Translated by Mark Stier OFM CapCap
An English translation of D’Alençon’s 1928 text in The Messenger of the Province of St. Joseph between the years 1930-1933.
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IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST begin the Constitutions of the Friar Minor Capuchins.
To the end that our order, as the Vineyard of the Most High Son of God, may the better stand fast in the spiritual observance of the Evangelical and Seraphic Rule, the General Chapter held at Rome in our monastery of St Euphemia, the year of the Lord 1536, deemed it advisable to draw up certain statutes which might serve as a fence for our Holy Rule, in order that, like the unconquerable tower of David, it might have a means of protection from whatever might injure the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and keep out all relaxations opposed to the fervent and seraphic zeal bequeathed to us by our Father St Francis.
1. In the doctrine of the Gospel, wholly pure, heavenly, supremely perfect and divine, brought down to us from heaven by the most sweet Son of God, and promulgated and preached by Him in word and deed, approved and authenticated by His heavenly Father in the river Jordan and on Mount Thabor, when he declared that “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him,” alone teaches and points out the straight path of going to God. Hence, all men, especially all Christians who have professed the Gospel in Baptism, and much more we Friars, are obliged to observe this holy Gospel. St Francis, therefore, in the beginning and end of his Rule, expressly mentions the observance of the Holy Gospel; nay, his Rule is simply the Incarnation of the Gospel. In his Testament he also declares it was revealed to him that he should live according to the manner of the holy Gospel. In order that the Friars may always keep the doctrine and life of our Lord Jesus Christ before the eyes of their mind, and like the saintly Virgin Cecilia always bear the holy Gospel in the interior of their hearts, it is ordained that in honour of the Most Blessed Trinity the four Evangelists be read three times a year, namely, one every month.
2. And since the Rule of St Francis is like a little mirror in which evangelical perfection is reflected, it is ordained that every Friday in all our Friaries, it be read distinctly, with due reverence and devotion, so that being impressed upon our minds, it may be better observed. Some other pious book shall also be read to the Friars, exhorting them to follow Christ crucified.
3. In order that the love of God be enkindled in our hearts, the Friars shall always strive to speak of God. Desiring that the evangelical doctrine should bear fruit in our hearts and that all chaff which might suffocate it be extirpated, it is ordained that in no wise shall books that are useless, or frivolous and dangerous to the spirit of Christ, our Lord and God, be kept in our Friaries.
4. And since the flames of divine love proceed from the light of divine things, it is ordained that some lesson from the Holy Scripture be read, expounding it by means of saintly and devout Doctors. And though the infinite and divine Wisdom be incomprehensible and elevated, still it has humbled itself in Christ, our Saviour, to such an extent, that by means of the pure, simple and unaffected eye of faith, even the simple can understand it. It is forbidden, however, that the Friars read or study anything irrelevant or frivolous. Let them read and study the Holy Scriptures, nay, Christ Jesus, in Whom, according to St Paul, are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
5. And because it was the desire, not only of our Seraphic Father, but of Christ, our redeemer, that the Rule should be observed to the letter, with simplicity and without gloss, as it was observed by our first Fathers, we renounce all privileges and explanations that relax it, detract from its pure observance and wrest it from the pious, just and holy intentions of Christ, our Lord, Who spoke in St Francis. We accept only as a living and authentic commentary thereon, the declarations of the Supreme Pontiffs, and the most holy life, doctrine and example of our Seraphic Father himself.
6. In order that we, as true and legitimate sons of Jesus Christ our Father and Lord, begotten again by Him in St Francis, may have an abundant share in his inheritance, it is ordained that all observe the Testament made by our Father St Francis when, near death, adorned with the sacred Stigmata, full of fervour and the Holy Ghost, he most ardently desired our salvation; and this we accept as spiritual commentary and gloss of our Rule, because it was written by him to the end that we may in a more Catholic manner observe the Rule we have promised. We are sons of the Seraphic Father so far as we imitate his life and example, for our Saviour said to the Jews: “If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham.” Hence, if we are sons of St Francis let us do the works of St Francis. Wherefore, it is ordained that everyone strive to imitate our Father who has given us as Rule, standard and example, nay, even our Lord Jesus Christ in him, not only in his Rule and Testament, but also in his fervent words and holy deeds. For this reason they shall frequently read his life and the lives of his blessed companions.
7. Our Father, being wholly divine, contemplated God in every creature, especially in man, and more so in the Christian, but above all in the priest, and in a very singular manner in the Supreme Pontiff, who is the Vicar of Christ our Lord on earth and head of the whole Church Militant. He, therefore, wished his Friars, in accordance with the apostolic teaching, to be subject to the divine Majesty in every creature, out of love for Him Who humbled Himself so much for us. Wherefore, he called them Friars Minor in order that they should, not only in their hearts deem themselves inferior to all, but that, being called in the Church Militant to the Marriage-feast of the Most Holy Spouse, Jesus Christ, they should always take the lowest place, in accordance with His counsel and example.
8. Considering that to be free from subjection to the Ordinaries by privileges and exemptions is not only proximate to pride, but the enemy of the humble subjection of a Friar Minor, and because such liberty very often disturbs peace and begets scandal in the Church of God, and in order to conform ourselves to our humble and crucified Saviour, Who came to serve us, becoming obedient, even unto the bitter death of the Cross, and not being subject to the law yet wished to subject Himself to it by paying the Temple-tax, and finally, to avoid scandal, the General Chapter renounces the privilege of being exempt from Ordinaries. By the highest privilege we accept, with our Seraphic Father, to be subject to all. Furthermore, it is ordained, that all Vicars, each in their own Province, go to their respective Ordinary and Prelates who are members humbly subject to the Supreme Pontiff, the head and superior of all. In their name and in the name of all the Friars let them renounce all contrary privileges and humbly offer obedience and reverence in all divine and canonical matters.
9. And according to the desire of our Father, we exhort every Friar to treat all priests with due reverence. We further exhort the Friars to obey with all possible reverence all Prelates and the Supreme Pontiff, the Father of all Christians; to be subject even to all human creatures which show us the way to God. Let them remember that the lower the person is whom we obey for the love of Jesus Christ, so much more glorious and pleasing is our obedience in the sight of God.
10. We further ordain that the Friars be subject, not only to their Vicars, Custodes and Guardians, but that the Vicar General, when elected, will humbly present himself or write to the Very Reverend Father General of the Conventuals, by whom he must be confirmed.
11. And since to avoid similar privileges our Father St Francis in his Testament commands his Friars that they shall not dare to ask letters from the Roman Court on account of bodily persecution, the General Chapter renounces all privileges which relax the Rule and, enervating the way of the spirit, lay the foundation of a sensual life.
12. As to the second Chapter: Desiring that our Order grow more in virtue, perfection and spirit, than in numbers; knowing also as the Infallible Truth teaches that “many are called, but few are chosen,” and that, as our Seraphic father foretold when near death: nothing is a greater hindrance to the pure observance of the Rule than a multitude of useless, worldly and self-indulgent Friars, we ordain that when any persons apply for admission the Vicars shall make careful enquiries as to their condition and character, and they shall not receive them if they do not manifest a very good intention and fervent will. To avoid all wonder and scandal, and that the candidate may know by experience what he must promise, no one shall be received until he is sixteen years of age, or if he should be sixteen but have a youthful face.
13. It is further ordained, that no one be received as a Cleric who has not sufficient literary education so that in chanting the Divine Office he may not offend but understand what he says.
14. We further ordain that those who are admitted in this mode of life shall for some days previous to their clothing, exercise themselves in one of our friaries in all those things which are observed by the Friars, so that their good will may be known, and that they may enter on so great an undertaking with greater light, maturity and deliberation. The same is to be understood of those Religious who desire to be admitted to our life. In order that this be well observed, it is ordained that the Vicars shall not receive any one without the counsel and consent of the majority of the Friars dwelling in that place.
15. And since Christ, the wisest of Masters, charged that young man who desired to gain eternal life, that if he wished to become His disciple, he should first sell all that he had, give it to the poor and then follow Him; His imitator, Francis, not only observed that counsel and taught it by example in his own person and in those whom he received, but commanded it in his Rule. In order, therefore, to conform ourselves to Christ, our Lord, and to the will of the Seraphic Father, we ordain that no one shall be clothed, unless first, if able, he has distributed all to the poor as is becoming for one who freely chooses a mendicant life. In this way the Friars will be able to determine at least in part, the fervent or tepid spirit; and the candidates will be able to serve God with greater peace of mind and constancy of will. And the Friars, avoiding all interference in these matters, shall remain undisturbed in their holy peace.
16. We further ordain that the clothes of the novices who come from the world be kept until the day of profession; those of religious, for some days. If they persevere, the seculars shall give their clothes to the poor; those of religious shall be distributed by the Vicars themselves or by the medium of some spiritual person.
17. Lest that should be said of us which our most holy Saviour said to the Scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, because you go about the sea and the land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him the child of hell twofold more than yourselves,” we determine that in every Province the novices shall be placed in one or two houses suited to the spiritual life, chosen for this purpose by the Chapter. And they shall be given Masters who are most mature, refined, and enlightened in the way of God. The Masters shall take diligent care to teach the novices not only the ceremonies, but those spiritual matters necessary for the perfect imitation of Christ, our Light, our Way, our Truth and our Life. By word and example they shall show them in what the life of a Christian and a Friar Minor consists. No one shall be received to profession unless he know beforehand what he must promise and observe. The Masters shall take diligent care that the Cleric novices learn the Rule by heart during the time of the novitiate.
18. In order that the novices may in quiet, peace and silence be better strengthened in the spirit we ordain that no one speak much with them except the Father Guardian and their Master. Nor shall anyone enter their cells, nor they the cells of others, without special permission.
19. And in order that they may better learn to bear the yoke of the Lord, we determine, that after their profession, they shall remain under the discipline of the Master for at least three years, so that they may not easily lose the newly acquired spirit, but growing in strength, may become more fixed and rooted in the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God.
20. And since the Doctors of the Church hold that those novices who make their profession with proper dispositions are restored to their baptismal innocence, we ordain that they prepare themselves before their profession with great care, by confession, communion and much prayer, their general confession having been made when they entered religion to put on the new man. And before receiving the said novices into religion, as well as admitting them to profession, the prescriptions and ceremonies customary and approved of in the order shall be observed.
21. And since it was not without reason that Christ commended St John the Baptist’s austerity in clothing when He said: “They that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings”, it is ordained that the friars who have chosen to be menials in the house of God, clothe themselves with the more common, abject, austere, coarse and despised cloth that can conveniently be had in the Province where they shall be. And let the Friars remember that the sack-cloth with which St Francis would have us mend our habits, and the cord with which he would have us girt, are not suited to the rich ones of this world.
22. The General Chapter also exhorts all the Friars to be content with the habit alone, as expressed by St Francis in his Testament, when he said: “And we were content with one tunic, patched inside and out”. But should any of the Friars be weak in body or in spirit, then, according to the Rule, a second tunic may be given them; and to these a mantle shall not be given without necessity and permission of the Prelate; knowing that for a healthy Friar to use three pieces of clothing is a manifest sign of a lax spirit.
23. In order that poverty, so loved by the Son of God, and given to us as a mother by the Seraphic Father, may shine forth in everything we use, it is decreed that the mantle shall not extend beyond the tips of the fingers and shall be without a hood, except when making a journey; and it shall not be worn without necessity. The habit shall not go beyond the ankles in length and shall be ten feet wide, twelve feet for the corpulent Friars. The sleeves shall be no wider than is necessary to put in and draw out the arms, and long enough to reach the middle of the hand or a little longer. The tunics shall be very plain and coarse, eight or nine feet wide, and at least a half foot shorter than the habit. The hood shall be square, like those of St Francis and his companions which still exist as relics, and as may be seen in ancient pictures, and as is described in the Book of Conformity; so that our habit be in the form of a cross to remind us that we are crucified to the world and the world to us. The girdle of the Friars shall be a plain and coarse cord, with very simply knots, without any art or singularity; so that being despised by the world we may have occasion to mortify ourselves the more. Neither birettas, hats, or anything ornamented or superfluous shall be worn.
24. In each of our houses there shall be one small room where the community clothes are to be taken care of by a Friar appointed for that purpose; and he shall keep them clean and mended for the use of the brethren who, having used them according to their needs, shall return them cum gratiarum actione.
25. In order that our beds may resemble somewhat that on which He died Who said: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head”; and also that we may be the more watchful and solicitous in prayer and be the more like our Father St Francis, whose bed was often the bare ground, and even like Christ, the Saint of Saints, especially in the desert, it is ordained that all the Friars, except the sick and the very weak, shall sleep on a bare board, rush mat or upon a little straw or hay; and they shall not sleep upon quilts.
26. In accordance with the example of Christ it is ordained that the young Friars, and those who can, shall go barefooted, as a sign of humility, testimony of poverty, mortification of sensuality and as a good example to our neighbour. And those who cannot do this may, in conformity with evangelical teaching and the example of our primitive Fathers, wear sandals with the permission of the Prelate; but they shall be simple, plain and poor, without any ornamentation.
27. In order that the friars reach the summit of most high poverty the queen and mother of all virtues, the spouse of Christ our Lord, and of our Seraphic Father, and of our most beloved Mother, we exhort all the Friars not to have any attachment on earth, but always to fix their affection in heaven, using the things of this world sparingly as if by constraint, and in so far as their weakness will allow, deeming themselves rich with all their poverty. Let them be content with one spiritual book, or even with Christ crucified, and with two handkerchiefs and two drawers. And let them remember, as our Seraphic Father said, that a Friar should be nothing but a mirror of every virtue, especially of poverty.
28. In order that we may run more expeditiously in the way of the divine precepts, it is decreed that no animal for riding be kept in any of our houses, neither shall the Friars ride on horseback. But in case of necessity, after the example of Christ and His imitator, St Francis, they may ride upon an ass, so that our life may always preach the humble Christ.
29. The tonsure shall be cut every twenty days, or once a month, with a pair of scissors. The Friars shall wear the beard, after the example of Christ most holy, and of all our first Saints, since it is something manly, natural, severe, despised and austere.
30. As regards the third chapter: Our Seraphic Father, thoroughly Catholic, Apostolic, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, always held the Roman Church in special veneration, as the judge and mother of all other Churches. Hence he laid down in the Rule that the clerics should say the Office according tot he order of the Holy Roman Church, and in his Testament forbade them to alter it in any way. We therefore ordain, that the Friars, united in spirit under the same standard and called to the same end, shall observe the same rites as those used by the Holy Roman Church in all that regards the Missal, Breviary and the Calendar. And the clerics as well as the lay-brothers shall say the five Offices of the Dead, as prescribed in the Calendar.
31. The clerics and priests who are not very lettered shall look over beforehand whatever they have to read publicly in the Mass and Divine Office, lest their unworthy treatment of divine things should disturb the hearers and provoke against themselves the angels who are present at the divine praises. And in the Mass and Divine Office they shall say only what is in the Missal and Breviary, observing the prescribed ceremonies.
32. We exhort the priests when celebrating Mass, not to have the eye of their intention turned toward human favour or glory or anything temporal, but with a simply, pure and clean heart they shall attend solely to the divine honour, celebrating for mere charity, with humble reverence, faith and devotion. They shall prepare themselves as well as their frailty will allow, for he is denounced as accursed who doth the work of the Lord with negligence; and as this is, of all actions, the most sublime, its irreverent performance is exceedingly displeasing.
33. And let them, after the example of Christ, High priest, Who offered Himself for us on the Cross without recompense, not be anxious to receive any earthly reward for celebrating, but rather let them understand that thereby their own debt to God is increased. We exhort the other Friars who are present at Mass to assist at these divine mysteries with the greatest reverence, in the spirit of the angels, keeping themselves in the presence of God, endeavouring spiritually to celebrate and communicate, and offer to God this most acceptable sacrifice.
34. And since the celebration of Mass is an action of the greatest importance, we ordain that, according to the canonical regulations, no cleric may be ordained priest until he is twenty four years of age, and those who have been ordained shall not celebrate Mass until they have reached the prescribed age. We further ordain that no cleric shall be promoted to the priesthood, unless over and above a good spirit, he has also sufficient knowledge to understand and pronounce well the words which he utters when celebrating. And in all their Masses and prayers they shall remember our benefactors, imploring God to reward them abundantly in the present and future life.
35. The clerics and priests, not legitimately impeded, on hearing the first sound of the bell for the Divine Office shall promptly betake themselves to the choir to prepare their hearts for the Lord. There in devotion, composure, mortification, recollection and silence, they shall remember that they are in the presence of God, about to engage in the angelic function of singing the divine praises.
36. The Divine Office shall be said with all due devotion, attention, gravity, uniformity of voice and harmony of mind, neither protracted nor disjoined and the voice pitched neither too high nor too low, but moderately. The Friars shall endeavour to sing the praises of God more with the heart than with the lips, lest that be said of them which our Most Sweet Saviour said to the Jews: “This people honoured Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
37. The lay-brothers shall assemble at the beginning of Matins, of Vespers, of Compline, and during the Te Deum laudamus; and when the communal preparation is over and the Office commences, they may retire into some place to suit their devotion, to say the Pater Nosters, laid down by the Rule. On all festivals the lay-brothers and clerics, not prevented for a reasonable cause, shall assist at Vespers and be present at as many Masses as they can.
38. In order to maintain most high poverty, spiritual peace and undisturbed humility, to foster good relations between ourselves and other clerics and priests, and to avoid anything which might in time leave a blemish on our Order, we ordain that the dead shall not be buried in our Places, unless one be so poor as not even to have someone to bury him. In such cases we must show the greatest charity.
39. No burials, either of seculars or of the Friars, shall be performed in our Places, since in our Churches, due to the presence of Christ most pure, there must be no defilement, but they shall be buried in some becoming place near the Church or cloister. When the Friars visit the sick they shall guard not only against inducing them to be buried in our Places, but rather dissuade them from this. And lest this should be a cause of scandal they shall inform and instruct them regarding this matter.
40. When one of our Friars dies, the others shall be careful, with loving charity, to commend his soul to God. And in the province where he dies each priest shall apply one Mass; the clerics shall say the Office of the Dead; the lay-brothers one hundred Our Fathers. And every week each priest shall apply one Mass for our deceased brethren.
41. Since holy prayer is our spiritual mistress, in order that the spirit of devotion may not decrease in the Friars, but, continually burning on the sacred altar of our heart, may be enkindled more and more, as our Seraphic Father wished, we ordain that, although the true spiritual Friar Minor should always pray, two special hours shall be appointed for the tepid Friars, one after Compline during the whole year, the other, from Easter until the Exaltation of the Cross, immediately after None, except on days of fast when it shall be after Sext, and from the Exaltation of the Cross until Easter, after Matins.
42. Let the Friars remember that prayer is nothing else than speaking to God with the heart. Consequently, he does not pray who speaks to God with the lips. Each one, therefore, should endeavour to pray mentally, and according to the teaching of Christ, taking diligent care to enlighten the mind and enkindle the affections far more than to frame words. Before the morning meditation, after None or Matins, or on fast days, after Sext, they shall recite the Litanies imploring all the Saints to pray to God with us and for us. And no other Offices shall be said in choir except that of the Blessed Virgin, so that the Friars have more time to devote to private and mental prayer which is far more fruitful than vocal prayer.
43. Our Seraphic Father, as appears in the beginning and the end of the Rule, wished that special reverence should be paid to the Supreme Pontiff as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, and to all Prelates and priests. We ordain, therefore, that, over and above the prayers said in common, every Friar shall, in his private prayers, beseech the Divine Goodness for the Welfare of the Church Militant and for his Holiness the Pope, that grace may be given him clearly to see, efficaciously to will and successfully to carry out all that may redound to the honour and glory of the Divine Majesty, the salvation of the Christian people, and the conversion of the infidels. They shall also pray for the Most Eminent Lord Cardinals, for Bishops and Prelates in communion with the Supreme Pontiff, for the Most Excellent Emperor, for all Kings and Christian Princes, and for all others, especially for those to whom we are most indebted.
44. Since silence is the safeguard of the religious spirit, and that according to St James, the religion of the man who does not refrain his tongue is vain, we ordain that the evangelical silence be always observed, as far as our frailty will permit, knowing that as the Infallible Truth, Jesus Christ, says for every idle word we shall render account. So great indeed is the abundance of divine favours, that it is no trivial fault for a Friar, dedicated to the service of God, to speak of worldly things.
45. As regards the regular silence, it shall be perpetual in the Church, cloister and dormitory; but in the refectory silence shall be kept from the first sign given at table until grace after meals has been said. In like manner, silence shall be observed everywhere after Compline until Prime, and from Easter until the Exaltation of the Cross, the sign of silence shall be given after Sext until the close of meditation after None. And he who breaks it shall say five Paters and Aves in the refectory with his arms extended in the form of a cross. The Friars are exhorted to accustom themselves to speak always and in every place in a subdued and humble tone, with modesty and charity.
46. We further ordain that the Friars shall not leave the Friary alone, but they shall have a companion, after the example of the holy disciples of our Most Holy Saviour. They shall correct each other fraternally, and if the advice be not taken, then let them make known each other’s faults to their Prelates. And they shall not travel without the obedience of their Prelate in writing and stamped with the seal of the Father Vicar, or of the local Superior; for that reason each house shall have, in accordance with the ancient custom of Religious, its own seal. They shall not part company on the way nor quarrel, but as brothers in Christ, they shall endeavour with all humility and charity to obey and serve each other spiritually.
47. Since St Francis says in his Testament that it was revealed to him by the Lord that in saluting anyone we should say, after the example of Christ: “The Lord give you His peace”, we ordain that the Friars always use this evangelical greeting.
48. As true Friars should depend with a lively faith on their kind and bountiful Heavenly Father, we ordain that on their journeys they shall not take wine, nor flesh meat, nor eggs, nor delicate or rich food, but leave all care of themselves to God, Who feeds not only the irrational animals, but even those who are constantly offending Him. The Friars shall not stop in cities or towns to sleep or eat, if our Friaries are near, except in case of great necessity.
49. Since delight in worldly feasts easily brings spiritual defilement, we ordain that the Friars shall not go to festivals, unless it be to preach the Word of God, after the example of Christ, Who, being invited to a feast, desired rather to preach. Let them remember that according to the Apostle St Paul, they are made a spectacle to the world, to the angels and to men; and they should strive to live such exemplary lives that through men God may be glorified and not blasphemed.
50. Since abstinence, austerity and mortification are highly commended by the Saints, and since we have chosen a severe life, after the example of Christ our Lord and St Francis, we exhort the Friars to observe the holy Lents St Francis was accustomed to keep, even though the mortified Friar always fasts. The Friars shall not have excessive or superfluous collations, but rather ordinary ones. On Wednesdays they shall abstain from flesh meat.
51. To safeguard the spirit of mortification not more than one kind of soup shall be served at table. But during the fast a warm or cold salad shall be added. And let the Friars remember that whereas little is needed to satisfy necessity, nothing can content sensuality.
52. And in order that, according to the teaching of Our Most Holy Saviour, our hearts may not be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, but that our minds may be clear and our senses mortified, we ordain that wine shall not be served at table, unless it has been mixed with a fair amount of water; even then it ought to appear a luxury when we recall that according to the Seraphic St Bonaventure our Father St Francis hardly ventured to drink sufficient cold water to quench his thirst, and used to say that it is difficult to satisfy necessity without yielding to sensuality. It will appear sweet to the Friars if they recall that water was denied Christ on the Cross and vinegar and gall given Him instead. St Jerome writes, that in his time the monks, however weak, drank only water, and to eat anything cooked was considered a luxury.
53. We ordain that no partiality shall be shown at table, unless in the case of the sick, of travellers, of the aged and delicate Friars, when charity demands it. Should any of the Friars wish to abstain from wine, flesh meat, eggs or other food, to fast more than usual, the prelate shall not prevent him when he sees that it will not prove injurious to his health, rather he shall encourage him to do so, provided he eats with the other Friars. In token of poverty, table cloths shall not be used, but a plain napkin shall be allowed each Friar. During meals some spiritual book shall be read, so that not only the body, but much more the spirit may be nourished.
54. We further ordain that the Friars, in accordance with our poor state, shall not ask for, or receive, dainty food. Likewise, they shall not use spices, unless in the case of the sick to whom the greatest charity must be shown, as is prescribed in the Rule, and by every just law, after the example of our Seraphic Father who was not ashamed to make public quest of flesh meat for the sick. And should superfluous food be given us, with humble thanks let the Friars refuse it, or, with the consent of the benefactors, distribute it to the poor.
55. As some of the ancient Patriarchs merited by their hospitality the privilege of entertaining angels, we ordain that in each of our friaries a Friar shall be appointed who shall be very careful to receive strangers with the greatest charity. And after the example of the humble Son of God, shall wash their feet, assembling all the Friars for this act of charity, they shall recite the while some devout hymn or psalm, always deeming themselves useless servants even when they have done everything in their power.
56. In order that our body may not rebel against the spirit, but be in all things subject to it, and in memory of the most bitter Passion and especially of the cruel scourging of our Most Sweet Saviour, it is ordained that the customary disciplines on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays shall not be omitted even on the Great Festivals. The discipline shall be taken after Matins except when it is very cold; in such case it shall be taken in the evening. During Holy Week the discipline shall be taken every night. And the friars, while they chastise themselves, shall think with compassionate hearts of the Sweet Christ, Son of God, bound to the pillar; and endeavour to feel within themselves a little of His cruel sufferings. And after the Salve Regina they shall say five devout prayers.
57. Our Father St Francis, aware of the Apostolic teaching, was convinced that the desire of money is the root of all evil; and wishing to eradicate it completely from the hearts of his children, commanded the Friars in the Rule onno account to receive money, either by themselves or through others. And the better to impress it upon theri minds, as a thing he had much at heart, he repeated it three times in the Rule. Christ, Our Lord, also said: “Beware of all covetousness.” Desiring, therefore, to carry out entirely and fully the pious desire of our Father, who was inspired by the Holy Ghost, we ordain that the Friars shall in no way have a Procurator, or any other person – by whatever name he be called – to receive or hold money for them, either at their instigation, request, or in their name, for whatever interest or cause. But our Procurator and Advocate shall be Jesus Christ, and all the Angels and Saints shall be our spiritual friends.
58. As sublime poverty was the chosen spouse of Christ, the Son of God, and of His humble servant, our Father St Francis, the Friars should remember that they cannot injure her without highly displeasing God, and that to offend her is verily to touch the apple of His eye. The Seraphic Father was accustomed to say that his true Friars ought to value money no more than dust, and to dread it as a venomous serpent. How often our devout and zealous Father, foreseeing in spirit that many, neglecting this pearl of the Gospel, would become lax by accepting legacies, inheritances and superfluous alms, wept over their downfall, saying that the Friar was nigh to perdition who esteemed money more than dirt.
59. Experience teaches us that no sooner does a Friar drive away from himself holy poverty than he falls into every great vice. Let the Friars, therefore, after the example of the Saviour of the world and His Most Beloved Mother, strive to be poor in earthly things that they may be rich in divine grace, holy virtues and heavenly treasures. Above all, when visiting any sick person, let them beware of inducing him, directly or indirectly, to leave us any temporal goods. Nay, even should he wish to do so of his own accord, let the Friars dissuade him as far as they reasonably can, remembering that they cannot possess at the same time both riches and poverty. Legacies shall not be accepted.
60. To possess more securely this precious treasure of poverty, we forbid the friars to have recourse to Spiritual Friends, even for necessary things when these can be procured conveniently in some other way permitted by the Rule. In order to be less burdensome to our friends, no Friar shall obtain anything of great value without the permission of the Vicar Provincial. Recourse to Spiritual Friends is not forbidden for necessary things that cannot be procured in any other way. In all cases of recourse there must be real necessity and permission of the Superiors.
61. And since we have been called to this life to mortify the outward man and to quicken the spirit, we exhort the Friars to accustom themselves to endure privations in earthly things after the example of Christ, Who, though Lord of all, chose for our sakes to be poor and to suffer.
62. Let the Friars beware of the noon-day devil who transforms himself into an angel of light. This happens when the world, out of devotion, applauds us and rejoices, pampering us with earthly comforts, which were very often the cause of many evils in religion. Let them not desire to be of the number of those false poor who, in the words of St Bernard, wish to be poor in such a way as to want for nothing.
63. Mindful that our ultimate end is God, to Whom each of us ought to tend and aspire, and into Whom we should strive to be transformed, we exhort all the friars to direct their every thought to that end and to turn to it, with every possible yearning of love, all their intentions and desires, so that with their whole heart, mind and soul, power and strength, with actual, continuous, intense and pure affection, they may unite themselves with their supremely good Father.
64. Since it is impossible to reach the end without the means, let each one cast aside as useless and disastrous, whatever could mislead or preclude us from the way of salvation. Let the friars not be solicitous about irrelevant matters, but choose those things that are useful and necessary to lead us to God. Such are the highest poverty, spotless chastity, humble obedience, and the other evangelical virtues taught us by the Son of God, by word and example, in His own Person and in His Saints.
65. Because it is very difficult for man to have his mind always raised to God, and to avoid idleness, the root of all evil, to give good example to our fellow-men, to be less burdensome to the world, to follow the example of St Paul who worked while he preached, and of many other saints, to observe the admonition to labour, given us by our Seraphic Father in his Rule, and to conform ourselves to his will, expressed in his Testament, we ordain that the Friars, when not engaged in spiritual exercises, shall occupy themselves in some honest manual labour. They shall not fail, as far as human frailty will permit, to occupy their minds in some spiritual meditation. We further ordain that during the hours of labour they shall speak of God, or have read to them some devout book.
66. Let the Friars take heed not to make work their sole object, nor to set their affections upon it, nor to become so engrossed in it as to extinguish, diminish or weaken the spirit to which all things should be subservient. With their eyes fixed always on God, let them take the highest and shortest road, so that labour imposed on man by God, accepted and commended by the Saints as a means of preserving interior recollection, may not become an occasion of distraction and laxity.
67. Let every Friar remember that evangelical poverty consists in not having any affection for earthly things, using the goods of this world most sparingly, as if by constraint, forced by necessity and for the glory of God to Whom we are indebted for all. Whatever is over and above their needs, they shall for the honour of poverty, give to the poor. We should also remember that we dwell in an inn and “eat the sins of the people, and that we shall be called upon to render a strict account of everything.
68. The devout St Bernard used to say that nothing is more precious than time, and that nothing is less esteemed. He also warns us that we shall be rigorously examined as to how we have spent our allotted time. We exhort all our brethren never to be idle, not to spend their time in matters of little or no importance, much less in vain or useless conversations. Let them always bear in mind the fearful warnings of the Infallible Truth, that for every idle word we speak we shall render an account on the Day of Judgement. Let the Friars, therefore, spend all their time in praiseworthy, honest and useful occupations, either of mind or of body. Let them do this for the honour and glory of the Divine Majesty, and for the edification and good example to all our brethren and fellow-men, religious and secular.
69. Our Seraphic Father St Francis, contemplating the most high poverty of Christ, the King of Heaven and earth, Who, at His birth, could not find even a little place at the inn; Who, during His life, lodged like a pilgrim in the houses of others, and Who, at His death, had nowhere to lay His head; reflecting moreover, that in all other things He was most poor, and wishing to imitate Him, commanded the friars in the Rule not to possess anything of their own, so that, unencumbered, like pilgrims of earth and citizens of Heaven, they might run with alacrity of spirit in the way of God. Desiring to imitate in truth this lofty example of Christ, and really to put into practice the Seraphic precept of celestial poverty, we wish it to be understood that we have, in fact, no jurisdiction, ownership, juridical possession, usufruct nor legal use of anything, even of the things we use through necessity.
70. We ordain that in every Friary an inventory be kept in which an account be give of the more valuable things bestowed upon b us by benefactors for our necessary and simple use. Within the Octave of the feast of our Seraphic Father, every Guardian shall go to the owner of the friary, thank him for the use of it during the past year, and humbly beg him to grant the Friars the use of it for another year. Should he consent, then the Friars may dwell there with a quiet conscience. Should he refuse, then, without any sign of sadness, nay, with a joyful heart, accompanied by divine poverty, let them depart, feeling themselves indebted top their benefactor for the time they were permitted to dwell there, and not offended because it is his property and he is not obliged to offer it to. Thus they shall also do with other valuable things, carrying the articles, such as chalices and similar things, to the benefactor, when this can be conveniently done. They shall, at least, promise to return them should the owner so desire. When the articles can no longer be used, they shall return them to the owners, or ask permission to give the articles to the poor.
71. We also ordain that when the Friars wish to establish a new friary, they shall first go to the Ordinary of the place, or his Vicar, and ask to open a House in his diocese. When the permission has been obtained, and with his benediction, they shall go to the civic authorities, or to the benefactors, and ask them for a site.
72. Let the Friars guard against accepting any place with the obligation of retaining it. Should this be demanded, they shall not accept the place without the express protest that they are free to leave whenever this should prove expedient for the pure observance of the Rule. Thus they shall not give scandal when they leave.
73. And as we ought, like pilgrims and after the example of the Patriarchs of old, live in humble dwellings or huts and quiet places, we exhort the Friars to remember the words of our Seraphic Father in his Testament where he forbids them to accept on any account Churches or Houses built for them, unless they are in keeping with most high poverty. Still less shall the Friars themselves erect, or consent to the erection of, sumptuous buildings. Nor should the Friars in order to please the great ones of this world, displease God, violate the Rule, scandalize their neighbour, and offend against the evangelical poverty they profess. There should be a wide distinction between the palatial residences of the rich and the mean dwellings of poor Mendicants, pilgrims and penitents. It is therefore ordained that no place built by us or by others shall be accepted, nor shall the Friars build, or permit to be built, any House, unless it be in keeping with most holy poverty.
74. In order to proceed more securely, the Friars shall agree on a small model building according to which they shall build. The cells shall not be more than nine feet in length and width, and ten in height; the doors seven feet high and two and a half feet wide; the dormitory corridor six feet wide. In like manner the other offices shall be small, humble, poor and unpretending, so that everything may preach humility, poverty and contempt of the world. The Churches shall be small, poor and devotional. The preachers shall not desire that our Churches be spacious, for, as St Francis says, we give a better example by preaching in other Churches than in our own, especially if thereby we offend against holy poverty.
75. To avoid whatever might transgress poverty the Friars are expressly forbidden to interfere with the building except it be to draw the attention of those charged with the management to the simple form of the model, or to offer them manual aid. Let the Friars strive, as far as possible, to use twigs and clay, reeds, tiles and common material, after the example of our Father, and a s a mark of humility and poverty. Let them take as their models the humble dwellings of the poor, and not the modern mansions.
76. To avoid every disorder, it is ordained that no place be accepted or abandoned, built or destroyed without the permission of the provincial Chapter and the Vicar-General. No Guardian shall make additions or pull down without the permission of the Vicar Provincial who, with a few other competent Friars, shall determine the plan of our Friaries.
77. In order that seculars may avail themselves of our spiritual services, and that they may assist us in our temporal needs, we ordain that our Friaries shall not be built in places too far removed from cities, towns or villages, nor yet too near them, lest we suffer from too frequent intercourse with seculars. The Friaries shall be, as a rule, a mile and a half distant, always preferring after the example of our venerable Fathers and especially of our own Holy Father, to dwell in solitary and unfrequented places, rather than in pleasurable cities.
78. it is also prescribed that in our Houses there shall be a modest room with a fire-place, so that, as charity demands and as far as our poverty will allow, we may receive pilgrims and strangers when necessary.
79. It is also prescribed that wherever convenient there shall be one or two modest cells in the woods or other places consigned to the Friars. The cells shall be somewhat removed from the common dwelling of the Friars and in a solitary place, so that if any Friar desire to lead an eremitic life, when judged fit by his Prelate, he may in peaceful seclusion, and like the angels, surrender himself entirely to God, as the Spirit of God may inspire him. In order that the Friars who are thus in retirement may enjoy God in quiet, it is ordained that the other Friars shall not speak with them except their Spiritual Father who shall provide for them as a mother, according to the pious wish of our Seraphic Father and as we read in the Book of Conformity.
80. It is further ordained that if in the places the Friars have accepted, there be vines or superfluous trees, they shall not be cut down. With the consent of the owners let them give the fruit to the poor. The vines shall be cultivated, and if they bear fruit, they shall be planted in other places, or be given to the poor.
81. According to the doctrine of the Gospel, Christians, and therefore much more Friars Minor who have chosen to follow Christ, Supreme Ruler and spotless mirror, more closely in the path of most holy poverty, are bound to remember that their Heavenly Father is able and willing to govern and provide for them. Unlike the heathens, who disbelieve in Divine Providence, they shall not seek with anxious and excessive solicitude to procure the things of this world which the all-bountiful God bestows with generous Hand, even on irrational creatures; but as children of the Eternal father, putting aside all carnal solicitude, they shall trust for everything to the Divine Liberality and abandon themselves to His Infinite Goodness. We, therefore, ordain that no provision shall be made in our Houses, even of such necessaries of life as can be obtained from day to day by begging, except for two or three days, or at the most for a week, according to the needs of times and places. Fruit shall not be stored up except for a short time, according to the judgement of the Provincial.
82. To preclude the way to excessive provisions, we ordain that no barrels shall be kept in our Houses, but only a few small vessels or flasks. In winter, wood may be supplied for two or three months.
83. And lest our mendicant state be rich and delicate, lest it be a poverty in name and not in deed, we ordain that, except it be for the sick, the Friars shall not, even during the week preceding Lent, ask alms, such as meat, eggs, cheese, fish, or any other food unbecoming our humble state. Should such things be offered to the Friars, they may accept them provided they do not violate poverty.
84. Let the Friars beware above all things, lest through the abundance of alms bestowed on them through the favour of the great, the faith of the people, and the devotion of the world, they should become illegitimate sons of St Francis, and forsake their most holy mother poverty. Let them call to mind those beautiful words our Seraphic Father was wont to repeat in transports of love: “I give thanks to God that through His Goodness I have always been faithful to my beloved spouse, Poverty; nor was I ever a robber of alms, because I always accepted less than I needed, so that other poor might not be deprived of their share. To have done otherwise would have been theft before God.”
85. We further ordain that during a famine the Friars, appointed to this task by their Prelates, shall go in quest for food to succour the poor, after the example of our most devoted Father who showed great compassion for the poor. When an alms was given to him for love of God, he would not accept it save on condition that he be allowed to give it to the poor, should he find one poorer than himself. We read that often , lest he be found without the nuptial and evangelical garment of charity, he would divest himself of his own clothes and give them to the poor, rather than be deprived of the ardent flame of divine love.
86. Since voluntary poverty possesses nothing, and yet is rich in all things, is happy, has no fear, no desire, and can lose nothing, because its treasure is in the safest keeping, we determine, in order to root out verily and effectively all occasions of proprietorship, that the keys of cells, chests, desks and so forth shall not be kept by any Friar except by the officials who have charge of the things to be dispensed to the community, as is just and reasonable.
87. And as we possess nothing in this world, no Friar is allowed to give anything to seculars without the permission of the Guardians, who themselves may not give away or permit others to give, save with regard to trifling or valueless things, without the permission of their Vicar Provincial.
88. To relieve the wants of the sick, as reason dictates, the Rule commands, and fraternal charity requires, we ordain that when any Friar falls sick, the Father Guardian shall immediately appoint a Friar qualified to attend to him in all his needs. Should the invalid require a change of place, this shall be immediately provided for. Let each Friar consider what he would have done for himself in case of sickness. No mother, as our affectionate Father expresses it in the Rule, is so tender and devoted to her only son as each one of ought to be to our spiritual brother.
89. And since they who are detached from this world find it sweet, just and charitable to die for love of Him Who died for us on the Cross, we ordain that during a plague the Friars shall succour the afflicted according to the regulations of their Vicars. The Vicars, however, shall always have the eye of prudent charity open to such occasions.
90. To remove every danger from subjects and Superiors, no Friar shall hear the confessions of seculars without the permission of the Chapter, or of the Father Vicar General. Since this office demands not merely good and sufficient understanding, but the required experience, it shall not be exercised save by those who are qualified. The Friars appointed to hear confessions shall do so only in particular cases, when charity demands. Thus they shall avoid every danger and mental distraction, and remain composed and recollected in Christ so that without any obstacle they may walk more securely on the road to their heavenly home.
91. Let the Friars confess at least twice a week, and receive Holy Communion every fortnight, or oftener if they wish, and their Superiors deem it expedient. During Advent and Lent they shall receive Holy Communion every Sunday. And let the Friars, according to the Apostolic admonition, carefully examine themselves beforehand, remembering on the one hand their own nothingness and unworthiness, and on the other hand, this sublime gift of God given to us with such great charity, so that they may not receive it to the injury of their souls, but rather to their increase in light, grace and virtue. And this most exalted and Divine Sacrament, wherein our dearest Saviour so lovingly condescends to abide with us always, shall be held by all in the greatest reverence. Let the Friars remain before It and pray as if they were already in their heavenly country with the holy angels.
92. When the Friars happen to be absent from the monastery they may confess to other priests.
93. To foster charity, the mother of every virtue, it is ordained that, with every possible Christian charity and as our father exhorts us in his first Rule, the Friars shall receive any poor pilgrim or stranger, especially religious, devoted to the service of God.
94. It is also ordained that in reserved cases the transgressors shall have recourse, with all humility, to their Vicars, in whom they may and must confide. If the Superiors see that they are really contrite and humble, have a firm purpose to amend, and are ready to submit to a suitable penance, then they shall receive the offenders with tenderness, after the example of Christ, our true Father and Shepherd, even as the prodigal son was received by his most compassionate father. Like Christ, let them with joy carry back on their own shoulders the lost sheep to the evangelical sheepfold.
95. Let the Vicars also bear in mind what our father, St Francis, used to say: that if we would raise up one who was fallen, we must bend down to him with compassion, as Christ our most merciful Saviour did when the adulteress was brought before Him, and not treat the accused with rigid justice and cruelty. Christ, the Son of God, descended from heaven and died on the cross for our salvation. He always showed every possible tenderness to repentant sinners. The Superiors shall bear in mind that if God were to judge us rigidly, few or none would be saved. When they impose a punishment let their whole aim be to save and not to lose the soul and the good name of the erring Friar. Let no friar be scandalized on account of the sin of a brother, nor avoid him or regard him with repugnance. On the contrary, they should feel compassion for him and love him all the more, as he has greater need of it, always remembering that, as our Seraphic Father says, each one of us would certainly be far worse if God did not prevent us by His grace. When Christ left St Peter to the world as its universal Pastor, He told him to forgive the sinner even to seventy times seven. Our Seraphic Father has left recorded in one of his letters that it was his wish, that when a Friar, no matter how great a sinner he had been, appeared before his Superior and humbly asked for mercy, he should not depart unpardoned. He even wished that the Superior offer him forgiveness though he did not ask for it. And if a sinner came to him a thousand times, it was his wish that the Superiors should never become angry or show themselves mindful of his sin, but the better to win him to Christ, Our Most Merciful Lord, should love him in all truth and sincerity, knowing that a contrite and humble heart together with a firm purpose to amend and to lead a virtuous life is sufficient before God. Christ used to say when imposing a penance: Go in peace and sin no more.
96. Nevertheless, since to allow transgressors to go unpunished is to open wide the door to all the vices of the ill-disposed, and entice them to similar transgressions, the Superiors, in accordance with the Rule, shall with mercy impose on them a penance. In order to preserve this heritage of our Lord, we ordain that in our affairs, particularly in the correction and the punishment of the Friars, discipline be observed without recourse to excessive severity or juridical artifices.
97. According to the concessions of Boniface VIII, Innocent and Clement, no friar shall be allowed to appeal from his Superiors to others outside our Congregation under penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, of imprisonment, and of being expelled from our Congregation. We have not entered the religious life to wrangle, but to weep over our sins and amend our lives, to obey, and to carry the cross of penance after Christ. Lest in the future the delinquent be an obstacle to the good Friars, the former shall with mercy be punished by their Superiors.
98. And since all Christians, and much more we, Friars Minor of St Francis, must keep the Apostolic faith of the Holy Roman Church in its integrity and purity, steadfastly hold it and sincerely preach it, nay, be ready to shed our life’s blood in defence of it, we ordain that if any Friar be found, by the temptation of the devil, which God forbid, to be imbued with any error contrary to the Catholic Faith, he shall be perpetually imprisoned. To punish such and similar transgressors a secure yet humane prison shall be provided in some of our houses.
99. Lest any friar, disliking our secluded and quiet life, should return to the flesh-pots of Egypt, after having been once set free from the fiery furnace of Babylon, we determine that he shall be excommunicated by the father Vicar General and the whole Chapter. The present Constitutions also decree that all apostates from our Congregation are ipso facto excommunicated, leaving it to the Vicar General and to the Vicars Provincials to determine the quality and quantity of punishment to be inflicted upon apostates and upon all other transgressors. The Vicars, however, shall punish them according to the quality of their sins and the humility of the penitent. Let the Vicars treat them with charitable discretion according to the ancient practices and laudable customs of our Order. But, as the illustrious Doctor, St Augustine, says, both punishment and pardon tend always to the same end – reformation of life – so in corrections let justice be tempered with mercy, in such a manner, that discipline be not relaxed without recourse to excessive severity. Thus the transgressors will be reformed in such wise that mercy and truth may meet. For this reason, the Superiors shall be chosen from among the friars who are most distinguished for mature judgement, prudence, wisdom, and experience. In all things let the friars seek counsel from the senior brethren.
100. Lest the punishments we inflict from holy zeal may be impeded or misconstrued; and also that we may have greater freedom in proceeding against transgressors, we command that no one shall disclose the secrets of the Order. Let the friars strive to uphold the good name of all, seeking always those things that are to the praise and glory of God, and to the peace and edification of our neighbours.
101. As Christian Prelates, according to the teaching of Christ our humble Lord, should not resemble the princes of the Gentiles, who lord it over their subjects; but on the contrary, the greater burden they bear on their shoulders, the more they ought to humble themselves and to reflect that, whereas, other friars are bound to obey their Prelates, the Prelates themselves should obey all the brethren. The Chapter which elects them lays it upon them by obedience to serve and minister to the friars in all things, especially in their spiritual needs, after the example of Christ Who came to serve and minister to us and to lay down His life for us. We therefore exhort all our Prelates to be the ministers and servants of all their brethren; this they will be, if in accordance with the teaching of our Seraphic father, they administer spirit and life to their subjects by word and example.
102. In every election the friars shall proceed purely, simply, holily and canonically. Let them endeavour, according to the counsel of Christ, Our gracious Lord, when invited to His marriage feast, to take the lowest place with Him, rather than seek the first place with Lucifer, remembering that the last shall be first and the first last. Let them shun dignities as Christ did, and accept them only when, like Aaron, they are called by God through holy obedience.
103. With regard to the General Chapter it is ordained that it be held every three years, about the Feast of Pentecost, as this time is most fitting for so important a matter and as is indicated by our Seraphic father. The provincial Chapter shall be held every year on the second or third Friday after Easter.
104. As a sign of humility and to show sincere detachment from every kind of ambition, the Vicar General in the General Chapter and the Vicar Provincial in the Provincial Chapter shall spontaneously resign their offices and all authority into the hands of the Definitors elected by the Chapter. In proof of their entire resignation they shall place the seals into the hands of the aforesaid Definitors.
105. Should the Father Vicar General die during his term of office it is ordained that the first Definitor of the last Chapter shall become Commissary General. But should he have died, the second Definitor shall be Commissary, and likewise for the others. And he shall be bound to convoke the Chapter as soon as possible whenever it can be conveniently held, about the Feast of Pentecost, or in September, where it shall have been determined or prove expedient, with the advice of the other Definitors.
106. In order to provide for a secure and simple method of removing the Vicar General from office if at any time it should appear that he is not qualified, and in accordance with the wish of St Francis expressed in the Rule, the first three Definitors of the preceding Chapter, having probable and sufficient evidence as to the Vicar General’s unfitness, can and must convoke the Friars to a General Chapter when this proves advisable. At this Chapter they shall discuss the question of his removal from, or retention in, office. Should the Vicar General in any way endeavour to prevent the convocation of the Chapter we determine that he shall be ipso facto deprived of office. Should the General Chapter decide that the Vicar General shall not be removed and that the three aforesaid Definitors have caused all this disorder in the Congregation without just cause, they shall be severely punished at the discretion of the Chapter for having proceeded so rashly.
107. We also ordain that in the election of the Definitors all the vocals of the Chapter shall have a passive vote. In this election the Vicar General in the General Chapter and the Vicar Provincial in the Provincial Chapter shall have only an active vote. It is further ordained that in the General Chapter six Definitors shall be elected of whom not more than two may be from amongst those elected in the preceding Chapter. In the Provincial Chapter four Definitors shall be elected of whom likewise not more than two may be from those elected in the preceding year.
108. When the three years have expired the Vicar Provincials shall remain free from office for at least one year. But the Father Vicar General may, for just reasons, give them a passive vote.
109. During the celebration of the General Chapter, continual and fervent prayers shall be offered up by all the Friars of our Congregation, and during the Provincial Chapter by those of the Province. They shall beseech the Divine Clemency to deign to dispose all our affairs according to His good pleasure, to the praise and glory of His Majesty and the welfare of Holy Church.
110. Preaching the word of God, after the example of Christ, the Master of life, is one of the most honourable, useful, exalted and divine duties in the Church of God, on the fulfilment of which the salvation of mankind largely depends. We therefore ordain that no one shall be promoted to the office of preaching unless he has been examined and approved, as the Rule desires, by the General Chapter or by the Father Vicar General. Nor shall the office of preacher be conferred upon anyone unless it is evident that he is of holy and exemplary life, of clear and mature judgement, of strong and ardent will, because knowledge and eloquence without charity tend in no way to edification but often to destruction. Let Superiors take diligent care that in granting faculties for preaching they be not acceptors of persons, nor swayed by human friendship or favour, but have in view simply and solely God’s honour, make it their aim to have a few virtuous preachers, rather than many useless ones. Thus they will follow the example of Christ, the Supreme wisdom, Who from the whole Jewish nation chose only twelve Apostles and seventy two Disciples, and that after long prayer.
111. In addition it is ordained that the preachers refrain from introducing into their sermons trifles, foolish stories, useless questions, curious and far-fetched opinions, but after the example of the Apostle St Paul, let them preach Christ crucified, in Whom are all the treasures of wisdom and the knowledge of God. This is that Divine Wisdom which St Paul preached to the perfect after he had become a Christian; for as a Hebrew youth, he thought as a child, and understood as a child, and spoke as a child, of the shadows and types of the Old Testament. Let the preachers, besides quoting the holy Doctors, chiefly cite Christ, Whose authority carries more weight than that of all other persons and reasons in the world.
112. The preachers shall abstain from difficult and affected phrases as unworthy of Him Who died naked and humble on the Cross. Their language shall be plain, pure, simple and humble, withal holy, full of charity and aflame with zeal, after the example of St Paul, the Vessel of Election, who preached not in loftiness of speech and human eloquence, but in the power of the Holy Ghost. The preachers, therefore, are exhorted to do their utmost to imprint the Blessed Jesus on their own hearts and give Him peaceable possession of their souls, so that it may be He Who moves them to speak from the fullness of love, not merely by word but much more by their deeds, after the example of St Paul, the Doctor of the Gentiles, who did not dare to preach anything to others until Christ had enabled him first to practice it. So, also, did Jesus, our most perfect Master teach us not only by words, but by deeds. They are great in the kingdom of heaven who first do, and then teach and preach to others.
113. The preachers should not think that they fulfil their duty by preaching during Advent and Lent. Let them assiduously endeavour to preach at least on all Feastdays, after the example of Christ, mirror of all perfection, Who passed through Judea, Samaria and Galilee, preaching in the cities and villages, at times even speaking to one, as in the case of the Samaritan woman.
114. And while preaching to others, should they feel the spirit weakening, let them return to solitude, and there let them remain, till once again, full of God, the impulse of the Holy Spirit may move them to go forth to spread divine grace over the world. Thus engaged, now like Martha, now like Mary, they shall follow Christ in His mixed life, Who, after praying on the mountain, went down to the temple to preach, nay, descended from Heaven to earth to save souls.
115. We strictly forbid preachers to receive meals. They shall live like poor men and mendicants, as they have voluntarily promised for the love of Christ. Above all, let them guard against every kind of avarice, so that preaching Jesus Christ freely and sincerely, they may gather fruit in greater abundance. When they preach, let them not beg either for themselves of for their brethren; so that according to the teaching of the Apostle, all may know they seek not their own interests, but those of Jesus Christ.
116. Since he who does not know how to read and imitate Christ, the Book of Life, cannot have the learning necessary for preaching, preachers are forbidden to carry with them many books, so that they find all things in Christ.
117. In order that the sacred office of preaching, so precious and most pleasing to Christ, our God, Who has proved it by preaching the most salutary evangelical doctrine with so much ardour of divine charity for the welfare of our souls; in order also the better to impress on the hearts of preachers the norm and method they are to follow in the worthy exercise of preaching Christ Crucified and the kingdom of heaven, in effectively procuring the conversion and the spiritual welfare of the faithful, by reproducing, as it were, and implanting Christ in their souls, we counsel and command them to use the Sacred Scriptures, especially the New Testament and in particular the Gospels, so that being evangelical preachers, we may fashion an evangelical people.
118. Let them refrain from profane and useless questions and opinions, and such theories and subtleties as few understand. But after the example of the most holy Precursor, John the Baptist, the most holy Apostles and other saintly preachers aflame with divine love, nay after the example of our most sweet Saviour Himself, let them preach: “Do penance for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As our Seraphic Father exhorts us in the Rule, let them discourse of vices and virtues, of punishment and glory, in few words, not desiring or seeking anything but the glory of God and the salvation of souls redeemed by the most precious blood of the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ.
119. Let their discourses be well considered and so discreet as not to point to any particular person, because, as the glorious St Jerome says, a general discourse will offend no one. Let them indeed denounce every vice, but glorify the image of the Creator in the creature. And as our Seraphic Father exhorts us in his Testament let them endeavour to respect, love and honour all priests, bishops, cardinals, and above all the Holy and Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Christ on earth, the Supreme Head, Father and Shepherd of all Christians and of the entire Church Militant. Let them also love and honour all other ecclesiastics who live according to the manner of the Holy Roman Church and are humbly subject to the Head, Father and Lord, the Supreme Pontiff. Let all the Friars bear in mind the admonition left by our Seraphic Father in his Testament, that all theologians and those who minister to us the Most Holy and Divine Word, we must honour and revere as those who minister to us spirit and life.
120. And in order that, while preaching to others, the preachers themselves may not become castaways, they shall sometimes leave the multitude, and, with our most sweet Saviour, ascend the mountain of prayer and contemplation. There let them endeavour to become inflamed as the Seraphim, with divine love, so that, all aflame themselves, they may enkindle others.
121. As mentioned above it is enjoined on preachers not to carry with them any books, so that they may attentively study the most excellent book, the Cross. And as it was always the intention of our beloved Father that the friars have the necessary books in common and not individually, and the better to observe poverty and to remove from the hearts of the brethren all feeling of attachment, it is ordained that in each House there shall be a small room where the Holy Scriptures and some of the Holy Doctors shall be kept. But books that are really useless and make a man worldly rather than Christian (as stated above in the first chapter) shall not be kept in our houses. Let such as are found be disposed of according to the injunction of the Vicars General or Provincial.
122. And since in him who would preach worthily and in a befitting manner there is required, together with a religious and exemplary life, some knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, which cannot be acquired except by literary study; lest so noble and useful a function as preaching should, to the greater loss of souls, decline in our Congregation, we enact that there shall be devout and holy studies, abounding in charity and humility, both for the humanities and sacred letters. To these studies only such Friars shall be admitted, as the Vicar Provincial and the Definitors judge to be distinguished for fervent charity, praiseworthy behaviour, humble and holy conversation, and at the same time, be so suitable for studies that they may afterwards by their life and doctrine, be useful and productive in the House of the Lord.
123. Let the students not seek to attain that knowledge which only puffs up, but let them endeavour to acquire the illuminating and enkindling charity of Christ, which quickens the soul. They should not be so absorbed in literary pursuits as to neglect the study of holy prayer; otherwise they would act against the express wish of our Seraphic Father, who desired that prayer should never be omitted for any study whatever. The better to acquire the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, let both Lectors and Students strive to deepen the spiritual life even more than to cultivate letters. Thus they shall derive more profit from their studies; for without the spirit the true sense is not attained, but the mere letter which blinds and kills.
124. The students should strive, while maintaining holy poverty, never to leave the royal road which leads to heaven – holy humility. Let them often call to mind the saying of Blessed Giacapone: “Acquired knowledge without humility of heart gives a deadly wound.” It will be an occasion of humbling themselves, if they realise that they have contracted further obligations towards God, by being promoted to study and by being counted worthy to be introduced to the true and pleasing knowledge of sacred letters, under which lies hidden that Supreme Good Whose Spirit is sweet above honey to them that taste it.
125. At the beginning, and in a spirit of humility and with a contrite heart to say: “Domine, iste vilissimus servus tuus et omni bono indignus, vult ingredi ad videndum thesauros tuos. Placeat tibi ut ipsum indignissimum introducas, et des sibi in his verbis et sancta lectione tantum te diligere, quantum te cognoscere, quia nolo te cognoscere nisi ut te diligam, Domine Deus Creator meus. Amen.”
126. We ordain that the Father Vicar General shall endeavour during his term of office, to visit personally all the House and Friars of our Congregation. The Vicar Provincials shall do the same in their Provinces. They as well as the Guardians shall continually urge their subjects with all charity to the perfect observance of the divine and evangelical precepts and counsels, of the Rule they have vowed, of these present Constitutions, but especially of most high poverty, the solid foundation of all regular observance. With all humility and charity let them correct transgressors, always mingling the wine of rigorous justice with the oil of soothing mercy.
127. And the friars who are subjects shall obey their Superiors with all humility in all things which they know are not sinful. They shall duly reverence their Superiors as vicars of St Francis and even of Christ our God. And when they are reprehended and corrected by them, let the Friars, according to the praiseworthy custom of our first and humble Fathers and Brothers, kneel and patiently endure every admonition and correction. They shall not answer in a proud manner, or, indeed, reply at all to the Superior, especially in the Chapter or refectory, unless they have first asked and obtained permission. He who does otherwise shall take the discipline publicly for the duration of a Miserere. And let all the Friars strive diligently to correct their faults; and by virtuous acts to acquire heavenly virtues, and by good habits to overcome evil inclinations. Let the Superiors beware of binding the souls of their subjects by precepts of obedience, unless they are forced to do so by religious piety or loving necessity.
128. It is also ordained that visiting Friars shall be received with all fraternal charity. As true sons of the Eternal Father they shall visit the Church, and having made a short adoration, they shall present themselves to the Superior, showing him their obedience without which no Friar may leave our friaries. When the Friars leave the Friary for some useful purpose they shall, on leaving and returning, ask the blessing from their Superior.
129. In order that all things be done with the merit of holy obedience and with due devotion, no Friar shall venture to take a repast, whether within or without our Friaries, without the permission and blessing of the Superior or senior Father or Brother.
130. Let all the friars endeavour to avoid superfluous and trivial conversation; and let them not desire to visit other churches in order to gain indulgences since many Supreme Pontiffs have granted a greater number in our own churches.
131. We also ordain that no fugitive Friar of one province shall be received into another without the written permission of the Father Vicar General. Without this permission the admission is null and void, and the receiving Vicar Provincial shall be severely punished according to the judgement of the Father Vicar General.
132. To avoid all possible difficulties it is ordained that a Junior Friar shall not send or receive letters without the permission of the Superior.
133. All the Friars, after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of our Seraphic Father, should prefer to be subjects and to obey, rather than to be Superiors and to command others. Nevertheless, those upon whom prelacies are imposed by obedience must not be obstinate in refusing them; but with all humility and solicitude shall fulfil the ministry entrusted to them.
134. We also exhort all the Friars, in accordance with the admonition of our Father in the tenth chapter of the Rule, to beware of all pride and vain glory, envy and avarice, of all care and solicitude about this world, of all detraction and murmuring against any person, especially Prelates, the Clergy, and Religious, particularly of our Congregation. Let us show respect to everyone according to his state, looking upon all as our Fathers and Superiors in Christ Jesus, our Saviour.
135. According to the opinion of the holy Doctors, especially St Jerome, familiarity with women, however holy, should be prudently avoided with by the servants of God. Therefore, the entire General Chapter, with the greatest consideration and after due consultation and deliberation, have framed these present Constitutions to be observed inviolably by our entire Congregation. The Friars shall in no way nor under any pretext of doing good or promoting the sanctification of souls, or at the request of the people or of nobles, accept the charge of monasteries or other religious houses of men or women. They shall not provide them with Confessors nor have any concern about them, following the striking examples of Christ, our Saviour, and the salutary instruction of the Saints, rather than the teaching of the world.
136. Because true religious and servants of Christ should avoid not only what is manifestly evil and sinful, but even whatever might have the appear to be so, we desire that the Friars should not frequent any convent or other houses of religious women without the permission of the Vicar Provincial. The Vicar Provincial shall take heed not to grant such permission readily to anyone but tried and mature Friars, and in cases of necessity or charity, because, as our Father St Francis used to say, God delivered us from a wife and the devil has provided us with the nuns.
137. That clean of heart we may see God with the eye of a sincere faith and be more fitted for heavenly things, the Friars shall not have any suspicious intercourse or dealings with women, or long and unnecessary conversations with them. When obliged to speak with them, they shall remain where they can always be seen by their companion, so as to give good example to the world and everywhere be a sweet odour to Jesus Christ. They shall converse with purity, discretion and religious decorum. Let them remember the memorable example, related in our Chronicles, of that friar who burning a wisp of straw said: “What the straw gains by the fire, the same doth the religious servant of God gain by conversing with women.” Pope John XX, in the Bull of Canonization of St Louis, Bishop, one of our Friars, says of him: “So deeply rooted in heart, even from childhood, was the love of chastity, that to guard it faithfully he avoided all intercourse with women, never having spoken to any woman alone, except his mother and sister, understanding that woman is more bitter than death.” And St Bernard says that there are two things which defile and ruin religious: familiarity with women and daintiness in food.
138. We also desire that women shall not enter into our Friaries except in case of real necessity or of extraordinary devotion, and when they cannot be refused without giving scandal. If they enter, they must always be accompanied by trustworthy men and women. Before admitting them, the approval of the Friars dwelling in the Friary must be obtained. Two mature and saintly Friars shall accompany them, always speaking of edifying subjects in Christ our Lord, and of their spiritual welfare, with all religious decorum and good example. Not only with women, but even with laymen, our intercourse should be infrequent, since undue familiarity with them is injurious to us.
139. In order to safeguard the pure observance of the Rule, as well as to ensure the proper performance of the divine services, and at the same time to observe most high poverty, we ordain that in our Friaries there shall not be less than six nor more than twelve Friars, who, united in the sweet name of Jesus, shall be of one heart and one soul ever striving to arrive at greater perfection. And if they would be true disciples of Christ, let them cordially love one another, bearing with each other’s defects, exercising themselves in divine love and fraternal charity, striving to give a good example to one another and to everyone, doing constant violence to their own passions and evil inclinations, because as our Saviour says: “The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent, that is, those who do violence to themselves, bear it away.”
140. We also ordain that in our churches there shall be only one small bell, about one hundred and fifty pounds in weight. In our churches there shall be no other sacristy but a case, or chest, with a good key which shall be kept by a professed Friar. In this case or chest shall be stored all requisites for divine worship. They shall have two small chalices, one of tin and the other with only the cup of silver. They shall not have more than three simple vestments without gold, silver, velvet or silk, or anything costly or superfluous, but everything must be neat and clean. The altar linens shall be plain; the candlesticks shall be of wood. Our missals, breviaries, and other books shall be plainly bound and without any ornate bookmarks, so that in everything we use holy poverty is seen resplendent, which will make us yearn after the riches of heaven where are all our treasures, our joys and our glory.
141. Since it is impossible to lay down laws and statutes for every individual case that may arise, the number of them being indefinite, we exhort all our Friars, in the charity of Christ, to keep before their minds in all their actions the Holy Gospel, the Rule they have promised, the holy and praiseworthy customs and examples of the Saints, by directing their thoughts, words and actions to the honour and glory of God and the salvation of their neighbour. Thus will the Holy Spirit enlighten them in all things.
142. To maintain uniformity in the divine services, both in choir and in every other place, the teaching of St Bonaventure and the ordinances of our first Fathers shall be read. To better understand the mind of our Seraphic Father, the Friars shall read his “Fioretti“, the “Book of Conformity”, and the other books that speak of him.
143. As our Seraphic Father had the conversion of unbelievers very much at heart, in accordance with the Rule, it is ordained that if any Friars, inflamed with love for Christ and zeal for the Catholic Faith, wish through divine inspiration to preach to the infidels, they shall have recourse to their Vicar Provincials or to the Vicar General. Should the Superiors judge them fit, they shall send them with their permission and blessing on such an arduous mission. Let the subjects not rashly presume to judge themselves competent for such dangerous and difficult works, but with all fear and humility, let them submit their wishes to their Superior’s judgement. It is well, indeed, to draw a distinction between unbelievers who are gentle, docile, and well disposed to receive the Christian Faith, as are those recently discovered by the Spaniards, or Portuguese in the Indies, and the Turks and Hagarenes who, by force of arms and cruel persecution, maintain and defend their pernicious sect. The Superiors shall not think about the fewness of the friars, nor be sad to see good friars leave, but casting all care and solicitude on Him, Who has unceasing care of us, let them act in all things as the Spirit of God will inspire them, and arrange all with charity, which does all things well.
144. In order that beloved poverty, the holy spouse of Christ our Lord, so dear to our Father, may ever remain with us, let the friars be careful not to allow any costliness, rarity or superfluity to appear in the things appertaining to divine worship, or in our buildings or in the furniture we use, remembering that God wishes from us rather our obedience promised in holy poverty, than sacrifices. And as Pope Clement says in his declaration, God desires a pure heart and holy deeds rather than costly and richly adorned things. Nevertheless, cleanliness must shine forth in our poverty.
145. And as our Saviour first began to do and then to teach others, in like manner our Prelates shall be the first to comply with these Constitutions, and then with all holy and efficacious zeal, induce their subjects to observe them inviolably. And should certain things appear somewhat difficult in the beginning, habit will make them easy and pleasant. To impress them more deeply on the minds of the Friars, and that they observe them, all the Guardians shall have them read at table once every month. And although we have no intention by these Constitutions to bind the friars under pain of any sin, yet it is our wish and command that transgressors of them be severely punished. And if the Guardians are remiss in their observance or in causing them to be observed they shall be still more severely punished by the Vicar Provincials, and these latter by the Father Vicar General.
146. Since the present Constitutions were drawn up with the greatest care and mature deliberation, and approved by our whole General Chapter and by the Apostolic See, we enact that they be not changed without the consent of the General Chapter. We also exhort all our father and Brothers present and to come, not to change these Constitutions – even in the Chapters. Experience has proved that great injury has been done to Religious Orders by the frequent alteration of their Constitutions. Nor shall provincial Constitutions be framed, but if particular cases arise they shall be provided for by General Chapters. These Constitutions shall be left intact and in accordance with them our Congregation should live and be governed with a holy uniformity.
147. As our Seraphic Father, when on the point of death, bequeathed the fruitful blessing of the Most Holy Trinity, together with his own, to the zealous and true observance of the Rule; let us all, therefore, shaking off all negligence, assiduously apply ourselves with sincerity and devotedness to the observance of the perfection which the said Rule and our Order propose and inculcate.
148. Let the Friars remember that to obey with no other intention than to escape punishment belongs solely to slaves and hirelings, but to obey for the love of God and for the glory and the pleasure of the Divine Majesty, and to give a good example to our neighbour and for other similar motives, pertains to the true children of God. Let the Friars beware of transgressing these Constitutions on the plea that they do not oblige under pain of sin; but, recognising the spirit by which we were born, let them observe inviolably the laws, ordinances, and statutes of our Congregation, that grace may be added to their head. Thus shall they, by this holy service, merit the Divine Mercy, and become conformable to the Son of God, Who though not bound by the laws He himself made, nevertheless observed them for the salvation of others. Let them, therefore, uphold the sublimity of the Religious State and become the source of much benefit to their neighbours. Let them remember that it behoves good servants not only to fulfil the commands of their lords and masters, imposed under threats of punishment, but to please them in many other ways.
149. Wherefore, in fulfilling these duties, let us keep our eyes upon our Redeemer, so that knowing His good pleasure we may strive to please Him, not only by not despising the present Constitutions (for contempt of them would be a grave sin), but through love of Him avoiding all negligence in their observance. This observance will be a help to us to be faithful not only to the Rule, but to the divine law and Gospel counsels. The grace of God, through Jesus Christ, will deliver us from all dangers. As our labours abound so also will our consolations in Christ Jesus. We can do all things in Him Who strengthens us, namely in Christ Who is omnipotent, and in everything shall we be given understanding by Him Who is the Power, Wisdom, and Saviour, Who gives abundantly to all men and does not censure them. He who upholds all things by His powerful word will supply the strength.
150. Let us, dearest Fathers and Brothers, frequently call to mind that sacred and memorable text, on which our Seraphic Father preached a most impressive sermon to more than 5000 Friars: “Great things we have promised to God, but greater things has He promised unto us.” Let us observe the things we have promised, and with ardent longing yearn after the things that have been promised to us. The pleasures of this life are short, but the pains of hell incurred by pursuing them are never ending. The sufferings which we bear for the love if Christ, and the penance which we do for His sake will last but a short time; but the glory, with which God will reward us, will never end. Many have been called to the kingdom of life eternal, but few have been chosen, because very few follow Christ in sincerity of heart. But on the last day God will give to each the reward of his deeds; to the good, the glory of Heaven; to the wicked, the confusion of everlasting fire.
151. Great, indeed, are the things we have promised, yet they are nothing in comparison with the eternal reward God will bestow upon us if we remain faithful. Let us therefore act manfully, and not distrust our strength, because the best of Fathers Who has created us and has called us to a life of evangelical perfection, knowing our condition, will give us not only strength by His aid, but also heavenly gifts in such abundance, that, surmounting all obstacles, we shall be able not merely to obey His Most Beloved Son, but even to follow and imitate Him with the greatest cheerfulness and simplicity of heart; utterly despising those visible and temporal things, and ever yearning after those which are heavenly and eternal.
152. In Christ then, Who is God and Man, the True Light, the Brightness of Glory and of Eternal Light, the Spotless Mirror and Image of God; in Christ, appointed by the Eternal father to be the Judge, Lawgiver and Saviour of men; in Christ, to Whom the Holy Ghost has given testimony; and from Whom are all merit, example, help, grace and reward; In Whom be all our meditation and imitation; in Whom all things are sweet, learned, holy and perfect; in Christ, Who is the light and expectation of the Gentiles, the end of the law, the salvation of God, the father of the world to come, our final hope, Whom God has made our Wisdom and Justice, our Sanctification and Redemption, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, co-eternal, consubstantial, and coequal lives and reigns as one God, be everlasting praise, honour, majesty and glory, world without end. Amen.