according to the established Franciscan ideal. From this arises a magnificent apology for the Gospel, of its perennial relevance and of its mysterious secret …”.[41]

In the already cited Discorso ai Capitolari of 1974, the Pope returned to the same idea, as if it were a question in his mind:

There could also arises a doubt within you, if not other than for the dialectic that you have to have with your fidelity…:- But, are we of our times, or not? Are we relics of history, or do we still have a purpose as we now are, how do we answer seriously? – I am happy to say: Yes, yes, brothers, you are modern! You are relevant! You have the guarantee of your past history that assures your future! People have no desire that you adapt yourselves ambiguously to the world”.[42]

Paul VI does not try to cover over or hide that the Capuchin ideal is not easy; on the contrary, he constantly hammers away: “You have chosen a difficult path; the narrow way of the Gospel. Such is the Franciscan way”.[43] Elsewhere he says: “Welcoming the voice of Christ, you have braved ‘the narrow path’ and you have made it your own particular portion. We proclaim you blessed, because you have chosen this road that more surely than any other ‘leads you to life’. Do not be discouraged!”.[44]

In an attempt to sum up the “Franciscan charism”, the Pope outlined this “difficult, narrow” Franciscan path in the experience of Saint Francis; and then he reads it from the contours of history at the origins of the Capuchins, underlining the more expressive characteristics.

In regard to his references to the Poverello, he uses phrases expressing an impressive interior intensity:

His continual straining for complete faith, total love, towards the evangelical Person of Jesus, his radiation of this from his mild, humble, poor appearance in his words, actions, engaging conversations, in his contact with nature, in his approach to the drama of the passion with a profound, holy, seemingly endless interiority, made Francis the imitator par excellence of the Lord, and required of him an heroic dedication, a total self-stripping, a unique simplicity and an incomparable benevolence, such as to discourage, one could say, anyone who wanted to be tepid and only a formal follower of him, and, instead, to encourage anyone who was willing to lose himself in the existential enchantment of his most humble and holy personality. Blessed Angela da Foligno writes: Beatus Franciscus docuit nos paupertatem, dolorem, despectum et obedientiam veram. Ipse enim fuit ipsa paupertas interius et exterius, per ipsam vixit et continuavit – ( Liber de vera fidelium experientia) [Blessed Francis taught us poverty, how to suffer, self-disdain, and true obedience. He lived and perervered in true interior and exterior poverty].The difficult path.[45]

In reference to the Capuchins, the Pope first of all carries out an historical synthesises of the spiritual and apostolic dynamics from the very beginnings, and then he specifies the more evident aspects and characteristics. The spiritual dynamics of the original Capuchins consisted of radical fidelity to primitive Franciscanism.

History confirms – Pope Paul VI continues in the above mentioned speech – that your origins, those that explain the reason for being of your religious family, if we recall how they begun as a reform in the heart of an observance that was already a reform, intended to bring back the practice of the Franciscan Rule to its original vigour. You hold it as historical truth from the mouth of Matteo da Bascio, the first of your ranks, that he heard Saint Francis himself profess: – I want my Rule to be observed to the letter, to the letter! -; the whole of the spirit and all of the life of the Capuchins speaks of this being characterised by this passionate proposal of genuine fidelity to the humblest, most ardent, to the most original expressions of primitive Franciscanism (cf. Bernardino da Fossombrone, Cronica; and Boverio, with the observations of Pastor, IV, II, 728). The difficult path. The recognition that Pope Clement VII conceded to the initial promotors of your “Capuchin” form of life, Lodovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone, with the bull Religionis zelus (3 July 1528) did not mitigate but sanctioned this radical return to the rigour of the original Rule. Thus revived, it immediately manifested its wonderful fruitfulness, both by drawing large numbers of followers, and by demonstrating a strong apostolic vitality in popular preaching and in ardent works of charity. Welcomed by the Church, and especially by fervent faithful that surrounded the Capuchins with their trust and support, they idealised the figure of the Capuchin as that which reflects the Franciscan profile of the moral and prophetic figure of Jesus”.[46]

For the Pope, the more expressive characteristics of the Capuchin tradition are: 1) the “contemplative spirit”, which is an “intense interior life” and a life of contemplative prayer; 2) a “wise and serene austerity” of poverty and penance; 3) apostolates and preaching well-liked by the people; 4) a Catholic spirit of total fidelity to the Apostolic See; 5) the spirit of true fraternity.

Paul VI never tired of repeating that “before anything else, it is necessary that your Capuchin life … be authentic. It is this very aspect that is expected of you by the Church and the world itself. A way of life that is not removed (may this not be the case) from the initial inspiration of your Order and in which ‘the patrimony of the healthy traditions’ is not squandered, would be contagious and could be compared to what our Lord said:- If salt loses its taste, how can it be made salty again?”.[47] It would be good to continue with the teaching of Pope Montini. These few notes, however, are enough to make us understand his thoughts about our Capuchin tradition.

John Paul II in his apostolic dynamism has addressed some significant reflections to the Capuchins, appropriate for the time in the period of the travail of post-conciliar legislative renewal. Here are presented some passages that indicate the meaning he gives to the Capuchin life. In the Audience with the capitulars and the General Minister Br Flavio Carraro, 5 July 1982, he recalled the lines of the conciliar religious renewal, and then specified:

Now, however, having carried forward to their conclusions all the essential aspects of this effort of updating, also you feel the need – as with many other Church Institutes – to turn with renewed commitment to the primary requirement that the conciliar text asked for, “the continual return to the sources”. This is not so as to deny or set aside the legitimate adaptions and newly discovered values experienced in these years. It is, above all, to also revitalise them, grafting them onto the living trunk of tradition, from which your Order draws her physiognomy and strength …[48] These two fundamental features of your Franciscan identity – fraternity and minority – you have endeavoured to propose them afresh to the new generation, in the light of your Capuchin tradition, that confers to them the unmistakable notes of spontaneity, simplicity, joy, together with austerity, radical detachment from the world and which, at the same time, draws you very close to the people. This has made effective and incisive the presence of the Capuchins in the midst of the Christian populations and in the missions, and has produced such a large array of saints, including Saint Crispin da Viterbo of whom, a few days ago, I had the joy of enrolling in the register of the heroic sanctity of the Church … Aware of this, you have rightly reaffirmed, in all its modes, the primary place that prayer, and in particular, according to your more genuine tradition, contemplative prayer, needs to occupy in your life, both personal and communal. Of all the “roots”, this, in fact, is the “mother-root”, that which immerses man in God himself, that maintains the branch united to the vine (cf. Jn 15:4) and assures the religious of constant contact with Christ, without which – as he himself affirms – we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5) and with his Spirit of Holiness and grace … It seems, in fact, that the time has now already arrive in which to resolutely pass from the phase of discussion about your own legislation to that of the practical implementation of certain and fundamental values, from preoccupation with the letter to that of the spirit, from words to life, so as not to fall into the danger of illusion that Saint Francis himself denounced in one of his Admonitions (Adm. 7:FF 156), when he wrote that “those religious are killed by the letter who will not follow the spirit of the Holy Scriptures, but who seek rather to know the words only and to interpret them to others”.[49]

On 1st March 1984, in a message to the provincial superiors of the Capuchins of Italy gathered in Rome for a long period of ongoing formation, he reaffirmed some fundamental aspects of the Capuchin tradition, particularly indicating a robust spiritual life, apostolic fraternity,[50] peace-making, perfect joy,[51] a profound intimacy with God,[52] the preference of living with the poor and lowly,[53] the apostolate of itinerancy and the ministry of reconciliation.[54]

On 28 September 1984, he indicated to the masters of the Capuchin novitiates the exercise of the fundamental values of the tradition of the Order: fraternal charity, the life of prayer and poverty of life:

This is particularly true for you who found your life in fraternity and in it recognise an essential element of your charism… This life of charity flows naturally from the life of prayer, that – as I said to your brother Italian minister provincials – constitutes the fundamental objective of ongoing formation, because it is the pillar of your life … As Capuchin Franciscans, you need to not only live but also clearly manifest austerity, a life of poverty. The consumerism that today torments the world and is the cause of so many of its woes needs to find a defence wall in you.[55]

Then years later, 1st July 1994, addressing the general chapter, he recalled the fundamental points of the Capuchin tradition, as he saw them, strongly valuing the primary commitment to prayer and to contemplation, and the the readiness to live with the poor, the example of fraternity and concord, concrete fidelity, openness to the signs of the time, creativity, contrariety to worldly comforts, traditional custom of closeness to the people, prophetic drive, animation of the lectio divina and prayer, missionary impulse and the apostolate towards peace-making. His words, reported here, merit meditating and pondering upon at length:

Prayer and contemplation: this are the primary undertakings which needs to be completed, after the shining example of Saint Francis and many other masters of your long tradition. From intimate communion with the divine Trinity flows fraternal love, to which you are called to live first of all amongst yourselves: “By this they will recognise … (Jn 13:35). You need to be ready to life for others, especially the poor, as the Constitutions and the documents of your Order continually ask of you. Fraternity is a value that Saint Francis himself, moved by the Holy Spirit, inculcated into his first companions so as to heal the divided society of his time. You desire to promote again today this style of life in a moment in which the virus of division and individualism is particularly aggressive. You are, then, examples of fraternity and concord: offer to your communities the witness of brothers who live together in peace, in prayer, in true charity, in mutual forgiveness, in poverty, in welcoming others …

To do this, a creative and concrete fidelity to your Capuchin Franciscan charism is necessary, always better seen in light of the teaching and example of your Founder, Francis of Assisi. Commit yourselves to carrying out this evangelical work and witness, searching out places for your presence, witness and apostolic service, adapted to the ever-changing current needs of people … I spoke of creative fidelity, intending to refer to the need of attentively reading the signs of the time, so as to discover the indications that the Holy Spirit suggests to Christians today. Such a reading was carried out with the same sensitivity by the Poverello of Assisi, who was led to respond with evangelical radicality to the perceived needs with a new form of religious life. The openness and availability of Francis will free you from the risk of immobility, as well as the temptation towards comfortable acquiescence to the current trends …

Furthermore, your fidelity needs to be concrete: Saint Francis exhorted his friars to give witness to Christ “plus exemplo quam verbo” [more by example than by words]. From this point of view, what needs to be promoted in the vocational work and in initial and ongoing formation is the quality of religious life more than the quantity of religious. We will need to be more preoccupied about being authentic witnesses of God and of evangelical fraternity: You, my dear Capuchins, are an “Ordo Fratrum”, called to maintain and reinforce the traditional closeness to the people by means of a wise process of inculturation … To remain close to people, you need to strive through study, reflection and prayer to understand in light of the Gospel the problems and the needs of those who live today. Without solid doctrine you risk labouring in vain …

The commitment to meeting the profound needs of our world, requires you to be creative. Have, my dear friends, a true prophetic impetus in helping people of our time, who, as regards to moral values, are often groping in the dark. Animate the youth, promote bible groups and communities of prayer. Bring Christ to the world! Carry him with courage. Your Order has always given a shining example of evangelisation, especially by way of your custom of closeness to the people that distinguishes you …

Be missionaries! The need to carry the Gospel “ad gentes” is now all the more pressing as the great number of people who have not had a true meeting with our Lord Jesus grows. Instil the missionary impulse in the younger generation and in the young circumscriptions of your Order, always solidly maintaining the ecclesiality of your charism, in keeping with the “mandate” of the Crucified of San Damiano to Saint Francis: “Go and rebuild my house”. Francis did it in his own time, now it is up to you! The pastoral necessities in your own local environments does not constitute a sufficient reason not to leave your own land and go to where God will reveal to you …

Be apostles of peace, a gift which is too often trampled upon by injustice and crimes, in a world that would like to call itself civil and progressive.[56]

In his speech to the capitulars on 7 July 2000, insisting on the importance of the charism and the spiritual patrimony of the Order, he reiterated the criterion of fidelity to the identity of each institute which needs to “conserve with such protection so as to avoid the risk of a situation of insufficient definition, by which religious, without giving the necessary consideration to their own particular nature, are inserted into the life of the Church in a vague and ambiguous way”. Then, in light of fraternity, he listed the typical characteristics of the Capuchin spiritual tradition, namely, “The spirit of prayer, minority and simplicity, poverty, austerity, contact with the people, nearness to the needy, zeal for evangelisation, Christian hope and joy”.[57] Finally, in his message sent to the Italian Capuchins on the occasion of the “Chapter of mats”, 22 October 2003, the Pope, besides the theme of fraternity, highlighted as specific to the Capuchins love for the poor in light of “minority”:

This term qualifies your complete denomination (“Lesser Brothers”) and embraces, together with other significant aspects of your Capuchin charism, poverty itself … Being lesser implies a heart that is free, detached, humble, gentle and simple, as Jesus proposed to us and as was lived by Francis; it calls for a total renunciation of one’s self and complete availability to God and the brothers … It favours a manner of behaviour characterised by a simplicity and sincerity, spontaneity and concreteness, humility and joy, self-sacrifice and availability, closeness and service, particularly towards peoples and persons more lowly and needy.[58]

Lastly, Benedict XVI has already made it clear in diverse circumstances how he sees the Capuchin friars, how he considers them in the Church, also making reference to his personal experience. What he graciously related during his visit to the Sanctuary of Loreto, on 1st September 2007, is very significant: “I know, dear Fathers, that you spend much time in the confessional and help many people to find Jesus and to arrive at conversion so as to progress in the path that Jesus is showing, and to progress in communion with the “yes” of Our Lady who helps us with her tenderness, her goodness, her generosity. Thank you, therefore, dear Capuchin Fathers. For me, as a Bavarian, the Capuchins are Fathers by definition, beginning from my youth, because they were always the Capuchin Fathers who came in mission and knew how to preach with strength and also with joy”.[59]

He proposes other aspects of the Capuchin spiritual tradition when dealing with Saint Pio da Pietrelcina[60] and Saint Felice da Nicosia.[61] In particular, on 5 January 2007, during the audience with the General Minister Jauro Jöhri, the Holy Father reaffirmed, above all, the importance of material and spiritual poverty and of joy: “Live the charism of Saint Francis with joy!”, the Holy Father exhorted. “Commit yourselves to live poverty both spiritually and materially and you will see that you will still have vocations. They will not be as numerous as in past times, because the families themselves are formed by smaller nuclei, but you will certainly have vocations”.

As has been pointed out to the reader, the popes have certainly grasped, with an impressive coherence, the more important aspects of the Capuchin tradition and appreciate them, almost inciting the Order to remain in love with this fruitful spiritual tradition and not to search for solutions outside of this tradition: “Remain what you are”. Almost a prophetic warning, illuminated by the charism of love and unity, as the ancient prophets said: “Look at the rock from which you were hewn, at the quarry from which you have been dug” (Is 51:1-2). “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jer 6:16).

5. Capuchin tradition in the witness of our saints

There remains in the concept of Tradition a clear memory of Capuchin history, rich in a multiplicity of spiritual and apostolic expressions, a spiritual vitality drawn from the same spirit that animated our saints who allow us to repeat this in new and fresh ways in today’s history. I spoke of the saints, and my opinion is that it is here that one finds the best of the Capuchin tradition. It is for this reason that the multiple witnesses of the saints of the Order are studied. They commence from the early sixteenth century into the present day and are characters deeply embedded in the memory of the people, despite being so austere and spiritual. The ministry of the sacrament of reconciliation also needs to be taken into account as contributing, in the last two centuries, to making the figure of the Capuchin so popular.

The saints, so numerous in our history of the last five centuries, are a truer and more actual expression of our Tradition. They give to us their example, they make a gift of their life to us, and, in many cases, their writings permit us to discover the profundity of the spirit, the mysterious and wonderful actions of the Holy Spirit that is the animator of our tradition, which, for it to be vital and actual, needs to be spiritual, that is, filled with the Spirit.[62]

Hence the importance of the transmission of this tradition in initial and ongoing formation, as our Constitutions reaffirm. As can be read in the CISM publication:

There is a great need to transmit by way of formation the authentic spiritual values and pastoral works of the Institute, with a renewed sense of identity open to communion, but with the well-defined aim of advancing clear, not vague, specificity, a charismatic identification with the person of the Founder and with the founder’s family, its history, and its concrete present reality, capable of resisting the indifferentism and superficiality that risk weakening vocations. If the great charismatic values of spirituality and mission are not transmitted, we risk filling our houses with individuals without identifying with or love for their own family, with an incapacity to resist the trials and so very many temptations that today are offered by a society of weak mind and fragile identity.[63]

It is about knowing our history and spirituality so as to love it and render it vibrant in our spirit as food for our specific spirituality. It is also about translating the diverse values of this same Tradition into our daily activity. Training and exercising these core values through witness and concrete example, serves to penetrate these values, by way of this psychophysical mediation, to the very soul. It is a vital transmission, like the air that you breathe, that enlarges the space of charity into a truly ecclesial and Catholic dimension.

A reasonably widespread interpretation along the path of post-conciliar renewal is the interpretation of Tradition as mobile, changeable, pervasive, very subtle, totally abstract, dynamic in the metaphysical sense, almost like a spiritual emanation, but incorporeal, informal, without a uniform law, not subject to rules and regulations, more motivated by interior operation that external – something of a disincarnate spirit. It is for this reason that many of the “traditional” Capuchin practices and customs have been done away with, now considered to be outdated and no longer worthwhile. But here in lies a hidden peril of nullifying, by way of a spiritual principle that is a form of empty spiritualism, the visible and palpably concrete, external discipline of the Capuchin tradition. As sometimes happens in the life of penance, it is thwarted in its concreteness by beautiful thoughts and spiritual reflections on conversion of the heart and “metanoia”, while forgetting that “the most beautiful thoughts without works are nothing”, as said St Therese of the Baby Jesus.

The Capuchin tradition is spirit, but it is also flesh and bone. It is palpable. It is flesh that becomes spirit and spirit that becomes flesh. You could say that it is like Capuchin holiness. There is not a Capuchin for every season. There is not a different Capuchin holiness, or better said, the holiness is diverse but is always new, but the adjective “Capuchin” makes it unmistakable in its forms and expressions. However, the fast and unstoppable pace of modernity seems to have brought about radical changes in this Capuchin tradition. It seems as if, at a given moment – which can be traced back to the early sixties – a type of fracture occurred in the transmission of our heritage: all the patrimony of historical memories, literary references, convictions, habits of life, that from the time of the Renaissance were passed from generation to generation in a woven continuity, all of a sudden became a foreign language or a dead language. A delayed effect of the great tragedies of the 20th century, and in particular of the great wars? A backlash of the change of civilisation induced by the prodigious progress in technologies? Or the anticipation of globalisation, which has really carried humanity into another historical era?

The reality seems to be that the modern “globalisation” of consecrated life is flattening out the diversity of charisms and traditions and perhaps is in some way removing the taste and colour of those forms of life that made the Church so multicoloured and variegate in its historical and social reality. A Church of a thousand faces, like that of the face of Christ. I read somewhere that this danger applies in general to modern globalisation. It imposes a general module that slowly but surely erases the beauty of the diverse cultures and traditions, rendering everything flat and the same. Instead there is the Capuchin, sic et simpliciter, tout court, and that’s it. You see him and feel him from afar, by his way of speaking, of doing, of being, of writing.[64] It is our saints, who have ploughed history with five centuries of Capuchin life, they are a lucid and clear mirror by which to know and understand the Capuchin tradition. If it is true that every saint is different to the other, each is distinct and possesses an unmistakable physiognomy, each one shows a different path, his own development, in a certain sense free and original, of his own personality. It is also true that in them there is a great unity. There is something that renders these unmistakable figures and united between themselves, as if they came from the same magma, from the hands of the same artist, from the same nursery, with flowers of the same flowerbed, or from the same garden, with soft, light and different colours, but the form that has shaped them is the same. This truth was explained with usual penetration and depth by Paul VI:

Holiness is a form of life entirely referenced to God …, everything hangs on the response to his vocation, everything is absorbed into prayer and the observance of the actions appropriate to religion, everything is pervaded by simple and spontaneous conversation with God … It is a form of life strongly stylised by a singular interplay of two operative principles, that characterise it almost to the point of giving it a certain obviousness: one interior, by which conscience, freedom, initiative, moral will and personal temperament exert an incessant tension, a calm effect, but without respite, to arrive at the “virtus”, the perfection of good works, up to maximum, even heroic, performance to which the subject is capable; while the other principle, external, the law, the rule, offer virtuous actions a concrete observance, a discipline, that wants to be the reflection of the superior and wise will, that from the transcendent order of the divine will derives its inspiration and its effective good. The result is that of persons, the saint is more free and willing, and at the same time the more docile and obedient; and is from this original composition of spontaneity and uniformity to the established norm, that the holiness is revealed as the art of life, like an enviable harmony, an admirable balance, which transfigures an existence, however humble it may be, into a moral phenomenon of human beauty”.[65]

Rightly, Br Iglesias in his study of the history of the Constitutions already mentioned, underlines the importance of the exemplarity of our saints as tangible, real and pragmatic commitment, “because they constitute the most precious treasure of the family and, above all, because they were an exemplary living incarnation of our Constitutions. [Br Inglesias points out] Even though what is said in our current Constitutions is objective and just, it seems too little to me. The saints have tested with their own lives the text of our Constitutions, which were substantially identical throughout the centuries. Therefore, they deserve, in my opinion, a more precise and engaging reference in the text and to contextualise the Capuchin of today on the basis of our saints’ existential responses to this legislation of the Order”.[66]

6. Concluding reflections and proposals

The Capuchin tradition, which has survived almost unscathed up to our present day, was based on the principle of uniformity, that, initially, was less juridical and more spiritual, but became more juridical and particularly formal in the seventeenth century, in the Baroque era. In effect, it was conditioned (as has been underlined by a specific historiography) by the society which was characterised by “struggle by people (individually and by associated groups) to adapt to the necessity of a uniform life, abstractly regulated by externals and by the capacity of the rulers to proceed in a convincing way to the listing, gathering, standardising, rationalising of the practicalities of life, lived by individuals and groups, proposed and recognised as socially acceptable.”[67]

However, the true sense of Capuchin “uniformity” was in the lively and concrete sharing together of the documents (Rule and Constitutions) that inspired and organised the life and created the patrimony of the Order which qualified the nature, spirit, characteristics, aims and disposition, by which a particular identity was conferred upon it, also an exterior one, thus, creating a living tradition. It was a being united in love of its own life, and in respect for all of its expressions. A passage from the chronicle of Colpetrazzo explains this aspect, also, it seems to me, important and relevant for today: “It lasted for may years that whenever the Provinces were divided, the General kept and eye out for those provinces that lacked friars, and from those provinces who were receiving friars, he would take from them and supply friars to the other provinces. It was done with such familiarity and ease that it appeared that the whole Congregation was nothing other than one Province. And when the friars were moved, there was so much familiarity and interconnectedness within all the Congregation that they took no account of being moved from one Province to another …”.[68]

Today the principle of “pluriformity” has supplanted the ancient criteria of uniformity, this has placed tradition, the inculturation of tradition and Capuchin charism and identity in great difficulty. This criterion needs to be applied with responsibility and coherence, so as not to destroy the spiritual patrimony of our fathers. A recent book explains how “our own times seems to be taken as the absolute present. The great long-term projects of the past have been abolished, we are annulling history and with it our links to the past. It is because of this that Tradition is indispensable for each society and a return to it is needed so as to re-establish the fundamental network of the relationships that bind the fathers to their children.”[69]

In recent years, inculturation, identity, renewal, memory, tradition, modernity, postmodernity and contemporaneity have been much spoken about. It is being said that we are in an historic period that represents a true cultural transition, like an instrument that is not yet tuned and therefore is emitting sounds that are confused, harsh, often piercing, but which are tending towards a harmonious unity, but meanwhile, continue to resound like a unarticulated groan. The fact is that modernity appears to be and has been the enemy of tradition. “The formula can seem to be a bit brusque: – I read in an article – but, as is noted, modern thought has constantly seen in the link with the past a source of dependence of man from a pre-constituted and exterior order, and has sought to severe this link in the name of self-determination by the subject. What was “before” (as well as what was “elsewhere”, in the places to be arrived at, to be rationalised, to be colonised), comes to be separated from the “here” and “now, distanced from in a spatiotemporally in a radical way”.[70]

Instead, contemporality, marked by the processes of globalisation and by a more intense exchange between cultures, sees in tradition an important component of cultural identity. This recovery, however, contains something problematic, because if tradition is inserted into the present, it finds itself inside an interlacing of cultural streams that are moving between the periphery and the centre of the world and in the play of contaminations and exchanges resulting in “pidgin-like systems of significance” (“sistemi creoli di significato”) . For this reason, tradition risks losing its proper specificity and with this, its own “strong” recall value as with respect to the present, or it risks losing its own uniqueness and with this, its own irreplaceability of reference; or, on the opposite side, it could assimilate into its development fundmentalist positions or construct inauthentic forms, even if functional.

Beyond these possible risks, which should not be underestimated, remains the fact that “tradition constitutes in the contemporary context, a fundamental resource. It remains a living symbolic patrimony, continually open to being reinterrogated, and capable of responding to contemporary needs. In particular, the form in which it is presented, in that of narration (that consents to an exchange between experiences and memories), and the process by which it lends itself to, that of translation (in which identity and difference are allowed to confront each other, and by which they open spaces of “linguistic hospitality”), allow tradition to play a fundamental hermeneutical function, that does not consist in providing rigid and reassuring models, orientated towards the past, but in putting in perspective the meaning of life, by which tradition links the temporal dimension with the past, the present with the future, putting in dialogical relationship the plurality of views on the present”.[71] Here is the meaning of our re-reading of the past, of our Franciscan and Capuchin tradition. I would like to cite in this regard a significant reflection by the Archbishop of Lublin, Josef Zycinski, who expresses well the significance of this recovery of tradition:

Know how to look at the past in a creative and innovative way, by revisiting the model of the ancient regime in light of the particular intuitions of faith, received by the dramatic experience of history and of the Church of Vatican II. Postmodern man is living in a tragic way and like a nomad, he has no place he calls his own, in every place he feels like a wayfarer, but he is travelling without any purpose. Caught up in the process of continuous change, he moves through the open spaces leaving no trace of himself. Instead, the concept of a man who remains in a profound union with the world of his ancestors, is the intellectual base of those models of cultural formation that serve to form the interior integrity of the person, his union with history and his responsibility for actions of solidarity. Our identity is formed by means of spiritual union with those that, notwithstanding they have passed on, remain in some way near and present. Together with them, they call us towards the new lands and their presence inspires the style of our travelling. In the new reality, longing for the future must be connected with the esteem of tradition.[72]

As after a good meditation, these reflections, articulated by way of the history and spiritual tradition of the Order, move us to make some decisions, almost like propositions to fruitfully work at, which can be listed as follows:

1) Renew our own charismatic spirituality by way of the two paths suggested by the Council and by the Pope: the foundational charism and the spiritual heritage.[73]

2) Return to the contemplative dimension and to the silence of the spiritual retreat and a fraternal community Eucharist.[74]

3) Return to fraternity lived in active poverty and charitable obedience, as opposed to individualism and present-day activism.[75]

4) Return to the study of wisdom, the lectio divina of the Word, lectio storica of our life as a purification of the memory for the interior reacquisition of the vision and certainty and the joy of being Capuchin friars minor.[76]

5) Return to apostolic itinerancy in preaching and missionary evangelisation: the “ministerium Verbi” needs to return and be put at first place in the formation process and in studies.[77]

6) Return to the spirituality of “service”. The many testimonies of sanctity in the Order looked for and loved by the people, put in evidence that the Capuchin friar is popular and contemporary by way of a law of antithesis: “It is precisely in this distance (from the world) that brings these good brothers closer”, said Paul VI. Our accentuated closeness of today, according to the spirit of the world (mass-media and consumerism), is it not perhaps the reason that places us distant from our traditions, that we are not joyously attuned with them, that we are no longer evangelically significant, no longer so popular and attractive, with the consequences of the decrease in vocation and other significant disadvantages?[78]

  1. Modern lay historians who have taken up the history of the Capuchins have pointed out these two characteristics: zeal for the apostolate, especially in preaching, and the deep spiritual life, or, to use the expression of Massimo Petrocchi, a “formidable meditated interiority” (Storia della spiritualità italiana. II: Il Cinquecento e il Seicento, Roma 1968, p. 18).
  2. Cf. C. Cargnoni, La tradizione dei compagni di san Francesco modello dei primi cappuccini. Nuovi studi sulle fonti, specie su un cod. assisano, in Coll. Franc. 52 (1982) 5-106; Id., L’immagine di san Francesco nella formazione dell’Ordine cappuccino, in L’immagine di Francesco nella storiografia dall’Umanesimo all’Ottocento. Atti del IX Convegno internazionale. Assisi, 15-16-17 ottobre 1981. Assisi 1983, 109-168; Id., L’immagine di san Francesco nella riforma cappuccina, in Francesco d’Assisi nella storia. Vol. II: Convegno di studi: Secoli XVI-XIX. Roma 1983, 25-53; Ottaviano Schmucki, La figura di s. Francesco nelle prime costituzioni cappuccine del 1529. (I Frati Cappuccini. Sussidi per la lettura dei documenti e testimonianze del I secolo, 4). Roma, Conferenza Italiana Superiori Provinciali Cappuccini, 1989; Id., La figura storica e spirituale di S. Francesco nelle costituzioni cappuccine del 1536. (I Frati Cappuccini. Sussidi per la lettura dei documenti e testimonianze del I secolo, 5). Roma, Conferenza Italiana Superiori Provinciali Cappuccini, 1989.
  3. On this argument there exists an immense bibliography. Only a few significant works are referenced here: A. Volpato, Gli Spirituali e l’“intentio” di san Francesco, in Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia 33 (1979) 118-153; R. Manselli, Dagli Spirituali all’Osservanza. Momenti di storia francescana, in Humanitas 6 (1951) 1217-1228; Duncan Nimmo, San Francesco nell’Osservanza, in Italia Francescana 57 (1982) 131-140; Isidoro da Villapadierna, Il ritorno all’ideale primitivo nelle riforme francescane di Spagna nei secoli XIV-XV, in Picenum Seraphicum 12 (1975) 273-289; Il rinnovamento del francescanesimo: l’Osservanza. Atti dell’XI Convegno internazionale. Assisi 20-21-22 ottobre 1983, Assisi 1985; Il secondo e terzo secolo di storia francescana, in Italia Francescana 79 (2004) n. 2, 176 p.; Grado Giovanni Merlo, Nel nome di san Francesco. Storia dei frati Minori e del francescanesimo sino agli inizi del XVI secolo. Padova, Editrici Francescane, 2003.
  4. On this multiform reality cf. I frati cappuccini. Documenti e testimonianze del primo secolo. A cura di C. Cargnoni. Vol. I: Ispirazione e istituzione. Vol. II: Storia e cronaca. Vol. III/1-2: Santità e apostolato. Vol. IV: Espansione e inculturazione. Vol. V: Indici. Perugia-Roma 1988/1988/1991/1991/1993. 22 cm., CII-2060, 1884, 5279, 2071, 987 p., ill., tab. (Sigla: FC) — Civ. Catt. 148/II (1997) 381-387 (M. Fois); Mariano D’Alatri, I cappuccini. Storia di una famiglia francescana. [I editio iunii, II editio novembris 1994]. Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1994. 21,5 cm., 280 p.
  5. Cf. CIC, can. 578. – It is very insightful the comment on this canon that we read in vol. Codice di diritto canonico commentato, Milano 2001, p. 510: “The canon has great dotrinal value and expresses a norm of fundamental importance, already proposed PC 2 for the renewal of religious life: the acknowledgement of the action of God in the founders that need to be faithfully conserved and protected. Each institute has its own nature that characterises it from the logical-canonical point of view as an Institute of religious or secular. The purpose is the aim for which it was born and approved. The spirit is the spirituality in a wide enough sense so as to unify the characteristics. For character it seems here to intend the characteristic of the instiute as to whether it is apostolic or contemplative (in the documents of the magisterium the term more often indicates the general phsiognomy, along with the qualifying elements of an institute). These elements, which need to be interpreted according to the intention, that is, in the original founding of the institution, and the aims, that is, the means of actualisation, of the founders and according to the sound traditions, together form the patrimony of the institute. The sound traditions is understood as all that has not fallen into disuse and what is not subject to the changes with time (cf. Ecclesiae Sanctae II, 14, 16-17). The term patrimony (cf. PC 2) has substituted that which is much more expressive, charism, that was present in the schema of 1977 (cf. Comm. 11 [1979] 25), because, according to some, such a word risks having a connotation that is no longer able to be well defined and is not very adaptable to juridical language. In any case, the meaning remains the same: Patrimony is the charismatic-dynamic reality of the institutes, which is enriched by history and is susceptible to development”. On this aspect see also J. Beyer, Il diritto della vita consacrata, Milano 1989, 70.
  6. On the history of the renewal of our constitutions see the important study of Francesco Iglesias, Costituzioni dei Frati Minori Cappuccini. Storia – Impianto – Profilo del cappuccino. Nota sintetica introduttiva, in Documenti per l’approfondimento e la revisione delle costituzioni. [Roma, Curia Generale OFMCap., 2007], 97-119; Lazzaro da Aspurz, I Cappuccini si rinnovano. Riflessioni sulle nuove Costituzioni. Torino, Editrice Francescana, [1970]. 21,5 cm., 155 p.; I cappuccini si rinnovano. Conclusioni dei [cinque] Consigli Plenari dell’Ordine. 2 a Ristampa. Pro manuscripto. Roma. Conferenza Italiana dei Superiori Provinciali Cappuccini, 1992. 24 cm., 247 p.; Lettera da Lublino [26.IX.1992]. Assemblea dei Frati Minori Cappuccini, Lublino, 1-26 settembre 1992. [s.n.t.]. 20,5 cm., 19 p., e in Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 108 (1992) 403-410; Propositiones [del VI CPO], in Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 114 (1998) 841-851; Proposizioni – Presentazione [Roma, 24 iunii 2004: VII Consilium Plenarium], in Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 120 (2004) 785-799.
  7. Cf. A. Duval, Règles et constitutions religieuses, in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité XIII, Paris 1988, col. 287-291.
  8. Codice di diritto canonico commentato, Milano 2001, p. 565.
  9. Teobaldo Ricci, Il “patrimonio spirituale” delle Costituzioni dei frati minori cappuccini. (Sussidi per lo studio delle Costituzioni, 3). Roma, Curia Generale O.F.M.Cap., 1991. 20 cm., 156 p.; Lázaro Iriarte, Le nuove costituzioni dei frati minori cappuccini: tra creatività ed istituzione, tra fedeltà e rinnovamento, in Laurent. 35 (1994) 491-515.
  10. On this important aspect cf. the address of card. Angelo Sodano, “Nova et vetera”. Tradizione e modernità nella vita della Chiesa [Wrocław (Polonia), 9 ott. 2002], Città del Vaticano, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002. 36 p. – Also important is the raccolta di saggi teologico-biblici di Luis Alonso Schöckel, Il dinamismo della tradizione. Traduzione di G. Manzone. (Biblioteca di cultura religiosa, 19). Brescia, Paideia, 1970.
  11. Cf. Costituzioni dei Frati Minori Cappuccini… Testo ufficiale e versione italiana. Roma, Conferenza Italiana dei Ministri Provinciali Cappuccini, 2002, p. 51.
  12. Cf. Decreto del 25 dic. 1986, in Costituzioni dei Frati Minori Cappuccini, Roma 2002, p. 47s.
  13. Here I refer you to what has already been written in other papers: La vita di fede del cappuccino secondo le costituzioni attuali, in “La vita di fede nella nostra Provincia oggi: luci, ombre, prospettive”. Settimana di formazione permanente, 19-23 gennaio 2004. Assisi (Pg), Provincia dell’Umbria dei Frati Minori Cappuccini, Convento “Cristo Risorto”, [2005], 47-76; Introduzione, in Sulle orme dei santi. Il santorale cappuccino: santi, beati, venerabili, servi di Dio. Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini – Postulazione Generale, 2000, XVII-XXI.
  14. Ottaviano Schmucki, La preghiera come elemento essenziale nella formazione alla vita francescano-cappuccina, in Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 91 (1975) 225-236; Id., Preghiera e vita contemplativa nella legislazione e vita dei primi frati minori cappuccini. (I Frati Cappuccini. Sussidi per la lettura dei documenti e testimonianze del I secolo, 3). Roma, Conferenza Italiana Superiori Provinciali Cappuccini, 1989. 21 cm., 31 p.
  15. On this argument, much debated in recent decades, see some of our studies: C. Cargnoni, Preghiera: IV. I Francescani, in Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione VII, Roma 1983, 628-651; e a parte: Esperienze e vita di preghiera nella storia dell’Ordine francescano (Sussidi formazione permanente, 13). Roma, C.I.S.P.Cap., [1980]. 22 cm., 40 [4] p.; Id., Riflessioni sulla vita contemplativa nell’esortazione apostolica “Vita consecrata”, in Religiosi in Italia (Roma) n.s. 2 (1997) n. 303, 194*-206*; Id., Dimensione contemplativa della nostra vita francescana, in Boll. Uff. per i Frati Min. Capp. della Prov. Serafica. Anno L, N. 1 (Numero speciale 1984): Capitolo Straordinario, Assisi 2-7, 23 gennaio 1984. [S. Maria degli Angeli-Assisi, Tip. Porziuncola], 1984, 101-120; Id., I primi lineamenti di una “scuola cappuccina di devozione”, in Italia Franc. 59 (1984) 111-140; Id., Le costituzioni cappuccine e la vita di preghiera, in Le nostre costituzioni. Relazioni (Assemblea provinciale, Triuggio 13-15 settembre 2004). Milano, Curia Provinciale Frati Minori Cappuccini, [2004], 30-42.
  16. On poverty-minority see the important congress held in Rome from 26-27 November 2003 at l’Università Pontificia “Antonianum”: “Minores et subditi omnibus”. Tratti caratterizzanti dell’identità francescana. Atti del convegno. A cura di L. Padovese. Roma, Ed. Laurentianum, 2003. Sui cappuccini cf. C. Cargnoni, I cappuccini e la minorità, ibid., 353-365.
  17. Cost. 1536, n. 50: FC I, 323, n. 230.
  18. It is worthwhile here noting some documents of the Order and the Church in regard to penance, as they can help us to comprehend the true spirit of penance and recover the practice of it. On the 17 February 1966, Paul VI published the apostolic constitution Paenitemini, that translates into actuality the penitential life of the Church. The Pope meditated on conversion-metanoia in the sacred Scriptures, especially insisting on the concept of the “new heart” that opens itself to God and actualises for the universal Church and for Christians the way of obligatory penance in accord with the law of God (Cf. Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 82 [1966] 36-49). On the 27 February of the same year, resonating with Papal document, the general minister Br Clementino da Vlissingen published a letter on the renewal of penance in our Order. This letter, that merits a new reading so as to rediscover in it the importance of the context of renewal in the Order, studied the value of penance in the doctrine of Vatican Council II, the biblical sources of the doctrine of penance and the evangelical penance of our Order and the adaptions required for its renewal amongst us (cf. Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 82 [1966] 3-29.31. In 1972 the Ordo paenitentiae was published. It was the new ritual on penance published on 12 December 1973 and became effective from 21 April 1974. The General Chapter of 1974, among the monographs studied, took to heart the renewal of penance. There emerged a beautiful and document of the General Definitory with the title: La nostra vita di penitenza e di continua conversione: Situazione attuale e concrete applicazioni [Our life of penance and continual conversion: Actual situation and concrete applications]. This document was presented in the fifth session of the Chapter on 30 August. It is a document the needs to be re-read so as to recover the practices of the Order to avoid worldly compromises, to combat the increasing bourgeois mentality and to take up again that joyful and austere attitude, unmistakable in true men of penance, of the man of suffering, of the man of the stigmata, in the manner of the Capuchin. Paul VI also dedicated the Jubilee Year of 1975 to conversion and reconciliation. After this, the Synod of Bishops took as its theme reconciliation and penance in the mission of the Church and on 12 December 1984 John Paul II published the Apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia.
  19. On this theme of fraternity, panacea of all modern discourses, but with need of critical reflection, cf. C. Cargnoni, Le radici della fraternità, in Le relazioni fraterne. Corso di formazione permanente 1993. Firenze, Provincia Toscana dei Frati Minori Cappuccini – Tipografia “San Francesco”, [1994], 33-4; Id., La fraternità nella storia dell’Ordine, ibid., 27-32; Id., La fraternità nelle ultime costituzioni, ibid., 43-52; Id., Fraternitá e itineranza nelle fonti francescane per una integritá del carisma, in Il Vangelo cammina con il Vangelo. Atti del convegno-ritiro del 1 febb.-4 febb. 1999 ad Assisi. Bologna, Grafiche Dehoniane – Segretariato Nazionale per l’evangelizzazione OFMCap., 1999, 13-39; Id., Modi della comunicazione della ‘parola’ nella tradizione francescano-cappuccina: valori per il presente, ibid., 44-73.
  20. Cf. C. Cargnoni, Le opere nella tradizione cappuccina, in Segretariato della carità e della profezia. Identità, configurazione e ruolo. Roma, Conferenza Italiana Ministri Provinciali Cappuccini, 2002, 18-22.
  21. A. Manzoni, I promessi sposi. Commento e note di L. Gessi. Roma, A. Signorelli editore, 1956, p. 73s. [Translator: English translation is taken from The Harvard Classics, v. 21 from eBooks@Adelaide]
  22. Cf. V. Messori, Pensare la storia. Una lettura cattolica dell’avventura umana. Cinisello Balsamo (MI), Edizioni Paoline, 1992, p. 610s.
  23. Ibid., 431s.
  24. Ibid., 478.
  25. Cf. F. Gioia, San Francesco “tutto lingua” e “preghiera vivente”, Roma 2004, p. 3, nota 2; sulla predicazione cappuccina, oltre ciò che si legge nei volumi de I frati Cappuccini, cf. C. Cargnoni, La predicazione dei frati cappuccini nell’opera di riforma promossa dal concilio di Trento, in Metodologia dell’annuncio. Atti del Convegno, Milano 27-29 sett. 1983. (Strumenti per l’evangelizzazione, 1). Milano, Ed. Cammino, [1984], 49-86; e a parte, a cura della CISPCap. (Sussidi Formazione Permanente – Nuova Serie, 6), Roma 1984. 21 cm., 48 pp.; Id., Trattati, manuali e metodi di predicazione dei cappuccini del ‘600, in La predicazione cappuccina nel Seicento, a cura di Gabriele Ingegneri. Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1997, 113-174; Id., Le quarantore ieri e oggi. Viaggio nella storia della predicazione cattolica, della devozione popolare e della spiritualità cappuccina, in Italia Franc. 61 (1986) 325-460; e a parte: Le Quarantore ieri e oggi (Sussidi di formazione permanente – Nuova Serie, 10). Roma, CispCap., 1986. 21 cm., 144 p.; Id., La predicazione apostolica di Girolamo da Narni, in Girolamo Mautini da Narni e l’Ordine dei Cappuccini fra ‘500 e ‘600. A cura di V. Criscuolo. (Bibliotheca Seraphico-Capuccina, 56). Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1998, 331-421; Id., La predicazione popolare e riformistica di Giacinto Natta da Casale Monferrato († 1622), in Fede e libertà. Scritti in onore di p. Giacomo Martina S.J. A cura di Maurilio Guasco – Alberto Monticone – Pietro Stella. Brescia. Morcelliana, 1998, 21-57; Id., L’apostolato della predicazione: Bernardino Ferraris da Balvano, in I frati minori cappuccini in Basilicata e nel Salernitano fra ’500 e ’600. (Bibl. Seraph.-Cap., 57). A cura di V. Criscuolo. Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1999, 361-408.
  26. “Unusquisque e religiosis Ordinibus, sicuti et suum proprium characterem, ita et suam specialem gratiam habet. Gratia vestra, o filii S. Francisci, specialis fuit plenissima in S. Sedem et Romanam Ecclesiam fidelitas. Haec est vestra gratia, vestra gloria, vestrumque meritum, videlicet quod Romani Pontifices vos semper habuere devotissimos filios et fidelissimos operarios. Porro sicut in praeterito, ita et in praesenti et in futuro eritis. Plurimum Nos in vobis confidimus. Estote fideles, semper fideles, prout vult D. Franciscus, prout exspectat Papa S. Francisco devotissimus” (cf. Anal.O.F.M.Cap. 1 [1885] 53).
  27. Cf. Leo XIII, Acta, vol. XVII, Romae 1898, p. 299 (tutta la cost. 296-308).
  28. “Optabile vero est, ut quam diximus esse propriam ipsorum notam, imitationem scilicet severiorem quamdam Francisci Patris, eam perpetuo incorruptam retineant; proptereaque perseverent, cum summa erga Apostolicam hanc Sedem obedientia et fide, summum evangelicae paupertatis ac perfectionis cultum studiumque coniungere” (Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 25 [1909] 314).
  29. “…tanto spiritus ardore Capulati fratres severiorem quamdam caritatisque plenam vitam agere coeperunt ut optime sane de re christiana civilique meruerint… omnibus, concionando, catholicam veritatem populari modo traderent… in niosocomiis, in carceribus, in calamitatibus… Inter alias pestilentias illas hic memoramus quae bis Mediolani, anno scilicet 1576 et 1630… militibus nautisque prodesse consuevere… multo magis praedicationi divini Verbi et haereticorum conversioni… dederunt operam; adorationem simul Sacramenti augusti per 40 horas et sodalicia SS. Passionis per varia loca constituendo. Passim autem populares missiones instituerunt… eloquio potenti… Ad exteras missiones [e qui ricorda Guglielmo Massaja “virum fortissimum”]… Alacritatem novam sumentes, incorruptam vel in posterum vestri Ordinis notam retineatis, imitationem scilicet Francisci Patris severiorem” (Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 44 [1928] 141s).
  30. Cf. Discorsi di Pio XI. Edizione italiana a cura di D. Bertetto, Vol. II, Torino etc., SEI, 1960, p. 353.
  31. Discorsi di Pio XI. Edizione italiana a cura di D. Bertetto, Vol. III, Torino etc., SEI, 1961, p. 137; L’Oss. Rom., n. 118, 23 maggio 1934, p. 2.
  32. Tutto questo discorso si legge in Discorsi di Pio XI, vol. III, 751-754; L’Oss. Rom. N. 136, 12 giugno 1938, p. 1.
  33. Questo discorso venne pronunciato in latino per venire incontro all’internazionalità del Congresso e si legge in Discorsi e radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII, vol. X: Decimo anno di Pontificato (2 marzo 1948-1° marzo 1949). Città del Vaticano, Tip. Poliglotta Vaticana, 1949, p. 293-295; sullo stesso argomento Pio XII intervenne il 4 dicembre 1948 con una lettera in latino al min. generale Clemente da Milwaukee (L’Oss. Rom., 12 gen. 1949; A.A.S. 41 (1949) 64). Gli atti del congresso interprovinciale (importanti per cogliere la “viva tradizione” dell’Ordine) furono pubblicati in un supplemento di Anal.O.F.M.Cap. col titolo: Acta Congressus interprovincialis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum De hodiernis apostolatus necessitatibus (Romae, 21-27 nov. 1948). Romae, Curia Generalis, 1951. 307 p. (a p. 268-270 è riprodotta la lettera del papa a p. Clemente da Milwaukee).
  34. Lettera al Ministro generale in occasione del Capitolo Generale Straordinario dei Cappuccini (20 agosto 1974), in Atti della Provincia dei Fr. Min. Cap. di S. Carlo in Lombardia, vol. XIV – N. 6-7 (apr.-sett. 1974) 466 (uso questa edizione per la traduzione in italiano); vedi anche in Cari Cappuccini…Discorsi di Paolo VI ai Cappuccini, Perugia 1985, 47s. Per il testo ufficiale in latino cf. Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 90 (1974) 276-279.
  35. Discorso di S.S. Paolo VI ai capitolari cappuccini (30 sett. 1974), in Atti della Provincia vol. XIV – N. 8 (ott.-dic. 1974) 533; Cari cappuccini…, 53.
  36. Una via difficile. Allocuzione di Paolo VI in occasione del Capitolo Generale Speciale dei cappuccini (21 ottobre 1968), in Cari Cappuccini…, 32s; testo ufficiale in Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, Vol. VI, Città del Vaticano 1968, p. 553-559.
  37. Una via difficile… in Cari Cappuccini…, 32.
  38. Discorso per la beatificazione di Ignazio da Santhià (17 aprile 1966), in Cari Cappuccini…, 20; testo ufficiale in Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. IV, Città del Vaticano 1966, 182-186; Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 82 (1966) 135-138.
  39. Cari Cappuccini…, 20s; Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. IV, 184-186. This thinking of the Pope was a long thought out meditiation because already in the private audience of 17 December 19633 conceded to the General Definitory with Br Clement of Milwaukee where he said: “Remain faithful to your instiute, conserve your type of life. Your poor and simple habit, this aspect of yours is already for you a type of preaching to the people; it is almost a spiritual ‘shock’…” (Cari Cappuccini…, 13; testo latino in Anal. O.F.M.Cap. 79 (1963) 383-385.
  40. Discorso del card. Montini nella chiesa dei cappuccini di Lecco (27 sett. 1959), in Atti della Provincia di S. Carlo in Lombardia, vol. IX (1958-1960), N. 6-7, p. 248s.
  41. Una via difficile, in Cari Cappuccini…, 31s
  42. Discorso di S.S. Paolo VI ai capitolari cappuccini (30 sett. 1974), in Atti della Provincia, vol. XIV – N. 8, p. 533, 535; Cari Cappuccini…, 53s, 56.
  43. Una via difficile, in Cari Cappuccini…, 29.
  44. Lettera al Ministro Generale (20 agosto 1974), Atti della Provincia, vol. XIV, N. 6-7, p. 466.
  45. Una via difficile, in Cari Cappuccini…, 30; si potrebbero citare altri importanti discorsi del Papa sul francescanesimo: cf. Lo spirito francescano nel recente magistero ecclesiale (Giovanni XXIII e Paolo VI). Testi raccolti e ordinati da A. Ghinato. Roma 1975.
  46. Una via difficile, in Cari Cappuccini…, 30s.
  47. Lettera al Ministro Generale (20 agosto 1974), in Cari Cappuccini…, 43.
  48. The Pope reiterated this thought with clarity in his allocution to the VI Symposium of the Council of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe on 11 October 1985: “When preparing for a work of renewal and of significant development of great importance and which one wants to endure, it is wise to maintain vital contact with the profound sources that nourish the inspiration … Forgetfulness of one’s own act of birth and organic development is always a risk and can even lead to alienation”.
  49. Cf. Giovanni Paolo II, Cari frati cappuccini… Omelie, discorsi, lettere (1978-2005). A cura di F. Neri, Roma 2006, p. 15-18.
  50. “It is therefore necessary a spiritual life that is more profoundly lived and a cultural preparation that makes this possible – in the light of the Gospel and of the teaching of the Church – so as to fully respond to your vocation and the correct interpretation of the contemporary world … In your history, the message of fraternity is often translated into facilitating peace agreements both at the level of public powers – it is enough to remember the work of peace of your brothers Lorenzo da Brindisi and Marco d’Aviano – and at the level of social tensions, with itinerant preaching and an exercising of the ministry of Reconciliation, full of wisdom and with good fruits, carried out in the fervour of simplicity, always founded in the Word of God. Saint Leopoldo, Blessed Geremia da Valacchia, Padre Pio, Padre Mariano da Torino were announcer of love and, therefore, peace-makers (cf. Mt 5:9)” Giovanni Paolo II, Cari frati cappuccino…, 33, 34).
  51. People of our times, disturbed by battles and wars, by injustice and by crises of every kind, have need of joy and hope, which can only be drawn from a divine source. Quench your thirst daily from it, and then go yourselves into the world, like Francis, saying to all: “The Lord give you peace!” (Testament of Saint Francis) and announcing, as “custodians of hope”, the salvation that comes from reconciliating with God … The charism of your Order, born from a robust tree planted by Francis of Assisi, that is characterised by the practice of fervent prayer, joined with “perfect joy” (James 1:2) that does not come from the world, but from a profound contemplative communion with Jesus crucified and risen” (Ibid., 34-36).
  52. If the journey of these recent years has led you to apostolic activity perhaps too intense and dispersive, now is the time to look again at your choices in this regard; give major time, heart and mind to God, teach with the lives of brothers to whom God has given sacrosanct rights of human existence that cannot be relegated to the last place in the house or to the last moments of the day. Seeking intimacy with him has to be the sleepless commitment of your days” (Ibid., 35).
  53. “The option for the poor. Today the world has discovered with a new sense of responsibility the presence of the poor. Often, however, such discoveries remain at the theoretic level … You have opted for the poor: your Constitutions are there to remind you every day how to live the beatitudes of the Lord; “Blessed are you poor, because yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:12) … There are different ways of identifying with the poor of the Lord, but it is always to be the choice part for you, to share with them in their sufferings and hardships is to be always a fundamental component of your way of living and working … You who are said to be and are “the friars of the people” (Cf. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo, II, V/3 [1982] 1287) and have an easier access to the hearts of the lowly, and can more easily, by way of your particular itinerant apostolate, bring Jesus, the Redeemer of man, into society, especially toward the large masses of poor, little, and weak” (Ibid., 35).
  54. The ministry of reconciliation is one of your great tasks, your glorious tasks! You need to continue in the same glorious tradition. I think you have the charism of Confession, that you have always to keep alive in your hearts and in your ministry. This great, important charism! Especially in our times, when, in the human and Christian life, this charism on one side has almost come to be a bit abandoned and on the other side, is being sought after! During the Synod, many bishops said that there is a crisis with the sacrament of Confession, and also caused by the confessors, who do not know how to confess well. Now you must turn this chapter upside down and find again the love for confessions. And where can we search for great animators of Confession if not in the Capuchin Order, especially after the canonisation of Saint Leopoldo?” (Ibid., 36). Su questo argomento vedi G. Santarelli, Il ministero delle confessioni nelle fonti e nella evoluzione nell’Ordine Cappuccino (Sussidi per la lettura dei documenti e testimonianze del I secolo, 2). Roma, CISPCap., 1989.
  55. Giovanni Paolo II, Cari frati cappuccini…, 45, 46.
  56. Giovanni Paolo II, Cari frati cappuccini…, 77-81.
  57. Ibid., 104s.
  58. Ibid., 134-136. An analysis of other speeches of the Pope, particularly those made on the occasion of beatifications and canonisations of friars or Capuchin Poor Clares (at least 26) would add new nuances to his vision of the Capuchin tradition.
  59. Cf. Notiziario dei Frati Cappuccini n. 9 (2007) 151.
  60. The first inheritors of his witness are you, dear Capuchin Friars, who have the care of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the large new Church under the tutelage of San Pio da Pietrelcina. You are the primary animators of these places of grace, every year the destination of millions of pilgrims. Spurred on and sustained by the example of Padre Pio and his intercessions, compel yourselves to be his imitators assisting everyone to live a profound spiritual experience, centred on the contemplation of Christ crucified, revealer and mediator of the merciful love of the heavenly Father” ( S. Pietro, Al pellegrinaggio Opere di S. Pio da Pietrelcina, 14 sett. 2006).
  61. “Saint Felice da Nicosia loved to repeat in every circumstance, joyful or sad: ‘Let it be for the love of God’. By this we can well understand his intense and concrete experience of the love of God revealed to people in Christ. This humble Capuchin friar, a great son of Sicilian soil, austere and penitent, faithful to the more genuine expressions of the Franciscan tradition, was gradually transformed by the love of God, lived and actualised in the love of neighbour. Br Felice helps us to discover the value of the little things that embellish life, and he teaches us to welcome the sense of family and of service to the brothers, demonstrating to us that true and enduring joy, for which the heart of every person longs, is the fruit of love” (All’udienza generale del 24 ottobre 2005).
  62. On the witness of the saints as a mirror of the genuine tradition of the Order cf. C. Cargnoni, Santità e processi di canonizzazione di cappuccini umbri, in I cappuccini nell’Umbria del Cinquecento, 1525-1619, a cura di V. Criscuolo, Roma 2001, 303-316; vedi anche l’introduzione dei testi che riguardano le Testimonianze sulla vita cappuccina dai processi dei santi (1587-1641), in I frati Cappuccini. Documenti e testimonianze del primo secolo. Vol. III/2, Roma-Perugia 1991, 4625-4646; inoltre il già citato Sulle orme dei santi. Il santorale cappuccino: santi, beati, venerabili, servi di Dio. Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini – Postulazione Generale, 2000.
  63. Spiritualità e missione: il “proprium” della vita religiosa alla luce della esortazione postsinodale “vita consecrata”. (Atti assemblee CISM, 29). Roma 1997, p. 48.
  64. In regard to this argument see the suggestive reflection by Giovanni Pozzi, L’identità cappuccina e i suoi simboli. Dal Cinquecento al Settecento, in Cappuccini in Emilia-Romagna. Storia di una presenza. A cura di G. Pozzi – P. Prodi. Bologna, Grafiche Dehoniane, 2002, 48-77.
  65. Cf. Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. V (1967). Città del Vaticano 1968, 572s.
  66. F. Iglesias, Costituzioni…, in Documenti per l’approfondimento…, 117.
  67. P. Schiera, Lo Stato moderno e il rapporto disciplinamento/legittimazione, in Problemi del Socialismo 5 (1985) 118.
  68. Cf. Bernardinus a Colpetrazzo, Historia Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum (1525-1593). Liber tertius: Ratio vivendi fratrum. Ministri et Vicarii generales. Cardinales protectores. In lucem editus a P. Melchiore a Pobladura. (Monumenta Histor5ica Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum, 4). Romae 1941, p. 187s.
  69. M. Veneziani, Di padre in figlio. Elogio della Tradizione. [I Robinson/Letture). Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2001. XI-215 p.
  70. Cf. F. Casetti – Chiara Giaccardi, Tradizione e comunicazione nell’era della globalità, in Rassegna della Teologia 43 (2002) 325, tutto l’art. 325-345.
  71. Ibid., 327.
  72. Josef Zycinski, L’evangelizzazione nella cultura del postmodernismo, in Euntes Docete 55 (2002) n. 3, p. 94s. – Per queste riflessioni mi sono avvalso di un mio studio di alcuni anni fa: Costanzo Cargnoni, Un libro di storia sui cappuccini in Emilia-Romagna, in Laurent. 44 (2003) 217-236.
  73. Cf. i volumi de I frati Cappuccini. Documenti e testimonianze del primo secolo, 5 voll. Roma-Perugia 1988-1993; C. Cargnoni, L’immagine di san Francesco nella formazione dell’Ordine cappuccino, in L’immagine di Francesco nella storiografia dall’umanesimo all’Ottocento. Atti del IX Convegno internazionale. Assisi, 15-16-17 ottobre 1981. Assisi 1983, 109-168; anche in Anal.O.F.M. Cap. 99 (1983) 242-262; Id., L’immagine di S. Francesco nella riforma cappuccina, in Francesco d’Assisi nella storia: Secoli XVI-XIX. Atti del secondo convegno di studi per l’VIII Centenario della nascita di S. Francesco (1182-1982), Assisi, 14-16 sett. 1982. A cura di S. Gieben. Roma 1983, 25-53.
  74. C. Cargnoni, Preghiera: IV. I Francescani, in Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione VII, Roma 1983, 628-651; e a parte: Esperienze e vita di preghiera nella storia dell’Ordine francescano (Sussidi formazione permanente, 13). Roma, C.I.S.P.Cap., [1980]; Id., Riflessioni sulla vita contemplativa nell’esortazione apostolica “Vita consecrata”, in Religiosi in Italia (Roma) n.s. 2 (1997) n. 303, 194*-206*; Id., Dimensione con- templativa della nostra vita francescana, in Boll. Uff. per i Frati Min. Capp. della Prov. Serafica. Anno L, N. 1 (Numero speciale 1984): Capitolo Straordinario, Assisi 2-7, 23 gennaio 1984. [S. Maria degli Angeli-Assisi, Tip. Porziuncola], 1984, 101-120.
  75. Id., Fraternitá e itineranza nelle fonti francescane per una integritá del carisma, in Il Vangelo cammina con il Vangelo. Atti del convegno-ritiro del 1 febb.-4 febb. 1999 ad Assisi. Bologna, Grafiche Dehoniane – Segretariato Nazionale per l’evangelizzazione OFMCap., 1999, 13-39; Id., Modi della comunicazione della ‘parola’ nella tradizione francescano-cappuccina: valori per il presente, ibid., 44-73.
  76. C. Cargnoni, Cultura bonaventuriana nei cappuccini tra ’500 e ’600, in Bartolomeo Barbieri da Castelvetro (1615-1697), un cappuccino alla scuola di san Bonaventura nell’Emilia del ’600. A cura di A. Maggioli e P. Maranesi. (Bibliotheca Seraphico-Capuccina, 55). Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1998, 81-122; Id., “Libri devoti” e spiritualità, in Tra biblioteca e pulpito. Itinerari culturali dei frati minori cappuccini. (Città e territorio, 5). Messina, Biblioteca Provinciale dei Cappuccini, 1997, 101-129.
  77. Id., La predicazione apostolica di Girolamo da Narni, in Girolamo Mautini da Narni e l’Ordine dei Cappuccini fra ‘500 e ‘600. A cura di V. Criscuolo. (Bibliotheca Seraphico-Capuccina, 56). Roma, istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1998, 331-421; Id., La predicazione popolare e riformistica di Giacinto Natta da Casale Monferrato († 1622), in Fede e libertà. Scritti in onore di p. Giacomo Martina S.J. A cura di Maurilio Guasco – Alberto Monticone – Pietro Stella. Brescia. Morcelliana, 1998, 21-57; Id., L’apostolato della predicazione: Bernardino Ferraris da Balvano, in I frati minori cappuccini in Basilicata e nel Salernitano fra ’500 e ’600. (Bibl. Seraph.-Cap., 57). A cura di V. Criscuolo. Roma, Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1999, 361-408.
  78. Cf. Sulle orme dei santi. Il Santorale cappuccino: Santi, Beati. Venerabili- Servi di Dio. Roma 2000, IX-XXIV; Id., Le vocazioni all’Ordine cappuccino dagli inizi al 1619, in Le vocazioni all’Ordine francescano dalle origini ad oggi. (Studi scelti di francescanesimo, 8). Napoli, Tipografia Laurenziana, 1983, 89-122; id., Rinnovamento dell’Ordine cappuccino. Tensioni, prospettive, confronti di attualità, in Italia Francescana 55 (1980) 419-436; Id., Rinnovamento della vita cappuccina tra ambiguità spiritualistiche, tradizione e profezia, in Italia Franc. 61 (1986) 41-68.