Pope Nicholas III
Translated from the Latin text transcribed from the Registers of Nicholas III, p. 232-241, #564 and as found on The Franciscan Archives.
[Wherein] every doubt concerning the rule of the friars Minor [is] defined, and others already defined by his predecessors are set forth more seriously and clearly. (Folio 184; year II, number 156; Potthast 21628)
The constitution made by the lord Pope Nicholas III on the confirmation of the rule of the friars Minor
Bishop servant of the servants of God.
For an everlasting memorial.
Soriano, Italy: August 14, 1279 A.D.
HE WHO SOWS went forth from the bosom of the Father into the world to sow His own seed, that is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, clothed with the garment of humanity, the one (who was) to sow the evangelical word among each of the approved and reprobate, foolish and learned, studious and slothful, and according to the Prophet the future farmer on earth who would disperse His own seed, the evangelical doctrine, without destruction, among all (men), who [as] the one (who) will draw all things to Himself had come to save all (men), who afterwards on behalf of the salvation of all (men) immolated His very self to God the Father as the price of human redemption. However though this seed, dispersed by the communicative charity of God, would fall among individuals, some along the road, namely upon hearts accessible to the suggestions of demons, other upon rock, namely upon hearts penetrated by no plowshare of faith, [and still] other (seed) among thorns, namely upon hearts lacerated by solicitudes for riches, and therefore one (was) trampled by depraved affections, the other shriveled (up)—since it was lacking in the humour, grace—the rest, suffocated by inordinate solicitudes, was overgrown, but good ground received the other [seed], meek and docile in heart.
The Religion of the Friars Minor is founded upon the Gospel and strengthened by the teaching and life of Christ and His Apostles
2. This is the meek and docile religion of the Friars Minor, rooted in poverty and humility by the kind confessor of Christ, Francis, which sprouting the sprout from that true seed, strew the same by (means of) the Rule among (his) sons, whom he generated for himself and for God by (means of) his ministry in the observance of the Gospel. These very ones are the sons, who by the teaching of Jacob have received the Eternal Word, the Son of God, sown by human nature in the garden of the virginal womb [and] able to save souls in meekness. These are the professors of that holy Rule, which is founded on the evangelical discourse, strengthened by the example of the life of Christ, and made firm by the sermons and deeds of His Apostles, the founders of the Church Militant. This is [that] clean and immaculate religion in the sight of [Our] God and Father, which descending from the Father of lights through His Son, having been handed on to the Apostles verbally and by example, and at last through the Holy Spirit to blessed Francis, and having inspired those following him, contains in itself, as it were, a testimony of the whole Trinity. It is this, to which with Paul attesting no one for the sake of the rest ought to be molested, which Christ confirmed by the stigmata of His own Passion, willing [as He did] to notably mark with the signs of His own Passion the institutor of that very (religion).
God, the Pope, and the Church have approved their way of life
3. But the craftiness of the ancient foe has not on that account ceased against the Friars Minor themselves and against [their] Rule: indeed striving more powerfully against them to sow tares he has meanwhile stirred up rivals agitated by envy, anger and indiscreet justice (who are) biting the friars, and with the barkings of a dog (are) lacerating their Rule as illicit, unobservable and divisive, not attending [as they do] that this holy Rule, as [has been] said before (to have been) instituted with salutary precepts and admonitions, strengthened by apostolic remarks, approved by very many Roman Pontiffs and even confirmed by the Apostolic See, thoroughly fortified by so many divine testimonies, which have been made exceedingly credible in so many holy men living and ending their days in the observance of this kind of Rule, of whom not a few this same See, on account of their life and miracles, has caused to be inscribed in the album of the Saints, and (which Rule) in almost these very last days by (means of) Our predecessor Pope Gregory X, of pious memory, had been approved on account of (its) evident utility, which concerning this very (matter) the universal Church [Herself] understands, that it has been declared in the General Council of Lyons.
God’s Providence protects the Order
4. Nor have We been less attentive, on the contrary We have pondered (it) more profoundly, just as the rest of those professors of the Catholic Faith ought to more subtly ponder (it), because God Himself, looking upon the aforesaid order and its observers, has so preserved them with salutary protection from the rancors rising up against them, that the tempestuous wave neither smashed them nor did it terrify the souls of those living in the Order itself, rather do they grow stronger in the vigor of regularity and are increased in the observance of their norms. Nevertheless so that the aforesaid Order pure and separate from whatever things that would break it up into pieces may flourish with brightness, just as the friars of the same order gathered in general chapter recently had provided, after Our beloved sons (the minister) general and not a few other ministers provincial of the same order, who had convened in the same chapter, had stood together in Our presence, since (their) intention for a complete remark regarding the same Rule is recognized in the fervent vigor of their spirit; it seemed [right] to Us to close off the ways of biting to bitings of this kind, to declare other doubts which have been able to be seen in the Rule itself, to sow with fuller clarity not a few things declared even by Our predecessors, [and] even in other things touching the Rule itself to provide for the purity of their consciences.
My personal knowledge of the Rule and the Intention of its Author
5. Moreover We, who from tender years have aroused our affections for the Order itself, by growing up during those (years) with some of the companions of the same Confessor, to whom his life and comportment were known, have discussed in frequent conversation the very rule and holy intention of blessed Francis himself; and later as a Cardinal and shortly afterwards by (means of) the [decision of the] same See, the governor, protector, and corrector of the Order itself, We have handled the actual conditions of the aforesaid Order on account of Our supervisory duties; driven from long experience on account of the aforesaid things to keep Ourselves informed in the office of the apostolate not only concerning the pious intention of the aforesaid Confessor but also concerning those things which touch the Rule itself and its observance, We had recourse to the aforesaid Order [itself]; and not only those things, which are known to have been approved and declared by Our same predecessors, but also the Rule itself and those things touching upon it, We with full maturity have discussed, [and] not a few (of these) We in the sequence [of this] present [document] have established, declared, [and] approved more certainly, [and] having been approved We have strengthened, described and conceded them, by arranging very many [of them] more clearly and more orderly, which are expressed more fully in the following articles.
Obligation of the Rule in General
6. In the first place since, as We understand, it is hesitated by some whether the friars of this order are bound as much to the counsels as to the precepts of the Gospel, not only since in the beginning of the aforesaid rule is found: “The rule and life of the friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without [anything of] one’s own and in chastity,” but also from that which is contained in the same rule as: “With the year of probation truly ended let them be received to obedience promising to observe this [very same] life and rule,” and even also since in the conclusion of the rule itself are contained these words: “That we may observe, as we have firmly promised, the poverty and humility and the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was right that Our predecessor, Pope Gregory IX, of happy memory, declared this article and not a few others of the same rule, but since His declaration on account of the biting insults of others rising against the friars and [their] rule, and afterwards by considering the occurrence of many emerging cases, seemed obscure in some things, incomplete in others, and even insufficient regarding many things contained in the rule itself: We, willing to remove obscurity and insufficiency of this kind by a perfect declaration of interpretation and to prune the scruple of whatever ambiguity regarding the same things from the minds of individuals by the certitude of a fuller exposition, say that since in the beginning of the rule not absolutely but with a certain modification or determination or specification is placed: “The rule and life of the friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without [anything of] one’s own and in chastity,” which three follows the same rule with much art and nonetheless subjoining not a few others by precepting, prohibiting, counseling, warning, and exhorting, and under [the form of] other words reducible to something of the manner of precepts, it should be established more clearly concerning the intention of the rule so that that which seems to be subjoined almost absolutely in profession: “promising always to observe this very same life and rule:” might be entirely reduced to the principle (modified, determined, or specified) of this rule, namely, to the observance of the Gospel, as has been said, by this same rule, modified or determined or specified in these three [vows]; since it can not have the likeness of the truth that the same holy word came forth from him (Francis) and at the same time with a certain modification or determination or specification; as if it is right that he wanted it repeated, in the repetition he himself made, somewhat succinctly by omitting modification or determination or specification without certain cause, and as the arguments of both [civil and canon] law teach Us, the things which [are] in the beginning [of the rule], refer to the middle and to the end; indeed those things which [are] in the middle [are] often refer to the end and to the beginning, and the things which [are] at the end [likewise refer] to one or to other of them. And given that it might be absolutely declared that in [its] entirety: “I promise to observe the Holy Gospel,” unless the professor of this kind intended to oblige himself to the observance of all the counsels, which hardly or never could he observe to the letter; on account of which such a promise would seem to ensnare the soul of the one who professes, clearly it would seem that a promise of this kind should not be binding to any conscience without the intention of the one promising, unless the observance of the Gospel be [understood] as the teaching explained by Christ, namely that the precepts be observed by the ones promising as precepts and the counsels as counsels. It is patently clear that blessed Francis had the same understanding even regarding the same words in the arrangement of his proceeding; since he indicates some Evangelical counsels as counsels with words of admonition, exhortation and counsel, truly not a few with prohibition and a word of precept: by which it is clear that it was not the intention of the one speaking, that the friars from the profession of this kind of rule would be held bound to all the counsels as to Evangelical precepts; but only as to those counsels, which are expressed in the same rule as precepts or prohibitions or under words equipollent words. Whence for the quieting of the consciences of the friars of this same order We declare that from the profession of this same rule the friars themselves are bound to observe those things as Evangelical counsels which are expressed in the rule itself as precepts or prohibitions or under equipollent words. Indeed to not a few other counsels given by the Gospel are they more greatly bound, according to the exigencies of their state, than are the rest of Christians, since by the state of perfection, which they have assumed by a profession of this kind, they have offered themselves as a holocaust of the heart to the Lord by [their] contempt of all mundane things. But to all things which are contained in the rule, whether precepts or counsels or other things, they are not otherwise bound by a vow of this kind of profession except in that manner, in which they are treated in the rule itself, so that they are bound to the observance of the things, namely, which are indicated in the same rule under obligatory words: indeed to pursue the observance of other things, which are contained under words admonishing, exhorting, informing and instructing, or in whatever way otherwise, is so much more fitting on account of its goodness and equity, by which the imitators of so great a Father choose the stricter paths of imitating of Christ.
The Poverty obliged by the Rule was taught and lived by Our Lord and His Apostles
7. Moreover since the rule itself expressly contains that the friars may appropriate nothing to themselves neither house nor place nor any thing, and [thus] has it been declared by the same predecessor, Pope Gregory IX, and by not a few others, that this ought to be observed not only individually but also in common, which so strict an abdication insensate cleverness has distorted with livid detractions, lest the clarity of the perfection of the same friars wound with unskillful sermons of such ones, We say that the abdication of this kind of property over all things not only individually but also in common is in the sight of God meritorious and holy, which Christ showing the way to perfection both taught by word and strengthened by example, and which the first founders of the Church militant, just as [streams which] had grown from the spring itself, in willing to live perfectly diverted along their own stream-beds of doctrine and life, nor let anyone think to resist these things, because it is sometimes said, that Christ had had loculi (i. e. money bags or purses). For as Christ Himself, whose works were perfect, cultivated in His deeds the way of perfection, on which account sometimes, condescending to the imperfection of the infirm, he would both extol the way of perfection and not damn the infirm paths of the imperfect: and so Christ in having taken up loculi set free the person of the infirm, and thus assuming in not a few other things an weak human nature, just as is testified by the Evangelical narrative, He condescended to the infirm not only in the flesh but also in the mind, for He so assumed human nature that being perfect in His works [and] made humble according to our [state], He remained exalted in His own. And thus by the highest dignity of charity one, who does not turn away from the highest rectitude of perfection, is drawn to certain acts conformable to our imperfection. For thus did Christ act and teach the works of perfection, He acted even as one weak, just as is sometimes patent by [His] flight and [His] purse; but being perfectly perfect in both so that He might show Himself to perfect and imperfect as the way of salvation, that He had come to save both, and that in turn He willed to die for [the sake] of both.
This Form of Poverty will always be viable in the Church of Christ
8. Nor may anyone on account of these things erroneously assert that those who abdicate property [over] all things according to God in such a manner, bring about their own homicide or make themselves into tempters of the living God: for thus they entrust themselves to Divine providence in living so as not to contemn the way of human provisions, but rather they sustain ]themselves] both on these things which are offered freely or on those which are begged humbly or on those which are acquired by laboring; which is the threefold means of living provided for expressly in the rule. Indeed since according to the promise of the Savior that the faith of the Church will never fail, as a consequence neither will the works of mercy be taken from Her, on account of which every reason for whatever diffidence seems to be taken from the poor of Christ. And indeed where (which is not to be presumed to any degree) these things might entirely fail, just as the way of providing for the sustenance of nature, conceded by the law of heaven in a case of extreme necessity to all those bound by extreme necessity, may not be shut up either for others nor for the friars themselves, since one is to be excused from every [positive] law on account of extreme necessity. But such an abdication of property this does not seem to lead to a renunciation of the use of things in every case for anyone; for since in temporal things is to be considered the particular property, possession, usufruct, jus utendi and simple usus facti, and lastly as much as driven by necessity, the life of mortals may be able, it is lawful to lack these things, in short there can be no profession, which excludes the necessary use for sustenance of himself, truly was he condescending by this profession, by which he has vowed on his own to follow the poor Christ in such poverty, abdicating the dominion of all things and being content with the necessary use of those things conceded to himself.
The Rule obliges the abdication of the jus domini and the retention of the usus facti
9. Nor by this, that one seems to have abdicated the property, use, and dominion of whatever thing, is one to be conjectured to have renounced the simple use of everything, who says not the usus juris but the usus facti in as much as having the name of “facti” it offers however in the using no right to those [so] using, nay even of necessary things as much as for the sustenance of life as for the execution of the duties of one’s state, except that which is subjoined below regarding money, the moderate use according to their rule and all truth has been conceded to the friars; which things the friars can licitly use, during the license of the one conceding [them], and according to that which is contained in the present arrangement [of this document]. Nor is it discerned to resist these things that in human things civil providence humanely prevails, namely that it is not possible for use or usufruct to be separated from perpetual dominion; and lest the dominion of the owner always be rendered useless by surrendering its use, the one providing these things [should have] declared in [the act of] bestowing [them] only a temporary use. Since the retention of the dominion of such things, when by concession [their] use has been granted to the poor, is not unprofitable to the owner since it is meritorious for eternity and opportune to the profession of the poor, which as much as it is judged more useful for himself, so much more that he exchange temporal for eternal things. Next [whether or not] this was the intention of the confessor of Christ in instituting the rule; nay rather he wrote the contrary in it, he observed the contrary in living [it]; since even he himself was for the necessity of using temporal things and manifests in many places in the rule that such a use is lawful for the friars: for he says in the rule that the clerics should recite the divine office, for which the can have breviaries: from this insinuating openly, that the friars would be having the use of [those] breviaries and books, which might be opportune for the [recitation] of the divine office; also in another chapter it is said that the Ministers and Custodes for the necessities of the infirm and for the clothing of the other friars may conduct a solicitous care by [means of] spiritual friends according to places and seasons and cold regions, as might seem to them to expedite necessity; even in another [place] exhorting the friars to avoid idleness by means of a fitting exercise of labor, he says, that they may receive for themselves and for their brothers [those things] necessary for the body as the wage for [their] labor; also in another chapter there is contained that the friars may go about confidently for alms. Even in the same rule it is had that in the preaching, which the friars do, their speech be examined and chaste for the utility and edification of the people by announcing to them vices and virtues, punishment and glory. But this proves that this supposes science; science requires study, the exercise of study truly cannot be normally had without the use of books: from which it is sufficiently clear to all [men] that from the rule the use of [those things] necessary for food, clothing, the divine worship and study of wisdom have been conceded to the friars.
This is an observable, possible, licit, meritorious, and perfect form of evangelical poverty
10. And so it is reasonably patent to intelligent men from the aforesaid things that the rule [is], as regards an abdication of this kind, not only observable, possible, and licit, but meritorious and perfect; and more meritorious since by it the professors of the same are distanced greatly from temporal things for the sake of God, as has been said. According to these things, since the friars themselves are to acquire or be given nothing for themselves in particular, the intention of the one conceding [them] is believed to have been truly likewise, even if it was not expressed by the one offering, so that he entirely concedes, bestows and offers, abdicates from himself, and desires to transfer to others according to God the thing of this kind which is offered, conceded or bestowed; nor is there a person, to which in the place of God the dominion of a thing of this kind is fittingly transferred, other than the aforementioned See or person of the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, who is the Father of all and nonetheless the special Father of the friars Minor, lest the dominion of such things seem to be uncertain, they may acquire the things offered, conceded or bestowed on themselves, just as a son for [his] father in his own way, the servant for [his] lord, and the monk for [his] monastery; the property and dominion, of every utensil and book, and of those moveable things present and future, which and of which it is lawful for the order, or for the friars themselves to have the usus facti, because it was also judged to have been made by Our predecessor, Pope Innocent IV, of happy memory, We, by [Our] apostolic authority, receive as Our own and that of the Roman Church, and sanction to fully and freely pertain to Ourselves and the same Church by this present Constitution being valid in perpetuity.
Let the Friars beware of transgressing this obligation even in appearances
11. Besides places purchased with various alms and offered or conceded to the friars under whatever form of words, it is right that the friars should beware of themselves that in words of this kind there not be used by other persons [formulas] incompatible with their own state, whether by the possessors in common or by those holding certain parts of the same place in which those possessing in common, or those holding certain parts might keep nothing for themselves in an offering or concession of this kind; similarly under Our law and dominion and property and by the authority of the same aforesaid Church We receive [all such places]. Truly let them inhabit places or houses, conceded in their entirety or even offered by an individual or a college, if it might happen that the friars inhabit such [places] by the will of the one conferring [them], as shelter for the friars for as long as the will of the one conferring [them] perdures; and that freely besides the church and oratories attached to the church and the cemetery, which as much now and future under Our law and property and in a similar manner that of the aforesaid Roman church and under Our authority We receive, [but] after a change in the will of the one conceding [the place(s)] and when this becomes known to the friars themselves let them abandon them. Of which places We retain completely nothing under Our dominion or property or under that of the aforementioned Roman church, except those things specially received by Our assent or by that of the same Roman church; and if in these same places the one conceding might reserve the dominion in [the act of] conceding them for the sake of sheltering the friars, such dominion does not pass under the law of the oft-quoted Church, but rather remains fully free for the one conceding.
The Rule obliges the usus pauper
12. Moreover they should have neither utensils nor other things, the use of which [is had] from necessity and for the execution of the duties of their state [in life], nor indeed the use of all things, as has been said, to any [degree of] superfluity, riches, or abundance, which would derogate poverty such as either a treasuring up [of such things] or by such a spirit so that they might alienate [such things], or sell [them], receive [them], either under the appearance of providing for the future or by other occasions; nay even let [their] abdication of all kinds of dominion and the necessity in [their] use [of things] appear in all things [pertaining] to them. Let the Ministers and Custodes together and individually in their administrations and custodies dispose of these also with discretion according to the exigency of persons and places, since concerning such things sometimes the quality of persons, the variety of seasons, the condition of places and not a few other circumstances more or less or otherwise require to be provided for. Let them do those things however so that holy poverty may always shine forth in them and in their deeds, just as it is appointed them [to do] from their rule.
The Rule obliges the non-use of money. How this is to be observed
13. Moreover since it is prohibited under the stricture of precept in the same rule that the friars not receive through themselves or through others coins or money in any manner, and so that the friars may desire to observe [this] in perpetuity and so that they may be obliged to fulfill what was necessary to be enjoined [upon them], lest their purity in the observance of this kind of precept be stained in any thing or [lest] consciences of the friars be pricked by any goading anguish, this very same article for the sake of rebutting more profoundly those who are detracting it, which Our predecessors had done taking it up, and pursuing the same by more clear determinations We say first of all, let the friars themselves abstain from contracting debts [mutua]; since for them to contract a debt, considering their state [in life], is not lawful, nevertheless they themselves can, for making satisfaction for their necessities, which might occur for a time when alms have ceased, concerning which it may not be able to be satisfied conveniently at the time beyond promising a bond of some sort of obligation, which by means of alms and other friends of the friars they intend to work faithfully to repay this kind [of debt]. In which case it is to be procured by the friars, that the one who will give alms through himself or through another who is not to be nominated by them, if it can be done, but by himself more according to his own chosen pleasure, make satisfaction of this kind in entirety or in part, just as the Lord will inspire him. If however he himself does not want to do this or cannot, or his departure [from office] is imminent, or because to those whom he wishes to commit [the matter], he has no knowledge of their trustworthiness, or on account of whatever other happening or cause, We declare and say that in no [way] is the purity of the rule infringed nor is the observance of it stained in any manner whatsoever, if the friars themselves care to make known to him [the trustworthiness] of another or of others, or to nominate someone or others or even to present him or them, to whom, if it pleases such to give alms, the execution of the aforesaid things can be entrusted; and let his approval of the below- written replacements be had: nevertheless so that in the power of the one giving dominion, property and possession of his own money with power free to recall the same money to himself always up until its conversion into the deputed item with those things fully, freely and integrally remaining, the friars may have entirely no right to the money itself nor [may they have its] administration or dispensation, nor may they themselves hold against the person nominated or not nominated by them, in whatever condition he might be, in court or outside it, a judicial prosecution or any other right howsoever the aforesaid person [have conducted himself] in a commission of this kind. Nevertheless it is lawful for the friars to make known and specify and manifest their necessities to the aforesaid person and to beg him to fulfill them. They can even exhort and induce the same person to conduct himself faithfully in the matter committed [to his care]; and to take care of the salvation of his soul in the execution of the matter committed to himself, to this extent, that the friars abstain entirely from all administration or dispensation of this money and from [all] action or judicial prosecution, as has been said, against the aforesaid person. If truly it might happen that a person of this kind, nominated or not nominated by the friars, not be able to execute through himself the aforesaid [matter] because of absence, infirmity, free-will or distance of places, on account of which he himself does not wish to present [himself], in those [places where] the payment may be made or the satisfaction [of the debt] made, or to be impeded for some other reason, it is lawful for the friars with a pure conscience as much as to substitute one other person to the aforementioned [matter] by nominating [him] and others, if they cannot, or do not wish to have recourse to the first donor, since as just above We have declared that it is lawful for them to so nominate such a person. For when the aforesaid satisfaction is presumed to be able to be expedited more swiftly, the agency by-way-of-substitution, as has been said, is more commonly and more generally considered by the first of the two persons to be [the one] able to suffice in the execution of the aforesaid things. If however in the mean time because of the distance of places, in which the satisfaction might be made and where there emerges conditions or other circumstances in the case, in which the agency of many substituted persons seems opportune, it is lawful for the friars themselves in this case according to the character of the business [and] with the aforesaid method observed to choose, nominate, or present many persons to execute that agency. And since it is right and expedient that for the necessities of the friars not only for those for which there might have already been made a payment or a satisfaction, as has just been said above, but even for those things imminent, either violent necessities which they are able to expedite for a short time, or such granted that [they be] comparatively few, the provision for which [things] has been brought about by [something] necessary, as in the writing of books, the construction of churches or buildings for the use of their habitation, the repair of books and clothes in remote places, and other things similar, if as they might occur, [they are] to be soberly provided for with the above mentioned regulation; so that We may distinguish clearly among those necessities, We thus declare that in them the friars can proceed safely and with a healthy conscience, namely, that in violent or imminent necessity, which for a brief time or which sometimes from other circumstances not so brief, as has been said above in the last case, it can be expedited, as much as regards the one giving an alms as regards the one nominated or substituted in all these, and for all these let it be conducted just as in the article on making payment for past necessities [which] We have declared just above. In that true necessity however much violent at the present, which however from its quality, as has been said, has been protracted for a time, because in this case it is true that then by reason of the distance of places, which on account of the character of the necessity itself would require traveling, then also by considered reason of the circumstances of the same necessity there would frequently befall cases, in which it would be right that the money deputed for this kind of necessity would pass through diverse hands and persons, for whom of all [these] persons it would be almost impossible that there be a principle owner who deputes money for this necessity or even one [who was] substituted by him, and third also by the substituted one himself if such a case would happen, after the substitute has received notice, We declare and say that in this article besides those two methods explained regarding past necessities and those violent which might be for a brief time, or sometimes not brief, as is expressed above, to be expedited, as We have said before are to be observed, to protect in every way the purity of the Rule itself and its professors, that if there be at hand one giving out abundantly alms of this kind or his nuncio, who is able to do this, to whom it is expressly said beforehand by the friars that it would please themselves that with the dominion of such money freely remaining in the possession of him always, with the free power of recalling to himself the very same money, even until its conversion into the thing deputed, as has been said in the other two above cases, through however many hands or persons, nominated by him or by the friars, the money or alms itself be borne, the entire [matter] proceed with his consent, will and authority, in order that by granting his assent to the aforementioned things the friars can use safely the thing bought or acquired by that money by whomsoever according to the manner described above. However for a greater clarity [regarding] the aforesaid things We declare the following be valid in perpetuity [regarding] the method of providing [for such things], to the end that the friars by the aforementioned means, as has been said, with those things being observed regarding money to care for their past and violent necessities, they are not to be understood nor can they be said to receive money through themselves or an interposed person contrary to the Rule, or to the purity of the profession of their order, since it is patently manifest from the aforementioned things that the friars themselves not only from reception, propriety, dominion or use of the very money, but truly even from whatever handling of the same and from [the money itself] they be entirely prohibited.
The manner in which the Friars can have recourse to benefactors who have money
14. Truly in this case when beforehand the money itself has been exchanged in a licit transaction for something to have or use, it customarily has happened that the money being conceded, if the one conceding had said or expressed in the act of conceding that the deputed might expend the same money for the necessary use of the friars, whatever might happen to the one conceding [it] in life or at death, whether the one conceding might relinquish an inheritance of this kind or not, the friars have been able to have recourse to the person deputed, not withstanding the death of the one conceding or a contradiction of the inheritance, for that money [which was] to be expended just as they had been able [to have recourse] to the owner himself [who] conceded [it]. Because truly We are zealous for the purity of the order itself with the intimate affection of the heart, when in the aforesaid cases for the sake of a determined necessity, as has been said, it has happened that money has been conceded for some [purpose], the one conceding the money can himself be begged by the friars, that if any [amount] of the money had for the determined necessity would remain, that the one conceding [it] himself consent that the remainder of the aforementioned money be exchanged into other things for the other aforesaid necessities of the friars themselves; to the end that [when] he does not consent to the aforesaid thing, the remainder, if there was any, be restored to him. Let the friars beware, however, that they solicitously agree amongst themselves so that they do not knowingly consent [that there] be conceded to themselves more [money] than in the semblance of the truth can be judged to be the value of the necessary thing for which the money itself is conceded. And since in the orderly exposition of the aforesaid things the giver or recipient can easily err, so that more clearly for the utility of the ones giving, for the purity of the order of [those] other simple men, for the health of souls on this side and that more securely that understanding be considered, which sufficiently in this case be understood by a sane thinker and [so] We are elucidating [all this] in the order of a constitution [that is] to have an eternal validity, wishing [as We do] that it be brought to the attention of the public, namely that always when money is sent or offered to the friars themselves unless expressly by means of the one sending or offering something be expressed, it is to be understood to have been offered and send by the aforesaid means. For it does not have the semblance of truth that someone would want to fix beforehand that means [concerning] his alms without expressing [it], by means of which even the donor be defrauded of merit or those for whose necessities there be intended by providing a gift of this kind be defrauded either of the effect of [such] a gift or of the purity of their conscience.
How last testaments should be formulated and interpreted in their regard
15. Regarding these things, since sometimes not a few things are assigned in diverse ways in last wills [and testaments] to the friars themselves, nor are there expressly contained [anything] concerning these things in the rule or the declarations of Our predecessors, lest in these things doubting befall the legators in the future [when] providing [for the friars], and [so] taking precautions for the consciences of the friars We declare, ordain, and say that if the testator expresses a manner according to which it would not be licit for the friars, considering their condition, to receive [the grant], so that if he might assign to the friars a vineyard or field for cultivating, a house for leasing, or would mention similar words in similar [cases] or would observe similar means in bequeathing [such things], let the friars abstain by every means from such an grant and its reception. If the testator truly has expressed a licit means in assigning to the friars, as if he would say: “I assign money to be expended for the necessities of the friars, or a house, field, vineyard and similar things so that by [means of] a certain person or suitable persons they be sold and the money accepted for these things be exchanged for a building or other necessaries of the friars,” or [if] there are used similar means, or words, in assigning, in this case We judge that quantity to be observed regarding the friars in all things and by means of all things, [having] considered their necessities and [in accord with] the aforesaid regimens, which has been declared by Us above regarding the granting of monetary alms. For the payment of which things, having been assigned, let both the heirs of the testators as well as the executors show themselves liberal, as prelates and even seculars, to whom such a provision might pertain by law or custom, since it will be expedient that they show themselves to have been prompted from their office to fulfill the pious wills of those who are needy. For even We intend to provide by means licit and congruous with the rule of the friars so that the pious intention of deceased [persons] be not thwarted, and [so that] the cupidity of the heirs may be borne away with legitimate measures, and [so that] the poor friars themselves be not defrauded of opportune assistance. If truly something be assigned to the friars in a general manner without expressing the means, in regard to this grant bequeathed so indeterminately We wish in all things and by all things [that there] be understood and observed, and in perpetuity by the present constitution we command, that which above in [regard to] money or alms offered or sent to the friars [in an] indeterminate [manner] We have wished and expressed to be observed, namely so that in a licit manner it be understood to have been bequeathed to the friars so that neither the legator of merit nor the friars themselves of the effect of the bequest be defrauded.
How and in what manner the Friars should conduct themselves in regard to movable goods
16. Because truly the dominion of books and other movable [goods], which both the order as well as the friars use, which however to not belong to others, are worthy to pertain especially to the aforementioned church, to whom it sometimes befalls [to have] books and movable [goods] or for whom it is expedient to sell or even exchange [such things], desiring to provide for the advantage of the friars and for their consciences We concede by the same authority that the exchange of such things and as regards them, the use of which it is licit for the friars to have, proceed by the authority of minister general and ministers provincial united or separately in their administrations, for which [ends] We concede the arranging of the disposition of the use of such things. If truly happens that a thing of this think be sold at an price that has been estimated, since it is not lawful for the friars to receive money through themselves or through another [since] the rule prohibits [this], We ordain and wish that such money or price be received and expended for a licit thing, whose use it is licit for the friars to have, by a procurator deputed by the aforementioned See or by the cardinal entrusted with the governance of this same order by the See itself according to the manner ordained above regarding past and violent necessities. Concerning cheap or movable [goods] or those equal in value that is lawful for the friars from [this] present concession of Ours, having considered [their] piety and devotion or for another honest and reasonable cause, [and] having obtained the permission of their superiors about this beforehand, according to that which will have been ordained among the friars in general or provincial chapters both as regards cheap things themselves or those equal in value, and the value of these, as well as the aforementioned permission, that is by whom and how largess to others, within and without the order, is to be managed.
Poverty in clothing
17. It is lawful on the other hand that there be contained in the rule that the friars have one tunic with a capuche and another without a capuche, and [since] this can seem to have been the intention of [its] institutor that [with] the cessation [of] necessity many habits are not to be used, We declare that the friars can themselves be entrusted, according to the permission of the Ministers and Custodes united or separate in their administrations, when it will seem to them, having pondered [their] necessities, and other circumstances, which seem [should] be attended to according to God and the rule, to use more, nor by [means of] this do they seem to deviate from the rule since even in it there is said expressly that the Ministers and Custodes are to exercise solicitous care of the necessities of the infirm and the clothing of the friars according to places and times and frigid regions.
The superiors may delegate their responsibility and authority regarding the necessities of the community
18. And although the aforesaid rule contains that regarding the clothing of the friars and the necessities of the infirm the Ministers as much as the Custodes should exercise solicitous care, and that saying binding the Ministers and Custodes tightly in this duty to the extent that it seems at first glance to exclude others from it, because however it is fitting that We consider solicitously both the time [during which] the rule [was] instituted, when the friars themselves were few in number in comparison to the present, and perhaps the Ministers and Custodes seemed then to suffice to be able to procure these [things], and nonetheless the extent of the multiplication of the friars and the quality of modern times, nor does it have the semblance of truth that blessed Francis the institutor of the rule either to have wanted to fix beforehand a yoke of impossibility upon the Ministers and Custodes or to want the friars themselves from the consequences of this same impossibility to lack their necessities, We do concede that the Ministers and Custodes themselves can exercise this manner of solicitous care by [means of] another. Also other friars should even diligently exercise care of this kind which is incumbent upon the aforementioned Ministers and Custodes from the rule, when this has been committed to them by these same [ones].
Of work and spiritual labors
19. There is contained also in the rule that the friars, to whom the Lord has given the grace of working, should work faithfully and devotedly so that having excluded idleness, the enemy of the soul, they may not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion. Since truly on account of this passage some have sometimes striven to accuse the friars themselves of idleness of life and of bold transgression of the rule in this regard, We restraining monstrous verbal attacks of this kind do declare that having considered the aforesaid words and the form and manner of speaking, under which the friars are led to an exercise of this kind, it does not seem to have been the intention of the institutor that he would subject those spending time in study or the divine offices and in the execution of ministries to manual labor or work or might reduce them to this, when by the example of Christ and that spiritual labor of many holy Fathers would so much outweigh him in as much as they preferred those which are of the soul to those corporal. Truly to those others, who do not exert themselves in the aforesaid spiritual works (unless such be occupied in the licit services of other friars) lest they live idly, We declare the aforesaid words to be extended, unless such are both so excellent and notable in contemplation and prayer that for the sake of this merit they are not to be withdrawn from such good and pious an exercise. For the friars [who] do not spend however much time in study or the divine offices, but [rather] inheriting from the services of those spending time in study or in other divine offices and ministries, since for their very selves they merit to be sustained by those who serve, because it has been established to have been sanctioned by that favorable law, by which that vigorous fighter David justly decreed, namely that the portion of those who descended into battle and of those who remained among the baggage [train] was to be equal.
Of preaching to the people
20. In truth because it is expressly contained in the rule that the friars are not to preach in the diocese of any bishop, when they will have been contradicted by him, in [regard to] this We, both deferring to the rule and maintaining nevertheless the plenitude of Apostolic authority, say that the aforesaid passage is to be observed to the letter, just as it is set forth in the rule itself, unless there has been conceded or ordained or [if] there be conceded in the future or even ordained something through the Apostolic See concerning this [matter] for the utility of the Christian people. And since in this chapter of the rule there be immediately subjoined that no friar should hardly dare to preach to the people, unless he will have been examined and also approved by the minister general and there be conceded to him by the latter the office of preaching, We, adverting to both the past state of the order itself in its littleness and the modern in the increased number of friars and the utility of souls, as is fitting, concede that not only might the general look to examining, to approving the friars to preach to the people and to conceding to them the permission to preach, as far as the permission itself pertains to the suitability of persons and the duty of preaching, just as is contained in the rule, but also the ministers provincial can in provincial chapters with the definitors [do] this, to the extent that it is said to be observed even today and to be contained in the privileges of the friars: that indeed the aforementioned ministers are able to revoke, suspend, and abridge the permission, as and when it seems to them to be expedient.
To whom the right to admit vocations may be conceded
21. But since among our desires there is borne this that for the glory of God the salvation of souls and the said order be promoted, by means of which [desire] the affection for the Christian religion is continually enkindled according to divine love, [and that] it be increased in merit and number, We concede and by the present statute establish that it be licit not only for the minister general but also for the ministers provincial to receive among the friars persons fleeing from the world, the permission of which ministers provincial by [minister] general himself, as he will judge to be expedient, can be abridged. Truly the vicars of the ministers provincial know that [the granting of] this permission [is] forbidden themselves, unless by these ministers, for whom We judge it is lawful to be able to commit this to the vicars and to others, it be especially committed to the vicars themselves. Let the ministers provincial themselves beware, however, that they do not indiscreetly, nor indiscriminately, but [with] much consideration commit this [permission to them], and thus let them support those, to whom this [permission] happens to be committed, with faithful counsels to the end that everything proceed discretely; nor are they to admit all indifferently to the order but only those, who having been recommended by learning, suitability or other circumstances, can be useful to the order, and [who can] by the merit of [such] a life advance themselves and by [their own] example assist others.
On the election of the minister general
22. Besides the friars of the aforesaid order doubting in regard to that which is said in the rule, that with the decease of the minister general there is to be an election of a successor by the Ministers provincial and Custodes in the Pentecost chapter, whether it is fitting that the multitude of all the Custodes come together to the general chapter, or whether, so that everything be managed with greater tranquility, it may be able to suffice that some from each province, who would vote in the name of others, would take part, We give this answer that namely the Custodes of each province are to appoint one from [among] themselves, whom they are to send with their minister provincial on their own behalf to the chapter, committing their votes and powers to the same, because, when they have appointed [him] by themselves, even We reckon a statute of this kind to have been approved, because also [Our] predecessor, Gregory IX, in a case of this kind is said to have responded in this manner.
On avoiding suspicious familiarity with women
23. Finally sine there is contained in above mentioned rule that the friars are not to enter monasteries of nuns except those [friars] to whom special permission has been conceded by the aforesaid See, although the friars have believed this to be understood more directly regarding the monasteries of poor cloistered women religious, since the aforementioned See has a special care for them, and the understanding of this by [their] constitution at the time the rule was given, [when] blessed Francis [was] still living, is believed to have been declared by the ministers provincial in the general chapter, these same friars nevertheless ask [Us] to make certain whether this regards all [women religious] generally, since the rule excepts none, or whether it should be understood only the monasteries of the aforesaid women religious. We at least respond that generally this is to be prohibited regarding whatever communities of women religious, and We wish that by the word “monasteries” there be understood “cloisters,” “houses,” and “interior quarters,” for [the sake of] this that at other places where lay men come together, the friars can there be present for the purpose of preaching or seeking alms, to whom it has been conceded by their own superiors on account of their maturity and suitability, excepting always [those places belonging to] the aforesaid cloistered monasteries; at which none are given faculty to be present without special permission of this same See: because also [Our] predecessor, Gregory IX, himself regarding this case is said to have responded in this manner.
On the authority of the Testament of St. Francis
24. Moreover Francis, the confessor of Christ, of holy memory, is said to have commanded about the end of his life, the command of whom is itself call the Testament: that the words of the rule itself are not to be glossed, and as we read his words, to this extent and thus he should be understood, let it not be said, adding that the friars are not to seek in any manner other letters from the Apostolic See, and inserting a certain something that they cannot observe without much difficulty, on account of which the friars, hesitating whether they were bound to the observance of the aforesaid Testament, sought this kind of doubt to be removed from their consciences by the same predecessor, Gregory XI. Who, as is told, attending to the danger of souls and [its] difficulties, which could be incurred on account of it, to remove doubt from their hearts told the friars that they were not held to the observance of this command, because without the consensus of the friars and more so of the ministers, all of whom it affects, it is unable to oblige, neither did it oblige his successor in any manner, since as an equal among equals he would not have [any] power [of commanding]. We moreover reckon that nothing is to be innovated regarding the present article.
This constitution is to be observed by all the Friars
25. Regarding these things We have understood that diverse letters have come forth from not a few of Our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, about the clarification of this rule and the rule itself and those things touching [upon] it, but neither on this account has the insult of the aforesaid attacks against the rule itself and [against] the friars grown quiet, nor by [means of] these letters is provision made for the state of the friars regarding many things, for which after the occurrence of many cases, experience has indicated that there must be provision for new and otherwise necessary things. We, therefore, lest the diversity of letters of this kind and or the present constitution or a difficulty of understanding in the observance of the aforesaid things perturb the souls of the friars, and so that more fully, clearly, and certainly it may respect the interests of their state and the observance of the aforesaid rule; in each and every of its articles which this very constitution contains, although these or others may be contained in the other Apostolic letters above mentioned, We judge that this Our constitution, declaration, or ordination is to be observed exactly as such and inviolably by the friars themselves for all time.
This Constitution is to have perpetual validity and is to be published. Those who oppose it are to be excommunicated
26. Therefore since from the aforesaid things and others discussed by Us in great detail it is manifest that the rule itself is licit, holy, perfect and observable, [and] not evidently exposed to any criticism, it and all Our above written statutes, ordinances, concessions, arrangements, decrees, declarations and even supplements, by the plenitude of Apostolic power We approve, confirm and will to exist in perpetual validity, precepting in virtue of actual obedience that this constitution, just the constitutions or decretals of other letters, be read in the schools. And since under the appearance of [what is] licit not a few in reading, expounding and glossing, can pour forth the venom of their iniquity against the friars themselves and the rule, and producing in diverse and adverse propositions according to their own invention pervert the very understanding of this constitution, and [since] the diversity of opinion and the distortion of understanding can entangle the pious souls of many and steal the hearts of many from entering religion, avoiding the perversity of such detractors urges us to prevent them from doing the aforesaid things and to determine a certain manner of proceeding for those who read this constitution. Therefore under the pain of excommunication and of actual privation of office and benefice We precept that the present constitution, when it will happen to be read, as has been mentioned, be so faithfully expounded to the letter, [that] no harmony, contrariety or diverse or adverse opinions be introduced by the lectors or expositors, [that] glosses not be made upon the constitution itself, unless perhaps the word or sense of the word, or the construction or the constitution itself, is expounded by them grammatically just according to the letter or [to make it] more intelligible, nor is the understanding of the same to be perverted by the reader into something else or distorted into something other, than the letters themselves mean. And lest the aforesaid See should labor further against detractors of this kind, We precept strictly all [persons] and each [of them] of whatever pre-eminence, condition or state, not to teach, write, criticize, preach or speak perversely in public or private against the aforesaid rule and the state of the aforesaid friars or against the aforementioned things established, ordained, conceded, arranged, decreed, declared, supplemented, approved and even confirmed by Us. But if anything pertaining to some ambiguity in these [matters] would come forth, let it be submitted to the summit of the aforesaid Apostolic See, so that by Apostolic authority itself there may be manifested in regard to it the intention [of him] to whom alone it has been conceded in these [matters] to establish statutes and to clarify those things [which] have been established. Let doctors above all or lectors, truly glossing in [their] writings this constitution [in a manner] otherwise than that, which We have explained, while they teach in public, [both] from certain knowledge and deliberation, distorting the understanding of this kind of constitution, [and] also commenting, producing writings or booklets and making distinctions in the schools, [both] from certain knowledge and deliberation, or preaching against the aforesaid or other things or any [part] of the aforesaid things, notwithstanding other privileges or indulgences or Apostolic letters, conceded to whatever persons of rank, individuals, orders, or houses religious or secular, together or individually under whatever form or expression of words, which We do not wish to be approved by anyone in the aforementioned [matters] in whatever manner, [We say let them] know themselves to lie under the sentence of excommunication, which We henceforth decree against them; from which they cannot be absolved except by the Roman Pontiff. Besides to such as these, against whom the sentence of excommunication has been decreed by Us, [and] also to others, if there will be any, coming into Our [presence] or that of the said See against the aforementioned things or [against] anything [pertaining] to them, We wish there be brought notice, that the rigor of the Apostolic punishment drives them from these forbidden things, whom a foreseen measure of equity would not hinder.
To no man therefore is it licit at all to infringe this page of our declaration, ordinance, concession, arrangement, supplement, approbation, confirmation and constitution or to contravene it with temerarious daring. If he should do so, let him know that will incur the wrath of the Omnipotent God and of His holy Apostles, Peter and Paul.
Given at Soriano, eighteen days before the Calends of September, in the second year of Our pontificate.
Pope Nicholas III
- This is a direct quote from the Vulgate of Lk 8: 5 “He who sows went forth to sow his own seed;” cf. also the Vulgate texts of Mt 13:3; Mk 4:3; for allusions to “from the bosom … into the world” cf Is. 53:10-11; Jn. 1:18; 16:28. Hereafter all scriptural references are the to the Vulgate, unless otherwise noted. ↑
- The direct reference to “the future farmer” is from Jer 14:8; the other references are to also Zech 10:9, Jn 12:32 and Jonah 2:10. ↑
- The Latin text here in ordinatis sollicitudinibus suffocatum which means “suffocated in orderly solicitudes,” has been translated rather as if it read inordinatis sollicitudinibus suffocatum. ↑
- For the Parable of the Sower cf. Mt 13: 4-8,18-23; Mk 4:3-9,14-20; Lk 8:5-8,11-15. ↑
- In reference to “religious life” the Latin word religio was commonly used; compare Honorius III’s Solet annuere and Opuscula S. Francisi, K. Esser, 1976. ↑
- “rooted” corresponds grammatically to “religion” of the previous phrase. ↑
- cf. Is. 35:2. ↑
- cf. 1 Cor 4:15. ↑
- cf Gen 49:1-27. Jacob had twelve sons; St. Francis had twelve first disciples. Like Jacob, St. Francis blessed their sons at death; like Jacob, St. Francis is called a “patriarch” by his sons. As Jacob prophesied the coming of Christ, the Son of the Virgin, among the sons of Judah (Gen 49:8-10), so St. Francis exhorted his sons to the imitation of Christ until the end of time, entrusting them to the Virgin (cf. St. Bonaventure’s Legenda Major). ↑
- The reference to “sown in the garden” is to Gen 2:8; Dt 11:10; Ct 6:2; Jer 61:11; Lk 13:19; “able to save” is Heb. 7:25. ↑
- cf. Pope John XII’s Quia quorundam n. 3, quotes this sentence to demonstrate that Nicholas III’s Exiit qui seminat did not support the arguments of those who advocated the heresy of absolute poverty. ↑
- James 1:27b. ↑
- James 1:17. ↑
- cf. Jn 5:7: “There are three who testify in Heaven…”. ↑
- The Latin here, decetero, should be de cetero. The reference is to Gal 6:17. ↑
- A reference to the stigmata received by St. Francis, Sept. 14, 1224 A.D., which were examined at the Saint’s death and confirmed by Gregory IX and a great number of his successors, e.g. as Pope Nicholas III, did on August 23, 1279 [op. cit. #563, p. 232: Fol. 184; an II, n. 155]; cf. also Gal 6:17; for the use of “religion” cf. fn. 5. ↑
- cf. 2 Cor 11:3 and Rev. 12:9. ↑
- cf. Mt 13:25. ↑
- cf. Hab 2:7. ↑
- A reference to the formal precepts of the Rule regarding the evangelical life. ↑
- A reference to the exhortations to perfection which St. Francis included in his Rule. ↑
- A reference to the authentic interpretations issued by the Roman Pontiffs, beginning with Gregory IX. ↑
- e.g. Bl. Giles, Bl. Thomas of Celano, St. Bonaventure. ↑
- e.g. St. Anthony of Padua. ↑
- Second Council of Lyons, 1274 A.D., Const. 23/28. ↑
- A reference to the opposition of the clergy to the mendicant orders, especially the Order of Friars Minor in the period 1240-1270 A.D.. For a detailed examination of their objections cf. St. Bonaventure’s Apologia pauperum. ↑
- A reference to the recent approval of the Constitutions of Lyons in 1270 A.D. which codified the reforms instituted during the generalate of St. Bonaventure. ↑
- A reference to the beginning of controversies within the Order between the Community and the spirituals. ↑
- Sometime after Dec. 26, 1278, when Nicholas III was crowned pope, a General chapter had resolved to seek a papal declaration on the Rule on account of the lingering dissatisfaction among some members with the recent reforms instituted by St. Bonaventure, who died in 1274 A.D.. ↑
- “from Our supervisory duties” translates ex imminenti nobis cura. ↑