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Published by the North American Capuchin Conference of ministers provincial on April 16, 1977, the anniversary of the founding of the Order of Friars Minor. A translation of Constitutiones Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum, published in Rome in 1975 by the General Definitory.
With permission of the Most Rev. Constantine Koser, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, given by letter of March 3, 1975, we have used the Latin text for both the Rule and the Testament as it is found in the volume: Regula et Constitutiones generates Ordinis Fratrum Minorum (Rome, General Curia of the Order, 1973, pp. IX-XXI). In the same place, the words of the Rule were edited here and there with recourse to the original Bull which is religiously kept in the monastery of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual at Assisi. The printed Testament is in keeping with the critical edition that Cajetan Esser, O.F.M., carefully prepared in 1949. To both our confreres we here express our sincere thanks.
This translation of The First Rule of Saint Francis (The Rule Unconfirmed by Bull) by Paul Schwartz, O.F.M. and Paul Lachance, O.F.M. is contained in The Birth of a Movement: A Study of the First Rule of St Francis (Franciscan Herald Press) pp. 63-85.
First Rule of St Francis (1221)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. This is the (way of) life which brother Francis asked the Lord Pope to grant and confirm for him. And the latter granted and confirmed it for him and for his brothers, those already received and those in the future. Brother Francis and whoever will be head of this religion must promise obedience and respect to the Lord Pope Innocent and to his successors. And let the other brothers be bound to obey brother Francis and his successors.
FOUNDATION IN THE GOSPEL
1. (The brothers are to live in obedience, in chastity, and without property.)
Here then is the rule and the (way of) life of these brothers: to live in obedience, in chastity, and without property; and to follow the doctrine and the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and then come follow me” (Mt. 19:21).And: “If anyone wants up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24).Likewise: “If anyone wishes to come to me and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:36). And: “Everyone who leaves father or mother, brothers or sisters, wife or children, house or land because of me shall receive a hundredfold and will possess eternal life” (Mt. 19:29).
2. (The reception and the clothing of the brothers.)
If anyone wishing by divine inspiration to take up this (way of) life comes to our brothers, they should receive him with kindness. If he should remain firm (in his desire) to take up our (way of) life, the brothers should take great care not to be involved in his temporal affairs, but to present him to their minister as quickly as possible. And the minister should receive him kindly and encourage him and carefully show him the terms of our (way of) life.
This being done, the aforesaid, if he wishes and if he is able spiritually, without impediment, should sell all his goods and strive to distribute everything to the poor. And the brothers and the ministers of the brothers should beware of involving themselves in any way in his affairs.
And they should not receive any money themselves or through any intermediary. If, however, they lack anything necessary for the body, the brothers are able to receive (these things), except for money, due to their need, like the rest of the poor. And when he returns, the minister should give him the habit of the novice for a full year, namely, two tunics without a hood, and a cord, and breeches, and a caperon reaching down to the cord. Now when the year and the term of probation is ended, he should be received into obedience. Afterwards, he should not be allowed to enter any other religion nor to wander about outside of obedience, following the mandate of the Lord Pope and according to the gospel, for “no one putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). If anyone comes who is not able to give away his goods without impediment and has the spiritual desire (to do so), he should abandon them and it will suffice. No one should be received contrary to the form and institution of the holy church.
The other brothers who have promised obedience should have one tunic with a hood and another without a hood, if it is necessary, and a cord and breeches. And all the brothers should have cheap clothes. And they can patch them with sack and other patches with God’s blessing, for the Lord says in the gospel: “Those who are in precious clothes, and in luxuries, and dressed in soft things are in the palaces of kings” (Lk. 7:25; Mt. 11:8). And though they may be called hypocrites, they should not cease to do good and they should not seek costly clothing in this world so that they can possess garments in the kingdom of heaven.
3. (The divine office and fasting.)
The Lord says: “This kind of demon cannot be cast out except by fasting and prayer” (Mk. 9:29). And again: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like hypocrites” (Mt. 6:16).
Thus all the brothers, whether clerics or laymen, should do the divine office, prayers of praise and intercession, as they are obliged. Clerics should do the office and say (prayers) for the living and for the dead according to the custom of clerics. For the faults and failings of the brothers they should say the Miserere mei Deus with the Pater Noster every day. For the dead brothers they should say the De profundis with the Pater Noster.And they may have only those books necessary to fulfill their office. And the lay brothers who know how to read the psalter may also have one. But those who do not know how to read are not allowed to have a book. But the lay brothers should say the Credo in Deum and twenty-four Pater Nosters with the Gloria Patti for Matins; for Lauds, five; for Prime, the Credo in Deum and seven Pater Nosters with the Gloria Patri; for Tierce, Sext and None, for each hour, seven; for Vespers, twelve; for Compline the Credo in Deum and seven Pater Nosters with the Gloria Patri; for the dead, seven Pater Nosters with a Requiem aeternam; and for the faults and failings of the brothers, three Pater Nosters each day.
And moreover, all the brothers should fast from the feast of All Saints until Christmas, and from the Epiphany, when our Lord began to fast, until Easter. At all other times they are not bound to fast, according to this (way of) life, except for Fridays. And they may eat everything they are given, according to the gospel.
4. (The ministers and the other brothers: how they are organized.)
In the name of the Lord. All the brothers who are appointed ministers and servants of the other brothers in the provinces and in the places where they live should give their brothers a place to live, visit them often, and give them spiritual advice and encouragement. And all my other blessed brothers should obey them with zeal in what concerns the salvation of their souls and is not contrary to our (way of) life. And among themselves they should act as the Lord says: “Whatever you wish to be done to you by other men, do this likewise to them” (Mt. 7:12).And: “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others” (Tob. 4:16). And the ministers and servants should remember what the Lord says: “I have not come to be served, but to serve” (Mt. 20:28); and since the care of the souls of the brothers has been entrusted to them, if any one of them is lost through their fault or bad example, on the day of judgment they must render account for it before our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. (The correction of brothers at fault.)
Keep close watch, then, over your souls and those of your brothers, for: “It is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). If, then, any of the ministers prescribes something that is opposed to our (way of) life and contrary to his conscience to any of the brothers, he is not bound to obey him, for it is not obedience to commit a fault or a sin.
On the other hand, all the brothers who are under the ministers and servants should consider the deeds of the ministers and servants reasonably and diligently. And if they see anyone of them walk in the flesh and not spiritually, according to the determinations of our (way of) life, if by the third admonition he has not amended himself, they should make him known to the minister and servant of all the fraternity at the chapter of Pentecost, without being prevented by any opposition. And if among the brothers, wherever they may be, there is found a brother who wants to walk in the flesh and not the spirit, the brothers among whom he is found should warn, correct, and instruct him humbly and diligently. And if after the third warning he refuses to amend himself, the others should send or report him as soon as possible to their minister and servant, and this minister and servant should do with him what seems best according to God. And all the brothers, ministers and servants as well as the others, should beware not to become upset or angry because of the sin of another, for the devil wishes to corrupt many through the sin of one. But they should help as best they can the one who has sinned, for: “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick” (Mt. 9:12).
Likewise, all the brothers are not to have power of domination, especially among themselves for says the Lord in the gospel: “The leaders of nations lord it over them, and those who are great exercise power over them” (Mt. 20:25). That should not be so among the brothers. But whoever wishes to be great among them should be their minister and servant (cf. Mt. 20:26). And he who is great among them must become small (cf. Lk. 22:26). Nor should any brother speak evil or do evil to another. Far from it, they should serve and obey one another through the love of a willing spirit (cf. Gal. 5:13). And this is the true and holy obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ. And all the brothers, should they often turn away from the commands of the Lord and wander around outside obedience, as the prophet says (cf. Ps. 118:21), they will know that they are damned so long as they knowingly remain in such a sin. And when they persevere in the commands of the Lord which they have promised through the gospel and their (way of) life, let them know they remain in true obedience and are blessed by the Lord.
6. (The recourse of the brothers to the ministers and that a brother should not be called prior.)
Brothers who cannot observe our (way of) life, no matter where they are, must have recourse to their minister as soon as possible and report this to him. The minister should do his best to provide for them, in the same way as he would like it to be done to him if he were in a similar case. And no one is to be called prior, but all should universally be called friars minor. And each should wash the other’s feet.
7. (Ways of work and service.)
All the brothers, in whatever place they stay with others for serving or working, are not to be chief stewards, or cellarers; nor should they be in charge of the house in which they serve; nor should they take any position which engenders scandal or “causes any harm to their souls” (Mt. 8:36); but they should be little ones and subject to all who are in the same house. And the brothers who know how to work should work. And they should exercise the same skill which they (already) know, provided it is not contrary to the salvation of their souls and can be honestly pursued. For the prophet says: “You shall eat the fruit of your labor, and you shall be happy and blessed” (Ps. 127:2).And the apostle: “Whoever does not wish to work, neither should he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10). And: “Each one should remain in the trade or position in which he was called” (1 Cor. 7:24). And for their work they can accept all that they need, except money. And when it becomes necessary, they should go seek alms like the other brothers. And they are allowed to have the tools and instruments necessary for their skill.
All the brothers should apply themselves to good works tirelessly, for it is written: “Always be doing some good work so that the devil finds you busy” (Jerome Letter 124, 11). And again: “Idleness is the enemy of the soul” (Rule of Saint Benedict, 48). Thus the servants of God should always be busy praying or doing some good work. The brothers should beware, wherever they are, whether in a hermitage or in any other place, not to claim ownership of any place or to defend it against anyone. And whoever comes to them, friend or foe, thief or brigand, should be kindly received. And wherever the brothers are or in whatever place they might meet, they should greet one another heartily and in the spirit, and honor “one another without murmuring” (1 Pt. 4:9). And they should beware not to appear outwardly sad and depressed like hypocrites, but should show themselves rejoicing in the Lord, joyful and fittingly agreeable.
8. (The brothers should not receive money.)
The Lord has ordered in the gospel: “Watch and beware against all evil and avarice” (Lk. 12:15). And: “Guard yourselves against the anxieties of this world and the cares of this life” (Lk. 21:34). Consequently, no brother, no matter where he is or where he may go, should in any way accept, or cause to be accepted, money or coins, neither for clothes, for books, nor as wages for any kind of work, under any circumstances whatever, unless obviously necessary for sick brothers; for we should not grant nor accord greater usefulness to money or coins than we do to stones. And the devil wishes to blind those who desire it or who regard it better than stones. We who have left everything should therefore beware not to lose the kingdom of heaven for so little. And if we ever come upon coins in any place we should care no more for them than for the dust we tread upon with our feet, for: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). And if by chance, perish the thought, it happens that any brother collects or has money or coins, except only if necessary for the sick as mentioned above, all the brothers should consider him a false brother, a thief, brigand, and one keeping a purse, at least until he truly repents.
And in no way are brothers to receive or cause to be received, or seek or cause to be sought, money for almshouses, nor coins for any house or place; and they should not go with any person who seeks money for the benefit of such places. Other services which are not contrary to our (way of) life the brothers may perform for the places (where they work) with God’s blessing. However, the brothers are able to seek alms in the case of what is obviously necessary for lepers. They should themselves beware very much of money. Likewise, all the brothers should beware of running around the world in search of filthy lucre.
9. (Begging for alms.)
All the brothers must apply themselves to follow the humility and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ; and they should remember that we are to have nothing else of the whole world except, as the apostle says, “having food and sufficient clothing, with these we are content” (1Tm. 6:8). And they should rejoice when they find themselves in the company of vile and despised persons, among the poor and the infirm, the sick and the lepers, and those who beg on the street.
And when it is necessary, they should go for alms. And they should not be ashamed and should rather remember that our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living and almighty God, set his face “like a rock” (Is. 50:7) and was not ashamed. And he was poor and homeless and lived on alms, he, the blessed Virgin and his disciples. And should men insult them and refuse to give them alms, let them give thanks to God, for because of these insults they will receive great honor before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ. And they should know that the shame will be imputed to those who cause it, not to those who suffer it. And alms are a heritage and a right due the poor, won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. And the brothers who work to get them will receive a great reward and enrich and benefit those who give them, for everything which men leave in the world will perish but they will receive a reward from the Lord for the charity and alms they have done.
And, in all security, each should let his needs be known to the other, so that he can find what he needs and give it. And each is to love and nourish his brother as a mother nourishes and loves her son, in everything for which God gives them grace. And “Let not the one who eats despise the one who does not eat, nor the one who does not eat judge the one who eats” (Rom. 14:3).
And whenever necessity requires, all the brothers, wherever they are, are permitted to eat whatever people eat, as the Lord said about David, who ate “the loaves of proposition which no one was permitted to eat but the priests” (Mk. 2:26). And they should remember what the Lord says: “Watch yourselves that your hearts not be overcome by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare to all those who dwell on the face of the earth” (Lk. 21:34-35). Likewise, in time of obvious necessity all the brothers should provide for themselves as the Lord gives them grace, for necessity knows no law.
10. (The sick brothers.)
If a brother falls sick (on the road), no matter where, the other brothers should not leave him unless they arrange for one of the brothers, or more if need be, to care for him as they would like to be taken care of. But in very great need they can leave him with another person who should take care of him in his illness.
And I ask the sick brother to give thanks to the Creator for everything; and he should desire to be that which God wants him to be, whether in sickness or in health; for all those whom God destined for eternal life (cf. Acts 13:48) he instructs by means of torments, trials, and sicknesses, and the spirit of compunction, as the Lord says: “Those whom I love I rebuke and chastise” (Rv. 3:19). If this (sick brother) should be troubled or angry against his God or against the brothers, or if, filled with cares, he calls for medicines, desiring overmuch to liberate the body which is soon to die and which is opposed to the soul, this comes to him from the evil one and is carnal, and does not show him to be one of the brothers, for he worries more about the body than the soul.
11. (The brothers should neither ridicule nor disparage, but love one another.)
And all the brothers should guard against slandering and “disputing with words” (2 Tm. 2:14). On the contrary, the brothers should do their best to hold silence whenever God gives them the grace. Nor should they quarrel among themselves or with others, but they should try to respond humbly, saying: I am a useless servant (cf. Lk. 17:10). And they should not become angry, for “everyone who is angry with his brother will be brought before the judge: whoever says ‘racca’ to him will be brought before the council; whoever says ‘fool’ to him will be brought to the fires of Gehenna” (Mt. 5:22). And they should love one another, as the Lord says: “This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:22). And they should show the love they have for one another by their deeds, as the apostle says: “Let us love not with word and mouth, but in deed and in truth” (1Jn.3:18).
And: “They should insult no one” (Titus 3:2). They should not complain nor slander others, for it is written: “Murmurers and slanderers are detestable to God” (Rom. 1:29). And they should be “modest, showing great kindness to all men” (Titus 3:22). They should not judge, nor condemn. And as the Lord says, they should not consider even the slightest sin of others (cf.Mt. 7:3). Much to the contrary, “they should consider” their own sins “in the bitterness of their souls” (Is. 38:15). And: “They should strive to enter through the narrow gate,” (Lk. 13:24) as the Lord says: “Narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to eternal life, and few are those who find it” (Mt. 7:14).
12. (Evil looks and association with women.)
All the brothers, wherever they are or travel, should beware of evil looks and association with women. And no one should counsel them alone. Priests should speak honorably with them when they give them (the sacrament of) penance or other spiritual advice. And absolutely no woman should be received into obedience by any brother; but when she has been given spiritual counsel, she should go do penance where she wishes. And let us all keep close guard over ourselves and keep our bodies pure, for the Lord says: “Anyone who has looked at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart” (Mt. 5:28).
13. (The avoidance of fornication.)
If a brother, through the instigation of the devil, fornicates, he must put the habit aside completely, having lost it by his iniquity, and he must be absolutely expelled from our religion. And afterwards he is to do penance for his sins.
THE GOSPEL MISSION
14. (How the brothers are to go about in the world.)
When the brothers go about in the world, “they should carry nothing for the road, neither purse, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor staff. And in whatever house they will enter, they should say first of all: Peace to this house. And staying in the same house, they should eat and drink what is there” (Lk. 9:3; 10: 5; 10:7). “They should not resist evil, but if someone strikes them on the cheek, they should offer him the other one. And if someone takes their cloak, they should not stop him from taking even their tunic. They should give to all who ask. And if someone takes what is theirs, they should not claim it” (Mt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29-30).
15. (The brothers should not ride horses.)
I decree to all my brothers, whether cleric or lay, that when they go about in the world or stay in a place, they should have absolutely no animals, either with them or in the care of others, or in any other way. Neither are they permitted to ride horses unless driven to it by sickness or great necessity.
16. (Those who go among the Saracens and other unbelievers.)
The Lord says: “Behold, I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves. Be therefore prudent like serpents and simple like doves” (Mt. 10:16).
Hence, whoever of the brothers, by divine inspiration, wishes to go among the Saracens and other unbelievers, they (sic) may go with the permission of their minister and servant. The minister then should give them permission and not oppose them, if he sees that they are fit to be sent, for he will be held accountable to the Lord if in this or in other matters he has proceeded without discretion.
The brothers who go can conduct themselves spiritually among (the unbelievers) in two ways. One way is not to quarrel or dispute, but “to be subject to every creature for God’s sake” (1 Pt. 2:13) and to acknowledge that they (themselves) are Christians. Another way is to proclaim the word of God when they see it pleases God in order that (the unbelievers) might believe in God the almighty Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the Creator of all and in the redeeming and saving Son, so that they might be baptized and become Christians, for “he who is not born again of water and the Holy Spirit cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). These and other things which will please the Lord they can speak to them and to others, for the Lord says in the gospel: “Everyone who acknowledges me before men I will also acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32). And: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his majesty and that of the Father and the angels” (Lk. 9:26).
And all the brothers, wherever they are, should remember that they have given themselves and have abandoned their bodies to the Lord Jesus Christ. And for his love they must expose it to enemies, whether visible or invisible, for the Lord says: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Mt.8:35) for eternal life. Blessed are those who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:10). If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also (Jn 15:20). If they persecute you in one city, flee to another (Mt. 10:23). Blessed are you when men will hate you and persecute you and accuse you of evil and vomit your name as an evil thing and when they will falsely speak all manner of evil against you for my sake. Rejoice on that day and exult for your reward is great in heaven (Lk. 6:22; Mt. 5:11; Lk. 6:23). I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of these things. And do not fear those who kill the body and afterwards have nothing more they can do (Lk. 12:4; Mt. 10:28). See that you are not troubled (Mt. 24:6). By your suffering you will possess your souls (Lk. 21:19). He who will have persevered to the end will be saved” (Mt. 10:22).
No brother may preach contrary to the forms and institutions of the holy church and unless it has been conceded to him by his minister. The minister must beware not to grant this concession to anyone indiscriminately. All the brothers, however, should preach by their actions. And no minister or preacher should appropriate to himself the ministry to the brothers or the office of preaching, but at whatever hour he is enjoined to do so he should give up his office without any objection. And so, by the love which is God I entreat all my brothers, preachers, speakers and workers, whether cleric or lay, to strive to be humble in all things, not to pride themselves nor to rejoice in themselves nor to praise their (own) good words and works, not even the good which God sometimes does, says, or works in them and through them, according to what the Lord says: “Nonetheless, do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you” (Lk. 10:20). And we should know for certain that nothing is our own except our vices and sins. And rather we must be glad “when we are brought to various trials” (James 1:2) and when we undergo all kinds of anxieties of body or soul or tribulations in this world for the sake of eternal life. All the brothers should beware of all pride and vainglory.
We should guard against the wisdom of this world and the prudence of the flesh. For the spirit of flesh wishes and strives greatly with words, but little with actions. And it seeks not the religion and holiness of the spirit within, but wishes and desires to have an outward religion and holiness apparent to men. And it is about these that the Lord says: “Amen I say to you, they have received their reward” (Mt. 6:2). The Spirit of the Lord, however, wishes the flesh to be mortified and despised, reviled and rejected, and ridiculed. And it strives for humility and patience pure and simple, and for true peace of spirit. And always above all it desires the fear of God and divine wisdom and the divine love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
And let us refer every good to the highest and supreme Lord God and acknowledge that every good is his and let us offer him thanks for everything, from whom every good thing comes. And may he, the highest and supreme and only true God, have and be given and receive all honor and reverence, all praise and blessing, all thanks and glory, for his is every good and he alone is good. And when we see or hear the evil one speak or act or blaspheme God, let us bless and praise and do good for the Lord is blessed forever. Amen.
18. (How the ministers are to meet.)
Every year each minister can meet with his brothers wherever they wish on the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel to treat of things which have to do with God. However, all the ministers who are overseas or beyond the mountains should come once every three years, and the other ministers once every year, to the chapter of Pentecost at the church of Holy Mary of the Portiuncula, unless it has been ordered otherwise by the minister and servant of the entire fraternity.
19.(The brothers are to live as Catholics.)
All the brothers must be Catholics, living and speaking as Catholics. If anyone has wandered from the faith and the Catholic life in speech or in deed and has not amended himself, he is to be completely expelled from our fraternity. And we should accept all clerics and all religious as our lords in all that concerns the salvation of souls and does not deviate from our religion and we should honor in the Lord their order and their office and their government.
20. (Penance and the reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.)
My blessed brothers, whether cleric or lay, should confess their sins to priests of our religion. And if they cannot, they should confess to other prudent and Catholic priests, convinced and aware that from whatever Catholic priests they receive penance and absolution, they are absolved of their sins without any doubt if they take care humbly and faithfully to observe the imposed penance. Nonetheless, if they are not able to have a priest, they should confess to their brother as the Apostle James says: “Confess your sins to one another” (Jam 5, 16). However, this does not excuse them from going to a priest, for the power to bind and to loose is granted only to priests. And thus contrite and confessed they should receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with great humility and veneration, remembering what the Lord himself says: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (Jn 6:54. And: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk. 22:19).
21. (The praise and the exhortation which all the brothers can do.)
And all my brothers, when it pleases them, can proclaim some such exhortation or praise among any men whatever with the blessing of God: Fear and honor, praise and bless, thank and adore the Lord God almighty in his trinity and unity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of all. “Do penance, perform worthy fruits of penance” (Mt. 3:2; 3:8), for know that we will soon die. “Give and it will be given to you. Forgive and you will be forgiven (Lk. 6:38; 6:37). And if you do not forgive men their sins the Lord will not forgive you your sins” (Mk. 11:26). Confess all your sins (cf. James 5:16). Blessed are those who die in penance, for they will be in the kingdom of heaven. Woe to those who do not die in penance for they will be sons of the devil whose work they do and they will go into eternal fire. Beware and abstain from every evil and persevere to the very end in good.
TESTAMENT OF 1219
22. (Advice to the brothers.)
Let us attend, all (my) brothers, to what the Lord says: “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you” (Mt. 5:44). For even the Lord Jesus Christ, whose footsteps we must follow (cf. 1Pt. 2:21), called his betrayer “friend” and freely gave himself up to those who crucified him. They are our friends, therefore, all those who unjustly inflict on us trials, anxieties, shame and injuries, suffering and torture, martyrdom and death. We should love them greatly, for out of what they inflict on us we have eternal life.
And we must hate our body with its vices and its sins, because in living according to the flesh it wishes to take away from us the love of Jesus Christ and eternal life and to lose itself with everything in hell. For we, through our own fault, are smelly, wretched, opposed to good, yet ready and willing for evil, for thus says the Lord in the gospel: “From the heart of man come out and go forth evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, avarice, wickedness, deceit, shamelessness, evil looks, false witness, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evils come from within the heart of man and it is these which defile a man” (Mk. 7:21-23; Mt. 15:19).
Yet now that we have left the world, we have nothing more to do except to take care to do the will of the Lord and to please him. Let us be very careful not to be the earth by the wayside, or the stony or thorny ground, according to what the Lord says in the gospel: “The seed is the word of God. What has fallen by the wayside and is trampled upon are those who hear the word of the kingdom and do not understand. And immediately the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts and takes the word from their hearts for fear that believing, they will be saved. What has fallen on the stony ground are those who, having heard the word receive it immediately with joy. Yet when a trial or persecution for the word’s sake comes along, immediately they are scandalized and they have no roots in themselves, but they are short-lived for they believe for a time and fall away in time of temptation. What has fallen in among the thorns are those who hear the word of God; and the cares and difficulties of this world, and the deceit of riches and the lust for other things enter and choke the word and render it unfruitful. But what was sown in good soil are those who, hearing the word with a good and generous heart, understand it and keep it and bear fruit in penance” (Lk. 8:11-15; cf. Mt. 13:19-23 and Mk. 4:14-20).
And so, all (my) brothers, as the Lord says: “Let us leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Mt. 8:22). And we should be very wary of the malice and subtleties of Satan who wants man not to have his spirit and his heart (turned) towards the Lord God. And, roaming around, he desires to take the heart of man under pretense of some gain or help and to suffocate the word and the precepts of the Lord out of (man’s) memory, wishing to blind the heart of man with worldly business and cares and to make a dwelling there, as the Lord says: When an impure spirit goes out of a man, he roams through dry and waterless places seeking peace. And not finding it, he says: ‘I will return to the house I left.’ He goes there and finds it empty, swept out and decorated. And he goes and takes seven other spirits worse than himself and, having entered, they dwell there; and the last state of the man is worse than the first” (Mt. 12:43-45; cf. Lk. 11:24-26).
Hence, all (my) brothers, we must keep close watch over ourselves not to lose ourselves under the pretense of some gain or work or help, or to take our mind and heart (far) from the Lord. But in the holy love which is God, I ask all the brothers, the ministers as well as the others, to put away every obstacle and put behind them every care and worry, and in the best way they can to serve, love, honor and adore the Lord God with a clean heart and pure mind, and thus to do what he seeks above all else.
And let us always make a dwelling and a mansion there for him who is the Lord God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who says: “Keep watch then in prayer at all times that you may be accounted worthy to flee all evil which will come and to stand before the Son of man” (Lk. 21:36). And when you stand up to pray (Mk. 11:25) say: “Our Father who is in heaven.” And let us adore him with a pure heart “for we must always pray and not lose heart (Lk. 18:1). For the Father seeks such worshippers. God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23-24). And let us turn to him as “to the shepherd and guardian of our souls” (1 Pt. 2:25) who says: “I am the good shepherd” (Jn. 10:14), I lead my sheep to pasture, and “I lay down my life for my sheep” (Jn. 10:15). “You are all brothers. Call no one your father on earth, for your only Father is in heaven. Neither be called master, for you have only one master” (Mt. 23:8-10) who is in heaven. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, whatever you wish, ask, and it will be done to you (Jn. 15:7). Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them (Mt. 18:20). Behold I am with you until the consummation of the world (Mt. 28:20). The words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63). I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).
Let us therefore hold fast to the words, the life, the doctrine and the holy gospel of him who deigned to pray to the Father for us and who revealed his name to us, saying: “Father, I have manifested your name to the men you have given me (Jn. 17:6), for the words which you have given me I have given them, and they have received them and acknowledged in truth that I have come forth from you, and they have believed that you have sent me. I pray for them. I do not (pray) for the world but for those you have given me because they are yours and all that is mine is yours (Jn. 17:8-10). Holy Father, keep all those you have given me in your holy name, that they might be one as we are (Jn. 17:11). I speak these things in the world so that they might have complete joy within themselves. I have given them your word and the world has hated them for they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from evil (Jn. 17:13-15). Sanctify them in truth. Your word is truth. Even as you have sent me into the world, so also I have sent them into the world. And for them I sanctify myself so that they may be sanctified in truth. Not for these only do I pray but for those who through their word are to believe in me (Jn. 17:17-20) that they may be made one, and the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (Jn. 17:23). And I have made your name known to them in order that the love with which you have loved me might be in them and I in them (Jn. 17:26). Father, I will that where I am, those you have given me might be with me, in order that they behold your glory (Jn. 17:24) in your kingdom. Amen.”
23. (Prayer and thanksgiving.)
All-powerful, most holy, most high and supreme God, holy and just Father, Lord king of heaven and earth, we give you thanks for yourself; for by your holy will and through your only Son and in the Holy Spirit you created all things, spiritual and corporal, and placed us in paradise, made in your own image and likeness. And through our own fault we fell. And we give you thanks because as you created us through your Son, so also, by your holy love with which you love us, you caused him to be born true God and true man of the glorious, ever-virgin, most blessed holy Mary, and you wished to redeem us from our captivity by his cross and blood and death. And we give you thanks because your Son himself is to come again in the glory of his majesty to send the damned who did not do penance and did not know you into eternal fire, and to say to all who knew you and adored you and served you in penance: “Come, blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world’’ (Mt. 25:34).
And because all we wretches and sinners are not worthy to speak your name, we pray and beg our Lord Jesus Christ, your beloved Son “in whom you are well pleased” (Mt. 17:5), together with the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to give thanks for everything as it pleases you and him. He always suffices for you in everything, and through him you have done so much for us. Alleluia. And for love of you, we humbly beg the glorious mother, most blessed Mary, ever-virgin, blessed Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and all the choirs of blessed seraphim, cherubim, and thrones, dominations, principalities and powers, virtues, angels and archangels, blessed John the Baptist, John the evangelist, Peter, Paul and the blessed patriarchs and prophets, the innocents, apostles, evangelists and disciples, martyrs and confessors, virgins, blessed Elias and Enoch, and all the saints who were, who will be, and who are, to give you thanks for this as it pleases you, you the supreme and true God, eternal and living, with your beloved Son the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.
And all we friars minor, useless servants (cf. Lk. 17:10), humbly ask and beg all those within the holy, catholic and apostolic church who wish to serve the Lord God and (beg) all the following orders: priests, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors, porters and all clerics, all religions men and all religious women, all lay brothers and little people, the poor and the needy, kings and princes, workers and farmers, servants and lords, all virgins and chaste men and married men, all lay folk, men and women, all children, adolescents, the young and the old, the healthy and the sick, all the small and the great, all peoples, races, tribes and tongues, all nations and all men everywhere on earth who are and who will be, to persevere with us in the true faith and in penance, for otherwise no one can be saved.
Let us all love with a full heart and a full soul, with full mind and full courage, with full understanding and full strength (cf. Lk. 10:27; Dt. 6:5), with full effort and full affection, with full emotion, full desire and will, the Lord God, who has given and gives to every one of us (our) whole body, all (our) soul, and all life; who created, redeemed, and through his mercy alone, will save us, who did and does every good thing for us, miserable and wretched, rotten and smelly, ungrateful and evil though we are. Therefore we should desire no other thing, wish for nothing else, find no pleasure or delight in anything except our Creator, Redeemer and Savior, the one true God, who is the full good, all good, every good, the true and supreme good, who alone is good, upright and gentle, sweet and delectable, who alone is holy, just, true and right; who alone is benevolent, innocent and pure, from him and through him and in him is all pardon, all grace, all the glory of the penitent and just, of all the blessed who rejoice together in heaven. Therefore nothing must impede, separate, or come between (him and us). Let us all wherever we are, in every place, at every hour, at all times, everyday and continually, believe truly and humbly, and keep in heart, and love, honor, adore, serve, praise and bless, glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the most high and supreme eternal God, trinity and unity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, creator of all, savior of those who believe in him, hope in him and love him; who is without beginning and without end, unchangeable, invisible, indescribable, ineffable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, blessed, worthy of praise, glorious, exalted, sublime, utmost, gentle, lovable, delectable and totally desirable above everything else, world without end. Amen.
In the name of the Lord God! I ask all the brothers to learn the gist and the meaning of those things which are written in this (way of) life for the salvation of our souls, and thus to call it to mind frequently. And I beg God that he who himself is almighty, three and one, bless all those who learn, teach, possess, hold in their heart and follow these things, each time they repeat and perform what is written here for the salvation of our souls. And I beg (them) all, kissing their feet, to greatly esteem, keep and preserve this (way of) life. And on behalf of almighty God and the Lord Pope and by obedience, I, brother Francis, firmly command and order that no one take away from what is written in this (way of) life nor add some further statement in it (cf. Dt. 12:32); neither should the brothers have any other rule.
Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and always shall be, world without end. Amen.