The travail of a redaction

A detailed summary of

The travail of a redaction. The textual novelties of the Regola bollata indicating an evolution

Pietro Maranesi OFM Cap

Il travaglio di una redazione. Le novità testuali della Regola bollata. Indizi di un’evoluzione, in Miscellanea Francescana 109 (2009) 61-89; 353-384

Prepared by Gary Devery OFM Cap

Table of Contents

On behalf of Almighty God and of the Lord Pope, and by obedience, I, Brother Francis, firmly command and decree that no one delete or add to what has been written in this life. The brothers may have no other Rule.[1]

With this heartfelt and absolute command Francis of Assisi closes the Rnb. Undoubtedly the formulation, as well as being strange, is also full of clues that refer to a period of great travail in the life of the Saint. In particular, it is at the centre of the drafting process that led from the Rnb of 1221 to the new and definitive text of 1223, approved by Pope Honorius III with the bull Solet annuere. In this context, the firm and resolute final request of Francis seems to me to offers a twofold historical insight, firstly, into the drafting of the Rnb and, secondly, connected to the birth, after two years, of the final juridical text.

The decisive command given by Francis, at the end of Rnb, not to ask for or have other rules, offers, in fact, a first important piece of information: the great appreciation given by the Saint to that text. In it were gathered together the norms that the primitive Fraternity, from the earliest times, had given itself during the famous annual chapters of Pentecost held at the Portiuncula. On those occasions the brothers met to deal with the various problems that presented themselves along the way, each time issuing “holy laws” for their lives.[2] One can imagine, therefore, that until 1221 the Fraternity had had a double juridical reference: on the one hand the proto-Rule, the short and simple text presented in 1209 to Innocent III and only approved orally,[3] and, on the other hand, a series of “scattered” norms that had accumulated over the years, responding to the various necessities of life in the Order.

Due to a series of internal difficulties linked above all to the enormous and incredible numerical growth of the Fraternity in its first ten years of life, with the consequent difficulties of managing a reality that was now scattered throughout Europe without a precise written rule that was the same for all, Francis, at the suggestion of Cardinal Ugolino, whom he had chosen in 1220, as “pope of his Order”,[4] wrote the Rule of 1221.[5] The work of drafting is in fact as simple as it is valuable: in it the earliest laws of the primitive fraternity are brought together in a thematic order of 24 chapters.[6] Because of its “ancient” content, the Rnb therefore represented a very precious text for Francis.

However, the harsh and firm demand at the end of Rnb also provides a second piece of information about the historical context with which it was confronted: the friars, or at least some of them, were not happy with the text. The editorial work that Francis had done was not very well received. The criticisms must have been varied and quite severe, not only from the friars but also, perhaps, from the great canonist Ugolino. In particular, the text reflected a situation of life that was too closely linked to the beginnings and inadequate to the organisational and socio-religious developments assumed by the great Fraternity and also favoured by the Papal See itself. The Rule composed by Francis may have spoken of and re-proposed a situation of life that not only no longer existed but probably also had to be overcome. This is especially true for the important question of the relationship between the minoritic identity of the friars and their pastoral commitment. In fact, the Order had adhered to the important task, solemnly promulgated by the Church in the Lateran Council IV, of an effective renewal of Christianity through a new and decisive cultural and pastoral commitment, to which not only the various dioceses were called but also, indirectly, the new religious movements, first of all the Dominicans and the Franciscans. In the Rnb, however, there were still norms that reflected an itinerant and very marginalised situation of the friars, without a precise organisation of their reality, capable of giving consistency and effectiveness to their pastoral activity. In this context, of great importance was the figure of Ugolino. In addition to involving the lesser brothers as important instruments in favour of the process of reform of the Church, he must surely have also pointed out to Francis the canonical weaknesses of his text: too evangelical-admonitory, with too little impositional-disciplinary norms. It lacked any clear norms that were required to regulate a group as large and varied as that of the lesser brothers. Several reasons, therefore, made that juridical proposal weak and not very welcome. Francis knew this, but he did not accept the idea of giving up that text which was too precious to him.[7]

A kind of tension arose between the Saint’s attachment to the text and the desire/need for a rewriting and reformulation by some of the brothers and the cardinal. The first fruit of this tension was the compromise attempted by Francis through a new draft of the text. The Fragments of the Regola non bollata are clear evidence of this. The few passages that remain of that probable redaction, subsequent to the text that has come down to us, refer to a very superficial attempt at canonical adjustment, in which Francis tried to correct the first redaction a little, bearing in mind the criticisms that had been made of it, without however making a real transformation of its general structure and its specific contents.[8] However, the operation was not successful. It is probable that the Cardinal himself intervened to convince Francis that it was not a question of making a few changes, but that a radical rewriting was needed.

Only Ugolino, in fact, could have had the moral and juridical strength to convince the Saint of a profound reformulation: he himself would have helped him in the drafting of the text, a contribution that would have made it easier to obtain papal approval. The news of his presence alongside Francis in the preparation of the new text is provided by the cardinal himself, who, by now having become pope, recalls the following:

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.[9]

The drafting of the Rb, therefore, was done by two hands: on the one hand Francis and on the other Cardinal Ugolino.[10] It could be said that the charism, that is, the intuition of the Saint, confronted and, at times, clashed with the institution represented by the high prelate. Thus, the new Rule was born, which drastically reduced the previous one from 24 to only 12 short chapters. The question that is not only legitimate but also necessary to ask in the face of the Rb concerns precisely the roles of the two co-authors or the two perspectives that met and together drafted the text. What was the relationship between the two authors? Is it possible, in particular, to trace the footsteps of one and the other in the formulation of the new Rule?[11]

To answer this interesting and difficult question we need to look at the editorial history of the writing, whose general characteristics can be summarised in four blocks: a) the textual confirmations, where the chapters of the Rnb are taken up almost entirely from the Rb (cf. for example chapters I, II and III); b) the reformulations of the previous material by means of a recombination of different passages of the Rnb in order to give life to a new chapter in the Rb (see for example chapters VI and X); c) the suppression of large sections of texts in order to leave only “parts” of the previous draft (see in particular chapters IX and XII); d) the additions of new texts, previously absent in the Rnb. The exegetical study of the editorial process of reformulation, in an attempt to identify the traces left in the writing by the two authors, should analyse all these elements in order to arrive at an overall appreciation of their dynamics so as to trace the intentions that can explain the various editorial interventions. My study seeks to enter into these exegetical questions to attempt a particular approach to this complex editorial history, witnessed by the comparison between the two Rules. The material, in fact, on which I want to turn my attention to apply a method of reading in a strictly hermeneutical way will not consist of the entire Rb but will be limited solely to the series of new texts, not present in the previous legal norms and that should be judged editorial novelties. I consider, in fact, these cases, recurring not very often but always in important chapters, very interesting clues for an initial approach to that editorial history born from the collaboration of the two “authors” of the Rule. According to my hypothesis, the analysis of those texts allows us to rediscover the intentional dynamics that animated Francis and Ugolino in reformulating, from different but not divergent perspectives, the various norms to make them capable of institutionally mediating to the brothers the form of life revealed by God at the beginning of the community experience. Francis was the guarantor of that initial intuition who accepted to be confronted and let himself be measured by the institution represented by Ugolino with its attention to the new needs of the Church and the necessary canonical character of a normative text.

In terms of method, I will not examine all the occasions in the normative text that one encounters small additions of a few words or an expression absent from the Rule of 1221. The exegetical attention will be directed only to the quantitatively more relevant “new” texts identified in the following chapters: Rb II,1-3; IV,2; VI,4-6; VII,2; VIII,1.4; X,3b-4.7b and XII,3-4.[12] The work would like to be not only a proposal of methodological approach in the exegetical reading to be developed on Rb, but also a contribution to a future systematic commentary on the Regola bollata, a project of extreme necessity but also of great commitment.

1. Welcoming new friars (Chapter II)

Chapter II of the Rb, dedicated to the reception of those who asked to become part of the minoritic Fraternity, is one of the few chapters in which the Rb remains faithful both in title and content to the corresponding chapter II of the Rnb.[13] In the Rb the three general areas of the entry of a new member already established in the previous Rule are confirmed: the reception (vv.1-8), the novitiate (vv.9-12) and the state following perpetual profession (vv.13-17). Along with this continuity, not only structural but also in terms of legal solutions, there are also textual innovations, all connected with the first theme, namely the conditions for the reception of candidates. A comparison between the two drafts of the normative text clearly shows the concern of the Rb to clarify in legal terms a delicate matter, around which there were perhaps difficulties and some embarrassment because of the enormous growth in numbers of the Order, which the previous text, born in a very different situation of reception, could not adequately manage. The synoptic comparison will help us to understand the relationship between the two drafts and the changes made by the Rb:

Rnb II[14] Rb II[15]
1Si quis divina inspiratione volens accipere hanc vitam venerit ad nostros fratres, benigne recipiatur ab eis.

2 Quodsi 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.

2Si 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 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.

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 confortet1) et vitae nostrae tenorem sibi diligenter exponat.2) 4Quo facto, praedictus, si vult et potest spiritualiter sine impedimento, omnia sua vendat et ea omnia pauperibus studeat erogare.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.7Si tamen indigent, alia necessaria corporis praeter pecuniam recipere possunt fratres causa necessitatis sicut alii pauperes.
1) vero diligenter examinent eos de fide catholica et ecclesiasticis sacramentis.4Et si haec omnia credant et velint ea fideliter confiteri et usque in finem firmiter observare, 5et 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,2) 6dicant illis verbum sancti Evangelii, quod vadant et vendant omnia sua et ea studeant pauperibus erogare.7Quod si facere non potuerint, sufficit esi bona voluntas.3) 8Et caveant fratres et eorum ministri, ne solliciti sint de rebus suis temporalibus, ut libere faciant de rebus suis, quidquid Dominus inspiraverit eis.9Si tamen consilium requiratur, licentiam habeant ministri mittendi eos ad aliquos Deum timentes, quorum consilio bona sua pauperibus erogentur.
 3On his part, let the minister receive him with kindness, encourage him and

1) diligently explain the tenor of our life to him.

2) 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. 

3) 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.

7Nevertheless, if the brothers are in need, they can accept, like other poor people, whatever is needed for the body excepting money.

2Let the ministers
1) 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) 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 poor.  6If they cannot do this, their good will may suffice.3) 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.8If, however, counsel is sought, the minister may send them to some God-fearing persons according to whose advice their goods may be distributed to the poor.

There are two more significant additions, in terms of quantity and legal value, made by the Rb in its editorial work. The first, with an operation of transformation and specification of what had already been established, concerns the restriction to the minister alone of the right to receive new candidates into the Order: “to whom alone and not to others is permission granted to receive the brothers” (v.1). In the Rnb the possibility was, however, also granted to the other brothers, who, after an initial screening, had to send “as quickly as possible” (v.2) the applicants to the ministers. Perhaps the judgement on suitability already expressed by the brothers in the first reception will have led to some possible contradiction between their opinion and that of the minister. To avoid such possible and unpleasant short-circuits, the Rb makes a precise and firm correction of the norm, referring the judgement for the reception of those who asked to enter to the provincials alone.

While in this first addition the editor clarifies and restricts what is already contained in the previous text, in the second addition, which is much broader and more articulate, he inserts three verses to specify a new matter, most likely connected to an evolution of the Order, which needed more careful and clearer canonical and juridical norms through which the minister could have at his disposal precise criteria to be adopted for the reception of those who asked to become brothers.

1. In the previous Rule the minister had a task that was as important as it was vague: “let the minister receive him with kindness, encourage him and diligently explain the tenor of our life to him” (v.3). The text, after exhorting the minister to ‘kindness” in welcoming the postulant, an invitation that had already been addressed previously to the individual brothers in the first stage of the reception,[16] obliged him to carefully and attentively expound “the tenor of our life” (v.3). The one knocking at the door had to know what he was about to embrace. Therefore, the minister’s first and fundamental task was to make the applicant aware of the brothers’ way of life, without deluding or confusing the one knocking at the door; however, it was not a matter of “frightening”[17] the applicants, but only of avoiding misunderstandings and false perspectives. Two considerations emerge from this criterion offered to ministers for reception. First of all, it seems to me that the exhortation refers to a period or a situation in which the Fraternity was not too well known nor yet famous;[18] it was therefore necessary to inform those who wanted to enter of the commitment of the life of the brothers, so different from the other religious forms of the time. The second aspect is the total disinterest on the part of the primitive group in the life situations of the applicants: the minister did not have to question or investigate their existential dispositions and situations. We are faced, therefore, with a community that is completely open to all arrivals and with no demands whatsoever. There was only one condition to verify the right intention and spiritual readiness to truly adhere to the brothers’ way of life: applicants were required to give up all their possessions by giving them to the poor.[19]

2. In the Rb the situation changes radically, reversing the criteria for the reception of candidates. The first striking aspect is the disappearance, in the new text, of the exhortation to “kindness” addressed to the ministers in receiving the new candidates. It was no longer a question of being “kind” but of being precise in the examination to receive applicants. The minister, in fact, no longer had to concern himself with presenting the postulants with the life of a lesser brother but had to carry out a series of investigations into the religious and juridical situation of the candidate. Let us listen again to the new text inserted into the Rb to more fully appreciate the action of the ministers:

Let the ministers examine them carefully concerning the Catholic faith and the sacraments of the Church. If they believe all these things, will faithfully profess them, and steadfastly observe them to the end; and 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…[20]

There were two preliminary conditions that had to be examined and verified by the minister. First of all, the candidate had to prove his catholicity and in particular had to be questioned about “the Catholic faith and the sacraments of the Church”. I believe that the double requirement was not so much to prevent heretical infiltration as to guarantee a minimum level of Christian preparation of the applicants.[21] The previous simplicity in accepting anyone had perhaps led to situations of accepting extremely ignorant candidates or those of a problematic nature. The second series of questions concerned, on the other hand, the socio-juridical situation of the applicant: he had to be free from matrimonial commitments or at least they had to have been resolved with a precise juridical practice and confirmed by the bishop. Here too, the aim was to remedy the excessively easy and simple reception of the early days, the forms of which became dangerous at a time when there were large numbers entering the Order. Perhaps there had already been several contradictory situations in which the brother was found to have ties and responsibilities that should have prevented him from embracing religious life. The extensive text is undoubtedly guided by the concern to stop too hasty acceptances without verifying the minimum religious and juridical conditions of the candidate.

The redactional transformation from the Rnb to the Rb concerning the norms for the reception of new members testifies, therefore, to the internal transformation of an Order which, from being a small fraternity, open to all applicants and motivated by the sole concern of carefully presenting its own way of life, had become a large group whose reputation attracted men from very disparate situations and perhaps some not entirely consistent with the choice itself. The concern, therefore, was no longer typical of a small community, but that of a large organisation, which needed precise criterions to legally assess the candidates and intercept in advance religiously and problematic situations that would create, as was perhaps already happening, not a few difficulties for the entire group.

II. The refusal of money (Chapter IV)

One of the “hot” topics of the minoritic Rule and of the whole history of the Order is certainly represented by the question of the refusal of money, a life decision dealt with in chapter IV of the Rule. At the redactional level, the text is the result of a systematic reduction of chapter VIII of the previous Rule, so as to transform the extensive previous formulation by shortening it to only three verses. In spite of this work of subtraction and elimination, we also find, to our great surprise, an interesting new textual insertion, which carries out a legal operation of great value in the context of the rejection of money. Here too it is necessary to start from a synoptic comparison of the two chapters and to offer a general structure:

Rnb VIII[22] Rb IV[23]
1Dominus praecipit in evangelio: Videte, cavete ab omni malitia et avaritia2et: Attendite vobis a sollicitudine huius saeculi et a curis huius vitae.
1The Lord teaches in the Gospel: Watch, beware of all malice and greed. 2Guard yourselves against the anxieties of this world and the cares of this life.
1. Fundamental choice
3Unde nullus fratrum, ubicumque sit et quocumque vadit,aliquo modo tollat nec recipiat nec recipi faciat pecuniam aut denarios neque occasione vestimentorum nec librorum nec pro pretio alicuius laboris, immo nulla occasione,nisi propter manifestam necessitatem infirmorum fratrum;
2Praecipio firmiter fratribus universis, ut nullo modo denarios vel pecuniam recipiant per se vel per interpositam personam.

3Tamen pro necessitatibus infirmorum et aliis fratribus induendis, per amicos spirituales, ministri tantum et custodes sollicitam curam gerant secundum loca et tempora et frigidas regiones, sicut necessitati viderint expedire;

3Let 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; 1I strictly command all my brothers not to receive coins or money in any form, either personally or through intermediaries.

2Nevertheless, the 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,

2. Spiritual motivations
quia non debemus maiorem utilitatem habere et reputare in pecunia et denariis quam in lapidibus.4Et illos vult diabolus excaecare, qui eam appetunt vel reputant lapidibus meliorem. 5Caveamus ergo nos, qui omnia relinquimus, ne pro tam modico regnum caelorum perdamus. 6Et si in aliquo loco inveniremus denarios, de his non curemus tamquam de pulvere, quem pedibus calcamus, quia vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.
because we should not think of coin or money having any greater usefulness than stones.

4The devil wants to blind those who desire or consider it better than stones. 5May we who have left all things, then, be careful of not losing the kingdom of heaven for so little. 6If we find coins anywhere, let us pay no more attention to them than to the dust we trample underfoot, for vanity of vanities and all is vanity.

3. Taking concrete decisions
a) 7Et si forte, quod absit, aliquem fratrem contigerit pecuniam vel denarios colligere vel habere, excepta solummondo praedicta infirmorum necessitate, omnes fratres teneamus eum pro falso fratre et apostata et fure et latrone et loculos habente, nisi vere poenituerit.b) 8Et nullo modo fratres recipiant nec recipi faciant nec quaerant nec quaeri faciant pecuniam pro eleemosyna neque denarios pro aliquibus domibus vel locis; neque cum persona pro talibus locis pecunias vel denanios quaerente vadant;c) 9alia autem servitia, quae non sunt contraria vitae nostrae, possunt fratres locis facere cum benedictione Dei. 10Fratres tamen in manifesta necessitate leprosorum possunt pro eis quaerere eleemosynam. 11Caveant tamen multum a pecunia. 12Similiter caveant omnes fratres, ut pro nullo turpi lucro terras circueant.
4eo semper salvo, ut, sicut dictum est, denarios vel pecuniam non recipiant.
a) 6If we find coins anywhere, let us pay no more attention to them than to the dust we trample underfoot, for vanity of vanities and all is vanity7If by chance, which God forbid, it happens that some brother is collecting or holding coin or money, unless it is only for the aforesaid needs of the sick, let all the brothers consider him a deceptive brother, an apostate, a thief, a robber, and as the one who held the money bag, unless he has sincerely repented.

b) 8Let 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.

c) 9However, the brothers can perform for those places other services not contrary to our life with the blessing of God. 10Nevertheless, the brothers can beg alms for a manifest need of the lepers. 11But let them beware of money. 12Similarly, let all the brothers be careful of going throughout the world for filthy gain.

3saving always that, as stated above, they do not receive coins or money.

1. The structural articulation of chapter VIII of the Rnb would seem to highlight four parts. The starting point is constituted by two evangelical texts which, as in other chapters of the Rnb, constitute the reference point for the consequent decision to renounce all use of money (vs.1-2). The next block, which coincides with v.3, represents the fundamental passage of the entire passage, where the absolute prohibition to use money is established. This is followed by a series of spiritual arguments added to further motivate the brothers’ renunciation (vs.4-6). In the last block (vs.7-12), we return to the fundamental decision, not only to reiterate it but also to specify particular situations connected with the radical rejection of money.

Therefore, the core of the chapter is v.3 in which a fundamental law for the life of the lesser brothers is established. In it, however, alongside the radical decision not to use money, an exception to the rule is immediately added. Let us dwell for a moment on the two aspects: the radical nature of the decision and the exception to it. In their juridically contradictory relationship is hidden, in my opinion, one of the fundamental evangelical principles of Francis’ way of thinking. The concern on the part of the legislator clearly emerges to intercept all the possibilities or situations in the life of the brothers that would justify the use of money; the passage therefore wants to eliminate any misunderstanding or loophole that would make its presence licit in the hands of the brothers. In this sense, the three “nor” (v.3) are decisive in denying any validity to the three most frequent reasons for the need to use money: neither for the brothers’ clothes, nor for books, nor for the price of work done. The end of the sentence is peremptory in eliminating any ambiguity: “not for any reason” should money be used. Along with this radical rejection of money the text contains something strange, namely a clear exception to the absolute prohibition itself. Immediately after establishing that “not for any reason” one should handle money, a kind of annotation is added that constitutes an obvious exception to the rule: “unless for an evident need of the sick brothers” (v.3). The same exception is reiterated later, when, in v.7, to establish the punishment of the brother who has collected money, it is recalled in passing that there is only one exception to the radical prohibition of its use: “unless it is only for the aforesaid needs of the sick”.[24] But not only that; the same exception also applies to another case set out in v.10: “for a manifest need of the lepers”. The passage should be understood by placing it in its context, represented by vs.8-11, in which our passage is the exception to the rule. In vs.8-9, in fact, the prohibition of the use of money was confirmed, preventing the brothers from seeking “money for leper colonies or coins for any house or place” (v.8) where they lived or worked. The translation of “pro eleemosyna/for leper colonies” could be “for the houses of the poor”, a hypothesis that accords with what follows regarding the physical places inhabited or frequented by the friars. Therefore, any search for money, even for the places of the poor and other places, was forbidden, while the brothers could carry out in those places the other forms of “service” that were lawful (v.9). Faced with these decisions, which also concerned the places of service for the poor where the brothers served, the “nevertheless” that introduces v.10 is even more striking: “Nevertheless, the brothers can beg alms for a manifest need of the lepers”. [Note: here Maranesi is allowing “eleemosynam” to be translated as also include receiving “money” as a type of alms]. Consequently, for the sick brothers and for lepers, the absolute rule of the prohibition to ask for and use money was an obvious exception. That this was an exception would seem to be confirmed by the exhortation that follows immediately in v.11: “But let them beware of money”. The “but” of this verse is clearly in continuity with the preceding verse on the use of money in cases of need for the benefit of lepers. In the “but” of verse 11, which counterbalances the preceding verse 10, it is as if Francis is warning of the danger of the exception: while granting this possibility for the benefit of lepers, the friars had to remain vigilant in the use of what remained a tool that was refused or used only in very few cases.[25]

Here we are faced with a double characteristic of the primitive legislation of lesser brothers. Firstly, there is a strong dialectical relationship between two key elements of their choice of life. On the one hand, there is the assumption of a very important decision for the identity of the lesser brothers, such as the refusal of money: with this refusal, in fact, they wanted to share the fate of the poor who did not have the possibility of securing their future by accumulating wealth. On the other hand, there is the serious question of “necessities”, that is to say urgent and unavoidable needs, linked by the text of the chapter, as we have seen, to two very specific and particular cases: sick brothers and lepers, for whom it was possible to break the rule of refusing money. From the very beginning, therefore, the first brothers had perceived the difficulty of the dialectical relationship between ideal choices and the concrete necessities of life, whose relationships seemed at times not to be easily reconciled or even to be in conflict. The same serious question of the relationship between absolute choices and pressing needs returns again, in a very strong and precise way, in chapter IX of the Rnb concerning almsgiving, where, at the end of the text, after dealing with the question of lawful nourishment for the brothers in cases of need, granting them every kind of food according to what is said in the Gospel (v.13 ), we come to a general statement concerning cases of need as special moments in which a more important and decisive law applies: “Similarly, in time of an obvious need, all the brothers may do as the Lord has given them the grace to satisfy their needs, because necessity has no law”.[26]

This final norm, as a general criterion in the face of a possible contrast between concrete norm and vital necessity, introduces an element of great value in the Franciscan anthropological vision of the first juridical text. From the general norm placed at the end of chapter IX of the Rnb, in which the precedence of necessity over law is established, and from the concomitance placed by chapter VIII of the same Rule between absolute prohibition and possible exceptions derives, in my opinion, a precise vision on the dialectical relationship existing between the two ambits, not always converging or reconcilable. In other words, it seems to me that Francis in fact leaves to the individual brothers the judgement on the concrete ways of articulating the two values, that of the law and that of the exceptions that come from necessity. They, with the strength of evangelical freedom, can and must judge from time to time how to reconcile the two areas. The rule of life, by which they have chosen to radically reject money and the power that comes with it, is as absolute as it is linked to the evangelical responsibility of the individual who, having professed the Gospel, is capable of freedom and authenticity in judging with a good conscience when the Lord asks him to act differently from the law of the Rule in order to provide for the needs of the poorest. In this process of accountability, one leaves the “law” to respect the “Law of the Gospel” which can never be broken.

2. Chapter IV of the Rb, while operating by subtraction through the elimination of much of the previous text, nevertheless maintains the legislative essentials, reiterating in substance the choice of the radical refusal (“in no way”) of the use of money. What does change, however, is the treatment of and solution to the question of “necessity”. The text does not at all take up the exceptions envisaged by the Rnb, where, as we have seen, the brothers were given the responsibility of deciding each time when to break the prohibition in order to meet urgent needs. On the contrary, a new figure, previously absent, is inserted: the “spiritual friends”. Through them the ministers and custodians, and only these, could intervene for the needs of the sick and the needs of the other poor. Undoubtedly, v.2 constitutes a radical novelty in the Rb with respect to the previous solution regarding the way of dealing with and resolving the dialectic between the refusal of money and pressing needs. Before looking more closely at this insertion, let us dwell for a moment on the question of the “spiritual friends” in order to establish their nature and legal identity. Their function was to intervene in cases of need with money donated to them on behalf of the brothers by some benefactor.

Nevertheless, the 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…[27]

The brothers, therefore, were allowed to have an external support to turn to for immediate financial intervention when they were forced not only by the need to help their sick but also by the different needs that presented themselves, now scattered throughout Europe and therefore in climatic and social situations that were so different and unpredictable. Through the inclusion of “spiritual friends” a solution was found, no longer linked to the evangelical freedom of individuals, but to a new juridical figure that reconciled the two dialectically contrasting values: the prohibition of the use of money and the vital urgencies in which the brothers could find themselves.[28]

At this point a question arises. Why this transformation that goes from responsibility, as a judgement to be made from time to time on how to intervene to meet emergency situations even through the exceptional use of money, to the objectivity of a figure outside the Order that always saves the prohibition of the use of money without having to renounce it completely? Is it possible to hypothesise an identity tension within this transformation?

The answer refers once again to the possible editorial relationship that existed between Francis and Cardinal Ugolino, that is, between the charism and the institution. I believe that the great canonist Ugolino pointed out to Francis the juridical problems of the previous formulation. The solution based on evangelical freedom/responsibility proposed in the Rnb, in fact, constituted a “wound” to the law itself. A canonical norm could not present too many exceptions, which could then be evaluated and resolved by individuals on the basis of their evangelical freedom. Adding exceptions to an absolute law, such as the prohibition of the use of money, which were then to be judged and managed by individuals, meant depriving the law of all its power. Moreover, the judgement of responsibility that the brothers had to make from time to time could not always be guided by evangelical criteria. How was it possible to establish whether the individual brother was using the money for a real need or for an entirely personal motive, even if he cited reasons of urgency in favour of the poor? The Cardinal, as a good jurist, will have pointed out all these perplexities about the juridical formulation of the Rnb. It had to be reworded to give the law a firmness and absoluteness that the previous text did not have, but at the same time a solution clearly had to be found for cases of necessity that had to be resolved with the use of money. What legal formula could achieve such a conciliation? This must have been the serious and challenging question faced by the canonist and worked out together with Francis. “Spiritual friends” became the solution to safeguard both requirements: the absoluteness of the norm and cases of necessity. Their presence, placed outside the community itself, constituted the squaring of the circle.[29] Evangelical freedom, in fact, was irreconcilable with the security and stability of the canonical norm, while the insertion of the new legal figure managed to create an effective triangulation between the brothers, their needs and money, without them being obliged to handle the money themselves. The solution satisfied everyone: both the cardinal, who managed to save the principle of the absoluteness of the norm, and the friars, who, through the “spiritual friends”, could have a certain availability of money for their needs.

I wonder if Francis was also happy with the canonical solution found and proposed by the Cardinal? That the solution came from the Cardinal, that is, from someone who handled canon law well, seems clear enough to me. That Francis enthusiastically endorsed the solution, I doubt. He understood the difficulty that the primitive formulation could cause. Yet he must have remained firm in the previous dream, that is, that all the brothers could exercise that evangelical freedom that allowed them to live radically the authenticity of a choice of identity that had found in the refusal of money one of its external forms. For Francis, the lesser brother had to be an evangelical man, that is, one who, strengthened by the Gospel, had the ability to judge events and remain faithful to the ideal even if, in the exceptions caused by necessity, he contravened the norm itself. The other solution, that of the “spiritual friends”, if on the one hand ensured the strength and stability of the law, on the other, however, lost that responsible freedom of evangelical men who had to and could judge with truth when they were free from the “law” in order to fulfil the “Law”.

Perhaps Francis also realised that the situation of the Order fifteen years after the beginning of the minoritic experience no longer permitted that evangelical freedom. The number of brothers, the diversity of situations, the unpredictable urgencies constituted a novelty that forced a new solution in carrying out that difficult but necessary dialectical relationship between choice and exception; that is, it was necessary to find a juridical formula that, while supporting the needs of the brothers, would ensure stability and equality always and everywhere in the secure observance of the Rule.

III. Seeking alms (Chapter VI)

In chapter VI of the Rb we see the conflation of three important themes taken from as many chapters of the Rnb: the prohibition to possess places and things (v.1), the invitation to seek alms (vs.2-6) and, finally, the exhortation to familiarity among the brothers with the indications about the sick brothers (vs.7-9). As already mentioned, the text is the result of a varied and interwoven use of three chapters of the Rnb (chapters VII, IX and X), of which it takes up the substance of the juridical norm contained therein, although it makes interesting changes to that material. We are particularly interested in the text added by the Rb in vs.4-6 of the larger block of vs.2-6 concerning the theme of almsgiving, an addition that replaces a large text of the Rnb in which, instead, the brothers are offered various reasons not to be ashamed to ask for alms. Here too we propose a synoptic reading of the two chapters:

Rnb Rb VI[30]
VII 13Caveant sibi fratres, ubicumque fuerint, in eremis vel in aliis locis, quod nullum locum sibi approprient nec alicui defendant. 1. Not owning anything
2Fratres nihil sibiapproprient nee domum nee locum nec aliquam rem.
VII 13Wherever 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. [31] 1Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.
IX 1Omnes fratres studeant sequi humilitatem et paupertatem Domini nostri Jesu Christi et recordentur, quod nihil aliud oportet nos habere de toto mundo, nisi, sicut dicit apostolus, habentes alimenta et quibus tegamur, his contenti sumus.

2Et debent gaudere, quando conversantur inter viles et despectas personas, inter pauperes et debiles et infirmos et leprosos et iuxta viam mendicantes.

3Et cum necesse fuerit, vadant pro eleemosynis4Et non verecundentur et magis recordentur,

quia Dominus noster Jesus Christus, Filius Dei vivi omnipotentis, posuit faciem suam ut petram durissimam, nec verecundatus fuit; 5et fuit pauper et hospes et vixit de eleemosynis ipse et beata Virgo et discipuli eius .

6Et quando facerent eis homines verecundiam et nollent eis dare eleemosynam, referant inde gratias, Deo; quia de verecundiis recipient magnum honorem ante tribunal Domini nostri Jesu Christi . 7Et sciant, quod verecundia non patientibus, sed inferentibus imputatur.

8Et eleemosyna est hereditas et iustitia, quae debetur pauperibus, quam nobis acquisivit Dominus noster Jesus Christus. 9Et fratres, qui eam acquirendo laborant, magnam mercedem habebunt et faciunt lucrari et acquirere tribuentes; quia omnia quae relinquent homines in mundo peribunt, sed de caritate et de eleemosynis, quas fecerunt, habebunt praemium a Domino.

2. Seeking alms
3Et tanquam peregrini et advenae in hoc saeculo in paupertate et humilitate Domino famulantesvadant pro eleemosyna confidenter, 4nec oportet eos verecundari, quia Dominuspro nobis se fecit pauperem in hoc mundo.5Haec est illa celsitudo altissimae paupertatis, quae, vos, carissimos fratres meos, heredes et reges regni caelorum instituit, pauperes rebus fecit, virtutibus sublimavit. 6Haec sit portio vestra, quae perducit in terram viventium7Cui, dilectissimi fratres, totaliter inhaerentes nihil aliud pro nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi in perpetuum sub caelo habere velitis.
IX 1Let all the brothers strive to follow the humility and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ and let them remember that we should have nothing else in the whole world except, as the Apostle says: having food and clothing, we are content with these.

2They 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.

3When it is necessary, they may go for alms4Let them not be ashamed and remember, moreover, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the all powerful living God,  set His face like flint  and was not ashamed. 5He was poor and a stranger and lived on alms—He, the Blessed Virgin, and His disciples. 6When 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. 7Let them realize that a reproach is imputed not to those who suffer it but to those who caused it. 8Alms are a legacy and a justice due to the poor that our Lord Jesus Christ acquired for us. 9The brothers who work at acquiring them will receive a great reward and enable those who give them to gain and acquire one; for all that people leave behind in the world will perish, but they will have a reward from the Lord for the charity and almsgiving they have done. [32]

2As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go seeking alms with confidence, 3and they should not be ashamed because, for our sakes, our Lord made Himself poor in this world.

4This is that sublime height of most exalted poverty which has made you, my most beloved brothers, heirs and kings of the Kingdom of Heaven, poor in temporal things but exalted in virtue. 5Let this be your portion which leads into the land of the living. 6Giving yourselves totally to this, beloved brothers, never seek anything else under heaven for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

VII 15Et ubicumque sunt fratres et in quocumque loco se invenerint, spiritualiter et diligenter debeant se revidere et honorare ad invicem sine murmuratione.

IX 10Et secure manifestet unus alteri necessitatem suam, ut sibi necessaria inveniat et ministret. 11Et quilibet diligat et nutriat fratrem suum, sicut mater diligit et nutrit filium suum, in quibus ei Deus gratiam largietur. 12Et qui non manducat, manducantem non iudicet.

X 1Si quis fratrum in infirmitate ceciderit, ubicumque fuerit, alii fratres non dimittant eum, nisi constituatur unus de fratribus vel plures, si necesse fuerit, qui serviant ei, sicut vellent sibi serviri.

3. Familiarity among the brothers and help for the people in their infirmities
8Et, ubicumque sunt et se invenerint fratres, ostendant se domesticos invicem inter se.9Et secure manifestet unus alteri necessitatem suam, quia,si mater nutrit et diligit filium suum carnalem, quanto diligentius debet quis diligere et nutrire fratrem suum spiritualem?10Et, si quis eorum in infirmitate ceciderit, alii fratres debent ei servire, sicut vellent sibi serviri.
VII 15Wherever the brothers may be and in whatever place they meet, they should respect spiritually and attentively one another, and honour one another without complaining.[33]

IX 10Let each one confidently make known his need to another that the other might discover what is needed and minister to him. 11Let each one love and care for his brother as a mother loves and cares for her son in those matters in which God has given him the grace. 12Let the one who does not eat not judge the one who does.[34]

X 1If any of the brothers falls sick, wherever he may be, let the other brothers not leave him behind unless one of the brothers, or even several of them, if necessary, is designated to serve him as “they would want to be served themselves.[35]

7Wherever the brothers may be and meet one another, let them show that they are members of the same family.

8Let each one confidently make known his need to the other,

for if a mother loves and cares for her son according to the flesh, how much more diligently must someone love and care for his brother according to the Spirit!

9When any brother falls sick, the other brothers must serve him as they would wish to be served themselves.

The understanding of the redactional value of vs.4-6 of the Rb undoubtedly calls for preliminary work on vs.1-9 of chapter IX of the Rnb. This is the basis from which the legislator started to reformulate the rules on almsgiving. In the ample and articulated redactional work carried out on that material, the addition of vs.4-6 constitutes one of the most significant passages of the transformation in the way of feeling and living almsgiving. And I believe that it constitutes a clue of great value in understanding the evolutionary process of the identity of the brothers regarding their presence in medieval society.

1. In the structure of vs.1-9 of chapter IX of the Rnb, two closely linked parts stand out. First, there are vs.1-2, centred on the exhortation to the brothers to choose poverty as a way of life. In the two opening verses, so many reasons are offered for embracing this choice. Firstly, let all the brothers “strive” to follow the model of Christ who lived poor, and therefore they must be content when they live on next to nothing. The next verse is based on the exhortation to be happy in poverty, a text which, starting from their actual existential situation, aims to help the brothers to live their marginalisation with joy despite its actual difficulty. The importance of the text demands to be listened to again:

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.[36]

The exhortation to poverty becomes an encouragement to live joyfully and willingly at times when the brothers actually had to share fully in the situation of the poor, those who lived along the road. It is interesting to note that this text does not ask the brothers to become like the poor, but only exhorts them to be certain that, when they found themselves in that condition (which probably happened frequently in their itinerant existence, free from all economic security), they realised their identity, effectively and truly placing themselves in that following of Christ mentioned in the previous verse: Let all the brothers strive to follow the humility and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1). The text is intended to encourage the brothers to remain in a form of marginalisation that they actually experienced, when they were confused with the other poor, having to share their lot of being on the road with the insecurity of tomorrow, and, consequently, having to resort in many cases to begging in order to survive.

It is precisely in this context that vs.3-9 are inserted, completely dedicated to going begging. It was necessary to deal with and organise a sphere of life in which the friars fully experienced the marginalised condition of the poor of the time. In this regard, the statement that opens v.3 is of great importance: When it is necessary, they may go for alms”. In this context, almsgiving is a solution of necessity, when, like the other poor, the brothers were forced to use this means of survival, which in medieval society was the visible proof of the condition of the poor. The same principle was stated by the Rnb in chapter VII concerning manual work, where, after having established in anticipation of chapter VIII, the prohibition of taking money for the work done, alms are, however, granted as a solution of necessity, if they did not receive enough to live from their work: “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”.[37]

Therefore, almsgiving was the extreme solution of life, in cases of need, that the brothers had to take on starting from a precise reference model: “like other poor people”.[38] These were the measure of the concrete life of the brothers and the criterion from where to begin in making their choices when they were in a condition of need, typical of the poor and marginalised.

What follows in the subsequent vs.4-9 is the offer by the legislator of a series of “spiritual and social” arguments to help the friars overcome the “shame” of almsgiving: Jesus and his mother were also beggars (vs.4-5); then the one who should be ashamed is not the one who asks but the one who does not give alms (vs.6-7); moreover, almsgiving is an act of justice because the poor man receives the inheritance that Christ has left him (v.8) and, finally, the brother who performs this humble act for the benefit of his brothers will receive a great reward (v.9). It is clear: the text wants to help the brothers to overcome their shame in making a gesture that represented a form of great humiliation in the medieval context, a gesture even more difficult for Francis himself and his first companions almost all of noble or wealthy extraction.

In the final analysis, in the particular context of chapter IX and the more general context of chapters VII-IX of the Rnb, almsgiving constitutes a specificity of the condition of being poor among the poor of the time, a situation chosen and actually lived, in many cases, by the brothers. In the development between the three chapters one could identify this logic of concatenation: like the other poor, the brothers, in order to support themselves, work manually as hired workers without receiving money (chapter VII); this last choice becomes the theme dealt with in the following chapter, where it is decided not to use money for any reason (chapter VIII), and all this despite the frequent risk of finding themselves in vital need that they could only meet with alms, just as the other poor did (chapter IX). Limiting this means to cases of necessity was proof that the brothers actually belonged to the lowest social stratum, to which they were bound by the double choice of abandoning everything and renouncing money. The formulation of our chapter therefore refers back to the initial period, allowing us to glimpse the life situation of the brothers at the beginning and their criteria for evaluating and regulating the various problems that arose from their difficult choice to share in the lot of the poor. In such a process of self-awareness of their identity, the criterion of reference was the concrete poor: they constituted the measure and the model of life in facing and resolving the various questions that arose along the way.

2. The reformulation carried out by the Rb profoundly transforms all this material, an operation that has, then, in the new text of vs.4-6, absent in the Rnb, a passage of great value in the renewed and transformed re-proposition of almsgiving for the life of the brothers. In their structure, vs.2-6 present a double block: that specific to almsgiving (vs.2- 3) and that of the more general theme of poverty (vs.4-6). Between the two passages, it seems to me, there is a possible relationship of complementarity: if the first reaffirms the value of going for alms as a choice of identity of the lesser brothers, the second proceeds to a more global interpretation placing it, in fact, within the great theme of poverty.

Let us start from the first textual nucleus represented by vs.2-3: “As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go seeking alms with confidence, and they should not be ashamed because, for our sakes, our Lord made Himself poor in this world”.[39] The first element that immediately stands out about the reformulation of the text is the elimination of any reference to the question of “necessity” as a criterion for evaluating the choice to go for alms.

Having eliminated the context of the different situations in which the brothers shared the actual condition of the poor who lived “on the road”, the only mandate for almsgiving remains linked directly and exclusively to the value of following the poverty and humility of the Lord. It is therefore no longer directly linked to the precariousness of life and to be used only in extreme cases of need but has become primarily (exclusively) a religious choice in which one no longer looks to the poor but only to the ideal and theology of the poverty of Christ. The two verses thus show that almsgiving had now become the constant way in which the brothers maintained themselves: perhaps far from hired manual labourers, without their own gardens and possessions, occupied above all with pastoral and spiritual activity, daily almsgiving constituted the economic solution to their situation of life.[40] Cardinal Ugolino may also have been involved in this reshaping of the brothers understanding of almsgiving. The daily almsgiving was the solution to bring together two needs that were difficult to reconcile: on the one hand the choice of poverty, felt by Francis as the renunciation of all possessions and economic security, and on the other, the request of the Cardinal to involve the brothers in a broader and more systematic cultural and pastoral commitment for the benefit of the Church. Daily almsgiving had become a stable form of their way of supporting themselves, which in fact allowed them to be poor in the external form and to devote themselves to other pastoral activities that could not ensure the support of the friars. They were becoming mendicant friars who found in Christ the social justification for their daily choice.

The detachment of the treatment of the theme of almsgiving from the reference to the actual condition of the poor, comes to its evidence and resolution in vs. 4-6, a passage, as we have said, new in relation to Rnb.

This is that sublime height of most exalted poverty which has made you, my most beloved brothers, heirs and kings of the Kingdom of Heaven, poor in temporal things but exalted in virtue. Let this be your portion which leads into the land of the living.[41]

The choice of almsgiving as a daily method of imitating Christ, and therefore also of subsistence, belongs directly and essentially to the process of idealisation of poverty, which in this text comes to its full extent. Chapter V of the Rb already spoke of “most holy poverty” as an entity as abstract as it is real, to which the life of the brothers should be modelled; in this text it takes on a complementary characterisation: “highest poverty”. If in the Rnb the “concrete poor” dominated, those who constituted the model of reference for the actions of the brothers in their effective social marginalisation, and these qualifications of poverty were still completely absent. Moreover, the abstract term “poverty” is used only once in chapter IX of Rnb, in exhorting the brothers to follow the humility and poverty of Christ. Whereas in the Rb, the references to living amongst the concrete poor disappear to make way for a personification of “poverty” that has in Christ its ideal model. Therefore, with vs.4-6 of the Rb a double process begins: on the one hand the friars move away from concrete poverty, or rather from the concrete poor, in order to understand and evaluate their own choices of poverty, on the other hand, there is a kind of sublimation of the autonomous role of poverty as an absolute value that has in Christ its only and direct reference.

3. Within this reinterpretation, in which poverty acquires a precise autonomy in relation to the poor and becomes more and more an “objective” value, in its own right, assessable and embraceable only in reference to Christ, there are also two important late texts of Francis in which the operation of separation between the poor and poverty would still seem problematic and not fully completed. The first text concerns the Ultima voluntas sent by the Saint, shortly before his death, to Clare and her sisters:

I, little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of His most holy Mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask you, my ladies, and I give you my advice that you live always in this most holy life and poverty. And keep careful watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone.[42]

In this brief exhortation Francis summarises his ideals of life, reminding the sisters of them and exhorting them to perpetual fidelity to them. The following of Christ, as the basic objective pursued by the Saint in his life and as a purpose still valid for him despite the approach of sister death, is made explicit through two precise terms: following the life and poverty of Christ. The two moments of following in the footsteps of Christ are then repeated and exhorted again to the sisters. It is interesting to note the close relationship between the life of Christ and his poverty, as if the latter were a specification of the former and highlighted its characteristic and qualifying element. In the context of the exhortation to follow Christ, therefore, poverty becomes the determining character, while the poor and the exhortation “to be like other poor people” play no role and have no reference value to regulate their concrete choices.

The second text we have is the last written text of Francis, that is, in his Testament, a composition dictated by the Saint to help his brothers to better observe the Rb that they embraced. In the brief but important testamentary writing Francis feels the need to address both the question of poverty as an important choice and again exhorting it to the brothers, and the related theme of almsgiving. In v.24 there is an interesting text in which the brothers are reminded to make concrete choices of poverty, but with regard to a specific aspect: how the places inhabited by the brothers should be such that poverty may shine in them.[43] Through the Assisi Compilation[44] we are informed of an interesting redactional story underlying the request made to his brothers by the Saint in his Testament. He wanted to write that the houses of the friars should be made of mud and wood, but then someone pointed out to him that wood was more expensive in some countries and more difficult to find than stone:

Let the brothers be careful not to receive in any way churches or poor dwellings or anything else built for them unless they are according to the holy poverty we have promised in the Rule. As pilgrims and strangers, let them always be guests there.[45]

In practice, Francis realised that he could not give any precise and definitive criteria for the construction of the houses; the Order was too widespread in the different regions of Europe and therefore the same criteria of poverty could not be valid everywhere. He then decided to leave the yardstick to the brothers themselves, to whom he reminded, however, a principle that was as important as it was vague in its application: “according to the holy poverty we have promised in the Rule”. Francis accepts an important fact in the life of the Order: it was no longer possible to impose homogeneous criteria derived from the concrete style of the poor: “like other poor people” could no longer be the precise and normative reference model of poverty for the brothers. The only possible criterion could be found, instead, in a concept, in an abstract but ideally precious word such as “poverty”. It remains the only reference point for the self-awareness of the brothers in reading and evaluating the choices in relation to their being lesser brothers in the world.

The other passage of the Testament, centred on the choice of almsgiving, is inserted in vv.20-22, where Francis addresses the important question of manual work, again exhorted to the brothers as a personal choice made by the Saint from the beginning of his experience and which he felt was still valid for himself and his brothers.[46] Within this precise context is also included the solution of almsgiving: “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”.[47]

If on the one hand, in v.24, Francis, as we have said, accepts the criterion of poverty as the general ideal of the choices of the brothers, without being able to propose the poor as a direct reference point of their life, on the other hand, in this passage, in the exhortation to work and to use alms only when necessary, he seems to re-propose the style and the choices that had been made in the Rnb. On the one hand, in fact, he calls his brothers to manual labour, that is, to daily work from which to receive what was necessary to sustain themselves, without, however, accepting money, while on the other hand, when precisely they are “not paid for our work”, that is, when they had suffered an act of injustice on the part of those who would owe them the reward for their work, and only in those cases, they had to resort to the table of the Lord “begging alms from door to door”. This re-proposition of the primitive style of being in the world by sharing the insecure lot of the poor who depended on others, constitutes, in my opinion, an indirect questioning of the value and role assigned to almsgiving by the Rb in chapter VI, where, as we have seen, it had become the daily choice of living poverty. We could say that, for Francis of the Testament, “very high poverty” or “holy poverty” did not have in daily alms seeking its ultimate manifestation, because it could not be detached, as had become the norm in the Rb, from manual work.

In conclusion, the insertion of the hymn to poverty in vs.5-7 of chapter VI of Rb is undoubtedly part of an evolutionary process in which the relationship between the exaltation of poverty and the abandonment of the concrete relationship with the poor is inversely proportional. Moreover, living the highest poverty as a Christological inheritance is directly linked to almsgiving as proof of the state of evangelical poverty and as the identity of the new Order, which will be recognised as “mendicant”. The “last” Francis, the one of the two testamentary writings (to the sisters and to the brothers), on the one hand confirms the evolution, in an abstract sense, of poverty that becomes a Christological ideal of following Christ’s poverty, on the other hand, it proposes again the criterion of daily dependence on one’s own manual work for sustenance, referring recourse to alms only to cases of real need. It could be said that in that last text the Saint rejects or questions the mendicant nature of the Order to re-propose poor people as an indirect measure of the evaluation of that economic choice. If one wanted to hypothesise which is the main author of the addition to chapter VI of vs.3-5 of Rb one could recognise without a shadow of a doubt the pen of Francis.[48] With these verses Francis completes his own spiritual sublimation and identity by way of a transformation in his appreciation of the use of alms, which, from an exception in cases of necessity, they had become a daily norm of subsistence. The elevation of poverty to a general reference point of the identity of the brothers had become a fact of the transformation of their self-awareness. Francis entered into this process of transformation that allowed him to maintain the tension between concrete choices, linked to the new pastoral and existential needs, and the evangelical ideal of being lesser brothers. However, with the Testament Francis placing once again alms within the overall theme of manual work as a means to overcome the needs that may arise when the brothers suffer, like the other poor, the abuses of the rich, is a clear indication that the connection of the “last” Francis with the concrete lifestyle of the poor is not completely erased. If, on the one hand, he accepts the process of separation between the poor and poverty that was taking place in the Order with the Rb, on the other hand, he does not want to renounce any reference to this concreteness, alerting the brothers, with the Testament, to the danger that they were running of transforming daily almsgiving into an instrument of spiritual wealth, a choice that was separating them clearly from the poor and that was transforming that means of subsistence for cases of necessity into a choice of security and social prestige.

IV. The correction of the brothers (Chapter VII)

Chapter VII of Rb touches on a question of internal life of great importance and delicacy: the correction of the brothers who sin. At the redactional level the text makes a strong reduction of chapter V of the Rnb, of which it takes only a few solutions. As far as we are concerned, it should be noted that within a process of elimination of large passages of the previous Rule, the new text presents the insertion of a new passage in which, it seems to me, there is a synthesis of the redactional intentions that guided the transformation of the chapter.

Rnb V Rb VII
1Ideoque animas vestras et fratrum vestrorum custodite; quia horrendum est incidere in manus Dei viventis.

1Keep watch over your soul, therefore, and those of your brothers, because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

1. Fraternal correction
a) of the friars towards the ministers
2Si quis autem ministrorum alicui fratrum aliquid contra vitam nostram praeciperet vel contra animam suam, non teneatur ei obedire; quia illa obedientia non est, in qua delictum vel peccatum committitur.3Verumtamen omnes fratres qui sunt sub ministris et servis, facta ministrorum et servorum considerent rationabiliter et diligenter.4Et si viderint aliquem illorum carnaliter et non spiritualiter ambulare pro rectitudine vitae nostrae, post tertiam admonitionem, si non se emendaverit, in capitulo Pentecostes renuntient ministro et servo totius fraternitatis nulla contradictione impediente.b) of the ministers towards the brothers5Si vero inter fratres ubicumque fuerit aliquis frater volens carnaliter et non spiritualiter ambulare, fratres, cum quibus est, moneant eum, instruant et corripiant humiliter et diligenter. 6Quod si ille post tertiam admonitionem noluerit se emendare, quam citius possunt, mittant eum vel significent suo ministro et servo, qui minister et servus de eo faciatsicut sibi secundum Deum melius videbitur expedire.
1. Correction of the brothers by the minsters
1Si qui fratrum, instigante inimico,mortaliter peccaverint, pro illis peccatis, de quibus ordinatum fuerit inter fratres, ut recurratur ad solos ministros provinciales, teneantur praedicti fratres ad eos recurrere quam citius poterint, sine mora.2Ipsi vero ministri, si presbyteri sunt, cum misericordia iniungant illis poenitentiam; si vero presbyteri non sunt, iniungi faciant per alios sacerdotes ordinis,sicut eis secundum Deum melius videbitur expedire.
2If anyone of the ministers commands one of the brothers something contrary to our life or to his soul, he is not bound to obey him because obedience is not something in which a fault or sin is committed.

3On the other hand, let all the brothers who are under the ministers and servants consider the deeds of the ministers and servants reasonably and attentively.

4If they see any of them walking according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit in keeping with the integrity of our life, if he does not improve after a third admonition, let them inform the minister and servant of the whole fraternity at the Chapter of Pentecost regardless of what objection deters them.

b) of the ministers towards the brothers
5Moreover, if, anywhere among the brothers, there is a brother who wishes to live according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit, let the brothers with whom he is living admonish, instruct and correct him humbly and attentively. 6If, however, after the third admonition he refuses to improve, let them send or report him to their minister and servant as soon as they can; and let the minister and servant deal with him

as he considers best before God.

1If any brother, at the instigation of the enemy,

sins mortally in regard to those sins concerning which it has been decreed among the brothers to have recourse only to the provincial ministers, let him have recourse as quickly as possible and without delay. 2If these ministers are priests, with a heart full of mercy let them impose on him a penance; but, if the ministers are not priests, let them have it imposed by others who are priests of the Order, as in the sight of God appears to them more expedient.

2. Sentiments of correction
a) Without anger nor seeking power
7Et caveant omnes fratres, tam ministri et servi quam alii, quod propter peccatum alterius vel malum non turbentur vel irascantur, quia diabolus propter delictum unius multos vult corrumpere; 8sed spiritualiter, sicut melius possunt, adiuvent illum qui peccavit, quia non est sanis opus medicus, sed male habentibus.9Similiter omnes fratres non habeant in hoc potestatem vel dominationem maxime inter se. 10Sicut enim dicit Dominus in evangelio: Principes gentium dominantur eorum, et qui maiores sunt potestatem exercent in eos, non sic erit inter fratres;11et quicumque voluerit inter eos maior fieri sit eorum minister e et servus; 12et qui maior est inter eos fiat sicut minor.13Nec aliquis frater malum faciat vel malum dicat alteri; 14immo magis per caritatem spiritus voluntarie serviant et obediant invicem.15Et haec est vera et sancta obedientia Domini nostri Jesu Christi.16Et omnes fratres, quoties declinaverint a mandatis Domini et extra obedientiam evagaverint, sicut dicit propheta, sciant se esse maledictos extra obedientiam quousque steterint in tali peccato scienter. 17Et quando perseveraverint in mandatis Domini, quae promiserunt per sanctum evangelium et vitam ipsorum, sciant se in vera obedientia stare, et benedicti sint a Domino.
2. Sentiments of correction
3Et cavere debent, ne irascantur et conturbentur propter peccatum alicuius, quia ira et conturbatio in se et in aliis impediunt caritatem.
7Let all the brothers, both the ministers and servants as well as the others, be careful not to be disturbed or angered at another’s sin or evil because the devil wishes to destroy many because of another’s fault. 8But let them spiritually help the one who has sinned as best they can, because those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.

9Likewise, let all the brothers not have power or control in this instance, especially among themselves; 10for, as the Lord says in the Gospel: The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and the great ones make their authority over them felt; it shall not be so among the brothers. 11Let whoever wishes to be the greater among them be their minister and servant.12Let whoever is the greater among them become the least.

13Let no brother do or say anything evil to another; 14on the contrary, through the charity of the Spirit, let them serve and obey one another voluntarily.

15This is the true and holy obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ.

16As often as they have turned away from the commands of the Lord  and “wandered outside obedience,” let all the brothers know, as the Prophet says, they are cursed outside obedience as long as they knowingly remain in such a sin. 17When they have persevered in the Lord’s commands—as they have promised by the Holy Gospel and their life, let them know they have remained in true obedience and are blessed by the Lord.

3They must be careful not to be angry or disturbed at the sin of another, for anger and disturbance impede charity in themselves and in others.

Chapter V of the Rnb presents a fourfold division. The first two parts examine the serious question of the sin of the ministers (vs.2-4) and that of the other brothers (vs.5-6), proposing a general method for dealing with and resolving such situations. In the second two parts, however, the discourse shifts to the attitudes that all the brothers must adopt in correcting each other: all should live these difficult moments free from anger and the desire for power (vs.7-12) but ready for mutual service and mutual obedience (vs.13-17). Of this rich and complex material, in which the serious question of sin within the fraternity is articulated from several perspectives, in the parallel chapter VII of the Rb only two parts remain, both dedicated to the way in which the ministers must exercise correction towards the other brothers (vs.1-2) and to the sentiments necessary to the same ministers in carrying out their service of correction (v.3). In this drastic reduction from 17 to 3 verses, the most striking redactional choice is the elimination of the first case of correction contemplated in the Rnb, that of the brothers in relation to the sin of the ministers. In the comparative section of the Rb all that concerning the feelings that the brothers must nurture in their mutual correction is reproposed. In fact, in verse 3, all that is contained in the parallel verses of the Rnb (7-17) are effectively condensed with beauty and intensity. However, the question of correction on the part of the brothers towards the ministers is completely abolished. Not only is the activity of correction of the ministers over the brothers maintained, but also a new text is added in this precise context, with which the legislator extends and specifies the juridical reinterpretation that he was carrying out on the old formulation of Rnb. It is clear, then, that we need to focus our attention on the synoptic relationship between Rnb 2-6 and Rb 1-2, where there is a textual evolution indicative of different redactional intentions between the two texts: on the one hand, the possibility of the community intervening on the ministers is abolished, on the other hand, the juridical role of the ministers over the brothers is expanded and specified.

1. Before hypothesising an attempt to understand these redactional elements, let us pause first of all to analyse the juridical solutions offered by the Rnb on the dual and reciprocal relationships of correction between the ministers and the other brothers. In fact, the two procedures are conceived and proposed in a directly related and symmetrical way through three passages, valid for both corrective methods used by the brothers towards the minister (4), and by the minister towards the brothers (5-6):

The brothers towards the ministers (Rnb V.4) The ministers towards the brothers (Rnb V.5-6)
a) In the state of sin
4et si viderint aliquem illorum [the ministers] carnaliter et non spiritualiter ambulare pro rectitudine vitae nostrae,
a) In the state of sin
5Si vero inter fratres ubicumque fuerit aliquis frater volens carnaliter et non spiritualiter ambulare,
4If they see any of them [the ministers] walking according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit in keeping with the integrity of our life, 5Moreover, if, anywhere among the brothers, there is a brother who wishes to live according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit,
b) The first corrective intervention
post tertiam admonitionem,
b) The first corrective intervention
fratres, cum quibus est, moneant eum, instruant et corripiant humiliter et diligenter.6Quod si ille post tertiam admonitionem 
if he does not improve after a third admonition, let the brothers with whom he is living admonish, instruct and correct him humbly and attentively. 6If, however, after the third admonition
c) Second corrective intervention
si non se emendaverit, in capitulo Pentecostes renuntient ministro et servo totius fraternitatis nulla contradictione impediente.
c) Second corrective intervention
noluerit se emendare, quam citius possunt, mittant eum vel significent suo ministro et servo, qui minister et servus de eo faciat sicut sibi secundum Deum melius videbitur expedire.
he refuses to improve, let them inform the minister and servant of the whole fraternity at the Chapter of Pentecost regardless of what objection deters them. he refuses to improve let them send or report him to their minister and servant as soon as they can; and let the minister and servant deal with him as he considers best before God.

Let us make some general considerations on these two blocks in which the same corrective strategy is suggested to be used between the two constituent groups of a minoritic Fraternity. The first reflection concerns the element of great social and religious novelty of the text; the general vision underlying the method proposed by the Rnb is that the main subject of disciplinary action is the community as a whole; this applies both to the ministers and to the other brothers. All the brothers are called to be vigilant to keep their lives free from the dominion of the flesh and subject to the guidance of the Spirit. The element takes on an even more evident and surprising connotation due to the fact that the first to be controlled and judged is the minister and servant himself, to whom the service of authority is entrusted. He, precisely because he is the minister and servant, must be the first to be judged and restored by the other brothers. Undoubtedly, as has been pointed out, the control of the brothers over the ministers is not a “free-wheeling scrutiny”:[49] in fact, there are two adverbs by which Francis indicates how to scrutinise the ministers: “consider the deeds of the ministers and servants reasonably and attentively”.[50] Despite this, the impression remains of being faced with a social revolution in thinking about the relationships between the two groups, that evangelical reversal that had already been carried out in chapter V and which is applied here to a very delicate question of fraternal life.[51] In my opinion, the juridical choice of subjecting the ministers to the control of the friars constitutes the application, in the “penal” field, the “social” vision of the role assigned to the ministers in the previous chapter of the Rnb, where the ministers were reminded that, aware of what the Lord said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve”, they had to take “care of the souls of the brothers”, and that, consequently, if any of the brothers were lost because of them, they “on the day of judgement will have to account for it before the Lord Jesus Christ” .[52] Therefore, the ministers and servants must be the first to be scrutinised and judged by the others, because the quality of their life also depends on that of the rest of the fraternity.

With regard to the penal procedure that the brothers must put in place against their ministers, Rnb proposes the gospel rule of the three admonitions, through which they must seek a relationship of dialogue and fraternal correction with the minister. The procedure of correction proposed by the text is not of an inquisitive-judicial nature, rather, it is a fraternal one of patience and desire for communion, where at the centre is not the defence of the law or of a structure, but the difficulty of a brother who must be recovered. The proof of this evangelical spirit in managing and setting up the correction is enclosed in the two adverbs with which the text characterises the admonitive and corrective action of the brothers towards the minister: “let the brothers with whom he is living admonish, instruct and correct him humbly and attentively”.[53]

In any case, it is striking that in all this “judicial process” there are practically no juridical indications about which kinds of sins are to be understood when one speaks of “walking according to the flesh”, nor are the “penalties” to be inflicted on the perverse ones determined. Everything is set within a sense of simplicity guided by the spirit of the Gospel, which alone allows one to understand “according to God” what is the “best” way to operate in order to help the individual brothers to walk according to the spirit and not according to the flesh.

2. The textual choices made in the drafting of chapter VII of the Rb on this material reveal the redactional intervention of Cardinal Ugolino, who, on the strength of his canonical competence, brings profound innovations to the penal process of the minoritic Fraternity.

The first radical transformation is the reversal of the relationship between community and ministers in matters concerning sin. Any community-based approach to the management of sin, in which the fraternity as a whole was seen as the main entity and almost superior even to the ministers, is abandoned in order to place a single body at the top of the procedure: the ministers. First of all, there is no longer any mention of the possibility of judicial proceedings by the fraternity against the ministers. Moreover, they become the first and only referents in dealing with judicial matters within the Fraternity. The other brothers are excluded from any possibility of positive action in dealing with the various penal matters. When a brother falls into sin he must be sent “as soon [as possible]” by the minister without the individual brothers living with him being able or obliged to use the evangelical principle of the triple admonition envisaged in the previous Rule.

This first radical change is directly linked to a second one, concerning the addition of specific indications to determine both the sins reserved to the ministers and the method that they should follow in correcting the brothers. The two elements are undoubtedly the fruit of a canonical concern with which to address the serious matter of sin, avoiding any risk of subjectivity and personalisation that could perhaps arise or had occurred among the brothers in applying the penal norms of the Rnb.

The first insertion and textual innovation in v.1 concerns the specification of sins that must be dealt with exclusively and directly by the minister: “sins mortally in regard to those sins concerning which it has been decreed among the brothers to have recourse only to the provincial ministers”.[54]

The dangerous vagueness of the previous text, which spoke simply of “walking according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit” is replaced by a clarification of the kind of sins subject to the juridical action of the minister: only those mortal sins for which recourse was established.[55] Therefore, public intervention on the part of the brothers is not at the discretion of others who must interpret, as was the case in Rnb whether a brother walks spiritually or carnally – an interpretation always subject to the ambiguity of personal judgement and perhaps also influenced by personal interests or grudges – but by a precise and established catalogue of serious sins. This objectivity of a list of mortal sins reserved for the minister eliminates any dangerous indeterminacy in judging the conduct of others, an extremely dangerous situation for the peace of a group that was no longer that of a few members bound by the enthusiasm of the beginnings but had become of great proportions with an enormous diversity of social and cultural situations.

The second important addition is closely linked to this: it is established, in effect, that the juridical process must be implemented by the minister only in relation to those brothers who are obliged to have recourse to him for that specific series of mortal sins. In the previous text everything was left to the discretion of the minister. In fact, if at the third admonition the brother did not amend, the community had to send him to the minister who was to “deal with him as he considers best before God”. In the Rb the conclusion remains the same but is placed at the end of a text of extreme juridical precision that gives it a new interpretative value: If these ministers are priests, with a heart full of mercy let them impose on him a penance; but, if the ministers are not priests, let them have it imposed by others who are priests of the Order, as in the sight of God appears to them more expedient”.[56]

The procedure is directly linked to sacramental penance, which can be imposed by the ministers themselves if they are presbyters or by other brother priests of the Order “as in the sight of God appears to them more expedient”. How is this last expression to be interpreted, in which, as has already been noted, what has already been exhorted in the Rnb is taken literally? In fact, it is not clear who is being alluded to by “them”: the ministers or the presbyters? In the first case, in fact, the ministers would be left with the discretion to choose to which presbyter the friar is to be sent, while in the second case, reference would be made to the presbyters who are left with the discretion of the penance to be given to the friars sent to them by the minister. It seems to me that here we are dealing with the first case: the minister is left the discretion to choose the presbyter, while the penance to be assigned for mortal sins was in fact already established in medieval penitential practice, through the famous libri tariffati in which the penitential acts related to the various sins committed were regulated.

It could be said that in the Rb the serious question of sin in the life of the Fraternity is detached from all subjectivity, discretion and from the evangelical procedure provided for in the Rnb; in the new juridical text the minister must regulate himself on the basis of a juridical objectivity concerning both the determination of the sins on which to intervene and the modalities of his intervention. The simplicity and evangelical patience that all the brothers, according to the Rnb, should have exercised with regard to each other’s sins could no longer be the basis of the penal law of the Fraternity: the regulations of the old legislation not only denied the pyramidal vision in the juridical and punitive management of sins to be reserved for the minister alone, but also ran the risk of falling into a juridical subjectivism and indeterminacy that was very dangerous for a complex society, such as the minoritic society had become. Eliminating the evangelical spirit that characterised the first text in favour of the more juridical and precise one of the second meant for the legislator (Ugolino) to avoid short circuits in the relationships of the brothers, in an area where fraternal life was more delicate and difficult. The pyramidally structured role of the ministers and the objectivity of their judicial practice with regard to sin represented an important necessity to confer peace and serenity in relations between the brothers of the great minoritic Order.

V. The internal organisation of the Order (Chapter VIII)

In the evolutionary process of the Order, the internal bureaucratic and administrative structure of the fraternity constituted one of the last elements to be addressed in the development of the brothers’ identity and self-consciousness. In the beginning, the small number of brothers did not need complex bureaucratic processes in assigning and organising tasks for the management of the group. It is clear that the enormous numerical growth of the minoritic Fraternity, which took place in the ten years following its oral recognition by Pope Innocent III, had placed an increasingly urgent question on the general structure to be given to the group, establishing precise administrative processes to regulate the management of “power” within it.

The editorial comparison between chapter XVIII of the Rnb and chapter VIII of the Rb constitutes a clear proof of this preliminary consideration. The two texts represent the only case, in the synoptic comparison between the two rules, in which there is a process of textual growth by the drafting of the Rb on the material assumed from the Rnb. This textual process reflects and bears witness to a parallel social process of the Fraternity that in the reworking of the Rb experiences the need to expand and specify material that in the Rnb had still received a partial and insecure solution. The synoptic comparison will clarify what has been anticipated here:

1. The General minister
1Universi fratres unum de fratribus istius religionis teneantur semper habere generalem ministrum et servum totius fraternitatis et ei teneantur firmiter obedire.
1Let all the brothers always be bound to have one of the brothers of this Order as general minister and servant of the whole fraternity and let them be strictly bound to obey him.
2. The General Chapter
2Omnes enim ministri, qui sunt in ultramarinis et ultramontanis partibus, semel in tribus annis, et alii ministri semel in anno veniant ad capitulum Pentecostes apud ecclesiam sanctae Mariae de Portiuncula,nisi a ministro et servo totius fraternitatis aliter fuerit ordinatum.
2. The General Chapter
2Quo decedente, electio successoris fiat a ministris provincialibus et custodibus in capitulo Pentecostes, in quo provinciales ministri teneantur semper insimul convenire, ubicumque a generali ministro fuerit constitutum ; 3et hoc semel in tribus annis vel ad alium terminum maiorem vel minorem, sicut a praedicto ministro fuerit ordinatum.4Et si aliquo tempore appareret universitati ministrorum provincialium et custodum, praedictum ministrum non esse sufficientem ad servitium et communem utilitatem fratrum, teneantur praedicti fratres, quibus electio data est, in nomine Domini alium sibi eligere in custodem.
2All the ministers who are in regions overseas and beyond the Alps may come to the Chapter of Pentecost in the church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula

once every three years, and the other ministers once a year, unless it has been decreed otherwise by the minister and servant of the entire fraternity.

2When he dies, let the election of his successor be made by the provincial ministers and custodians in the Chapter of Pentecost, at which all the provincial ministers are bound to assemble in whatever place the general minister may have designated. 3Let them do this once in every three years, or at other longer or shorter intervals, as determined by the aforesaid minister.

4If, at any time, it appears to the body of the provincial ministers and custodians that the aforesaid general minister is not qualified for the service and general welfare of the brothers, let the aforesaid brothers, to whom the election is committed, be bound to elect another as custodian in the name of the Lord.

3. The Provincial Chapter
1Quolibet anno unusquisque minister cum fratribus suis possit convenire, ubicumque placuerit eis, in festo sancti Michaelis archangeli de his quae ad Deum pertinent, tractaturus.
3. The Provincial Chapter
5Post capitulum vero Pentecostes ministri et custodes possint singuli, si voluerint et eis expedire videbitur, eodem anno in suis custodiis semel fratres suos ad capitulum convocare.
1Once a year on the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, each minister can come together with his brothers wherever they wish to treat of those things that pertain to God. 5Moreover, after the Chapter of Pentecost, the provincial ministers and custodians may each, if they wish and it seems expedient to them, convoke a Chapter of the brothers in their custodies once in the same year.

1. The two verses dedicated by the Rnb to the structural organisation of the Fraternity follow an order of treatment that goes from the base to the summit, but this sequence is reversed in the subsequent reworking. The first topic addressed in v.1 of the Rnb concerns the juridical organisation of the various provinces governed by the “ministers” and grants them the possibility of having all the brothers meet once a year, on the feast of St Michael, to discuss “those things that pertain to God”.[57] Everything is left to the decision of the minister who “may” convene the chapter without, however, being obliged to do so. In the next verse, the focus shifts to a general meeting, defined as the “Chapter of Pentecost”, to be held at Saint Mary of the Angels, in which all the ministers of the Order are involved, but divided into two groups according to their geographical location: the Italian ministers, who must meet once a year, and the other ministers, ultramontane and those overseas, who are required to meet every three years. It is clear that this is the implementation of canon 12 of Lateran IV, which established precise rules for “the general chapters of the monks”, including the periodicity of three years and the obligation for all to take part, “unless they have a canonical impediment”.[58]

However, the juridical organisation given to these general chapters is still approximate and uncertain. In particular, it should be noted that the chapter of Pentecost would seem to depend de facto on the minister and servant of the whole fraternity, who can also decide differently from what is prescribed in this verse. It should also be noted that there is a logistical and juridical disconnect between the two chapters, the provincial and the general, so that the former depends on the latter.

Therefore, if on the one hand, the short text already addressed the question of the organisation of an Order that had crossed the Alps, on the other, it offered a very rough and still fragmentary solution. It established a double juridical level of the internal life of the fraternity, distinguishing between the provincial minister and the minister of the “entire fraternity”. The two figures refer to two juridical spheres that are distinct and at the same time interconnected, that is, belonging to a single body dependent on a General minister to whom the Provincial Ministers responsible for the individual areas were linked. However, this initial organisation lacks any specification regarding the relationships between the two executive roles. This was to be the concern behind the reworking of the subsequent regulatory text.

2. Chapter VIII of the Rule clearly shows the intention and the need to give order and precision to a subject that is as important for the life of the Order as it is still incomplete and uncertain. Broadly speaking, it can be said that in its reworking, the new text essentially confirms the previous juridical structure, re-proposing the two-level structure of the entire Fraternity and reaffirming the two moments in which the brothers must meet to manage the Fraternity itself: the general and provincial chapters. This fundamental equality is followed by an important series of additions intended to overcome the inconsistencies and imprecisions of the previous formulation.

The first element added by the new redaction to clarify what the previous text only suggested concerns the definition made immediately in v.1 about the role and figure of the general minister: Let all the brothers always be bound to have one of the brothers of this Order as general minister and servant of the whole fraternity and let them be strictly bound to obey him”.[59]

In addition to establishing the need for a special figure for the whole Fraternity, it explicitly confers on him the “power” of governance. This decision also corresponds to the creation of a specific name to qualify the figure: general minister and servant. Therefore, the centralised structure of the Order of lesser brothers, in which all the brothers are directly dependent on a supra-regional general minister, is explicitly confirmed. Despite this specification, which highlights the centralised and top-down character now assumed by the group of lesser brothers, all dependent on a general, the primitive word of identity of the group is still valid and decisive: all the friars in their entirety are not qualified as an “order” but as a “Fraternity”. The specification of a “general minister” and the permanence of the qualification of “Fraternity” for the whole group seem to counterbalance each other: all the brothers form a unity whose relationships, although linked in a unitary and central way by a general minister, must be the expression of the identity of the individual brothers so as to remain a fraternity.

Vs.2-4, as well as putting the general chapter in first place, moving the provincial chapter to second place, make a series of juridical clarifications to overcome the ambiguity and uncertainty of the previous text. Although the previous text established the possibility of an annual or triennial general chapter, it did not specify the main task of this assembly. The shortcoming is overcome in the new formulation, where the general chapter is assigned the primary task of electing the general minister. The question is dealt with in two ways: on the death of the general (vs.2-3) and in the event that the incumbent is judged “not qualified” (v.4).

The solution given to the first case, that is, in the mandate given by vs.2-3 to the chapter to meet to elect a new minister on the death of the previous one, although it fills the previous legislative vacuum by clarifying previously uncertain elements, still contains aspects of legal imprecision.

When he dies, let the election of his successor be made by the provincial ministers and custodians in the Chapter of Pentecost, at which all the provincial ministers are bound to assemble in whatever place the general minister may have designated. Let them do this once in every three years, or at other longer or shorter intervals, as determined by the aforesaid minister.[60]

While the formulation omits the place of St Mary of the Angels, which is no longer the only place for the general chapter, it confirms that the “provincial ministers” must participate in the chapter and adds a new juridical figure, that of the “custodians”: the Order had grown so much that the provinces had to be divided into custodies. Therefore, the provincial ministers and the custodians were called upon to elect the general, without however establishing how this was to be done. An aspect that seems to become more ambiguous, if compared to the text of the Rnb, is that of the temporal frequency of the general

chapters. The two possibilities of the previous text, which spoke of one year or three years, returns. In the new text, however, the two possibilities open up a series of questions, linked above all to the inclusion of the “general minister”, who is allowed to establish the temporal frequency of the chapter. It is therefore difficult to understand from the text whether the general chapter is only connected to the case of the death of the minister, as the approach in verse 2 would seem to indicate, or whether it is instead linked to a periodicity of one or three years, according to the free and supreme will of the general minister himself.

In the second block added to v.4 we are faced with new material, in which the precedency function that all the brothers are called to carry out in relation to the general minister returns:

If, at any time, it appears to the body of the provincial ministers and custodians that the aforesaid general minister is not qualified for the service and general welfare of the brothers, let the aforesaid brothers, to whom the election is committed, be bound to elect another as custodian in the name of the Lord.[61]

It is not easy, in my opinion, to determine the meaning included in the key expression of the whole passage: “aforesaid general minister is not qualified for the service”; the Italian translation translates the adjective “non suffucientem” as “not suitable”. In any case, regardless of its interpretation, it is clear that the minister is subject to the judgement of the “the body of the provincial ministers and custodians”. All together they can intervene and put the general minister under judgement until they decide to elect another one. The fraternity has power over the one it has placed at the service of all as minister and servant. It seems to me that here we can speak of a democratic criterion for the management of public office, a criterion that in some way breaks and overturns the medieval logic in which only the “prelate”, that is, he who is placed higher up, can judge and take power away from his subordinate.

The ample and important space given to the general chapter is followed by another aspect of the social organisation of the lesser brothers concerning the provincial chapter: “Moreover, after the Chapter of Pentecost, the provincial ministers and custodians may each, if they wish and it seems expedient to them, convoke a Chapter of the brothers in their custodies once in the same year”.[62]

The dependence of the latter on the former, a repositioning that thus overcomes the almost juxtaposition that was present in the ancient text, is expressed precisely in the temporal relationship between the provincial and general chapters. After the chapter of Pentecost, the provincials, having returned to their provinces, can hold their own chapter in the same year. The time of its convocation and the objectives to be achieved by this meeting are not fixed. Not only is it not confirmed that the date of convocation is for all the feast of St Michael, but neither is the purpose of this meeting reiterated in which the brothers, as stated in the Rnb, were to deal with “Things that pertain to God”. It is also completely vague and imprecise as to how the election of the provincial minister should take place, that is, whether the provincial chapter is responsible for this task and who should participate.

The redactional process carried out in this chapter, therefore, highlights a process of juridical organisation of the Order in which, on the one hand centralism under a single general minister is confirmed, and on the other hand the “democratic” principle of control by all over the one who is called to the ministry of power is reaffirmed. In any case, the administrative process necessary to manage and organise a large number of brothers, giving them both a provincial and a general structure, where the first level is part of a larger unit, does not yet lead to the introduction of the term “Order”, but remains within the relational categories expressed by the term “fraternity”. If it is possible to attribute to Ugolino the evolution and bureaucratic arrangement noted in the text of the Rb, one must instead attribute to Francis the permanence of the term “fraternity” in the general qualification of the group: structural centralism is not opposed to the fraternal nature of the relationships.

VI. Fraternal relationships (Chapter X)

It is in chapter X of Rb that the redactional process reveals itself most clearly, marked by the recombination of several passages of the Rnb to give light to a new text. There is in fact a rich and complex elaboration of several sections of the Rnb concerning the Fraternity, removed from their original context to be brought together in a decisive chapter on the way of life to be lived within a minoritic community. We are therefore faced with a text of great importance, whose value for the identity of the group is attested by the complex and careful redactional work from which it originated. It will be opportune to have before one’s eyes the synoptic comparison between chapter X of the Rb and the relative passages of the Rnb:

Rnb Rb
IV 1In nomine Domini!
2Omnes fratres, qui constituuntur ministri et servi aliorum fratrum, in provinciis et in locis, in quibus fuerint, collocent suos fratres, quos saepe visitent et spiritualiter moneant et confortent.3Et omnes alii fratres mei benedictidiligenter obediant eis in his quae spectant ad salutem animae et non sunt contraria vitae nostrae.VI 1Fratres, in quibuscumque locis sunt, si non possunt vitam nostram observare,
quam citius possunt, recurrant ad suum ministrum hoc sibi significantes.2Minister vero taliter eis studeat providere, sicut ipse vellet sibi fieri, si in consimili casu esset.
1. Rule of fraternal life
1Fratres, qui sunt ministri et servi aliorum fratrum,visitent et moneant fratres suos et humiliter et caritative corrigant eos, non praecipientes eis aliquid, quod sit contra animam suam et regulam nostram.2Fratres vero, qui sunt subditi, recordentur, quod propter Deum abnegaverunt proprias voluntates. 3Unde firmiter praecipio eis, ut obediant suis ministris in omnibus quae promiserunt Domino observare et non sunt contraria animae et regulae nostrae.4Et ubicumque sunt fratres, qui scirent et cognoscerent, se non posse regulam spiritualiter observare, ad suos ministros debeant et possint recurrere.5Ministri vero caritative et benigne eos recipiant et tantam familiaritatem habeant circa ipsos, ut dicere possint eis et facere sicut domini servis suis; 6nam ita debet esse, quod ministri sint servi omnium fratrum.
IV 1In the name of the Lord!
2Let all the brothers who have been designated the ministers and servants of the other brothers assign their brothers in the provinces and places where they may be, and let them frequently visit, admonish and encourage them spiritually.3Let all my other brothersdiligently obey them in those matters concerning the well-being of their soul and which are not contrary to our life.4Let them behave among themselves according to what the Lord says: Do to others what you would have them do to you5and “Do not do to another what you would not have done to you.VI 1If the brothers, wherever they may be, cannot observe this life,let them have recourse to their minister as soon as they can, making this known to him. 2Let the minister, on his part, endeavour to provide for them as he would wish to be provided for him were he in a similar position.
1Let the brothers who are the ministers and servants of the others visit and admonish their brothers and humbly and charitably correct them, not commanding them anything that is against their soul and our rule.

2Let the brothers who are subject, however, remember that, for God’s sake, they have renounced their own wills. 3Therefore, I strictly command them to obey their ministers in everything they have promised the Lord to observe and which is not against their soul or our Rule.

4Wherever the brothers may be who know and feel they cannot observe the Rule spiritually, they can and should have recourse to their ministers.

5Let the ministers, moreover, receive them charitably and kindly and have such familiarity with them that these same brothers may speak and deal with them as masters with their servants, 6for so it must be that the ministers are the servants of all the brothers.

VIII 1Dominus praecipit in evangelio: Videte,

cavete ab omni malitia et avaritia2et: Attendite vobis a sollicitudine huius saeculi et a curis huius vitae.

[XVII 9Omnes ergo fratres caveamus ab omni superbia et vana gloria10et custodiamus nos a sapientia huius mundi et a prudentia carnis]

[XI 8Non murmurent, non detrahant aliis]

2. Personal conditions to live as brothers
7Moneo vero et exhortor in Domino Jesu Christo, ut caveant fratres ab omni superbia, vana gloria, invidia, avaritia, cura et sollicitudine huius saeculi,detractione et murmuratione,
VIII 1The Lord teaches in the Gospel: Watch, beware of all malice and greed2Guard yourselves against the anxieties of this world and the cares of this life.

[XVII 9Therefore, let all the brothers, beware of all pride and vainglory.]

[XI 8Let them not grumble or detract from others]

7Moreover, I admonish and exhort the brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ to beware of all pride, vainglory, envy and greed, of care and solicitude for the things of this world, of detraction and murmuring.
et non curent nescientes litteras litteras discere;
Let those who are illiterate not be anxious to learn,
XVII 16Et semper super omnia desiderat divinum timorem et divinam sapientiam et divinum amorem Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.

XXII 29Et adoremus eum puro corde, quoniam oportet semper orare et non deficere.

XVII 15Et studet ad humilitatem et patientiam et puram et simplicem et veram pacem spiritus.

XXII 1Attendamus omnes fratres quod dicit Dominus: Diligite inimicos vestros et benefacite his qui oderunt vos.

XVI 12Beati qui persecutionem patiuntur propter iustitiam, quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum.

21et qui perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit.

8sed attendant, quod super omnia desiderare debent habere Spiritum Domini et sanctam eius operationem, 9orare semper ad eum puro corde et habere humilitatem, patientiam in persecutione et infirmitate, 10et diligere eos qui nos persequuntur et reprehendunt et arguunt,

quia dicit Dominus: Diligite inimicos vestros et orate pro persequentibus et calumniantibus vos. 11Beati qui persecutionem patiuntur propter iustitiam, quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum. 12Qui autem perseveraverit usque in finem hic salvus erit.

XVII 16Above all, it desires the divine fear, the divine wisdom and the divine love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

XXII 9And let us adore Him with a pure heartbecause it is necessary to pray always and not lose heart.

XVII 15It strives for humility and patience, the pure, simple and true peace of the spirit.

XXII 1All my brothers: let us pay attention to what the Lord saysLove your enemiesand do good to those who hate you.

XVI 12Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

21whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

8but let them pay attention to what they must desire above all else: to have the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity, 9to pray always to Him with a pure heart, to have humility and patience in persecution and infirmity, 10and to love those who persecute, rebuke and find fault with us, because the Lord saysLove your enemies and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you.

11Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 12But whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At the structural level, the chapter of the Rb has two parts, distinct both in theme and literary genre. In the first part, precise norms are set out on the relations that must reign between the two groups of a fraternity, that is, between the ministers and their subject brothers (vs.1-6). In the second part, the tone is abandoned in favour of an admonitory tone, and all the brothers are addressed, without distinction between ministers and subjects, exhorting them to a way of life free of certain vices and characterised by the opposite virtues (vs.7-11).

If, however, attention is given to the redactional history one notices that the first part (vs.1-6) is the result of the reunification of two chapters of the Rnb (cf. chapters IV and VI) while the second is a collage, sometimes difficult to reconstruct, of several texts of the previous Rule. It was necessary to dedicate a chapter to the norms on community life and this had to be the result of the condensation and rethinking of what was previously said in the Rnb: chapter X of the Rb was born as an integrated proposal of the great and serious commitment to fraternal relations.

For our analysis it is not important to establish what hermeneutical relationship there is between the two parts of the text, the impositional (1-6) and the exhortative (7-11). Instead, the focus will be on the textual novelties present in the chapter, particularly those that emerge in the first part. In the second section we have a redactional novelty in v. 8b, constituted by the famous request “Let those who are illiterate not be anxious to learn”, a text that I have had the opportunity to deal with and it is not the case to return here.[63] Of great interest are the two additions that we find in the first part: in vs.1b-2 and in part of vs.5-6. Here we find an interesting redactional history that refers to a question of fundamental interest and value in the intentions of the extender of the text.

The first operation to be carried out in analysing the two blocks of verses concerns the structuring of the entire section 1-6. There is to be noted a precise reasoning in symmetrically combining the two textual blocks taken from as many chapters of the Rnb, in order to give them a new physiognomy. In their entirety, vs.1-6 highlight a chiastic structure, the result of the relational interweaving between the two subjects that make up the life of the Fraternity: firstly, it establishes the daily relationships between the ministers and the subjects (vv.1-3); secondly, it deals with an exception represented by the moments of difficulty that may arise in the Fraternity (vv.4-6):

1. The norm for relationships (vs. 1-3)

A: Brothers who are ministers and servants (v. 1)

visit and admonish… correct them,

not commanding them…

B. Brothers who are subject (vs. 2-3)


therefore obey…

2. The exception for difficulties (vs. 4-6)

B1: Wherever the [subject] brothers (v. 4)

know and feel they cannot observe

the Rule


A1: The Ministers receive them (vs.5-6)

charitably and kindly

and have such familiarity…

The two textual additions (vs.1b-2 and 5-6) therefore concern both the first and the second block included in vs.1-6. The analysis of the two insertions will have to proceed separately in order to establish what the redactional intentions were that determined these textual innovations.

1. Of the two additions, vs.1b-2 are certainly the most challenging section because of the complex elaboration that seems to characterise the new redaction.

In its entirety, the first block of vs.1-3 substantially repeats the content of what the brothers had already been asked to do in the synoptic text of chapter IV of the Rnb but gives that material a symmetrical arrangement with which to confirm and also complete what was said in the previous formulation. In order to understand what is anticipated here, let us compare the structures of the respective synoptic texts:

Rnb IV.1-3 Rb X.1-3
1.Let all the brothers who have been designated the ministers and servants…

assign their brothers…

visit, admonish and encourage them.

2. Let all my other brothers diligently obey them in those matters concerning the well-being of their soul and which are not contrary to our life

1. 1Let the brothers who are the ministers and servants…

Visit and admonish their brothers… and correct them… not commanding them anything that is against their soul and our rule.

2. [Brothers are] to obey their ministers in everything they have promised the Lord to observe and which is not against their soul or our Rule.

In the reformulation of the Rb the binary relationship between the two groups is taken up again, confirming and specifying the different roles that must exist between the ministers and those they serve. This basic uniformity is accompanied by a double redactional operation that tends to create a more harmonious and parallel structure than was the case in the Rnb. Firstly, the first responsibility attributed to the ministers is eliminated, that is, to place their brothers in the different provinces and places where they live (“in the provinces and places”[64]); this elimination is followed by two additions relating, firstly, to the ministers (“not commanding them” [v.1b]) secondly, immediately after, to the subjects (“remember that…”[v.2]). It is interesting to note that the two insertions-specifications respectively concern the two subjects involved in fraternal relations, determining two essential elements: in the first case, the ministers are ordered to adopt precise attitudes regarding their mandate to “command” (v.1b), in the second, the subjects are reminded of the theological foundation of “obeying” (v.2). Let us reread the two textual elaborations, highlighting in bold type the new elements added in the Rb with respect to the previous text:

1Let the brothers who are the ministers and servants of the others visit and admonish their brothers and humbly and charitably correct them, not commanding them anything that is against their soul and our rule2Let the brothers who are subject, however, remember that, for God’s sake, they have renounced their own wills3Therefore, I strictly command them to obey their ministers in everything they have promised the Lord to observe and which is not against their soul or our Rule.

Therefore, the two new textual elements (vs.1b-2), without substantially transforming the previous text of the Rnb but only extending and systematising it, intervene on the two fundamental areas and roles of the two constitutive groups of a Fraternity. Let us start with the first group, namely the ministers, who are addressed in verse 1 with a double request. Firstly, (v.1a) they are reminded of the fundamental task, already assigned to them by the Rnb, of visiting their brothers. In this context we see an interesting textual transformation. In the previous draft the ministers, called to visit the brothers, had to perform a double service: “admonish and encourage”;[65] in the revision of the Rb the activity prescribed to the ministers presents the curious substitution of the second verb: “admonish and correct”. It is clear that the transformation of the two verbs, that is, the change from “encourage” to “correct”, refers to the desire of the redactor to assign to the ministers not only an exhortative-admonitory role but also the power to intervene in the lives of the brothers by correcting their actions. However, two interesting adverbs previously absent are added to the new verb: the ministers must “correct” the brothers “humbly and charitably”. In short, the power to intervene to correct is specified by adding the sentiments with which the minister must exercise his mandate. It is indicative that the two adverbs were not present in the Rnb because they were not necessary to clarify or specify the two verbs “admonish and encourage”. In the Rb, by changing the mandate, there is a need to add the two adverbs: the attribution of a coercive power assigned to the ministers in the Rb (“to correct”) had to be counterbalanced by reminding them of the spirit of humility and charity with which to fulfil their commitment (“humbly and charitably”). How can we not think that in this case we are faced with the result of the redactional dialectic between the cardinal who wants to give effective power to the ministers and Francis who accepts the transformation but is also concerned to specify the evangelical spirit with which to exercise it?

This first small but important textual transformation, which specifies and expands the “juridical powers” of the ministers, is followed by another clarification, corresponding to the second part of the verse (1b), with which the legislator remains on the question of the minister’s power in relation to the brothers, by specifying the boundaries. The ministers, exercising their mandate of authoritative service over the brothers, must carry it out guided by a double criterion: “not commanding them anything that is against their soul and our rule”. The double reference that must guide their office (not to command anything that is against the soul and the rule) takes up what was already contained in the parallel text of the Rnb, applied in that case, however, only to the subject friars to specify how they must obey the ministers: “diligently obey them in those matters concerning the well-being of their soul and which are not contrary to our life”. Therefore, the double reference to the soul and to the Rule, also applied by the new text to those who command in the Fraternity, is nothing more than the extension of a principle that in the Rnb was already valid for those who obeyed. Commanding and obeying had to be exercised within the same parameters valid for both ministers and subjects, that is, within the objective element that is the Rule, with its specific demands, and the subjective element represented by the soul of the individual. In the Rb, therefore, all that is done is to place ministers and subjects in strict and clear symmetry, placing them within the same juridical space whose limits are marked by the “Rule” for all and by the “soul” of the individual. The two references are definitively and radically applied as general criteria for relations between the two groups.

In this sense one can consider that the operation carried out in the Rb to apply the double criterion of evaluation also to the ministers in their requests for obedience constitutes the confirmation of a religious revolution, already anticipated in the Rnb, in the way of conceiving in the medieval world the relationship between authority and those who are subject to it. Commanding and obeying until then had in fact only one direction, from the top to the bottom, where the will of the superior, prior, abbot, constituted the last and constant norm to which the soul of the individual had always had to conform.[66] It could be maintained that the relationship between the two parties was regulated on the model of the military world. On the contrary, this addition made by the Rb in v.1b confirms what had already been affirmed by the Rnb, where another model was placed as the basis of the relationship, based on evangelical brotherhood in which the soul of the individual is as important as the Rule.[67]

In the next verse, the discourse shifts to the second constitutive subject of the minoritic Fraternity, namely the subjects: here we immediately find a new addition (v.2) that specifies the following text taken from the previous Rule (v.3). For the sake of clarity, let us re-read the two verses:

2Let the brothers who are subject, however, remember that, for God’s sake, they have renounced their own wills.
3Therefore, I strictly command them to obey their ministers in everything they have promised the Lord to observe and which is not against their soul or our Rule.

The firm command of obedience given to the “subject brothers” (v.3) is preceded by an ideal reference text (v.2) which constitutes the general presupposition for fully understanding that request for submission to the ministers. In the logic of the two parts, the text wants to remind the subject brothers that they can only truly realise the criteria of obedience proposed in v.3 by keeping in mind the theological horizon from which it arises (v.2). The “I strictly command”, formulated in the first person by Francis, can be accepted and realised only if the friar recalls to himself his fundamental choice, that of having renounced his will “for God’s sake”. And then the submission to the will of the minister constitutes the concretisation of this ideal choice of “renounced their own will”.

Having made this preliminary consideration, it is necessary to add a second point of decisive importance for understanding the insertion of v.2. The strength and textual role of this addition can be understood not only by keeping in mind the direct relationship between the ideal choice (“renounced”) and its concretisation (“to obey”), but also if it is linked to what immediately follows. The text of the Rule does not simply state “to obey” but establishes the general object on which such obedience is to be exercised. In this regard the expression that follows includes in itself a double specification of the object of obedience, the first of a positive kind, the other of a negative kind: they must obey in all those things that a) they have promised to the Lord and b) are not contrary to their soul and to the Rule. Obedience to the minister is therefore not absolute and indiscriminate. It is required only with regard to the things of the Lord, that is, with regard to the areas in which one’s own giving of self to the Lord is realised. This positive but also very generic criterion is followed by a double negative criterion: they must obey in those things that are not contrary to the soul and the Rule, where the double principle already present in Rnb is reaffirmed. The obedience therefore of the subject implicitly requires a process of responsibility and autonomy, in which he must question himself about the agreement between the command received from the minister and the specific object of his obedience, which is to the Lord. In fulfilling an obedience, the subject must ask himself whether the minister’s request is among the things he has promised to God and is not oppose to his soul and the Rule. In short, the friar must remain vigilant and responsible in obeying.

I believe that at the level of redactional history, the insertion of v.2, where the subject is reminded that he has renounced his will “for God’s sake”, was felt to be necessary to counterbalance the confirmation of this adult and responsible position of the subject before the minister’s command. The responsible obedience spoken of in v.3 can only be correctly accomplished if the subject actually lives within the awareness and the authentic desire to “renounce his will”, that is, to do the will of God. In my opinion, therefore, the logic of the development of the text can be formulated as follows: the will of God passes through the will of the ministers, without however identifying with the latter, and this is why the subject must remain vigilant, asking himself each time whether what is required of him in obedience is in conformity with what he has promised to God and is not against his soul and the Rule. But in order for this evaluation, that is, this responsible obedience, to be carried out honestly and not to trigger a mechanism of escape from the will of God by adducing false motives of a spiritual nature, it is necessary for the subject to live in the true and profound desire to “renounce his own will” as the basic tension of his Christian task. Only a man of faith can live responsible obedience.

In all this relational mechanism between the two groups, bound together by a common desire, that of doing the will of God, implemented through the convergent listening to the Rule and the soul, a precise and innovative anthropological and theological vision is at work. In the text of the Rule, the absolute value of the observance of the law was not placed at the centre, as an objective and sure criterion of a Christian obedience, but a precious and difficult dialectic to which the single brother is called in obeying: on the one hand the radical handing over of the will expressed and realised in obedience to a minister, on the other hand the responsibility and the autonomy of the subject as a condition and indispensable presupposition so that that obedient adhesion can be called “renunciation of one’s own will for God”. This act of radical surrender to God, the fulfilment of the Christian man, can only take place at the moment in which he is supremely “awake” and responsible, at the moment in which he evaluates and accepts the minister’s request by listening to himself, that is, to his own soul, and to the objective situation, that is to say the Rule, listening, in short, to the two spheres of the objective manifestation of God’s will on himself mediated by the minister but not identifiable tout court with his requests. The anthropology subtended in the tenth chapter of the Rb is undoubtedly a risky proposal because it does not automatically guarantee (in a military way) obedience between the parties and therefore does not guarantee a secure and ordered stability of the group supported by relations of force that go from the top to the bottom. The vision of the Rb of obedience is essentially dialectical and circular: because it puts together elements that can be reconciled only by means of an evangelical spirit made up of honesty and the responsibility of faith, without which there could be no law capable of ensuring and guaranteeing the truthfulness of that obedient listening and, furthermore, because these relationships are lived between subjects who recognise each other as brothers, where the distinction is not in the position of power but of service, so that one is a servant, the other a subject, but they are called to wash each other’s feet. We are faced with the circular dialectic of evangelical responsibility in doing the will of God, a “social proposal” in which the Rb takes up and confirms the evangelical proposal already formulated in the previous Rule.

2. This last aspect introduces us directly into the second addition in verse 6, where the text deals with the way the minister is to deal with the brother who turns to him for help in his difficulties. In order to fully understand the particular features of the text and the intentions of the addition, it is necessary once again to take up the synoptic comparison between the two drafts:

Rnb VI Rb X
1Fratres, in quibuscumque locis sunt, si non possunt vitam nostram observare, quam citius possunt, recurrant ad suum ministrum hoc sibi significantes.

2Minister vero taliter eis studeat providere, sicut ipse vellet sibi fieri, si in consimili casu esset.

3Et nullus vocetur prior, sed generaliter omnes vocentur fratres minores. 4Et alter alterius lavet pedes.

4Et ubicumque sunt fratres, qui scirent et cognoscerent, se non posse regulam spiritualiter observare, ad suos ministros debeant et possint recurrere.

5Ministri vero caritative et benigne eos recipiant et tantam familiaritatem habeant circa ipsos, ut dicere possint eis et facere sicut domini servis suis; 6nam ita debet esse, quod ministri sint servi omnium fratrum.

1If the brothers, wherever they may be, cannot observe this life, let them have recourse to their minister as soon as they can, making this known to him.

2Let the minister, on his part, endeavour to provide for them as he would wish to be provided for him were he in a similar position.

3Let no one be called “prior,” but let everyone in general be called a lesser brother. 4Let one wash the feet of the other.

4Wherever the brothers may be who know and feel they cannot observe the Rule spiritually, they can and should have recourse to their ministers.

5Let the ministers, moreover, receive them charitably and kindly and have such familiarity with them that these same brothers may speak and deal with them as masters with their servants, 6for so it must be that the ministers are the servants of all the brothers.

While in the formulation of the case of a brother with difficulties, the Rb (v.4) remains substantially faithful to what was said in the Rnb (VI.1), in the proposals made to the ministers concerning the attitudes to be adopted in these cases there is a diversification, represented precisely by the transformation of what was previously proposed. However, if one reads carefully, the substance of the proposal remains the same in the two solutions. In the first case, the golden rule of Francis is at the heart of the solution offered to the minister: “Let the minister, on his part, endeavour to provide for them as he would wish to be provided for him were he in a similar position”.[68] The method suggested is that of lowering oneself: in order to intervene correctly in the needs of the brother, the minister must make the brother’s situation his own, that is, he must enter into his problem and become similar to his brother. This is where the exhortations of the next verse are perfectly understood, which would seem to go beyond the question: for the minister to be able to live this empathic substitution, he must fully realise his identity as a lesser brother, that is, as one who does not put the distinction of roles in first place (he does not let himself be called, nor does he feel he is a “prior”, but is simply a “lesser brother”), but accepts the evangelical mandate in which his role as minister is resolved: “to wash the feet” of others. The washing of feet, that is, lowering oneself to serve, is the metaphorical translation of the process of empathic substitution suggested in the golden rule.

In the synoptic parallel of the Rb all this material is not abolished but transformed in form and confirmed in content. At the heart of the text is the exhortation to the ministers to have “such familiarity” with their brothers in difficulty. The expression directly recalls what was already exhorted to all the brothers in chapter VI: “Wherever the brothers may be and meet one another, let them show that they are members of the same family”[69]. In that case, however, “domesticity” was illustrated by the relationship that mothers have with their children,[70] whereas in this case, familiarity is specified with another relational example: that of masters with their servants. Only, paradoxically, the pairings are reversed: the masters are the brothers in difficulty, while the servants are their ministers. The constitutive basis of vs.5-6 is to be found precisely in this inversion of roles. The service that the ministers must perform is placed in the possibility of creating “familiarity” with the brothers in difficulty and this is ensured by two adverbs with which the spiritual attitude of the ministers is determined: “charitably and kindly”. But so that the statement does not remain vague and imprecise, a relational specification is added: the ministers must feel like servants before their masters. This was the fundamental novelty of the text: radically overturning the medieval parameters of relations between superiors and subjects. Every logic of institutional power is abolished to trigger a new logic based on the Gospel: let the first be the servant of all. That the evangelical overturning of power relations is the true intent of the verses is confirmed by the closing of our text: “for so it must be that the ministers are the servants of all the brothers”. This final statement definitively confirms the novelty of the evangelical society proposed in chapter X of the Rule. The redactional transformation carried out by vs.5-6 of Rb with respect to the synoptic text of chapter VI of Rnb, therefore, does not constitute a novelty of content but only of image. If the welcome proposed in the first text was organised on the principle of substitution, inviting the minister to enter into the situation of the brother in need of help, the same happens in the second, where the welcome is guided by the principle of reversal of roles: you who are the first feel with the last and relate to the other as the servant would to his master. Thereby, the form and images change, but not the paradox of the overturned relationships already established in Rnb.

In the two sections of vs.1-6 we are undoubtedly faced with an absolute novelty in considering and setting up relations within a medieval religious community characterised by the pyramidal categories of the Benedictine world. Both the convergent formulation of how to command and how to obey, using the criterion of dialectical and responsible listening to the soul and the Rule, and the overturning of authoritative functions between superior and subject, represented in the Middle Ages not only a novelty but perhaps also a danger. Was it possible to ensure ‘order’ in coexistence with these proposals? Wasn’t this seriously jeopardising the stability of relations, which should have been ensured by fixed asymmetrical relations governed by high-low criteria?

These questions are followed by the question of particular interest to us: who is the main author of the elaboration of the verses added in the two sections of the first part? Are we to think of Francis, who emerges in the first person in the formulation of the text, or of Ugolino, who was certainly attentive to these relational areas to be regulated according to canon law? We have already detected a hint of a probable intervention by the cardinal, when “to comfort” is replaced by “to correct” as a responsibility required of the ministers in their service to the brothers. However, the very substantial continuity of the social solutions of an evangelical type proposed in the Rb with those already present in the Rnb suggests that the main author of the reworking of chapter X is Francis. While agreeing to some small adjustments in giving more power and effectiveness to the figure of the minister, he does not renounce the evangelical structure that reigned in the Rnb; the evangelical spirit of considering and organising the relationships between the brothers has in “fraternity”, that is, in the substantially equal relationship between the members, its characterisation, and in the relationships of mutual submission its fulfilment. It is possible to imagine an intense and even dialectical drafting process between Ugolino and Francesco: two different visions of the functioning of a Christian society were being compared. Ugolino represented the medieval structure where the hierarchy constituted the backbone of the “theological” structure of the Church and society; Francis, on the other hand, felt that the proposal that came to him from the Gospel directed him not towards pyramidal relationships, but towards circular ones. On this ‘evangelical’ approach of reciprocal submission, in which all power and dominion are eliminated to allow the logic of mutual service to shine through, the saint did not give way one step, despite, as can easily be imagined, the probable pressures of the cardinal, who was perplexed not only about the organisational strength of that society but also about its theological value, which departed from the classical approach of the Benedictine world and the entire Church. The Lord himself had revealed to them that they had to live according to the form of the Holy Gospel, and in placing themselves at the service of their brother, renouncing all forms of power, there was the whole Gospel. Francis, in short, could not give way in the re-proposal of this evangelical dream in which relations between the brothers were to be free from power and guided by mutual service.

VII. Cardinal Protector (Chapter XII)

The last significant insertion is made in the final chapter of the Rb. In it we can clearly distinguish three parts: going among the infidels (vs.1-2), the need for the Order to always have a cardinal protector (vs.3-4) and the explicit conclusion of the entire document (vs.5-6). Of all this material there is a parallel text in the Rnb only for the first thematic block where the Rb does no more than take up and confirm those directives already given in the previous Rule. It is in regard to the norms for sending the friars among the Saracens. The rest of the chapter is new. Let us read the text synoptically:

3Unde quicumque frater voluerit ire inter saracenos et alios infideles, vadat de licentia sui ministri et servi. 4Et minister det eis licentiam et non contradicat, si viderit eos idoneos ad mittendum. 1. Going among the infidels
1Quicumque fratrum divina inspiratione voluerint ire inter saracenos et alios infideles petant inde licentiam a suis ministris provincialibus. 2Ministri vero nullis eundi licentiam tribuant, nisi eis quos viderint esse idoneos ad mittendum.

2. Cardinal Protector
3Ad haec per obedientiam iniungo ministris, ut petant a domino papa unum de sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae cardinalibus, qui sit gubernator, protector et corrector istius fraternitatis, 4ut semper subditi et subiecti pedibus eiusdem sanctae Ecclesiae stabiles in fide catholica paupertatem et humilitatem et sanctum evangelium Domini nostri Jesu Christi, quod firmiter promisimus, observemus.

3. Conclusion
5[Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam nostrae confirmationis infringere vel ei ausu temerario contraire. 6Si quis autem hoc attentare praesumpserit, indignationem omnipotentis Dei et beatorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum eius se noverit incursurum.

3Let any brother, then, who desires by divine inspiration to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers, go with the permission of his minister and servant. 4If he sees they are fit to be sent, the minister may give them permission and not oppose them. 1. Going among the infidels
1Let those brothers who wish by divine inspiration to go among the Saracens or other non-believers ask permission to go from their provincial ministers. 2The ministers, however, may not grant permission except to those whom they see fit to be sent.

2.Cardinal Protector
3In addition to these points, I command the ministers through obedience to petition from our Lord the Pope for one of the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, who would be the governor, protector and corrector of this fraternity, 4so that, being always submissive and subject at the feet of the same Holy Church and steadfast in the Catholic Faith, we may observe poverty, humility, and the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as we have firmly promised.

3. Conclusion
5It is forbidden, therefore, for anyone to tamper with this decree which we have confirmed, or rashly dare to oppose it. If anyone presume to attempt this, let him know that he shall incur the anger of Almighty God and of His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

Our interest focuses exclusively on the central verses concerning the cardinal protector. It seems to me of extreme interest that the textual novelty is introduced by the first person of Francis who uses a very strong and decisive juridical formula: “I command the ministers through obedience”. What follows in the text, therefore, is considered very important by Francis.

Vs.3-4 have a double scansion: first of all (v.3) there is the firm command given to all the brothers to always have a cardinal who is entrusted with an important role for the whole minoritic Fraternity, then in the second part (v.4), introduced by a “so that”, the text specifies the end to which this request aims. Let us analyse the two verses separately.

Francis enjoins the future ministers by obedience to ask the pope for a ‘cardinal’ who will have a threefold function for the whole fraternity: to govern it, protect it and correct it. With these three verbs Francis in fact assigns a decisive role to the cardinal, making him the last juridical instance in the life of the brothers. Although it is necessary to recognise the absence of a specific and clear content of the three verbs, that is, it is not stated concretely what his role should be in the concrete life of the Fraternity, nevertheless, with them a strong and precise message is launched: the figure of the cardinal protector is placed at the top of the juridical structure of the Order.

Which of the two authors wished to carry out such an operation, inserting a legal innovation absent from the previous text? It is both difficult and pointless to determine. In this regard, a double consideration must be made. The juridical figure of the cardinal protector was not invented with the Rule of Francis, it already appeared at the beginning of the thirteenth century;[71] moreover, Ugolino himself, in his project to reorganise the whole women’s movement, had established in the Forma vivendi of 1218-1219, composed for autonomous women’s monasteries by the diocesan bishop, to always have a cardinal to whom “special recourse” could be made.[72] However, it is also true that from the formulation of the request in the Rb it can be assumed that the text is not a stroke of the cardinal’s hand to ensure his dominion over the minoritic Fraternity, but a decision accepted or even desired by Francis: the first person in which the command is formulated allows this hypothesis. It can even be considered that the request for obedience in always having a cardinal protector was the codification of a valuable experience that Francis and Ugolino had had together in the drafting of the Rule itself: they had collaborated on a text about identity and their efforts had been considered by both as widely positive and valuable.

The next verse (v.4) shifts the attention to the fruits that the presence of the Cardinal Protector should bring to the life of the minoritic Fraternity. The protective, governing and corrective action carried out by him should allow the brothers to achieve and ensure two fidelities, both constitutive of their vocation: first of all, that to the Church, that is, to remain Catholic while remaining subject and submissive to it; then, thanks to this first and fundamental bond of subjection which, in the formulation of the text seems to be its presupposition, that to the minoritic vocation: “so that […] we may observe poverty, humility, and the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as we have firmly promised”. The presence of the Cardinal Protector in the life of the Fraternity should therefore ensure the essential element: fidelity to the inspirational identity linked to poverty, to minority, that is, to the observance of the Holy Gospel. It is conceivable that the role assigned to the Cardinal Protector in the Rule of Life summarises what Francis perceived in the relationship of collaboration with Ugolino in the reworking of the juridical text. In the work of rewriting carried out by the two, the double objective foreseen in the request was fulfilled: fidelity to the revelation made by God to Francis and his companions, that is, to live according to the form of the Holy Gospel, fidelity to the Church, directly connected to it, mediated by the institutional figure of a cardinal “pope of the Order”. Francis had experienced that the asymmetry between the cardinal and his person, that is, between the institution and intuition, between canon law and evangelical freedom, had not been an impediment, but rather constituted the presupposition for an effective rewriting of the text of the Rule. This last consideration leads us directly to the conclusions to be drawn at the end of this long journey through the text of the Regola bollata of Brother Francis.


The indications of a complex redactional history glimpsed in the “new” texts of the Rb attest without a shadow of a doubt that the Rule was the result of a dialectical elaboration between different human experiences, but at the same time, aimed at the same objective, the sincere search for the will of God. Francis and Ugolino undoubtedly constitute two different ways of placing themselves in history as Christians: one the bearer of an intuition, the other responsible for an institution. The two different perspectives in responding to the common commitment to do God’s will lead the two subjects to a difficult but fruitful dialogue. We have tried to trace these two pens that together write the legislative text of an intuition to turn it into an institution. It is not always easy to attribute the respective parts to either redactor of the various passages, but it is clear that different souls have worked together. Without wishing to summarise here the various points of arrival of my research, I believe it is sufficient to note that what I have highlighted is a minimal result that, however, refers to a great truth hidden in the text of the Rule: that which is achieved with the effort of dialectical confrontation in which diversities are opportunities and not impediments.

Francis was not constricted or blocked by the Roman Curia, that is, by Ugolino. He accepted to work together in a dialectic that perhaps at times also entailed hardship and fatigue. He listened to the suggestions of the cardinal, accepted certain solutions that forced him to abandon the previous dictate, but also reiterated and “imposed” on the prelate some points that were essential for him, such as those on the internal relations between the brothers linked to the nature of “fraternity”. It is clear that Ugolino played an important role, but he did not annihilate or submerge Francis. The Saint stood, so to speak, before the prelate, without ceasing to be himself in a free and strong listening to the will of God that was speaking to him within and through the tension of their diversity.

Undoubtedly it is not possible to know exactly how the redactional work on the Rule took place between the two of them, but beyond the possible conjectures one thing seems certain to me: Francis himself wanted this relationship. From the very beginning he clearly felt a great need: his intuition, his Christian proposal shared with others whom he calls brothers, needed to be confirmed by his “Lord Pope”. Firm in his identity, Francis exercised the autonomy of a prophet who ‘by divine revelation’ knows what he must do, demands by necessity institutional confirmation. When, in 1219-1220, Pope Honorius III granted him the right to choose a cardinal as ‘his pope’ and he wanted Cardinal Ugolino to be at his side, he did not choose someone like himself, with the same views, someone who fully shared his point of view. On the contrary, he chose someone who saw the world from a different angle: a great canonist and the strategist of an integral and centralist reform in favour of the Church of Rome, who nevertheless, like him, was bent on the good of the Church and on the sincere search for the will of God. The great esteem that Ugolino claimed to have had for Francis was certainly reciprocated; proof of this is precisely the Saint’s choice of him as a privileged interlocutor in the rewriting of the normative text. The man of intuition wanted to have the man of the institution at his side. Francis clearly perceived the need for a dialectical confrontation with a person who would examine his intuition from a position different from his own; he knew well that he needed someone who would complement his way of seeing and perceiving life; he believed that the different position held by the other was not an impediment but an opportunity offered to him so that through it he could expand his angle of vision on history and better evaluate the way to choose to fulfil the mandate given to him by God. From the dialogue, also difficult and sometimes perhaps painful, conducted by Francis and Ugolino, the Regola bollata was born, fruit of a common passion of two very different, but equally authentic and sincere, researchers of the will of God.

  1. Rnb XXIV 4.
  2. This is what GIACOMO DA VITRY says in a letter of 1216, telling his friends in France about the life of this group of religious men called ‘lesser brothers’ that he met in central Italy during his journey to Rome to be consecrated bishop. Let us listen to his precious information on that primitive stage of life of the friars: “The men of this “religion” with considerable advantage meet once a year at the appointed place to rejoice in the Lord and eat together. Here, availing themselves of the advice of learned persons, they formulate and promulgate their holy laws, confirmed by the lord Pope”: Cronaca, 11: FF 2208.
  3. On the foundational meeting of Francis and his first companions with Innocent III for the approval of the short text a rewarding conference was held in Greccio on 9-10 May 1208: cf. Francesco a Roma dal signor Papa, Milan 2008. On the possible reconstruction of this text, which has not come down to us, interesting solutions have been offered by C. PAOLAZZI, La “forma vitae” presentata da Francesco a papa Innocenzo III, ivi, 123-140. I have taken up those conclusions, specifying them in some points, to develop a careful commentary on that ancient text, which can be reconstructed in its essential parts, in an extensive article: P. MARANESI, Storia e contenuto di un testo fondativo per una missione: il propositum vitae, P. MARTINELI (a cura), La grazia delle origini, Bologna 2009, 46-99.
  4. 3Comp 63: Ff 1477.
  5. Some of those crucial events in the evolutionary process of the Order are reported by GIORDANO DA GIANO, who recounts the urgent return of Francis from the Holy Land, his going to Rome with the consequent choice of Ugolino and the solution of the problems that had been created and, linked to this context, the convocation of the general chapter of 23 May 1221, held at Santa Maria degli Angeli; Cronaca, 14-16: FF 2337-2341.
  6. On the possible editorial history, cf. the synthesis of A. CICERI, La Regula non bullata. Saggio storico-critico e analisi testuale, in F. ACCROCCA – A. CICERI, Francesco e i suoi frati. La Regola non bollata: una regola in cammino, Milan 1998, 134-137. A brief but still valuable synthesis of the historical dynamics that gave life to the Rnb is offered by T. DESBONNETS, Dalla intuizione alla istituzione. I francescani, Milan 1986, 47-51.
  7. I proposed an examination of the tensions underlying the reception of this text in P. MARANESI, L’intuizione e l’istituzione. Il travaglio dell’identità di Francesco e dei suoi frati nei testi giuridici, MF 108 (2008) 197-201, which I also take up in abbreviated form in ID., L’eredità di frate Francesco. Lettura storico-critica del Testamento, Assisi 2009, 48-50.
  8. This interesting and convincing hypothesis has been formulated by C. PAOLAZZI, Nascita degli Scritti e costituzione del canone, in A. CACCIOTTI (ed.), Verba Domini mei. Gli Opuscula di Francesco d’Assisi a 25 anni dalla edizione di Kajetan Esser. Atti del convegno internazionale. Roma 10-12 aprile 2002, Roma 2003, 82-87.
  9. GREGORIO IX, Quo elongati, 3: FF 2731.
  10. Cf. DESBONNETS, Dalla intuizione, 114-118, who also adds Honorius III and the ministers.
  11. Questioning The Rule’s Authors, D. FLOOD exaggerates, in my opinion, the normative influence had by Ugolino, whose role was to contribute the juridical element to the content and the form of the Rule (cf. Regulam melius observare, in Verba Domini mei, 335-342). In some way I would like to dialogue with this interpretation in order to rebalance its positions, highlighting the convergent, although also dialectical, relationship between the two authors of the founding text of the lesser brothers.
  12. The references of the verses are taken from the Fontes francescani, Assisi 1995 (hereafter Ff) which unfortunately have a different numbering from the Fonti francescane of the Italian edition, since in the Latin edition the chapter titles are also included among the verses. [Note: The number found in the Early Sources on the website from which I am taking the English text varies from the numbering in the article. I have adjusted the numbering within the article to correspond to the English text.]
  13. It remains a reference the comparison made of the texts of the two Rules regarding the norms of the reception of candidates by M. T. DOLSO, Et sint minores. Modelli di vocazione e reclutamento dei frati Minori nel primo secolo francescano, Milan 2001, 26-33.
  14. Rnb II: Ff 186.
  15. Rb II: Ff 172-173.
  16. On the “kindness” exhorted by the Rnb in the reception of new members, see the observations of M. T. DOLSO, Et sint minores, 26-27, who, in addition to linking this attitude to the joy felt by Francis at the arrival of his first companions, also highlights the distance of the prescriptions to the harshness with which the Benedictines tested applicants. And so, he concludes: “Far from being put to the test, the candidate is “comforted” and strengthened in his purpose also by the intervention of the minister who will admit him to the Order: “let the minister receive him with kindness, encourage him”. […] The Order is open to all”: ibid. 27.
  17. Ibid. 29.
  18. Cf. ibid.
  19. According to M. T. DOLSO “this practice represents one of the aspects, perhaps the most characteristic aspect of the minoritic profession in that it illuminates more than any other on the novelties of the experience of Francis and his brothers” (ibid.).
  20. Rb II,2-4: Ff 172.
  21. For DESBONNETS, on the other hand, the request was primarily linked to the danger of heresy; cf. Dalla intuitione, 119.
  22. Rnb VIII: Ff 192-193.
  23. Rb IV: Ff 175.
  24. STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA believes that this passage “is the only anomaly that, on the subject of money, can be found in the legislative text of 1221”: La povertà nelle “Regulae” di Francesco d’Assisi, in La povertà del secolo XII e Francesco d’Assisi, Assisi 1975, 239. I believe that the exceptions, as we shall soon see, continue.
  25. The interpretation given by DESBONNETS does not note these textual dynamics but considers that there is no exception to the use of money: “We know that in the early days they lived near the lepers and that they worked there; because of this work, temptations could arise, against which one had to be all the more careful, since they could have the appearance of charity”: Dalla Intuizione, 123. On the presence among the lepers of the primitive Franciscan experience, cf. P. MARANESI, Il servizio ai lebbrosi in San Francesco e nei francescani, “Franciscana” 10 (2008) 24-27.
  26. Rnb IX.16: Ff 195.
  27. Rb IV.2: Ff 175.
  28. STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA, in reasoning on the juridical transformations that have taken place in chapter IV of the Rb, does not see this hypothesis, according to which it seems possible to glimpse in the new text a different solution to a dialectic inherent in the identity of the Order; cf. La povertà nelle “Regulae”, 247-249.
  29. According to STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA, on the other hand, “the need to have recourse to ‘spiritual friends’ to help the sick friars and to clothe the religious was probably only a consequence of this decrease in availability for occupations that could provide ‘omnia necessaria corporis'”: ibid. 248-249. Undoubtedly the new occupations of a pastoral and cultural nature and less committed to manual labour made it necessary to find a juridical solution to meet economic needs; however, I believe that all this also depended on a “defence” of the absoluteness of the norm that could not be managed by the appeal to evangelical freedom of the individual.
  30. Rnb VI.1-9: Ff 177.
  31. Rnb VII.13: Ff 192.
  32. Rnb IX.1-9: Ff 193-194.
  33. Rnb VII.15: Ff 192.
  34. Rnb IX.10-12: Ff 194.
  35. Rnb X.1: Ff 195.
  36. Rnb IX.2: Ff 194.
  37. Rnb VII.7-8: Ff 191-192. In the recent critical edition of the Rnb proposed by C. PAOLAZZI, an important correction to the edition of K. Esser is introduced in this verse. In fact, instead of reading “sicut alii pauperes” [“like other poor people”], the Trentino scholar proposes this solution: “sicut alii fratres” [“like other brothers”]: La Regula non bullata dei frati minori (1221). Dallo “stemma codicum” al testo critico, AFH 100 (2007) 130. All the main families of codices are in favour of this reading, with the single exception of the Barcelona manuscript (Bibl. Centr., cod. 665, 1405), which states “pauperes”. The agreement of the vast majority of codices obliged the editor to intervene in Esser’s edition. However, if the codices allow (demand) such a correction, the general sense of the text seems to prevent it. The first question concerns the meaning of the phrase: who are the other “fratres” alluded to? In fact the chapter does not compare two groups of brothers, but addresses “omnes fratres” who work manually and live periods of service in the houses of others; they are asked to make a series of work choices in order to respect their identity as lesser brothers: they are not to perform managerial work but share subservience like the other workers, they are to practice the work they already knew, and this is the source of their maintenance, from which they will receive “omnia necessaria preter pecuniam” like the other poor, who performed humble services to be repaid for their work with foodstuffs. And precisely “sicut alii pauperes” the brothers also resort to alms when in need. The question of work, which had to be the same as that of the other poor of the time, does not allow, in terms of meaning, the sudden inclusion of “fratres” without being able to understand who is being alluded to. In my opinion, therefore, even if only one manuscript bears witness to the reading “sicut alii pauperes”, we must remain faithful to this solution if we do not want to lose the sense of the verse.
  38. While highlighting the exceptional role of almsgiving, to be used only in cases of necessity, STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA does not mention the figure of the actual “pauperes” as a concrete reference point for the life choices of the early friars; cf. La povertà nelle “Regulae“, 243.
  39. Rb VI.2-3: Ff 176.
  40. STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA says nothing in this regard so as to explain this novelty of the Rb; cf. La povertà nelle :Regulae”, 251.
  41. Rb 4-6: Ff 176.
  42. The Form of Life of Saint Clare 7-9; UVol. 1-3: Ff 235.
  43. I have developed an analysis of this verse of the Testament in L’eredità di frate Francesco, 244-251.
  44. Cf. CAss 106: Ff 229-230.
  45. Test. 24: Ff 1654.
  46. For an analysis of these verses, cf. my L’eredità di frate Francesco, 284-288.
  47. Test. 22: Ff 229.
  48. Regarding the authorship of Francis in vv.4-6, STANISLAO DA CAMPAGNOLA concludes: “If one can legitimately doubt that the writing of the Regula of 1223 is entirely the work of Francis, no one, I think, will be surprised if we dare to suspect that even this passage may be foreign to the pen and language of the Saint, but certainly not foreign to his feelings”: La povertà nelle “Regulae”, 252.
  49. A. CICERI, La Regula non bullata. Saggio storico-critico e analisi testuale, in F. ACCROCCA – A. CICERI, Francesco e i suoi frati. La Regola non bollata: una regola in cammino, Milano 1998, 176.
  50. Rnb V.3.
  51. Ciceri, in his careful analysis of the text, does not highlight this “novelty” in this approach, which will then be eliminated in the following Rule; he makes a small and fleeting note only at the end: La Regula non bullata, 181.
  52. Rnb IV.6. It has already been pointed out that the adverb “therefore” which opens our chapter is proof that the whole text is a continuation of the previous chapter, which develops the question of the responsibility to which ministers are called in relation to their brothers: cf. CICERI, La Regola non bollata, 175.
  53. Rnb V.5. CICERI points out that the action of the brothers towards the other brothers, although it must be “humble and diligent”, is marked by three progressive verbs that indicate a precise inquisitive method: admonish, instruct and correct, stages of intervention that were not previously foreseen for the minister: La Regola non bollata, 178.
  54. Rb VII.1.
  55. It is interesting to note that the determination of which sins the minister must intervene in will be specified by Bonaventure in the Constitutions of Narbonne and set out in five cases: “Since according to the Rule the correction of the brothers is the responsibility of the provincial minister, we order that the brothers do not neglect to have recourse to their provincial minister as soon as possible for the crime of lust, contumacious disobedience, acceptance of money against the Rule, either by themselves or through another person, serious theft and the violently beating of another”: Const. Narb., VII.1.
  56. Rb VII.2.
  57. Rnb XVIII.1. CICERI focuses his attention on the two elements, namely, the time of the celebration of the chapter linked to the feast of St Michael and the subject to be dealt with: cf. La Regola non bollata, 224-226. He makes hypothetical considerations that leave one a little doubtful; in any case it seems strange that he devotes so much space to the question of the time linked to the Michaelite cult and reduces to a few lines the comparison between the formulation of the Rnb and that of the Rb, simply observing that “no significant element is added to the primitive writing”: ibid, 226.
  58. “Ad quod universi conveniant, praepeditionem canonicam non habentes, apud unum de monasteriis ad hoc aptum”: Concilium Lateranense IV, c. 12, in Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta, Bologna 1991, 240.
  59. Rb VIII.1.
  60. Rb VIII.2-3.
  61. Rb VIII.4.
  62. Rb VIII.5.
  63. Cf. P. MARANESI, Nescientes litteras. L’ammonizione della Regola Francescana e la questione degli studi nell’Ordine (sec. XIII-XVI), Rome 2000, in particular 30-37 where I reason on the nature of this “wedge” played in the context of the chapter.
  64. Rnb IV.2.
  65. Rnb IV.1.
  66. In his Rule, Benedict, after having established that the “third degree of humility is that in which the monk for the love of God submits to the superior in absolute obedience” (Rule, VII.34), addresses the case of “impossible obediences”, and the solution is clear and precise: there is no possibility for the monk to refuse his own obedience to the command of the abbot: “Even if a very burdensome obedience is imposed upon a monk, or even impossible to perform, the command of the superior must be accepted by him with absolute submission and supernatural obedience. If, however, he should find that the load is much heavier than he is capable of carrying out, he should explain to his superior the reasons for his inability to do so calmly and with a sense of expediency, without adopting an arrogant, reluctant, or challenging attitude. If, after this frank and humble declaration, the abbot remains firm in his conviction, insisting on the command, the monk should be certain that it is good for him and obey for the love of God, trusting in His help: ibid. LXVIII.
  67. The norm of the double criterion will thus lead to the drafting of the famous Admonition III, where it also speaks of the possibility of an obedience refused on the part of the subject. I have spent ample pages on this in P. MARANESI, L’eredità di Frate Francesco. L’eredità di Frate Francesco. Lettura storico-critica del Testamento, Assisi 2009, 274-279.
  68. I have written several times on what I call the “golden rule” of Francis, considering it one of the most personal and characteristic passages of the relational vision of the saint of Assisi founded on the mercy of the heart: P. MARANESI, Facere misericordiam. La conversione di Francesco: Confronto critico tra il Testamento e le biografie, Assisi 2007, 85-87; ID., L’eredità di frate Francesco, 108-111.
  69. Rb VI.7.
  70. Rb VI.8.
  71. The juridical figure of a cardinal protector is not an invention of Francis; the same juridical presence had already been included in the Rule of the Order of the Holy Spirit of Saxia in 1200, where it says: “we establish that the pope is always asked for a cardinal, who […] shall be visitor and protector”: Regula Ordinis Sacti Spiritus in Saxia, 89; PL 218, 1152.
  72. Cf. Forma vitae, 10.