Francis, his brothers and the people

A detailed summary of

Francis, his brothers and the people: Evolution of a vocation of being in the world

by Pietro Maranesi OFM Cap

Francesco, i suoi frati e la gente: Evolutione di un vocazione ad essere nel mondo in Miscellanea Francescana 103 (2003) 445-487

Prepared by Gary Devery OFM Cap

Table of Contents

I. A confrontation with the monastic ideal

From the beginning of the Christian experience, both east and west, the word “monk” has been used as a label to indicate the existence led by those who, uniting together for a life of prayer and work, have left the world to dedicate themselves solely to the mystery of God. Excluding themselves from the world and from contact with the people so as to give life to a community of the faithful dedicated to the absolute and uninterrupted search for God has always been the essential attribute of both Christian monasticism and that of other religions.

There is a diversity of monastic expressions that demonstrate the close link between separation from the world and the intense search for God alone. The Rule of the Israelite community of Qumran focused upon the experience of becoming “monks”, that is, “the only ones” and distant from the rest of the people:

And this is the Rule, for the men of the Community who have freely pledged themselves to be converted from all evil and to cling to all His commandments according to His will.

They shall separate from the congregation of the men of falsehood and shall unite, with respect to the Law and possessions, under the authority of the sons of Zadok, the Priests who keep the Covenant, and of the multitude of the men of the Community who hold fast to the Covenant.[1]

Similarly, St Basil reiterates the same in the prologue of his famous Rule which constitutes the reference point for all of Eastern monasticism. The experience of community to which the monks are called needs to be animated by the desire to await the Lord, which can only be realised in silence and distance from the people:

Therefore, since God has also assembled us in order to await a little in silence and calm, far from the assiduous cares of the people, and not to have the spirit occupied in other works, nor to give the rest of the time again to sleep and relaxation of the body, we seek to consecrate this intermediate space of the night that remains to us to careful enquiry, in order to fulfill what we have been told through blessed David: Blessed are those who meditate on the law of God day and night.[2]

In the Consuetudini della Certosa, the Carthusians are reminded that the absolute search for God by the community in solitude is such that it justifies the refusal to any commitment to the help of the poor. If they were to do so, by the very service itself, the monks would, in fact, be renouncing their very vocation that is realised in the search for places that are secluded and remote:

We, in fact, have taken refuge in the recesses of this desert not to dedicate ourselves to temporal cares of the bodies of others, but in search of the eternal salvation of our souls. According to this logic, it does not seem strange that that we demonstrate more familiarity and furnish a greater solicitude for those who come here for the sake of their souls rather than those who come here for the sake of their bodies. We would need to accommodate ourselves alongside a public road, otherwise than in such remote and inaccessible places, where anyone who comes here seeking relief for their bodies has more hardships to endure than remedies to achieve […]. At this point should I, abandoning my cell and my cloister, forgetting that which I have proposed, become a wander for wanders, a vagabond for vagabonds and a layman so as to welcome and feed laymen? Rather, let them themselves go as they have begun, and move around in their own world: if I were to go also, I would only add to their number…[3]

The last text to look at is fundamental to Western monasticism, that is, the Rule of St Benedict, which, at its very beginning, distinguishes four different types of monks, thereby anticipating the ideal of the true monk. Two are the “good” monks, the first type presupposed as then passing to the second: the cenobitic monks “who serve in a monastery under a rule and an abbot”.[4] Only the one who has lived long in this state can become, if he desires, an anchorite, that is, a hermit. Indeed, it is only after he has been trained in battle within the community, that he can sustain by himself the battle against the demon.[5] To these two types is contrasted the other categories of monks. “The third type of monks, truly vile, is that of the sarabaites/degenerates” that live in small communities of two or three and without a precise rule but guided by their own wills.[6] To these is added “a fourth type of monks, that are called gyrovague/wandering”: “for all of their life…. they are always wandering and never stable… and worse than the sarabaites in everything”.[7]

Therefore, the monk is the one who searches for his perfection of life by way of a radical separation from the world by entering into “solitude”, or as heard in the Carthusian text, by arriving in the “desert” of the monastery, in a secluded place away from the people. It is there, sustained by a community, he undertakes the ascent of the search for God. A perfect attachment to the love of God is only possible in abandoning the world: on such an axiom is constructed the fundamental principle of the monastic experience and of Christian spirituality in the epoch in which Francis lived.

What Francis was inspired to live with his companions inverted this axiom of the way of Christian perfection. [At the General Chapter of 1221, held in Assisi], Francis decisively refused Cardinal Hugolino’s invitation made to him on behalf of some of the learned brothers to adopt the rule of St Benedict. This event only served to reinforce in Francis the awareness that he and his brothers were called to seek the way of Christian perfection while remaining in the midst of the world.

The investigation of this new way of living religious life by Francis where the radicality of the love of God is joined with living amongst the people will proceed in two stages. The first will be dedicated to Francis and his initial intuition, as according to his own account in his Testament, and the second will concentrate on the way of life organised and conducted by his brothers from what emerges from the initial documents of the Franciscan experience represented by the Regola non bollata [Rnb] and the Regola bollata [Rb].

II. The experience of fraternity with the people lived by Francis according to the account of the Testament

Francis is one of the very few of the great saints who has left an autograph, to be found on the very brief but most precious text he composed as death was approaching and handed on to his brothers as his Testament. The series of autobiographic reflections of the first part of the text can be divided into two great chronological moments: the account of his conversion and, consequent to this, with some companions joining him. In the separation of these two fundamental events of his existence, Francis places an interesting and ‘mysterious’ annotation, as if it were the door to the passage of his conversion to a new life: et postea parum steti et exivi de saeculo [And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world]. What did Francis intend to say?

1. Exivi de saeculo

In medieval vocabulary the expression “to leave the world” or “to renounce the world” possesses a basically uniform usage, such as the passing in physical death to eternal life, passing from this world to the eternity of God, and from the order of this world to that of God[8]. The expression transmits the basic significance of such a renouncing, leaving, passing from this world to that of God. Therefore “exire/egredire de saeculo” in the spiritual sense signifies, in first place, an act of conversion to God.[9] The direct consequence of this internal act manifests itself in an external choice in which one effectively leaves the things and persons of everyday dealings so as to enter into a solitude that is moving towards God. The place where time slows down to allow the person to move closer to the eternity of God. It is for this reason that the entrance into a monastery came to be defined as “exire de saeculo” as a consequence to an act of conversion.[10] This explains the semantic identification between the two expressions: leaving the world and entering a monastery[11] or placing them in counterpoint, as expressed in a passage from the Rule of Clare of Assisi: “Nec praesumant rumores de saeculo referre in monasterio” [Let them not presume to repeat the gossip of the world inside the monastery].[12]

Does the use that Francis makes of this expression “exire de saeculo” perhaps indicate this trajectory, that moves from conversion towards God and a choice to abandon the world and flee into the desert of religious solitude, where, far away from the din of the people, the world of God brings Him closer and more perceptible to man? For Francis did renouncing the world mean choosing some type of monasticism? The biographies, which amplify what was only indicated by Francis in his Testament, inform us that to leave the world after his conversion did not mean leaving his people or his city of Assisi; the young convert remained amongst his co-citizens, and continued to live with them until his death. Therefore, for Francis leaving the world did not mean entering into a monastic life, distant and remote from the world.

The expression used by Francis describing his conversion at the conclusion of his stay amongst the lepers and used to indicate a new phase of his existence, did not indicate a distancing from the world but a new way of being in the world, in the radically new way in which he had lived and experienced life amongst the lepers. According to Francis’ own account, the decisive encounter with God, the one that had him turn existentially toward God as the ultimate and definitive reason for his life, did not happen through a mystical or miraculous experience of a solitary and secluded kind. Francis does not tell us that he encountered the mystery of God in the event of the San Damiano Cross, or in one of his solitary and prayerful stays in the caves near Assisi. The young man did not encounter God by leaving the people, but on the contrary, he encountered the world of God radically immersing himself in the world of his own people, the most desperate and miserable, those who would appear to be the least suitable to bring him to an encounter with the stillness of God.

The brief account that Francis gives of this experience with the lepers offers the key to understanding why the time spent amongst the lepers was so efficacious.[13] The heart of Francis which had made itself the centre of the universe in a continuous search for self-glory, goes out from itself to encounter misery by way of the path of humility and submission. Francis keeps silent about the details that led him on such a path but attributes them to the action of God himself: “ipse Dominus conduxit me inter illos” [the Lord Himself led me among them], amongst those who had always triggered in him a reaction of revulsion. This time he experiences the need to respond with heartfelt tenderness to live amidst them and become part of their company; he perceives that it is by grace that he was called to turn his gaze away from himself as the absolute centre of his activities and desires and to gaze with love and attention towards the lepers. Francis is able to show mercy towards the lepers, consequent to him turning away from himself and offering himself with humility, patience and tenderness to the very ones who would seem to be the very negation of his mental and spiritual core. There occurs a radical transformation of his “uni-verso”: from feeling and wanting to be the one, the centre, towards which all the rest have to be directed, he accepts to become one who is oriented towards others with humility and patience by which to donate to them something most precious: his heart. In this affective availability of encounter with the lepers, sharing with them, living amongst them, Francis managed to leave his old world, with its worldly logic based in power and career advancement, and enter into a new world, with the logic of God manifest in Christ, arrived at by way of humility, service, poverty and mercy. This is the revelation made to him by God by means of the lepers and was for him an intuition that made him leave the world of human logic so as to enter into the eternity of divine logic.

From this we can understand what Francis wanted to say when he concluded that he “delayed a little and left the world”: he chose as his fundamental way of life what he had experienced by grace amongst the lepers, making it the reference point for the rest of his existence. It did not mean a physical abandonment of his people for the choice of monastic solitude. Rather, it signified a new way of living amidst the people, choosing to be poor among the poor. He left the world so as to freely immerse himself in the imitation of Christ, of becoming one with the people, poor with the poor. It was by showing mercy to his people that Francis encountered the face of God. It was a deliberate choice of a particular way of life as his way of leaving the world. It could be said, paradoxically, that he left the world by way of immersing himself in it to the fullest extent by taking on the same kenotic sentiments of Christ.[14]

2. Social choices with his companions

From continuing to read the autobiographical account of Francis’ conversion we cannot verify with certainty the interpretation that follows. The limited details of the account do not allow this. However, from such an overwhelming encounter with the face of God mediated by the encounter with the lepers naturally gives rise to the question about the subsequent choices made by Francis in regard to his relationship with the people.

We know from Francis himself and from the biographies that two distinctive periods followed his conversion that are in continuity but also sharply separated. The first is from the conversion to the arrival of the first companions, the second is from when other young men join them and want to share in their life, and their number begins to increase. Of this first period the Testament reveals nothing. The only information we have is from the biographies which accord with each other on the fundament points, describing a life lived within Francis’ town of Assisi, strict contact with his fellow townspeople, but expressing a radical change in his way of living: welcomed by a poor priest of San Damiano and dressed like a hermit, Francis decides to repair the church, leading a way of life that is poor and prayerful, and often accepting the humiliation of begging from his fellow citizens that now considered him as being mentally unstable. Francis has made an extremely challenging choice: instead of fleeing to another place, to the solitude of a monastery where he could live out his new relationship with God away from the contempt of his people, he chooses to remain in his world, while no longer belonging to it. He chooses to live a different way of life without distancing himself from the daily life of the world. He is no longer part of his people he has previously lived with, those who count, those who have power, those who live above the poverty of the people, rather, he chooses to live amongst the people, poor with the poor.

For the second period, that treated by the biographies, which endures for the rest of Francis’ life, his Testament offers much more information. However, it does not allow us to know with certainty what were the chooses made by him with his initial companions regarding their relationship with the people. The gift of brothers with which to live out his chosen life was unexpected: “nemo ostendebat mihi, quid deberem facere” [no one showed me what I had to do].[15] It was an unexpected gift from God and raised the urgent question of what to do with them? How were they to live this life together and what position were they to take in the society? All those joined him had made the same journey of leaving the world to welcome a new logic of living, that founded on the Gospel, that is, the rejection of power in a conscious choice of living in the abasement of love. But how was to this to be lived visibly in their relationship with the people?

The Testament gives some information on the way of life of Francis and his first companions. While there is no explicit information on the relationship with the people, there are some valuable indications which are confirmed by the juridic texts. External aspects are first noted, such as being clothed in poor rags as a consequence of their leaving the world by giving “whatever they had to the poor”. Then their union founded on prayer is affirmed. Francis then passes to listing a series of choices he has made together with his companions in regard to their position in the world. First of all, it is stated that they are “simple and subject to all”, that is, occupying a cultural and social position of subjection, shared by the overwhelming majority of the people. Then Francis recalls that “I worked with my hands”, a choice that he surely lived with his fellow companions who, like the other people, maintained themselves by their own labour, and, moreover, when the fruit of their labour was not enough to maintain themselves, they did as the other poor did: having “recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door”. The last piece of information given is regarding apostolic activity, which is synthesised in the announcement of peace: The Lord revealed a greeting to me that we would say: “May the Lord give you peace.”[16] It was a pastoral commitment in which Francis and his companions wanted to be a source of peace and hope for the people with whom they shared a way of life consisting of poverty and work.

3. Final consideration

The details gleaned from the Testament are more biographical indications than precise information on his and his first brothers’ “social” choices. These faint and imprecise indications of the first Franciscan experience find their confirmation and clarification in the juridic texts that regulate the life of the brothers. Before moving on to this second area of testimony, this section can be concluded by a brief consideration about the relationship of continuity that exists between the experience of living amidst the lepers and what is recounted in simple hints in the second part of the Testament about the first brothers closeness to and sharing in the life people. Living in the situation of simplicity and subjection, in the commitment to manual work, when necessary, to beg and in the announcement of peace are the constitutive elements of how Francis lived amongst the lepers. Being merciful to them involved being involved in their subjection. It was a service on their behalf in which Francis employed his hands to help them, also learning what it meant to beg in order to help them in their needs, and in such a way that it became a kenosis in which he became a leper amongst the lepers, thereby realising the announcement of peace, thereby becoming a reason of hope for those wretched ones. Francis was anticipating what would be confirmed in the two Rules by his way of life hinted at in his Testament, which contains in itself the distinctive characteristics of the experience with the lepers. That existential intuition also permeated the life he lived with his first companions, making them poor amongst the poor and true followers of Jesus, who became the servant and subject to all.

III. Being lesser brothers in the world with the people

1. Two preliminary aspects

a. The name of the brothers

In naming something there is always the attempt to capture a particular element of the object or the reality in question so that the nomination is unique and specific. This is the case with “monk”: one who leaves the world to meet God in the solitude of a monastery. The same is true for the name adopted by Francis to qualify the characteristics of the group that gathered around him. There is an official and definitive moment in which this name is proclaimed and imposed as the proper to those who share in his experience of life, that is, in the Regola bollata, which is the one the pope recognises it as normative for the self-understanding of the group of brothers. The beginning of the text is very clear and precise: The life of the Lesser Brothers begins. Rule and life of the lesser brothers is this”.[17]

Before clarifying the implications of this name, it seems appropriate to note a kind of development in the formation of the definition of “frates minors” within the two foundational juridical texts. In comparing the beginning of the two rules what is striking is the absence in the Regola non bollata of this qualification of the brothers. The first rule speaks simply of the “fratres”: Here is the rule and life of these brothers.[18] The difference between the two beginnings of the rules is most noticeable. In the Rule of 1221, those addressed in the text do not yet have a precise name, whereas in the Rule of 1223 the specification of “lesser” [minores] is added. This lack of specification in the earlier rule is noted by Thomas of Celano where it reads: For when it was written in the Rule, “Let them be lesser… ,” at the uttering of this statement, at that same moment he said, “I want this fraternity to be called the Order of Lesser Brothers.”[19] Therefore, it has been claimed that the use of the term was born during the composition of the first Rule, after Chapter I had already been composed. However, this claim is disproved by other historical data that attests to the use of the expression “lesser brothers” already in 1216. In fact, the specification is used in its proper sense by Jacques de Vitry. In a letter written in October of that year, he recounts how he was greatly consoled during his trip in Italy in meeting men and women who “having divested themselves of all possessions for Christ, abandoned the world. They are called lesser brothers and lesser sisters.[20] The term was also used in the official texts addressed by the Apostolic See to the brothers, who from 1218 become qualified as “lesser brothers”.[21] Francis himself uses the term in his writings for the first time the year preceding the Rnb. In the second edition of his Letter to the Custodians (1220), written immediately after he has returned from the Holy Lands, he specifically uses the qualification “lesser brothers”: Brother Francis, the least of the servants of God, sends greetings and holy peace in the Lord to all the custodians of the lesser brothers whom this letter reaches.[22] Therefor it can be concluded that the absence of the qualification at the beginning of the Rnb suggests that this opening passage is its most primitive layer, being part of the text orally approved by Pope Innocent III in 1209/10.[23] This text was not updated to the new terminology qualifying the brothers in the final redaction of the Rnb. A verification of this hypothesis on the editing of this Rule is given by the double recurrence of the use of the term in specifying and qualifying the description of the brothers.[24]

The point of this brief examination of the texts was to dispel the impression that the qualification “lesser brothers” emerged only towards the end of Francis’ life, that is, in 1223 with the composition of the Rb. On the contrary, the use of the term emerged from the earliest years, even before 1216, as a qualification summarizing the primitive and original experience lived by Francis and his brothers. In concordance with what F. Uribe notes, contrary to qualifications used by some other religious groups in which the qualifying term often refers to either an external element of the habit (grey brothers) or the local origin (Assisian brothers) or the dependence on a founder (Benedictine monks) or finally the main activity (hospital brothers, preaching brothers), the denomination desired by Francis touches “the way of being”.[25] In this qualification, Francis synthesises his lived experience, that which he had discovered with the lepers and begun to live with the first group of companions. In defining himself “friar minor/lesser brother” he is articulating the essential element of the revelation made to him by God.[26] As always happens in life: first there is the existential experience and then emerges the adequate terminology to express and communicate it.

Among the various components qualifying the name “lesser brothers”, the most fundamental is represented by its relational nature. The qualification “lesser brothers” does not simply and only indicate a “way of being”, but also and above all “a way of being in relationship” with the world, relating in such a way that one feels to be in an intimacy and proximity summarised by the term “brother”, in humility and service expressed by the adjective “lesser”. We can now proceed to specifying some of the different moments in which such intimate humility or proximity of service is realised by Francis and his companions. Uribe, in the text already cited, distinguishes four areas: minority in one’s own self-conception, minority in relationship with the world, minority in relations with others, minority in relationship with God.[27] What particularly interests us here is the third usage on the minority lived with others. In the rich text proposed by Uribe, in my opinion, there is a sort of mixture of two distinct groups of people towards whom the attitude of fraternal minority was lived by the brothers, namely, towards the people and towards the other brothers. The two areas should have been more clearly distinguished even though they have similar connotations. Such a distinction would have given the opportunity to look more closely at the first usage, that of the relationship with the people. Uribe briefly recalls this moment of minority,[28] and then dwells extensively on the spirit of mutual obedience among the brothers as a fundamental element of reciprocal minority.[29] Therefor we ask the question: What did it mean to be “lesser brothers” with the people? What were the concrete ways in which Francis and his brothers realised this qualification? In the Testament Francis gave us a glimpse of concrete choices of living in the world in which he gave continuity to his having become a “lesser brother” among the lepers. How did his brothers live their choice to be lesser brothers in the world? Did they have a clear awareness of the issue and make explicit choices to shape their vocation as lesser brothers among the people? The general data recalled by Uribe show a direction for the answers but still leaves many questions open and, above all, his exposition flattens the answer without grasping the evolutionary dynamics undergone by the choices made by the brothers.

b. From the Regola non bollata to the Regola bollata: the juridic evolution of the lesser brothers

There are two fundamental reference texts which give an answer to these questions and thereby illuminate the concrete way of life lived by Francis in realising his vocation of encounter with the Lord while remaining in the world in solidarity with his people. There can be found in the two Rules given to his brothers a series of very interesting indications drawing a reasonably precise picture of the way of life lived in the first fifteen years of the fraternity and give insight into the self-awareness of the brothers in their relationship with the world. Even though the two Rules are separated only by two years, in comparing them there can be discerned a type of evolution in the relationship between the brothers and the people. This can be thus synthesised: from a fraternity among the people to an Order for the people. There seems to be a development between the two texts in which the initial intuition and realisation of a life lived among the people on the part of the brothers transforms into a relationship that accentuates more the “conventual” life of the brothers which separates them from the people but includes a pastoral element which orientates the brothers to a life lived for the people.

The text of the Rnb is the 1221 result of reorganising into 24 chapters all the normative material that begun to be developed by the brothers from 1210, with the oral approval of the earliest “propositum vitae” by Pope Innocent III. It developed out of the new challenges presenting themselves to the brothers over the years. They had to find normative solutions as their numbers and geographical spread increased. It was the brothers themselves who insisted on the reorganisation of the normative material which gave rise to a unitary juridical text capable of being approved by the Pope as a definitive Rule.[30] Within the redactional assembling of the material that was born in diverse contexts and times there are conserved many indications of the style of life of the primitive brothers that developed immediately after the “Propositum vitae”. While keeping in mind this stratified nature of the development of the text of the Rnb in which can be discovered the life of the primitive community, we will attempt to interrogate this text in reference to our specific theme; the analysis will lead to results which will confirm and complete what Francis recounted in a very generic way in his Testament. The memories of the Saint and the fragments of history present in the Rnb will clearly converge to draw an interesting picture of the primitive vocation of the lesser brothers to live their “leaving the world” among the people.

Two years after the redaction of the first Rule, that is, in 1223, Francis composed a second Rule that was approved by Honorius III with the pontifical bull Solet annuere. Underlying this event is a strong tension within the Order which ‘obligated’ Francis to take up the pen again and thereby break the very solemn order at the end of the first Rule in which he had forbidden the brothers to change anything within it, as a way of reinforcing its obligatory nature:

And on behalf of almighty God and the Lord Pope and by obedience, I, brother Francis, firmly command and order that no one take away from what is written in this (way of) life nor add some further statement in it; neither should the brothers have any other rule.[31]

We do not really know what happened to push Francis to write a radically new text,[32] after having tried to draw up a new formulation of the Rnb, an intermediate text, that according to new historical hypotheses, traces of which can be found in the fragments of the Rnb.[33] The pressure on Francis was certainly strong. The new text was not simply a superficial revision of the preceding one. It was a profound revision, not only rewritten as to its structure but also in the different formulations and legal solutions it offered for the life of the Order.

The changing relations between the brothers and the people is certainly one of the themes that emerges as a difference between the two Rules.

2. The areas of interaction between the lesser brothers and the people

Diverse and multiform are the areas in which we find precious indications in the Rnb about the relationships of intimate sharing of the early brothers in the life of the people. There are indications that are almost entirely lost in the Rb, to be substituted by a type of silence and indetermination that seems to distance the brothers from the world.

a. Manual work

The first area is found in chapter VII of the Regola non bollata regarding work and the ways of sustenance of the brothers. At the very beginning of the chapter some interesting information is offered on the specific way the brothers worked. Contrary to monks, who only worked within the confines of the monastery, but who in some way gave employment to the people who lived nearby the monastery, the lesser brothers worked as hired workers with the other people:

All the brothers, in whatever place they stay with others for serving or working, are not to be chief stewards, or cellarers; not should they be in charge of the house in which they serve… (VII 1).

Such type of work is not only the first nominated but seems to be the only taken into consideration: along with all the other poor people the first brothers hoped to be selected by someone who would engage them as labourers so as to receive some substance for their work. In some way you could imagine that every morning the brothers lined up with the rest of the people in the city squares waiting for some landowner to select them for the day’s labour.

Having to work with others and having to survive by way of such work necessitated some norms to regulate how the lesser brothers would share their situation with the people. Listed here, without respecting the order of the text, are such norms given to regulate the work of the brothers: a) “Let the brothers who know how to work do so and exercise that trade they have learned, provided it is not contrary to the good of their souls and can be performed honestly” (VII 3); b) Joined to this is the permission “for them to have the tools and instruments suitable for their trades” (VII 9). From these initial indications, which can be considered general and not specific to them being brothers, are added two which characterise their “leaving the world” so as to live with the other people the hard necessity of manual work: c) for the recompense of “their work they can receive whatever is necessary excepting money” (VII 7), d) added to the prohibition of receiving money is also added the prohibition of undertaking work that places them above other people and in positions of power:

None of the brothers may be treasurers or overseers in any of those places where they are staying to serve or work among others. They may not be in charge in the houses in which they serve nor accept any office which would generate scandal or be harmful to their souls (VII 1-2).

Unlike the previous three injunctions which are dealing with the internal life of the brothers in relation to their work, this last one instead establishes what should be the position and attitude of the brothers in relation to the people with whom the are working at their places of work: they must only accept work in which their minority is made visible; in some ways it can be said that in living as hired workers they are living in solidarity with the people as brothers, sharing the same living conditions as the people and in their choice of only accepting service jobs and not those of power and position, in this way expressing that they are lesser brothers. Perhaps because of their previous cultural and educational preparation the brothers could have carried out work in manor houses which required the ability to know how to read and write, such as the function of chamberlains and clerks who had to deal with finances, letters and other documents.[34] However, these tasks would have meant no longer being among the lower-class people, those who did not count, who had no power. Rather, it would have meant rising to positions of power and influence: no longer remaining among the people, but above them.

Let us now pass to the Regola bollata. Only two brief passages remain from the extensive treatment of work in the Rnb. The first is that of exhorting work in a very general way, while the second recalls the balance needed between work and the spirit of prayer:

Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working may work faithfully and devotedly so that, while avoiding idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all temporal things must contribute.[35]

The emphasis of the new formulation shifts entirely to defending the spirit of prayer and devotion to be safeguarded in working, that is, it is no longer a question of establishing what work to do and how to work. In particular, there is no longer any trace of the brothers working for other lords as hired workers. And it is no longer possible to know whether the work of the brothers, which was fundamentally manual in Rnb, was still carried out alongside other people with whom they shared the daily struggle for survival. In the new text work is completely undefined: it is exhorted, warning us not to lose the spirit of prayer. If the first text spoke to a fraternity linked to manual work and in direct contact with the people, in the second text the situation seems very different, addressing brothers who were engaged in other types of endeavours, not only manual, but also cultural and intellectual. Consequently, the formulation could only be general and strongly spiritual. This suggests that constant contact with other people in their daily work engaged by the same employers was more or less finished, so much so that there was no need maintain juridic norms in the text about work.

b. Asking for alms

There are some interesting differences of reformulation between the text that are worthwhile confronting synoptically:



VII 7-8:
Et pro labore possint recipere omnia necessaria praeter pecuniam.Et cum necesse fuerit vadano pro eleemosynis sicut alii pauperes.
V 4-5:
De mercede vero laboris pro se et suis fratribus corporis necessaria recipiant praeter denarios vel pecuniamet hoc humiliter sicut decet servos Dei et paupertatis sanctissimae sectatores.
And for their work they can receive whatever is necessary excepting money.

And when it is necessary, they may seek alms like other poor people.

V 3-4:
In payment for their work they may receive whatever is necessary for the bodily support of themselves and their brothers, excepting coin or money, and let them do this humbly as is becoming for servants of God and followers of most holy poverty.
IX 1-6
Omnes fratres studeant sequi humilitatem et paupertatem domini nostri Iesu Christi […]Et debent gaudere quando conversantur inter viles et despectas personas, inter pauperes et debiles et infirmos et leprosos et iuxta viam mendicantes.Et cum necesse fuit vadant pro eleemosynis.Et non verecundentur et magis recordentur quia Dominus noster Jesus Christus […] fuit pauper et hospes et vixit de eleemosynis ipse et beata Virgo et discipuli eius.Et quando facerent eis homines verecundiam et nollent eis dare eleemosynam, referant inde gratias Deo; quia de verecundiis recipient magnum honorem ante tribunal Domini nostri Iesu Christi.
VI 3-4:
Et tamquam peregrini et advenae (1 Pt 2:11) in hoc saeculo in paupertate et humilitate Domino famulantesvadant pro eleemosyna confidenter, nec oportet eos verecundari, quia Dominus pro nobis se fecit pauperem in hoc mundo.
IX 1-6
Let all the brothers strive to follow the humility and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ […]They must rejoice when they live among people considered of little value and looked down upon, among the poor and the powerless, the sick and the lepers, and the beggars by the wayside.When it is necessary, they may go for alms.Let them not be ashamed and remember, moreover, that our Lord Jesus Christ […] He was poor and a stranger and lived on alms—He, the Blessed Virgin, and His disciples.When people revile them and refuse to give them alms, let them thank God for this because they will receive great honour before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ for such insults.
VI 2-3:
As pilgrims and strangers in this world (1 Pt 2:11), serving the Lord in poverty and humilitylet them go seeking alms with confidence, and they should not be ashamed because, for our sakes, our Lord made Himself poor in this world.

Sharing in the situation of the people by being hired workers meant that the brothers could not be assured of security for the future but had to live from day to day, dependent upon and subject to the contingent situation, meant for the brothers the impossibility of securing their daily bread, with the risk of having to resort to the humiliating necessity of begging for alms. This is exactly what the text of the Rnb demonstrates. Extremely interesting is the final motivation given by Francis in chapter VII, dedicated to work, for the brothers to go begging for alms:

And when it is necessary, they may seek alms like other poor people.[36]

By renouncing money, the brothers not only renounced the only means by which they could make their future less uncertain, but they became radically brothers to the humblest people, those who were the least in society, who sometimes had to resort, in cases of extreme necessity, to the benevolence of others, asking them for the love of God for help in eating. And this is what Francis reiterates in his Testament in which going for alms is the extreme solution to an act of social injustice: “And when we are not paid for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door”.[37] In all this they truly lived up to their name of “lesser brothers” among the people because they became in all things “like other poor people” and thus imitated the humility and poverty of the Lord.

This second and decisive criterion, that of the Christomimetic type, is proposed in a decisive way in chapter IX of Rnb dedicated exclusively to “Begging alms”, in which the imitation of Christ and the assimilation to the other poor constitute a profound unity. There are two passages in which the two ideal areas of poverty -Christ and the poor – are related.

The striving “to follow the humility and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ” which begins chapter IX has its verification in the subsequent sentence where Francis draws a type of conclusion:

They must rejoice when they live among people considered of little value and looked down upon, among the poor and the powerless, the sick and the lepers, and the beggars by the wayside.[38]

In this exhortation we have a kind of snapshot of the situation of the first brothers, often obliged to be in contact with the most outcast social groups of the time: the exhortation made by Francis to delight in this situation certainly aimed to make his brothers overcome the sense of embarrassment and perhaps resentment at having to assimilate with the poorest and thereby having to share in their many hardships and deprivations. However, the only way not only to accept, but to rejoice in, such a condition is to remember that in this lays the following Christ. By sharing with these marginalized groups, the need to go begging for alms in order to survive, in this assimilative closeness in which they truly become “like other poor people”, the brothers realize the ideal of their vocation: becoming “lesser brothers” because they assimilate themselves to the abasement of Christ. It would seem that the assimilation to the marginalization of the poor constituted for Francis the verification of their following of Christ: insofar as they became “like other poor people” the brothers could say that they were truly following Christ and similar to him. According to the paradoxical, evangelical way of thinking of the Saint, being radically among the poorest people, to the point of being confused with them, constituted a reason for true joy. This exhortation seems to echo what the Saint said in his famous parable, where he proclaimed that he would have reached perfect joy only if, after knocking on the door of the friary and not being received, he could set out again and beg for hospitality, like so many other outcasts and homeless, from the leper colony where he began his initial conversion, and yet still not lose the peace residing in his heart.[39]

The Christomimetic criterion in the judgment to be given to the humiliating effort of begging, thus assimilating to the many poor who crowded the streets of the Middle Ages, is reiterated in the sentences that follow immediately:

When it is necessary, they may go for alms. Let them not be ashamed and remember, moreover, that our Lord Jesus Christ […] was poor and a stranger and lived on alms—He, the Blessed Virgin, and His disciples.[40]

As in the previous chapter, chapter IX reiterates the preliminary condition for going to beg alms according to the situation of the needs of the brothers: after having worked but not having obtained enough to feed themselves, they are allowed to go from door to door. In this they become true lesser brothers because, as mentioned earlier, by sharing to the full the condition of the other poor, they truly follow in the footsteps of Christ, Mary and the apostles. The lifestyle of the other poor and the choices of Christ constitute the criteria of judgment in the abasement of having to beg: they are lesser brothers because they live among the people sharing their social situation and in this they want to imitate and propose anew the abasement of Christ.

In vs. 6-8 there is another aspect of the brothers’ relationship with people that originates from being forced to beg. Not only do the brothers come into contact with the poorest, but also with the richest, those who should help them in their needs. If it is difficult to share in the lot of the least, it is just as hard to be forced to ask for charity at the risk of being humiliated and chased away:

When people revile them and refuse to give them alms, let them thank God for this because they will receive great honour before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ for such insults.[41]

Living as lesser brothers, poor among the people, imitating the abasement of the Lord, also means being rejected by the people. Leaving the world implies being rejected by the world: the brothers are in the world but not of the world, as Jesus says to the disciples.[42] A similar situation is foreseen in chapter II of the Rnb, dealing with the way the brothers should dress, which should be in “poor clothes”,[43] like those worn, we might conclude, by “people considered of little value and looked down upon, among the poor and the powerless, the sick and the lepers, and the beggars by the wayside”. Because of this way of presenting themselves, the brothers risked being accused of hypocrisy by their fellow citizens, an assumption, which was probably the situation in many cases, that Francis warns against by encouraging them to resist in their way of life:

Even though they may be called hypocrites, let them nevertheless not cease doing good nor seek expensive clothing in this world, so that they may have a garment in the kingdom of heaven.[44]

The experience lived by Francis at the beginning of his leaving the world, when he wandered around Assisi dressed in sackcloth and begged for alms and he was mocked and chased away as a hypocrite, was repeated with his first companions to whom he had to repeat the motivation that had sustained him in his struggle of those early days. Leaving the world of those who “seek expensive clothing in the world” to enter that of those who depend on the charity of others and who are clothed in “poor clothes” meant enduring the humiliation of poverty and marginalization in a radical reversal of social relationships.

Noteworthy are the changes made in Chapter VI of the Regola bollata in which the brothers are exhorted to seek alms.

The first aspect of note is the absence of the very hypothesis that work cannot be sufficiently remunerated. As in the earlier Rule, the definitive Rule prohibits the receiving of money as a remuneration for work, allowing only the necessities of life to be obtained; however, it is no longer the case that this was not enough and that, therefore, the brothers were in need of alms. There no longer seems to be the problem of an insufficiency of the goods received. The new issue is the spirit in which they are to be accepted, and that is with humility and according to the criteria of the most holy poverty: “and let them do this humbly as is becoming for servants of God and followers of most holy poverty”. From the wording it would seem that the brothers are no longer living in the insecurity of being able to eat every day. The remuneration and the fruits of their labour are secure, the material uncertainty is over, while the spiritual question of how to live and manage the goods that flow “regularly” into the friary begins.

The consequence of this novelty of the way of life now being lived is the clear separation of almsgiving from work. The reason for needing to seek alms disappears. This is a very significant change, since in the Rnb it was the obvious reason for going from door to door. On the contrary, it would seem that in the Rb, almsgiving is no longer an extreme solution to a shortage of primary goods for living, but an integral part of the life of the minoritic community, that is, it has become a way of sustaining oneself running parallel and concomitant with the various works carried out by the fraternity. The elimination of the criterion of necessity in going for alms seems perhaps to be opposed by Francis in the Testament when he proposes alms only as an extreme solution if the remuneration from work is not sufficient.

And when we are not paid for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door.[45]

It is to be note that in the formulation Francis does not offer a reminder of what they did at the beginning, but wants to exhort the brothers again to use the criterion of necessity in the use of alms, almost as if he wanted to complete what was no longer said in the Rb. Therefore, the Saint wishes his brothers to remain “lesser brothers” sharing with the other poor the urgency in certain extreme situations to ask for alms, and not to become “mendicant brothers”, that is, those who by vocation and their own spiritual characteristic seek alms.

In this context one understands the other element of great difference between the Rb and Rnb: the loss of the measure of living with the other poor people in judging when to seek alms. The necessity that obliges the brothers to go and ask for charity made them “like other poor people” in solidarity with the people, also being amongst the least in the social context. In the new formulation, the concrete and precise relationship with the poor as a yardstick for judging and verifying their following of Christ has disappeared. In the Regola bollata, almsgiving would no longer seem to be a moment of solidarity and sharing with the lives of the poor, a moment of arrival in their being lesser brothers in the following of Jesus, but is transformed into a stable and spiritual activity that in some way separates and differentiates them from the poor. No longer out of necessity like the other poor, but out of vocation, the brothers go begging. The difference between the begging poor and the mendicant brothers becomes great and clear-cut.

c. Solidarity with lepers

Another exhortation by Francis in the Rnb to his brothers to seek alms highlights another situation that demonstrates the vocation of the brothers as being among the people:

Nevertheless, the brothers can beg alms for a manifest need of the lepers.[46]

Before looking at this norm, it is appropriate to note its particularity in the context of the chapter VIII dedicated to the prohibition of receiving money. All the cases made by Francis to specify this prohibition are aimed at the internal life of the brothers and are all formulated in a negative way.[47] The only exception concerns the text cited above, is where a charitable activity of the brothers with lepers is regulated, for whose benefit the brothers are allowed to go for alms and perhaps, but the wording is not clear, also to receive money, as would seem to be the case with the other category of the poor mentioned above: “for an evident need of the sick brothers” for whom money is allowed.

It is difficult to determine what this commitment to lepers on the part of the brothers meant in concrete terms. However, it is certain that the presence of these outcasts was not forgotten by Francis. Sharing of their fate and the active commitment to assist their needs constituted for the brothers an activity significant enough to have to regulate it with a concessionary norm: for them it is licit to ask for alms. It is not the case here to enter into the analysis of the text in which it would seem one could find a sort of incongruity and textual discontinuity, highlighted in particular by the “tamen” – “nevertheless” present at the opening of the sentence that would not seem to be linked to what precedes: in it we are perhaps faced with another indication of a complex redactional history that puts together passages of different chronological origin. What is interesting, however, is to note the proximity of the brothers to the fate of the lepers, an experience that is certainly in continuity with what Francis experienced at the beginning of his spiritual journey. Some of his brothers lived among the lepers and their shared contact was so extensive and involving that it required a certain amount of regulation.

In chapter IV of the Regola bollata, concerning the question of money, the case of lepers disappears, while that of the sick brothers remains, for whom a new juridical figure is introduced, represented by “spiritual friends” through whom “ministers and custodians alone may take special care through their spiritual friends to provide for the needs of the sick and the clothing of the others according to places, seasons and cold climates, as they judge necessary, saving always that, as stated above, they do not receive coins or money”.[48]

d. Life among the infidels

Among the categories of people listed in the Regola non bollata to whom the brothers were sent were also Saracens and other infidels. In chapter XVI the juridical regulation of the willingness to go and live among these people and the specification of the way to carry out this vocation offers important clues for a further deepening of their being lesser brothers among the people. What is interesting to underline in this text is not so much the order given to the superiors by Francis, in the first three sentences, to allow the brothers to go “among the Saracens and other non-believers” if they ask and show that they are suitable, as the indications offered to those who go to suggest to them the way of behaving among the infidels. The first way of presence is simply to be a lesser brother, that is, to live among those people in an attitude of subservience and humility:

One way is not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake and to acknowledge that they are Christians.[49]

The first “missionary strategy” suggested by Francis is not to have a strategy, but to continue the style of life and presence among the people as had among Christians, especially among the poorest, that is to be “subject to all”. Even among the infidels the vocation of being “like other poor people” continues without any security or power. In this context, Francis’ command “not to engage in arguments or disputes” is clear and is clarified in its opposite: “be subject to all”. Their “minoritic” position within the society in which they go to live, a position in which they renounce every form of domination and superiority, constitutes the first and fundamental Christian proclamation to which the brothers are called. Mixing among the infidels, sharing in the lot of the poor and disenfranchised, will be their true missionary activity because their actions will have only one motivation: “for God’s sake”. The conscious choice to be lesser brothers among the non-believing people is the first and fundamental announcement “that they are Christians”.

The second way suggested by Francis is that of the explicit proclamation of the Christian faith, which, however, the Saint notes, will have to be done not immediately and not always; in fact, contrary to the first strategy they will be able to preach the word of God “when they see it pleases the Lord”.[50] Therefore, they will have to examine each time the opportunity to pass from the hiddenness of subjection and sharing with the infidels, to the explicit proclamation of Christian truths. Such a possibility will be given precisely by the fundamental attitude of being missionaries, made up of meekness and fraternal humility, with which, using the words of Francis addressed to the anonymous minister, the missionary brothers will be able to “attract the unbelievers to the Lord”[51] by explicitly proclaiming their faith from which their minoritic action springs. Being among the unbelievers as lesser brothers is the first and fundamental preaching without words, and only from it, then, can be born an announcement made in words.[52]

A chapter is also dedicated to the case of brothers wishing by “divine inspiration” to go among the infidels in the Regola bollata, and precisely in the last of the twelve chapters that make up the text. The formulation is exclusively centered on the juridical question of the preliminaries for the sending, that is, on asking for permission and on the criteria for granting it to the applicants.[53] While the extensive passages, the most important in the formulation of the Rnb, on the ways of relating to the infidels, are completely suppressed. The criteria of presence among the Saracens and the infidels are left totally indeterminate, as if that method of hiddenness and subjection, as the main way to reach the hearts of the infidels, was judged as no longer suitable for expanding and affirming the Christian faith. However, this is not stated explicitly by the text, even if the suppression of the previous proposal suggests it.

e. Preaching

Closely linked to direct apostolic engagement is the activity of preaching, a ministry dealt with extensively in chapter XVII of the earlier Rule, a theme set out immediately after that of the mission to the Saracens and infidels. The underlying climate that dominates the text is still closely linked to the spirit of minority with which the brothers are called to carry out their service among the people, an attitude that Francis extends not only to preachers, but also to all the brothers in their various duties and activities:

In the love that is God, therefore, I beg all my brothers—those who preach, pray, or work, cleric or lay—to strive to humble themselves in everything, not to boast or delight in themselves or inwardly exalt themselves because of the good words and deeds or, for that matter, because of any good that God sometimes says or does or works in and through them, in keeping with what the Lord says: Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you.[54]

While in the previous text concerning the presence among the infidels the dominant exhortation was “be subject to all”, here, at the centre, is placed the urgent and decisive invitation to the activity of preaching according to which every friar is “to strive to humble themselves in everything”. Francis is not concerned with suggesting topics to be preached nor does he want to propose a specific preaching technique capable of converting people, at the centre of his interests is the desire to ensure the spirit of minority in his preaching brothers. And in this sense Francis arrives at a kind of paradox, establishing that the reason for the joy of the brothers should not be placed in their pastoral success but in their failure:

We must rejoice, instead, when we fall into various trials and, in this world, suffer every kind of anguish or distress of soul and body for the sake of eternal life.[55]

What, then, should be the sentiments that animate the lesser brother in proclaiming the word of God: such is Francis’ exclusive interest in this chapter. They are more important than any pastoral result. The spirit of the mission among the infidels and that of preaching among Christians is the same: in both cases the true pastoral service is the proclamation in deeds and words of their being lesser brothers, brothers subject and humble among the people. It must be said, however, that in this second area of pastoral activity, as in the previous one, there are no particular indications about the way the brother preachers are to conduct themselves among the people, in fact, the accent is placed on the intimate feelings that should animate the brothers in their preaching, while nothing is said about the concrete position they must take with the people in preaching.

Even with regard to this second pastoral activity, the Regola bollata focuses only on the juridic aspects of regulating the office of preaching, where it establishes the total dependence on the bishop in preaching and the need for authorisation no longer only of the provincial minister, but of the general minister by whom the brother preacher “unless he has been examined and approved […] and the office of preacher has been conferred upon him”, he cannot preach.[56] The second part of this brief chapter is dedicated to the forms of preaching that must be assumed by the lesser brother, characterised by simplicity and animated by the preaching of the virtuous life.

Other than these two sets of indications, the text does not add anything else about the sentiments that should guide the brother in his activity, that is, it eliminates all the extensive passages of the previous text in which Francis warned his brothers against preaching with a proud and arrogant heart. The Rb wants to regulate the external preaching activity of the brothers, not their interior, just the opposite of the interests of the previous legislation in which the intentions of the brothers were at the centre, on which the effectiveness of their activity depended.

f. How to go about in the world

In both Rules there is a specific passage regulating the way in which the brothers should “go about in the world”, a sure indication of the importance that this element occupied in the existence of the Order. The areas examined above concerning the brothers’ manifold contact with the people testifies without a shadow of doubt that going out into the world belonged to the vocation of the lesser brothers.

However, the way in which the question is addressed and resolved in the two Rules confirms the differences between the two, as already noted in the previous analysis. In this case too, it is opportune to present the two texts synoptically.

Rnb Rb
XIV 1:
Quando fratresvadunt per mundumnihil portent per viam neque sacculum neque peram neque panem neque pecuniam (cf. Lk 9:3) neque virgam (Mt 10:10). [Lk 10:5; Lk 10:7; Mt 5:39; Lk 6:29-30]
III 11-12:
Consulo vero moneo et exhortor fratres meos in Domino Iesu Christo ut quando vadunt per mundumnon litigent neque contendant verbis (2 Tim 2:14) nec alios iudicent sed sint mites pacifici et modesti mansueti et humiles honeste loquentes omnibus sicut decet.
XIV 1:
When the brothers go through the world, let them take nothing for the journey, neither knapsack, nor purse, nor bread, nor money, nor walking stick.
III 10-11:
I counsel, admonish and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world;but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle, and humble, (2 Tm 2:14) speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming.
XV 1-2:
Iniungo omnibus fratribus meis tam clericis quam laicis euntibus per mundum vel morantibus in locis, quod nullo modo apud se nec apud alium nec alio aliquo modo bestiam aliquam habeant.Nec eis liceat equitare, nisi infirmitate vel magna necessitate cogantur.
III 13:
Et non debeant equitare, nisi manifesta necessitate vel infirmitate cogantur.
XV 1-2:
I command all my brothers, both cleric and lay, that when they go through the world or dwell in places they in no way keep any animal either with them, in the care of another, or in any other way. Let it not be lawful for them to ride horseback unless they are compelled by sickness or a great need.
III 12:
They should not ride horseback unless they are compelled by an obvious need or an infirmity.

To seek work along with others, to be forced at times to go back on the road in order to have something to eat or to help the poorest of the poor, that is, the lepers, to go on mission among the infidels, or to set out on the road for preaching constituted in the Regola non bollata some of the various moments of a general situation of the first brothers often forced to live “iuxa viam”, on the road, in direct contact with the people. So frequent was their being on the roads of the world that in the primitive Rule there is a long chapter, the XIV, dedicated precisely to “How the brothers should go through the world”. The text, together with chapter XV, which is a specification of the previous one, dealing with the means to be used to move about in the world: “The brothers shall not ride horses”, certainly occupies a strategic position in that it determines the basic spirit with which to read the next two chapters, which deal respectively with going among the infidels (XVI) and preaching among Christians (XVII). However, the text constitutes an ideal point of reference not only for the next two situations related to pastoral care, but for all the occasions in which the brothers were called to move about on the roads of the world. By building the entire chapter on a collage of gospel passages, Francis establishes that his brothers, in going about the world, had no power, but were at the mercy of others, like “pilgrims and strangers” in this world.[57] The apparatus they should carry on the journey should be virtually nothing: “take nothing for the journey”. What they should give to the people should be the greeting of peace, they should eat and drink what is offered to them, and not resist evil, but allow themselves to be stripped of their clothes, and everything as a consequence of a free choice not to have rights and power. Their poor and lesser way of going about the world also included the prohibition of horse riding: the horse or any other means of transport other than one’s own legs would have detached the brothers from the road, would have elevated them above the other poor who crowded the roadsides. To be “like other poor people”, to be among the people, they had to get off their horses and share the toil of living “on the road”.

In the Regola bollata one senses that one is faced with a new climate in the relations of the brothers with the world. The exhortations made by Francis to his brothers, no longer taken from Gospel texts, seem to have to respond to the danger of “arrogance” on the part of his brothers. The invitation to be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle and humble reveals that perhaps the brothers were beginning to have a certain “spiritual power” that allowed them to speak authoritatively to the people with whom they met. They had perhaps already become the “famous” Friars minor, many of them culturally prepared and already sought-after preachers, their presence having long since crossed not only the borders of Assisi and Umbria, but also of Italy itself. While in Rnb Francis, by means of numerous biblical passages, has to encourage the “persecuted” brothers, demonstrating to them the concordance between what they were now experiencing and the rule of life given by Jesus to his disciples. Whereas, in the Rb we seem to be faced with the opposite climate, that is, the text has to remind the brothers to be modest and submissive, in a climate in which the brothers instead are acquiring an ever-clearer awareness of their spiritual and cultural power and of the importance of their moral mission for the world, a role that in some way gave them the right and duty to reproach and guide others.

A clue that seems to confirm this impression of a new self-awareness on the part of the brothers and therefore of a new way of feeling of being among the people is given by the passage about the poor clothes of the brothers. In this case, too, it will be appropriate to review the texts of the two Rules synoptically:

Rnb Rb
II 14-15:
Et omnes fratres vilibus vestibus induantur et possint eas repeciare de saccis et aliis peciis cum benedictione Dei, quia dicit Dominus in evangelio: Qui in veste pretiosa sunt et in deliciis (Lk 7:25) et qui mollibus vestiuntur in domibus regum sunt (Mt 11:8).Et licet dicantur hypocritae, non tamen cessent bene facere nec quaerant caras vestes in hoc speculo, ut possint habere vestimentum in regno caelorum.
II 17-18:
Et fratres omnes vestimentis vilibus induantur et possint ea repeciare de saccis et aliis peciis cum benedictione Dei.Quos moneo et exhortor, ne despiciant neque iudicent homines, quos vident mollibus vestimentis et coloratis indutos uti cibis et potibus delicatis sed magis unusquisque iudicet et despiciat semetipsum.
II 14-15:
Let all the brothers wear poor clothes and, with the blessing of God, they can patch them with sackcloth and other pieces, for the Lord says in the Gospel: Those who wear expensive clothing and live in luxury and who dress in fine garments are in the houses of kings.Even though they may be called hypocrites, let them nevertheless not cease doing good nor seek expensive clothing in this world, so that they may have a garment in the kingdom of heaven.
II 16-17:
Let all the brothers wear poor clothes and they may mend them with pieces of sackcloth or other material with the blessing of God.I admonish and exhort them not to look down upon or judge those whom they see dressed in soft and fine clothes and enjoying the choicest food and drink, but rather let everyone judge and look down upon himself.

The norms of the mode of dressing in the Rb are taken up almost verbatim from the previous formulation. The only novelty concerns the moral exhortations that follow, from which one can see the presence of a different way of how the brothers feel about their relationship with the people. In the Rnb the poverty of the clothes had to be motivated by two gospel passages to justify their humble way of presenting themselves, to this is added the exhortation, already mentioned above by Francis, not to be discouraged if by their way of dressing they are accused of hypocrisy. Their poor clothes are, therefore, the cause of problems and humiliation. On the contrary, in Rb all this disappears, and the opposite appears: Francis must exhort the brothers not to make their way of dressing an occasion of pride and arrogance towards others. Their tunic, patched inside and out, had become a source of pride and praise, and the risk for the brothers was that of making their “famous poverty” an occasion of judgement on others and therefore of superiority. From being “persecuted” in the same way as other poor people, the risk now is of the brothers becoming judges: this seems to be the change that is felt in the relationships described in the two passages on the relationship of the brothers with other people. The lesser brothers go from being poor men in their poverty to walking around affluent in their poverty.

The last aspect of the new formulation regarding the norms of going about in the world concerns the prohibition of riding, which is also taken up almost verbatim by the Rnb. A small but significant change is the elimination of the text concerning the prohibition to use any kind of beasts for their travels. The removal of this prohibition in fact left open the possibility of using some other animal to make the journey easier and faster. By now the Order was no longer a small fraternity linked to the surroundings of Assisi or to the Umbrian landscape alone, but a large group of brothers whose cultural, missionary and preaching commitments often obliged them to make long journeys. Although they did not have to use the noblest and most expensive means of transport, which was the horse, they could not be prevented from using any other means of transport.

g. Welcoming the people

In addition to the various daily situations envisaged in the Regola non bollata in which the brothers were called to go and stay among the people to share their lot in life, made up of manual labour, poverty, dependence and submission, and insecurity for the future, there is also the reverse situation represented by the brothers’ duty to welcome all those who came to their door to ask for hospitality and help:

Wherever the brothers may be, either in hermitages or other places, let them be careful not to make any place their own or contend with anyone for it. Whoever comes to them, friend or foe, thief or robber, let him be received with kindness.[58]

The rule given by Francis to his brothers to keep open the place where they live clearly serves the preceding text in which they are forbidden to become owners of those places. There is a double specification made by Francis to explain and give concrete form to the prohibition of ownership of the places inhabited by the brothers: they will be owners if they have the right to claim the place (“or contend with anyone”) or to choose who to let in (whoever comes … let him be received”). The places where the brothers live must be considered as a poor refuge, where they have found shelter, but which must remain open to all wayfarers (“friend or foe, thief or robber”) who ask for shelter: the places where they live belong to all those who, pilgrims or strangers, need shelter.[59]

In the formulation of the Regola bollata the prohibition of appropriating the places where the brothers live no longer contains these two specifications, they are simply removed:

Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.[60]

In addition to the addition of the term “domus/house”, which was absent in the previous Rule,[61] the prohibition to defend and, therefore, not to have any power over the environment they used has been eliminated, as has the order to welcome and accommodate all those who requested it. The places where the brothers live are no longer places open to everyone, poor hospices used by the brothers who are always ready to share them with other poor people. The legal essentiality of the Rb suggests that the redactional transformation was probably intended to ensure that the houses and places where the brothers lived had the autonomy to preserve a life separate from the people, places that would allow them to pray and study. The brothers’ living quarters were no longer simple hospices without an entrance door, but friaries with a wall and a main door that they had to knock on, at the risk of not being accepted because of the religious life they led. It would seem to be precisely the place described by Francis in his parable of perfect joy where the Saint speaks of a “door” at which he must repeatedly knock and in front of which he futilely waits for it to open because he will not be received; ideally the episode should be placed after the Rb which, contrary to the previous Rule, implicitly allowed the brothers to decide whether or not to welcome the wayfarer. The place of which Francis speaks is no longer a hospice for all, unlike that of the lepers’ hospice to which Francis will be sent to ask for hospitality, but a closed friary in which the brothers could choose, according to conventual criteria, if and whom to welcome.

3. The evolution of the lesser brothers: from among the people to being for the people

The comparison between the two Rules reveals a precise textual transformation that refers to an evolution in the self-awareness of the brothers in their relationship with the people, from which, consequently, different choices of daily life derive.

a. From a life lived among the people of the Rnb

Read as a whole, the data that emerged from the analysis of Rnb allow us to propose this synthesis of the initial experience of Francis and his companions: They are lesser brothers because they live among the people and consciously want to mix with the other poor, sharing with them the state of subjection and of being without rights. In this sharing and assimilation, the brothers fully realise that they are following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus who made himself poor among the poor. Becoming “like other poor people” meant becoming “like Christ” and therefore true “lesser brothers” who, in the name of the Lord, renounce every position of power, thus leaving the logic of this world so as to embrace the evangelical one.

The different textual formulations of the Rnb that we have encountered testify, in a general way, to a more or less explicit awareness of these spiritual dynamics in which the relationship with the poor and the people represented a decisive moment of their minoritic vocation. In the seven cases examined in which the brothers found themselves in contact with the life of the people, three types of norms basically emerged: those that regulate some particular elements of life choices among the people without, however, taking a position on the choices themselves, those that instead validate the choices by presenting them as constitutive of their being lesser among the people and, finally, those that in advance plan and guide choices to be made to express concretely the solidarity and closeness with the subjection suffered by the poor.

With regard to the first type of norms we have seen, concerning work, that the text, moving from the fact of the hired work carried out by the brothers with some wealthy landowners, wants to offer solutions to a specific question about which jobs to take on and which to refuse in order to be faithful to their vocation as lesser brothers. The same applies to the implied works of mercy among lepers for whom they are allowed to beg; the same consideration should be made of the encouragement given to the brothers in their often being “on the road” in contact with marginalised categories of people. These three situations are not chosen by the brothers because they are imposed by the Rule, which could have ordered the brothers to work with others, or the brothers to help lepers, the brothers to share the life of the marginalised on the street. These conditions belonged to the spontaneous organisation of the first community, which felt that these different choices were obvious, with which they showed their being “lesser brothers” among the lesser members of society. The choice of living among the people in work, helping the poor and sharing their marginalisation was not the result of theoretical research to find concrete ways of expressing their desire to be minoritic, but the result of a sensitivity and a condition that made the brothers choose to be among the people.

To the second set of rules, those that validate the choices by presenting them as constitutive of their being lesser among the people, belong those concerning almsgiving, riding horses and welcoming people in the places where the brothers live. Resorting to the table of the Lord will have been a frequent situation for Francis and his first brothers. The concession to take advantage of the charity of the people and the exhortation to recognise in this humiliating gesture an important moment of their assimilation to the poor and their imitation of Christ are proposed as strategic choices of being lesser brothers among the people. The same applies to the prohibition to ride horses and use other beasts of burden on the journey because in all this they would not be “like other poor people”. The third rule about welcoming all those who come to the brothers’ places of residence is also expressed in absolute form, that is, as an important regulation in the realisation by the brothers of their vocation of sharing and not possessing.

The last area is related to the spiritual norms concerning the attitude with which the brothers must carry out their apostolic activity among the infidels and preaching. No precise and circumstantial norms are given, but general projections of a way of acting and conducting oneself as lesser brothers in their apostolic relationship with the people, where the testimony of the minoritic subjection is more important than the effectiveness of their activity in favour of the Gospel.

Despite the diversity of formulations and juridical emphases, the result of a stratified editing of the text of the Rnb, all the norms are united by a minimum common denominator: the life and choices of lesser brothers, animated by a profound assimilative closeness to the poverty of the people and in particular to the most marginalised, are always presented as conclusive moments of a radical choice to follow Christ. In some way, therefore, it can be said that the brothers leave the world insofar as they immerse themselves fully in the world by living and mingling among poor people.

b. … to a life lived for the people in the Rb

The redactional transformations made in the Rb are many and constant. In all of them one can clearly perceive the emergence of a new climate in which the brothers seem to be moving away from assimilation to the people and from the exhortation to be “like other poor people”.

In the re-elaboration carried out by the Rb four different types of editorial interventions can be identified in which norms are eliminated, generalised, spiritualised or formally sanctioned.

To the first group, to the eliminated passages, belong the norms that in the Rnb regulated assistance to lepers and living “on the road” with other outcasts. In the Rb these situations are totally absent. With regard to work, however, there is a kind of generalisation, where, having removed being hired workers from the text, the commitment to work is treated in a completely general way, exhorting the brothers to work honestly and without suffocating the spirit of devotion. The kind of generalisation made in the formulation allows it to be applied to a wider spectrum of types of work and not only to manual work and work in solidarity with poor people. On the other hand, the transformation regarding almsgiving is of a spiritualising nature, where, by removing the criterion of necessity, it becomes a form of sustenance with a strong spiritual characterisation. The chapters dedicated to preaching and mission among the infidels rework the texts in an exclusively canonical direction, to regulate the legal relationships between the various groups involved in apostolic activity: bishops, ministers and brothers.

The new formulation of the Rule in the various norms examined, while not expressly denying the spiritual approach of the previous text based on minority and subjection, chooses to pass over in silence norms or proposals of life in which the brothers were too much assimilated with the people. In other words, we are witnessing a reworking in which the new text is cleansed of the passages of the previous Rule that were strongly impregnated with the image of a fraternity in contact with the condition of subordination and insecurity of the people. It transforms to a group of brothers that had by then reached five thousand members and become widely engaged in pastoral activity. They have passed from being a fraternity to an Order that had become complex and multiform. The initial exhortations and norms born instead of a small fraternity strongly in solidarity and assimilated with the people could no longer be retained. We can then assume that precisely because of the complexity and variety of the Order, the norms, connected in any case with contact with the people, are deliberately formulated in a generic way, without specifying what the relationship of the Order with the people should be, and, in particular, the criterion of comparison with the other poor (“like other poor people”) as a guiding principle in the choices to be made, radically disappears in the Rb.

However, a further consideration must be added. If, on the one hand, the Rb does not confirm the approach of the Rnb, on the other hand it does not propose new and specific solutions on the way of being among the people on the part of the lesser brothers. One could say that the Rb chooses not to establish precise norms on this aspect, a solution that leaves the doors open to different solutions in the self-awareness of the Order. The unspoken in the legislative text in fact gives the Order the possibility of following new paths – which perhaps had already been taken in the last years of the life of Francis – in its fundamental vocation of being lesser brothers in the world. The organisational developments that will take place in the years immediately following the death of the founder suggest that already at the time of the Rb there was a new consciousness in the relationships of the brothers with the world: no longer among the people, but for the people. The strong and conscious movement of conventualisation, clericalisation and acculturation that will take place immediately after the death of the founder will transform the Franciscan Order into a highly specialised presence within Western Christian society. Similar to the experience of the Dominican Order of preachers, the Franciscan Order will become a religious experience that, precisely by placing itself at the centre of the cities with large friaries and cathedrals, and carrying out important tasks both pastoral and cultural, as well as social and political, will detach itself clearly from the subservient condition of the poor people, to become an effective presence in favour of the salvation of souls and the management of Christian society. The lesser brothers are no longer scattered and mixed among the people “like other poor people”, but, while living a poor form of life, they are essentially separated from the people in order to be an apostolic and cultural gift to the people. Therefore, they choose to no longer be among the people in order to be able to perform a more attentive and effective service to the people.

c. As a concluding question: what was the “intention of Francis”?

A question arises spontaneously at the end of our analysis: what was the judgement given by Francis to this evolution witnessed in the juridical texts on the relationship of his brothers with the people? That is to say, did Francis have to accept these choices in spite of himself or did he understand as necessary the transformations made in the Rb in which there was a kind of passage from the intuition of being among the people to the institution of being for the people? In practice, we need to ask ourselves: was it Francis himself who wanted these transformations or did he have to undergo them because of internal pressures within the Order or external pressures, in particular from the ecclesiastical hierarchy?[62] The question is even more legitimate if one rereads the almost imprecatory closing text of the Rnb in which Francis commanded his brothers, appealing to Almighty God and to the Lord Pope, not to change anything in that Rule and not to replace it with another. Was Francis forced to contradict his own words with which he closed the first Rule, or did he spontaneously want to transform the text by giving new juridical solutions to a way of life of the lesser brothers different from the original one?

The answer to these not easy questions will comprise in itself two parts in which an attempt will be made to reconcile the two alternatives contained in the series of previous questions.

1. The first part of the answer comes from a fundamental point of reference: Francis recognises the Rb as a text capable of translating his life experience revealed to him by God. The “I” of the Saint dominates the drafting of the text: in addition to the initial signature that opens the Rb – as it was in the Rnb -, where the compiler explicitly uses his name “Brother Francis”, verbs in the first person singular continually recur in the text.[63] An important attestation of authorship of the drafting of the Regola bollata also comes from the last text composed by the Poverello and sent to his brothers as his memorial and admonition. In the Testament, in fact, he clearly and precisely claims the actual authorship of the Rule, which he drafted as the Lord “had given him to say and write”. The text of the Rule was not imposed on Francis.

However, the ownership of the Rule by Francis is not only effective/material but also affective/spiritual. The confirmation comes to us again from the Testament, whose exhortative and admonitory recollections do not have as their objective to correct or, even more, deny the Rule, but to ensure that it is observed more faithfully:

And the brothers may not say: “This is another rule.” Because this is a remembrance, admonition, exhortation, and my testament, which I, little brother Francis, make for you, my blessed brothers, that we might observe the Rule we have promised in a more Catholic way.[64]

2. Alongside this first answer to the questions listed above, and to complete it, it is necessary to add a second series of considerations deriving directly from the remarks made above on the Testament.

In the intention of Francis, his last text sent to the brothers is not only an exhortation to observe the Rule, but also an instrument to better observe it. Although it is not another Rule, Francis gives an explicit mandate to keep the Testament always linked to the Rb as a reference text in its reading:

And let them always have this writing with them together with the Rule. And in all the chapters which they hold, when they read the Rule, let them also read these words.[65]

One could say that the Saint of Assisi proposes the Testament as an interpretative lens to better understand and complete the normative text. Just keeping in mind the interpretative function of the Rule, it is possible to glimpse in this final text the “intention” of Francis as he rereads and underlines some aspects of primary importance for his vocation, which had become problematic and not sufficiently treated in the Rb. Within this perspective there are two noteworthy points that emerge from the Testament that are closely related to the problem of the brothers’ being in the world, and, more particularly, to their relationship with the people.

Firstly, one must keep in mind the autobiographical recollections of the first part of the text proposed by the Saint as memories of foundational reference points and delivered to an Order that by now is tending to be and actually is different from the first fraternity. Being illiterate and subject to all, having manual labour as a means of sustenance, seeking alms only in cases of necessity, humble preaching, that is, the various memories of a way of life that made Francis and his first companions “like other poor people”, certainly represented implicit admonitions addressed to his brothers so that they would not lose sight of the assimilative closeness of the first brothers to the poor. These fragmentary and sketchy memories of the way of living poor among the people are not simply nostalgic memories handed down by a grandfather to his grandchildren, but a paradigmatic inheritance that Francis wanted to pass on to his brothers to make up, perhaps, for a lack of similar historical and juridical references in the Rb. In the Testament Francis recovers the historical memory of a way of life attested in the Rnb and that, although suppressed in the Rb for the new requirements imposed on the Order, constituted for the Saint an important reference in the spiritual observance of the Rule.

The second series of considerations are addressed to the second part of the Testament, where Francis gives his brothers three blocks of absolute commands whose formulation not only recalls the mandatory nature of the Rule, but adds some juridical novelties to make up, perhaps, for what had been left out in the Rule because of the new requirements of the Order. The question of the relationship with the people seems to emerge in the first two requests. In the first one it is forbidden for the brothers who

wherever they have not been received, let them flee into another country to do penance with the blessing of God.[66]

These words prohibit the brothers from adopting a conventual-like external style in their dwellings; instead, their houses must be seen to be close in style to the houses of the poor: not large convents, but poor dwellings. To the external style Francis immediately adds the spirit with which the brothers must live there: “as pilgrims and strangers, let them always be guests there”,[67] that is, they must experience those places as poor refuges and hospices of which they are not the owners and which, consequently, belong to all the strangers and pilgrims who pass through those parts. Their poor dwellings must not only dwell alongside the other poor dwellings of the people, but must remain open to all the poor and needy.[68]

In the second group of commands given by Francis in the Testament we are faced with one of the strongest and most decisive obligatory formulations to come from Francis’ pen:

I strictly command all the brothers through obedience, wherever they may be, not to dare to ask any letter from the Roman Curia, either personally or through an intermediary, whether for a church or another place or under the pretext of preaching or the persecution of their bodies.[69]

To an Order that was beginning to feel the need to ensure its existence and activity through the attainment of a juridical recognition that would allow them to defend their rights for a more effective pastoral work, Francis commanded them to remain always and everywhere without rights and without juridical power. Appealing to Rome for letters and recognition meant acquiring a juridical space that guaranteed the brothers were not at the mercy of others. However, in this way they were no longer “like other poor people” who could not defend themselves, they were no longer lesser brothers. The suggestion/order given, instead, by Francis is to set out again on the road, as pilgrims and strangers who, when not welcomed, seek precarious accommodation elsewhere:

But, wherever they have not been received, let them flee into another country to do penance with the blessing of God.

The original experience that Francis recalls his brothers to is strongly and clearly connected to the imitation of the poor people: they will be true lesser brothers if they remain men without rights, radically sharing the condition of the many forced to live on the margins of society. To the strong attenuation or even elimination of the emphases made by the Rb on the vocation of the lesser brothers to be among the people, sharing to the full the minority of the poor not only economically but also juridically, Francis wants to compensate by reaffirming in an absolutely urgent way the vocation to insecurity so that his brothers could remain spiritually and effectively “on the road”, “like other poor people” or be, according to the new category of comparison used in the Testament, “as pilgrims and strangers”.

The conventual, clerical and cultural evolution that took place in the Order and accepted by Francis in the drafting of the new Rule, did not eliminate for the Saint the primitive vocation to be lesser brothers among the people. The necessary transformation towards an Order “for the people”, with the accentuation of a movement towards cultural and pastoral specialisation in favour of a more effective service for the Church, and also the juridical adjustments to regulate a group of brothers that had become numerous and were already present in many parts of the world could not, in the eyes of Francis, completely renounce a decisive element of the vocation of the lesser brothers to be among the people sharing their economic and social insecurity.

Was it possible to reconcile the two requirements of being an Order for the people while remaining effectively among the people? Was it possible in practice to keep the Rb united to the Testament for the recovery of a way of life present in the Rnb. The subsequent history of the Order would seem to deny such a possibility, in fact a few years later the hermeneutical attempt made by Francis with the Testament would be judged by Pope Gregory IX as legally improper and therefore not binding on the brothers. The brothers could thus definitively become the brothers for the people and thus cease to be among the people.

  1. Regola di Qumran, V,1-7, in G. Turbassi, Regole monastiche antiche, Roma, ed. Studium, 1974, 73. [English translation from: The Community Rule – Geza Vermes’ complete translation of 1QS in digitized version of his 1962 classic Dead Sea Scrolls in English.]
  2. Regola di San Basilio, Proemio, in G. Turbassi, Regole monastiche antiche, Roma, ed. Studium, 1974, 150 [my translation].
  3. Consuetudini della Certosa, in Regole monastiche d’Occidente, Magnano, Ed. Qiqajon, comunità di Bose, 1989, 164-5 [my translation].
  4. Regola di San Benedetto, in ivi, 59 [my translation].
  5. Cf. ivi, 59.
  6. Cfr. ivi.
  7. Ibid. [my translation].
  8. “Praeterea sciendum est quod omnes animae, ut ait Augustinus, cum de saeculo exierint, diversas habent receptiones: Bonae habent gaudium, malae tormenta” (Petrus Lombardus, IV sent., d. 45, c. 1, par. 1, vol. II, Grottaferrata 1981, 523).
  9. “Sed de saeculo egrediens in navem ascendit, cum ad bonam et spiritalem conversationem pervenerit” (Godefridus Admontensis, Homiliae festivales, hom. 39 (Patres Latini, 174), 816.
  10. “Quotiens aliquis de saeculo sive clericus, sive laicus ad monasterium veniens converti se velle dixerit, ille frater, cui primo suam voluntatem indicat, nunciare debet abbati” (Liber ordinis Sancti Victoris Parisiensis, Consuetudines, c. 15, ed. L. Jocqué – L. Milis [Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio medievalis, 51], Turnhout 1984, 56).
  11. “Hanc principalem causam aestimo quare homines egrediantur de saeculo et ingrediantur claustrum” (Petrus Cellensis, De disciplina claustrali, c. 7; ed. G. de Martel [Source Chretienne 240], Paris 1977, 164).
  12. Clara Assisiensis, Regola, c. IX 16, in Fontes francescani, a cura di E. Menestò e S. Brufani, Assisi 1995, 2303 (da adesso sempre Ff).
  13. For what follows cf. P. Maranesi, “Facere misericordiam”: La conversione di Francesco secondo il Testamento, in Frate Francesco 69 Nuova Serie (2003) 112-116.
  14. Cf. R. Koper, Das Weltverständnis des hl. Franziskus von Assisi. Eine Untersuchung über das “Exivi de saeculo”, Werl/Westf 1959; W.C. Van Dijk, Saint François et le “mépris du monde”, in EtF 15 (1965) 157-168.
  15. Test. 14 (Ff 228).
  16. Test. 23 (Ff 229).
  17. Rb, I 1 (Ff 171).
  18. Rnb, I 1 (Ff 185).
  19. Thomas of Celano, First Life, XV, 38,3 (Ff 312). [cf. Note A in Ordo Fratrum Minorum is translated as Order of Lesser Brothers. “Friars Minor”, the commonly accepted title of the First Order of Saint Francis, reflects the early English translation of frater as “friar” and the diminutive minor as “minor.”]
  20. The text is reported by R.B. Huygens, Lettres de Jacques de Vitry, Leyden 1960, 76.
  21. Bull “Cum dilecti” di Onorio III (11 June 1218); Bull “Pro dilectis” di Onorio III (29 May 1220); Bull “Cum secundum” di Onorio III (22 September 1220).
  22.; Ff 65.
  23. Cf. F. Uribe, Omnes vocentur fratres minores. Verso un’identificazione della minorità alla luce degli scritti di San Francesco d’Assisi, in Minores et subditi omnibus. Tratti caratterizzanti dell’identità francescana, a work of L. Padovese, Roma, ed. Laurentianum, 2003, 155.
  24. And no one is to be called prior, but all should universally be called lesser brothers (Rnb VI 3: Ff 210); And all we lesser brothers, useless servants, humbly ask and beg… (Rnb XXIII 7: Ff 210).
  25. F. Uribe, Omnes, 162.
  26. Here we do not want to enter into the dispute on what is the origin of the term, that is, from where did the motivation come to Francis to use “lesser” to qualify himself and his brothers. For an account of this question cf. F. Uribe, Omnes, 155-158.
  27. Cf. for these four areas ibid., 163-170; 170-173; 174-181; 181-186.
  28. Cf. ibid., 175-176.
  29. Cf. ibid., 177-181.
  30. For a synthetic presentation of this dynamic history of the Regola non bollata among the many bibliographies available, two synthetic texts can be indicated: A. Ciceri, La Regula non bullata. Saggio storico-critico e analisi testuale, in F. Accocca – A. Ciceri, Francesco e i suoi frati. La regola non bollata: una regola in cammino, Milano, ed. Biblioteca Francescana, 1998, 134-140; C. Paolazzi, Lettura degli scritti di San Francesco, Assisi, ed. Porziuncola, 2002, 293-296.
  31. Rnb, XXIV 4 (Ff 212).
  32. Much has been written in attempting to reconstruct the historical background that gave life to the Rule, however, they are attempts always marked by large degrees of uncertainty. For a summary cf. C. Paolazzi, Lettura degli “scritti”, 297-305.
  33. Cf. C. Paolazzi, Nascita degli Scritti e costituzione del canone, in Verba Domini mei. Gli Opuscula di Francesco di Assisi a 25 anni dalla edizione di Kajetan Esser. Atti del Convegno internazionale Roma 10/12 Aprile 2002, a work of A. Cicciotti (Medioevo 6), Roma, ed. Antonianum, 2003, 82-87.
  34. Cf. D. Flood, Frère François et le mouvement franciscain (collection “Peuple de Dieu”), Paris 1983, 23-24.
  35. Rb V 1-2 (Ff 175).
  36. Rnb VII 8 (Ff 192).
  37. Test. 22 (Ff 229).
  38. Rnb IX 2 (Ff 198).
  39. Cf. De vera et perfecta letitia 10-15 (Ff 242).
  40. Rnb IX 3-5 (Ff 194).
  41. Rnb IX 6.
  42. Cf. Jn 17:15-16.
  43. Rnb II 14 (Ff 187).
  44. Rnb II 15.
  45. Test. 22 (Ff 229).
  46. Rnb VIII 10 (Ff 193).
  47. Let none of the brothers, therefore, wherever he may be or go, carry, receive, or have received in any way coin or money, whether for clothing, books, or payment for some work—indeed, not for any reason, unless for an evident need of the sick brothers; because we should not think of coin or money having any greater usefulness than stones […] Let the brothers in no way receive, arrange to receive, seek, or arrange to seek money for leper colonies or coins for any house or place; and let them not accompany anyone begging money or coins for such places. (Rnb VIII 3, 8: Ff 193).
  48. Rb IV 3 (Ff 175).
  49. Rnb XVI 6 (Ff 199).
  50. Rnb XVI 7.
  51. Epistula ad quondam ministrum, 11 (Ff 956).
  52. On the pre-eminence of gesture over word in the missionary proposal of Francis, cf. F. Iglesias, Originalità profetica di san Francesco, Perugia 1986, whose considerations are suitably completed by A. Ciceri, La Regula non bullata, in Francesco e i suoi frati, 213; a more extensive and detailed commentary on the various passages is given by L. Lehmann, I principi della missione francescana, in L’Italia francescana 65 (1990) 259-261.
  53. “Let those brothers who wish by divine inspiration to go among the Saracens or other non-believers ask permission to go from their provincial ministers. The ministers, however, may not grant permission except to those whom they see fit to be sent” (Rb XII 1-2: Ff 180).
  54. Rnb XVII 5-6 (Ff 200).
  55. Rnb XVII 8.
  56. Rb IX 3 (Ff 178).
  57. On the theme of the itinerancy of the first community and the developments of this vocation in the normative texts of Francis cf. my work “Pellegrini e forestieri”: l’itineranza nella proposta di vita di Francesco d’Assisi, in Coll. Franc. 70 (2000) 345-390.
  58. Rnb VII 13-14 (Ff 192).
  59. Cf. P. Maranesi, “Pellegrini e forestieri”, 364-366.
  60. Rb VI 1 (Ff 176).
  61. On the significance of the term and its use in the Rb cf. P. Maranesi, “Pellegrini e forestieri”, 366-369.
  62. For a fuller discussion on this dilemma concerning the difficult relationship between fidelity to intuition and obedience to the Church cf. P. Zerbi, San Francesco d’Assisi e la Chiesa Romana, in Francesco d’Assisi nell’ottavo centenario della nascita, Milano 1982, 75-103; R. Paciocco, La proposta cristiana di Francesco d’Assisi e la Chiesa, in Rivista della Chiesa in Italia 40 (1986) 134-40.
  63. See for example the following passages: II 17, III 10, IV 1, X 7.
  64. Test. 34 (Ff 231).
  65. Test. 36-37.
  66. Test. 24 (Ff 229-230).
  67. Ibid.
  68. On the formulation of this text and its differences with the Rb cf. P. Maranesi, Pellegrini e forestieri, 364-366.
  69. Test. 25-26 (Ff 230).