Overview of the writing of the Regola bollata of 1223

The travail of a redaction

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.

Thus, concludes the Rule of 1221. Despite this clear and authoritative command by Francis not to touch the Rule, within less than two years he is working with Cardinal Hugolino, the Protector of the Order and a renowned canonist, on the Rule of 1223.

Approach: firstly, to use two articles by Pietro Maranesi OFM Cap[1] which allow for a critical look at the passage from the Regola non bollata to the perceived need for the Regola bollata. In this passage from one normative text to the other the tensions between the intention of Francis and the changing needs and requirements of both the Order and the Church can be observed. This will continue to be a travail for each generation of friars.

Reading the four subsequent articles on the Testament of Francis by Maranesi help demonstrate that this struggle was already present while Francis was still alive and the Regola bollata had recently been approved.
Quo elongati by Pope Gregory IX and Ordinem vestrum by Pope Innocent IV are two import documents in the interpretation of the Rule. The two articles by Accrocca assist in beginning to appreciate the importance of the two documents.

Aim: assist the friars in initial formation to approach the Rule critically.

Logic of the choice and flow of the articles: The first article[2] explores the relationship of the friars with the people. It uses examples of the redactional process between the two Rules exploring: On the manner of working; Begging alms; solidarity with the lepers; living amongst the infidels; preaching; dealing with the people. Its focus is the evolution at work between the Rules of moving from being a lesser brother among the people to being for the people.

The second article[3] explores the travail discernible in comparing the new text of some significance found in seven chapters of the Regola bollata when compared with the Regola non bollata. This is by far the longest of the two articles. It highlights the fruitfulness of the dialectical exchange between Francis and Cardinal Ugolino in both preserving the intuition of Francis in fraternally living the gospel life and accommodating the life of the lesser brothers to being an institution at the service of the Church and society.

The articles on the Testament in the subsequent section assist in demonstrating that a critical approach to the Rule is required of every generation of friars. The Testament is born out of the dialectic of how to apply the Rule to an expanding Order that was encountering many diverse situations according to time and place. The Rule alone was not enough to decide how to live faithfully the gospel life inspired by Francis’ response to the Spirit of the Lord and its holy operation in the changing vicissitudes of history.

Quo elongati and Ordinem vestrum will be reference points for the ongoing travail of seeking the intention of Francis in his Rule. This travail will continue into the Capuchin Reform.

Before beginning the section on The Capuchin reform – if time and leisure would permit – it would be helpful to read Reform and division in the Franciscan Order by Duncan Nimmo, Capuchin Historical Institute (1995) followed by The Franciscan Spirituals and the Capuchin Reform by Thaddeus MacVicar, OFM Cap (The Franciscan Institute, New York, 1986.

    1. Rector of the Instiuto superior di Scienze religiose di Assis and lecturer of Dogmatic Theology and Franciscanism at the Instiuto teologico di Assisi.
    2. Francis, his friars and the people. Evolution of a vocation of being in the world (2003) [Francesco, i suoi frati e la gente: Evolutione di un vocazione ad essere nel mondo in Miscellanea Francescana 103 (2003) 445-487
    3. The travail of a redaction. The new texts of the Regola bollata as indications of an evolution (2009) [Il travaglio di una redazione. Le novità testuali della Regola bollata indizi di un’evoluzione, Miscellanea Francescanai 109 (2009) 61-89, 353-384].