In search of the “Intentio Francisci”

A detailed summary of

Pietro Maranesi OFM Cap

In search of the “Intentio Francisci”. Historical-critical approach to the Regola bollata

Alla ricerca dell'”intento Francisci”. Approccio storico critico della Regola bollata in UN TESTO IDENTITARIO. Metodo e temi di lettura della Regola di Francisco d’Assisi (a cura di Andrea Czortek), Cittadell a Editrice – Assisi, 2013, pages 11-47.

Prepared by Gary Devery OFM Cap

Table of Contents

Every historical document is a relational challenge to the reader. It offers only fragments of past events. However, these can still touch the existential situation of the reader, especially if it touches on what is considered essential to the reader. An intense and ongoing dialogue can be established between the author and reader, establishing a real continuity. This is undoubtably the case with the Rule (Regola bollata) that Francis left to his friars to give form to their lived community experience in the name of the Gospel. It continues to be professed by many today as the ideal reference text for living out their Christian existence in relation to the event of Francis and his first companions.

The relational challenge offered by the text requires the effort of understanding. It can never be forgotten that the text was not written for us but for the contemporaries of Francis. By its nature the text is fundamentally synchronistic. It was not meant to speak to us but to the persons with whom the author was bound by precise cultural and historical contemporaneity. It speaks from and to a context that is integrally shared between the interlocutors. The text wants to become the bond and mediator, that is, the element of encounter between persons, that is, the author and the other interested parties. From this first level, the text has also acquired a diachronic value. Extending in time, it has also continued to interest persons of places and times very different to that of the origin. However, over the centuries the interaction and lived relationship of the Rule with the interested parties became less homogeneous, being distanced by time and a variety of cultures. Consequently, the modality of reading and understanding the text also changes diachronically for the interested parties. In each change of time and place the effort needs to be renewed in understanding the content of the Rule. This requires a current methodological approach adequate to the nature of the text.

Holding present the distinction proposed above between synchronic and diachronic interests in the text, this requires two diverse hermeneutical methods of reading the Rule. Two different understandings of the nature of the text are present. The first, as according to synchronic interests, proposes a literal approach to the Rule due to its “revealed” nature. The second, as according to diachronic interests, asks for a historical-critical reading, looking at the origin of the text using a historical-redactional key.

The synchronic method is found at the beginning of the Franciscan event, when the timeline between the writer and reader is aligned. The substantial cultural contemporaneity between the parties permitted a stable and literal interpretation of the text, favoured by the assumption of a ‘revealed’ origin of the text coming directly from God. The final product of such a reading was the assured identification of fixed and certain (juridic) ‘norms’ for regulating the life of the friars.

The diachronic approach, by means of the historical-critical method, is judged to be essential today so as to overcome the temporal and cultural distance we have from the text. This requires approaching the text not from above (as ‘revealed’) but from below, that is, from a redactional process involving the personal and relational interplay between the parties. Their choices which have become fixed in the Rule cannot be understood without first having reconstructed that context which produced the text. In such a process the interpreter must first become ‘contemporary’ with the author so as to enter into the synchronicity of the experience lived by the parties at that time. Only after having made this leap back can we then, in our own time and place, listen in a diachronic form for the ‘interest’ that the event/text has for our own situation.

The two approaches form the structure of the attempt at analysis: firstly, the hermeneutical criteria adopted by the friars at the beginning of their reading of the Rule, welcomed as ‘revealed’ by God to Francis and, therefore, to be observed to the letter; secondly, read from our era so as to demonstrate what hermeneutical consequences develop from such a reading of the text understood as having an exclusively historical nature and origin.

1. The initial approach to the text: a revealed text

The method of reading applied to the Rule depends on the judgement one makes as to the nature of the text. For a long period, the text was read with the presumption that it was revealed. This justified an exclusively juridical reading of the text, aimed at discovering and fixing precise and definite norms regulating the life of the friars. Such a hermeneutical approach required two other ‘textual tools’ to accompany the interpretation and living out the Rule: 1. the revealed nature of the Rule; 2. two series of texts necessary for ‘rendering possible’ this juridical form in the life of the friars.

1. A diversely understood presupposition: a text revealed by God

[The following table does not occur in Maranesi’s article but is placed here as an aid to easy access to the sources referred to in this section.]

Assisi Compilation (1241/6) Thomas of Celano (1247)

Second Life of Francis

Bonaventure (1263)

Major Life of St Francis

Then blessed Francis turned his face to heaven and spoke to Christ in this way: “Lord! Didn’t I tell you they wouldn’t believe you?” The voice of Christ was then heard in the air, saying “Francis, nothing of yours is in the Rule: whatever is there is all mine. And I want the Rule observed in this way: to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, and without a gloss, without a gloss, without a gloss.” And He added: “I know how much human weakness is capable of, and how much I want to help them. Those who refuse to observe it should leave the Order.” Then blessed Francis turned to the brothers and said: “Did you hear? Did you hear? Do you want me to have you told again?” Then the ministers, confused and blaming themselves, departed. The most holy Father once saw by heavenly revelation a vision concerning the Rule. It was at the time when there was discussion among the brothers about confirming the Rule, and the saint was extremely anxious about this matter. This is what was shown to him in a dream: It seemed to him that he was gathering tiny bread crumbs from the ground, which he had to distribute to a crowd of hungry brothers who stood all around him. He was afraid to give out such little crumbs, fearing that such minute particles might slip between his fingers, when a voice cried out to him from above: “Francis, make one host out of all the crumbs, and give it to those who want to eat.” He did this, and whoever did not receive it devoutly, or showed contempt for the gift received, soon appeared obviously infected with leprosy.

In the morning the saint recounted all this to his companions, regretting that he did not understand the mystery of the vision. But shortly afterward, as he kept vigil in prayerthis voice came down to him from heaven: “Francis, the crumbs you saw last night are the words of the Gospel; the host is the Rule, and the leprosy is wickedness.”

The brothers of those times
did not consider this promise which they had sworn either hard or harsh;
they were always more than ready to give more than required in all things. For there is no room for apathy or laziness where the goad of love is always urging to greater things.

When the Order was already widely spread and Francis was considering having the rule which had been approved by Innocent permanently confirmed by his successor Honorius, he was advised by the following revelation from God.

It seemed to him that he was gathering tiny bread crumbs from the ground, which he had to distribute to a crowd of hungry brothers who stood all around him. He was afraid to give out such little crumbs, fearing that such minute particles might slip between his fingers, when a voice said to him from above: “Francis, make one host out of all the crumbs, and give it to those who want to eat.” He did it, whoever did not receive it devoutly, or showed contempt for the gift received, soon appeared obviously covered with leprosy.

In the morning the holy man told all this to his companions, regretting that he did not understand the mystery of the vision. On the following day, while he kept vigil in prayer, he heard this voice coming down from heaven: “Francis, the crumbs of last night are the words of the Gospel; the host is the rule and the leprosy is wickedness.”

Since he therefore wanted the Rule that had been taken from a more widespread collection of Gospel passages to be confirmed, he went up to a certain mountain led by the Holy Spirit, with two of his companions, to condense it into a shorter form as the vision had dictated. There he fasted, content with only bread and water, and dictated the rule as the Holy Spirit suggested to him while he was praying. When he came down from the mountain, he gave the rule to his vicar to keep. After a few days had elapsed, the vicar claimed that it had been lost through carelessness. The holy man went off again to the place of solitude and rewrote it just as before, as if he were taking the words from the mouth of God. And he obtained confirmation for it, as he had desired, from the lord Pope Honorius, in the eighth year of his pontificate.

Fervently exhorting the brothers to observe this rule, Francis used to say
that nothing of what he had placed there came from his own efforts but that he dictated everything just as it had been revealed by God.
To confirm this with greater certainty by God’s own testimony, when only a few days had passed, the stigmata of our Lord Jesus were imprinted upon him by the finger of the living God, as the seal of the Supreme Pontiff, Christ, for the complete confirmation of the rule and the commendation of its author, as will be described below, after our exposition of his virtues.

There is a strange and particular fact to be found in the biographies dedicated to Francis regarding the accounts of the formative process of the Rule in the first decades of minoritic history: they offer very little and uncertain details on the matter. This is shown clearly by the first official biography of Francis by Thomas of Celano, Vita prima, which is requested by Pope Gregory IX and written between the canonization of Francis (1228) and the translation of his body to the new papal Basilica, which occurred two years later. There is total silence by Thomas on the origin of the Rule.

There are some very vague references in the anonymous Leggenda dei tre compagni, written between 1241 and 1246. The account with the most detailed information of the writing of the Rule is found in the Compilazione di Assisi. This is an important but problematic gathering up of various texts on Francis, among which are the memories of the first companions.[1] This episode belongs to the so-called “Leonine” texts[2] and contains three interesting points. The first is the general framework of the event, establishing the background and location of the place where the episode links in with the Rule:

When blessed Francis was on a mountain with Brother Leo of Assisi and Brother Bonizo of Bologna to make the Rule, – because the first, which he had written at Christ’s instruction, was lost…[3]

The information furnished about the disappearance of the preceding Rule is obscure and imprecise. The rewriting was done by Francis during a period of solitude and prayer on a mountain (that, according to Angelo Clareno, was Fonte Colombo).[4] The indirect objective of the account is clear: to underline the unique and exclusive role of Francis in the writing of the text, a situation paralleling that of Moses on Mount Horeb. The second point, other than confirming the link with the biblical event of the consigning of the Law to Moses, contains what is of interest in the biographical account in reference to the writing of the Rule. The writing/revelation of the Rule takes place within a harsh polemical climate, comparable to the opposition of the Hebrew people to the first writing on the tablets of the Law.[5] To impede the promulgation of this text, probably judged too rigorous, the ministers, by way of the vicar Elias, made it known to Francis that they “refuse to be bound to that Rule. Let him make it for himself and not for us”.[6] The third point of the origin of the Rule regards its revealed nature, a decisive aspect for interpreting and judging the polemic between the friars and Francis. “The voice of Christ” heard “in the air” by the ministers who had accompanied Elias was clear and resolute:

Francis, nothing of yours is in the Rule: whatever is there is all mine. And I want the Rule observed in this way: to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, and without a gloss, without a gloss, without a gloss.[7]

The Rule is not by Francis but Christ, and so every opposition on the part of the friars is unacceptable, and the text has to be observed to the letter and without commentary.

It is only possible to have a correct historical evaluation of this account of the Compilazione by keeping clearly in mind the polemical situation that was developing within the Order in the years in which this text was born. The context is well enough known.[8] We know that a series of memoirs about Francis, produced by his three companions Leo, Ruffino and Angelo, were sent to the General Minister Crescenzio da Jesi in response to the request made at the General Chapter of 1244 to gather the recollections about Francis. All the accounts would have been handed on to Thomas of Celano for the writing his new official Vita on Francis. The polemical context dominates not only in that account on the composition of the Rule, but also in many other Leonine texts present in those recollections, testifying to the discord that some sectors of the Order were confronting by way of the new concessions granted, above all, in regard to poverty by the Bull Ordinem vestrum of Pope Innocent IV in 1245 in response to the doubts raised by friars regarding the understanding of the Rule.[9] Against some new interpretations made by the papal text, the memoirs of the three companions not only proclaimed the intangibility of the Rule because of its revealed nature, but also condemned the attitude of the Order which was copying what the ministers had already done in their opposition to Francis’ text. What was happening twenty years after Francis’ death constituted on the part of the ministers a betrayal of the will of Francis and disobedience to the divine voice of Christ.

In the Second Life written by Thomas of Celano, there is no trace of all this narrative material transmitted by the Compilazione giving an account of the writing of the Rule. The author, commissioned by the Chapter to write a second life of Francis, did not use those recollections. However, he did not want to leave the event in silence, as he had done in the first work. The only episode dedicated by Thomas to the writing of the Rule reports not only new information with respect to the Compilazione but also a different general climate between Francis and his friars.

The first new information Thomas gives is linked to the general context of the event. The redaction history of the Rule involves all the friars being involved in the elaboration of the text:

The most holy Father once saw by heavenly revelation a vision concerning the Rule. It was at the time when there was discussion among the brothers about confirming the Rule, and the saint was extremely anxious about this matter. [10]

To this allusion to possible teamwork among the friars in preparation of the text, in view of its approval – an outcome to which Francis was strongly committed – the biographer relates an account of a vision Francis has encouraging him in the enterprise. During the night, in the dream, “It seemed to him that he was gathering tiny bread crumbs from the ground, which he had to distribute to a crowd of hungry brothers who stood all around him”;[11] immediately after a celestial voice gives the command:  “Francis, make one host out of all the crumbs, and give it to those who want to eat.” The following morning, after having narrated the dream to his friars, he, during prayer, received the significance of the nocturnal vision by way of, once again, a celestial voice: “Francis, the crumbs you saw last night are the words of the Gospel; the host is the Rule, and the leprosy is wickedness.” It is difficult to interpret this material furnished by Thomas. In any case, the Celanese text has eliminated every evidence of a polemical climate and opposition between the friars and Francis that instead is strongly present in the Compilazione. It is clear that the new official biography on Francis does not want to use narrative material that places the ministers and Francis in disaccord or conflict.

Despite following the official line, Thomas closes his episode with a ‘strange’ text, by which he undoubtably in a not too subtle way reproves the friars:

The brothers of those times
did not consider this promise which they had sworn
either hard or harsh;
they were always more than ready
to give more than required in all things.
For there is no room for apathy or laziness
where the goad of love is always urging to greater things.[12]

This is a clear reproach to the friars of Thomas’ own period for their lack of love for the Rule. For the authors of the Compilazione the opposition to the Rule on the part of the ministers was already present from the beginning, whereas for Thomas the first friars lived with such a great love for the Rule that it was a reproach and call to renewal to the friars of successive generations. In Celano, in a less direct and polemical form, can be detected a tension and judgement of his confreres, reproached for their “apathy and laziness”, consequent to their little love for the Rule.

The final narrative on this event is offered by the Leggenda maggiore of Bonaventure.[13] He dedicates a whole chapter to narrating the event of the stigmata but only one article to the writing of the Rule. This allows us to measure the different value that Bonaventure attributes to both events in the self-understanding of the Order.

The well-structured redacted text of Bonaventure results from, on one side, the uniting of the two preceding traditions, the Compilazione and the Vita seconda of Celano, and, on the other side, the preoccupation to add other historical information, which creates three redactional levels in the writing of the Rule.

The account opens with generalised information of extreme interest:

When the Order was already widely spread and Francis was considering having the rule which had been approved by Innocent permanently confirmed by his successor Honorius, he was advised by the following revelation from God.[14]

It was a matter of writing a text to replace the short one presented in 1209 to Innocent III. The expansion of the Order required the drafting of a much broader Rule that could be approved by the Church.

The first narrative step in reconstructing this process was assumed by the tradition of Celano, giving an account of the intervention of God in convincing Francis of both the necessity and good of a Rule. The episode of the nocturnal vision of the bread crumbs and of the host is almost literally taken from the Vita seconda of Thomas.[15]

The editorial work that develops from this divine encouragement has clearly redactional characteristics:

Since he therefore wanted the Rule that had been taken from a more widespread collection of Gospel passages to be confirmed, he went up to a certain mountain led by the Holy Spirit, with two of his companions, to condense it into a shorter form as the vision had dictated.[16]

The information offered here by Bonaventure would seem to refer to the passage that actually took place between the Regola non bollata, consisting of 24 chapters, and the Regola bollata shortened to only 12 chapters. Reading between the lines of Bonaventure, leaves us thinking that the redactional transition from one to the other was due to a question of the length of the text and not, as we shall see, due to problems arising from judgement on its validity.

In the second part of the narrative, Bonaventure employs the tradition of the Compilazione regarding the choice of Francis to take refuge on a mountain for the drafting of the text:

There he fasted, content with only bread and water, and dictated the rule as the Holy Spirit suggested to him while he was praying.[17]

Between this and the previous episode there is clearly a sort of narrative rift. In fact, the author does not notice the inconsistency between the two texts: first he spoke of a redactional process of simple abbreviation of an already composed text, then he adds the decision taken by Francis to go alone on the mountain to write the text.

In composing the episode of Francis on the mountain, Bonaventure remains substantially faithful to the structure of the Compilazione, also relating the repeated writing of the Rule, first consigned to the vicar after descending from the mountain, its loss, and then Francis having to return to the solitude of the mountain to immediately rewrite it just as it was before, receiving the words from the mouth of God.[18] The use of pre-existing material did not impede Bonaventure from making two significant redactional interventions. Firstly, was the preoccupation to specify the accidental disappearance of the first text by way of carelessness by Elias, contrary to the claim of fraud that will be taken up again by Angelo Clareno a century later.[19] Secondly, Bonaventure removes any trace of opposition on the part of the friars to receiving the Rule composed by Francis.

The conclusion offered by the Leggenda maggiore constitutes the central point Bonaventure wants to make in by way of the entire pericope:

Fervently exhorting the brothers to observe this rule,
Francis used to say
that nothing of what he had placed there
came from his own efforts
but that he dictated everything
just as it had been revealed by God.[20]

In Bonaventure’s treatment of the Compilazione some of its constitutive elements are lost. The words, as found in the Compilazione, bitterly reproaching the friars who are opposed to the Rule are no longer placed in the mouth of Christ. They are no longer of divine origin, becoming exhortative words of Francis towards his friars and every polemical intonation is removed. The intentions that move the Minister General of the Order in his reworking of the sources would seem to be clear. Situating the “revelation” of the Rule within a strong polemical climate in the recollections of the companions is needed by them to justify their opposition to the evolutive process occurring at their time in the Order. They are reproaching the friars for developing a dangerous and fraudulent interpretation of the Rule. Whereas, for Bonaventure the sacred nature of the text constitutes only the obligatory reason addressed to the friars for a “fervent observance” of the Rule, but without the imperative of not making any commentary on the text. For Bonaventure, Francis made no such prohibition and because of its sacred nature, it should never have been transformed into a reason for contention. It needed to remain an instrument of unity and peace, as it had always been from the very beginning.

In order for the text to become such a source of unity and concord, two other texts were required to be added to it: the official interpretations by the Apostolic See and the Constitutions produced by the Order to complement the Rule itself.

The revealed nature of the Rule, an affirmation shared and proclaimed by all, actually led the friars to two different solutions in the hermeneutic approach. The first is the literal one represented by the tradition of the Compilazione. This method can be seen as the direct application of what Francis himself had established at the end of the Testament, where, alluding to a “divine” origin of the Rule, he asked of his friars, out of obedience, for a specific way of reading it:

And I strictly command all my cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or upon these words saying: “Let them be understood in this way.” But as the Lord has given me to speak and write the Rule and these words simply and plainly, may you understand them simply and without gloss and observe them with a holy activity until the end.[21]

For Francis there was a close connection between the simple origin of the Rule from God and its simple interpretation, without gloss or commentary.[22]

The other tradition is that of the official version of the Order. The “divine” origin of the text, into which Francis had not inserted anything of his own, it being a unique revelation from God, represents the reason for requesting of the friars “fervour” in its observation. However, this did not impede a certain form of interpretation, because the pure and literal observance was perhaps not possible. This tradition, which we can call the “Bonaventuran”, adopted a double level of interpretation, where the second was the completion of the first.

So as to respect the intangibility of the text and the prohibition of interpreting it (without gloss), the Order, from the very beginning, found a solution in a strictly legal approach. The Rule was dissected on the basis of different degrees of legal obligation according to the different demands found within it. Distinction was made between morally obligatory precepts under the pain of mortal sin, from that of exhortative counsels directed towards the friars without any accompanying obligatory value. An emblematic example of this type of systematic application can be found in the Tractatus de praeceptis of General Minister Consalvo di Balboa.[23] The juridical revision in regard to the Rule carried out by the General on the occasion of the publication of the Bull Exivi de paradiso in 1312 (the fourth official interpretive text of the Rule sent from the Apostilic See to the Friars Minor) and was attached to it to be read publicly together with the Bull; Consalvo’s approach will, in fact, become the “normal” method in explaining the Rule. Within the Tractus six types of juridic requests are identified according to their differing obligatory value:[24] firstly, there are eight formal precepts which oblige (precepta) strict observance, then, twelve non-formal precepts but these are also obligatory (praeceptis equipollentia), seven being introduced by the expression “teneantur” and have the force of a precept, then another twelve “admonitiones” that exhort the friars to do good, but are not precepts, then six “admonitiones” that help to flee evil, and, finally, six called “liberales”, which have no particular value in observance. By this way the revision of the Rule offered the friars an easier memorisation of the text and thereby assisting its more effective observance.

When read in a strictly juridical form, without commentary, the Rule presented a double series of shortcomings. Firstly, there were the interpretive doubts (dubia) inherent in the normative text. The revealed nature did not eliminate the presence of a series of perplexities in understanding the meaning of some passages. There was only one possibility to resolving such questions: turning to the Apostolic See. The succession of four important explanatory bulls on the Rule within the span of less than ninety years (Quo elongati of Gregory IX in 1230, Ordinem vestrum of Innocent IV in 1245, Exiti qui seminat, of Nicholas III in 1279 and Exivi de paradiso of Clement V in 1312) clearly indicate how challenging and, perhaps, insurmountable were the difficulties connected with understanding the “sacred” text in the life of the friars. In the self-consciousness of the Order, the pontifical bulls soon became an integral part in understanding the Rule.

There was a second aspect linked to this above expressed first hermeneutical approach to the reading of the Rule which was connected to its progressive inability to be capable of “normalising” the daily life an Order now much larger and complex than the one it addressed at the beginning. New aspects, not foreseen by the text of Francis, were continually being added to the life of the Order. They were novelties and demands to which the normative text did not have a response. How could these enormous legislative “holes” be remedied? In 1239, in the famous General Chapter of Rome in which Br Elias was dismissed as General Minister and the Paris master Alberto da Pisa was elected, the necessity was seen of drawing up Constitutions, that is, norms chosen and issued by the General Chapter of the Order responding to the various aspects of the life of the friars; and all were to obey them as equally as to the Rule. It is not easy to follow the redactional history of the texts that followed one upon the other from the first draft in 1239 up to the one presented and approved in the Chapter of Narbonne in 1260, the fruit of the work carried out by the young General Minister Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, elected in the Chapter three years earlier.[25] It is most likely that from the very first drafting of the Constitutions, some friars raised serious doubts over the legitimacy and need for such norms to be issued as accompaniments to the Rule. Did not such an action perhaps represent the acknowledgement of the normative text alone being insufficient for the life of the friars? That such questions continued to spread amongst the friars still during the period of Bonaventure is signalled, in my opinion, by the contents of the prologue written by the latter at the opening of the Constitutions:

Since the Wise One states where there is no fence, the property will be plundered, it is necessary for all those who wish to preserve inviolate the precious possession of the celestial kingdom, which is entered through the spirit of poverty, to surround it with the fence of discipline. The regular observances, in fact, do not constitute a useless criterion of behaviour, not only because they support the harmony, propriety, and the welfare of the spiritual life, but, above all, because they enclose in many ways even the substance of the perfection and purity of the professed Rule.[26]

The answer offered by Bonaventure to justify not only the need for the Constitutions, but also their compatibility with the Rule, was precise and decisive: observing the norms of the Constitutions (“regular observance”) with attention and fidelity meant the friars resting secure in “the substance of the perfection and purity of the professed Rule”.[27] The intangibility of the Rule was not a shattered by the Constitutions, because they were none other than an articulation of that text: the faithful observance of the norms approved by the Chapter meant observing the substance of the Rule.

To conclude, if, on the one hand, the interpretive “doubts” (dubia) of the Rule and their juridical limits for the life of the friars did not eliminate or contradict its “revealed” nature, on the other hand, it became necessary to introduce two new series of text to accompany the normative and fundamental text. However, the pontifical bulls and the Constitutions of the Order did not put into discussion the “sacred” and “revealed” nature of the text; they were only at the service of the Rule to make explicit and guarantee its intangible and fixed nature.

II. The current awareness: a redacted text

The approach of reading the Rule today has been fundamentally renewed by a precise awareness: that relative to its “redactional” nature. This is the result of an evolutionary process, the fruit of a complex confrontation and encounter between different modes of thought and the concrete realisation of identity as Friars Minor. Therefore, understanding the Rule could no longer be reduced to a simple juridical reading, but needed to face up to the task of positioning the text within its historical context. In practice, the reconstruction of the historical process that led to the Regola bollata requires the reformulation of the basic hermeneutical question: not just or not only what its specific content is but, first and foremost, what were the intentions that gave life to the content.

1. The historical data of a redactional process

That the Rule is not a product received by Francis directly from God at Fonte Colombo is attested by clear historical evidence.[28] The brief reconstruction attempted here will oblige, in a second step, asking the question apparently as strange as it is important: who is the author of the text?

a) The historical question of the passage from the Rnb to the Rb

The biographies do not provide precise information on the reasons that led Francis to write the earlier Rule of 1221. The only and very vague information comes from Bonaventure, who links the writing of the earlier Rule to the situation of the Order by now “very extensive”, but which did not yet have a normative text approved by the Apostolic See.

Instead, more detailed and precise information comes from the Chronicle written around 1262 by the Friar minor Giordano da Giano to narrate the beginning of the Order in Germany.[29] The Chapter of 1221, in which was presented the text of the Regola non bollata, constitutes, in some ways, the point of departure for the narrative of Giordano. Francis invites his friars to organise a second expedition to implant the Order in Germany after the failure of the previous attempt, three years before. In narrating the event, the chronicler feels the need to give some background, recollections that throw some precious light upon internal tensions within the fraternity, connected with the drafting of the Regula non bollata. The facts are relatively simple. In 1219 Francesco wanted to realise his dream of going to the Holy Land.[30] During his absence some friars took some decisions that in some way touched upon and transformed constitutive elements of the very identity of the group.[31] A lay friar, without asking permission of the vicar who Francis left to preside over the fraternity in his absence, decided to go to the Saint to call him back to Italy. The problems that emerged during the brief period of the absence of Francis revealed an important necessity: a text that could overcome the diverse interpretations arising out of a way of life that was still without a normative Rule equal for all, and, above all, definitive.

In the account of brother Giordano, refers, in particular, to an important decision made by Francis as soon as he returned to Italy. Instead of immediately addressing the problems, he chose to go to Pope Honorius with a specific and precise request:

You have given me many fathers (protectors). Give me only one to whom, when I have necessity, I can speak and to whom you will listen and resolve my problems and those of my Order.[32]

On the offer of the Pope to pick for himself a protector, Francis asked for and obtained Cardinal Ugolino di Ostia, a famous canonist and important presence in the Roman curia. This began a relationship both juridical and of friendship between Francis and the Cardinal. With the Cardinal entering onto the scene the account of Giordano becomes extremely interesting in regard to our subject:

Blessed Francis, having therefore referred to the Lord of Ostia, his father, the causes of his disturbance, he immediately revoked the letter to brother Filippo, and brother Giovanni with his [friars] were, to their shame, expelled from the Curia. And so, with God’s favour, those stirred up were immediately made calm and blessed Francis restructured the Order according to his regulations. Then seeing that brother Cesario was an expert in Sacred Scripture, he entrusted to him the work of adorning words from the Gospel the Rule which he [Francis] himself had conceived with simple words. […] Blessed Francis then, without delay, called for the General Chapter at Saint Mary of the Angels. Therefore, in the year of delay, called the General Chapter at Santa Maria della Porziuncola. Therefore, in the year of the Lord 1221, on 23 May, XIV indiction, on the holy day of Pentecost, blessed Francis celebrated the General Chapter at Santa Maria della Porziuncola.[33]

The information offered by the chronicler is of the greatest interest. Firstly, in regard to the strategic role of Cardinal Ugolino. From the account of Giordano it can be supposed that the expert canonist had made Francis aware of the urgency for his Order of a normative and uniform text for all the friars and approved by the Church. There was need for the drawing up of a Rule that would make canonically binding that which had only been orally confirmed by Innocent III in 1209. It is most likely that Francis started working on it without delay and in the Chapter of May in 1221, one year after his meeting with the Cardinal, he presented the text of the Regola non bollata.

The textual peculiarities of this draft allow us to glimpse, without serious difficulties, the presence of different redactional layers of norms that refer back to the very beginnings of the fraternity. The composite nature of the text makes it possible to hypothesize a redactional work by Francis in which he takes up those norms that, over the years, the fraternity had given itself as it faced and solved the problems that it was encountering from time to time. A very useful piece of information on the specific modalities of this probable formative process of a normative body of the fraternity comes from a letter of 1216, sent to a friend in France by Giacomo da Vitry, who came to Italy to be consecrated bishop. He, recounting the astonishment he felt on meeting these truly evangelical men and women called “lesser brothers and lesser sisters” (frati minori e sorelle minori) and adds some characteristics of the lives of each; with regard to the “lesser brothers” he refers to their habit of meeting annually in the same place where, “availing themselves of the advice of experts, they formulate and promulgate their holy laws confirmed by the Lord Pope”.[34] It is very probable that of the 24 chapters of which the text is composed and was presented at the Chapter of 1221, the first 17 are closely linked to that early material, elaborated over the previous years;[35] the last ones, on the other hand, those from chapters 18 to 23, are to be considered a redactional layer more directly linked to the period of immediate preparation of the text for the Chapter.

In the reconstruction of the redactional history of that earlier text, a particular role must be assigned to the last chapter, in which there is undoubtedly some “strange” content for a legal text. In it, after having exhorted and almost begged his friars three times to memorize and faithfully observe the words contained in that form of life, Francis changes tone to take on a strongly prescriptive one, formally requesting an act of obedience on the part of his friars:

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.[36]

It is clear: the prohibition imposed by Francis on wanting another Rule indicates serious difficulties on the part of large sectors of the Order with regard to that text. Subsequent developments are proof of this. Within just two years, the Saint will write another text! What happened of such importance that it overturned what he had so forcefully prohibited by way of a command to personal obedience to himself? The answer must be sought in the hypothesis of an internal conflict from within the friars, who opposed the acceptance of that earlier text.

The sources do not allow us to have sure information on these possible tensions. Giordano da Giano does not report anything about the origin of the latter text: he was in Germany and the events that were happening in Italy two years later were of no interest to his chronicle. The biographers, as we have seen, speak of a rewriting of the text due to its loss, which, according to Bonaventure, occurred due to carelessness on the part of the vicar Elias, but without a conflict between Francis and his friars. In any case, for the biographical sources between the first and second text there was no substantial difference: the rewriting of the text took place by revelation of God through a form of quasi-dictation.

Instead, from the direct comparison of the two Rules, the data obtained prevents us from thinking of an “irenic” process. Perhaps, an episode indicative of the climate of conflict over the Rule between Francis and the “managerial sectors” of the friars is present in the story of the chapter of the Mats, an event offered only by the Compilazione of Assisi and placed immediately after the account, which we have already used, of the opposition of the friars to the writing of the text. In that great general meeting, in which in May 1222 almost five thousand friars met together at the Porziuncola, the ministers and learned friars, turning to the help of Cardinal Ugolino, wanted to convince Francis to give them a “Rule” that would allow them to live their existence in a more orderly way, that is, to become more of an “Order” and cease to be a “fraternity”.[37] The Saint’s opposition to the request was immovable, claiming for himself and his friars the vocation to evangelical folly (pazzia evangelica), a choice that in fact meant the will to remain faithful to the ancient form of life of the primitive fraternity.[38] In short: the text of the Regola non bollata, which had only been composed the year before, was the subject of strong discussions. While for Francis the primordial text was indispensable for fidelity to the vocation inspired by God, for large sectors of the friars it had to be reformulated according to new criteria and new requirements.

According to the account of the Compilazione, at that General Chapter Francis succeeded in imposing his “crazy way” (modo pazzo) of living. In reality, things were very different: a year after those events and two years after the writing of the Rnb Francis will write a new text that is not at all similar to the previous one. In the profound and radical reworking carried out on the Rule, approved by the Church in 1223, there will not only be a drastic reduction of the textual quantity (from 24 to just 12 chapters), but also new changes and important innovations in the contents of the Rule itself. What had happened? In my opinion, the process of the passage from the Rnb to the Rb is strictly linked to the redactional work carried out by the “two authors” of the final text.

b. The question of the authorship of the Regola bollata

It is certain that the Rb was not the rewriting to the letter by divine revelation of the text accidentally lost by the friars. Instead, the Rule of 1223 will be the result of a new redactional collaboration between Francis and Cardinal Ugolino.

The authorship by Francis of the final text is indisputable. The Rule of Friars Minor approved by the Church is one of the very few legislative texts “signed” by the author. “I, brother Francis” echoes explicitly at the opening of the text[39] and is often repeated throughout the twelve chapters in the words of exhortation or command formulated in the first person singular.[40] Therefore, the writing of the Rb, despite the firm command – with which Francis closed the previous text – not to want to have another Rule, was not felt by the Saint as an operation against his will. The Rb was “his Rule“. This is what Francis himself affirms in his Testament, as if to deny possible contrary rumours, where he reminds the friars: “the Lord has given me to speak and write the Rule with simplicity and purity”.[41]

Beside this first series of data regarding the certain authorship of Francis, we also have a second important historical witness, equally clear and precise. In the bull Quo elongati, Pope Gregory IX, before replying to the “dubia” of the friars on the Rule, proffers a series of autobiographical information relating to the special relationship he had with Francis:

For as a result of the long-standing friendship between the holy confessor and ourselves, we know his mind more fully. Furthermore, while we held a lesser rank, we stood by him both as he composed the aforesaid Rule and obtained its confirmation from the Apostolic See.[42]

There are two important pieces of information delivered by Gregory to the friars. The first concerns the “long-standing familiarity”, that is the deep friendship that bound him to the Saint. This bond of mutual esteem, between two very different men, had allowed the then Cardinal to get to know Francis and his way of thinking and planning, that is, it had introduced him to the “intentio Francisci” as an important prerequisite for the decisions that he would later take it in his papal letter. The second fundamental piece of information, almost proof and verification of the previous one, concerns the direct collaboration of the then Cardinal in the drafting of the Rule, who had also become the decisive promoter of its papal approval. This last piece of information constitutes, in my opinion, the most interesting clue to provide an answer to the question opened above regarding the causes of the transition from the Regola non bollata to that of the Regola bollata. Only the Cardinal could face up to Francis and convince him of the need for another Rule, renewed and different from the one prepared and “imposed” by the Saint on his friars with the obedience of not wanting another. The Cardinal, strong in his ecclesiastical authority, his canonical competence and his friendship with the Saint, will have talked for a long time with Francis to show, probably, that the text of the Rnb looked too much backwards to the beginnings and was not able to respond to the evolutionary changes happening to the Order. The brother ministers were partly right! And he, from his position as protector of the Order, understood their perplexities and shared them. But not only this! The high prelate would also have reminded Francis of the need on the part of the Church of well prepared and effective friars in their apostolic activity for the benefit of that reform advocated by Lateran Council IV celebrated in 1215. It was therefore necessary to rewrite the Rule, not only using more strictly juridical criteria that corrected previous solutions contrary to canon law, but also including new choices more adequate to the evolutionary novelties of the Order and to the pastoral needs of the Church.

Finally, I imagine that in order to definitively convince the reluctant Francis, Ugolino proposed a co-authorship: Francis had to represent the charismatic dimension, that of the beginnings, to be maintained in the text as the deepest ideal, while the Cardinal would have guaranteed the institutional dimension, in dialogue with the new perspectives of the developments of the Order and the reform needs of the Church.

c. Some probing on the redactional history

The collaboration between the two “authors” renders as entirely reasonable for both the confirmations and the many and important innovations present in the text of 1223 compared to that of 1221. The comparative reading of the two documents undoubtedly testifies to a constant redactional work between two different perspectives in the rethinking the way of life of the Friars Minor.[43]

It could be assumed that in the encounter-confrontation between the two compiling pens of the Regola bollata there are four different kinds of redactional interventions in the reworking of the previous text: a) resusing of entire chapters, but also making important reformulations (Rb 1, 2, 3); b) recombination of passages taken from different chapters of the previous Rule to give birth to a new chapter (Rb 6 and 10); c) maintenance of some of the old formulations and suppression of others (Rb 9 and 12); d) rewriting of chapters with few dependencies on the previous ones (Rb 4, 5, 7). Here it is not necessary to analyse in detail the many clues/proofs of a precise and constant redactional history of the text. We would just like to offer a survey of this process by assuming the first verses of chapter 2 of the Regola bollata.[44]

As a whole, the text of Rb II parallels with Rbn II, maintaining the three major themes of the difficult area of welcoming new members into the fraternity: the criteria for acceptance (Rb 1-8), the novitiate (Rb 9-10) and, finally, the status of the perpetually professed (Rb 11-17). The most interesting passage to get a glimpse of the editorial history that took place in the passage from Rnb II to the text of Rb II concerns the first theme, the most delicate and important one for the consequences in the life of the fraternity, connected to the criteria for welcoming new members. The synoptic comparison between the two texts is the most effective tool for such an approach:

Rnb II Rb II
1Si quis divina inspiratione volens accipere hanc vitam venerit ad nostros fratres, benigne recipiatur ab eis. 2Quodsi fuerit firmus accipere vitam nostram, multum caveant sibi fratres, ne de suis temporalibus negotiis se intromittant, sed ad suum ministrum, quam citius possunt, eum repraesentent.

1If anyone, wishing by divine inspiration to accept this life, comes to our brothers, let him be received by them with kindness. 2If he is determined to accept our life, let the brothers be very careful not to become involved in his temporal affairs but present him to their minister as quickly as possible.

1Si qui voluerint hanc vitam accipere et venerint ad fratres nostros,



mittant eos ad suos ministros provinciales, quibus solummodo et non aliis recipiendi fratres licentia concedatur.

1If there are any who wish to accept this life and come to our brothers,


let them send them to their provincial ministers, to whom alone and not to others is permission granted to receive the brothers.


vero benigne ipsum recipiat et confortet

1) et vitae nostrae tenorem sibi diligenter exponat.


3On his part, let the minister receive him with kindness, encourage him and diligently explain the tenor of our life to him.


1) vero diligenter examinent eos de fide catholica et ecclesiasticis sacramentis.3Et si haec omnia credant et velint ea fideliter confiteri et usque in finem firmiter observare, 4et uxores non habent vel, si habent, et iam monasterium intraverint uxores vel, licentiam eis dederint auctoritate diocesani episcopi, voto continentiae iam emisso, et illius sint aetatis uxores, quod non possit de eis oriri suspicio,

2Let the ministers examine them carefully concerning the Catholic faith and the sacraments of the Church. 3If they believe all these things, will faithfully profess them, and steadfastly observe them to the end; 4and if they have no wives, or if they have wives who have already taken a vow of continence and are of such an age that suspicion cannot be raised about them, and who have already entered a monastery or have given their husbands permission by the authority of the bishop of the diocese,

2) 4Quo facto, praedictus, si vult et potest spiritualiter sine impedimento, omnia sua vendat et ea omnia pauperibus studeat erogare.

4When this has been done, let the above-mentioned person—if he wishes and is capable of doing so spiritually without any difficulty— sell all his belongings and be conscientious in giving everything to the poor.

2) 5dicant illis verbum sancti Evangelii, quod vadant et vendant omnia sua et ea studeant pauperibus erogare.

6Quod si fecere non potuerint, sufficit esi bona voluntas.


5let the ministers speak to them the words of the holy Gospel that they go and sell all they have and take care to give it to the poor6If they cannot do this, their good will may suffice.

3)5Caveant sibi fratres et minister fratrum, quod de negotiis suis nullo modo intromittant se; 6neque recipiant aliquam pecuniam neque per se neque per interpositam personam.

5Let the brothers and the minister of the brothers be careful not to interfere in any way in his temporal affairs, 6nor to accept money either by themselves or through an intermediary.

3) 7Et caveant fratres et eorum ministri, ne solliciti sint de rebus suis temporalibus, ut libere faciant de rebus suis, quidquid Dominus inspiraverit eis.


7Let the brothers and the minister be careful not to interfere with their temporal goods that they may dispose of their belongings as the Lord inspires them.

Some brief notes to highlight the main changes in the new text compared to the original:

The first important novelty (Rnb II, 1-2, Rb II, 1) concerns the denial of entry into fraternity: unlike what was expressed in Rnb, in Rb there is no possibility of expressing a preliminary judgment of adequacy towards those who knocked on the door by the local friars; only the minister had this power. In addition, the method of reception imposed on the minister towards applicants is radically transformed. In the previous text (Rnb II, 3) it was asserted that the minister had to repeat the procedure that the friars had already adopted in the first meeting: kindness in welcoming with the concern of letting the newcomer know their way of living. This last request certainly refers to an initial stage of fraternity, with the applicant still quite unknown, and therefore it is astute in avoiding in the applicants the risk of misunderstandings in embracing a way of life they did not know. In the new text (Rb II, 2-4) the procedure is completely overturned: it was not the minister who had to make applicants aware of the way of life of the Order (the Friars Minor were now known by all and certainly by those who knocked, asking to be accepted), but they had to be known to the friars, who could be assured of them being Catholic and possessing the legal conditions necessary to being accepted (not to be married, or to have placed his wife in a monastery). The rest of the legislation (Rnb II, 4-6; Rb 5-7), on the other hand, remains substantially the same as the previous text: the new member was invited to give up all his possessions by giving them to the poor; the friars, for their part, had to be completely disinterested in the way in which the new brothers disposed of their possessions.

Undoubtedly, in the reworking of the text a jurist had intervened, animated by a double concern: to eliminate any “democratic” form in the reception of new members, reserving it only to the minister, and to avoid the risk of introducing men who are inadequate to the way of life both because they are not Catholics and/or not juridically free.

This short analysis alone is enough to highlight how much Rb constitutes a dialectical process between two different sensitivities. In the above examined text the pen of the jurist dominates, who wants to and must correct and reformulate the substance of a text that presented many problems of a canonical nature. However, in other sections the pen of Francis is stronger and more evident, such as chapter 10.[45] In short, Francis and Ugolino represented two different points of view in looking at the same minoritic ideal: one strong in intuition and the other responsible for an institution. They were unified in the reworking of the text.

The claim Francis made in his Testament to be the direct author of the Rule, the product of what the Lord had allowed him to write,[46] should not be read then as a kind of denial of this complex redactional history, but the attestation that that textual process from Rnb to Rb, was not felt by the Saint as the betrayal of an identity lived out at the beginning and fixed in the earlier text produced by the fraternity. On the contrary, in the Rule approved by the Church, Francis still recognized the presence of that evangelical intuition given to him in the beginning by God and “by Him” reformulated in the new text. In short, it can almost be said that the redactional process, initially not wanted by Francis but imposed on him by the facts, is finally recognized by the Saint as the specific way through which God had given him to initially write and then rewrite the text. It can then be concluded that the Saint in his Testament recognizes and proclaims that the revelation of God, from which the text was born, was not an event that came from above, in the form of a “dictation”, but from below through a human relational-redactional process conditioned by the novelty of events and by the diversity of visions among the actors of that history.

2. The interpretation of intentio Francisci using the historical-critical method

It has already been said at the beginning of this study that the value of a text is measured by its ability to put the author in communication with the reader. It is this encounter that makes the text a vital tool, capable of enriching life by putting it in contact with another life. The fundamental “inter-esse” of the Rule consists in this, because it places our current events in relation to that of Francis. At the same time, the awareness of the historical nature of that juridical text obliges the reader of today to employ an approach capable of making that text a place of encounter between two very different cultural and historical situations.

a) The value of the text in both its and our own context: the intention of the author

The reconstruction of the author’s intention is one of the essential objectives of the modern critical approach to textual exegesis. It is the fundamental question posed to the text. The Franciscan exegesis of the Rule has its own particularity. If the hermeneutic category of the author’s intention has always been used, in our context, the approach to achieving it has changed. In fact, if this objective, in the approach to a text “revealed” from above, was resolved through a static and fixed reading of the content itself, today, aware of the redactional process undergone by the normative text of the Friars Minor, it must be pursued by moving from a new perspective that moves from an ideality cum identity towards the dynamic explication of successive reworkings of the text. More specifically: the intention is to be traced through the reconstruction of those tensions that are still evident in the historical and critical comparison between the initial and the final versions. In this context it should be remembered that the redactional journey developed by the Rnb was not completed or exhausted even in the Rb but reached the Testament, the last act of a long and tiring elaboration of an identity.[47]

Reconstructing the author’s intention as a textual space for an existential encounter with a man, therefore, means listening to those complex events and tensions that are still witnessed by the synoptic comparison between the three redactional levels. Francis’ intention must be found and listened to both in his obstinacy in wanting to make the Rnb the only and absolute reference text, and in his ability to get back on the path accompanied by the Cardinal to rewrite a new Rule, but also in his final need to draw up yet another text, before death, with which to offer his friars an interpretative tool for reading the Rule. The Francis that “interests” us is the one scattered throughout and present in the three redactional levels. This Francis is arrived at by the repeated passages in the redactional process unravelling into a single ideality cum identity that needs to continue to be incarnated within a history made by and of men [personal involved with living the Rule].

There is yet another factor of fundamental importance to keep in mind in this approach. Both Rnb and Rb belong to the legal literary genre; that is, they do not contain a conscious elaboration of the authors’ intention but only propose rules as the “incarnation” of those ideals. The friars, for centuries, have never tried to investigate what belongs to the intention of Francis and what to that of Ugolino. For the friars, according to the “revealed” nature of the text, co-authorship in arriving at the final text did not exist. The juridic norms were a product that came from above and simply represented the intention of Francis; therefore, they had to be observed simply and literally. It is clear that in that cultural context, considering the normative text of divine origin and perceiving that text as sufficient for the “normalization” of minoritic life, the approach to that text was of a fixed and literal type.

Today, in addition to the awareness of a broad historical process of confrontation-encounter between different visions that occurred in the reworking of the Rb, we perceive a total insufficiency and inability on the part of those norms to guide the evangelical life of the friars in the contemporary world in its everyday concreteness. Our double awareness with regard to the Rule, that is, of being faced with a “historical” text and also one legally insufficient in giving precise answers to the present-day life situations, requires a new approach to the text. To use a metaphor, it is necessary to turn up the carpet and understand what were the hidden logics that led to the choices of those norms for that particular time. In short, today, more than yesterday, it is necessary to return to the intentio Francisci, distinguishing it from the legal forms established by the Rule. In fact, while for us those specific norms have lost their normative regulatory value, the intention that in that particular historical context led to those choices still remains the ‘identity’ reference for the reformulation of choices capable of adapting that ideal to our own context today.

b) Mapping out our territory

A map indicates a goal to be reached, establishing precise routes and paths but relative to the contingent situation of the territory on which one must move. If we wanted to translate this metaphor, placing it in relation to the history of that redactional process, we could say that our hermeneutic goal is represented by the reconstruction of the dream that animated the existence of Francis together with his brothers. This is possible, however, only by returning to the map of the time, represented not simply by the Rule but by all the texts of Francis relating to it, read as witnesses of a multiple rewriting of different journeys. With them it was a question of giving shape to that dream in order to embody it within the different needs of a changing cultural and ecclesial territory. Therefore, history has communicated this ancient map relative to that territory to us. We ask ourselves: Has it become useless for us or can it still constitute an effective reference?[48]

Our territory is very different from that of Francis and his early Order, a cultural, economic, social and religious territory which, we can say, had remained substantially unchanged and the same for many centuries. In the last hundred years, however, there has been a dizzying acceleration of the socio-cultural and scientific innovations launched in the nineteenth century, to the point of producing a radical transformation of the Western world in its way of thinking and living. Aware of this revolution in our territory and of the historical nature of the text of the map left to us by Francis, it is necessary to carry out a double task in reading the Rule: on the one hand, to reconstruct the evangelical intention that moved Francis, and on the other, to project that lived ideal onto our contemporary territory, to make it a possible “orientation” reference point in the choice of suitable routes for our experience. Leaving aside those journeys (norms) born many centuries ago and which were adequate for a medieval space and time, Francis’ dream should restore the courage in us to attempt renewed and adequate “meaningful” choices for this generation. Repeating that juridical dictation to the letter would mean losing the true content that must instead be listened to as the true “inter-esse” of the text: Francis’ intention in living the Gospel. His intention remains the heart of his Rule of life that asks to find its adequate form in every age through intelligent and courageous choices.

  1. Cf. CAss 17: FF 1563. Per rinvii bibliografici su questa complessa raccolta di memorie cf. F. Accrocca, La Compilatio Assisiensis, ovvero la voce dei compagni, in Frate Francesco 75 (2009), 485-519.
  2. On these texts cf. ibid., 494-499.
  3. CAss 17: FF 1563. (English text from: )
  4. In his Libro delle tribolazioni, written somewhere between 1325-1330, Angelo Clareno offers a long and articulated account of the writing of the Rule where, in a narrative climate that is strongly polemical in the contraposition of Francis and his friars who were opposed to the writing of the Rule, some material is reported that is absent from other sources. Among this material is indicated the place of composition and it also speaks of the theft of the Rule on the part of the friars rather than just of a generic ‘disappearance’: “While this Moses was in communion with God, brother Elia with his followers and some ministers were agitated and seething; not daring to openly work against him, they furtively, or hiddenly, removed the Rule from the saintly man of God, brother Leo, who had been entrusted by saint Francis with its custody. They hid it, thinking thereby to impede the holy proposition of saint Francis: to present the Rule, written according to the words revealed to him by Christ from heaven, to the Supreme Pontiff for his approval” (FF 2179).
  5. In this strong polemical nature of the account Felice Accrocca discerns a sure indication of its Leonine origin (cf. ACCROCCA, La Compilatio Assisiensis, 494-495).
  6. Cass 17: FF 1563.
  7. Ibid.
  8. [A footnote from Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 132 is a helpful reference here: a. Although the phrase ad litteram [to the letter], repeated three times for emphasis, appears in 1C 22, in the context of living the Gospel, this is the first instance of its use in this context, concerning the literal observance of the Rule. Gregory IX used it in Quo elongati 4 in attempting to resolve conflicts in interpreting the Rulevix vel numquam omnia posse ad litteram observari [it is only with difficulty, if at all, that they can observe everything to the letter]. The phrase has its origins in the Cistercian tradition where it is used in the Exordium Magnum 3, and represents language linked with reformist monasticism from 1050-1150. Cf. Examples in PL 182:887; 185:1008; 188:640; 202:1309. The same may be said of the thrice emphasized phrase sine glossa [without gloss], which is also found in the Exordium Magnum 3. In his Testament, however, Francis forbids the brothers to place any gloss upon the Rule or his writings (Test 38), and encouraged them to understand the Rule and Testament “simply and without gloss” (Test 39). To place these phrases in a fuller context, see Duncan Nimmo, Reform and Division in the Franciscan Order: From Saint Francis to the Foundation of the Capuchins, Bibliotheca Seraphico-capuccina 33 (Rome: Capuchin Historical Institute, 1987), esp. 104-108.]
  9. Cf. G. G. Merlo, Nel nome di san Francesco. Storia dei frati minori e del francescanesimo fino agli inizi del XVI secolo, Milano 2003, 170-171.
  10. 2Cel 209: FF 799.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Cf. LegM, IV 11: FF 1082-1085.
  14. Ibid.: FF 1082.
  15. C.f. Ibid.: FF 1082.
  16. Ibid.: FF 1083.
  17. Ibid.: FF 1084.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Cf. note 4 above.
  20. LegM, IV 11: FF 11084.
  21. Test 38-39: FF 130.
  22. Cf. P. Maranesi, L’eredità di Frate Francesco. Lettura storico-critica del Testamento, Assisi 2009, 315-319.
  23. On this cf. P. Maranesi, Nescientes litteras. L’ammonizione della Regola francescana e la questione degli studi nell’Ordine (sec. XIII-XVI), Roma 2000, 187-189.
  24. The programmatic intentions of the approach are stated in the prologue of the work: “Regula nostra fratres charissimi non videatur vobis confusa, pro eo quod precepta et consilia et ea que sunt in ea hinc inde sunt dispersa. Ideo non abbreviando regulam hanc sed mutando de loco ad locum illam, precepta ad precepta et consilia ad consilia et sic de aliis, totam ipsam regulam ad faciliorem memoriam habendam ad certa puncta quamvis difficiliter utiliter tamen (ut estimo) vobis redditurus” (Tractatus de praeceptis, 194).
  25. For a reconstruction of this first period of the production of the Constitutions, cf. P. Maranesi, Le costituzioni minoritiche: una identità in cammino, in Italia francescana 84 (2009), 232-247.
  26. Costituzioni generali dell’Ordine dei Frati Minori, Prol. 1, in: San Bonaventura, Opuscoli francescani/1, Roma 1993 (Sancti Bonaventurae Opera, XIV/1), 127.
  27. Cf. Le costituzioni minoritiche, 242-243.
  28. Much has been written on this. Here I want only to summarize the principal results of research. For a more detailed study I direct you to the presentation of F. Accrocca, Un cantiere aperto. “Travagli redazionali delle Regole “di” Francesco”, in La Regola di frate Francesco. Eredità e sfida, a work of P. Maranesi and F. Accrocca, Padova 2012, 20-56, and also P. Maranesi, Francesco d’Assisi e I frati minori. Nascita ed espansione di un’esperienza religiosa, Assisi 2012, 64-82.
  29. Ample extracts of this historical account are published in FF 2320-2412, the more interesting part for us is found in nn. 8-16: in FF 2330-2341.
  30. Cronica 10: FF 2332.
  31. Ibid. 11: FF 2333.
  32. Ibid 14: FF 2337.
  33. Ibid. 14-16: FF 2337-2339.
  34. Giacomo da Vitry, Lettera del 1216, 8: FF 2205.
  35. Ibid, 11: FF 2208.
  36. Rnb XXIV 4: FF 73.
  37. Cf. CAss 18: FF 1564.
  38. Famous and strong are the words given to Francis by the hagiographical source: My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of simplicity and showed me the way of simplicity. I do not want you to mention to me any Rule, whether of Saint Augustine, or of Saint Bernard, or of Saint Benedict. And the Lord told me what He wanted: He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. God did not wish to lead us by any way other than this knowledge, but God will confound you by your knowledge and wisdom. But I trust in the Lord’s police that through them He will punish you, and you will return to your state, to your blame, like it or not (ibid.).
  39. Cf. Rb I, 2-3: FF 76.
  40. Cf. Rb III, 10: FF 85; IV, 1: FF 87; IX,3: FF 99; X, 7: FF 103; XI, 1: FF 105; XII, 3: FF 108.
  41. Test. 39: FF 130.
  42. Gregorio IX, Quo elongati, 3: FF 2731.
  43. What is being outlined here presupposes the longer study made some years ago: P. Maranesi, Il travaglio di una redazione. Le novità testuali della Regola bollata indizi di un’evoluzione, in Miscellanea Francescana 109 (2009), 61-89, 353-384.
  44. For a complete analysis cf. ibid., 65-70. For a general commentary on the chapter cf. L. Lehmann, Un percorso di iniziazione, in La Regola di frate Francesco, 231-283.
  45. For the specific novelties of the text cf. P. Maranesi, Il travaglio di una redazione. Le novità testuali della Regola bollata indizi di un’evoluzione (seconda parte), in Miscellanea Francescana 109 (2009), 367-379; for a commentary on the entire chapter cf. P. Maranesi, La relazione tra fratelli, in La regola di frate Francesco, 507-549.
  46. Cf. Test. 39: FF 130.
  47. For an fuller elaboration on this subject cf. P. Maranesi, Il sogno di Francesco. Rilettura storico-tematica della Regola dei Frati Minori alla ricerca della sua attualità, Assisi 2011, 93-104.
  48. In the pages of the work cited immediately above, I put the question: “Is such a dream still possible?” (Ibid, 102-104).