The Rule of the Friars Minor (1223)
In the Name of the Lord! The Life of the Lesser Brothers Begins
1 Rule and life of the Lesser Brothers is this: To observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without anything of our own, and in chastity.
2Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to our Lord Pope Honorius, his successors canonically elected, and to the Roman Church.
3Let the other brothers be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors.
Those Who Wish to Adopt This Life and How They Should Be Received
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. 2Let the ministers examine them carefully concerning the Catholic faith and the sacraments of the Church. 3If they believe all these things, will profess them faithfully, and observe them steadfastly 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, 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.
7Let the brothers and the minister be careful not to interfere with their material goods, so that they may dispose of their belongings as the Lord inspires them. 8If they ask advice, the minister may send them to some God-fearing persons according to whose advice their goods may be distributed to the poor.
9Then they may be given the clothes of probation, namely, two tunics without a hood, a cord, short trousers, and a little cape reaching to the cord, 10unless, at times, it seems good to these same ministers, before God, to act otherwise. 11When the year of probation has come to an end, they may be received to obedience promising always to observe this rule and life. 12On no account shall it be lawful for them to leave this Order, according to the decree of our Lord the Pope, 13for, according to the Gospel: no one who puts a hand to the plough and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.
14Those who have already promised obedience may have one tunic with a hood and another, if they wish, without a hood. 15And those who are compelled by necessity may wear shoes. 16Let all the brothers wear poor clothes. They may mend them with pieces of sackcloth or other material with the blessing of God. 17I admonish and exhort them not to look down upon or judge those whom they see dressed in soft and fine clothes and enjoying the choicest food and drink, but rather let everyone judge and look down upon himself.
The Divine Office, Fasting and How the Brothers Should Go About in the World
1 The cleric brothers are to recite the Divine Office according to the rite of the holy Roman Church excepting the psalter, 2 for which reason they may have breviaries.
3The lay brothers, however, may say twenty-four Our Fathers for Matins, and five for Lauds; seven for each of the Hours of Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, twelve for Vespers, and seven for Compline. 4Let them also pray for the dead.
5They are to fast from the feast of All Saints until the Lord’s Nativity. 6May those be blessed by the Lord who fast voluntarily during that holy Lent that begins at the Epiphany and lasts during the forty days which our Lord consecrated by His own fast; but those who do not wish to keep it will not be obliged. 7Let them fast, however, during the other [Lent] until the Lord’s Resurrection.
8At other times they may not be bound to fast except on Fridays. 9In cases of obvious need, however, the brothers are not bound by bodily fasting.
10I counsel, admonish and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world; 11but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle, and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming. 12They should not ride on horseback unless compelled by an obvious need or infirmity.
13Into whatever house they enter, let them first say: “Peace be to this house!” 14According to the holy Gospel, let them eat whatever food is set before them.
Let the Brothers Never Receive Money
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, 3saving always that, as stated above, they do not receive coins or money.
The Manner of Working
1Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working may work faithfully and devotedly 2so that, while avoiding idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all temporal things must contribute. 3In payment for their work they may receive whatever is necessary for the bodily support of themselves and their brothers, excepting coin or money, 4and let them do this humbly as is becoming for servants of God and followers of most holy poverty.
Let the Brothers Not Make Anything Their Own; Begging Alms; the Sick Brothers
1Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all. 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 the 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.
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 Penance To Be Imposed on the Brothers Who Sin
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. 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.
The Election of the General Minister of This Fraternity and the Chapter of Pentecost
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. 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. 3They shall 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, the aforesaid brothers, to whom the election is committed, are bound to elect another as custodian in the name of the Lord. 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.
1The brothers may not preach in the diocese of any bishop when he has opposed their doing so. 2And let none of the brothers dare to preach in any way to the people unless he has been examined and approved by the General Minister of this fraternity and the office of preacher has been conferred upon him.
3Moreover, I admonish and exhort those brothers that when they preach their language be well-considered and chaste for the benefit and edification of the people, announcing to them vices and virtues, punishment and glory, with brevity, because our Lord when on earth kept His word brief.
The Admonition and Correction of the Brothers
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.
4And wherever 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.
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. Let those who are illiterate not be anxious to learn, 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 says: Love 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.
The Brothers May Not Enter the Monasteries of Nuns
1I strictly command all the brothers not to have any suspicious dealings or conversations with women, 2and not to enter the monasteries of nuns, excepting those brothers to whom special permission has been granted by the Apostolic See. 3Neither shall they be godfathers to men or women, so that scandal may not arise among the brothers or concerning them.
Those Going Among the Saracens and Other Non-Believers
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.
3In addition, I command the ministers through obedience to ask our Lord the Pope for one of the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, to serve as 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.
It is forbidden, therefore, for anyone to tamper with this decree which we have confirmed, or rashly dare to oppose it. If anyone presumes to attempt this, let him know that he shall incur the anger of Almighty God and of His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
Given at the Lateran, the twenty-ninth day of November,
in the eighth year of Our pontificate.