Bernardino of Colpetrazzo Book 1

A simple and devout history of the Origins of the Congregation of Capuchin Friars (1523-1593)

by Bernardino da Colpetrazzo OFM Cap

Book One: The Main Events in the Birth of the Order

From the critical edition by Melchior da Pobladura OFM Cap

Monumenta Historica Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum, Vol II, Assisi, 1939

Translation, introduction and revised annotation by Paul Hanbridge OFM Cap

© 2020 Capuchin Friars of Australia

Table of Contents (for detailed content see here)

Dedication

1. The Duke of Acquasparta asks Bernardine of Colpetrazzo to finish the Chronicle 2. Bernardine dedicates the Chronicle to the Duke 3. The division of the work

1. Most Illustrious and Excellent Lord![1] Your Excellency should know that I had decided not to write this book, that is, the Chronicle of our Congregation. The reason was this. Although I had almost finished writing it, our Fathers gave the task to the very Reverend Padre[2] Mattia da Salò,[3] since he is much more learned and capable than I. However, since Your Excellency has bid me finish the work, I am bound to do so because of the many obligations I feel towards you and your family. I cannot overlook this, since for me your requests are commands. At the bidding of Your Excellency I have decided to complete the task, given that our Congregation no longer needs me[4]. Furthermore Monsignor Thesaurieri[5] has sent me the best and finest paper I could ask for. Therefore with good reason I am compelled from all sides so that my small efforts not fail the great devotion that Your Excellency has, together with Her Excellency, the Lady Olympia Orsini[6] Cesi. Nor must I fail your admirable desire to read this Chronicle on account of the immeasurable devotion you have towards Father Saint Francis and his holy Order.

2. Therefore I dedicate this entire work to Your Excellency. I commit the work to your authority to revise, with the freedom either to publish or keep the work for your own devotion; whatever pleases you. However I regret not having the learning and adequately good style for this work to be enjoyed with even greater appreciation. Nevertheless, despite old age, I have tried to write most of what I have seen with my own eyes, or what credible persons have assured me, since in history one seeks truth above all else.

Therefore may Your Excellency accept these small efforts from the least of his servants. I give them to you with love since you have such great affection for our Seraphic Father Saint Francis. May your fervour grow even more as you see and read about in this Chronicle the miraculous providence of the Lord God towards the early Fathers of our Congregation so as to bring back the way of life of our Seraphic Father and his first companions. You will see how such noble and holy sons in the Congregation[7] followed the Seraphic Father in perfect imitation.

3. I divide the entire work into three books. The first one has a simple history of the more noteworthy things that took place at different times in our Congregation[8]. The second book has stories about the austerity and miracles of holy men in the Congregation who, in a praiseworthy manner, have passed away from this to a better life. In the third book I have written about the customs and life led by our early Fathers. Then beginning with Saint Francis I have written about all the Generals throughout the period when the friars wore the pointed cowl. There is also list of the Generals of our own Congregation, and of our Cardinal Protectors.

I could have written many other things. Due to my age, however, writing is not easy. May Your Excellency be happy with this and remain in holy peace. I beg of God every good for you and for the happiness of your entire Family, in this world and the next.

Your Excellency’s loving and affectionate religious,

Fra Bernardino Colpetrazzo, Capuchin.

In the friary of St Peter at Acquasparta,

The second day of September 1592.

I: Here begins a simple and devout history of the Congregation of Capuchin Friars, that is, when and how it began and who began it. Composed by me, Bernardino da Colpetrazzo.

4. The Vicar General orders the composition of the history of the Order. 5. The task is entrusted to Bernardine. 6. The division of the work into three books.

4. Although the Congregation had already grown considerably by the grace of God, it pleased our Lord God that many prelates of Holy Church, as well as secular Lords, nobility and people, firmly believed that Bernardino Ochino of Siena began the Congregation[9]. This label and opinion deeply saddened our Protector[10], the most Illustrious Monsignor, the Cardinal of Santa Severina. To rid the Congregation of this reputation, he spoke with the Very Rev. Padre Girolamo da Monte Fiore[11], our General at the time. The Cardinal convinced him of the value of a written work that would bring to light the origins of our Congregation. Such a work would be useful everywhere. It would also make known the more remarkable things that our Lord God did in the Congregation so that the Friars might have the opportunity to imitate the example of the first Fathers. The Reverend Father General and our other Fathers liked the idea very much. The General wrote at once to the older friars throughout the Provinces to have them put to paper all the more important things they remembered that took place in our Congregation.

5. At the time I was at Borgo Sansepolcro, at the friary of Montecasale. On behalf of His Lordship, whom I would want to please, His Reverence had me – because of my age – put to paper what I could easily remember, especially since I had known most of the early Fathers very well. Keeping in mind how I should follow the commands of my superiors, I immediately set myself to write. I quickly had a basic draft of everything I remembered. The Very Rev. Padre Mario da Mercato Saraceno, of happy memory, received the same commission prior to me. I believed that his Reverence would make up for my omissions and take what ever he needed from my work in order to complete his task[12].

Through His Lordship and our General Minister and Definitors atf the General Chapter, the Lord was pleased again to decide that I, with the help of some other Fathers, write this above mentioned work more fully and clearly[13]. However, the other Fathers were busy elsewhere and could not help, so I entrusted myself to Our Lord Jesus Christ and holy obedience. And that is how this undertaking began. As I do not have the ability to follow the lofty style of Rev. Padre Mario, I have written and arranged the whole work according to my simplicity, thinking that the Father General and other Fathers would have to make up for everything I have overlooked. I have tried carefully to tell the simple truth in these writings and words. With all humility I submit them to the correction of the Prelates of Holy Church.

6. I divide the work into three books. The first deals with how and when the shape of the habit fell into disuse. This was the shape the early Fathers of our Order used to use. The book then deals with how the Capuchins took up that shape again. It also includes all the noteworthy things that have happened in our Congregation until today. In the second book are the lives and miracles of holy men. Book three describes the way of life of the early Fathers of our Congregation. That book also describes all the Generals who wore the pointed cowl from the time of Saint Francis down to Michael of Cesena, as well as the more significant things that happened during their terms of office. All the Generals of our Congregation are also listed.

To the praise and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of His fairest Mother, and of our Father Saint Francis. Amen. On 15 October 1585, in our friary at Spoleto. Fra Bernardino as above.

II: Author’s Preface

7. General theme of the work. 8. Brother Bernardino’s “curriculum Vitae.” 9. He is tasked to write the Chronicle. 10. His preparation for the undertaking. 11. Love of truth.

7. The Very Reverend Father General of our entire Congregation, Padre Girolamo da Montefiore, enjoined me to write down what I remembered about the more notable things that happened from the beginning of the Congregation until now, that is, the lives, abstinence, miracles and visions of those holy men. Given the scope of this work, the reader should know something about me.[14]

8. It pleased the Lord God to have me enter the world in 1514, on the feast day of Saint Catherine, Virgin and Martyr. This took place in a castello called Colpetrazzo in the countryside near Todi. My father’s name was Nicolò, of the Croli family in that castello. My mother’s name was Franceschina. She told me many times that when I was born I arrived with a stole of flesh around my neck and across my chest. As a boy of five or six years old or so, I stayed up one winter’s night with many others around the fire. My father was talking about how he had come across an old friend while on a trip into Todi. The person had become a priest and my father hadn’t seen him for many years. My father said to him, “By becoming a Religious you have done better than I.” The Priest answered him, “I have done badly, because no Priest will be saved. All of them are going to hell. Whoever wants to be saved should enter the Order of Saint Francis. They have paradise in this world and in the next.” I was listening to this and said to myself, “I no longer want to be a priest but a Friar. They go to heaven. Lord Jesus Christ, if I must be a Friar, make that ember fall from the grill.” Amazing! I no sooner had the thought than the ember fell. This made such an impression on my heart. From that moment I was determined to be a Friar in the Order of Saint Francis.

I started school and had a great desire to learn. Contrary to most boys, who shunned school, I never wanted anything else. At about twelve years of age, though rather lively and badly behaved, in my heart I still wanted to be a Friar. However, the Zoccolanti Fathers had me wait about four years. They thought I was too young. They put in my hands a book of the Holy Fathers.[15] I read it so eagerly that in the month of May I hid where no one could find me, to read from morning until evening. The lives of those holy men were so inspiring that I wept almost continuously.

It pleased the Lord God that the Very Reverend Padre Tomaso Lallo da Norcia, Minister at the time[16], accept me into the Zoccolanti friary of Monte Santo at Todi on the vigil of San Bernardino. The following year I received the habit in the friary of Saint Jerome at Gubbio on the 13 April, during the time of Clement VII. My novitiate was under the venerable Master, Padre Felitiano da Foligno. I made profession at the beginning of the new year at Our Lady of the Angels and remained with them from April until Epiphany[17]. On the Sunday in the octave of Epiphany I became a Capuchin. By the grace of God I have lived in this Holy Reform to this day, 14 October 1593.

Our Congregation had begun just a few years earlier, but without growing to more than three or four friars for a period of three years. When I entered there was no friary in the Province of Saint Francis at all, although some had been established there since.[18]

9. When I was in the friary at Montecasale near Borgo Sansepolcro in 1580 it pleased the Lord God that the Very Rev. Padre Girolamo da Montefiore, General of our Congregation, write to me from Perugia. As I said above he said I should start to write. Once I began I soon had a sizeable volume of things about our Congregation. When that Father was at Corinaldo in the Province of the Marches I sent him the volume. His Paternity wrote back this letter:

Venerable and beloved Father in Christ, greetings! I received the book you sent me concerning the things of our Congregation. I have already read the book and like it very much. I am of the opinion that the work will be very useful. I believe, God willing, that the friars should read it. My own desire is that this be done and so produce the greatest fruit and open the minds of many. The work will be a great encouragement to those dedicated to the pure and true observance of the Rule. However Padre Mario for some time has accepted the task to write about the origin and development of the Congregation over a certain period of time. He has already begun, though he has not included the details of particular Friars except occasionally and briefly. I believe that the first part be left to him, given that he has already had that task until now. He has written very satisfactorily and faithfully. I think the work will result even better. I am of the opinion therefore that the stories about the origin and progress of the Congregation could be removed from your volume and only use those chapters that deal with the life, customs, teaching and miracles of individual friars. These make up the greater part, if not nearly your entire work. Regarding this part, I could not hope for better than what you have written. Nor did I expect such an effort on your part. I only thought that you would inform me briefly about some of the more important things. However, since the Lord has inspired you to produce this complete work, I beg His Majesty to have it bear fruit so that the holy life and the sound admonitions of the holy friars you write about may be imitated in the future. They truly deserve this. I shall take care to have the book copied. When I have done so I shall send you the original, which you may keep with you.

In all this I ask God to reward your efforts and diligence in this work, and I commend myself to your prayers.

From Corinaldo, the 2 March 1580

Affectionately yours,

Fra Girolamo da Monte Fiore, General of the Capuchin Friars

 

A little later[19], during the assembly of the General Chapter in Rome, the Most Illustrious Monsignor and the Father General and his Definitors decided that I should complete this work. This appears from the obedience I received from Father General, Fra Giacomo da Mercato Saraceno[20], as below:

To the Most Venerable Brother in Christ, Padre Bernardino da Colpetrazzo of the Order of Capuchin Friars. Fra Giacomo da Mercato Saraceno, General of the same Order. Greetings.

Our General Chapter, recently celebrated in Rome, decided to revise, correct and arrange for the printing of the Chronicles of our Friars, which Rev. Padre Mario da Mercato Saraceno and you wrote and gathered from your memories. Therefore, with the merit of obedience, you are to go to Rome with the companion whom the Father Vicar of your Province will assign you. With the help of the Reverend Father Procurator of the Order, and of the Guardian in Rome[21], to whom I give the merit of holy obedience, attend to put these things into good order. Return to your Province as soon as expedite. Pray to God for me.

From Santo Angelo in Vado

18 August 1584

The above mentioned Fra Giacomo, by my own hand.

10. Holy obedience was the main reason I set myself this task. On the other hand, considering my ignorance, I was rather worried that I would not satisfy the reader by adhering to a fitting style for such a work. However, all the old friars who could have remembered and written with better style had already died. To lose the memories about those great servants of God would be, I believe, a great misfortune. They started our Congregation with holy deeds, preaching and miracles, which shed great light in the Church of God. This work may also benefit those simple persons who wish to imitate the example of those reverend and holy Fathers. It would truly be a great loss to everyone not to know about the beginnings of this Reform and the great zeal and fervour of the early Fathers in imitating Father Saint Francis and the first saints of our Order.

When I began to write the Lord God was pleased to show me that this was His work. I could remember all the details and deeds quite easily, no matter how small they were. I could remember all those facts as if I could actually see them with my bodily eyes. Thanks to Jesus Christ, nature has endowed me with a good memory. I knew all the early Fathers except those who lived in the Congregation for just a short period and died before I met them.[22] What was more important to me was the close acquaintance I had had with those who governed our Congregation in the beginning. Since they loved me very much they told me in confidence about all the secret things that took place both at the Court and in the Chapters. Padre Bernardino d’Asti, Padre Francesco da Iesi and Padre Bernardino da Monte del Olmo were my masters for some time. I knew Padre Matteo and Padre Lodovico da Fossombrone. I became a Capuchin during his leadership. All this was a great asset in recalling the more notable things that occurred in our Congregation.

11. I will not try to embellish things much. Rather, I will try only to tell the simple truth about those things that I saw with my own eyes or heard from reliable witnesses who saw them. In the Lord God, I hope these small efforts of mine, endured for the love of God and obedience towards my superiors, will not be in vane. For I see in these writings the way of the Lord that those who make such a high profession of the Rule of the Seraphic Francis need to follow. Truly the Capuchin Reform was an image of the original state of the Order at the beginning. The Capuchin Reform represented the life of the holy Apostles and of Saint Francis with his Companions.

I have said all of this to make known my simplicity and the intention and desire I had to benefit my neighbour. To the praise of Jesus Christ and His most fair Mother and our father Saint Francis. Amen.

III: How the venerable Padre Francesco da Iesi explained to Padre Frate Francesco Venitiano, a Zoccolante Friar, that our Reform is the true Reform according to the prophecies[23]

12. Francesco da Venezia OFM proposes to the Capuchin General a merger of the two Reforms. 13. The reply of Padre Francesco da Iesi. 14. The prophecy of Giovanni da Parma. 15. The prophecy of Bernardo da Quintavalle. 16. The vision of Giacomo da Massa. 17. Another prophecy. 18. Some revelations about the future of the Capuchin Reform.

12. Back in the beginning there was a great controversy among the Friars in the body of the Order. Was the Capuchin Congregation the true Reform that corresponded with the prophecies of saintly men in the Order? The Venerable Padre Francesco Venetiano,[24] the Guardian of the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers, was involved in this dispute. He was already a close friend of Padre Francesco da Iesi[25]. Because of the great trust he had in Padre Francesco da Iesi, and since the latter was the General of our Congregation, he wrote him a letter while at the friary of Monteluco at Spoleto. In the letter he strongly urged that the Capuchin Congregation join with the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers. I was the one who sent the letter, that is, the reply our General gave him. The General said very persuasively that this was impossible and that the Capuchin Congregation would never join with that of the Zoccolanti.

That Father, however, was not satisfied with this reply. When the time came for the Assisi Indulgence, our Father General was there. Padre Francesco Venetiano went to the Fraternity of Saint Lawrence in Assisi where the Capuchin Fathers gathered[26]. I was there for the Indulgence. By his good graces, the Father General, who always showed me great love, told me everything. The good Padre Francesco Venetiano came to the room where our Father General was sleeping and repeated the proposal to him. His plea was insistent as he urged the merger. He also added that ours was not the true Reform according to the prophecy. The Capuchins were not going to succeed. “Furthermore,” he added, “we have obtained from His Holiness the most adequate Reform bull ever received.[27]

13. Our Father General answered his objections, beginning with the apposite Bull. “Know, Padre Francesco, that you will never accomplish a Reform among the Zoccolanti. Even if you have a Bull from heaven, as well as every possible kind of human support, you will never manage to carry out the perfect Reform. Secondly, regarding the prophecy you speak about, I believe that you are seriously deceiving yourselves. In fact, according to the prophecy, ours is the true Reform. To convince you: there are three famous prophecies in the Franceschina[28] that clearly demonstrate how that Reform should be done.

14. “The first prophecy says that three times reform will be about trivial matters and petty theory that will never result in Reform. It will come after some time[29]. So that you may understand: this prophecy was fulfilled at the time of Ubertino da Casale, Blessed Giovanni da Parma, Frate Adamo and Frate Caesare. They were very learned and holy men. At the time of these Fathers the Reform was debated three times, which showed their extraordinary merit and learning. They were among the most zealous, learned and holy men in the entire Order. Under the pain of excommunication and by holy obedience His Holiness commanded them to write down all the passages of the Rule that the community of Friars did not observe. This they did. Although they were superior to the others in debating and tried to persuade His Holiness and others that the Reform was necessary, the reform, in the end, could not come about. The lax Friars resented and intensely persecuted those venerable Fathers instead. They couldn’t accomplish anything.[30] Then Frate Angelo Clareno and Frate Liberale had their reform which, by the grace of God, endured in remarkable holiness for many years.

“There you have the prophecy fulfilled. Those zealous and venerable Fathers thought, however, that the Reform would come fail because of the grim persecutions, so the Lord God allowed and wanted Blessed Frate Paoluccio da Foligno[31] to begin your Reform, the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers. That Reform was the most comprehensive hitherto realized.

15. “There is another prophecy which says the Order would continue to go from bad to worse, right up to the seventh degree. Then, at that seventh degree, there will be a Reform conformed to the spirit of the Founder. Simple, unlearned friars will do this Reform and no one will know exactly who did it. After the dispersion there will be the Congregation of poor friars in the third place[32]. The signs of the true Reform will be evident in them. They will be certain about all that they will need to do. Here the prophecy finishes and shows that this is the last, the most authentic and most perfect reform[33].

“Note all these words well and consider the stages through which the Order has changed. You will see that we are now in the seventh degree. The vision of the statue had by our Father Saint Francis endorses this.[34] I won’t mention everything because I am sure you know all these things. Take the words of the prophecy which says, ‘In the last days there will be a Reform in the spirit of the Founder,’ which means ‘according to the spirit of Saint Francis.’ Consider well that neither the Zoccolanti nor anyone else have ever made a reform as the Capuchins have done. Their reform has conformed completely with the true observance of the Rule as they miraculously resumed the proper habit of Father Saint Francis. Their habit is the same colour, lowliness, coarseness and shape as his habit and differs not in the slightest way. The Capuchin friaries are like those first houses built at the time of Father Saint Francis. By the grace of God no other Reform has ever observed lofty poverty as strictly and universally as the Capuchins.

‘Simple men will do this Reform.’ You know quite well about this and who Frate Matteo da Bascio, Frate Lodovico and the others are. That prohecy says about ‘it has been fulfilled after the dispersion.’ The poor Capuchins have set up three places: one at Camerino[35] and one at Monte Campano[36] built by the duchess of Camerino, Cathera Cibo, the loving mother[37] of our Congregation. The third was a Castello called Albacina, in the dominion of Fabriano. Therefore, note well, my dear Frate Francesco. Grave persecutions scattered the Capuchins far and wide. They were not together. They freely admitted that they never thought the Congregation would go ahead. There were always doubts. However when Frate Lodovico obtained the Bull[38] he assembled them all at the shelter at Albacina, their third place. There they celebrated their first General Chapter. Those present say that a miraculous, supernatural light came upon them: that this reform was the true one. Enlightened by God they clearly saw that the reform was God’s work and that God had preserved them miraculously amid so many persecutions. Such a strong motivation for genuine perseverance grew in them that from then on they felt that the Holy Spirit would come upon them. They gave the shape of a Order to the little Capuchin Congregation. They divided it into the various friaries with their Guardians. They began to go about openly everywhere. So you see, in the third place they became convinced. There they made their Constitutions and organised their way of life.

The prophecy says that the Reform will be different in this way from the beginning of the Order. The Order had a holy leader in the beginning. He was Saint Francis. However, this Reform will have a holy leader at the end. If you consider the matter well, the Capuchins fulfil the entire prophecy. You can be certain then that this is the true reform and no other reform will be done.

16. “Understand carefully, however, what Blessed Frate Giacomo says. God enlightened him profoundly, especially in that rapture when God showed him the whole Order in the form of a huge tree.[39] There he speaks about a dispute, prompted by holy zeal, between the two holy men Padre Frate Giovanni da Parma and Saint Bonaventure. The dispute threatened a fierce storm which would uproot the tree completely. He saw Blessed Giovanni on top of that tree, for he was General. He left that place to go down to a safe position and Saint Bonaventure replaced him. This shows us that Blessed Giovanni renounced his office when he was General and that his place was taken by the Seraphic Saint Bonaventure. The great storm uprooted the tree completely. Not a single branch was left. Then this holy man saw a shoot of fine gold spring from the root of the tree. What does the uprooting of the tree signify if not the strong persecution that heretics and wicked people were to carry out against the Religious. The Order would completely disappear from public. And as our Lord Jesus Christ revealed to our Father Saint Francis behind the rostrum in Our Lady of the Angels, the Order will provoke God to such anger that he will give the demons full authority to harass it[40]. This will be the persecution that Our Lord speaks about there: the habit of the Order cannot be worn except in the woods or in the land of the infidels[41]. When this persecution has passed, those remaining will be so refined, contemplative and holy that the perfect and ultimate reform will blossom again. This reform has to come from those good Friars who will found within the true observance of the Rule. By the same token God will give that Reform the perfect observance of the Rule and the spirit of holy contemplation.

17. “You should be know about another prophecy which says that during this persecution all the Orders will be uprooted except for the Order of Saint Francis. Because of the holiness of the Founder, the third part, good friars, will remain[42]. However, do not be surprised if it seems to you that there is no great spirit to be seen. Saint Francis says this Reform will please God very much, even if it has no obviously important works. He says this will happen because charity will have gone cold and it is charity that has made Saints act fervently. However, they will not display great spirit yet because they will suffer persecutions from wicked men and demons and be embattled from within and without. You can see that this has happened to the poor Capuchin Congregation. Nonetheless our Father Saint Francis says. ‘Those who persevere will not be deprived of the merits of the early saints.’ Know that the spirit has not been given yet. The spirit will be given after the persecution. When the holy Church will perfectly reform, then the spirit will be given with every degree of perfection. Therefore it is enough for us poor Capuchins to live in the perfect observance of the Rule and persevere until death in the Congregation amid so many persecutions.

18. “Go, then, dear Father, and let your mind be completely at peace. You will never see this Congregation unite with your Reform. On the other hand, however, I tell you that Our Lord Jesus Christ has appeared nearly every day for a period of some months to a holy man[43] we have in the Congregation, and he has let us all understand that this is the true Reform; that there has never been a Congregation in the Church of God that pleases him as much as the Capuchins. Furthermore he has revealed to us that all those who live dissolutely in this Congregation and do not live truthfully, if they do not amend themselves soon, His Majesty will cast them out of the Congregation. We see this fulfilled all the time and that our Lord God does not respect learning, nobility or greatness. Those who do not establish themselves on humility nor strive to live in the truth within the true observance of the Rule, God sends them away. I have no other fear except that God may chase me away from this Holy Reform because of my sins.

“Be sure then, my dear brother, and clear from your mind all the darkness that would have you judge this not to be the true Reform. We are sure of this from the prophecies and from revelations of Christ. More importantly, this Reform thoroughly conforms with the true observance of the Rule. And although it is quite weak, the Reform has resisted such robust opponents who, with all their power, have never been unable to bring it down. What does this show, if not that the powerful and strong hand of God miraculously preserved the Reform despite everyone’s expectations? I say to you, woe to those who seek to relax the Reform. They will be severely punished.”

This Venerable Father departed completely convinced. With many tears he kissed the hands of our Father General.

IV: How our Congregation fortuitously began.

19. The seven Franciscan Reforms 20. The meaning of the vision of the statue 21. The Reform of the Franciscan Order during the Pontificate of Clement VII 22. The zealous Friars obtain the Bull 23. The appearance of Matteo di Bascio 24. The value of some expressions 25. The opportune beginning of the Capuchin Reform

19. When the Synagogue had gone into complete decline regarding the observance of the Law, its good customs, ceremonies and regal power, the entire Hebrew People was deprived of civil power and all royal authority under the domination and servitude of the Romans. Then the Most High God began the Law of grace, sending His blessed Son into the world. He ended the old Law with all its ceremonies and began the new Law of grace. As something obsolete He left the figures, prophecies and shadows of the Old Testament and renewed everything in the New Testament. In the same way, the Seraphic Order of Saint Francis went into such a decline that there was nothing of the Seraphic Father’s original imprint to be seen – neither the habit, nor the observance of the Rule, nor the way of life according to early customs. Completely lax, the Order slumbered in the comforts of the flesh. There were few found to be observing the Rule. Rather, the friars lived according to privileges, concessions and lax interpretations. And so the Lord God remembered His promise to our Father Saint Francis to always care for his Order.[44] By His providence the Capuchin Reform emerged at that time which Blessed Bernard indicated, Bernard was the companion and first-born of Father Saint Francis. Inspired and enlightened by the spirit of prophecy, he said that although part of the Order would reform, the Order will go from bad to worse, as far as the seventh degree.

The first reform will not reach the perfection that the Order had in the beginning. Nor will the second do any better than the first. Nor will any of the other reforms. This shows the seven degrees according to the seven reforms made in the holy Order. As we mentioned above,[45] these were the reforms of Saint Bonaventure,[46] Frate Gentile[47], Blessed Angelo Clareno (the first of the Zoccolanti Fathers), Frate Francesco Guadalupe;[48] and that of Brother Francis of Montepulciano.[49] The last reform, the one of the Zoccolanti Fathers, was in the seventh degree.

20. According to that prophecy, then, the Reform of the Capuchins in the spirit of the Founder was due to happen now. Our Reform did not result from any human merit. God did it miraculously instead. This took place when the four states of the Order had passed, as Saint Francis saw in the vision of the statue[50]. The statue had a golden head, representing the original kind of life that the Founder led with his companions and the whole Order at the time. The torso was silver, alluding to the period of those learned friars when the Order grew to a large number. The third state, a copper stomach. This means for us the time when the Order had grown very much, but was not like the gold and silver. Just as copper is inferior, so this state of the Order was inferior in perfection and in the observance of the Rule compared to the time of Blessed Bernard. The fourth state – the iron legs and feet of terracotta – represents for us the two reforms carried out by Saint Bernardino and other Fathers during the time of Leo X and Clement VII.

21. Therefore you should know that until Clement VII the Order lived in great peace and acceptance among seculars. There were some holy men and everywhere they lived in peace and tranquillity, and even luxury. The devotion of seculars and the ready abundance of temporal goods at the time, since goods were not very expensive, meant that the Friars were well-off and enjoyed a great abundance. I know this since I saw these things myself, and I would like to give an example. It often happened in one particular friary in the Province of Saint Francis that on Holy Saturday a hundred goats were brought to the door. Though I could say a lot more, I will remain silent about the abundance in which the Fathers luxuriated at the time.

It pleased the Lord to rouse the Order again. Because of the many sins God allowed an army to come[51] and for the Duke of Borbone to sack Rome. Severe famine and a dreadful plague spread throughout the world.[52] Just as the Sage says, “Vexatio dat intellectum,”[53] so the body of the Order began to think about its situation. Inspired and enlightened by God, many holy men withdrew to hermitages[54] and small friaries. There they dedicated themselves to holy contemplation and the observance of the Rule. Each day many learned and holy men spoke about the Rule and how to live according to it. They discovered and showed how far the Order had distanced itself from the true observance of the Rule. Others spoke so highly about the things of God that many others felt inspired and decided to withdraw. I know many of them, such as the Very Rev. Padre Francesco da Iesi.[55] He withdrew to the friary of Monteluco with many others of the same mind. He bore remarkable fruit[56]. The same goes for the extraordinary servant of God Frate Giovanni Battista da San Severino della Marca, the holy man Frate Bartolomeo da Città di Castello, Frate Felice da Spello, and many others. Thus enlightened by God, they were aware of the very dangerous condition (of the Order) and how far they had distanced themselves from the true observance of the Rule.

Therefore they began to speak about Reform among themselves. From clear experience they knew it was impossible for the whole body of the Order to return to the strict life according to the will of our Father Saint Francis. This undercurrent was so potent that they stirred up the entire Order. God had truly ordained this. In all the Provinces, with great insistence in both Provincial and General Chapters, they sought to begin the Reform.

22. On the other hand, the flesh fulfilled its office among the lax. They didn’t want to hear anything about reform. The spirit prevailed and many courageous Fathers agreed to go to His Holiness, Clement VII. They had him understand that the Order was very lax and outside the observance of the Rule. From this many unpleasant things arose between the lax friars and those who wanted to observe the Rule. These Fathers urged His Holiness to provide for them. The Holy Father answered that he loved the Order very tenderly. “It is my obligation to provide for such matters, but tell me what I can do to return the Order to the perfect observance of the Rule?” The Very Rev. Padre Bernardino d’Asti was Procurator at Court[57] at the time. He wanted the Reform very much. He answered, “Holy Father, you can provide for us by giving us a favourable Bull – not so that the good friars can leave the body of the Order, but rather so that in their Provinces they may be granted some devout little friaries where they can observe the Rule without impediment. There is no shortage of places suitable for the spirit. Nor is there a shortage of friars who wish to withdraw to these places. They can’t do so because our Superiors don’t want them to. Therefore we need Your Holiness’ firm hand of to command our Superiors and have them want what they don’t want to do for love’s sake, as had been shown many times.”

The Supreme Pontiff liked this discussion. Turning graciously towards those Fathers – Frate Bernardino d’Asti and Frate Francesco da Iesi- he said to them, “This pleases me. Make a note on how you want the Bull. The next time I assemble the Consistory I will discuss the matter with the brother Cardinals. I hope that all you want may be done.”

That is exactly what happened. Within a short time the Bull was obtained. The Bull gave the Reformed Friars[58] all they wished. It commanded that all those friars who wanted to go to the Reform be left free to do so, and obliged the Superiors to send them. Since the Pontiff was so supportive, those Fathers thought that the Reform was as good as done. However, when they tried to organise the Reform in the Chapters and list those who wanted to go, such a tremendous outcry arose in the Provinces that the zealous friars actually needed to escape from the hands of the others. This battle lasted around three years. Thus the reform could never succeed. Padre Frate Francesco da Iesi brought the Bull to the Chapter at Our Lady of the Angels and discussed the Reform at the Chapter. The lax Friars threw him and Padre Frate Battista da Norcia into prison.[59] That was the reform.

23. It pleased the Lord God that, in the third year of the Pontificate of Clement VII, that Frate Matteo di Bascio come onto the scene, after a revelation of God, as will be explained later. He was a simple man of great spirit. With the pointed cowl[60] and with the blessing of God and the Supreme Pontiff he began to preach very fervently. He wore that forgotten habit and went barefoot. He was totally fervent. He looked like a man just out of purgatory, a stranger to the earth, like an Apostle of Jesus Christ. When something new and important comes along, what usually happens is that the thing simultaneously alarms its opponents and greatly consoles its supporters. When Frate Matteo came along, he alarmed the lax Friars and brought great joy to those zealous Friars who desired Reform. When the lax Superiors became aware that the hare had escaped and could be no longer caught, they worried that some of the others might escape and thought to close the gate by coddling the zealous Friars and allowing them to go to the Reform. Nonetheless there was such surreptitious opposition that it was common knowledge that they were compelled to grant the Reform to the zealous Friars. They complied because they had to, not because they wanted to do so. Once the zealous friars entered the Reform, the lax Friars soon transferred them on the pretext of having something important for them to do. Thus the Reform went ahead hesitatingly.

Hence for the greater glory of the good friars the Lord God permitted that there be, at that time, a General – whose name I honestly do not remember[61] – who was so perverse and such an enemy to the observance of the Rule, it was as though he had escaped from hell. He persecuted them atrociously. He persecuted both Reforms, that is, the one of the Zoccolanti Fathers and then, cruelly, that of the Capuchins[62].

24. Therefore in this book every time I speak of adversaries or lax friars I always refer to the lax friars and not to the body of the Order from whom we have only received good and whom we regard as our elders. We are greatly obliged to them. So may God forbid that I ever blame my Mother Order to whom I owe so much and to whom I am obliged and bear for her the highest regard. At the beginning many holy men of the Order made our Congregation illustrious. Therefore, while I have to write about the journey of our Congregation, and because I cannot leave anything out, every time I speak our adversaries, I always mean those lax friars who were always opposed to all the reforms and any kind of genuine life.

25. Therefore this was the reason for the growth of our Congregation. When Frate Matteo and Padre Frate Lodovico da Fossombrone came along after having already obtained first the Brief and then the Bull, the multitude of zealous Fathers in the body of the Order, seeing that the reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers would not go any further, deliberately chose to leave and join our Congregation. Their great resolve was to advance the Capuchin Reform. In this way the prophecy of Blessed Bernardo was fulfilled: when the seven degrees had been run, the Order had to be reformed. Therefore, and this lasted many years, when those Friars who joined the Reform met seculars whom they had used to harass the Capuchins, on their knees they would ask their forgiveness, weeping.

I think it relevant to name one of those, the main one, namely the Ven. Padre Giovanni da Fano. He persecuted our Reform like an unleashed lion. However he didn’t do this with a bad intention. Rather, he thought he was doing the right thing and that it was indeed needed in order to preserve the body of the Order. It seemed to him that the Capuchin Reform would destroy his Order. However, when this man of God realised that the Reform came from His Majesty, he no longer wished it harm. On the contrary. As he has said many times, “I felt that I could not save myself if I did not uphold the reputation of the Capuchins – and not just with words. I had to join them and let everyone know that I recognised I had harmed these poor fellows who were better than I.”

There was no shortage of others but I will say nothing about them so as not to go on too long. These persecuted our Congregation very severely. Then, enlightened by God, they joined us and led their lives in such a way that they performed many miracles.

Therefore, this was the fitting beginning, growth and progress of our Congregation. Since if those Fathers he promoted theior Reform their Reform, if they would have truly done this, God would not have permitted any other. Instead those difficulties brought many holy men to the Capuchin reform of the Capuchins since, after their obvious experience, they had completely given up hope of being able to carry out another reform in the body of the Order.

In conformity with the prophecies, the Capuchin Reform was well timed and very opportune for the need of the Order. Therefore we can say that God – and not men – accomplished it. There are so many signs of this, and in many ways we have become certain of it, since amid so many travails no power on earth could have been able to do if if the hand of God was not at work.

V: How the beginning of our Congregation was something quite new for the world.

26. Accusations against the Capuchins when they first appeared 27. How they defended themselves 28. Their austerity was not fanatical 29. The Prelates of the Church and seculars were edified 30. The shape of their habit was not new at all

26. Generally people were stunned, as were religious persons and Prelates of Holy Church, when something so unexpected appeared in public, namely, the long forgotten habit and such an austere life which everyone considered excessive and impossible to persevere in, considering the weakness and fragility of our nature. Many disparaged the Capuchin Friars, saying their life was fanatical and useless since they could have stayed in the body of the Order without doing something so unconventional. After all, everyone regarded the Order of Saint Francis as holy. Therefore, remaining in the Order, they could do as much penance as they wanted and observe the Rule more easily. Others said that the novelty of the shape of the grubby habit was scandalous. “No religious dresses like you! It is a noble Order and you behave as shamefully as you like. While among Christians religious life has a greater reputation than any other worldly state, you cheapen it with your rags!”

Others said that Father Saint Francis never wore this kind of habit nor the pointed cowl, except for a few days when he renounced the world and dedicated himself to serve God. Having displeased his father, his father compelled him before the Bishop of Assisi to renounce all his legitimate rights due to him as well as any claim on the goods of his mother[63]. The divine Francis understood this. With all his heart he willingly renounced not only these things and his inheritance, but he also renounced his father so as to conform to the Saviour of the world who did not want a father on earth but in heaven. Removing his clothes, he gave them eagerly to his father, and stood as naked as God had created him. Taking a cloak from his muleteer, the Bishop, as a good Pastor, with great kindness covered the flesh of the frail young man again. However Francis wanted nothing but to suffer shame. Using a piece of chalk he marked it front and back with a cross in order to despise himself more. For many days he went around dressed in that mantle. They say then that this was the pointed cowl Francis wore. However, when he later left for the city of Gubbio, he dressed in the religious habit which the whole Franciscan Order wears now[64].

Others say, “This Order cannot last because it was begun by Frate Bernardino da Siena[65]. What he was deep down has been clearly shown by such a bad outcome.

27. Generally these and many other calumnies were commonly widespread. So the Capuchins really had to give an account of themselves. Faced by these things, many simple friars did not know how to reply and humbly accepted them as fraternal correction. Lowering their heads, they would beg their detractors to pray that God enlighten them because ‘we truly are great sinners.’ On the other hand, the less patient would dispute with them. However, there is no comparison. The first kind gave the best example. Their silence was a better reply than all those who wanted to convince the others. That humility was more edifying for those who at first were skeptical about the life of the friars, and they then knew that these were true servants of God.

You should know that these and countless other, more persuasive reasons were proposed to His Holiness so that they gave him to understand that this was some wicked sect.[66] Our Fathers had to do a lot to put His Holiness in the picture. Many Illustrious Cardinals and Prelates of Holy Church wanted to know in detail from our Fathers why they were moved to do this unusual thing. Often, after long discussions, the venerable Fathers showed them how the Reform was supremely necessary and they were completely edified by it, as I have heard them say themselves.

Although I don’t remember many of the answers our Fathers gave, I think it will be extremely useful, nonetheless, to put them down on paper what little I can according to my weakness.

28. Therefore beginning with the first in reply to those who said that our life was too austere. They said that the Founders all began their Orders in a greater austerity than we are today. Not only the holy Orders were founded in such an austere life that could hardly be maintained, but even the Christian Religion founded by the High God was, in the beginning, organised and begun by the Holy Apostles in great austerity. There was the austerity of physical suffering endured by the Holy Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. But also, in goods and poverty it was ordered that all should live in common[67]. Those who converted and wanted to be counted among the children of God and the Holy Church had to sell their goods and give the full amount to the Holy Apostles so that they could distribute it in support of the entire multitude[68]. Therefore it is obvious from these deeds of the Apostles how holy Orders began. I say nothing about their austerity in clothing and how those great Fathers, barefoot, traveled the whole world. And as it is written, they persevered assiduously in fasts, holy prayer and communion with the sacred Body of our Lord Jesus Christ[69]. And what will we say about our Head who, going about for thirty three years, never sought rest on earth? While dying on the wood of the Cross[70] he was denied even a drop of water. Who could describe the poverty and the sufferings of all those who have wanted to follow him, as is told of the Apostle Paul[71]?

I don’t want to ramble on by wanting to recount the austerity and suffering of those first Fathers. It would be too much to want to show how the Church of God was founded on so much suffering and bloodshed; as well as the strict life and poverty of so many Pontiffs, Bishops and other Prelates. An austere of life for Holy Prelates was ancient custom. However, if we consider the strict life of those holy Fathers who lived in the desert, how can one possibly label as fanatical the little we suffer for the love of God and the observance of the Rule – compared with the life of those first Fathers Anthony, Hilarion, Macarius and countless others? By comparison, we are not even worthy to be called religious. What could we say about the founders of the Orders: Saints Basil, Augustine, Benedict, and Francis? Such was the austerity of their lives that they never wanted even to quench their thirst.[72]

However, returning to our Father Saint Francis and his Rule which we have promised and because of which, and for no other reason, we have taken up this life, judged by you others as exaggerated. We have adopted this life for no other motive except to be sure that we follow in the foot steps of our Father Saint Francis. The Rule requires us to dress in austere and lowly clothes[73]. These clothes cannot be called too austere in comparison to what our first Fathers and the entire Order wore for more than one hundred and forty years. These clothes still survive as relics and have been guides to teach us exactly how to dress. Similarly for our low buildings. They are small, poor and in solitary places. We go without shoes just like all those Fathers. Contrary to what others say, there is no hypocrisy or despair in the fasts and any of the things which we adopted from those first Fathers. Rather, there is an obligation because we have professed to observe the Rule of the Seraphic Francis founded on most high poverty.

So then, the life led by so many glorious Saints and approved by Holy church cannot be judged as fanatical.

29. It was amazing. Visits with long, frank discussions quickly persuaded those Illustrious Cardinals and other Prelates and they conceived such a great devotion towards the Friars. Often they were heard to say that when they saw two Capuchins[74] that they were uplifted in mind and trembled with a kind of reverential awe. The same was true for the ordinary people when they too became convinced. It happened sometimes that when these people saw the friars they stood up straight in wonder, joined their hands and remained very silent while the Friars were in view. Weeping, many said, “You are blessed! These are real servants of God who have put the world beneath their feet.” They would say to one another, “Today Religious have never been seen as mortified and holy as these.” Where people fled from them at first, some even despised them saying, “They are buffoons!” and insulted the Friars. Now if any could welcome them into his home and help them felt he was looking at Saint Francis. Anyone able to hear their preaching and sound instruction considered himself blessed.

This was enough to answer those who said our life was fanatical and too austere.

30. Our Fathers gave this reply for those who said the shape of the habit is scandalous and unprecedented. “This style of clothing would be scandalous if we had adopted it because of ours whim and hypocrisy. But when have adopted this style of clothing to imitiate the early Fathers, both in the Monastic Order and among all the Mendicants too. Without a doubt, they all dressed in naturally coloured, coarse, lowly and austere clothing. Infact for some time there were no other Orders approved by Holy Church and they all dressed in the most austere cloth. But when the Orders lost touch with their roots different Congregations and Reforms occurred. Because of their large number and variety, and to avoid confusion in the Church of God, different Pontiffs have allowed the clothing to vary between them so that the Order to which they belong might be clear. However, in the beginning there was one form of religious habit, the one worn by the early Fathers. I am sure about this because I have spoken once about it with the Most Rev. Padre Pietro Calzolaio[75] da Bugiano of the Congregation of Saint Justina. This good Father composed the Chronica Monastica. Because of this he had to strive as much as he could to know what Saint Benedict’s habit was like. He told me, “Know that our Father Saint Benedict dressed in and wore the habit you now wear. One should not think Francis adopted anything else but the ancient monastic habit, as did the other Founders of Orders. You can see this in the many early figures who dressed as you do. If we want to say the truth, none of the Orders knows how its Founder dressed. For if one looks into it carefully, there aren’t other Congregations than those founded by holy men at different times, just as it is obvious that our monastic life is many Congregations based on the Rule of Saint Benedict. Just like the Cistercians. Begun by a holy Abbot, the first Abbey was in France, near a Castle called Citeaux.[76] And from this came the name of that Reform that has since spread in no small way, as you can see today.”

What can we say about the Congregation of Monte Oliveto begun by three Sienese noblemen? Filled with the Holy Spirit, they wanted to distance themselves from the world and went to a deserted place which they called the place of the “Enclosures,”[77] about twenty five miles from Siena. They made themselves a little shelter there and persevered in a very austere life. Then after being calumniated and accused of heresy to the Pope in the See of Avignon at the time, these servants of God were compelled to present themselves personally to His Holiness. While they were with him he realised that they were really holy and Catholic men, and good religious. He wanted them to adopt the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Holy Pastor wrote letters to the Bishop of Arezzo in Tuscany who was from Pietramala[78]. The three arrived to within a day’s journey from Arezzo. That night Our Lady appeared to the holy Bishop and said to him, “Know that I am the Mother of Jesus Christ. Tomorrow morning three young servants of mine, sent by the Pope, will come to you. Give them this habit.” She showed him a white habit. In the morning, when the three young men arrived and presented the letter of His Holiness. The bishop received them and gave them the habit that the Holy Virgin had brought to him. On returning to the[79] Hermitage and achieved much in God’s service. There they began that holy Congregation in which there have been many holy men. They have greatly adorned the Church. The Congregation derives its name from the little castello of Monte Oliveto just above the Enclosures.

What shall we say about the Congregation of Vallombrosa begun by the Florentine gentleman, Giovanni Gualberto? As a young man he had four castelli in the Val d’Elsa and his father was killed by a peasant. One day while the devout young man was in one of the castelli on Good Friday, it pleased the Lord God that he set out with all those with him to return to Florence where he could celebrate Easter with greater amenity. On the journey, in a very confined place, he unexpectedly came upon his enemy. The fellow recognized his difficult position and saw Giovanni Gualberto pressing near to kill him. Falling to his knees he cried out in a loud voice, “Giovanni Gualberto! I beg your forgiveness. Grant me my life for the sake of Him who today died for us on the Cross!” When the devout young man heard this, he completely relented, under the action of the Holy Spirit. He lept down from his horse. Tearfully he said, “I wanted to kill you, but for the love of my Lord I not only wish to grant you your life, but offer you peace and forgive you completely for the love of my Lord Jesus Christ.” When he arrived at Florence and entered the church of Saint Miniato to hear Mass, a crucifix hanging there bowed to him in the presence of the people. This miracle had such a powerful effect that, filled with the Holy Spirit, Giovanni Gualberto abandoned the world entirely and withdrew to a deserted place called Vallombrosa. There he began that holy Congregation which has benefited the Church so much through the example and learning of so many holy men. He was famous for many miracles and was canonised by Holy Church[80].

So as not to be too wordy, suffice it to say that the Congregation of Saint Justina was founded by four Paduan noblemen. Many holy men and very illustrious Prelates have come from that Congregation. To this day we see that it is very faithful, especially regarding the Enclosure and the alms they give, as well as other examples of holiness born to the Church of God from that Congregation[81].

What will we say about the Congregation of Saint Romuald which that glorious saint began in the Hermitage[82] of Camaldoli? The Hermitage takes its name from its patron. Camaldolo was a nobleman from Arezzo in Tuscany. From then on it was called the Congregation of the Camaldolese. Although it may have relaxed, none the less, the image and form given it by that glorious saint remain in that above mentioned house of Camaldoli. Many beloved and holy sons of the Founder live there in great holiness of life and perfection[83].

At Montecorona, in the dominion of Perugia, the life of the Hermits of the Fratta di Perugia adorns the Holy Church. That holy Congregation began three years before ours and has always maintained a most perfect life. Good fruits are evident from it continuously in the Church of God[84].

I will leave be the Silvestrines[85] and other Congregations based on the Rule of Saint Benedict. While the life of that glorious saint and the way of life of the first Fathers of monastic life may no longer be seen upon the earth, nonetheless the monastic life and Order of Father Saint Benedict is preserved in these holy Congregations[86].

VI: Here is the reply to those who claimed the Reform to be unnecessary: that the Rule could be observed in the Order without doing something else new.

31. Natural motion and violent Morton 32. Applications 33. The true Reform of the Franciscan Order.

31. This is answered by saying that all the Orders were founded in order to tend towards perfection. In their beginnings they have had such rigour and idealism that human frailty could only reach it with great effort. But then, gradually declining, they deteriorated so much that there is little difference between Religious and seculars. This has caused many reforms. If they hadn’t reformed they would have totally disappeared. However, since the Lord God does not want the holy Orders to fail, from time to time, as it has pleased His Majesty, he has raised up his servants who drawn them back up to their heights. This happens because our father Adam radically corrupted our life. Since our life has been so wounded, it is harder to do good than evil. That is, our nature is more inclined to decline than to rise to dwell above itself, as the Prophet[87] says, with the mind and heart in the supreme good of the next life. He says it is necessary to rise above oneself to show us that it is not a natural motion to tend towards the things of the next life and lead a contemplative and supernatural life. Because of this, when he speaks of natural and violent movements, Aristotle[88] says natural motion is weak at the beginning and robust at the end. He gives the example of a stone falling from a high tower. At the beginning the stone can easily be caught. However, as it falls it gathers such momentum that if it meets with a beam or something else, the stone might smash the thing completely. The longer the distance, the greater momentum gained, so that even a little stone could kill a man. Violent motion is potent initially, then weak at the end. This is demonstrated to us when a stone thrown by a strong man could kill someone as it leaves the man’s hand. However, when it has finished its course the stone would hardly kill a fly.

Therefore natural movement ebbs. To do good and live a religious life in a state of perfection is a violent movement. We see that this motion has always been known in the Church of God. In the beginning, the primitive Church began in a high way in that soaring movement of spirit that is violent to our nature. Then, as the natural motion gained, the Church and all Christianity deteriorated to such a depth that if it hadn’t been raised up again by holy men with that violent motion at different times, we would be totally lax. There would no longer be any semblance of Christianity. However with good reason our Lord wanted his gospel preached continuously in his Church. Moreover he orders Bishops and Prelates like farmers to rid their sheep of burrs. To be ever attentive to reform is the greatest and the most important responsibility that there is in pastoral care. So from the beginning the Church has always plied Sacred Councils to restore on high the true teaching of Christ and purge it of the false teachings of heretics. If the faith of Peter hadn’t been purged in this way it would have been lost completely, if this were possible, since no power governed by Christ can fail.

So then the founding of all the holy Orders was violent motion. Full of the Holy Spirit, the holy founders began with so much austerity, strictness and poverty in the things needed for the sustenance of our nature that they seemed more like angels than men. The gospel life was so resplendent in these founders and they showed the world the apostolic life, and how Our Lord wanted His followers to live. To those humble minds the founders made quite explicit how He wanted the suffering and death of Our Lord exemplified in the world. So effective was their example that countless others followed them and within a very short time the world was filled with many holy men. These enlightened the whole world with their example, teaching and miracles, enriching heaven and earth. Their benefit to the Church of Christ was such that even today we see it supported by these columns. The Church is purified with their teaching and defended from the perfidious heretical doctrines sown by Lucifer in many carnal and lax men. As long as the holy Orders have preserved themselves on high with that violent motion, they have always produced fruits that are pleasing to and worthy of His Majesty. However, when the holy Orders have taken up natural movement again, having left aside the rigour of penance and high contemplation and taken up self-love, they have become wrapped up in themselves. Little by little they have become so debased that good fruits and merits are no longer seen but instead scandals and bad example for the world. They become so self-absorbed with natural motion that what our Lord said through the Apostle Paul can be repeated, They all seek their own things and not those of Jesus Christ[89]. This is the reason for so many reforms. For if the holy Orders had not been drawn back to their heights with violent motion and beautiful reforms they would have disappeared entirely. However, since Our Lord wants them to persevere for the benefit of his Church, He has raised up holy men from time to time as has pleased Him. With beautiful reforms they have restored the Orders to the perfect observance in which they were begun by their Founders. To reform something means nothing other than to restore it to its proper shape again.

32. With the whole affair guided by the Holy Spirit, the beginning of his holy Order by our Seraphic Father Saint Francis was a violent movement when he himself together with his Companions and all those first Fathers began the holy Order with such a lofty life. Even though many reforms have occurred in the Order itself, none has yet been able to achieve that spirit, fervour and perfect observance of the Holy Gospel so evident among those early Fathers. They dwelt in small friaries built of brush and mud and mostly used straw for bedding. They slept on the bare ground with a block of wood for a pillow. They dressed in coarse, rough and common cloth which served better as sackcloth than to warm their frail flesh and mortified bodies. They always ate tasteless food, though more often they fasted on bread and water. They went barefoot in summer and winter. They were such enemies to themselves that Christ possessed their hearts entirely. Perfection and true observance of the Holy Gospel so shone out in them that they all looked like men from the hereafter.

Not much later, when the Order took up that natural motion, it deteriorated so much that often, if he had not been comforted by Christ, the Seraphic Father would have regretted starting it. This is quite apparent from the Legend of the Three Companions and other books that speak about him[90]. Thus, thirty years after death of the Seraphic Father, in fact when Blessed Giovanni da Parma[91] became General, that great servant of God knew the Order had reached such a low point that it needed complete reform. This venerable Father was elected General at the Chapter gathered in Rome in the year of the Lord 1248. He governed the Order nine years. During the second year of the Pontificate of Alexander IV, John resigned from office. Because he tried very much to reform the Order during his leadership, as the Cronica Antiqua[92] says, he roused anger against himself from all those early Fathers of the Order. The reason was this. Frate Giovanni spoke about and preached publicly on how the Rule had to be observed. He spared no one. With words and kindly chastisement he corrected those who went against the Rule. With many persuasive arguments he pointed out the decline which the whole Order had undergone. He said, “Since the state of gospel perfection we have promised is very high, the Lord our God requires of us the highest observance of the Holy Gospel, as well as a great faith and a great charity and lofty deeds. Just to keep away from sins is not enough since all Christians should keep away from them. Rather, it is necessary to do the works of perfection, to live the apostolic life that the Friars themselves have promised. Therefore God requires of the Friars the highest poverty, the deepest humility and an ardent and continuous prayer-life. And the same goes for the other virtues. They should not desire any worldly or earthly thing. Gazing upon the naked Christ, let them carry the naked cross after him instead, living evangelically – dead to the world and living only for Christ. But you know, my beloved sons and brothers, how the Order has lapsed. By their actions Superiors preach that is permissible to live on their own. They do not explain to the novices the true intention of our Father Saint Francis that they should distribute their goods to the poor, as found in the Rule[93]. Quite the opposite. They tell and encourage the novices to keep things in order to buy books, build walls, or for the other needs of the Friars. They go against the Rule and despise the commandment of the gospel. They are less than happy with two tunics, made of rough and lowly cloth and patched with sackcloth and other off-cuts, as the Rule imposes on them[94]. Against the precept of the Rule, they don’t want these any more. They want to use fine cloth. They judge those who speak against this to be fanatics and hypocrites.”

Like a holy man enlightened by a prophetic spirit he spoke about and clearly predicted our Reform. “In the spirit of our Founder, the Reform of the Order will be carried out under the pure and simple observance of the Rule and Testament. To do this, it is necessary to make a division between those who want to live according to the Rule and Testament and those who want to live according to the privileges and declarations[95] they have obtained. However, before this is fulfilled, twice there will be a battle over words and quibbles about doctrines. After this there will be a dispersion. Then in the third place, after the dispersion, there will be a Congregation of poor saints. God will visit that Congregation with His light and they will be sure about what they must do. From this then they will be sure concerning the way of Reform. Everything necessary for the true observance of the Rule will be clear and apparent to them. There will be no more disagreement among them. They will all be united in holding the same aim. They will carefully apply themselves to the ascent towards perfection. They will not seek what they want, but what God wants.[96]

Fra Giacomo da Massa, a great contemplative, said, “The way of the Reform won’t be like the original foundation. It will be very different in every way. Without any effort, without any example and without their being called, the Holy Spirit will choose young, untalented, simple, disregarded and unassuming persons and fill them with a holy fear and the pure love of Christ. When he has multiplied the number of simple men in the Order and filled different places, he will send them a shepherd and captain[97] who is completely saintly, holy and innocent and quite Christlike. Because John the Baptist first made disciples and then taught them, Our Lord acted in the same way. He chose simple disciples and filled them with the Holy Spirit and made them like himself in a real scorn for the world and in sublime poverty. Given by God to that Reform at the end, that is what the holy shepherd will be like.[98]

33. Therefore it is quite obvious how, until the ultimate Reform, the Order had to become altogether lax and holy men had to come along at different times and make various reforms and raise the Order back on high with that violent motion; not all the Order but only part of it. We Capuchins hope that ours is the ultimate reform since it is has been carried out in the spirit of the Founder. It has not been made by holy leaders like all the other past reforms where there has been a saint initially. According to the prophecy, however, this saint will come last, as we hope. Be that as it may, we say ours is the true reform because in clothing and everything else this reform has been like the beginning of the Order when Father Saint Francis founded it. Although there have been many reforms, these have quickly lapsed by taking up that natural movement. Nonetheless God will miraculously raise the ultimate reform to such heights that it will endure until the coming of the Antichrist, as I often heard from many holy men at the beginning of our Congregation. According to the Abbot Joachim[99] there won’t be another reform. Rather, a new Order will emerge which he called the Order of Catenati. They will dress in sackcloth. Their perfection will be greater than ours and all the others, but it will only last a short time.

Therefore the Capuchin Reform was necessary and the will of God. Let this suffice in reply to those who say the Reform is not necessary since the Rule of the Order could have been observed without starting something new.

VII: How the Reform of the Clareni began under Celestine V

34. The initiators 35. Their tribulations 36. The Inquisitor’s conduct towards them 37. Their spread in Italy 38. The Bull Exivi de paradiso 39. The zealous Friars of the Custody or Narbonne 40. Angelo Clareno before Pope Clement V 41. Why they were called Clareni 42. The Congregation of Clareni suppressed by Pius V 43. Reasons for the Reforms of the Franciscan Order 44. Gentile of Spoleto and his Reform 45. Its end 46. Which Reform will be the ultimate reform 47. The Capuchin Reform was truly necessary

34. In 1296, on the third month[100], when they heard about the creation of this new Holy Pontiff, the good and zealous Friars were overjoyed. They hoped His Holiness would support them in making their holy reform. The entire body of the Order had been reduced to such a low point that the Friars eager to live according to the observance of the Rule found they could not live there because of the great trouble they received from the lax Friars. Fra Pietro da Macerata, Fra Liberato[101], Fra Corrado[102] da Offida, Fra Giacopone[103] da Todi, Frate Tomaso[104] da Trevi, and Fra Corrado[105] da Spoleto all perfectly loved the observance of the Rule and had assembled together secretly. It pleased the Lord God to put into the heart of these holy men to decide that Fra Pietro da Macerata[106] and Fra Liberato go to His Holiness in the name of the many friars who desired to observe the Rule. They were to ask His Holiness to favour them in carrying out a perfect reform – especially since, when he was in minoribus,[107] he had known Fra Pietro da Macerata quite well. The Holy Father rejoiced at their good will and understood their strong desire to live in pure observance because the Holy Father was himself also sympathetic with their desire to live the highest poverty. Not long after he showed this quite practically when he resigned from the Papacy and withdrew to a deserted place.

Therefore, as a good shepherd and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and since it was impossible to live the pure observance of the Rule in the body of the Order, he advised them and told to Fra Liberato and his companion to carefully observe the Rule and Testament of Saint Francis perfectly. “I have always been of your opinion and it was my intention to observe it with my Friars.[108] However, it pleased God to give me this office. Yet I still wanted my Friars to observe it, but to govern as Pope I had been required to accept ownership. Now if you want to observe the Rule, you need to separate from the body of the Order and detach yourselves completely from them and take up the eremitic life, which is the perfection of the coenobitic life. Satisfied that Fra Liberato and Fra Pietro, representative of an entire multitude, desired the reform, His Holiness absolved them from all obedience to the body of the Order. He also gave them full authority to absolve just once all the others who wanted that reform. He granted them all a Plenary Indulgence and commanded them to receive all those who wanted to observe that life. For the greater peace and honour of the Order they would not be called Friars Minor but Friars of Pope Celestine and poor Hermits[109]. He recommended them to Monsignor Cardinal Napoleon[110] because he was generous provider and supporter of all pious causes. He recommended this to to the cardinal as the fondest cause.

35. When these two returned to their other companions, they left the Order and took up a hermit habit. Hiding away in certain deserted places, they observed the life they had promised God in such a lofty manner that they there was profound amazement and wonder among everyone who saw them. Their reputation quickly went all over Italy and this initiative spread throughout the entire Order. Within a short time their number increased even further. However, when the enemy of human nature[111] saw that many outstanding results must come from this holy reform, he put it into the hearts of some adversaries to work like fanatical wolves against these poor fellows. They assembled small squads of armed soldiers to go to where those servants of God were and apprehend them and lead them bound to the magistrate. They had no respect for the precept of His Holiness, nor did they fear the censures made against those who molest Religious. Yielding to that hostility they were compelled to flee to Greece. There these servants of God withdrew to an island where they continued in harsh penance and lofty contemplation, as well as their preaching and the great miracles which our Lord God worked through them. They shone throughout the whole region[112]. Their good fame spread everywhere so that everyone said, “These are true servants of God sent to us so that we might review our ways. From the many miracles they do and from their holy teaching it is quite obvious how much they please God.”

Since their adversaries could not tolerate how much honour was given to these servants of God, with extraordinary malice they wrote to the Bishops of those parts. They said these servants were schismatics, heretics and a wicked band, adhering to the sect of some ancient philosopher. They did not say Mass and didn’t eat meat. They added many other lies also. When those holy Pastors heard this, in their zeal they sent them secret observers to converse with them at length until they were sure about the life of these Friars. When those holy Bishops found that the accusations were totally false, they wanted the Friars to come out in public – to say their Masses and preach publicly, so that everyone would know everything alleged against them to be totally false.

36. The enemy never sleeps but always seeks to stop anyone who wants to do good. He inflamed the hearts of their adversaries again. Having solicited a letter from Rome, they stirred up some wicked persons to afflict them atrociously under the pretext of heresy. They were assigned a secular Inquisitor[113], a bad man. In his greed he thought he would extract money from them. With torture and floggings he to tried to force them to admit that they were heretics. However, with miraculous patience, those servants of God endured all that evil. They remained steadfast and maintained their stand that they were Catholics and good sons of Holy Church. A diabolical man, the Inquisitor took one of their novices. Stripping him of the habit, he used many torments to force the novice to say that the poor fellows were heretics. Because those in a nearby Castello were acquainted with these Friars, he made them pay, and he extracted a good sum of money from them. He sent the novice away.

One day the Inquisitor was leading those poor Religious tied up, when he passed through a wood when a bright flash fell just ahead of his horse. The horse fell to the ground. The wretch was so terrified that he knelt down and promised God he’d not persecute them any more. However he did not keep the promise he made to God. He had some of them burned. Like gentle lambs they freely gave their bodies to death, accepting everything from the hand of God who wanted to crown them in this way and count them among the number of holy Martyrs. The anger of God could not tolerate him much longer after that. Coming down with a deadly illness he said, “Oh woe is me. I am damned because of the injuries I have given those servants of God. I have punished them so unjustly. I can return the money I have made them pay, but who can restore the reputation and the life of those servants of God.” He passed away to appear before the just court of God and everyone believed that he would go to hell. The novice who had defamed them restored their reputation in many places. He affirmed that they were all saints, and that the Inquisitor’s torture had made him lie.

37. On their return to Italy the number of these great servants of God increased even more. They established many friaries, especially in the kingdom of Naples, in the Compagna of Rome and in Umbria and the Marches.

38. In 1304, the second year of Clement V,[114] it pleased the Lord God that Ubertino da Casale,[115] Fra Angelo da Cingoli[116], Fra Adamo[117] and Fra Cesario, along with many other holy and learned Friars at the time, longed for the observance of the Rule. They saw that in the body of the Order not only did the Friars not observe the Rule, but they atrociously persecuted those who did want to observe it. With great zeal and inflamed by the Holy Spirit, those servants of God proposed to His Holiness Clement V that reform of the Order was very necessary. Hence like a good shepherd His Holiness commanded them under holy obedience and under pain of excommunication to write down faithfully everything in the Rule that was not observed. They did this most faithfully. Then, since the Holy Father was presiding over the Council assembled at Avignon, His Holiness gathered many masters of theology, bishops and learned men and made a beautiful and detailed exposition on the Rule[118]. He commanded and forbade from then on that anything be done contrary to his declaration and that it be observed. Fra Consalvo[119], a Spaniard, was a very zealous man. He began to visit the entire Order. He closed all the friaries that had abandoned poverty. He did away with wills and annual rents, habits of fine material and everything that went against holy poverty. The body of the Order was so deformed and debased that the holy General Ubertino and all the others had quite a lot to do.

39. Our Lord God never fails to give his servants the opportunity to serve him faithfully. When some zealous friars in the Custody of Narbonne saw that Clement V’s declaration was no longer observed. They decided among themselves to expel all the lax friars from the friary at Narbonne, with the help of some seculars.[120] They reformed the friaries at Narbonne and Béziers. [121] In 1314 they went boldly from Narbonne to Avignon where His Holiness Pope John XXII resided. They were about sixty-four Friars and it was around the feast of Pentecost. They did not go to the house of the Friars but straight to the Palace of His Holiness. There they stayed the whole night outside the Palace door. They wouldn’t leave there until His Holiness had heard their reasons. In the morning one of them called Fra Bernardo Délicieux[122], a man of great maturity, learning and very holy life, eloquently and prudently proposed to His Holiness and the Cardinals their need for the help and support of His Holiness to observe the Rule they had promised God. They had suffered so much opposition from the adversaries that it was impossible for them observe the Rule without their support. For the sake of probity I shall remain silent about what happened to these poor servants of God. For where they thought they had the facility to observe the Rule and afflict themselves in abstinence, poverty and other things that are suffered for the sake of observing Rule, the Lord God did not want them cheated of their holy desire. For nearly all of them were so afflicted that they were regarded as holy Martyrs. A large number of them flew to heaven with the palm of martyrdom, and to tell the truth, they were punished just like the holy martyrs. So that everyone would know that these servants of God had a good spirit and that they were moved by a wholesome zeal, the Holy Spirit strengthened their hearts in such a way and made them constant in the truth that they endured everything with great joy and invincible patience.

40. At that time the Holy See was at Avignon in France. Tirelessly the adversaries of the Friars of Pope Celestine, whose story we have told above, solicited against them in Rome very slanderous letters addressed to His Holiness. Because of this, even Blessed Fra Angelo da Cingoli was compelled to appear himself and put things in perspective with His Holiness. The Pope found himself with the Narbonne Friars before him in his court. These included Fra Ubertino, Fra Gaufredo[123] and Fra Angelo da Cingoli who were there to answer the defamatory letter written against their Clareni Reform. The Pope asked Brother Angelo if he were a Friar Minor. He answered, “Yes.” The Pope responded, “Then why have you left them?” Brother Angelo answered, “Holy Father, I did not leave them. Rather, ask them why they have driven me out.” The Pope remained silent. Then after a little while he said, “I ask you if you have you ever heard confessions?” Brother Angelo answered, “Holy Father, I am not a priest, and one of the reasons I have not taken up Orders has been because I did not want to hear confessions. So I have not heard any confessions.”

Then the Pope had the letters of Pope Boniface and the Patriarch of Constantinople read.[124] When the letters were read, the Pope said, “Frate Angelo, you are excommunicated.”

He replied, “Holy Father, I am not excommunicated or even excommunicable. I have always obeyed Pope Boniface,[125] the Patriarch and all the prelates of Holy Church.” Whispers and commotion filled the entire assembly when he said that the letters had been solicited and intended for malicious purposes and how, using falsehood, the adversaries had sought the letters unjustly.

Then the Pope pressed Frate Angelo with words so that he could not finish what he wanted to say about the things they did to him. Then Frate Angelo spoke. “Holy Father, you have heard the lies of my adversaries and you cannot bear to hear the truth I am telling you.”

It was about the sixth hour and time for dinner.[126] To hurry things along, the Pope ordered that Brother Angelo be detained and absolved provisionally until, when he was better informed of the truth, he could set him free.[127]

Finally the Pope told him to return to his Order or enter another approved Order. Fra Angelo asked the Pope make provision for him and his Congregation so that he could observe the vow that he and all the others had made into the hands of Pope Celestine, and which Pope Celestine had confirmed. The Pope said, “We do not accept your reasons.” Fra Angelo answered, “We are an approved Order for two reasons.” He said that the first reason was because Pope Celestine had accepted Fra Angelo as his own Friar and by the Pope’s authority he had taken up the eremitical life, which is the perfection and as good as the goal of the coenobitic life. His Holiness commanded them, through Cardinal Napoleon, to use the habit of Saint Peter Celestine as Fra Angelo had already done. And so he made a promise to follow Saint Peter Celestine himself, which was to live and die in the most high poverty of Christ.

41. Therefore with the holy Reform confirmed by three Supreme Pontiffs, that is, Pope Celestine, Pope Boniface and Pope John XXII, the holy man returned to Italy. He governed the Reform with great fervour for many years. The name of the Congregation came about because the first house he started was in the Marches near a river called the “Chiarino”. They were called ‘Chiarini Friars’.[128] They started many houses in the Marches and many more in the Kingdom of Naples and throughout Umbria[129]. There were some very holy men they lived in the perfect observance of the Rule for as long as this holy man lived. I remember copying thirty five letters he wrote to his friars in different places.[130] They were lent to me by Fra Santi Corsico,[131] the Guardian at Saint Anthony’s in Spoleto where the most important documents are kept and in which the lofty wisdom of this servant of God was apparent. They say God revealed to Fra Angelo the Greek language and that it was he who translated John Climacus from Greek to Latin.[132]

42. Due to his holiness, after his death Fra Angelo was considered Blessed.[133] He was adorned with many miracles and, for as long as he governed, that holy Congregation went always from good to better. However after his death they were persecuted again. In the Kingdom of Naples all their houses were burned down. When the Counts of Anagni came to the Compagna of Rome, they confronted the persecutors and kept all the friaries they had from there up. One part of them were forced to submit to the Zoccolanti Fathers, and the other part remained under obedience to the bishops[134]. Then came Pius V. A judicious and good Shepherd, he knew that their observance of the Rule had reached quite a low ebb. He wanted them to be completely incorporated into the Zoccolanti Fathers. And that is what happened.[135]

43. Since they are mutually opposed, there is obviously always a cruel battle between the spirit and the flesh. Thus within the holy Order of the Seraphic Francis there has always been a civil war between the lax, carnal and fleshly[136] Friars and the spiritual Friars. This was because the zealous and good Friars always desired the perfect observance of the Rule. The lax Friars, wrapped in themselves, led a life that was sensual and more comfortable for the flesh. And just as air enclosed in the bowels of the earth rarefies with time under the influence of the planets, and because nature doesn’t tolerate that imbalance, the day comes when the earth breaks and shatters and with a tremendous clamour the element of air returns to its balance. In the very same way the spirit of holy men cannot bear to be enclosed amid the tangles of sensuality. It seeks to free itself with a great roar. It fears no effort nor any kind of suffering in order to obey God and conscience.

44. This is just what happened to the holy man Fra Gentile da Spoleto. Because of his holiness and good repute he had many friends at the court of Clement VI. When he saw that the Rule was not being observed in the body of the Order, inspired by God and with the help of his important friends, he procured a Bull[137] for himself and for many other zealous Friars in the Province of Saint Francis. The Bull allowed him to withdraw with his companions to the true observance of the Rule. This was in 1352. They petitioned the Holy Father for and obtained permission to withdraw to four friaries, that is, the friary in Monteluco di Spoleto, the friary of the Carcere in Assisi, the friary in Giano and the Hermitage at Cesi.[138] He could have twelve friars in each friary.[139] They adopted a humble and strict habit with the pointed cowl and lived in extraordinary observance. On hearing of the of these friars, zealous friars throughout the Order were overjoyed. Those who wanted to withdraw in order to live strictly hoped that this Reform would go ahead in all the Provinces. Had the Reform endured, it would have filled quickly with many holy and venerable Fathers. For even though the Order was quite lax, there were at that time many holy and zealous Friars in all the Provinces who longed for that Reform. It would have expanded quickly.

45. When the General[140] at the time learned of this and he worried about what would happen to them. He was concerned that the Order would be stripped of all the good Friars and result in some split. Moved by a zeal, which was hardly a good one, he consulted with the Fathers and decided to have the (reformed) Friars appear before His Holiness in order to confound them with debates and subtle arguments. However, the General later changed his mind when he thought that there might be some commotion. He knew however that Fra Gentile and his companions had given accommodation to two religious infected with heresy. This was enough to ruin them even though the poor fellows had welcomed two out of charity and had tried as much as they could to lift from them their heretical view. When these remained obstinate the Friars sent them away. The Holy See was in Avignon then, and to please the General, a Cardinal who resided as Commissary of His Holiness, had Fra Gentile and some of his companions imprisoned at Orvieto. They suffered many tribulations and their Bull which had given them amply faculty to receive any kind of Friars, as well as seculars, was completely suspended. Thus poor Reform finished there amid so many afflictions.[141]

46. It would take too long to write about all the times when saintly men attempted Reform in the holy Franciscan Order. Therefore the Capuchins have not been the first to do so, but could be the last. I heard many, many times from holy and judicious Friars at the beginning of our Congregation, that according to the prophecies, this is the last Reform. It will continue in this way even to the universal reform of Holy Church. Then, through the many tribulations suffered by many holy men of refined spirit, our Lord God will then exalt them in their preaching. He will make them illustrious with many miracles for the benefit of his catholic Church. The Church will then be completely purified. Very few, however, will remain under the fiery blows of the infernal enemy, but those few by the grace of God and for the benefit of his Church. Then the holy Order will be reduced and limited to just a few good men, as our Father Saint Francis desired, in keeping with what Jesus Christ had revealed to him.[142]

47. Therefore the Reform of the Capuchins was good, made by God in his mercy and not by men. For this reason our first Fathers answered those who said the Reform was not necessary, as well as all their other opinions. They said, “We are sure the Reform is from God because it conforms with the prophecies of many holy men. Furthermore it has been revealed by the Lord how to reform ourselves and live according to the Rule we have promised and according to the will of God. But since all the works of God are good, and this is his work, therefore it is good. To live in the observance of the Rule is necessary for our salvation. We could not live in the observance of the Rule if we had not made the Reform. Therefore the Reform is good and necessary.”

This is what has always moved many holy men in the Order. Apart from any other concern, they began so many Reforms so as not to risk condemnation by living as transgressors of their Rule. This alone is sufficient to reform ourselves and live in the grace of God. However, when Orders slacken to the point where the Rule can no longer be observed, who would doubt that everyone is obliged in his own regard to provide for his salvation. All the more so when there are holier men and who proceed juridically and appeal to the highest court, that is, His Holiness, when everyone in the Order all cannot agree about the observance of the Rule. To reform with the permission and will of His Holiness is always good. Our early Fathers acted this way and have done so in all the Reforms ever made in our Order as is apparent in the very noble Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers, as will be described below.

VIII: The Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers

48. The Western Schism 49. The Reform of the Observants 50. John of Guadalupe

48. For a period of eight Pontiffs the holy Order was greatly afflicted because of the great schism. The zealous Friars waited for the Church to elect a Supreme Pontiff to whom they could have recourse as universal Father and make known the need of the holy Order, as well as the grave afflictions suffered by the Friars who wanted to observe the Rule. In 1407[143] the Most High God was pleased that the sacred Council of Pisa was assembled from the orthodox Church and College of Cardinals. Dealing with the union and concord between Cardinals, by common consensus Gregory XII and Clement VIII were deposed, and Peter of Candia[144] was elected and called Alexander V. The same Council removed the schism[145]. Then an even greater discord arose. Therefore the sacred Council of Constance met again in 1416[146] and both Pontiffs were deposed. With great concord Martin V was canonically elected as universal Pastor of the Holy Church. He governed the Church fourteen years and three months.[147]

49. Therefore the Friars had recourse to this high court. The Supreme Pontiff received them with great kindness. Having consulted the venerable Council Fathers at the Council about the need for the reform, he judged it to be absolutely necessary. They were given every possible support. Frate Antonio da Rusconi was the General of the whole Order. He was elected at the time of Martin V.[148] With the consent of that General, Frate Antonio, since Martin V had already died and Eugene IV was elevated to the Supreme Pontificate in the same year 1431, they were given a Vicar General.[149]

Brother Paoluccio[150] da Foligno, a lay friar, was the first to ask the Minister General of the whole Order for the friary at Brugliano. It is near the city of Foligno, about a day’s journey. With the support of his relative, the Lord of Foligno, for many years they had no leader. It just began with that holy and devout Friar whose example stirred up the whole Order so that in every Province there was some friar who withdrew. However they were not cut off from the community, but when the occasion and opportune time came they appealed to the above mentioned Council. Nevertheless they suffered many difficulties at the beginning. For a long time, until Leo X, they elected Vicars General and Provincials, who were all confirmed by the General of the whole Order. That Reform teetered along for many years. However it pleased the Lord God that many venerable Fathers and holy men came to it from the body of the Order. In particular there was Saint Bernardine from the Province of Tuscany. His life, holiness and learning greatly adorned that Reform. He was the one who shaped the way of life of that Congregation in the various parts of Italy. The Venerable Father John of Capistrano also came. He was the first ultramontane Vicar General[151]. He was very learned and very holy. There were also Brother James of the Marches[152] and other Venerable Fathers. In the Spanish Province of Castille too there was Brother Alfonso[153] of Borrox and others. He was an educated man gifted with a fine bearing. He brought the Reform to Spain. From the body of the Order many others joined from various Provinces. Because of the entry of these Friars, this holy Reform got to its feet and continued in great holiness for many years.

50. However, when the natural movement towards decline recurred, many zealous Friars began to cause a tumult. They zealously sought reform again. There emerged in Spain in particular a very fervent servant of God called Brother John of Guadalupe.[154] Because of his enthusiasm to observe the Rule he went with some other zealous friars into the presence of the Supreme Pontiff, Alexander VI. The year was 1500. Brother Marcial was Vicar General.[155] He obtained permission from His Holiness to start twelve friaries in the Custody of the Holy Gospel.[156] There would be twelve Friars per friary to live in perfect observance of the Rule. With this done the Reform was brought to perfection. They adopted the authentic habit which was rough and shabby with a pointed cowl. They were they reason that in all the Provinces of the Zoccolanti Fathers zealous Friars began to withdraw and seek reform. However the lax and dissolute Friars feared that the Reform would spread throughout the whole Order. They decided that some of the more suitable Friars approach the holy and prudent Queen Elizabeth and plan to wreak the ruin of the Reform from His Holiness Julius II with her assistance. They had a Brief produced which commanded the Friars to return to obedience[157]. Once Brother John learned of this he went to Rome immediately with some companions. However God wanted to crown his servant for the many troubles and struggles he endured, and allowed Brother John to die while on the journey. His friars were compelled to leave those houses. Not long after, however, some other friars appeared who obtained permission from His Holiness to take up those friaries again. However the pointed cowl was not allowed them. These have persevered to this day.

Therefore it was clear sign that the Congregation of Zoccolanti Fathers had become lax and needed to be raised on high again by means of Reform.

IX: The Reform of the Conventual Fathers

51. Promotors of this Reform 52. Serious difficulties at the time of Leo X 53. Francesco da Montepulciano

51. At the same time a desire to do some Reform appeared among many venerable Fathers within the body of the Order. Padre Frate Egidio d’Amelia was General of the entire Order and had been elected in the Chapter assembled at Terni in 1500.[158] This General entered the presence of His Holiness, Julius II, and made an offer. If his Holiness would remove the authority granted the Zoccolanti Fathers in their rerform and unite the entire Order together, the General promised to reform the whole Order. When he heard this His Holiness thought it would be much better for the whole Order to reform and for all the Friars observe the Rule in a united way, according to the intention of Father Saint Francis. Therefore he granted full authority to the General to visit the all the Order to reform it, and then assemble an all-inclusive general Chapter in Rome. Beginning in Italy, this Reverend Father gathered together some learned and spiritual masters, remarkable men, and gave them full authority to begin to reform Italy. These venerable Masters were: 1˚ the most fervent and learned servant of God, Master Francesco da Montepulciano;[159] 2˚ Frate Giuliano da Salò;[160] 3˚ Frate Modesto da Piacenza;[161] 4˚, Frate Salvatore da Val di Bona;[162] 5˚, Frate Tomaso Schiamone;[163] 6˚, Frate Domenico da Udine;[164] 7˚, Frate Ubertino da Casale.[165] United together they began that Reform. They adopted strict habits which were lowly and rough and had the pointed cowl. That Reform grew quickly in Italy and there were many holy men. However God particularly adorned these seven Masters with miracles. They persevered in the perfect observance of the Rule until death.

52. When the General Chapter was convened and the General, Frate Egidio, had not reformed the Order as he had promised, His Holiness confirmed the Fathers of the Observance in their original authority.[166] At the time of Leo X they received from him the seals of the Order.[167] Because of this, the Conventual Reform diminished. Some friaries still remain which have kept the name ‘Reformed Conventuals’[168] and wear the rounded cowl.[169]

53. When he saw that Reform blocked, the Very Rev. Padre Frate Francesco da Montepulciano withdrew to a secret place in Puglia. Under obedience to the General he lived there for five years in great austerity. During this time he dedicated himself to holy contemplation. Then when he emerged he began to preach with such spirit that he astonished everyone. And God revealed the Capuchin Reform to him. Passing through Assisi he preached in the square. Going around he said often, “My people, in a short time you will see Saint Francis rise up. I am not speaking about the body of Saint Francis but about his way of life and habit.” Turning to some boys he said to them, “You boys will see him.” One day an old man came to our friary of the Carcarelle in Assisi. He told me that he was one of those boys who heard these words with his own ears. Then turning toward us he said, “Now I see him.”

Then the holy man went to Florence where he preached with such acceptance that he stunned the whole city.[170] He so frightened the city that many abandoned the markets and shops of the world because of their terrible fear concerning the tribulations which had to come. Because of this, the Lords of that Republic – who are called “the Eight”- sent to speak with him. They asked if he would be so kind as to tell them if he knew these things by revelation or if he only said these things to frighten everyone. He asked that they give him three days to reply to them. When the third day came though he had died. The holy man was buried in Holy Cross and I have seen his tomb.[171]

X: The Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers

54. The Reform of the Observants during the pontificate of Clement VII 55. Three reasons for such a Reform 56. The necessity for the Capuchin Reform.

54. Not long after, during the time of Clement VII, zealous friars realised that the Rule was not observed anywhere, and that the whole Order was governed by privileges. Many learned and holy men then took up the struggle to do another Reform. The fracas between the zealous Friars and the lax Friars lasted a long time during the time of Clement VII. Finally, it was decided that the Reform had to be done. More Bulls were obtained to that end, but these had no effect in Chapters.[172] Among these zealous Friars were the Very Rev. Padre Frate Bernardino d’Asti and Frate Francesco da Iesi. They obtained a Bull for the Reform from His Holiness. When Padre Francesco da Iesi returned to the Provincial Chapter convened at Our Lady of the Angels with the authority of the Bull, he thought to undertake the Reform in the Province of Saint Francis. However, the lax Friars rose up and so prevailed that he was imprisoned together with Padre Frate Battista da Norcia. Realizing that among the Zoccolanti Fathers that the reform was not possible, as good as it would be, they thought about reforming themselves in some other way. In this way it was conceived the heart of the friars to begin the Capuchin Reform.

55. You see then how many Reforms have started in the holy Order of Saint Francis. All because when that violent movement of the spirit diminishes, the natural movement quickly gains momentum like a big rock dropped from a tower or some other high place. At first, when the natural movement is weak, such a fall is easily arrested. However, as the stone falls further it can gain enough momentum to shatter a timber beam put in its way. On the other hand, if a strong arm provides the violent motion, a stone could kill a man as soon as it is thrown. However it soon loses so much momentum in the end that it would hardly kill a fly. Since living according to the spirit is violent motion, all the holy Orders have begun with this kind of movement. Because it is difficult for such a movement to continue for very long, the natural motion towards decline increases to the extent that quite a lot of men would oppose the violent movement. And it would quite impossible to prevail with these men. When there is a large number of lax Friars reforming them is impossible and provokes an angry reaction. Then those who are zealous about observing the Rule go off together to reform themselves. This is what caused the Reform and why reforms have been necessary.

As the Apostle Paul[173] says the spirit does not agree with the flesh, nor can they rule together. Rather the flesh always persecutes the spirit and the spirit persecutes the flesh in an ongoing, civil war. With good reason Our Lord said, “Narrow is the road that leads to life.[174]” He meant that the path is strenuous and that the blessed life is acquired with violence and effort. This is the violent motion. The road that leads to hell is broad and many go down it[175] because to walk according to nature along the way of pleasure[176] is easy and very appropriate for a corrupt nature. This is natural motion, which is weak initially because it begins so small. Then all along the way it becomes involved in sensuality.[177] This becomes a habit that can only be broken with difficulty. The violent motion, on the other hand, is strong at the beginning. This is seen to have been the case at the beginning of the Church and all its Orders. With the movement of the spirit, the Church attained such heights in the beginning which were almost impossible to reach.

56. Obviously then the Capuchin Congregation was necessary. So those who say that anyone could have lived in the body of the Order and observe the Rule are very much deceived. The impetus of the lax Friars was so strong that it was impossible to stand up to them. However, according to the times, the Order had to reform, as I have shown – at least in a few Friars. Just as Our Lord says: generally they are few who walk the narrow road of the way of the spirit and the perfect observance of the Rule. To realise these Reforms human ingenuity was not enough. The grace of God was necessary. Therefore it was holy men who took up the task.

XI: An answer to anyone who says that Frate Bernardino Ochino was the founder of the Capuchin Congregation

57. How Bernardino Ochino was in no way the founder of the Capuchins 58. The Capuchin Reform was sent by God 59. It is relaised “in the spirit of the Founder” 60. Conclusion

57. The belief and allegation that he devised and founded the Capuchin Congregation has always been quite false. The Congregation began in 1525 under Clement VII. Frate Bernardino Ochino came to our Congregation from the Congregation of the Zoccolanti in 1533. By the time he entered, the Congregation already numbered more than three hundred Friars. He stayed with us a short time because he was not interested in building up the Congregation, but in acquiring fame and satisfying himself instead. So God did not allow him to last very long. He left us in about 1544.[178] So he did not begin the Congregation. Instead he would have been the cause of the ultimate ruin of the Congregation. He was that wicked darnel sown by the infernal enemy upon the fertile field of the divine Francis[179].

No wonder then that anyone who was not or is not very happy with the Capuchin Congregation being held in high regard should sow this malicious teaching of lies by saying such things. It is also no wonder that this darnel[180] should come to our Congregation to disturb it. For there has never been a Congregation, however small, in which the ancient serpent has not fathered some child. This is obvious in the College of Apostles, and among the seven deacons and other Congregations. Although Christ, the finest Teacher, would have looked after the little Apostolic flock well, he nonetheless allowed a Judas, a son of perdition. Similarly with all the other Congregations. Anyone who looks carefully can see that there have been others who have done little to be worthy sons of God.

58. Those who say Saint Francis and all the Order never wore this form of the habit do not know what they are talking about. If they do know it, they pretend not to so that they can speak without inhibition, since they feel everything is in their favour. Beginning with Frate Gentile, whom we wrote about above, all reforms began to reform themselves first of all in their clothing: rough, strict and lowly habits with the pointed cowl. What the zealous Friars of Narbonne did is obvious from the Memoriale della Religione. The cowls they wore were longer than those the Community used.[181] The Spanish Reform did the same thing, although they were later forced to round off the cowl. What will we say of the seven Masters who did the Reform of the Conventual Fathers? Among them was the blessed Francesco da Montepulciano, one of the principals of the Reform.[182] They wore a habit similar to what the Capuchins wear now, with a long cowl and without a scapular. All this and more has confirmed and convinced us that God sent our Congregation for the reform of the Order of Saint Francis, because that habit had been lost for so many hundreds of years. In our day God has revealed that habit again and it has come to light for all the world at a time when perhaps no Friar in the Order, or at least very few, knew that Father Saint Francis had worn that habit. Nonetheless a simple, uneducated and insignificant Friar was able to know about the habit. This came to him not from learning or experience though, but by a revelation from God, and he wore the cowl. We are even more certain that this reform is from God because those who began it were simple men who, without learning or any other means, were able to withstand such a powerful onslaught from their adversaries. Even though the reform had countless opponents it prevailed by prayer. It never could have succeeded but by the power and grace of God. Therefore to say that Saint Francis never wore that cowl is futile, since in nearly all churches of the ancient world Father Saint Francis is depicted with a pointed cowl. This will be discussed in its own place later.

59. Futhermore many said, “This Congregation cannot last because all the Reforms had some saint as head and founder at the beginning. However, this one hasn’t been founded by any saint.” This view forgets that worthy prophecy written in the De Conformitate and repeated in the Franceschina, which says that the reform will be made in the spirit of the Founder and be different from the beginning of the Order. For God gave the Order a holy head who was Saint Francis. However this reform will be given its head at the end.[183] The prophecy does not say that the reform will be done by a holy man, but in the spirit of the Founder. Those who do the reform will be simple and uneducated men. No one will know who its Founder is. Therefore, you see, its Founder has been Jesus Christ, who is above all the saints of heaven and earth. The prophecy says ‘in the spirit of the Founder’ because it has taken up the habit and poverty that the Seraphic Father loved so much. Reform did this so well at the beginning that I dare say that no other Reform reached such heights of poverty as did the Capuchin Reform. When the Observant Reform began they got most of their friaries from the body of the Order. Sometimes they even accept entire Provinces with Friars and Friaries, reforming them therefore as best they could according to the manner of their Reform. The poor Capuchin Reform did not receive one square foot of floor space from the body of the Order. Rather they built from scratch all those poor little friaries they started, and most of them with their own labour. These places were so poor it was not possible to make them poorer. I was there. I have quite qualifed to speak about them, just so that it may not look as though I want to extol the Congregation too much by in speaking about what it suffered in the beginning. I could say a lot more. How much our poor Congregation suffered is barely believable. Since it was necessary to build all their houses new, especially at the height of the persecution, the poor Capuchins were just like the mighty Maccabeus and his companions who held a sword in one hand and built the sacred Temple with the other.[184] And so with the Capuchins. Before they could build a little friary where they had taken up a place, they used to sleep in huts or caves – anywhere they could find shelter. On the other hand they were visited by some new evil every day from their adversaries who wanted to destroy them. They slept on the ground. They went about barefoot and poorly dressed and fasted almost continuously so that with bread and greens they barely satisfied their hunger. Such extreme suffering has never been seen to this day. So then the Reform deserved to be described as done according to the spirit of the Founder. Anyone who looked carefully would have seen such a similarity with the life of Father Saint Francis had with the first Fathers. Nor do I deny either that the one who introduced the Capuchin habit is a saint and that God made him illustrious with countless miracles.[185]

Therefore our leader was Jesus Christ who inspired and openly revealed to blessed Fra Matteo da Bascio to take up that holy habit. And that is how it happened.

When, how and why the pointed cowl came to be lost will be described below.[186]

60. I have made this short discourse to answer anyone who says the contrary. I firmly believe that I have sufficiently replied to the many objections we mentioned above without blaming anyone. However I only want the reader to know that the Congregation of the Capuchins has taken its origins from the Holy Spirit and not from man. However by the grace of God our early Fathers gave this holy Reform such a beautiful, good and indeed the best foundation, while experiencing such strong opposition, even though they were not educated or suited for such an undertaking according to human wisdom. They always remained intrepid, winning glorious victory in every adversity against the infernal enemy. To the praise of God. Amen.

XII: On the great affliction the Franciscan Order had at the time of Pope John XXII, and how the shape of the habit was changed

61. The election of John XXII 62. Causes of the struggle between Pontiff and Emperor 63. The question of poverty during the Pontificate of John XXII 64. Eminent persons who defend and recommend the Franciscan Order 65. The General Chapter of Bologna (1328) 66. The shape of the cowl is changed 67. John XXII makes clarifications on the Rule

61. From 1206 until 1328 all the Order of Saint Francis used to wear the shape of habit that the Capuchin Friars wear now. So the pointed cowl was worn by the entire Order of Saint Francis for 122 years. I will now tell the reason why Pope John XXII deprived the entire Order of the pointed cowl.

On the 7 August 1316 at Lyon in France Cardinal Jaques of Cahors was elected Supreme Pontiff and who then became John XXII.[187] At the time there were very difficult problems because of Louis the Bavarian, the Duke of Bavaria.[188] These troubles will be described in their place. The reasons for the anger of His Holiness towards the Order will be given last.

62. The differences that came between the Pope and the Bavarian were these. The first was that the Emperor supported the heretics at Milan and in other parts of Lombardy where they were. He did the same for a certain sect called the Ghibellines, who were enemies of Holy Church. Moreover, Louis the Duke of Bavaria was not elected Emperor canonically but with deception.[189] He was never true Emperor because of the false election and also because the Pope never wanted to confirm his election. Neither did the two Popes after John. The second reason was that he, even though the Pope commanded him, never wanted to obey and give way to Frederick of Austria who was also elected Emperor. Instead, he had him imprisoned. The third reason was this. Unjustly and against the will of the Pope the Emperor waged many wars in Germany, persecuting those who were opposed to his desire to usurp the Emperor. Then he came to Italy and committed many evils. Finally he came to Rome and had himself crowned by certain schismatic and excommunicated Prelates. The schismatics declared that the Pope was not the true Pope. From among these he elected another pope and made many laws in Rome against His Holiness. All these things he did unjustly, falsely calumniating His Holiness and making himself a judge over those things in which he had no authority.[190]

63. The reasons why His Holiness was angry at the Order were these, and they began in 1322. The Supreme Pontiff’s anger towards the Order was not without cause. Some learned persons who thought they knew much opposed him on a certain opinion regarding the poverty of Christ. This will be described below. The Order was innocent, but because of these learned men who governed the Order, His Holiness took grievance with the whole Order. These proud men nearly ruined the Order completely by opposing His Holiness so boldly and unjustly.

This was the first reason. In Provence a Master in sacred Theology of the Order of Minors preached publicly that Christ our Saviour and his Apostles owned nothing, neither in common nor individually.[191] Because of these words and their false teaching many who said that the Pope, Cardinals and other church Prelates could not and should not own anything. This teaching reached the ears of His Holiness. Almost all the other Religious and important preachers rose up and opposed this false opinion. They claimed that Judas was bursar and carried the money given them as alms.[192] In Samaria the disciples went to buy some bread.[193] In the Acts of the Apostles we see that the Apostles led such a life shown them in fact by the Supreme Master.[194] On the other hand there was no shortage of those who said the opposite and defended the opinion just exposed by the said Master. These were those learned Franciscan Friars who aligned to that view. An so the Pope became so angry, as did the Court, that in 1322, the seventh year of his Pontificate, he issued that other Extravagantes[195] which is likewise included in the Clementina in the Chapter Ad conditorem canonum.[196] There he concludes that according to their Rule the Friars Minor can have ownership in common. Except for their churches, oratories, monasteries, dwellings, books, vessels and vessels dedicated to sacred worship, the dominion over the things that they have for their use should not be considered to belong to the Church. He did away with procurators and administrators[197] and many other things in favour of the Order. For the sake of brevity I will not mention all of these, things that all the other Supreme Pontiffs granted before and after him.

Once he had done this and had somewhat calmed down his soul, which had been agitated because of the displeasing and new doctrine you’ve just heard, the Supreme Pontiff ordered the General, Fra Michele,[198] and other learned men of the Order to declare themselves upon the matter that had been brought out into the open. So for the time-being the rumours and whispers were silenced to some degree. In the year 1325 the General Chapter was convened in Perugia[199] where Fra Michele and the delegates, who were learned men, there was much debate on the question. Finally many of them declared that they were of the same opinion as the previously mentioned Master. After the Chapter Fra Michele went personally into the presence of His Holiness and told him of the resolution of these learned men. He also offered to defend it.[200]

On hearing that a General Chapter had arrived at such a profane opinion, without respect for His Holiness and all the other Orders that held the opposite view, His Holiness and all the major Prelates both of the Court and of the religious Orders were so annoyed that they again railed against the Franciscan Order even more than before. All this happened because of the pride and audacity of those learned men. They grieved the poor Order, which in all this was without fault and truly innocent. However there was no shortage of detractors in the presence of His Holiness. These uttered every evil they could about the poor Order.

Among all the other upsets that those learned men caused, one of the main ones was this. The General at the time, Fra Michele da Cesena, said openly that the Pope was not the true Pope. He also said the Pope’s opinion smacked of heresy. After him William of Ockham, one of the great learned men in the Franciscan Order at the time, boldly wrote against the Extravagante of His Holiness and sided with the schismatic Emperor. Thus he showed himself quite opposed to His Holiness as did Fra Michele and his adherents. Because of this the Pope assumed such an attitude towards the Order that he was determined to persecute and destroy it completely if God would allowed it. Hence in its anguish and tears the Order had become a mockery among the people, singled out by everyone.

64. At the height of these tribulations though, the compassionate God wanted to give the Order a helping hand and some relief. The Order was rebutted by everyone, but God knew its innocence. He punished and drove away those learned men who caused so much harm. He showed the Order, which was innocent, to be even more beautiful and exquisite than ever before. This was something truly miraculous because the Supreme Pontiff was so bent against the Order. However, as the authority of Scripture is accustomed to say, “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.[201] God inspired the Supreme Pontiff and he chose as Cardinals two of his sons[202] who were both Friars Minor from the Aquitaine. One was called Frate Vitale du Four.[203] The other one nominated was Frate Bertrand da Turre. Both were very learned and each carried his mother Order carved upon his heart. The creation of these two Cardinals checked the tongues that earlier had barked against the Order and muzzled the teeth that had snapped at it earlier. Consequently our opponents remained mostly silent. Whenever needed, these cardinals answered in favour of the Order and defended it without fear of any person.

Throughout Christendom there was no shortage of high ranking persons who, with faith and devotion for the Order, defended it. In the presence of His Holiness they were able to do a lot.[204] Among those who wanted to speak up unambiguously for the greater reputation of the Order, the first one to extol the Order of Friars Minor was the Lord Infante[205] of Aragon, the Patriarch of Alexandria. He was such a devotee of the Order of Minors that he always wore the habit underneath all his clerical attire. With strength and courage he defended the Order considerably. He wrote to His Holiness saying that he would give his life and everything he had in the world to defend the Order of Saint Francis. The second was John, the most serene Emperor of Great Tartary.[206] The Friars Minor had converted him and his mother to the faith and baptised them and continuously nurtured them in the holy faith. When this holy Emperor died he was entombed with great pomp, according to Imperial custom, at Saint John’s, the house of the Friars Minor about three miles from Sarai,[207] the Imperial city of the Tartars. Later the Friars wanted to flee to the city because of the wars around them. They did not want to leave that holy body behind and took it with them into the city of Sarai. There was something marvelous! Although he had been in the tomb thirty-five years they found the body fresh and intact as if he had just been buried. The cloths and clothing and the silk pillow were intact and without decayed. They were as unblemished as the day they were placed in the tomb.[208] Both the faithful and non-believers considered this a great miracle.

When this reached the ears of His Holiness his attitude towards the Order softened considerably. And at that time many holy Friars, burning with holy zeal for the faith, were preaching that faith very fervently among non-believers and received from them holy martyrdom. This gave great comfort to the holy Order and these examples sparked a greater devotion than before among seculars. In France particularly, in the city of Paris, on the 11 October 1324, at the height of the tribulations, the very holy Count of Ariano – called Elzear – passed away to the Lord amid many holy miracles.[209] He belonged to the Third Order of Saint Francis. Among the many wonderful things the Lord worked through this servant of his was this. For twenty eight years he lived in virginity with his Dauphine consort, though both slept in the same bed. Both were very handsome and physically beautiful. He died in the arms of Brother Francis Meyronnes,[210] a very holy and learned man of the Order of Minors. This increased everyone’s devotion towards the Order, especially His Holiness, and significantly checked the audacity of those in the Papal Court who snapped at the Order.

Lost devotion for the Order recovered considerably also because of the many great miracles that God worked through the merits of the Bishop, Saint Louis, who was canonised in that time by Pope John.[211] Hence the brother of Saint Louis, King Robert and his consort the Queen Sanzia, wrote a very comforting letter to the General Chapter. He said he would expend all he had in the world for the Order, including his own life if necessary. The Queen wrote that she was prepared if necessary to be sacrificed for the Order.[212]

Also the most serene King of France Phillip VI[213] did not fail to write to His Holiness to inform him about what he had done for the Order of Saint Francis. He wrote it in person. The devotion of this holy king towards the Order was such that he never rested until he could give the Order his dearest possession in the world – his daughter Queen Bianca,[214] whom he made a nun in the monastery of Loschcamps. He left instructions that his body be buried with the Friars Minor after he died. He said, “All the things I have received from God, and I thank His Majesty for the merits of Saint Francis and his holy Order. I would spend my life and everything I possess in the world for the Order.”

Sanchez, King of Castille, was also very supportive towards the poor Order at that time of great tribulation. Similarly he offered himself for all the needs and favours necessary for the preservation of the Order. He was so devoted towards it that he wanted to die in the Minor habit and be buried with it in the house of the Friars.[215] Also his successor King Alfonso[216] the Most Christian did not fail to write to His Holiness, offering himself to the Order in all its needs. He said that, in his view, nothing he did pleased God more than to spend his life and possessions for the Order of Saint Francis. The King of Portugal was the same.[217] At his death he wanted to die in the habit and be buried in the house of the Friars Minor with his queen consort. She built the monastery of Saint Clare and also wanted to be buried there in the habit.[218]

Similarly the King of Aragon who, because of the great devotion he had for the Order, had himself dressed in the habit of the Order when he was ill. He made a vow to the Lord God: delivered from the sickness he would never remove that habit. However, when he passed away to the Lord he had arranged for his body to be buried in that habit. His name was King James.[219] When he knew he had to die he called for his son called King Peter. With great tenderness he recommended to him the Order of Friars Minor which he had carried carved in his heart. From then on, like his father, he was always very devoted. When he was dying in Barcelona he wished to be buried in the habit in the friary of Caesar Augusta.[220] The King of Majorca was the same way. He was devoted to the Order. With his consort Queen Esclarmonde he loved the Order so dearly that with one accord and great devotion they offered to the Order their first born son James[221]. Dressed in the Minor habit he always lived in the Order. He never wanted to accept any status and always persevered in the true observance of the Rule. He passed away to the Lord full of virtue and holy merits.

Similarly, during this time of great tribulation, the nephew[222] of Saint Louis the Bishop[223] (the son of his brother) reigned in Hungary. When he heard of the grave afflictions of the poor Order and because of the great affection he had for it, he wrote to His Holiness. His letter was very beneficial. Moreover, he turned the whole kingdom of Hungary to devotion towards the Friars Minor.

I don’t want to omit saying something about the King of Cyprus, King Henry[224] who ruled at that time. His holiness and great love for the Order were such that, even though he was married, he remained the purest virgin until his death. This was because he desired so much to be numbered among the holy and chaste virgins of the Order of Saint Francis. Since he could not live in the Order because of the office he held, and since he was married, he wanted to imitate Father Saint Francis in what he could and die a chaste virgin, wearing the Minor habit in his heart. Before he died, he put on that habit. He wanted to die in it. He was buried in the friary at Nicosia. Since the Lord God wanted to show how pleased he was with this servant of his, he worked many miracles through King Henry’s merits at his tomb.

The majority, if not all of these great persons, wrote to His Holiness to preserve and defend the Order of Saint Francis. There were many others too, whom I omit so as not to bore the reader.

The holy Order received great support from many very holy people who adorned the Church of God at the time with their holy lives and miracles. Many learned men also defended the Order from heresy with their holy preaching. Due to their holiness and learning many of them were appointed to important Prelatures as Patriarchs, Cardinals and Archbishops. Since there was a great plague in different parts of the world at the time many of those good Friars went to serve the infected. This service gave an excellent example to all Christendom.

65. Hence His Holiness softened and he restored his devotion towards the Order. He clearly understood that this matter was not a defect of the Order but of a few learned men and their followers who proudly opposed him. In 1328 His Holiness ordered a General Chapter to be held in Bologna. The Most Reverend Cardinal Bertrand[225] mentioned earlier[226] was sent to the Chapter as Apostolic Commissary. Despite this man’s dignity and great authority, the Friars decided nevertheless to confirm Fra Michele as their General because of the lobbying and inducements of his followers. The Cardinal sensed this. As soon as he became aware of the matter he quickly notified the Supreme Pontiff in Avignon by post. With a new Brief the Holy Father made him Cardinal Vicar of the whole Order. For his part he was to do all he could to depose Fra Michele without installing another General and to continue with the Chapter. He wanted the Cardinal to be Vicar General of the entire Order until the next General Chapter. In this way Fra Michele was deposed, who despite the commands of His Holiness, had usurped and retained the office of the Generalate. He had governed about twelve years since becoming General in 1316 and was deposed in Bologna in 1328.

66. In order to identify the presumptuous Friars who opposed him, the Pope wanted those obedient to him to remove the pointed cowl from their shoulders and attach a round one, with nothing attached to the front just like the habit the Spanish Reformati wear. However he left free those who sided with Fra Michele whether to wear the pointed cowl or not. His Holiness doubted that they would have obeyed him if he constrained them since they hadn’t obeyed his other commands. Hence the Order divided because nearly the entire Order took up the round cowl. The few who remained obstinate in the faction didn’t want to remove that cowl and cut themselves off from the others. Not long after, though, out of compunction for their error, the majority of them returned with great humility to the Order. The few who remained obstinate all quickly came to grief.[227]

67. Therefore this was the reason the pointed cowl disappeared. His Holiness was moved not only because of this anger but because the Order had become lax and there was great contention among the Friars. Some of the more ardent Friars wore coarse habits and long cowls like Saint Francis and all the early Fathers. Such was the case with the Reform that began in Narbonne, which will be described in its turn. Other Friars were very lax. Lacking Friars zealous for the observance of the Rule they wore fine habits with a small, though pointed, cowl. Many of these dropped the cowl onto their backs while on their heads they wore a little pointed biretta. His Holiness often tried to pacify and reunite them by defining certain passages of the Rule. We see this clearly in the Memoriale dell’Ordine.[228] However the Friars did not calm down. New conflicts emerged between the zealous and the lax Friars, particularly those who stored grain and wine, received money casually and did many other things opposed to the integrity of the Rule. His Holiness thought he would silence these arguments. He commanded that the grain stores and other things come under the jurisdiction of the Prelates and that in regard to the habit they all wear the same kind of cloth. As for the cowl, where there was the greatest difference of opinion, all were to wear it rounded in some way.[229] This was the main reason for the disappearance of the pointed cowl and it was right. This happened mainly not because of His Holiness, except as an instrument of God and Vicar of Christ, but because of bad sons of the Seraphic Francis who at the time cared little for the observance of the Rule. Since they were ashamed to wear the pointed cowl, His Majesty[230] allowed them to be deprived of it. What a great loss this was because as they began to like beautiful robes they sought ever better cloth. Father Saint Francis wore his habit for the sake of greater poverty, to despise the world more and to afflict his body. The lax Friars instead looked for style in their robes for the sake of vainglory, as well as softness for their sensuality, and a nice colour so as to be pampered by the world.

XIII: How Fra Michele and his followers ended

68.Michael of Cesena and the Emperor Ludwig 69. The antipope Nicholas V 70. He nominates Cardinals 71. The death of Nicholas and the withdrawal of the antipope

68. Fra Michele was from a city in Romagna called Cesena in the Province of Bologna. Born of noble parents he applied himself to study from a young age. When he later became a Friar Minor, since he had a good disposition and was quite bright, he applied himself to the study of letters throughout all his youth and became a great theologian and was learned in nearlty all the disciplines. The General Chapter was convened in Naples in 1322 and he was elected Minister General of the whole Order of Saint Francis. Universally the Friars loved him immensely.[231] However, when he entered the controversy against His Holiness, as we said above, disdainfully he took the side of the schismatic Emperor since he was the enemy of His Holiness. Because he encouraged other Friars to side with his opinion and that of the schismatic Emperor, the same Emperor used those Friars to go against His Holiness. That’s why when this Emperor was in Rome, where he had been quite seditious towards His Holiness, he attracted to himself many schismatics and heretics who were Prelates of Holy Church.[232]

69. This was the reason that on the 12 May 1328, the Ascension of the Lord, he had a very ornate stage erected on the steps of Saint Peter’s. There he placed a throne with a pulpit nearby. With his entire Barony and in the company of his schismatic Prelates he and his entourage made a great entrance. Regaled in his cloak and other imperial adornments he sat upon his throne with an almost infinite number of the Roman people around him. After achieving a general silence and everyone had calmed down, he had a certain Fra Pietro Corvaro from the territory of Rieti[233] make his entrance. He was of the Order of Friars Minor and a very learned man whom all regarded previously as a Friar who led a good and holy life. When this Friar arrived before him the Emperor rose from his throne to honour his arrival. Straightaway he sat down and likewise had the Friar sit upon the stool of his throne. He then had a certain Fra Nichola da Fabriano, from the Order of Saint Augustine, ascend the pulpit. He gave a long sermon, taking as his theme the words of the Acts of the Apostles, Peter came to his senses and said, ‘Now I know in fact that the Lord sent his angel’.[234] As is customary for heretics, he twisted this text and accommodated it to his distorted idea. He portrayed Pietro to be the Church and the angel of the Lord to be the Emperor. Herod, however, was the Pope in Avignon and the Jewish people were all those who supported His Holiness. When he finished preaching he concluded that the world ought to thank God very much for he had sent that angel to liberate it and who wanted to free the world from the hands of the impious men.

Then the Bishop of Venice came forward. He was one of the schismatic Prelates, as were all the others. (At that time[235] Venice didn’t have a Patriarch.) Three times he cried out so that all the people heard. On behalf of His Majesty he asked them if they wanted Fra Pietro as Pope, a man of such a holy life whom the Emperor had provided for them and brought there. This disturbed the mood of the people. Not that they didn’t want another Pope but they wanted no one but a Roman. Nevertheless, since they feared the Emperor, they all gave their consent and said they accepted him as their Pope and Supreme Pontiff. All the clerics and religious present said the same with a loud voice.

The Emperor again rose to his feet and had a document read by the Bishop, according to custom, as a confirmation of the Antipope. Once the document had been read the Emperor venerated the Antipope. Then the schismatic Prelates present did the same. He was crowned immediately and given the pontifical ring and cloak,and the mitre was placed upon his head. He took the name Pope Nicholas V. The Emperor had him sit at his right hand. Then with great pomp, together with all the clergy and people, they went into the church where the Mass of this election, confirmation and coronation was sung with great solemnity. This deeply troubled the hearts of all the Catholics present.

70. On the eighteenth day of that month of May, in the same year, the antipope wanted to show that he truly had pontifical authority. So he assumed to the Cardinalate seven of his apostate followers. These were: the bishop of Venice, the Abbot of Saint Ambrose in Milan, another German Bishop who earlier had read the judgement against the true Pope, Brother Nicholas of the Hermits of Fabriano, Pietro Oringa, Giovanni d’Arlotto – Romans – and the Bishop of Modena.[236] He chose many other Romans but they didn’t accept because they feared God. Having become Cardinals they were confirmed by the false Emperor, Ludwig.

Thus you can see how much scandal those proud, learned men gave in the Church of God. For if the Emperor had not had the support of those schismatic Prelates he could not have done such an evil thing.

71. His Holiness had deposed Fra Michele from his Generalate. When he heard that his followers had received so much honour from the false Emperor with Fra Pietro being made Pope, and that the antipope had made so many Cardinals, Fra Michele thought he should be magnified by the Emperor too. So he immediately left the Order and came to Rome and joined company with the antipope. However, everyone became aware of the malice of the Emperor and the madness of the antipope and his other schismatic followers. The majority of the people and his friends detached themselves from loyalty to the Emperor who left Rome and went straight to Pisa, taking the antipope with him. His arrival was a great catastrophe since he was short of money, and everyone hated him. So the majority of people abandoned him. He was forced then to withdraw to Germany. Out of fear for His Holiness, Fr Michele went with Ludwig and died in a friary in Bavaria.[237] He was buried in that house of the Friars Minor. All the other above mentioned schismatic Prelates were excommunicated by His Holiness and soon came to grief.

With arrangements that he follow, the Emperor left the antipope in Pisa. However God did not want him to leave there since the Lord God did not want to abandon him on account of the good life he lhad ed before. Consequently, together with all his Cardinals, the poor and blinded Religious soon found himself taken prisoner by the Pisans, particularly by Count Boniface.[238] The other Prelates, as we’ve said, went into disarray and fled to different places. Put on board two Provençal galleys with a good guard, the antipope was sent to Pope John at Avignon. On hearing of his arrival, Pope John ordered him to be brought to his Palace. His Holiness was meeting with all the Cardinals in the Consistory when, low and behold, the antipope Corvaro arrived in the public Consistory with a rope around his neck. He knelt at the feet of His Holiness and tearfully confessed his error. He accused himself of having been schismatic and confessed himself as such and said that he regarded the Emperor as false. He asked pardon first of all from God for all his many grave errors; then from His Beatitude and from all the Sacred College. He confessed those errors with such contrition and with such an effective request for forgiveness that the Pope wept profusely, as did almost all the Cardinals and other people present. It was something indescribable. However, what was more wonderful was that the Pontiff lifted him to his feet with his own hands and kissed him on the lips and forgave him everything. Moreover he had him assigned a locked room there in his own Palace. He ordered the whole Court that no one speak to him. He had him given many books so that he might have some means to study and so occupy himself so as to avoid idleness. He had him always choose his own food. He continued in that life for three years. At the end of that time he passed away in peace, always dressed as a Friar Minor. His Holiness had him buried with great honour in the Church of the Friars Minor.[239]

Many years later, the false Emperor dropped dead suddenly while hunting in a field. In this way the end for all of them was different.[240]

XIV: Here it is shown how the whole Franciscan Order used to wear the point cowl[241]

72. The shape of the monastic habit 73. The preserved habits and old pictures show the true shape of the Franciscan habit 74. Neither Saint Bonaventure nor Saint Bernardine changed its shape.

72. Many have held the opinion that all the Religious in olden times wore the point cowl,[242] particularly Don Peter of Calzolatio, a Benedictine monk of the Congregation of Saint Justina. This Dom Pietro has composed the Chronica Monastica,[243] a very beautiful work. I already knew him quite well. He told me about having found in ancient books that speak about the monastic Order that monks of old wore the habit with a pointed cowl and dressed in crude, coarse cloth. Their melotes, which are mentioned in The Book of Solitary Life,[244] were little mantles like those that the Capuchins now wear. The good Father said Father Saint Francis took up the true ancient monastic habit. It seems very likely since that holy monastic Order from which so many very austere saints have come would not give us to believe that they dressed in fine cloth. Rather their cloth was lowly and coarse, not dyed but of a natural colour.

Many ancient figures lend this credence. The Monks may be seen depicted with coarse habits and with the pointed cowl. Indeed it is believed that Father Saint Dominic also wore the pointed cowl. A Venerable Father Preacher of that Order told me just that. He saw Saint Dominic painted with a pointed cowl in an old friary in Viterbo. Regarding the holy Order of Carthusians it is said to have always preserved its integrity without need for further reforms and with the same shape of habit that Saint Bruno took up with the other Founders of that Order, except it was coarser cloth. It can be seen that the Carthusian Fathers still wear the pointed cowl.

73. However in regard to the Franciscan Order it is as clear as the sun that Father Saint Francis and the entire Order always wore the pointed cowl for a period of one hundred and twenty two years, as has been written in the Chroniche dell’Ordine.[245] It is also clear from things we have written about the time, how and why the pointed cowl disappeared. The ancient habits of our Saints also lend this credence. These are kept as relics just like the habit with which our Father received the sacred stigmata. This habit can be found in Florence at the friary of the Zoccolanti Fathers under the care of the Grand Duke.[246] With its coarse cloth, colour and cowl it can be seen to be exactly like those that the Capuchins now wear. In Assisi I have seen laid out and reserved as a relic the very habit which the Roman noble lady called Giacoba di Settesoli made for him at his death. It is just like ours although it is white and made from fine cloth because it was put on him after his death.[247] What will we say about the cowl of Blessed Rufino kept in the convent of Saint Clare in Assisi? It is pointed like ours.[248] What will we say about the habit of Blessed Simon that is kept in the friary at Spoleto? It is the same colour, coarseness and shape as ours.[249] I will say nothing about the other habits kept as relics at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, at La Verna, at the friary of Orvieto and in countless other places. All of them are all like our Capuchin habit.[250]

The old images also lend further credence. These are seen in the majority of Churches in Christendom: Saints of the Order depicted with the habit which the Capuchins now wear. This is obvious in Rome among the mosaic figures in San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Silvestro, and San Francesco in the Trastevere.[251] In the refectory at Araceli[252] there is a depiction of Saint Francis with the pointed cowl. In the upper Church in the Friary in Assisi the life of Saint Francis is told in pictures. All those Friars are depicted with the pointed cowl. The pictures illustrate the more important things about Father Saint Francis, for example: when the Rule was approved by His Holiness; or when in a vision His Holiness saw Saint Francis hold up the Church of Saint John Lateran. There are other outstanding things which our Father did which are depicted in the figures in that Church and all of them with the pointed cowl.

74. Some have said that Saint Bonaventure removed the pointed cowl.[253] To say that Saint Bonaventure, who was very zealous about the observance of the Rule, would have been bold enough to remove the shape of the habit that our Father Saint Francis gave is quite false. Furthermore Blessed Raniero[254] of Borgo died more than thirty years after Saint Bonaventure, which was the year 1304, as appears in the witness document made by the public notary. Nevertheless the habit of that holy man has a pointed cowl, as everyone can see, since it is kept as a relic in the friary at Borgo.

Others have said that Saint Bernardine introduced the rounded cowl when he began the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers. This is quite false since its is clear that the Reform of the Zoccolanti had its beginning at the Council of Constance, or a little earlier, as appears in the Memoriale dell’Ordine. That Reform separated from the Community of the Conventual Fathers.[255] The pointed cowl was removed some years earlier, before this family began. It was removed in 1328. The following year, 1329, the General Gerald Oddone removed it completely.[256] The Council of Constance began in 1414 and then, as has been said, the Company of Zoccolanti Fathers began. Therefore it appears certain that the pointed cowl was removed 88 years earlier. In fact there was not even a memory of it at that time. Thus it is impossible that Saint Bernardine took it away.

It is also clear that Saint Bonaventure would not have removed it since Saint Francis was depicted with other Saints of the Order in the main Churches of Rome: Saint John Lateran and Saint Mary Major. It is credible that the Order wore that habit with the pointed cowl at the time those figures were painted since the Pope who had them done was Pope Nicholas IV. He was from the Order of Minors and when he was a Friar he wore the same habit. When he was General of the whole Order and he had the name Girolamo d’Ascoli of the Marches[257] he would not have consented nor had them painted with that habit if it were not worn at that time. For it would have been too great a reproach to the Order to depict the Father with a habit other than the one worn by the Order. And these figures were done within twenty years of the death of Saint Bonaventure. Since he died at Lyon in France when the Sacred Council was celebrated in 1274, these figures were done in 1294 while Pope Nicholas IV was Supreme Pontiff, during the third year of his Pontificate.[258]

Therefore it is clear that Saint Bonaventure did not take away the cowl since it was worn for many years after his death.

XV: When our Congregation began

75. God uses weak instruments to accomplish His works 76. Humble beginnings of the Capuchin Reform 77. Difficulties of the early stages 78. When it began 79. Joys and sorrows

75. It is obvious to anyone who reads the Divine Scriptures that all the works of God have originated in weak beginnings. God has always used weak instruments to do His marvellous works. In creation, according to the learned, God only created matter first, the lowest thing of all, which he used to make other things. He formed man from a little mud. He founded the Church on simple, uneducated Apostles. He founded Orders by means of the simplest of men, as is obvious with our Father Saint Francis. This is precisely what happened in the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers. Even though the Order was full of learned men and many of them strongly urged the advance of that Reform, none could boast and say: ‘I did it.’ This honour must be given to Frate Paoluccio da Foligno,[259] a simple and unlearned Friar. The same can be said about the time of the Capuchin Reform. I heard the Most Reverend Padre Frate Francesco da Iesi himself say that. He told me, “You know that many, many Venerable Fathers and holy men desired the reform quite a few many years. You would not believe how many tears they shed to receive this grace from God. They died and did not see it realised. How many learned men were in the Order then who strove for the reform and were unable to achieve it. Then came along a simple little Friar, uneducated and without any human favour, and he began our Congregation. All this was because the Lord wanted the honour for the reform and this work to be attributed to His goodness and not to men. If the Congregation had begun with important learned men the outcome would be attributed to men and not God.”

76. Such a weak man stood against the powerful influence of the adversaries and defeated it – not he, but the grace of God. Infact, and I am sure about this, Frate Matteo’s intention was never that of doing a Reform. Instead, he wanted to go everywhere preaching and to observe the Rule to the letter. The beginning of our Congregation was so unual that we cannot say it had any other Founder but God. Not even Fra Ludovico, as he said himself. (He will be discussed in his turn.) He had no intention to begin another Congregation, but later was enlightened by God. This was amazing, that the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers began in the mountains of Foligno, helped by the Lord of Foligno. These mountains are near Camerino; and our Congregation began at Camerino, supported by the Duke of Camerino and his consort. There Saint Bernardine[260] brought about the Zoccolanti Reform. Our reform however, according to prophecy, had to be different in this way: its Saint will arrive at the end.[261]

Our reform was all the more amazing because it started when the whole world was in strife and, despite that, when the poor, barefoot Frate Matteo appeared unexpectedly before the Supreme Pontiff who granted him all he wished without wanting further information. Moreover, Matteo departed (Rome) without any kind of Bull or Brief. That concession was very valuable because many were encouraged just by seeing that cowl. He soon attracted a following of barefoot men who set the whole world awhirl. By patience they conquered and overcame all the fury of the infernal enemy who raged so cruelly against the poor Congregation. When everyone thought at the time that the Congregation would fail, it instead appeared more beautiful and robust than ever. In fact amid so many serious difficulties those servants of God bore in themselves and others even greater fruit.

Their example of holiness and patience pleased everyone. People said, “Obviously the spirit of these servants of God does not abide in this world. They are so absorbed in God that, like the Apostles, they rejoice when they are afflicted and persecuted,[262] a real sign of an authentic spirit.” Their adversaries compelled them to appear before magistrates and accused them of many things, in particular, of having apostatized[263] and being excommunicated. When authorities saw the friars so badly treated, but with their minds raised to God, they would shrug their shoulders. With hearts mellowed by the presence of these servants of God, they would say to one another with tears of devotion, “What do we want to do with the poor fellows? They are angels of God. They all look crucified. Really, anyone who commits an outrage against them is cursed by God for wanting to rid His Church of their shining example. They harm no one. Their exploits and battles are with their own selves, against the devil and this world that so full of vanity. Look how well these servants of God have put the world beneath their feet. Therefore, since we are Prelates of the Holy Church, we are obliged to support anyone who wants to do what is right. For myself I see no reason why we should forbid them to pursue their course in the service of God. Their Rule is proven. That they have chosen to observe it just like the Seraphic Francis and many other holy men cannot be called seditious.” The others all answered the Prelate who said these words, “My lord, you are speaking the truth. Therefore we should let them go so that they may pray to God for us.” Calling them to himself he said to them, “Go my Fathers and pray to God for me. His Holiness does not intend to stop anyone who wants to do good. You have nothing but support from us.”

77. These were three Most Reverend Cardinals, two of whom I remember by name: Santa Severina the elder, under Clement VII, and Monsignor de Trani[264]. Because of the many pleas of the adversaries His Holiness Clement ordered these three Eminences that no one come from the body of the Order to the Capuchins without their permission. However support was such that despite the order of His Holiness many came and adopted the habit. This was because in secret the Pope let it be understood that he was happy for them to join, but with the least amount of noise possible. Hence on the one hand there was the prohibition and on the other hand the permission of His Holiness. He did all this because of the insistence of adversaries. However his intention was for everyone to reform.

Therefore God gave great steadfastness to His servants. In lax and bad times like those God did not want a shortage of such holy men. Not only was the Order lax, but the entire human race craved for nothing but worldy things. Because of this the reform really was out of the ordinary. Everyone said, “These fellows admonish us just by their presence.” Little wonder that novel appearance of the habit of Saint Francis disturbed the world so much. Even in their own time the appearance of Father Saint Francis and Father Saint Dominic completely dismayed all Christendom, and by their example they took out from the world such a large number of servants of God and valiant knights of Christ.

78. The Capuchin Reform also was very unusual and was like the Holy Order at its beginning when it started under Innocent III. There had been one hundred and eighty three Supreme Pontiffs from Saint Peter to that one. The historian Vincentius[265] makes two calculations, a major one and a minor.[266] According to his minor calculation there were 5161 years from the creation of the world until the beginning of our Order. According to his major calculation however there were 6406. From the Incarnation of Our Lord until the beginning of the Order there were 1198 years. The Pontificate of this Supreme Pontiff lasted eighteen years, four months and twenty-four days. Our Order began in the ninth year of his Pontificate.[267]

Our Congregation began under Clement VII, 5480 years after creation, according to the minor calculation. According to the major calculation however there were 6725 from creation and 1525 from the Incarnation of the Lord. Clement VII lived his Pontificate for ten years and ten months.[268] From Saint Peter there have been 226 Pontiffs. This holy Reform began in the January of the third year of his Pontificate. By the grace of God it has lasted for seventy eight years in the perfect observance of the Rule up to today (7 January 1593), although in some details there always may have been some imperfections. I who write remember most of the important things that have taken place in this holy Congregation for sixty years. It seemed to me beneficial for everyone to mention some of them and how the Congregation has always been caught between the anvil and the hammer, struck at and hard-pressed by the infernal enemy. He used the many instruments he had introduced to the Congregation to obscure its light that abundantly radiated its beams throughout Christendom in those first servants of God who began the Congregaton so beautifully. Therefore those who persevere in the perfect observance of the Rule until the end of their lives will be blessed. As our Seraphic Father says, “They will find heaven open.”[269]

79. This holy beginning was a marvellous thing. It was so feeble in the sight of men that we are really unable to say who did it. Nor can we say what its beginning was, what was the very first cause of this holy Reform.[270] We are compelled to say that the reform was from God and not from man, miraculous rather than human. To all appearances it was so weak. However it was robust enough to withdstand such stout opposition. In the midst of so many thorns, this rose remained ever fresh and fragrant by the power and grace of God. When we consider the one who began it, Fra Matteo da Bascio, we see that he was so feeble, uneducated and without any other human support. He was an infirm, feeble, and indirect beginning, because he never had the intention to reform anything but himself. Nonetheless the Holy Spirit used him. For when many zealous Friars saw that habit, like God’s sheep they knew the habit was really the one that the Seraphic Francis wore. They burned with an extraordinary fervour. Like the Hebrews of God, they decided with tremendous longing to observe the Rule in every degree of perfection.

The timely appearance of Fra Matteo was so striking that a number of barefoot men soon banded together with him. Like stray sheep, when they heard the voice of the holy Shepherd they ran with intrepid boldness through the mountains, valleys and high places to reach him and be gathered together under the governance and guidance of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. They did not worry about the thorns, stones and other obstacles of persecution. Willingly they embraced the Cross of their Shepherd. Each day they desired to suffer more for his love and follow in the footsteps of His Majesty, even though the journey was very harsh for them according to bodily comfort and they didn’t have a leader usually given to such bands of God’s servants. Nonetheless they were filled with the hope that God would not abandon them. This hope was not in vain since our Lord God provided them with some necessary support. In this way. amid all the uncertainty, He kept them invincible. The Most Illustrious Lady of Camerino, Caterina Cibo[271] turned a kindly eye towards them and fended for them considerably with His Holiness. Being the niece of Clement VII, her backing was invaluable. However Our Lord never left them without a cross. If she obtained a Brief in favour of the Capuchins, the adversaries immediately obtained another opposing them. Time and again their adversaries used the secular arm to pursue them high and low. Despite this, the constancy of those servants of God was such that the difficulties seemed to rejuvenate them. When they in the woods they laughed heartily about their opponents. It was extraordinary. With all their tactics the adversaries never that even though they used every possible ploys the adversaries never managed to catch anyone.

More than anything else it suffered, that persecution was very worthwhile for the Congregation. It kept the friars fugitives in uninhabited places with such small amounts of very plain food – fruit, herbs and water. All these things favour the spirit and mortify the flesh. During that time our Congregation was like the early Church when Christians lived secretly, hiding in caves and in the mountains. God so enlightened those who found themselves amid that suffering that that they knew that theirs was the happy state of those who truly follow the Rule of Saint Francis. They said that until then they had never understood the Rule, whose aim is a genuine mortification of the senses and true poverty of spirit, and a real union of our spirit with God. With their acceptance of all these things God miraculously brought and guided them to authentic observance. For as long as they lived, and as I saw for myself, those servants of God could never accommodate themselves again to the ways of the world and too much conversation. Instead they always remained a little feral, preferring more to dwell in the woods than any other place.

All the good ways of our life have derived from this spirit that has continued on in our Congregation,

Therefore our leader has been the Holy Spirit and the support of Our Lord has delivered us from every evil until his day, even though the poor Congregation has had its blows. We who have made profession have no excuse since God has given us opportune conditions. To the praise, honour and glory of Jesus Christ.

XVI: About the holy man Fra Matteo

80. The birth of Matteo da Bascio 81. His entry to the Order of Zoccolanti 82. The apparition of a Friar “dressed with a pointed cowl” 83. Matteo helps the plague victims in Camerino 84. The support of the dukes of this city 85. His living desire to observe the Franciscan Rule perfectly 86. He feels inspired to wear the true habit of Saint Francis, without wanting to found a Congregation 87. Paoluccio Trinci and Matteo da Bascio

80. Fra Matteo was from a castle of Bascio, of the Illustrious Lord Counts of Carpegna, and situated with the borders of Montefeltro above the River Marécchia near the Apennines.[272] He was born of poor but God fearing parents. When he was young he went to school for some months and only learned a little basic grammar. Since his father worked in the fields the young fellow could not continue with learning.[273] Nonetheless he was of fine mien and because he knew how to read he applied himself to read spiritual books very attentively. His devotion was such that he was a good example to everyone. Everyone thought he would become a Religious since he always remained apart and fled from the activities of the other young men.

81. As it pleased the Lord God, when he was about seventeen years of age, the Holy Spirit touched him and he decided to leave the world. One day he went off to San Sisto, a place not far from his home. The Zoccolanti Fathers of the Province of the Marches have a friary there called Montefiorentino.[274] He revealed his desire to become a Friar to the Fathers these. These sent him to the Father Minister at the time[275] who received him with great kindness and gave the name Fra Matteo. Clothed in the habit and under the care of a master he made great progress in the spiritual life. In his simplicity, his promptness to obey and his other virtues made him a mirror and guide for all the others. Once he became a priest however he grew in such fervour, spirit and the zeal to observe his Rule that he astonished them as he didn’t want to wear anything than just the one habit. Because the Order did not practise patching the outside of the habit, except for small pieces, this e servant of God sewed patched the inside to shield himself from the cold. In this way he protected himself. He fasted almost continuously. With great dedication he did the forty day fasts that Father Saint Francis used to do[276] and on the vigil of the feasts of Our Lady and of the Lord he fasted on bread and water. Except when obedience saw him occupied in some task, he always remained secluded, practising holy prayer continuously. However, he thought he did not have the opportunity to dedicate himself to the spirit as much as he wanted so he began to think about finding a way to be able to perfectly observe the Rule he had promised to God. For many months he strove earnestly in prayer so that God might enlighten him.

82. Behold, his prayers were not in vain but reached the ears of the compassionate God. This servant of God was sent one day for some servie outside the friary. It is believed that Father Saint Francis, dressed in a habit with the pointed cowl, appeared to him, but without saying anything. Matteo always had the custom of travelling at a short distance from his companion, and so he was going along by himself. He was occupyied at some good thought when with his bodily eyes he clearly saw a Friar dressed in the Capuchin habit a little ahead of him along the road. The Friar was going on and off the road. Amazed at this, the servant of God hurried to catch up with him, but in vain. The Friar suddenly disappeared. This apparition occurred to him many times over the period of some months. I heard this from our early Fathers shortly after all this took place. They told me they heard about it from Fra Matteo’s own mouth.

While this vision lasted the servant of God began to think the Friar was Father Saint Francis who wanted show him something. The shape of that habit really had to be precisely the one worn by Father Saint Francis and the rest of the Order. An intense desire arose in Matteo to know if that was the habit Saint Francis wore. Consequently, after discussing the matter often with the old Friars, he had a hazy idea that it was the habit worn in the beginning.

83. As the Lord would have it, a great plague came to the city of Camerino and many other parts of Christendom in 1523. At the time Fra Matteo was in the friary of the Zoccolanti Fathers at Camerino. Enkindled with an deep desire to die for Christ, having seen what the great servant of God Bernardine of Siena had done, he went to see the Father Guardian of that friary. With great fervour and tears he begged his Guardian to grant him the merit of holy obedience and so with his blessing go to serve the infected. The Guardian well knew Fra Matteo’s good and holy life and exemplary conversation were as those of a man proven in the spiritual life. So he gave Fra Matteo his blessing and the merit of holy obedience. Elated, and as an outstanding example for the whole city, with Fra Matteo straight away set himself to serve the infected attentively and provide bodily food for them and attend to their other needs. More important to him however was to serve them spiritual food. He encouraged them to receive the most holy Sacraments and to give back what belonged to others. For the many people who had been abandoned he provided for their every need. If they had no one to bury them, he did so with his own hands. He heard their confessions and ministered all the other Sacraments to them. Then at the hour of death he comforted them wonderfully. The example and welcome help that this servant of God gave to the city was such that everyone regarded him as a saint.

84. At that time the Most Illustrious Lord Duke John Mary Varano and by his consort the Duchess Caterina Cibo, niece of Pope Clement, governed the city of Camerino. When the plague was over, the service done by this servant of God for the infected was very highly regarded, especially for his care for two particular gentlemen who were very dear to the Duchess Caterina. By the grace of God, in the hands and care of Fra Matteo, they were freed of the plague and healthy.

With the plague over, the servant of God Fra Matteo returned to his friary. The Lady Duchess had him called and she spoke with him. “You deserve so much, Fra Matteo, that I don’t know how I will ever be able to thank you enough in recognition of your service in taking care of my city in such extreme need – particularly the two gentlemen who attribute their lives to God and to you. Hence I beg you and command you – if I may command you – to make your needs known to me. If I can be of help in anything I would like to reward you in some way. I have no other desire than to do you good. I would like to reward you in some way. I regret that I don’t know what to offer you which may be acceptable to you because of your life of poverty. I can only say this. If there is ever anything I can do for you or your Order, you would give me the greatest pleasure if make your need known to me.”

The servant of God Fra Matteo answered, “My Lady, thank you for your offers. Everything I have done was for the pure love of God, and I do not seek any reward for it on earth. However, I know one day you will be able to help me very much.” He was hinting ironically to her about his desire to receive her support with His Holiness, her uncle, so that he might go into seclusion so as to live perfectly the Rule he had promised to God.

The Duchess answered, “I am ready now and always to assist you in your needs. And I hold you obliged to give me the opportunity to do some good for you, because I want this very much.”

85. And so he left the Duchess. His yearning to find a way to observe the Rule perfectly increased. Nevertheless he persevered in the practice of holy prayer that he had begun. Shedding many tears he begged the Lord continuously to give him the opportunity to imitate Father Saint Francis perfectly. I heard this from the early Fathers who were with him. After that vision mentioned above, he became so enthusiastic for the perfect observance of the Rule that he seemed to become restless. He went about like someone euphoric with the love of God. Conversation with Friars and seculars had become so difficult for him that he was never seen in public places. He would always slip away instead to either the church, his cell or the woods. While thinking about the wonderful life our early Fathers led in such lofty poverty he used to weep almost continuously. He said himself, “Fra Matteo, you are not like Father Saint Francis but more like a counterfeit Religious. Where is the observance of that exalted poverty you promised to God? Unlike a poor Religious you stay in cosy friaries like a gentleman in a beautiful palace. You dress well in fine and beautiful cloth. How many poor people there are who are better than you! They go naked and poorly dressed. The same for food. You daintily eat fine foods and as much as you want. The poor don’t even have bread. You sleep in a comfortable bed while contemplating the one on which your Lord died. You are honoured. Christ and his members are despised. Where is the imitation of Father Saint Francis and those early Fathers who lived their lives with such strict poverty?”

86. Recollecting himself with these thoughts he said to himself, “I will never be happy nor ever rest while I do not wear the habit my Lord showed me.” With many tears he begged God to show him more clearly what He wanted him to do. On one occasion, when he was in the church praying and stayed on longer than usual, he felt very enlightened inwardly, as if the Holy Spirit revealed to his mind that the Friar he had seen in the apparition was Father Saint Francis. Wishing to imitate him then, he adopted that habit which he saw Saint Francis wear. By this revelation, our Lord God showed that He wanted as the habit of the Order and which had been forgotten for such a long time. Feeling enlightened by God that this was His will, he began to dream of wearing that habit and have it granted him by His Holiness for himself alone. He saw himself going throughout the world preaching, more by example than words, exhorting the people to holy penance just like our Father Saint Francis did with all those Fathers who were his first companions.

He relied very much on a prophecy of Father Saint Francis written in the Book of Conformities. He says that in the last times the Order will lapse from the true observance of the Rule. He strongly exhorts the Friars to be zealous observers of the Rule when that time comes and to take up the itinerant life under obedience to His Holiness. They are to go throughout the world exhorting the people to good works and edify every everyone with the best example after withdrawing into the woods for some months for holy contemplation.[277]

87. This was Fra Matteo’s proposal that he requested from Pope Clement, as will be told later. He held fast to this way of life until he died. However the Lord God who governs all things wanted him to be the occasion for other Friars, who appeared because of the example of Fra Matteo, to undertake the Reform. God intervened with the Capuchins as happened with the Congregation of the Zoccolanti Fathers. Backed by his relative, the lord of Foligno, Fra Paoluccio of Foligno was moved by zeal for the observance of the Rule and asked for a house in Brogliano. He received it for himself from the General of the whole Order alone so as to remain withdrawn in the perfect observance of the Rule. It was not his intention to do another Reform. As it pleased the Lord, however, many Friars in the body of the Order were moved by the example of this holy man and carried out that holy Reform.[278] Being men of authority, adorned with holiness and learning, they nevertheless brought the Reform to perfection,[279] despite severe opposition. In the same way, many venerable Fathers from the body of the Order were moved by the example of Fra Matteo and they began the Congregation of Capuchins. Since they were men of authority also, they advanced this holy Reform, as will be told more fully later. Clearly we can know clearly from this that God made that the Capuchin Reform. For it was set in motion legitimately with the authority and support of Holy Church, and because at that beginning, before those venerable Fathers came, it was guided by such weak instruments amid so many serious persecutions. Amen.

XVII: Matteo da Bascio and how he gave the pieces of cloth to the poor man and how he adopted the pointed cowl

88.The foundation year 89. Fra Matteo’s encounter with a mysterious poor man 90. The value and meaning of this encounter 91. Enlightened by God, Fra Matteo dresses in lowly cloth and heads off for Rome straightaway

88. Since it was the holy year, the kind and compassionate God began our Congregation (since then always called the Capuchin Friars) in the year of the glorious and ever blessed Nativity of the Only Son of God, in January 1525.[280]

89. In the Marches of Ancona near the mountains of Amándola and Montefortino is a castle in the domain of the city of Fermo called Montefalcone.[281] In its territory the Zoccolanti Fathers have friary called Saint James.[282] At that time Padre Fra Matteo da Bascio lived there. He was about thirty years of age. It happened one day that most of the Fathers who lived in that friary were going out to a liturgical function not very far away. When they had finished that function they were returning to eat at the friary. It was a day of fasting. As it pleased God, it happened that Fra Matteo was behind along the way, as was his custom. He was well back everyone else. It was in the depths of winter, and those regions are very cold because of their proximity to the mountain of Sibilla.[283] Since a little snow had fallen that night, the friars hurried home quickly, both because of the cold and because hunger pressed them on. As it pleased the Most High God, behold. They were not far from the friary when the servant of God, Fra Matteo, raised his eyes. He saw a poor man lying on the ground. He was almost completely naked and shivering intensely from the extreme cold. When Fra Matteo saw him in such misery a deep compassion came over him. Slowing somewhat he fixed his eye upon the man and gazed at him benevolently. Aware of this, the poor man humbly commended himself in tears to Fra Matteo. He begged for something so as to cover and defend himself against the cold. However Fra Matteo thought to himself, “Now what will I give this poor fellow?” Not knowing what to give him he struggled within himself. He replied, “What can I give you? I’ve got nothing.” The poor fellow answered, “Give me something so that I may cover myself.” Such was Matteo’s compassion that he felt he could not leave without giving him something, but on the other hand he didn’t know what. However, as it pleased God, he recalled how he had sewn some patches inside his habit a little earlier. The idea came to him about how to dress the poor man with those pieces of cloth the best way he could. He went somewhere private and he quickly took off the habit. Removing the patches he dressed that poor man of Jesus Christ with those as best he could.

90. Taking to the road again to return to the friary, he felt pleased within himself for having done some good for that poor fellow. He often turned round to look at him and was glad to have dressed him in those patches. But lo and behold! When he had gone a short distance from the poor man, Fra Matteo turned back to look at him and could no longer see him at all. This amazed him. It didn’t seem possible that in such a short space of time the man could have disappeared from sight. So he went back and searched everywhere to see if the fellow had hidden somewhere. He could not see him any more, even though it was a wide-open area. Therefore the desire to know where the poor fellow was took hold of him. For a long time he carefully went to different vantage points at cross roads to see if the fellow he had left in a hurry, as the poor usually do when they receive an alms that they really like. Unable to see him any more he began to think and say to himself, “Was this, perhaps, Our Lord Jesus Christ who appeared to me in that form?” It seems someone, I don’t know who, spoke within him and said, “Who do you think it was if not the same one who appeared as a leper to Saint Francis when he was still in the clothes of the world? Already converted to the Lord Our Father Saint Francis was still in secular dress, but had decided in his heart to never refuse anything asked of him for the love of God, though he could have. He was going on horseback to Our Lady of the Angels just a short distance from the town of Assisi. At the gate where there was leper hospital called the hospital of Parete.[284] There he came upon a horribly disfigured leper. Even though he asked alms very humbly of the holy young man Francis, who had decided not to deny alms to anyone, like the young he was really repulsed by the stench that came from the man’s sores. He spurred his horse and passed him by without giving him a thing. He didn’t even look him in the face. The Holy Spirit reprimanded a little later. Revolted with himself he remembered the firm resolution he had made never to renounce alms. He rebuked himself firmly and with intense fervour he returned. To better mortify himself he dismounted from the horse, embraced the leper and kissed his face where there was the most horrible sore. He placed the purse in the leper’s hand to give him the alms. As he did so, the fellow, who first had looked like a leper, revealed himself to be Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all, who for the sake of universal salvation on the wood of the cross wanted to appear like a leper due to all the many beatings. And so he disappeared from Francis’ embrace. Because of this Francis was inflamed with an immense fervour to abandon the world completely and to serve the lepers for the love of Christ.

Because of that remarkable vanishing of the poor man, the thought entered the heart of the great servant of God, Fra Matteo – and he never doubted it – that the fellow was Jesus Christ. So he set himself to follow him in the utmost poverty. After that he always recalled the image of that poor man as he had seen him lying on the ground. The more he gave himself to prayer, the more this scene filled in his memory. Reprimanding himself he would say, “Fra Matteo, you promised poverty, but others observe it better than you.” When he pondered how much our Lord wanted to suffer for us, he fervently asked the Lord in His mercy to show him the direction and way he should observe poverty so as to serve Him better.

91. Once while he was at prayer he felt himself roused by the love of God more than usual. He dissolved completely into tears. He could no longer continue without donning that habit. However, because he feared this may have been a trick of the devil, he didn’t dare leave. He worried whether his enthusiasm were not some kind of diabolical illusion to take him from the Order. He decided to commend himself more vigorously to the Lord before taking the step of dressing in that habit. He persevered some days more and he felt his spirit totally transformed in God. Rapt almost in ecstasy he clearly heard a voice call him though he saw no one. It said to him, “Know Fra Matteo that it is the will of God for you to observe the Rule perfectly: to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, just as you promised Him. That is what God said at Fonte Colombo to the Ministers who opposed Father Saint Francis.[285]” Fra Matteo knew clearly then that this was a revelation from God and that His Majesty wanted to restore the habit and the way of life of the Seraphic Francis.

Sure within himself and verified externally by the voice that this was not a ploy of the devil but the will of God, one night he came to a decision and found the most worthless and roughest tunic in that place. He found some threadbare material and made a pointed cowl. Since he wasn’t sure about the shape the one he made was not exactly like the one we Capuchins now wear. Later he was surer after seeing the habit of Father Saint Francis kept as a relic in the Sacro Convento in Assisi, and he made another more like the one he saw on that habit. Silently he left the friary at Montefalcone, determined to go to Rome and His Holiness to seek permission to observe the Rule with that habit and lead an apostolic life, going round to preach throughout the world. As a pilgrim and stranger in this world he wanted to remove from himself all earthly affection and to content himself only in imitating the supreme poverty of Christ and our Father Saint Francis. From experience he knew, he used to say, that the Order would not grant him the opportunity to able to observe the Rule completely.

As usual, however, our Lord always tests His servants in all their good works. These works do not please Him if they are not accompanied by the holy cross, so beloved to our Saviour, who never abandoned the cross in this world but always clung closely to it. The cross was His cherished and beloved companion and at the end of his life He wanted the cross as his bed. At His death he was not content to have anything but the holy cross as His bed. And so Our Lord also wanted to reassure His servant that this was His work: to make Fra Matteo like himself. For, as will be described below, this man of God was treated badly the very next day.

XVIII: The holy man Matteo da Bascio and how he suffered great difficulties; and how he received permission miraculously from His Holiness

92. “Servants of some Religious” discover Matteo on his journey Matteo and treat him badly 93. He arrives in Rome after many difficulties 94. His prayer in Saint Peter’s 95. Miraculously he is led into the presence of the Pope 96. He receives everything he wants from Clement VII

92. The servant of God Fra Matteo had left the aforesaid friary of Montefalcone already dressed in the Capuchin habit when the Lord God wanted to let him know that He had called him to a new undertaking in His service. That is just what happened to the Apostle Paul. No sooner had he become one of Christ’s disciples when a mass of troubles came to him. The Infallible Truth said to His disciple Ananias, “I will show him how much he will have to suffer for my name.”[286] He did the same with his servant Fra Matteo. First of all His Majesty wanted him to enter a sea of troubles. By being better purged in this he could hear better the utterances of the Lord that called him to be numbered among all His servants, who in His service have followed Him with the cross. The very next day the poor man, barefoot and with that altered habit, which was quite an innovation at the time, met the errand boys of some of Religious who knew him. Considering him to be a fugitive they began to shout oout after him, “Hurry everyone! This fellow is a sneak because he has left such and such friary.” And they also named the kind of Religious at that place.[287] At all the shouting many people gathered from everywhere and began to be quite hostile towards him.

Fra Matteo wanted nothing other than to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ. He had no desire to defend himself at all against the insults. The people believed what the errand boys of the Religious said. Consequently the people took him and bound him tightly, pledging to deliver him into the hands of justice. Those who accused him knew quite well however that he was innocent. They only did all this to please the Religious and didn’t want to hand him over to justice. While he was still tied up they tried to take him to the aforementioned friary. Fra Matteo knew that if were put into the hands of those Religious his purpose would be thwarted, the very purpose to which God had called him. So he resolutely resisted. Since they could not get Matteo to budge the message boys began to yell at Fra Matteo and a lot of people gathered again. Some defended him, others accused him. Nonetheless they left him in the hands of those boys. What happened to Our Lord when He was atrociously mocked in the palace of Caiphas[288] also happend to Matteo. They punched, hit and beat him. Then to avoid making further ruckus they let him go in his mistreated condition.

93. Though he had been treated so badly the servant of God took up the journey to head straight for Rome. In the same way many mishaps befell him on his journey. When people saw him the pointed cowl they thought he was mad. They swore at him and children ridiculed him. He could not find anyone who would give him lodging in their home. Consequently he often had to find shelter as best he could under trees, or in a cave, a barn or refuge. He found little to eat. When he finally arrived in Rome he hurried to visit the basilica of Saint Peter’s. He wanted to commend himself to God so that through the merits of the holy Apostles, His Most High Majesty might deign to make his journey successful and help him in this demanding enterprise. When he reached the steps that rise from the square in front of the church of Saint Peter’s and climbed them, the Lord God wanted to show him again that this was His work.

94. Well, as the servant of God was walking up the steps he met a well-dressed young gentleman with a remarkable in appearance. Fra Matteo did not know him and had never seen him before. This gracious young man watched Fra Matteo. As soon as he saw him from a distance he approached him slowly. Stretching out his arms as if to stop Fra Matteo the young man said, “Father, do you want to speak with His Holiness?” Astonished by this and gazing at the face of the young man, he humbly answered. “My lord, that is the reason I have come. I very much need and desire to speak with His Holiness.” The gentleman answered, “Come back tomorrow morning at the third hour to the sacred palace. I will arrange for you to speak there at your convenience.” Fra Matteo took great heart at the proposal. To him this was like a miracle from God. It was as if the young man really knew his intention and so made that proposal. Fra Matteo humbly thanked him for his offer and kindness. Without asking who he was or what was his name the unpretentious servant of God went inside the church. He knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. With heartfelt tenderness he thanked God who already had provided him with such an opportunity for him to fulfil all he wanted with His Holiness. As he thought over the encounter with the young man he said to himself, “This is a miracle of God. There was an army of people on the steps but the young man made that offer to no one else but me. How did he know I wanted to speak with His Holiness? This is your favour, My Lord. It could easily have been an angel. This gives me courage now. I feel surer that this endeavour is yours.”

He prayed all day in that sacred temple. Still he begged our Lord God to take care of his soul and not let him sin, for the servant of God was terrified about going about in that way outside the Order.[289] On the other hand he was very eager about the perfect observance of the Rule. Even so he worried about going astray and finding himself in the clutches of Lucifer. Because of this he was hesitant. However, when he saw how God had helped him and freed him miraculously from so many difficulties, his hope that it was all a work of God was validated. Since he desired nothing but to know God’s will, these miraculous signs were no small help.

95. As he had agreed with the gentleman, the next day Fra Matteo went to the steps of the sacred palace at the third hour, intending to find that man. Not knowing who to ask for, poor Fra Matteo was like a lost sheep. However, as Divine Providence would have it, when he began to look for the fellow God displayed another miracle. Fra Matteo wandered through the palace without knowing where he was going. He passed all His Holiness’ guards without anyone saying a word. He entered an antechamber and, without anyone to make an introduction, he came upon His Holiness walking there. When he saw him Fra Matteo was totally dumfounded. Very humbly he knelt at those sacred feet. Somewhat astonished, His Holiness asked, “Well now, who brought you in?” Trembling all over, the servant of God answered, “No one, Holy Father.” The Pope replied, “Aren’t there any guards? How did you manage to come here without a guide?” Fra Matteo answered, “There are guards Holy Father but no one said anything to me.” His Beatitude asked, “What do you want of Us?” Fra Matteo answered, “Your Beatitude must know that our Father Saint Francis wore the same kind of habit with the pointed cowl that I wear. We know this from the Chronicles of the Order.[290] We see from the habit kept as a relic kept in the Convento of Assisi that his is like the one I am wearing now. I am a Friar of the Zoccolanti. I know for sure that the Rule is not observed as literally as the early Fathers first observed it. As a good son of Saint Francis I want to observe the Rule to the letter and wear the correct habit of Saint Francis. Therefore I have come to Your Holiness to receive your permission to observe the Rule literally, just as I have promised the Lord.”

96. His Holiness recognized in this servant of God an innate simplicity and someone quite eager to suffer for the love of God. He asked him many things about life in the Order. Since His Holiness gave him the boldness to speak, Fra Matteo informed him about many things. He said, “Holy Father, you should know that in these times the Rule goes unobserved everywhere. I desire to observe it to the letter. Therefore I humbly beg that you allow me to wear this habit and observe the Rule to the letter. Since our Fathers would not want this habit worn among them, I beg you to allow me to go throughout the world preaching the commandments of God, more by example than words, according to my simplicity, and exhort everyone to God’s way and to good works.” His holiness answered, “Our will and intention is that the Rule be observed to the letter according to the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of Saint Francis. Therefore, we very gladly grant everything you ask of me for the observance of the Rule. However, as a sign of obedience you are to present yourself to the Minister of the Zoccolanti once a year at Chapter time in the Province where you are. To fulfil your desire more surely and so that no one impedes you, come back tomorrow morning and we will give you a Brief. Pray to God for me and for the state of the Holy Church.”

After kissing the Pope’s feet and receiving a blessing from His Holiness, he left joyful and happy since, through the many signs God gave him, he felt sure that our Lord God was calling him to this state.

From then on, just as he told anyone who would listen, he certainly believed that the gentleman had been an Angel sent him by God so that God might speak to him visibly. God then inspired his heart invisibly and made him invisible to the guards of His Holiness.

So that he could thank God more ardently he went around that day to all the main Churches of Rome and returned that night to Saint Peter’s.[291]

XIX: The holy man Fra Matteo, the revelation he had in Saint Peter’s and how he left Rome

97. He is told in prayer not to wait for the Papal Brief 98. He returns to the Marches 99. He reforms the shape of the cowl 100. Like a lost sheep.

97. The servant of God Fra Matteo recognised in himself a worthless, simple and uneducated man. He felt more profoundly obliged to God who had guided him so miraculously. The goodness of God had disposed the heart of the Pontiff to hear him kindly and grant him all he wished for the perfect observance of his profession. He returned to Saint Peter’s that evening so that his return to His Holiness for the Brief would be easier in the morning. He went the whole night in prayer so that the Lord God might be pleased to give him even greater light and guide him on the way of perfection, as He had already done until then. And he asked for patience in his troubles. As dawn drew near he felt exhausted. He thought he would rest a little. He looked around everywhere to see where he could rest most comfortably, and so the poor fellow made his way onto the pulpit. Settling there as best he could with the scant mantle he was wearing, he rested a little. Then just before sunrise the Lord God wanted to visit him again with the cross. Fra Matteo felt a tremendous fever. He felt as if his flesh would burn up with a boundless and unbelievable heat. In the midst of that pain he felt a firm hand seize his shoulder, although he saw no one. While that hand shook him vigorously he heard a human voice in the air. It said to him, “Haven’t you received all you wanted from the Supreme Pontiff?” Fra Matteo answered, “Yes indeed, by the grace of God.” The voice replied, “Well, then, let that be enough for you. Leave and seek nothing else because the Lord wants you to walk the way of the cross. The Brief would be no help to you except to avoid the cross and free yourself from men. The Order of Saint Francis depends directly on divine providence and on His Vicar on earth. It is not founded on human support. For now His Holiness’ blessing is enough and so is God’s will, about which you have been received confirmation. Straight away the voice disappeared. God wanted to assure Fra Matteo that this had been His voice – he felt completely cured of the fever straightaway.

98. Because of his having seen the many signs and miracles that God did for him, and that God had assured him that this was His will, Fra Matteo marvellously felt his mind to be unusually more enlightened: He was eager to fulfil his primary aspiration. He knew in his spirit that the Lord didn’t want him to seek further favour from His Holiness, but that he entrust himself fully to God’s providence. This was the reason that Fra Matteo never wanted a Brief about the permission His Holiness granted him. He knew clearly that God called him to that life of itinerant preaching, observing holy poverty completely by being entirely detached from all human favour. He knew God had not called him to do another Reform but to be, indirectly, the occasion for the Reform to take place and that other Fathers would come and request Briefs and Bulls from His Holiness, as happened later. For this reason the servant of God always went about as a pilgrim, because Christ had confirmed this to be His will.

So Fra Matteo said in his heart, “Since this is a work of God, as is obvious from the signs, His Majesty will bring it to perfection. No creature will be able to stop it.” With many tears he went before the Blessed Sacrament and thanked God. When morning came, without doing anything about the Supreme Pontiff, he left Rome and returned directly to the Province of the Marches. Wherever he saw people gathered he preached to them passionately and urged them to a real observance of the commandments and to abandon their sins.

99. On that journey the Lord God did a great deal of good through His servant. Fra Matteo took his time going from one castle to the next. He said Mass quite early in the morning and then he preached. Consequently the people began to know him and realised he wasn’t mad but a genuine servant of God. Devotion towards him grew profound. As he passed through many places he liked to look closely at the devout places in the Province of Saint Francis where the Seraphic Father had dwelt. In particular he visited the Sacro Convento at Assisi where the holy body rests. He managed to see the very habit our Father Saint Francis wore. He saw the colour and shape of the pointed cowl of Blessed Rufino. Even though he had already adopted the pointed cowl, he was not really sure how it was on Saint Francis’ habit. His wasn’t exactly the same. From then on he wore his exactly according to the form he had seen there.

100. At this time Fra Matteo was like an unknown hermit. So Friars never knew he was a Friar Minor. This worked out well for him because they would have jailed him quite promptly. The poor fellow went about like a stray sheep. For a long time he had been accustomed to living in the Congregation. Now he was alone. He needed great help from God to resist the temptations he suffered physically because he found nothing to live on except a few pieces of bread. When people saw how poor he was very few we willing to give him lodging. In particular, he didn’t have the facility to say Mass and do the other spiritual things. The devil battled with him a great deal over this. He would say to him, “You are an apostate. You are doing no good at all.” And yet on the other hand God did not fail him since his mind was raised to God almost continuously.

XX: After he left Rome what he did when he arrived at Montefeltro

101. A secluded life 102. Fruits of his apostolate 103. He performs some wonders 104. He embraces the mixed life.

101. Having left Rome after a revelation from God, as we have just described, the man of God, Fra Matteo, withdrew to Montefeltro. There he was better known and loved since that area was his home. He wanted to begin to realise his desire for the perfect observance of the Rule. Since God enlightened him, he clearly understood that nothing can turn out well unless God favours it. Nor can someone walk in the way of God without the special help of the Holy Spirit. He wanted to begin a perfect life. He pondered how in the beginning the holy Founders of religious Orders laid the very best foundations by despising themselves. Then with holy contemplation they first of all walked along the via purgativa and after that along the via illuminativa. He strove with all his might to put the world beneath his feet. He avoided his relatives and friends and all earthly things. He retreated to solitary places where he led an anchoritic life and gave himself completely to solitude. Since he did not have a sure abode he often withdrew to caves for shelter, or to derelict churches or to some abandoned hermitage. He fasted continuously on bread and water. Often his satisfied his hunger just with herbs alone. He spent the whole time in disciplines and the mortification of his body, laying sound foundations for himself in the cross of Christ. Just as he told those near to him many times, at that time he laid such an admirable foundation in holy contemplation that had he persevered he would have achieved the highest degree of perfection.

102. However, His Holiness had granted him that way of life so that he could go throughout the world preaching the commandments of God and lead a pilgrim life. So after some months he set out in public through the villas and castles. He preached so fervently that he created quite a commotion throughout the area. Since he wasn’t very learned the simple people to whom he preached were rather delighted. According to the Rule[292] he preached the Gospel of Christ, powerfully reproaching vices and sins. He attracted everyone to himself. Anyone who could hear his preaching thought himself blessed. He organised many fraternities,[293] and contrary to the custom of those times, he encouraged people to go to Confession and Communion often. Consequently many made restitution and many great sinners returned to the Christian life. Like someone intoxicated by the love of God he exhorted everyone to convert. His familiar way of speech was far more effective than what he said while preaching. Everyone marvelled at him because when he spoke with them on that familiar level he never asked anything for himself. Nor did he ever want to eat or sleep in anyone’s house. They said to one another, “Shouldn’t this man of God eat? However, since he speaks with God, God gives him the strength to labour without food.”

103. His excellent example meant that his hearers believed everything he said to them. The Lord God worked many miracles through him at that time, although Fra Matteo never wanted to reveal these to anyone. Even so, some of those close to him said he did these miracles. They often saw him lifted up into the air during prayer. In the beginning, Fra Francesco d’Assisi,[294] a holy man, was the companion of Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano for many months. He used to testify to anyone who wanted to listen that when Fra Matteo was with Fra Giovanni on a journey to Venice they arrived at the River Po. Since they had no way to cross it, the man of God Fra Matteo took his mantle and threw it on the water. He had made the sign of the cross over the water and stepped on onto the mantle. Like a little boat guided by the hand of God, the mantle carried him from one side of the river to the other. Turning back to Padre Giovanni da Fano, he said to him, “Come across, Father. You come too.” Astonished, Fra Giovanni answered, “I am not a saint like you.” This was a work of God: that the Father who had once imprisoned Fra Matteo and persecuted him so harshly should see this miracle of his holiness.[295]

104. His abode in Montefeltro was not well known. Therefore he withdrew to that place to flee from the friars. He stayed on that mountain from the month of January until April, about three months. It would have been a good thing for him even if had he remained there for the rest of his life, dedicating himself to perfect contemplation. It was the opinion of many holy men at the time that he would have done much better there than go preaching because of the little fruit preaching usually bears. Fra Matteo was of the opposite opinion though. He said that to rest in the sweet sleep of holy contemplation feels very good, yet on the other hand it avoided being of some benefit to ones neighbour. In the itinerant life he said he exercised both states – contemplation and preaching. Not only that, he was seen to be completely detached from earthly ties. From obvious experience and a revelation from God he knew God called by him to that state. To the praise of the Lord. Amen.

XXI: How Fra Matteo was imprisoned by the Minister of the Marches, Brother John of Fano

105. The need for tribulations 106. Fra Matteo is imprisoned 107. He is freed thanks to the intervention of the Duchess 108. Matteo’s conversation with the Duchess 109. He tells her all the events in his transformation 110. Caterina Cibo, supporter of the Reform.

105. Just as the fine quality and value of gold cannot be known unless it is tested with fire and the touchstone,[296] one cannot ascertain if deeds are pleasing to God and from an impulse of the Holy Spirit unless they are tested with the fire of the persecutions and the tribulations of this world. This is apparent with our Seraphic Father Saint Francis. Although God called him to do what he did to begin and lay a perfect foundation for this Holy Order, he was never completely sure unless he first passed through many difficulties. This is obvious in what he received from his father[297] and how much he suffered by wanting to lead such an austere and poor life. He always went about inadequately dressed, content with a small amount of bread and water as his delicacies. I will remain silent about how much he suffered from wicked spirits.[298] So then, in the same way, this servant of God could not be refined in God’s service in holy contemplation unless he first passed through many tribulations.

106. After spending some months in a very meagre life in Montefeltro, as we have said, he remembered that His Holiness had required of him to attend the Chapter of the Zoccolanti Fathers. As a sign of obedience he was to present himself to the Minister when the Chapter met. Because he was God fearing he did not want to fail to fulfil the commands of His Holiness. So when he heard the Chapter of the Marches had assembled at the beginning of the month of April in the friary at Matélica,[299] he left Montefeltro and went in person to that Chapter. There he presented himself to the very Venerable Padre Frate Giovanni da Fano, Provincial Minister of the Marches at that time.[300] That good Father thought Fra Matteo had been wrong to leave the Order and this must be the beginning of some sect that would give a great deal of trouble to the whole Order. He didn’t think that what had happened was a work of God or that Fra Matteo was like someone who longs for something for such a long time that when the opportunity comes he does it quickly and gleefully. He had wanted to get his hands on Fra Matteo for a long time. At last he thought he had caught his quarry. According to the will of His Holiness, he should have blessed Fra Matteo. Instead, in agreement with some other lax Friars, he quickly had him taken and put in prison. The lax friars insulted him in various ways, but the humble Fra Matteo desired nothing more than to suffer. Among them he was like a gentle lamb and made no excuses for himself.

After Fra Giovanni had detained him for some days, he thought the friary at Matélica was unsuitable for the task since it didn’t have the kind of jail he wanted. He called together a number of like minded friars whom he knew held the same opinion. He had them accompany Fra Matteo to Forano[301] where they had a very remote friary. There he had them put Fra Matteo in a very sturdy jail. He kept him there from the beginning of April until the end of July and ordered Fra Matteo to do penance by taking the discipline and fasting on bread and water. The servant of God was rather happy in the prison. They thought they were making him suffer but it worked out to the contrary. When the Congregation had grown a little, many times he told those close to him how that jail served him as a cell for solitude. The bread and water and the discipline disposed him to contemplation. He said that never in his life before had he felt such delight from God as in that jail. He would have wanted it for the rest of his life. His soul soared so highly in holy contemplation that he could not remember much about anything else. He ate little and slept less but always remained with his mind transformed in God. The Friars who were fond of him and wanted the reform often went to him offered to free him if they knew that is what he wanted. The servant of God always said to leave it to the Minister to do so and not to worry. “Know brothers, “he said, “that I am so united to God that neither jail, the Minister or anyone else can separate me from Him. It is enough for me to know that when it is His will, God will not fail to find a way to free me. No one need to worry because the Minister was of such a mind because of his zeal.” However all the good friars were fond of Fra Matteo and they were quite distraught at seeing him suffer.

107. The Lord God was pleased to free Fra Matteo, not for Fra Matteo’s sake but for the benefit of the Capuchin Congregation. God wanted to bring out this holy Reform from Fra Matteo’s example. So in the fraternity of the friary at Forano there was at the time a Friar who especially esteemed Fra Matteo. He knew that the Duchess of Camerino was devoted to Fra Matteo also. He thought this would be an opportune way to free Fra Matteo, even if the latter didn’t want to be freed and felt that the friar would not be doing the right thing in this. With much caution he informed the Duchess. Because he was afraid of being found out, he did not trust the mail. Instead, he pretended that he had some important things to do in Camerino. So he got permission from the Father Guardian to go there and attend to the necessary matters. When he arrived at the friary at Camerino he begged the Father Guardian to be able to speak with the Duchess. He said that relatives of his had some particular need. Therefore, when he entered the palace he insisted on speaking privately with the Duchess. Going to one side of the room he gave her a full account of her Fra Matteo: how he had obtained permission from His Holiness to live in the true observance of the Rule outside the Order; how he had adopted the habit that our Father Saint Francis wore; how he went about preaching as His Holiness had allowed him, and how at Chapter time he should present himself to the Minister as an act of obedience. He told her how in the friary at Matélica Fra Matteo presented himself to the Minister, who then had him imprisoned where he had already been four months now. He revealed to her the penances the Minister gave him, although imprecisely. He strongly commended Fra Matteo to her, saying, “Your Excellency should know this man is a servant of God, though I believe you already have an inkling of this.”

When Her Excellency heard this she flew into such a rage that she left the Friar and the conversation there and went immediately into another room and called her secretary. She wrote a angry and menacing letter to the Minister. She said that if he did not return Fra Matteo to her within a few days, she would let him see just how capable she was of informing His Holiness about the friars disregard for his commands. She immediately sent the letter to the Minister by courier. The Minister was terrified when he got it, since she threatened to indict him before His Holiness. He would have him punished like someone excommunicated and who transgresses the commands of His Holiness. Furthermore, if he did not return Fra Matteo to her she would have the friars banished from her realm.

The Minister straightaway ordered that Fra Matteo’s be released and taken to the Duchess. He wrote her a very humble letter and asked her forgiveness. He wanted to appease Her Ladyship as much as he could. Meanwhile the other Friar could no longer endure the fact that poor Fra Matteo was in prison. He returned at once to the friary. Then one night he broke into the jail and dragged out a reluctant Fra Matteo and sent him on his way. He did this in deference to the Lady Duchess and because he knew that the Minister would release him soon anyhow. When the Friars sent by the Minister arrived, they found Fra Matteo had already been freed. Even though they did not know where he was, they sent the Minister’s letter to the Duchess. The Guardian also wrote to say that Fra Matteo was no longer in prison and he did not know where he was. When she received the letters of the Minister and the Guardian the Lady Duchess wondered if, as the saying goes, they weren’t worth the paper they were written on. She was worried that they still held him in prison and wanted to hide the fact with the letters telling her they didn’t know where he was. She was beside herself even more because of this and immediately sent for the Guardian of the friary at Camerino. When he arrived she said to him, “Where is my Fra Matteo?” The Guardian answered her, “My Lady, I don’t know where he is.” Utterly disgusted, the Duchess said to him, “You know you have him in prison and don’t want this to be known. I promise you, if you do not present him to me at the end of three days I will expel you all immediately. I will not only throw you out of this friary but from my entire realm. You resent someone being better than you in doing good. You can’t stand that servant of God. Do what you must so that I have him here.”

108. The terrified Guardian sent two Friars to the Minister who had a search done for Fra Matteo and very amiably indeed they brought him to the Duchess. When Her Ladyship saw him, she greeted him affectionately. With tears in her eyes said to him, “Poor fellow, how much you have suffered. I am sorry I did not know sooner. I have come to understood that they gave you many disciplines and mistreated you.” Then the servant of God, Fra Matteo, desired nothing else but to accompany the Lord Jesus Christ with the holy cross. He tried as much as he could to convince Her Excellency that the Friars had behaved well towards him. He said to her, “My Lady, they are acting with a good intention and they are good religious. Your Excellency, do not abandon your devotion to that holy Order. I have been treated as well as I wished.” So as not to lie, he wanted to sow in her mind the idea that the prison, the disciplines, and the fasts of bread and the water fasts he suffered when he was first apprehended – not to mention many other things – were all things he wished for because he desired nothing else than to suffer for the love of God. The more Fra Matteo excused those Religious, the more her devotion towards him increased. The Duchess said to him, “Nonetheless, I have learned that they have treated you very badly.” Fra Matteo answered, “Not everything should be believed my Lady. They are servants of God. True servants of God would not do such things.” The conversation continued. On the one hand he upheld their reputation, and on the other he didn’t lie, since anyone who would be a real servant of God would not speak ill of his brother.

109. When the Duchess realised that she would get no other word from him on the matter she took him to another room. After having him sit down she wanted to be informed in detail about the modification of the habit. Fra Matteo answered all her questions, explaining everything very persuasively and in some detail. He showed her how that habit was the authentic habit of the Order and how Saint Francis and all the Order wore that habit for many years. When the Order grew lax the current manner of dress was adopted for the sake of greater physical comfort. He explained how for a long time he had begged God constantly and how God had revealed that habit to him. He also explained how he miraculously obtained permission from His Holiness. The Duchess was completely satisfied with this and understood Fra Matteo. If she had already loved him earlier, now she loved him even more. When Fra Matteo saw how she liked to understand things relating to the observance of the Rule he was completely open with her and revealed to her all his secrets: like how Saint Francis had often appeared to him. He told her how a new Reform was needed since no one in the body of the Order observed the Rule at all, even though there were holy men. He said how God had revealed to him briefly that that a Reform had to be made and that the novelty of the habit would the starting point.

110. Because of these words the Lady Duchess was inflamed with an incredible commitment towards her servant Fra Matteo. She wanted the Reform to go ahead. His words so moved her heart that no mother loved her only child as tenderly as this Most Illustrious and holy woman loved the Capuchin Congregation from then on. Humanly speaking, as an instrument of God, she was the main reason that our Congregation went ahead. She was the niece of His Holiness. And in her train she had the whole illustrious Medici family that was always devoted to Saint Francis. From that time on she wanted her palace to be a refuge and shelter for Capuchins.

After dismissing Padre Matteo she at once wrote another letter to the Minister. She said to him, “You cannot bear someone advancing ahead of you in the service of God. You well know just how holy Padre Fra Matteo is. Even though you are his judge you know that you imprisoned him for no wrong-doing on his part, but because he wants to observe what he has promised God. Therefore you persecute him because of your own passions. I want to have you understand that if I hear again that either you or one of your Friars gives him further trouble, I will burn down all the Friaries you have in my realm and send you all away. And I will inform His Holiness about the little regard you have for his commands.”

This was the letter that put a check on the whole Order and guaranteed Fra Matteo that nothing would ever be said against him from that time forward.

XXII: On the servant of God Brother Matteo da Bascio. How he visited the holy old man at Cartoceto

111. Fra Francesco da Cartoceto 112. His companion Pacifico da Fano 113. In a vision he ponders the origin of the Reform 114. He too adopts the Capuchin habit

111. When the servant of God Fra Matteo left Lady Caterina he returned to Matélica. As he was passing through Fabriano, and since he knew that holy old man very well, he wanted to visit him while on the journey. It was the feast day of the Porziuncola, that is, the second of August. However he was not aware that God was guiding the whole matter. His Majesty usually guides his servants severely one moment and gently the next. On the one hand he guides them along the way of the holy cross. Then again, so that they do not grow faint half way because of our debilitating weakness and fragility, God mixes in some spiritual delights to comfort them. Therefore, since Fra Matteo had been long suffering, the good God wanted to reassure him through a new revelation that this was His doing. So just as the Lord gave the Samaritan[302] and the Canaanite[303] women the opportunity to convert when He came to them, He did the same by means of Fra Matteo. His Majesty knew about the great desire that the holy man Fra Francesco da Cartoceto di Fano had to observe the Rule. That same night Our Lord revealed to him the arrival of Fra Matteo, as well as the beginning of the Capuchin Reform. Therefore when he arrived at the place, Fra Matteo talked very warmly with that holy old man.

112. This holy old man had as his companion a Friar from the Third Order of Saint Francis. He was called Fra Pacifico da Fano[304]. For the sake of the observance of the Rule and with the permission of the Minister, the old man had withdrawn to that little house in Matélica called Saint James[305]. There he lived in rigorous poverty. Due to his advanced years and because he had wept so much over the passion of Our Lord, he had lost his sight almost completely. Having no other companion in that friary he had received the above mention Frate Pacifico, who served him compassionately in all his needs. Because he was blind, before dawn Fra Pacifico brought him a light and they said matins. The old man said all that he knew by heart and listened to Brother Pacifico for all the rest.

113. And so Brother Pacifico went to him and found the holy old man at prayer. Turning towards him the elderly man said with many tears, “Know, my son, that last night I received a wonderful revelation from God.” “What revelation was that, Father?” replied Fra Pacifico. The holy old man answered, “In a vision I saw a barefoot Friar dressed in an austere and short habit which came to about half way down the leg. And he had a pointed cowl on his head. With the cross in his hand he was hurrying across a plain. The one who showed me said, ‘Know that this is the beginning of the true reform of the Order of Saint Francis.’” Then the old man then asked, “Which month is it? What day?” Fra Pacifico answered, “Father, today is the Pardon of Assisi, the second of August, the feast of the Porziuncola.” The holy old man replied, “The Porziuncola?! Take note, my son. This is mysterious indeed; that the reform begin on this sacred day.”

114. Having said Matins and after a clear dawn someone hastily knocked at the door. Fra Pacifico went to open the door. There he saw Fra Matteo before him. He did not know him, but he did recognise the shape of his clothing, just like the one the holy old man had seen. Amazed at this and without saying anything to Fra Matteo, he went back to the old man and called out, “Father, the Friar you saw in the vision is down at the front door!” The old man said, “Have him come to me, son.” As soon as Fra Matteo arrived he embraced the holy old man. They loved each other so much that they said nothing for a good while because of the quantity of their tears. After regaining his breath somewhat Fra Matteo told the holy old man about all he had done: about the time he had spent in prison; about how His Holiness told him that his intention was that the Rule be observed literally; and how His Holiness allowed him to wear the habit that saint Francis wore. When the holy old man heard this and understood the will of His Holiness, and because he could not see, he began to handle that cowl. Then weeping he kissed it. Turning the Fra Pacifico he said to him, “Take that little piece of cloth you see and make me a cowl like this one. Nothing else is necessary here. If the Holy Father’s will is that the Rule be observed literally, that is enough for now. Someone will obtain a Bull for it, because God will make this Congregation go ahead. Blessed are you, sons, to be part of this beginning.”

So after much discussion the holy man Fra Matteo departed from the holy old man, leaving him dressed in the Capuchin habit. He was the second Friar of the Congregation, as will be shown more amply in his life[306].

XXIII: The holy man Fra Matteo and how he sowed an amazing crop of broad beans for the poor

115. Fra Matteo dedicates himself completely to preaching 116. He helps the poor with beans 117. Fra Matteo’s reputation.

115. Fra Matteo left the old man and was very purified in the ways of God by the grave persecutions and imprisonment he had suffered. He was aglow with an incredible enthusiasm. He would never abandon the perfect observance of the Rule neither because of human persecution nor diabolical temptation. Helped by the mercy of God he would sooner die. He considered being maltreated for the love of God a special gift. At the beginning he had preferred to stay in the forest and sought refuge in the mountains and solitary places for fear of being apprehended and also to dedicate himself better to holy contemplation. Alight now with loving zeal he committed himself completely to preaching and to serving poor souls. He no longer cared about any persecution that might come his way.

116. During that year there was a great famine. He arrived in the region of Monte Cerignone where the people suffered even more because the soil in those parts is infertile. Realising that many poor people would die of hunger, he began to help them in this way.[307] He quested for the poor, asking for beans from the rich and well-off. And because they trusted him very much he obtained a great quantity. Then he borrowed many good, fertile fields. He gathered a large number of poor farmers who had oxen to work those fields and had them sow the beans there. While they worked he went looking for bread and other things for them to eat. He paid for them himself. He did this thinking it would happen, as it did, that the poor would suffer more harshly in the spring because the days are longer and because even the rich would be without grain. When the time came the beans produced more than usual. He saw that the grace of God had helped in providing for the poor with enough beans for an army of people. Since he thought they were ready to eat, he had it proclaimed throughout the entire countryside that whoever wanted beans to eat should come to the fields of Fra Matteo. The rich people who had lent the fields were extremely happy and said, “Never in our life time have we seen better or bigger beans, nor even such a quantity of beans in these fields as now see with Fra Matteo’s beans.” News about Fra Matteo’s holiness spread abroad, and about how charity pleases God.

A vast crowd of poor people heard that God had provided them beans through Fra Matteo. From the mountains and barren places round about came a throng that completely covered the ground. Fra Matteo stood among them and said, “Poor friends, eat some of the beans the Lord God has provided for you. Take back as much as you want for the others. Be careful though not to trample or crush the bean stalks.” This was truly astounding. Even though there was a multitude there all day, the stalks appeared untouched. The neighbours who lived nearby the fields thought there would not even be any earth left since so many sacks, bags and panniers had been filled with it and carried off. The providence of God was so marvellous that when the beans ripened Fra Matteo ordered the rich people to collect the beans left over from the poor. Joking with him they said, “Father, it’s impossible that there be anything left but leaves.” Fra Matteo insisted that they should go and that they would not lose anything. The farmers talked together and one of the older ones said, “How many miracles have we seen this holy man do. Why shouldn’t we now believe what God has him say? Let’s go together and do what he tells us. Each went to his fields. When they pulled up the beans and had them threshed more was collected then than in other years, in fact more than had ever been seen before.

117. Everyone considered this to be a miracle from God. They said, “It is no effort for Our Lord to multiply bread in the desert[308] and to have multiplied Fra Matteo’s beans because of his deep faith and holy merits.” God brought a lot of good from this miracle. For when many greedy people and dyed-in-the-wool sinners saw it, they decided to change their lives. They were inspired to give alms generously to the poor. His reputation spread throughout all of Italy because of the innovation of the habit and because his new preaching. Many Friars of different Orders went to look for him so as to be accepted into his company. However Fra Matteo said, “I do not have permission from His Holiness for anyone but myself. I cannot clothe someone else.[309] Many returned home unhappy. Some remained with the hope of obtaining a Bull from His Holiness.

Meanwhile Fra Matteo concentrated on preaching according to his original intention. He cared little about another reform. The Lord God, however, provided through other means, as will be said below.

XXIV: Padre Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone, priest. How he was imprisoned and how he took up the Capuchin habit

118. Ludovico da Fossombrone 119. He asks the Minister permission to live a reformed life 120. Ludovico is imprisoned 121. The anxiety of the Minister 122. Fra Ludovico is set free 123. He insists with his claims 124. Ludovico is advised about what to do 125. He writes to the General and the Procurator 126. He goes into solitude with his brother 127. Both take refuge in the home of relatives

118. The following year, in 1526, Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone came to join Fra Matteo.[310] Few had heard of Fra Matteo the previous year (1525), partly because he had been in prison and partly because he had only preached in Montefeltro. Very few of the Friars knew he had altered the habit. After the old man of Carteceto had received that habit, no one felt moved to adopt it. In the following year (1526), however, because of his preaching and because of the beans, everyone spoke about Fra Matteo. That is why so many Friars felt inspired, including Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone and his brother Fra Raffaele. His arrival happened like this.

Fra Ludovico came from a city of the most Illustrious Duke of Urbino. The town is called Fossombrone. He was born to quite a good family, though they were private citizens. They were the Tenaglia family. When he was young he went to school for a while. He learned to read and had quite a good knowledge of fundamental grammar. As he grew older he wanted to follow the military arts. He entered that profession but was touched a little later by the Holy Spirit. Recognising the vanity of the world he decided to leave it and go off to join the Congregation of Zoccolanti Fathers. Not long after, while he was still in that Order, one his brothers followed him. This brother was given the name Raphael. Because he didn’t know how to read Raffale was received as a lay friar.[311]

119. Fra Ludovico dedicated himself completly to the things of the spirit. Because he was a judicious man everyone loved him greatly. When the reform of the Zoccolanti began many zealous Friars asked him if he wanted to enter that Reform.[312] They did this because they considered him to be a judicious man, and if he strove at such an undertaking he would carry it out. He was an ideal instrument for such struggles. Urged on in this way Fra Ludovico took up that dream of Reform. He strongly encourged the Minister to let him go to that Reform. The Minister, on the other hand, knew that he was an ingenuous man. If he became leader of that Reform he would cause the greatest trouble to the Community and the body of the Order. This is why the Friars who didn’t want the Reform began to dislike him somewhat. When he became aware that the Minister was encouraging them, he decided in the secret of his heart that he would leave with his brother Raphael and follow Fra Matteo.

However since he was a prudent man he wanted to proceed canonically, after checking the matter first in church law. As the Rule stipulates he first had to have recourse to his Superiors.[313] When friars find they cannot observe the Rule spiritually they can and should have recourse to their Ministers whom the Rule names: the Guardian, the local Minister, the Minister Provincial and the Minister General. Well informed by learned persons Fra Ludovico approached the matter in that way. As he was in the Friary at Fossombrone he began to say to the Guardian of that house that the Rule was not being observed. He specified all the things he did himself against the Rule. The Guardian though partly encouraged him and partly laughed it off. Then when the Minister Fra Giovanni da Fano came on visitation to that friary he asked with greater insistence than usual for the opportunity to observe the Rule. The Minister spoke well to him as is customary, thinking this would put him at ease. Fra Ludovico was aware of this and decided to ask him publicly in the refectory. So when all the Friars had gathered to eat in the refectory, the minister went to sit down after the blessing. Fra Ludovico knelt down and asked him permission to be able to say a few words. Granted this by the Minister he said, “Reverend Father Minister, I have often written to you. And no sooner had you arrived here on visitation when I said to you that I have made up my mind. In the presence of all these Reverend Fathers now for the last time I say to you publicly that I am determined to observe my Rule. Since it is not observed among us, I have often asked you and I ask you again to grant me the possibility to observe it. Either send me among our Reformati or grant me a poor little friary wherever you like with good Friars who have the same intention as I. If you do no wish to grant me either of these two things, grant me permission to go and find Fra Matteo.

A great worry came upon the mind of the Minister when he heard these words. As a prudent man nonetheless he sought to placate him. He said to him, “Go to eat, Padre Ludovico, and after supper I will seek the advice of these Fathers. You will be consoled.” Fra Ludovico remained in that hope. When supper was finished the Minister met with the Fathers. He began to discuss the matter and said, “Reverend Fathers, you have heard the words of this stubborn man and you have heard what he is asking. If we grant him this we will be more than ruined for there won’t ever be a day when another Friar won’t ask such a permission in the same way. They will claim, since permission has been given to Fra Ludovico, that they want it too. If we don’t grant it, they will leave and we will see a sect before our very eyes. Similarly, if he does not receive permission he will do it on his own. He has already said this openly. If he leaves many others will follow him. With his stubbornness he is a very capable instrument to do this and worse. He will become the leader of some sect and call it a reform. This is how I find myself then. I don’t know which way to turn. Perhaps each of you could give me his opinion.”

120. At these words one of the oldest friars rose to his feet and said to him, “Reverend Father, you know well how it is necessary to give a proper remedy and cut off evil at the root right from the start. Your Reverence has said this man has a head harder than the toughest bronze. As far as I’m concerned I can’t see any better remedy and no more salubrious way to defend ourselves from all these scandals than to put him in the strongest prison. There he may be reduced with long and harsh fasts for months and years until he forgets about reforms. It will be necessary to keep him there until he weakens and these crazy ideas no longer enter his head. If such a remedy is not given to him, Your Reverence and the entire Order will see what evil will come from it to our detriment and shame. There you have my opinion.”

As the Minister turned to the others they all said the same thing. They approved what the old man had said. Having arrived at that conclusion, strong Friars were sent to the refectory where Fra Ludovico was to take and bind him. This was done very quickly and in a flash the poor Fra Ludovico found himself in jail. The Minister ordered that Fra Ludovico be given bread and water to eat only once a day.

121. The Minister stayed in that house for some days. He began to reconsider the matter about Fra Ludovico. He was thinking about would happen that if Fra Ludovico’s relations heard of his imprisonment. Woe to the Friars! especially since he had an uncle who was a soldier and a captain. The whole country side was afraid of him. On the other hand if he released him Fra Ludovico would certainly do something strange. Because of this he called the Friars together and said to them, “My mind is very afflicted. I can’t eat, drink or sleep at all while keeping this poor Father in prison. I do not know what to do. On the one hand his hard headedness frightens me. On the other hand the fear I have towards his family and friends makes me anxious. We can be sure they will learn about his imprisonment. Since his family is tough by nature I am afraid they will stir up the whole city against us. With arms they will come and take him by force and destroy this friary. You know how important it is to negotiate with an angry crowd. If we release him, his mind is such that it will not be calmed. He will go to the Pope. With the support of the Duchess of Camerino he will obtain some Bull and Fra Matteo’s Reform will go forward. He will accuse us before His Holiness and the Lady Duchess will consider it a grave injustice that we imprisoned him because he wanted to observe the Rule. This we cannot deny. You see where we will be then. Therefore great care is needed so as to pacify this man. And so we should be be completely pleasant towards him and see to it that we tame him with kind words and remove these whims from his mind. A haughty soul should be remedied with its opposite, which is humility. Humility can easily subdue haughtiness.[314]

122. Those words settled all the Friars who were angry against Fra Ludovico . When the time for the evening meal came, after the Minister sat down he began to speak. “Beloved Fathers and Brothers, it saddens me very much to keep this good Padre Fra Ludovico in prison. Really he has done nothing to merit prison. He has always been a man of good example. As for myself I only want only good for him. I know he is a judicious man. But as you know that crazy Fra Matteo is going around with that pointed cowl. I am afraid that if Padre Ludovico goes after him that one day this will cause us many difficulites. I am saddened by this. On rethinking his situation with these Fathers I have decided that from now on it would be better if I deal kindly with him and release him from prison.”

There in the refectory he called two of the Fathers whom he saw to be more suitable for such an undertaking and said to them, “Go to Padre Ludovico and take him my soup and my main dish. Tell him that I carry him in my heart. Persuade him lovingly that if he relents there is nothing he may ask me that I will not be ready to grant, except to go to Fra Matteo.” When the Fathers went Padre Ludovico did not want to accept the Minister’s bowl of soup. He said to them instead, “He has ordered me to eat bread and water. I want to eat bread and water.” When this was reported back to the Minister he commanded that he eat it under obedience. So he ate it.

The two friars sent to him earlier stayed with him as he ate. When he had eaten they began again to try to persuade Fra Ludovico to place himself into the hands of his Superior who would look after him, and to forget about Fra Matteo and his whims. Everyone knew that Fra Matteo was mad and excommunicated since he had left the Order. Fra Ludovico said nothing in response to these words but carefully thought about his situation. Those Friars understood and took this to mean that they had converted him. However Fra Ludovico spoke carefully to get out of prison and then to do what he did do. His face showed great joy almost as if he wanted to do everything they were persuading him to do. Because of this those Friars thought they would win the good favour of the Minister. Full of joy they went back to find him. “Come Father Minister, Padre Ludovico will do everything you want.” Delighted, Minister had him released from prison since he wanted to leave and go to visit the other friaries. Thinking prudently about how important the matter was he did not want to depart unless he left Fra Ludovico at peace. For Fra Ludovico was a man who could give him as much worry as he could bear. When Fra Ludovico was brought to him the Minister, with all the other Fathers, showed him great kindness. He had the bell sound for the refectory so as to give the absolution to the Friars. This was usually done during the visitation. Once this was done he gave a beautiful exhortation, leaving the Friars some final reminders. He based his exhortation on encouraging the zealous Friars to remain calm and to be of one heart with the community. He added that many holy men had led the common life and were saints nonetheless. He said, “You know God wants peace and harmony from us and to let go of some disturbing things that unsettle the mind. He accused Fra Matteo very much.

123. When the sermon had finished, Fra Ludovico recommended himself to all the Friars. Kneeling again Fra Ludovico asked to say a couple of words. The Minister thought that Fra Ludovico wanted to thank him for his release from prison. What came out was totally the opposite. With great fervour he said to him again, “Father Minister, I ask your permission to go and find Fra Matteo. If you give it to me I will go. If you don’t give it to me I will go all the same, for He who is greater than you gives me permission. God wants me to observe the Rule. Since I cannot observe it here, He wants me to leave and go to observe it where it is observed. I have already had recourse to you, who are the Minister, so as to receive this opportunity. I will not leave while I have not yet had recourse to the other Superiors, as the Rule obliges me.[315] If I receiving the possibility to observe the Rule either from you or them I will seek it of one from whom I can have it, because I am determined to observe my profession.”

Again the Minister was very disturbed when he heard these words. He would have imprisoned him again but was worried about who would intervened for him. At the slightest sign from Fra Ludovico his uncle would release him by force and send all the Friars packing. Even so the same friars stood up who earlier had embraced Fra Ludovico. Embracing him again they said, “Fra Ludovico, we thought we had pacified you. Now you are more obstinate than ever.” Fra Ludovico began to laugh and, clever man, began to be banter with them cordially. So the matter was taken as a joke and all the Friars turned to the Minister and said to him as with one voice, “Go in peace, Father. Rest assured that Padre Fra Ludovico will settle down completely. Do not worry if speaks in this way because he will not do it. He has already said that he will not leave without having recourse to the other Superiors of the Order.” Fra Ludovico replied to this, “Certainly I will not leave without the permission of the Father General and of my other Superiors because my departure will be for no other reason than zeal to observe the Rule. And if I bind myself to do what I may not do, by sneaking off without (heeding) the order which our Lord God has given me in the Rule – that is, that I should have recourse to my Superiors in my needs – it would not be zeal on my part but plain madness. How can I want to go to the Reform to observe the Rule and only to become entangled in excommunications for acting against the canons and ordinances which the Rule and the Supreme Pontiffs have given.” When they heard these words the Friars turned once again to the Father Minister and said to him, “Didn’t we just say to you, Father Minister, that Fra Ludovico would never leave the Order without first having obtained permission. Before he can obtain such permission from Father General much more needs to be done.”

Trusting in these words Padre Giovanni left Fossombrone happy to continue the visitation.

124. Padre Fra Ludovico began to think over his situation carefully. Since he was a judicious man he knew that to start a Reform was not child’s play, especially if it had such powerful opponents like the Congregation of Zoccolanti at the time. So he decided to seek the advice of learned, expert and enlightened men. Above all he decided to continue to commend himself to the Lord God with great humility and in continuous prayer. He prayed that His Majesty would extend to him his help in this undertaking begun in such a way, and give him light for in such a strenuous journey so that he would not let him stumble from the path. He intensified his fasts and was very careful not to speak with anyone. Rather he remained in total silence whether in the Church, in his cell or in the woods. In the presence of the Lord God he tearfully mourned the time he had spent badly and about the good he could have done in that way of life where he was, in his obligation towards such a lofty Rule and profession. Later he used to say later to anyone who wanted to hear about it, starting out so strictly with holy prayer always felt like a hammer to him – a hammer that shaped his heart. In his mind a voice said to him, “Hurry, Fra Ludovico, because this matter is more important than you think.” As he persevered the desire to realise his good intention grew within him.

To proceed more prudently he informed certain secular and religious friends who, for the sake of charity, came to the friary where he was. When they came, with great confidentiality and under the seal of secrecy, he communicated to them his firm desire. They told him that if he knew he could not observe the Rule in the Order where he was, without a doubt it would be permissible for him to move onto to greater perfection, but with the permission of the Superiors, or at least to ask. They advised him not to make a din if he wanted to reform, and not detach from his Order. Rather, he should stay in the same Order, and with the permission of Superiors, to withdraw with some of his companions. He would easily obtain this from His Holiness. Because of this advice the idea was sown in Fra Ludovico to go to His Holiness. With the Capuchin habit he could ask permission of His Holiness to withdraw with some of his companions. They would not remove themselves from obedience, but withdraw to whatever remote little friary that the Minister would be pleased to grant them. The only condition was that neither he nor his companions should be removed from that little friary. He had no plan, otherwise, of doing any reform except for himself. He thought that the Superiors would allow this easily. He continued in this line of thought and felt sure that the matter would easily succeed. He was very happy. He also had his brother, Fra Raffaello. In public he displayed a dislike for Fra Ludovico and blamed him for having entered into these goings on. He tested him so that the Friars would trust him and so that he could deal with his relatives regarding all his needs and so be able to send them letters. However the two were secretly in agreement. He desired to reform more than Padre Fra Ludovico did.

125. To proceed canonically Padre Fra Ludovico wrote a good letter to the Father General who was in Rome.[316] He asked that he might grant him the opportunity to observe the Rule. In the community and where he was, this was almost impossible since the whole Province was alienated from the observance of the Rule. “I am decided. I first asked this of our Minister. Where he should have granted me what Father Saint Francis commands him in the Rule, had me put in prison instead. Nor have I been able receive even one encouraging word. I said to him, though, that if your Very Reverend Paternity does not allow me to reform myself and live in the holy Order in the observance of the Rule, I will have recourse to the highest court. Now is the time to act.”

The Father General answered him, “Beloved son, I am quite pleased with your zeal pleases and an order has been given already about this. We have obtained a Bull[317] from His Holiness about Reform. We ordered the Ministers to send us all the friars they knew to be suitable. I do not know you much at all. Work with your Minister. On my part I am very happy about it.” When Padre Fra Ludovico received this reply, so as to be completely blameless, he wrote to Monsignor Cardinal Della Valle,[318] a very kind man who was the most Illustrious Protector at the time. The bishop answered him, “I would give you every support, but since the Fathers have ordered me not bother myself with the matters of the Order except in three cases, I cannot become involved in this. You are well aware that a Bull about it has been obtained. I do not believe your Superiors will let you down you if you the good intention to reform yourself. Work it out with them.”

126. Padre Fra Ludovico kept this letter to himself. While he commended himself more intensely to the Lord God he secretly sent his brother, Fra Raffaello, to speak with his relatives so that they would make them two strict habits of the poorest cloth and with the pointed cowl. When they were sewn and completed he had them sent to the house of certain relatives outside the city. They consulted together and considered very carefully the step they had taken to change the habit and so embark upon such a great controversy. For some days they commended themselves to the Lord God more vigorously so that He would not allow them to be deceived by the infernal enemy. And so one night, armed with the sign of the holy cross and while commending themselves vigorously to the Lord, they secretly left the friary to go to where the habits were. There they undressed secretly and put on the Capuchin habit and withdrew to certain hidden places. Padre Ludovico recounted that there the enemy put a timid spirit in them. For many days they would not even appear at all before seculars. During the day they remained hidden and got the food they needed from their relatives by night. To them it seemed they were stray sheep.

127. The Friars didn’t sleep but wrote to the Father Minister that Fra Ludovico had left with his brother and they did not know where they were. The Minister answered them, “Great thanks to you. I understood his stubborness well, but you had me release him. Now use all your diligence to find out where he is, especially if he is on his way to Rome. Given enough time he will obtain either Briefs or Bulls from Rome. This will cause us many problems.” Roused by these words those Fathers looked around carefully to learn where he was. They had spies everywhere.

It couldn’t stay a secret very long. Some shepherds had seen them. This was reported to Padre Fra Ludovico and he became so afraid that during the day and night they stayed in the mountains and in strong positions. Their idea was to defend themselves as much as they could if others were sent to get them. They were sure that if they were captured they would be put in a place where they wouldn’t see sinshine any more. As he said, the poor fellows went to mountain tops so as to sleep tranquilly at night. For fear of being eaten by wolves they withdrew to certain hidden places and lit three fires. Wearing nothing but that habit and a little mantle they slept in great fear between the three fires. Most of the time they lived on herbs and fruit and drank water. They didn’t have the courage to go to Rome for fear of being apprehended.

As a service and support for the holy Congregation, it pleased the Lord God that their timidity went away. They knew God had given it to them so that they would not trust in themselves but hope entirely in his mercy. Since it was his work he would make it progress. This was like the Apostle Paul. First, God struck him down. Then once comforted like a lion he began to preach Jesus Christ publicly.[319] Therefore once these servants of God had put aside all fear they came down from the mountains and went openly to the house of their relatives. Because they had an uncle who terrified the entire city and because of his love the Friars didn’t have the courage to say anything to them. Peacefully, however, they set out on their way. Amen.

XXV: How Padre Ludovico went off to find Fra Matteo in the mountains of Fabriano

128. The visit of Ludovico and his brother to Fra Matteo 129. Ludovico’s intentions and proposals 130. He obtains a Papal Brief 131. He presents it to Giovanni da Fano, the Minister

128. Because of their great fear towards the Synagogue after the death of the Saviour of the world, the Apostles remained behind locked doors, bewildered and frightened. Some were in the Cenacle while others hid in mountains or in caves. They tearfully pondered the death of their beloved Master. They mourned badly spent time while they followed the Son of God for those past three years. They thought they had been mistaken because they were void of any hope that Christ would rise again. Rather, they were frozen in the depths of faithlessness. Full of fear they worried that they too would be killed by the Master’s enemies. However, when that sweet Comforter, the Holy Spirit, was sent them from heaven, they came out of the Cenacle, caves and every hiding place as if drunk on the love of Christ and without any further concern about death or life. They preached Jesus Christ as the true Son of God and the Redeemer of all those who wish to believe and profess it[320].

Consoled by the Lord God Padre Fra Ludovico, together with his brother and dressed in the habit of the Seraphic Father Saint Francis, fearlessly and ardently set out on their journey. Instead they were ready to die and to suffer every torment for the honour of Christ. With veering right or left, the set off on the road to Fabriano in search of the great servant of God, Fra Matteo who was preaching in the villages and castles around Fabriano. When that servant of God first saw them from a distance he was amazed. He had believed that no one else in the world wore the habit of Saint Francis except himself. As they drew near and he recognised them. Weeping, he dropped to his knees and embraced his beloved brothers. Padre Fra Ludovico told him about his firm desire and what he had suffered and how he had been imprisoned by Padre Fra Giovanni. With tremendous joy they all thanked God who had shown them that this was all His doing since it began with the holy cross. As a confirmation that this was the work of God Padre Fra Matteo then told them about the vision the holy old man, Fra Francesco da Cartoceto, had in the friary at Matelica. He told them how he had taken up the habit, trusting in the words His Beatitude. The Pope told him that it is his will that the Friars observe the Rule literally. And he allowed Fra Matteo the habit that had been buried in silence for so many years. He said that the Lord our God had given the habit to us because we must reveal it to the world. He revealed the number of ways that the Lord God had visited him so that he could receive permission for that habit from His Holiness. He spoke of how many signs the Lord had given him to show that His will is that the Order be reformed with that habit.

129. Padre Fra Ludovico answered, “Beloved Brother, I have also placed my trust in those words of the Pontiff and with that hope I have adopted this habit. However you know one can’t rest when dealing with such a powerful Order. We will need help. You are naive if you trust in just the one word that His Holiness said to you and granted you this habit. If someone were to want to do you harm, you would not be able to show anything for the permission you received. You did well to have recourse to His Holiness, but I have done better according to canon law. It wishes us to have recourse to the Superiors first. Then when they do not provide for you, you have recourse to the supreme judge. With great joy he showed Fra Matteo the letters. “See what I have done! Now there is nothing for me to do but have recourse to the Pope.”

Padre Fra Matteo answered. “I also thought to get the Brief His Holiness offered me. However, that night I was admonished by God not to seek any Brief. Such would be of no benefit except to flee from the cross. Therefore I left Rome without seeking anything else.”

Padre Fra Ludovico answered, “No doubt this enough for the sake of ones’ consscience. However if we want to reform ourselves something else is needed. If we want to wear this habit and live peacefully with Fra Giovanni da Fano and the Order we need to obtain either a Brief or a Bull that commands him to grant us the possibility to live in this way. You will be more certain too if God grants you this grace. I have sought advice from those who understand these things. They all tell me not to leave the Order. Our Reform began in a way that it remained under the General of the Conventuals for some time. The same for us. I do not want us to start to do a reform or to reform the Order. I only want to reform ourselves. In all this you know that I am of the same opinion – that we withdraw to a little friary and that the Minister may not be able to shift us. Whoever wants a Reform will do it for himself.”

130. Padre Fra Matteo liked this deliberation of Padre Fra Ludovico. Since he sheltered at night in that little place near Albacina where they later had their first Chapter, the three of them withdrew to that little house. Fra Matteo quested a little bread for them. They spent the whole night in prayer, commending themselves to the Lord God. In the morning Padre Ludovico celebrated Mass in the tiny church. The other two received Communion. After he had a little breakfast, in great faith he set out immediately for Rome. When he arrived there, and since he knew no one there, he spent a few days visiting the Churches of Rome and commending himself nonetheless to the Lord God.

He spoke with someone whom he thought to be a mature person of some authority. He revealed his heart to him and that he was to seek a Brief to be able to wear the habit Father Saint Francis wore. It pleased the Lord God to give him a very kind priest who, after listening to him with the greatest attention, set him on the right path. According to the indications he gave Padre Ludovico it was thought this priest would have been Monsignor Francis Manutij, the almoner of His Holiness Clement VII.[321] He said to him, “My son, if you want good support, go to the Theatine” who was the Archbishop of Naples and who held the office of Secretary of Briefs.[322] Since he had founded the Congregation of Theatines and carried out the reform of the clergy, he was very fond of these reforms. When Padre Fra Ludovico went to him and revealed to him his desire the holy Prelate was so pleased he immediately took up their protection and straightaway sought a Brief from His Holiness. After authenticating it, he gave it to Padre Ludovico and promised to give him every possible support for the Reform to go ahead. When he saw the kindness and warm welcome of that holy Prelate Padre Fra Ludovico was very reassured by him, who for the love of Jesus Christ wanted to pay for a habit of albagio.[323] That is the most worthless, roughest and poorest cloth there is. With great joy he bought him cloth for a habit. Later when he heard that the Capuchin Congregation was making progress he was very happy about it since it seemed to him that such a holy and exemplary Congregation was cause for the honour God manifest in His holy Church. At times when he used to talk about it or discuss it with Cardinals or other Prelates, he spoke about it with such affection, and he was overjoyed when others spoke well of it.

Padre Fra Ludovico received the Brief.[324] Its contents said that Padre Fra Giovanni, the Minister of the Province of the Marches, should grant to Fra Ludovico and his companions a devout little friary where, with the capuchin habit, they might quietly observe their Rule according to the intention of Father Saint Francis. It commanded him under pain of excommunication to lend every help and not remove them from that friary unless they desire to be moved. As for everything else they will be obedient to their Superiors who can visit and encourage them with great charity according to what is in the Rule.

131. With great joy Padre Fra Ludovico went back to Saint Peter’s and remained there giving thanks to the Lord God for a long time. The following morning he took the road back to the Marches.

He withdrew to a hidden place where he wrote letters to all his companions who were of the same mind. He let them know that he had obtained the Brief through the great favour of God and of the Theatine Monsignor. Now nothing else remained to be done except present the Brief to Padre Fra Giovanni. Together with Fra Matteo he spent the whole night in thanking God with many tears. God had prospered their undertaking. Then they took to the road to find the Father Minister. They sought advice from some Friar friends who told them, “Do not go there yourselves but send someone else instead. Otherwise he will play some trick on you and consider the Brief to be of little value.” Trusting in the Lord, Fra Ludovico continued his journey. When he arrived he knelt with great reverence and presented the Brief to the Father Minister. Immediately Padre Giovanni went to his own cell and carefully considered everything step by step. He did not want to give it back to him. And if he had not been afraid of excommunication, he would have thrown Fra Ludovico into prison.

XXVI: How Padre Giovanni usurped the Brief

132. The conduct of Giovanni da Fano 133. He petitions Rome to annul the Brief obtained by Padre Ludovico 134. The Brief is revoked 135. Padre Ludovico takes refuge with the Camaldolese in the Fratta di Perugia (Umbertide) 136. His uncle defends him 134. In the mountains around Cingoli he reassures his hesitating brother 138. Padre Ludovico’s change spreads throughout the Marches 139. The country folk everywhere welcome him kindly 140. Giovanni da Fano criticises the behaviour of Ludovico and Matteo

132. As we often see in the Scriptures, hatred is always the cause of evil. In particular, because of his hatred, Saul persecuted the great Prophet and servant of God king David for quite a long time. Often he tried to have David killed.[325] God allowed Saul’s hatred so as to draw great good from it. Refined by so many tribulations King David merited to be exalted by God as King over the chosen people of God, praised for his holiness and prophecy. He is also exalted as a prophetic writer who so clearly showed the coming and death of the Son of God.

In the very same way the Lord God allowed this great Father fall upon the poor Congregation so grievously. And so from this came the beginning of the Reform. Refined by many difficulties Fra Ludovico gave the most beautiful and best kind of start to this Congregation. Enlightened later Fra Giovanni let everyone know that he opposed Fra Ludovico like an unfettered lion not because of stubborn malice but because he thought that he was doing the right thing.

133. With the Brief in his hands he withdrew to a friary of his Order so as to do things properly and with advice as does a judicious man. There he gathered the Fathers of the Province to consult with the about the Brief Padre Ludovico got. He said to them, “Fathers, you know how much I have I tried to remove the hard-headed Fra Ludovico from the arrogance of reforms. I put him in prison, not to keep him there but only to humble him. Then acting on the opinion of some Fathers I freed him. I thought he might have settled down. Now I am more concerned than ever about his case because he has allied himself with that crazy fellow Fra Matteo. Before there was no one else but him. Now their sect has grown to number four Friars, including the madman Fra Francesco da Cartoceto. With that scarecrow on their heads, hypocritally they all happily go around like reformers of the Order. They have obtained this Brief from His Holiness.” He picked up the Bried and read it to them and said, “Now you can see how many worries I have in order to combat this mentality. If we do not protect ourselves this will cause us much suffering. I want your counsel and advice about what we can do to defend our Order.”

Dumbfounded by these words those Fathers concluded that recourse must be had with Rome to try to annul the Brief, citing the rela difficulties that have come from it. So Padre Fra Giovanni wrote to the Court Procurator[326] and gave him an account of everything. He informed him that things would get worse if all diligence and care was not used to have the Brief quickly revoked and so as not to give time to the enemy in his determination to plot against the Order. Other wise he his about turn everything upside down. “Act as soon as you can to have Brief issued by His Holiness so that I can pursue him with the secular arm as an apostate and destroyer of his Order.”

134. The Father Procurator understood. Since he was a learned and very prudent man he was diligent so as to have the Brief revoked. He made the allegation that Padre Fra Ludovico and his companions acted under a semblance of wanting to reform themselves in a spirit of freedom outside of obedience and the Order. They wander around like lost sheep, here one minute there the next, without any regard for religiosity. Like an excommunicated apostate he has deceived His Holiness by saying he wants to reform himself.

When he met with His Holiness he portrayed Padre Ludovico as such a bad light that His Holiness thought it must have been completely true. He granted a Brief[327] so that he could lead those Fathers back to the obedience of the Order. If they remain obstinate the secular arm can be used since it is true that they are apostates and have made false claims in the Brief. However if it is true that that they have obtained the Brief because of an authentic zeal, it us understood that their Brief is not revoked by this one and nor are they excommunicated. It was obvious and clear with many other words that His Holiness did not revoke the Brief if it were true that they did truly wanted to reform themselves.

135. However if Padre Fra Giovanni was given an inch he took a mile. Without regard for the intention of the Brief, he went after the poor fellows as if they had been perfidious enemies of God. It spread about commonly that they were excommunicated. This was no small difficulty.[328] On one hand they had received the Brief, but they were unable to show it and justify themselves with seculars, and show that they weren’t excommunicated. So poor Fra Ludovico was compelled to give way to anger and flee into the mountains and hidden places where Padre Giovanni’s forces could not reach them. Hence he had to withdraw to the Fratta di Perugia[329] where they stayed four months in a cave. Almost no one knew they were there except the Most Reverend Camaldolese Fathers. They were well aware of Padre Ludovico’s good intentions and his innocence. They gave him a lot of help and counsel and were the last refuge for Padre Ludovico. When they needed a little bread, or wanted to go to confession, or to recreate a little, they went to those Fathers.[330] The poor fellows stayed in the cave where they had nothing but a pitcher used to collect a little water by night. They slept on the ground and had nothing else but their mantles. They ate nothing else but bread and wild greens and drank water.

So as not to bother those Fathers the poor fellows then decided to leave there and quest for a piece of bread. However when the women and children saw them[331] they ran away. Many said, “You never see hermits like these any more. They look as though they have just escaped from hell. I wonder if they live in some hidden part of these woods and practice alchemy. They really are horrible. Nowadays you can’t trust vagabonds. They can’t come to my house. They won’t get any bread from us.” Others said, “Perhaps they really are servants of God because they go barefoot and have thin and worn out faces. They are dress poorly. If they had money they wouldn’t go around like this. They have made that pointed cowl to protect themselves from the rain. Therefore I believe they are great servants of God.” These gave them alms. The servants of God went back to the cave. They spent the day commending themselves affectionately to God so that He might enlighten them. Padre Ludovico said, “You know my heart, my Lord, and that I am not movtivated by vainglory or hypocrisy, but only to do something acceptable to your Majesty. I am very glad to suffer what we suffer now for your love. May your Majesty always give us the strength so that we may be able suffer. Make the way easy for us so that we may reform ourselves and observe all we have promised.”

And that is how things went along slowly. This was because the Pope wasn’t in Rome but was in Orvieto and then spent some months in Viterbo.[332]

136. Fra Giovanni did not fail to use spies so as to know where Fra Ludovico was. He ordered that Fra Ludovico be thrown in jail immediately if he should appear in Rome. Therefore Padre Ludovico remained in hiding and waited for the mercy of God to offer him a safe way to Rome, because he was a man who knew how to speak for himself and did not lack friends who helped him.

After these four months in secrecy he returned to his relatives in Fossombrone. He told his uncle about the persecutions Padre Giovanni brought him. He also gave an account of his intention. His uncle flew into quite a rage and immediately wrote to the Father Minister. He said if he didn’t leave his Fra Ludovico alone he would give Padre Giovanni a day he’d never forget. He was just the man to do it too because he was a proud soldier and had often fought in the ring too. Consequently Padre Giovanni was very frightened of him and somewhat checked his own brazen approach. Instead he looked for more secret ways in which he could get his hands on him.

137. Padre Ludovico withdrew to the mountains of Cingoli. He stayed hidden there, helped and supported by some farmers who were his friends. Padre Giovanni desired nothing more than to know where Fra Ludovico sheltered at night. Since it was spring Fra Ludovico could not be ambushed because he slept in a different place each night. During this time they suffered grave temptations and often regretted being caught in this tangle. What afflicted him more was that his brother often rebuked him. “You have brought me to these mountain pastures only for me to die in jail. May God forgive you.” Padre Ludovico always made efforts to calm him and said to him, “My brother, do not abandon me. Have patience. God will bring great good from this suffering of ours. With the help of God I want to do a Reform that will be of great benefit to the world and to the Order. You know well that many holy servants of God wanted to be able to reform. Can’t you see that not even a shred of the Rule is observed anywhere and that we are in a bad position when outside the observance of the Rule? Don’t you know how much our first Fathers suffered to bring our Reform to perfection? And now, don’t they benefit from it in paradise? His Divine Majesty allows all those who want to serve him perfectly to be persecuted and purified like gold in the furnace. One cannot come to the true rest of real contemplation – which is the goal of God’s servants – without being purified. Our bread and water, our sleeping on the ground – all our great suffering purges us from every earthly affection and makes us hateful to this world. After winter comes the spring. Rest comes after tribulation. Can’t you see God’s miracle? After it was lost for so many years, we have merited by His special mercy to wear the habit of our Father Saint Francis, the true habit of the Order. This is a sign that through the merits of our Seraphic Father, His Majesty wants to reform his Order. It is a special privilege for us to be the founders of such a holy Reform. Can’t you see that Padre Matteo adopted this habit because of a revelation from God? Today we are fugitives, but in short while all those dressed in this holy habit will be given great honour not only by the people, but also by the nobility. Even the Prelates of Holy Church will cherish us. Rest assured my brother that this will be a Reform that is more important than many others. For it takes again the true foundation in everything. It is completely conformed to our Father Saint Francis and the beginning with those first Fathers.”

Padre Fra Ludovico said this because, as we mention elsewhere, his whole purpose in doing the Reform was to be conformed totally to what Saint Bonaventure and the Three Companions say about the way of life at the beginning. “How much Saint Francis suffered in founding the Order! What could we say about Father Paoluccio of Foligno! How much that servant of God struggled to begin the Reform of the Observance! How much Saint Bernardine,[333] Capistran[334] and blessed Brother James of the Marches[335] struggled. How many calumnies and persecutions they suffered and now in heaven they are enjoying the benefits of their efforts just as founders are rewarded by God. The Order has never been in greater need of Reform than it is today. How many learned and Venerable Fathers you know who desired the Reform so much. When they strove for it they made progress because they were learned and very important men. However suffering frightened them and because of this all that remains of their efforts are lax friars. The Lord God wanted us, who are uneducated and unimportant, to begin this Reform in order of confound the pride of the world. Therefore be glad that our efforts will be greatly rewarded by God.”

Often Padre Ludovico’s words were so persuasive that his brother would calm down completely. Fra Raffaello became even more fervent than Fra Ludovico and conducted himself very well. After they obtained the Bull he always said to Padre Ludovico, Fra Matteo and to his brother[336] that he always carried an authenticated translation of the Bull with him. Fra Raffaello didn’t live very long after the Congregation was established. He was in the old friary at Tivoli when full of merits and with great holiness he passed away to a better life.[337]

138. Padre Ludovico began to increase his time away isolated in the mountains because this was the year 1526. There was a great famine with hardly been any rain during April and May. This caused a lot of suffering. He wrote to ask his relatives to give him news about things in Rome because he wanted very much to try and get a Bull for the Reform. However he received the reply that the Pope was preoccupied with the Florentines and Charles V. He gave few audiences. Therefore they advised him not to go.

It pleased the Lord God that knowledge of Father Matteo’s preaching and change of clothing began to spread. Throughout the entire Province of the Marches the news spread that he had taken up the capuchin habit. Learning from the Friars knew that he was in the mountains of Cingoli, friends and others who desired Reform sent him many letters. These informed him about everything the Minister was doing against him. Detailed knowledge of the Minister’s whereabouts was very helpful for him. He gave the Minister a wide berth just to be safe. When he heard that Padre Giovanni had to return to his home near Cingoli, Fra Ludovico fled from there to Montefortino. There he stayed with the Camaldolese Monks who were very fond of him[338].

Because of the novelty of the capuchin habit at the time many rumours spread throughout the Order. The lax Friars condemned the Capuchins and spoke as much evil about them as they could. The good Friars who desired the Reform were very happy about it and talked a lot among themselves. There were only a few days when Padre Ludovico did not receive letters that begged him to give some foundation to the Reform. They said, “As soon as so-and-so and I hear that you have obtained a Bull we want to come and find you. Know that you have given a great fright to all our Superiors and the whole Order. Everything is topsy-turvy and there is talk of little else. Our Reform will never went as listlessly as it does now since the Superiors really hate it. Nonetheless, do not lose heart because God will not endure this much longer. The prayers of so many holy men will reach the throne of God. They have been praying so long for this holy Reform. Because the Superiors have impugned it, we have been found unworthy that the Reform be carried out in our midst. Instead God wants it done outside the Order. The habit of Father Saint Francis is the sign that God has revealed to us, Be glad then because soon you will attract a hundred Friars from the Province of the Marches. They are all good, spiritual men who will follow you.

139. These letters were very important to Padre Fra Ludovico and his brother since Our Lord continued to dispose them to suffer all kinds of difficulty and persecutions that came their way because of this situation. They wished that things would settle in Rome. They wanted especially that Cardinal Colonna, who rebelled against His Holiness, to leave Rome. This gave them the more trouble than anything else and then resulted in the sack of Rome.[339]

When winter came the poor Fra Ludovico could no longer sleep out in the open. Therefore he went down to a certain village where there was a Church. Because the benefice was meagre the priest rarely said Mass there. Nor did he ever reside there. With the church there was a little house where Padre Fra Ludovico retired at night. Very early in the morning, before daylight, he used to say Mass. After questing a little bread in the village he then withdrew to a safe place. Because of this those country folk came to love him. They provided everything he needed from what they had. At night they brought him to that little house. For Padre Fra Ludovico this was a great consolation because the villagers assured him of their help when he had explain to them the danger he was in. One morning after Mass the people said to him as with one voice, “Father, your saying Mass is the very greatest service to us since we have rarely heard Mass. So rest assured that not even a bird can enter the village by night or day without our dogs informing us. As soon as we see that someone is coming to do you some harm we will let you know immediately. We will not fail to help you.”

140. In these ways he was consoled. The servant of God saw that if God sent him struggles and He also supported him. On seeing God helping him in this way his heart grew even fonder of Him. He hardly ever stopped thanking Him and wept almost continuously. So full was his spirit that he would have stayed at prayer day and night shedding tears while considering the misery of this world. Those who should have been helping him sought in their hatred to do him harm. Like those who do not grasp the judgements of God, they despised such a good thing as the Reform of the Seraphic Francis. The Minister was still tormented when he saw nothing could catch Fra Ludovico in his net, no matter how hard he tried. He gave sermons to the Friars in which he always praised the Order, saying that had been so many holy men who had died in a very holy manner with many miracles. “They all led the same life as we do. Therefore, sons, calm down and let go of the conceits of that simpleton Fra Matteo and the cunning of Brother Padre Ludovico.” Then he explained that the Pope had excommunicated them and that the General, if he could get hold of them, wanted to imprison them. “Father Saint Francis never saw that habit. When he renounced his father and even the clothes he wore he was naked. The Monsignor covered him with the muleteers’ mantle. Since it had a pointed cowl Saint Francis wore it on his head. Then when he went off to Gubbio he had made a Religious habit for himself.[340] It is because of this that these madmen say that Saint Francis wore the pointed cowl. Today they are outside the Order and sleep here or there like shepherds, without saying the Office or the Mass or anything else. Behold the deceit of the devil. Therefore stand firm, my sons, and do not let yourselves be deceived. For obedience is the first vow and the devil has taken it from these madmen and they wander about in a spirit of license.”

The Most Reverend Padre Giovanni made no reference about how they all slept in huts or in caves when our Father Saint Francis began the Order. They ate sitting on the ground and were happy with a little bread and water. Often they survived just on turnips. When Father Saint Francis was away at the Carcere in Assisi, all his companions stayed on their own and rarely saw one another, dedicating themselves to holy contemplation. Although all the things the holy Relgion uses may be good, nonetheless many of them are not as important as contemplation alone, since all the other things are for that purpose. As our Father says. “Those who do are not learned, let them not worry about acquiring learning. But above all they should desire to have the spirit of the Lord, which spirit all other things serve.”[341]

To the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

XXVII: How Father John of Fano, with the local authority, attacked Padre Ludovico at night in the church of Cingoli

141. John of Fano gives chase to Padre Ludovico 142. Padre Ludovico commend himself fervently to the Lord 143. An inspired strategy by which he frees himself from the Minister 144. The truth of this account

141. Obviously, to have to wait for something longed for can truly vex a person. This was the case with the Scribes and Pharisees. They wanted to rid the Son of God from the face of the earth and so thought of nothing else. When the time drew near for the Saviour of the world to die on the Cross, the high priest with the old scribes and Pharisees anxiously convened the whole council to discuss among themselves how they could get their hands him by deceitful means. Caiphas, who thirsted most for the Lord’s death, said that none of them understood. Therefore they did not decide to have the Messiah die and and did not understand how it was expedient for them that one should die and not everyone perish.[342]

In the same way Father John was very anxious to get rid of the problem of Fra Ludovico. When he heard that they were still fugitives in the mountains and forests of Cingoli and that at night they retired to an abandoned church and slept there in a little hovel beside church. So the Minister decided to go there at night with the local authority.[343] Once apprehended he would take them bound to the friary of Cingoli and imprison them there. He thought how the Scriptures say I will strike the shepherd and scatter the sheep,[344] and that once Fra Ludovico was taken all the others would disband. He collected and gathered together many young and like-minded Friars of his Order as well as a company of guards,[345] according to the provisions of the Brief.[346] With these Friars and the company of guards he went in person to where Fra Ludovico was. It was about midnight. However the kind God did want to fail the poor Capuchins. Instead, He wanted to thwart the fury of the Minister. For truly just as Fra Giovanni wanted to act against charity, so the Lord God wanted Padre Fra Ludovico to pull a fast one over him. The Lord our God gave Fra Ludovico courage and nous to escape from their hands by means of holy cunning and prank.

142. Like lions the armed guards and those Friars set out. Even the friars were armed with solid clubs. As it pleased the Lord God a good secular informed Fra Ludovico that there, not far from the church where Fra Ludovico was staying, he had seen many guards and Friars who were coming straight for them them to take them. The farmer said, “Run quickly because they are just over there, not far away!” When he heard this Fra Ludovico was very worried and didn’t know what to do. He was afraid to stay there because he had already experienced the fury of the Minister. To run away was also terrifying, for fear of falling down some precipice or of falling into an ambush with his adversaries. With many tears he commended himself to God who wanted in this moment and very difficult situation to free him from the jaws of the lion. He said, “You know, my Lord, that my prupose is nothing other than the true observance of the Rule and love for your Majesty.” That prayer was heard immediately and immediately reached the ears of God.

143. In a flash God gave him the heart of a lion and the bright idea to play a trick on the adversaries. He believed they deserved it. In that extreme situation he thought that every other option to escape from the adversaries would be futile. So the first thing he did was to lock the entrance of the house and the windows. He lit a good fire and lit candles everywhere in the house so that from the outside it looked as though there were many lights inside. Then he took up a pruning saw and some pruning knives that were there. He gave other iron tools to his brother to hold. They remained silent and were listening carefully for the arrival of the commander of the guards with his company. From the loud noise they made with their feet Fra Ludovico knew that the crowd was there near his dwelling. Istantly Fra Ludovico and his brother began to make a din in the house. They scraped the iron tools along the floor and walls of the house to sound as though an army of well armed soldiers was there inside. They changed their voices to sound as though there were a large crowd. They banged the ironware as usually happens if many soldiers engage and their weapons strike each other. One moment Fra Ludovico spoke with his own voice. Then suddenly he would answer in a voice other than his own. He did other voices too. Sometimes he made himself heard at one of the windows to sound as though he was giving orders to three or four persons. He even gave them names. He said, “Stand your ground and guard this window and make sure no one enters.” He immediately replied sounding like someone else. He said, “Do not worry Father. I promise you that with this pruning saw I will lop the head of the first one who comes near.” Then it sounded as though someone else added, “And I promise that this sword I will run through whoever comes. Then in his own voice Fra Ludovico seemed to beg them not to do any harm. Then immediately from another part of the house another voice was heard to post the guards, saying, “You stay here.” At the door, however, was the loudest scuffle. He made enough tumult as if ten or twelve soldiers guarded the doorway. With his own voice Fra Ludovico begged them to guard the door well and not to open it for anyone. Then he answered himself with the loud voice of an angry man and sounded like the leader of all the others. He said, “Father, attend to your own matters. For I have brought here many friends who are determined to risk their own lives for you and for me. Now with this respect and piety of yours you want us to let ourselves be scorned by four miserable friars and as many good-for-nothing guards. I swear to you that we are all determined to cut them to pieces tonight. And they want the leader, who is the cause of all these evils, to be the first to die. Fra Ludovico replied with is own voice, “Marco, for the love of God don’t do it. Let no harm be done. It is enough just to defend ourselves.” Marco answered, “Father, attend to your own matters. I will not be shamed.” Then straightaway he went around different parts of the house scraping the iron tools along the walls in such a way that the Minister who was outside with the guards considered the words said inside very attentively and his heart shuddered. Nonetheless to show himself brave he encouraged the guards saying, “Let us advance and let us not worry.” He tried to urge the guards to advance. he said to them, “It is right that you go first because you are armed and that is your job.” The guards answered, “Go yourself. We don’t want to place ourselves in this danger.”

So such a great terror came upon those Friars who were with the Minister that the ground couldn’t hold them up. Therefore they began to beg the Minister to abandon the venture and go back. They said, “We will scandalise the whole world.” Then the barigello,[347] who was a prudent man, turned to the Minister and said, “Father, if this were an something important so as to capture wrong-doers and result in the greater honour of God and public order, I would risk my life with these men, the moreso if it were a mission from my superiors. Then for the sake of justice we would have to carry it out. As I am a minister of justice and I would not let it be. However I am sure that if we go we will have to kill and that some of us will be killed. But because this is a petty thing, nothing but an argument between you Religious, there is no justification to spill blood. This is a undertaking worthy of you because you are Religious. Therefore it seems to me that we let the matter go. All the other Fathers, whom the ground couldn’t hold up for fear, replied, “That is true Father Minister. It is not right for us to spill blood. And you know that Fra Ludovico was a soldier and you know about his courage.”

When Fra Ludovico heard no one approach the house he knew they were frightened. He did one last thing to send them all away. He went to the door and with different voices showed that the Captain inside wanted to come out. Fra Ludovico begged ‘Marco’ not to go out, but Marco answered him, “No more words. We want to see an outcome. These guards are going too far.” Then with an angry voice he said, “You wretched friars have gone too far!” Then pretending to open the door Marco urged Fra Padre Ludovico to mind his own business. In an angry tone he said, “Father, stand back. We other brothers will rush out because a question of honour is at stake here.” When the guards and Friars heard those determined men finally resolve to come out, they decided to retreat and made off with great haste. And blessed the one who could be the first to escape.[348]

So it pleased the Divine Majesty that this holy ruse throw their pride and cunning into confusion. When morning came Fra Ludovico left that house in case they returned. With great humility they were grateful to God for this good fortune. He had freed them with that ploy. They truly believed that had they fallen into the hands of their adversaries the poor little barque of Francis would have come to great harm. This was because Fra Ludovico, who helped the Congregation so much, could have expected not to see the sun again for many months. Though the Lord God didn’t lack other instruments with which to advance the Reform so that it would never be separated from His will, the adversaries were so vigorous that it would never possible to see an end to it. Therefore it pleased His Majesty even to use such ploys in the service of the poor Congregation of Capuchins.

144. Hence let no one ever think this is just a fable for not long after this happened I heard the story with my own ears from the lips of the holy Fra Ludovico of Foligno[349] though not in precise order. When Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano came to our Congregation Padre Fra Ludovico Fossombrone[350] received him in the friary of Saint Euphemia. One day for a little recreation, with many Fathers present, he spoke about this trick he played on Padre Fra Giovanni. And that good Father testified that everything he said was true. He said that he really thought that there was an army in that house. To praise Fra Ludovico’s ingenuity he said of himself, “I was always certain that inside there were about fifty farmers, friends of Padre Fra Ludovico. He knew how to do the different voices so well that it wasn’t possible to tell.” Fra Ludovico answered, “Do you know that I never told this story until telling it to you now. I do so not so that you might see it soley as a ruse, but that it may have been God’s providence so that you would not have committed the grave sin of having me die in jail. This was not because of any merits on my part, but it was by the grace of God and because of the merits of the Congregation that God freed me miraculously from your hands.” Fra Giovanni humbly thanked God, and affirmed the truth of everything that Padre Ludovico was saying.

XXVIII: About the venerable Padre Ludovico Fossombrone and a grave persecution he suffered

145. Padre Ludovico and his brother in the house at Masaccio with the Camaldolese 145. The Zoccolanti find him there 147. Giovanni’s messengers lose the letter. Padre Ludovico then finds it and reads it 148. He presents himself to the Legate in Macerata 149. He returns to the Monks 150. His sojourn at Pascelupo 151. Another inspired strategy 152. Neither Padre Ludovico nor Matteo had thought to begin a Reform 153. Difficulties

145. When Fra Ludovico had left that little church at Cingoli as a judicious person he gave more thought to Fra Giovanni da Fano’s great desire to apprehend him. He thought to himself that he could not trust anyone and should withdraw to solitary, safe places. On the other hand he thought that Fra Giovanni had spies everywhere and since he needed to come out among the people to provide himself with some bread he thought, as a precaution, to go to those Venerable Fathers of Camaldoli. They were very generous towards him and because they were holy religious he felt sure he could trust them. So he went to the place of Masaccio[351] where those Reverend Fathers were and he found them all sick. These were delighted at the arrival of Padre Ludovico. For a long time they already knew him to be a holy and good man. They were even more delighted because Holy Week was at hand and the poor fellows had no one to say Mass because all the priests were sick.[352] When he saw this Padre Ludovico devoted himself to serve them with great charity. Since his brother Raphael was with him, he served to poor sick monks in all their needs. Every day Padre Ludovico said Mass. If they already loved Fra Ludovico very much, their love for him now grew even more because of this charitable service. They were very happy to them there secretly. When those Fathers had recovered and no longer needed that assistance, Fra Ludovico and his companion spent the great part of the time hidden in secret places in the woods where they seculars could not see them. At night they came back to sleep in the monastery. So as to receive their help and because of the great love they monks had for them, the monks wanted to give them food from their own table. However the fervour and desire of Fra Ludovico and his brother to suffer were such that they accepted nothing from the monks nothing other than a little bread. The poor fellows ate this in the forest with fresh herbs and they drank water.

146. Although they were very careful not to let themselves be seen, word got about nevertheless that they were staying in that place at Masaccio. After all, they could do much without being seeing by the country folk who frequented the area. One day when they were simply speaking with the Zoccolanti they said, “Up there we have seen two hermit Monks who wear a short cowl on their heads. They are frightening. Which kind of hermits are they?” The Zoccolanti replied, “What do they do there? Are they there all the time?” The farmers answered, “We have seen them often go into the Monks’ forest. What they do there we don’t know.”

From these words they thought these were Fra Ludovico and his brother. Then they wanted to verify this in another way. When they were sure it was Fra Ludovico they immediately wrote to tell the Minister that Fra Ludovico was hiding in the Monks’ forest. As soon as he heard this Brother John wrote a letter to the Guardian of the friary in Masaccio[353] to carefully check whether Fra Ludovico was received there by the Monks; and to see all the ways he could be removed because there were going to be problems shortly. “If we can catch him we will put him in a place where he will never see the sun again and he will no longer go around in a fine display of hypocrisy with that pointed cowl. The Order has never suffered such a slur like the one he will give us unless we set him straight. Therefore be very diligent and keep me advised of everything.”

147. So when that superior received the letter he called two of the more diligent and shrewd Friars and gave them the letter of the Minister in which it said, “I have taken from him the Brief which he obtained from Rome to be able to stay in whatever place he wants with some companions. He can no longer defend himself with that Brief. He will never get it back from me.” Therefore the Guardian ordered them to go cautiously to the house of the Monks and check diligently to see if Fra Ludovico is there. To conceal their purpose, when the Friars arrived at that place of the Monks they used the excuse of going there to visit them for recreation. When those Fathers heard this they put on a good face and during the various conversations the two friars, by chance, began to speak about Fra Ludovico. They said they liked him very much and desired to know where he was so as to withdraw with him. They said, “We too want to reform ourselves.” The Monks were very happy to hear this. They believed to be true all that those Friars told them. They gladly answered them that Fra Ludovico was often with them and that at that moment he was in the forest. They would have called him for them but at the time divine Providence allowed Fra Ludovico to be in a place the Monks didn’t know. After showing them all around the house with great warmth and kindness, they want them to go to eat in the refectory, as friends of Fra Ludovico . They showed them every possible courtesy.

By Divine Providence, to see to the needs of poor Fra Ludovico, a very important matter was revealed, just as our Lord himself says: There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.[354] His Majesty always takes care of his servants and does not allow the malice of persons to hold sway everywhere. Instead He orders all things for the health and benefit of his elect. For while those Fathers ate, He allowed that the Minister’s letter fall under the table. When those Fathers had eaten and left the Monks found the letter while they sere sweeping the Refectory. When the Reverend Fathers opened the letter they knew the reason for the visit from the Friars was only to learn if Fra Ludovico was with them. They were not looking for him as a friend, but so as to give him into the hands of the Minister. When Fra Ludovico returned that evening, they told him everything and gave him the letter. In the letter he read about the Minister’s threats and heard how he had usurped the Brief. With great joy he said, “Now I know that the Lord God is taking care of us. I am not afraid any more. Padre Giovanni da Fano does not want to give me the opportunity to observe my vows for fear that I may do some kind of reform. Our Lord God will do a reform before his very eyes and he will be unable to defend himself. He does not want me as a subject. Nor do I care about that. We will find some other way. Now I am sure that God wants a true reform done. Since they do not want it in a friendly way, we will separate ourselves from them and do the reform with the help of God.”

The idea entered his heart to do the Capuchin Reform. There and then the beginning of our Reform entered Fra Ludovicois mind. He said, “Even if I have found myself in these troubles as a result, I have never desired anything else except to know the will of God; should I do a Reform or not. Now I am sure. This letter, you know, has been a great help to me. They want to have me die in prison while they tell seculars that they are searching for me because of the great love they bear me and that they don’t want me to leave them.”

148. The two Friars immediately informed the Minister that Fra Ludovico was there with the Monks. He quickly sent for the barigello from Macerata and showed to the Legate[355] the Brief he had allowing him to use secular force. He gave the Legate to understand that he was acting out of charity so as to lead Fra Ludovico back to the Order. ‘Because they are obstinate, since it seems to them the right thing to do, and so that they do not create division, His Holiness has allowed me to force them to return.’ The Cardinal believed these words and gave him the barigello along with many guards. However out of shame Padre Giovanni did not want to go himself in the company of many guards since it was day time. Instead he sent some Friars suitable for the task. After the barigello had arrived and surrounded the house of the Monks they asked that Fra Ludovico and his brother be given into their custody. Because of the great love the Monks had for Fra Ludovico and his brother they resisted firmly, “We have nothing to do with guards,” they said. The clamour was so great that two nearby castles mobilised, took up arms and hurried to the place. One of the castles supported the Monks and Fra Ludovico while the other supported the opposing side. About fifty men between them were about to kill one another. As it pleased God however two old men stood in their midst and calmed down the mob. They said to Fra Ludovico and the Monks, “Father, you can come safely to Macerata. I promise to bring you back straight away once we have spoken with the Cardinal, because I have important friends.” With great fervour Fra Ludovico then said, “Let us go. I am not afraid of anyone.”

After they arrived in Macerata the Monsignor sent for the Guardian of those Fathers and said to him, “What business do you have with Fra Ludovico?” The Monsignor wanted to know the truth. When the Guardian arrived he replied, “Monsignor, we want nothing other than the well being of our brother, Fra Ludovico.” The Monsignor turned to Fra Ludovico and asked, “What do you say, Father?” Fra Ludovico answered, “Monsignor, I will say nothing, but read this letter.” Taking it from his sleeve he gave it to him. The letter was read publicly so that the Monsignor and all those gentlemen would hear what the Minister wanted to do with Fra Ludovico. At this the Monsignor went into such a rage and turning to the Guardian he called it a page of villainy. He then gave Fra Ludovico to those good persons who took him back to the Monks just as they had promised.

All those seculars knew that the adversaries didn’t seek out Fra Ludovico to do him good but to put him in jail. As a result, where Fra Ludovico earlier had many difficulties, the Monsignor said to him, “Go, my Father, because I will not longer give you trouble but support. I will no longer believe that you are excommunicated. Rather, those who usurped your Brief are excommunicated, which is evident from this letter of the Minister. With all these things they’ve done I am amazed that they profess to be holy religious and have no conscience in persecuting their neighbour and impeding someone who wants to do good. I am especially scandalised,” he said, “that there be so little charity in their Superiors and in you (he said to the Guardian), but especially in your Minister. Leave my presence and speak to me no more about this matter.”

149. Fra Ludovico knelt down and kissed the hands of the Monsignor and tearfully commended himself to him. He replied, “Go, Father, in the name of God and attend to serving God and observing your profession. Pray to God for me so that from now on you will receive nothing but support from me. If I had been as informed about the matter as I am now you would not have had this trouble from my Court. Turning to those people who had brought Fra Ludovico to he commanded them to return him to the Monks and that they not allow any one to bother him. And so it happened. When those Reverend Fathers saw him returning they rejoiced and welcomed him with great charity. From all this it came about that where part of people earlier had supported Fra Ludovico’s adversaries because they did not know him, from then on the whole country side round about held him in the greatest reverence. The support of the Monsignor Legate helped him ver much because from that time forward everyone said, “If Fra Ludovico were not a true servant of God and were an apostate and excommunicated as his adversaries say, the Monsignor would not support him.”

150. This was really something that came from the Holy Spirit. The more the adversaries sought to harm him, the more the seculars were scandalised by this and lost their devotion towards them. This was something that moved him very much. For on the one had (the Friars) were aware that they were scandalising the world and were losing the devotion of the seculars. On the other had they worried lest Fra Ludovico might do some Reform. So it came about that they resolved not bother the secular arm any more. They decided instead to use every effort to catch him themselves. This became known and was reported to the Monks. They carefully reconsidered the matter and decided that Fra Ludovico should not dwell any longer in the house at Masaccio because everyone knew he stayed there. So that he could not be taken by force one night, aware of the intrigues of the adversaries, they decided to send him secretly to a more remote house. So they sent him to Pascelupo, a very remote place near Costacciaro.[356]

This happened when Fra Ludovico was staying at that place. Late one afternoon one of those Father Monks, who was quite old, was busying himself in a certain place and he looked towards the plain. It pleased the Lord God that he saw a great squad of adversaries coming with their habits hitched up and carrying long, heavy staves. They were all young and fit. The old man saw them and looking at them carefully he quickly realised that they were adversaries of Fra Ludovico. Because of this the good old fellow began to weep so much that Fra Ludovico, who was in the forest with his brother, worried that some harm had befallen him. Both ran to him very quickly. When they reached the old man they asked him if something he had been hurt – he was crying so much. The old man answered, “O dear, my Father, all of us will die tonight.” He said this because the place was in the wilderness and quite some distance from ordinary habitations, and at that time there were never more than three monks in that house. Taking Fra Ludovico by the hand he said to him, “Come, my Father, and see the great crowd that is coming.” As they came into view Fra Ludovico recognised his friends. Turning to the old man he said, “Do not worry, my Father, they are coming for me. They will do you no harm. Take yourselves inside the house, and lock everything well. Leave the rest to me. I know them. They are crazy to come here thinking they have me in the palm of their hand. With madness I will send them off. No that you should all laugh, but stay calm and do not cry.”

151. Fra Ludovico saw what the mob was doing so as to find him asleep in bed, since during the day he stayed in the forest and returned at night to that house to sleep. They also moving in such a way so as not to be seen by seculars. So Fra Ludovico withdrew with his brother to the church. With many tears he commended himself to the Lord God so that He might help him in such a difficult and unpleasant undertaking, since the opponents were so strong and his strength so weak, persecuted and scorned by everyone. It was amazing. He rose from that prayer, enkinlded with an incredible desire to give his life as much as he could while alive to carry out this Reform for the sake of the glory of God. “Therefore, my Lord,” he said, “if you are pleased to use this poor instrument, give me strength and intelligence so that I may persevere and defend myself so as to advance this Reform without offending you Majesty or my neighbour. I do not want to harm anyone and for the sake of your love I forgive what they are doing to me. But as they are coming and want to take me and have me die in a jail, defend me so that I may not be given into their hands and so that I do no harm to anyone, since my blood is boiling.”

It was truly something divine. As soon as he finished the prayer he he decided what to do and said to his brother, “Go, Fra Raffaello, and light a huge fire to make lots of embers.” Fra Raffaello went and did all that Fra Ludovico had asked of him. As night began to fall Fra Ludovico put the embers in different spots around the place. Since it is quite mountainous, surrounded by outcrops and rocks, he had embers put on those rocks in eminent places and the wind blew upon them, and this looked like an army of soldiers. Fra Ludovico stayed on a certain outcrop that overlooked the others. Since there was no other route, the mob had to pass by below where he was. As he began to hear the noise of their feet Fra Ludovico said with a very loud voice, “There they are. They are here. Stay here with the arquebus. Then he moved around that little outcrop as if he we giving orders to a squad and spoke with another voice loud enough for the others to hear. Therefore when the mob arrived and heard the talking and saw nearby a countless multitude of fires and heard that variety of voices that Fra Raffaello also did in another spot, they felt sure that Fra Ludovico had been warned and gathered many of his farmer friends. They were so afraid that they fled terrified. Since they were so frightened, and it was night and the terrain very rough, most of them fell over often. They fell so clumsily that the great din they made could be heard for a long time. So they returned with little satisfaction, more dead than alive. And all this has come from Fra Ludovico’s own mouth and from one of the Fathers present there and who died not long ago.

152. Until this time no others were outside (the Order) except Fra Matteo, Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone and Fra Raffaello his natural brother. Nor had the Capuchin Reform begun, except the (shape of the) habit that our Father Saint Francis wore was used again. The holy man Fra Matteo was the reason behind this, since he had received it in a revelation from God. We have already spoken about this amply in its own place.[357] Nor did they nor Fra Matteo intend to do another Reform. Only Fra Matteo had obtained that permission from His Holiness to go about with that habit preaching throughout the world. Fra Ludovico intended to withdraw to some little friary with some of his companions who were of the same mind as he, but with that capuchin habit. After he had easily obtained the Brief from His Holiness he hoped that Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano would have given them a little friary. And I believe Fra Giovanni would have given it them if Fra Ludovico had not put on the capuchin habit. Nor did he trust the mind of Fra Ludovico but felt sure he would have taken away a good number of Friars and have made a Reform in his own way. This was the reason that Brother John, along with the whole Order, imagined the matter would never be resolved until they had taken Fra Ludovico in hand. However, because he was a judicious man and also because God helped him, Fra Ludovico knew how to act so that he never gave himself into their clutches. Instead he stayed in the mountains and alpine areas until the Lord God sent him some support.

153. The persecutions that happened in this way were a circumstantial cause the Capuchin Reform. Nor did Fra Ludovico ever rest until had obtained the Brief to be able to accept houses and Friars. But because of this they suffered such great things that it would be better not to commit them to paper. Let it suffice to say that we owe so much to those first Fathers who strove so hard to lay the foundations of the poor Congregation. No one ever dared to enter together with Fra Ludovico into the intrigues which he endured. And so the poor fellow had no other support except from God. This was because no one wanted to follow Fra Ludovico while he had neither a Brief nor a Bull from His Holiness. He only had that Brief which defended him from excommunication and which Fra Giovanni da Fano had taken from him. Fra Giovanni then did a lot to muddy things up for him by writing to Rome. Through the Court Procurator he asked to be able to pursue certain apostates who had left the Order, and for the sake of charity toreturn them to the Order. He called Fra Ludovico an apostate.[358] Although this wasn’t true, Fra Luodivioc couldn’t prove it. This was the Brief shown to the Monsignor Legate of the Marches in Macerata and that was shown to be false by the letter Fra Giovannai da Fano. They said nothing to Fra Matteo because Fra Giovanni had promised the Duchess of Camerino to leave him alone and not bother him. For she let it be understood that if they did not have greater regard for the precepts of His Holiness she would give him and the Order little to be pleased about. Because of this all his anger fell upon the poor Fra Ludovico and his brother Fra Raffaello. When he realised this he was very careful, as will be described, to put matters straight. So it was a grace of God that he obtained the Brief.[359]

XXIX: About Padre Fra Ludovico, when the barigello caught by surprise in a palazzo near Fossombrone

154. Why God allows his servants tribulations 155. Padre Ludovico takes refuge in Fossombrone 156. He is freed from his enemies by a new stratagem 157. The impossibility of going to the Pope 158. The sack of Rome 159. Padre Ludovico is advised to organise a Reform outside the Order 160. The life of the first Friars 161. Padre Ludovico before the Duke of Urbino.

154. It is quite obvious to anyone who considers the foundation of the Holy Church that it was greatly molested by the infernal serpent and that together with the Holy Apostles all those who founded the holy faith met with obstacles. The initiators of all the Orders we no less hindered. And if consider the matter we see that all good works face some difficulty. The Lord God allows this and is pleased to see his servants battle. This is what Saint Anthony said. After he had been beaten by demons who left him almost dead a great light came. On seeing it the man of God knew that the great light, the Saviour of the world, was present. With a loud voice he said, “O good Jesus, where were you when the demons were hitting me so hard?” That Infinite Goodness answered, “Know, Anthony, that I was here present waiting to see with how much fervour you fought them for the sake of my love.[360]” It seems that He delights to see us in such combat. And the more that servants of God have loved Him, the greater the temptations He allows them. For although all good works please him, they please him much more when the one who does them is accompanied by the cross and does them with greater difficulty.

155. That is how it happened to the servant of God Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone. When he knew that Fra Giovanni da Fano was opposed to him so much that he did not leave him in peace even at night, he entered into such a fear that he didn’t trust himself. By day he hid in caves and in great fear walked at night when the saw the great influence that Fra Giovanni had in the Court and the favour he enjoyed among seculars. For at the time he was regarded as one of the first Fathers of the Order, so much so that any who could do him some service considered himself blessed.

Having left Pascelupo he decided to go back home so as to take advantage of the support of his relatives. And so he arrived at Fossombrone at night. He let one of his relatives know that he would go to speak with him. He pleaded with him to arrange to let him have the keys of a friend’s small palazzo near Fossombrone. It was closer to the wilderness than to town. So if a mob came he could easily save himself in the woods. The noble owner of that mansion willingly let have him the keys and let him stay there at his pleasure. Therefore he stayed hidden there with his brother Fra Raffaello for many days. At night his relatives brought him something to eat.

This came to the knowledge of Fra Matteo and another Friar. So one night they too transferred to that palazzo. In this way the little family of Christ came together and remained there in great peace.

156. However, the infernal enemy who never sleeps had it made known to the adversaries that Fra Ludovico was there in that palazzo. Someone immediately wrote to Fano who desired nothing else than to know where he was so to have him taken. He went straightaway to Macerata to obtain from the Monsignor permission to use of his court. He did not do this in person, otherwise it would not have been granted. He did it through his lieutenants who were know about the earlier episode. He got the barigello and many guards. Accompanied by some Friars, agents of Fra Giovanni, they left for the palazzo. Some friends of Fra Ludovico became aware of this and warned him well before the others arrived. And since the residence was quite remote and not many seculars frequented it, they went there the middle of the day. As soon as he heard of it, Fra Ludovico gathered everyone together and sought their advice on what they should do so as not to fall into the claws of the lion. There they all knelt before a crucifix that was in a room there. They had recourse to the only refuge for servants God, which was holy prayer. Beginning to weep, Fra Ludovico began to speak so highly of the patience of the Holy Apostles, of our Father Saint Francis and of many others, that their kind hearts were completely filled with fervour and devotion. This grew so much in them that they did not care about suffering even death. So they decided not to flee but to stay and see what would happen. They hoped nothing would be done to them except what God permitted, and that the Lord would not give such strength to the enemy to be able to extinguish compèletely the poor little family that had gathered together in the name of Christ out of zeal for the honour of God and the true observance of their Rule.

They remained silent a long time and commended themselves to the Lord with many tears. One of them went to a window and saw the mob. Fra Ludovico was already expert in battle and with other ruses had eascaped at other times. He had all the doors locked and they retreated upstairs where he had them prepare some pieces of wood. Since the owner often stayed in that residence for as long as fifteen to twenty days he kept the rooms supplied. Fra Ludovico saw that there were lots of red and white night caps as well as many other hats of different colours. He had them all prepared in a passageway which faced outwards. When he saw the mob approach he had the others pick up the pieces of wood. They walked around talking in such a way that no one could see them. They dragged the pieces of wood past one window and then another. Then they lowered them and one of them put on a red hat and paraded so that those outside could only see the hat. Another did the same with a white hat. With deep voices they said, “Let them come and see what will happen.”

When the barigello arrived and heard the sound he thought it was Fra Ludovico’s uncle who was one of the feared men of the city. He had fought three times in the ring and everyone feared him. The barigello turned to the Friars and said to them, “This is bad for us. This man is clever. He will have known that we were coming and would have notified his uncle. He will be here with fifty ruthless men. From the hats you have seen you know that there are more than Friars here. They will come out. It is a shameful thing for us to flee. We will join in a skirmish and you will have us all cut to pieces.” When the Friars heard this they too began to be afraid, the more so because it was day time. Once the noise grew the whole town would come running. Terrified they decided to return by the way they had come. They looked back many times worrying that Fra Ludovico would pursue them with his uncle and the whole crowd.

When those servants of God saw this they assembled before that crucifix again and stayed their until night as if in ecstasy without speaking to one another. They pondered the kindness of God who had freed them with a little ruse. Their courage grew to such a degree that they were determined not to fear anyone any more. If they had to, they would give their lives a thousand times to advance the Reform. Their adversaries, to the contrary, were so afraid that they decided to be bothered any more with Fra Padre Ludovico, especially since the Friars and guards reported to Padre Fra Giovanni that they had been nearly killed. They said to him, “Reverend Father, if you do not stop with these barigelli we will scandalise the whole world and you will be the cause of many murders. Do what you can with the Court of Rome. Meanwhile let Fra Ludovico go because he knows everything that happens. He as been a soldier and is very courageous. Do not bother with his matters. Let him go.”

157. From then on they no longer involved guards but sought out other means. Nonetheless with his few companions Fra Ludovico commended himself to the Lord God. They persevered in the woods and they retired at night to some cave. When they had been there for some days there was no shortage of zealous Friars who kept him informed; and they said how Padre Fra Giovanni was already beaten. “Stand firm and not worry. See to getting a Bull or Brief so that when we come we will not incur excommunication. Then we will follow you immediately.”

So from then on Fra Ludovico carefully tried to find a way to able to go safely to His Holiness and not be captured on the road. This struggle lasted many days. However, he did not fail to write to different friends of his, both Friars and seculars. These however kept him informed about different Friars who wanted to come to the Reform and everything Fano was saying against Fra Ludovico. Thanks to them he knew about these things straight away. This was a great help to him. The seculars kept him informed about everything done against him with His Holiness. After this plotting lasted for some months he decided to continue no longer in that way. So commending himself to God he called together all those few Capuchins who until then had taken up the habit. They took counsel together and decided to make use of their friends, particularly the Most Illustrious Lady Caterina Cibo, by now the Duchess of Camerino.[361] However because His Holiness was in great strife with Cardinal Colonna,[362] when he wrote to Rome he was told that there was no time because His Holiness gave few audiences and the whole Court was in great turmoil. When they heard this Fra Matteo withdrew with his companion to the mountains of Fabriano. There he was well known and there was no danger that we would be badly treated. With his brother, Fra Raffaello, Fra Ludovico withdrew to the Fratta di Perugia to escape the clutches of Fra Giovanni Fano. That Superior and persecutor of the Capuchins was doing all he could in virtue of a Brief that he had obtained from His Holiness. This allowed him to pursue them as excommunicated apostates wherever they were.[363] Although Fossombrone was in the state of the Duke of Urbino, when he had shown His Excellency the Brief, the Duke gave him permission. Therefore he withdrew to Montecorona where he was cherished by those Reverend Fathers and he stayed there incognito.[364]

158. The tumult at Court lasted until 1527. On the seventeenth of May the Duke of Bourbon[365] came to Florence with a great army. The Florentines disliked Pope Clement and had chased out all the House of Medici. Therefore when the Duke came they gave him a lot of money and they urged him on to Siena. The Sienese quickly urged them on to Rome, giving them support. Therefore on the 17 May 1526 that tyrant entered Rome with his army and sacked it. However he didn’t derive any benefit from it because he died in the barrage. His Holiness was forced to flee to Orvieto and there he sheltered and until the wars were ended. Because of this Padre Ludovico was unable to go to Rome straightaway.

159. While he was staying with those Venerable Fathers one of them, the Very Reverend Padre Fra Girolamo da Sessa[366] said to Fra Ludovico, “Father, I have often told you the path you should follow if you want your Reform to go ahead.” Fra Ludovico answered, “What you say is true Father. But as you know His Holiness is in turmoil. Because of that I know this is not the time. I need to bide my time until things quieten down. But I value your counsel and appreciate that you give it to me in writing.” That Father said to him, “You need to ask from His Holiness to do a Reform that is completely separate completely from the Order and you will have nothing to do with them any more.” Because Fra Ludovico had told him all about everything that had happened to him at Fossombrone the good Father said to him, “Get a Bull that will enable you to observe the Rule of Saint Francis under the title of Hermits, the moreso since you have already taken up that habit that no one else in the Order wears. By removing the name ‘Friar Minor’ that they will have nothing more to do with you. Nonetheless you will observe the Rule of Saint Francis. That is what we have done who. Although we live according to the Rule of Father Saint Benedict, nonetheless we are called Hermits and not Monks.”

Fra Ludovico liked this very much. In the first Brief obtained it was under the title of Capuchin Friars of the Eremitical Life.[367] And that is the way he put it out in the first Constitutions.[368]

160. Thus he bided his time waiting for His Holiness to return to Rome. In the meanwhile the poor Congregation did not grow much since the zealous Friars who wanted to join Fra Ludovico were very afraid that the matter would not eventuate. Those few Capuchins suffered the greatest trials because the poor fellows didn’t dare go out in public. They slept almost always in the forest and most of the time satisfied their hunger with herbs and fruit. On the other hand the mercy of God did not fail to comfort them. They gloried in that suffering so much that it seemed as though they fed upon it. And sometimes when they came out of the forest, anyone who could see them considered himself blessed because they looked more like Angels than men. Yet it continued to increase as the Lord put it into the heart of someone to go and be numbered among them. This was the case with the holy man Fra Matteo da San Leo, Fra Bernardo da Fossombrone[369] and many others. Many came and the went back. However when they saw that a Bull had been obtained they returned again. Therefore you can see how the holy Reform began amid so many difficulties. The time came when things calmed down and Fra Ludovico obtained the Bull, as will be said below. Then the vehemence of Giovanni da Fano ended and the poor Capuchins appeared in the open.

During this time these Friars had revelations from God and quite often they were visibly comforted by apparitions and special consolations. Otherwise they could never have lasted. all by the grace of God who never fails anyone who wants to serve him faithfully. Even in the Order many things were done in support of the poor Capuchins. It was amazing, that as soon as Fra Ludovico was able to go about publicly the whole world became his friend. Anyone who could help in favour of the Reform called himself blessed. He only had to speak once with a Cardinal or a Lord and that person made himself a slave.

I have all this from the holy man Padre Fra Giovanni da Viterbo who was Padre Fra Ludovico’s companion in the beginning, though the substance and not all the words he said he had heard from Padre Fra Ludovico and from the others who were there.

161. Therefore once Padre Fra Ludovico was freed from this snare of the devil, he went to see the Illustrious Lord Duke of Urbino[370]. That Lord listened warmly as he told him about what he had received from Padre Fra Giovanni, and the reason why he had taken up that habit so as to better observe his Rule. On hearing this, he regretted ever having allowed Padre Fra Giovanni to persecute Fra Ludovico in his realm. From that time onwards he supported him very much, and not only His Lordship but all his realm and the country round about where the seculars knew about that persecution and they developed a great dislike for the adversaries of the Capuchins. Above all everyone felt compassion for Padre Fra Ludovico and cherished him. What happened is what the Apostle Paul says about those who love God: all things turn out for the best.[371] Thus at the beginning of our Reform everything our adversaries did against her[372] turned out in its favour and in its growth. Therefore the Lord our God was showing that this was his work. Amen.

XXX: When the first Bull of our Congregation was obtained

162. Padre Ludovico wants to ask for a Bull 163. To this end he seeks the help of the Duchess of Camerino 164. With his Fra Ludovico passes to being under obedience of the General of the Conventual Friars 166. Padre Ludovico takes himself to Rome with commendatory letters and obtains the Brief

162. Finidng himself in the midst of so many troubles, poor Fra Ludovico went off again to find the holy man Fra Matteo who still stayed in the mountains of Fabriano. He said to him, “Padre Fra Matteo, everything is up in the air. You received permission from His Holiness to stay in the capuchin habit outside the Order, going about preaching. But if others want to harm you, you having nothing to show that you have permission. The first Brief did not grant to do a Reform by separating from the Order, but was only for us and our companions to live in a reformed manner. However they have taken our Brief and persecute us without restraint. It is not possible to stay this way. It is necessary that either we return to them and give a thought to having to die in jail or that we separate ourselves from them completely. This is something we cannot do without the good grace of His Holiness. This will involve either a Brief or Bull so that we may defend ourselves from them. And seculars will see us in a better light knowing that were are not excommunicated as our adversaries say we are. For it is for fear of excommunication that everyone avoids us.”

The servant of God, Fra Matteo, answered, “This is perfect joy – to be persecuted by everyone. Before I left I knew that what we suffer now would have to happen. This urged me on even more, because I desire nothing else in this world except to accompany Jesus Christ with the cross. You know that I too thought to obtain a Brief and His Holiness offered it to me. However I was admonished by God not too seek a Brief since it would not be of any use to me except to flee from the cross. When I took up this habit it was never my intention to do a Reform for others but only to reform myself and to suffer every evil for the love of God.”

Fra Ludovico said, “To reform oneself is one thing. To help one’s neighbour to reform is another. If you can do two good things, in good conscience you cannot content yourself to do only one of them. Why do you go preaching if not to gain souls for Christ? Can’t you see how many dangers we are in? It is no less a good to help your Brothers to be within the perfect observance of the Rule that to help seculars in the observance of the commandments of God. we find ourselves in these troubles With these other poor fellows because of our desire to observe the Rule. We are also your Brothers and you are obliged to help us.”

163. Seeing himself so strongly convinced by these words, Fra Matteo answered him, “What would you want from me?” Fra Ludovico said, “You know that God is not displeased to use the place and time of human means so as to realise those plans we desire for the honour of God, which is the observance of our Rule. Just as Our Lord said to the infernal enemy who urged him to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. He said that this was to tempt God[373] since he could descend by the stairs and use the means of stairs and not fly through the air which was to tempt the Lord God. Now we have determined to do as much as we can, while trusting in the Lord God, to obtain a Brief or Bull and to truly do the Reform. And since they haven’t wanted to grant us the Reform among them, we are determined to separate from them and do it ourselves and for anyone else who wants to reform a beautiful Reform and live according to the purity of the Rule without privileges and other concessions. We are more determined because we see that this is the will of God. It is the will of God because we know that His Majesty has revealed to us this habit that Saint Francis and the whole order wore for more than a hundred years, and which has been hidden for so long. You know therefore that we wish to use the human means that the Providence of God has prepared for us. You know how much love Her Ladyship, Caterina Cibo, the Duchess of Camerino has for us. Let us go to her. Among all the benefits we have received from the Lord, it seems to me that this is the greatest one. For His Majesty has provided us with this woman as a very oppurtune instrument since she is the niece of His Holiness. I know I too can do something on my own, but she has a greater friendship with you.”

Fra Ludovico said this because Fra Matteo had gained this friendship with Her Ladyship for having served the plague victims in Camerino. That was in 1523. Also Fra Ludovico had served the infected in the villas of Camerino at the same time. This greatly please Her ladyship too. Therefore, having turned around Fra Matteo said to him, “In the name of God let us go immediately to Camerino. Leave matters with her Ladyship to me.”

This was the best solution procured by the Lord God in service of the poor Congregation. For the Lord gave us this woman and she was a mainstay of the poor Congregation. Therefore these three servants of God went- Fra Matteo, Fra Ludovico and his brother, Fra Raffaello. They presented themselves to Her Ladyship. On seeing them with great admiration she said in a loud voice, “Thanks be to Our Lord God and may Father Saint Francis be blessed! Now I see very well how the Seraphic Saint Francis dressed.” Then she spoke prophetically, “This novelty will not be in vane or without a purpose: that the Lord has deigned to make present in the world the life of the Seraphic Francis. The Lord God will bring some great good from this.” She kissed the hand of Fra Matteo and said to him, “Now, poor fellow you will not be alone.” After they had refreshed themselves a little, she assigned them a room. Fra Ludovico asked to be able to speak with Her Ladyship. As she listened to him kindly Fra Ludovico put before Her Ladyship and revealed completely his great desire to do a Reform and renew the life of Francis. He said to her, “God knows what we have suffered, Your Ladyship, because we have taken up this habit. He knows how much we about to suffer if your Most Illustrious Ladyship does not help us so that we may advance this Reform more surely.” Her Ladyship answered, “I have said many times that I have no other desire except to help you in everything I can.” Turning to Fra Matteo she said to him, “How many times have I said to you, poor fellow, that you can rely on me. Now you want to suffer more then you have been able to do. See what I can do.”

Fra Ludovico answered, “Your Ladyship, for now it is necessary that you help us in regard to His Holiness so that we may at least have a Brief. A Bull would be better. However since it is difficult to obtain a Bull let us begin with a Brief which allows us to be able to wear this habit, to start friaries and to receive Friars of every kind. A Bull can be still obtained after the Congregation has grown a little, with the help of God and Your Ladyship. Our adversaries persecute us by saying that we are excommunicated. Therefore we need a Brief. We need to attend to this favour. Therefore to give a sound foundation to the matter please write a letter of support addressed to the Minister of the Conventual Fathers to receive us under his obedience so that it does not look as if we want to separate ourselves from the Order, but that this is a Reform of the Conventual Fathers.”

164. Her Ladyship understood this and liked Fra Ludovico’s approach. She wrote a long letter to the Father Minister straight away and gave it to Fra Ludovico. With his brother, Fra Raffaello, they immediately took it to him personally. Fra Ludovico first told him[374] the whole story and his desire to do a Reform. That good Father embraced him with great joy and kissed him on the forehead. He said to them, “My Fathers, you have no need of letters of favour among us because we are all brothers. I accept you and receive you most gratefully. I will give you all my support always because I am very pleased by Friars who are zealous about their profession.” Immediately he wrote him an ample patent sealed with the seal of the Order. The patent assured whoever read it that those Fathers were his Friars and that he gave them the obedience to be able to undertake the Reform everywhere and with whatever personage, and that they did everything with his obedience and good grace.

165. On Padre Fra Ludovico’s return to the Duchess she gladly assigned them rooms in the place where they could rest. She gave the order that they be given whatever they needed.[375] There in the palace they bided their time for some days. They said Mass every day. This was the reason that her consort, the Lord Duke Giovanni Maria Varano, had such a great love and devotion for the Friars, since the whole matter was guided by the Holy Spirit from whom all good comes. For from that time onwards the affection that this Prince had was of no small advantage to the poor Order. Those Masses said so devoutly pleased him very much. In the meantime while those poor Friars stayed there in safety Fra Ludovico did not rest; rather he continued to help the matter.

166. Hence he struck up a friendship with a priest called Don Andrea. He was close to the Monsignor[376] and was commonly conisdered to be a good man. He had the whole city in the palm of his hand and from then on was like a Father to the poor Capuchins. This Don Andrea put Fra Ludovico and his companions in such good grace with the Monsignor that when Fra Ludovico went to visit him later, he asked him the grace to be able to stay in his Diocese under his protection, offering on his own part and that of his companions to be good sons always. He asked if he would deign to grant them a letter of introduction to vouch that they were good Religious who very deserved to be welcomed by His Holiness as Catholic Religious and good sons of Holy Church.

This introduction from His Lordship was no small help. Then with letters from the Duchess and many other personages addressed to His Holiness Fra Ludovico went off to Rome. Once he had arrived in Rome and spoken with those who had to introduce him and give him every support with His Holiness as the Lady Duchess had arranged, and after he had deliverd the letters for His Holiness, he was easily introduced to that Holy See. The Pope had been well informed already and was well disposed to the whole proposal. After he kissed the sacred feet Fra Ludovico expounded to him his entire purpose, just as Fra Matteo had done. He asked the permission and blessing of His Holiness to wear that habit and lead the very strict life that his profession required. He also asked to be able to receive whoever came to the Reform and to give them the same habit so that they could observe the Rule of Saint Francis more surely.

After hearing the proposal His Holiness graciously and fondly granted all Fra Ludovico requested and gave him the Brief. This was in the year 1526, on the 18th day of May, in the third year of his Pontificate.[377]

XXXI: What Padre Fra Ludovico did when he got the Brief

167. The arrival of Paul of Chioggia 168. The first Capuchins in the palace of the Duke 169. Their preaching in the diocese of Camerino 170. The Reform is generally well regarded by everyone 171. Differing opinions inside the Order 172. Opposition to the Reform from members of the Order 173. Judgement on the conduct of Giovanni da Fano

167. It pleased the Lord God to incline the Supreme Pontiff to give his consent and kindly allow the poor Capuchin Reform to begin. In granting them the Brief they could start houses and receive Friars. Having received all that he desired Fra Ludovico joyfully returned to Camerino. After he stayed there for some time Padre Fra Matteo, the Lord God added a fifth Friar to his poor little family. This was the Venerable Padre Fra Paolo da Chioggia. He had spoken first with Fra Matteo and then he too had gone to Rome, as is told in his biography.[378] When Fra Ludovico saw him he received him with great joy. In this way the Lord continued to give growth to the Reform.

168. The poor fellows still didn’t have a friary where they could come together and say the Office, their Masses and their other observances. Fra Ludovico was thinking about this and conferred with the Duke about whether it would be better to start a little friary in Camerino and if His Lordship would set up the place . The Duke answered, “Father, it seems to me that you may be in too much of a hurry. Until the Congregation has grown a little more and we have obtained a Bull from His Holiness, do not start another friary. For alhough you have obtained the Brief remember that your adversaries will not sleep. A man can get as many Briefs he wants at any time and they can be easily revoked. A Bull, however, can’t be revoked so easily.” Fra Ludovico replied, “Where would Your Lordship want the poor Friars to stay in this situation?” The Duke said, “You have no safer place than my palace. I will give you an apartment and there you can do your devotions. For me and my consort it will be the greatest pleasure to be able to further enjoy your Masses and your presence.”

This advice pleased Padre Fra Ludovico and His Lordship gave them many large rooms with a chapel where they could celebrate their Masses. He provided for all their needs. However Fra Ludovico did not want to accept anything other from the Duke than a certain ordinary alms. For the rest he went begging through the city according to their profession. The whole city was so edified by their holy conversation that everyone regarded them as saints. This was especially so since they knew the holy man Fra Matteo from the time during they plague when they all, both rich and poor, had received so much from him.

169. Fra Ludovico saw he already had three preachers in the little family of Jesus Christ. Fra Matteo da San Leo and Fra Paolo da Chioggia were both learned and well instructed in the scholastic doctrine. Then Brother Matteo da Bascio, even if he didn’t have a lot of learning, was adorned every virtue and the best of example. With fiery words he inflamed in the love of God whoever heard him. He decided to send them out to preach. He received permission from the Bishop to preach in his diocese. They divided into three. Fra Matteo da Bascio went off towards Montefeltro, Fra Matteo da San Leo preached in the villas and castles of Camerino and wherever he was invited. Fra Paolo mostly preached in the city. The people had no longer seen this kind of Religious – Religious who marvellously put the world beneath their feet. With their poverty they despised every worldly desire. They went about dressed in a habit that could be called more of a hairshirt rather than a habit. They went barefoot summer and winter with a crucifix in their hand. The practice of holding the crucifix in the pulpit began with these servants of God. It was not customary before then. They received nothing from seculars except a little bread which they would eat alongside some spring or after withdrawing to a hidden place. They preached with such fervour that everyone wanted to hear them. Because of this their fame was rumoured throughout Christendom. Letters were written about them: that in the Marches of Ancona some Religious had appeared who preached with such fervour that they seemed to have come from heaven. They preached the Sacred Scripture, principally the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, while exhorting people to observe the commandments of God. Because there was a very severe famine at the time, those servants of God went around procuring grain, beans, bread and other things to eat from the rich and wealthy, which they dispensed to the extremely poor[379] who were in the greatest need. Our Lord God was so pleased with these servants of his that it seemed that in them the apostolic life had been renewed, relying totally on the providence of God. By day they worked at preaching and helping the poor. Often at night they withdrew as best they could to some abandoned church, hospice or confraternity and spent most of the night in saying the Office, the Discipline and other devotions. Seculars often heard them weeping so intensely over the passion of the Lord as if they had been present themselves. They organised many sodalities and exhorted the people to frequent the Holy Sacraments.

170. The reputation of these holy preachers was of no small asset to the poor Congregation because news of the results that the Lord God was working through the poor Capuchins reached the ears of His Holiness. He was very happy for having given them the Brief. He was even disposed to give them a Bull especially since he had some noblemen from Camerino in his Court. They often spoke to him so affectionately about the Capuchins that they depicted them as saints. On the other hand his niece[380] often wrote to him. She did this to try and place them in his good graces. Many personages took up the protection of the poor Congregation which helped us very much at the time. The friars no longer went about as fugitives in fear of being captured. They worked everywhere and everyone held them in the highest regard.

171. On the other hand when the Venerable Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano and all the adversaries came to know about the sudden departure of Fra Ludovico and how he had already obtained the Brief a great confusion rose among them. For some of them were very glad, those who desired the Reform. The others who didn’t want it were very upset. Consequently a great unpleasantness arose among them. It was like the time when Our Lord gave sight to the man born blind. Some wicked Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God because he does not observe the Sabbath.’[381] Others said “If he is not from God how could he perform these miracles?” So among these friars some said, “This cannot be a good thing. We know who their leaders are. They are simple persons with little expertise in these matters. It will soon fail.’ On the other hand, those who desired the Reform said, “No, you are very much deceived. All the Orders, even the Church herself, began with such poor instruments. Who were the Apostles? Who was our Father Saint Francis? Wasn’t our Reform done by a lay friar, Brother Paoluccio of Foligno? For us instead this confirms that it is a work of God. Because it has such poor instruments can’t you see that the Lord God wants the honour, that it be recognised as coming from him and not men? What if they had been men of letters: it would have been regarded as coming from them and their prudence and not from God.” “I am very happy about this,” many said, “and once they are a bit more established I won’t be the last to take up that habit.”

172. Not many years earlier the Order began to boil with a great desire to do some Reform. For at that time there were excellent, highly educated men gifted with sound refinement and greatly favoured by the potentates of Christendom. Although they struggled to advance the Reform they could never accomplish it because of many difficulties. For there was a great multitude of lax Friars too who said, ‘We are quite OK and we are making things too complicated.’[382] This came about because they liked easy living too much as well as all the comforts that the flesh demands. This was the reason that those Venerable Fathers were so happy: to see that which so many zealous Fathers couldn’t achieve was achieved by the power of God in the lowliest and simplest little Brothers in the Order at the time. With so many favours those Venerable Fathers were unable to do a Reform. It was done by those simple ones. Although the multitude of lax Friars would prevail over and impugn that Reform done by a multitude of zealous Fathers, it was unable to remove or prevail against those four barefoot friars who had no learning or eloquence. Therefore those judicious Fathers recognised there the arm of God and were very happy. When they learned that Fra Ludovico had obtained the Brief, given the great favour the Order had at the time throughout all the world, it was as if they could not believe that His Holiness would have granted that Brief. And as much as the General tried through his Court Procurator to revoke the Brief, working through their contacts, they were nonetheless unable to revoke it. Then many of them were enthused and went to find Fra Ludovico . They wanted to see and read the Brief. When they were sure many of them took up the Capuchin habit.

The Brief was addressed to Fra Ludovico as leader of the undertaking, to Fra Matteo and to Fra Raffaekki, Fra Ludovico’s sibling.

173. This news reached the ears of that very zealous Father, Fra Giovanni da Fano, Minister of the Province of the Marches. The departure of those Fathers from his Province of the Marches saddened him. He decided to dedicate all his effort and use all his wit and diligence to repair the calamity and completely uproot this sect, as he called it. Let no one err by judging this Venerable Father – he was one of the Venerable Fathers in the Order in his time. He did all this because of the zeal of the zeal this good Father had to preserve the Order. This was something incredible. He firmly believed that Brother Padre Ludovico’s break away would cause many problems and would denigrate the good reputation the Order had among seculars when they discovered that it was not possible to live in good conscience in the Order without doing another Reform. Furthermore he didn’t think that either Fra Ludovico or Fra Matteo were suitable for such a task. He knew Fra Matteo to be a great servant of God who was passionate about the observance of the Rule, but he thought him to be too scrupulous. He considered Fra Ludovico, though wise and astute, to be neither zealous nor spiritual. Nor could he imagine him to be moved by zeal for the Rule. Among the friars he was considered haughty, one moved more by indignation than anything else especially to vanquish the one who had once held him in prison.[383] Nor would he have released him since he felt sure that Fra Ludovico would do what he did do to leave the Order. However he feared Brother Ludovico’s uncle who more than once sent to say to him, “If you do not leave my Fra Ludovico alone, I will do to you something not very nice.” He was just the man to do that and worse because he was quite terrible, as we said above.[384]

This good Father was not aware that this was a work of God who uses all the poor instruments he likes. For as first cause he can do everything he wants without secondary causes. The secondary causes though cannot do anything without the first cause. That divine and almighty cause can impede the secondary causes that do not produce their effects without something being created. It is enough that the first cause not concur with the secondary causes. And if as the first cause His Majesty does not concur with the secondary causes, the secondary causes cannot produce their effects. This His Majesty showed in this zealous Friar. As much as he tried to impede the Reform his wishes had no effect because the Lord God did not concur as He did with those Friars in impeding the first Reform for a long time because he wanted this reform and not the first one. This was so that everyone would know that this was a work of God just as is seen in the early Church and in all the religious Orders.

XXXII: How the Venerable Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano wrote against the poor Capuchins to the Duchess of Camerino

174. Why John of Fano disapproved the Reform 175. Caterina Cibo defends the Capuchins 176. The “Dialogue on Salvation” 117. John of Fano obtains a Brief against the Capuchins 178. He writes to the Duchess

174. It is obvious that ignorance is often the cause of all evil. The opposite is also clear: that the intellect enlightened by God is the foremost cause of every good. This is because our will by itself is blind and can only want those things that the intellect shows it to be good. Nor can it want something that the intellect clearly shows to be bad. However when physical appetite[385] shows something to be good or at least desirable, the will wants it as something desirable even if it is something bad and forbidden by the Lord God. Already regarded as something delightful the will is deceived and all because the intellect sheds little light on it. This is the cause of all sins. This was why many people through the ages have abandoned the world. They recognised it as completely dark and very powerful in causing sin. They entered some religious Order hoping to enlighten their minds and flee the occasions of doing evil by the means of the good example, teachng and the beautiful ways of holy men; by the study of sacred theology and, more important, through holy contemplation. When they tasted and saw that the Order to be well organised and that everyone, or at least the majority, worked for perfection by being completely detached from the desire for all worldly things, withdrawn to remote and solitary places; with much abstinence from foods and things of comfort, they slept on the bed of high contemplation, they felt compelled to say that there is nowhere in the world worthier, better and more salutary where one can become holy and please God in everything. From experience they knew that by wanting to live in the world and with worldly people it is very difficult, almost impossible, to live a holy life. On the other hand it is almost impossible to save oneself in a lax Order tangled up in vices and worldly things. This is because that Order is joined to both good and evil. When it is lax, to want to lead a spiritual life can’t be done without suffering the greatest tribulations. It is almost impossible to resist. Therefore Father Saint Augustine says that a good and holy religious is the best man in the world and a bad religious is the worst man in the world.[386]

Therefore this was the main reason that Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano railed against the poor Capuchins so much, because the lax Friars still insisted with him, saying: “Know Father that since you are Minister it is up to you to help our Order and to defend it from this hooded sect.[387] If we do not protect ourselves that sect will be a powerful cause of our ruin. And it will be your fault before God and the world. The Major Superiors will probably punish you for it. The other Superiors will have some excuse because they haven’t known about it and it isn’t in their Provinces. It is up to you to undertake this task for the good of the whole Order.”

175. Hence the poor Father burned with such fury that it clouded his mind and he did not know what to do. He saw the great difficulty of being able to uproot it completely Fra Ludovico, the head of the Congregation, was a couragious man who feared nothing. More importantly he had the strong support of Duchess who was the niece of Pope Clement. She saw with no other eyes but those of the Capuchins. The holy example that those first Fathers gave her was such that she bore them emgraved in her heart. At that time it was a marvel to see Religious who all concentrated on throwing off the world – such perfect Religious who had put the world beneath their feet, dressed in a narrow, shabby habit patched entirely with sacking. It surpassed all the poor of the world for its lowliness and harshness that served more as a hairshirt than a habit. People saw them go barefoot both in summer and winter in the intense cold and ice. They fasted nearly continuously on bread and water. They slept on the ground or on boards. They persevered in holy prayers and contemplation so that it seemed there was no one about. Such was the silence of these servants of God. They were never heard except when they were saying the Office or the Mass. She saw all this in her own palace. For this reason she held them so dear to her heart that nothing pleased her more than to hear her Capuchins spoken of highly, and this woman gave them refuge against all the blows of their adversaries.

176. Being a judicious man Padre Fra Giovanni realised that he could not succeed against them if this woman did not against them. So with letters he tried to persuade the Court Procurator and other suitable Fathers to do all they could to persuade His Holiness not to believe her: as a woman, she was deceived. Those Fathers pressed this matter for many months but she had men of importance near His Holiness who convinced him of the opposite. Furthermore His Holiness was aware that all this was born of resentment since he had been very well informed by many trustworthy Fathers that the Rule was not observed in the Order. The Holy Father wanted that Reform as a good thing for the whole Order. However it seemed to Padre Fra Giovanni that the Friars would observe the Rule. Therefore he sat down and wrote a book on the Rule in the form of a dialogue.[388] He introduced into the book the interlocutors Brother Enthusiastic and Brother Reasonable, demonstrating as much as he could that the Rule was being observed, though with privileges. He strongly censured the Capuchins as some kind of extremists. He quickly had the book printed, thinking that he would calm down the Friars so they wouldn’t join the Capuchins. On the other hand he wanted His Holiness and everyone else to know that the Rule was observed and the Capuchins were mistaken in doing another Reform. With all this, however, he didn’t salve the wound, rather he increased the inflammation. For the more the book was read and the Rule discussed, the zealous friars became more aware of deficiencies and how the Rule was not observed. After he came to the Capuchins he demonstrated the error of that exposition with another one. For it seemed to him that he could not undo the harm without writing down how the Rule should be observed for everyone to see.[389]

177. The difficulty this venerable Father faced is remarkable. He did not do all this because of malice or with the intention to persecute his neighbour. He thought he was doing the right thing even for the Capuchins in order bring them back to the Order. He believed that flight and detachment from one’s General was not safe in conscience. When he saw that all he had done was not enough and that the Congregation still made progress, and that his Friars were hopping mad about it, he decided to obtain a Brief that threatened excommunication to any of his Friars who joined the Capuchins. With great effort he obtained this from His Beatitude. That is how he kept so many of them. However the Capuchins revoked it not long after.[390]

This Father immersed himself in wanting to destroy this Congregation. He said this when Padre Fra Ludovico took his leave at the General Chapter, as will be described in its place later.[391] When Padre Fra Giovanni saw this he was deeply saddened. He called Fra Ludovico to his cell and said, “When I persecuted you and the Congregation I was blind and completely benighted by the devil and by passion. I thought I could obstruct the work of God. You exhorted me so that I would be enlightened by God and not persecute the Congregation. Now that God has enlightened me and you are blind and benighted by passion, it is my duty to help you to be patient and let yourself be governed. You know how much good you have done and now you want to forfeit it for no good reason. Thank God that your efforts have been pleasing to God. Because of you Saint Francis’ habit and way of life have been introduced and raised up again in the world today. There has been no other Reform like this one. You cannot deny that your original intention was not to do a Reform, and now God has brought it to perfection. Why do you want to turn against your work? Therefore be glad and give thanks to God?”

Padre Fra Ludovico answered, “Everything you say is true and this is what grieves me. This Reform was carried out with great effort. It will pass into the hands of young Friars and those who have only been in it a short time. The will fill it with ceremonies and these will be the cause of its ruin.”

It was an amazing thing that even though Padre Fra Ludovico would have received so many difficulties from Padre Fra Giovanni, he always liked him nonetheless, knowing of his goodness. However he was unaware of the secret judgements of God who, as was the case in the primitive Church, always used weak instruments to establish it, just as he did in founding all the religious Orders. As our Father Saint Francis[392] says, God has done this so that His work might be known and that He receive the honour for it and that the honour due to the Creator not be attributed to the creature. Francis said, “I am the vilest creature there is in the world. Therefore God chose me to found this holy Order so that it would be known that His Majesty founded it and not me.” That is how our Congregation began. Padre Fra Giovanni poorly understood this. He worked so furiously in persecuting the poor Capuchin Congregation. However the favour of God never failed and this is well known because of those poor fellows resisted him. Nor could he ever defeat or overcome them.

178. Nor did Fra Giovanni fail to do as much as he could. So he wrote to Lady Caterina again that she would not regret it if she did all she could to remove the hooded sect (as he called it[393]) from the face of the earth. If she considered the matter well (she would realise) that this sect would succeed in the final extermination of the Order. “You have always been mother of the Order and as such you should not give them the support you do. Rather, you too should persecute the sect. But because they have given you to understand a lot of lies and they do appear that way to you, you support the sect. I am not about to go back on what I promised you about not bothering Fra Matteo. As for the others I will continue because I do not wish to fail my Order.” Her Ladyship told him he could do what he wanted. Howver if it was a work of God, as she felt certain it was, neither he, nor his Order, nor the whole world together would be able to bring it down.

Not long after, when Padre Fra Giovanni knew that the Capuchins were still at the place of the Duke he went there personally. With his prudence he hoped to take them from that nest where they were safe. Then he would have won an easy victory over them.

XXXIII: How Brother John of Fano complained to the Duke of Camerino

179. John of Fano in conversation with the Duke of Camerino 180. Discussion with the Capuchins 181. Their triumph 182. John of Fano seeks the intervention of the Court Procurator

179. When Padre Fra Giovanni heard that Fra Ludovico had obtained a Brief from His Beatitude to be able to receive Friars and build friaries he was very upset. He was even more disturbed when he heard that Fra Ludovico had received many of his Friars. For when it became known that Fra Ludovico had obtained that Brief, many Friars who desired Reform left the Order and he received them. Angry, Fra Giovanni then went personally to see the Duke of Camerino. His Excellency gave him the opportunity to tell him his story. Fra Giovanni said to him, “My Lord, you have always been like a father to our Order. You House has always been open to us and very ready and prepared to come to our aid in all our needs. As you know this was the happy tradition of your father and your mother. However I am not speaking about you because to this day you have not let them down. Rather, if anything, Your Lordship has surpassed everyone. But now it seems as though you have cooled. I am not talking about alms, for without fail we continue to receive from your House the usual and more. But there is just one thing which grieves us and all my Order sorrow very much. Your Lordship has taken to supporting certain ones who have put our whole Order into disarray. If we do not defend ourselves and if Your Lordship does not help us they will be a very powerful cause in ruining our Order. Your Lordship will be held to account before God if you do not help us or at least not continue to support these persons.

On hearing these words the Duke was dumbstruck. He did not know whom Fra Giovanni was taking about. This happened because His Lordship involved himself little in these matters but left it all to his consort, the Duchess, to do. Quite astonished about this therefore he replied, “Father, I don’t know whom you are talking about. May the Lord God watch over me so that I may never have to be the cause of the ruin of the Order. I would rather suffer every evil in person rather than willingly offend the Lord. Perhaps I did what you have said in my ignorance, and while thinking I was doing good, I was doing wrong.” Fra Giovanni answered, “I have never had any other opinion of Your Lordship than this.” Turning to his companion he said to him, “Haven’t I said to you many times that His Lordship does not know these persons and supports them thinking he is doing the right thing.” “Know, my Lord, that those Friars whom you have in your palace will be the cause of this evil.”

The Duke turned to certain personages whom he had around and said to them, “Who is this Father speaking about now? Does he mean the Anchorites whom we have in the palace?” Those noblemen answered him, “We think he can’t be speaking about anyone else.” The Duke said this because that is what he called the poor Capuchins, ‘the Anchorites.’ He kept them in the palace in good faith, knowing that they had a Brief from His Holiness to be able to live that way. And He liked to hear their Masses and Offices which they said so devoutly and slowly in a chapel which he had in the palace. Out of his devotion he heard the Masses of those poor fellows every morning.

Padre Fra Giovanni said that those Friars had left his Order and in their fancy wore the pointed cowl on their heads and had apostatised[394] from the Order. The Duke replied, “Father, I know nothing of what you are speaking about. More than this I have not been informed of your differences. They shall be called. They can speak for themselves.” He sent a servant for them and had them come into the presence of the Duke and of Fra Giovanni and all those gentlemen. When four of them appeared they looked like exhumed corpses because the poor, barefoot fellows were dressed in their coarse habits, and the many hardships they suffered and their harsh fasts made their faces pale and wan.

180. When these four poor fellows came before this court His Excellency the Duke inidcated to Padre Fra Giovanni to speak to them and say to them with every confidence whatever he wanted. With great fury he began to speak. “You wretches, you are outside the Order! You could have stayed in friaries to praise God. Now you are in the palaces of princes. I would like to learn from you what moved you to such madness! If you wanted to do penance and observe the Rule, who stopped you there? Now get up. I have come to carry out the office of a good father and implore you to come back with me and be at peace in our friaries and with our brothers. And I in the presence of His Excellency promise you every kindness. Nor am I seeking anything else for you than the salvation of your souls. Return then. You will not receive any penance and you will please His Lordship in doing so.”

When Padre Fra Giovanni had finished, the Duke turned to the Friars and said to them, “Answer, Fathers.” So then, one of them, the one who appeared to be the most wan palest of all spoke. “Illustrious Lord I will not speak at length.” He put his hands in his tunic and took out the Rule. In a flash he blushed brightly and spoke with the greatest fervour. “My very dear Father, because you asked what has moved us to leave you. Know that to us it seems that there is no better way to answer you than with this.” He began to read the Rule, not everything from the beginning, but just the precepts of the Rule. He said, “These have moved us to leave you because we have promised them to God. They are precepts of the Rule which oblige us under pain of mortal sin. In your midst we could not observe them. How much you observe them or how much they are observed in the Order I shall not say. I leave all that to your conscience, especially the precept of poverty in clothing, food, dwellings – with so many stores of grain and wine, etc., which are against poverty. As for recourse to money, I shall not speak about that. Therefore this has moved us, my dear Father. And we are prepared to die for the observance of our profession. If we are here in the palace of His Excellency, we are here in the observance of our profession.”

181. The Duke then turned to him and said, “Forgive me Reverend Father. As a confirmation of what they say, and I am sure they will not take vainglory from this; I have never seen Religious adorned with such fine conduct, holiness and good practices as these poor fellows. Only under duress do they accept water from us and a little fire, and some times a small amount of bread. But generally they go begging through the city for what they need for the sustenance of their poor life. The poor fellows fast almost continuously and mostly on bread and water.”

At these words almost all the gentlemen present were moved to tears of compassion for those servants of God. It was amazing that Padre Fra Giovanni, such a prudent and wise man, fell silent and was so confused in his mind that he left them without a single word in reply. Pulling up his cowl he made reverence to His Lordship and took himself off straightaway. Those poor fellows all went back to the chapel. They said to each other, “Did you see how God confused him! The truth is so strong that no one can resist it. Falsehood is so weak that it is easily knocked down.” With many tears they knelt and thanked God who had spoken through their mouth and had defended them. The truth did not remain buried away in the presence of that prince and so many gentlemen. It was very important that they understand this truth and that it not be obscured by such a learned and prudent man who understood it thoroughly. Together they all said, “My Lord, now we see and are even more enlightened and clear in our minds that this is your work. May your Majesty not fail to help us. Again we promise you willingly, as much as our human frailty allows us, to never falter in the true observance of the Rule because of persecution nor any kind of suffering. If necessary we will even give our lives for love of you.”

So helped by the Holy Spirit their great desire to serve God in the new reform grew stronger. Such devotion towards them accrued in the Lord Duke. If he had helped them before, now he would have given his life and substance. This devotion spread throughout the city so that everyone was knew that the poor Capuchins were not moved to do this new thing out of indignation or impulse as some said. Rather, this was because of their zeal for the observance of their Rule. From that time, the murmuring and arguments of adversaries who said they were apostates no longer occurred.

182. Returning to Fra Giovanni. Once he left Camerino he wrote to the Court Procurator that the Capuchin Congregation was making progress and that the Province of the Marches was all topsy-turvy. If not remedied this sect of madmen would quickly spread and grow in such numbers that it would be irreparable. The whole Order will be thrown into extreme confusion. For just as there are Friars in the Province of the Marches who want this novelty, there is no shortage in other Provinces of those who similarly pine for such a novelty. When it is understood that these have received a Brief and are supported by His Holiness they will all do the same. Therefore do not fail to do all you can to sever the head of this snake. I cannot help because Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone has obtained a Bull to establish friaries and receive Friars and it threatens excommunication to anyone who tries to stop him. If you want me to defend myself, make every effort to revoke that Brief. Otherwise we are finished. However, if you have their Brief revoked we need nothing else. That will be enough for me to bring them to an end, because (just as it is written) I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.[395] When I have the authority to get my hands on Fra Ludovico nothing else will be necessary because the others are be like lost sheep. They will come home by themselves. But it is this hardhead who wars against us. Therefore have the Brief revoked as soon as possible. Otherwise some Friars will still jump at at the opportunity. If we do not check this hardhead it won’t be long before he obtains a Bull. So then, to do everything quickly, seek to obtain a Brief that negates the one of Fra Ludovico and forbids friars from joining him, and which gives me permission to compel the return of those who have left; and if they don’t want to, that I may use the secular arm to remove them and completely pull up this evil root.

When he heard this, the Father Procurator[396] used all his skill to obtain a Brief. Amen.

XXXIV: How Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano obtained a Brief against the poor Capuchins

183. The doubt aroused among the Capuchins because of the frequency of tribulations 184. Other effects these had 185. The Pope opposes the revocation of the Brief given to Ludovico 186. However he forbids the Observants to join the Capuchins

183. Cain never hated Abel[397], nor Esau ever persecute his brother[398] as much the Venerable Padre Fra Giovanni da Fano persecuted and hated the poor Capuchins. At that time he was Minister of the Province of the Marches. That such a good man – learned, mature, judicious and with a very good conscience – should fall into such a great error caused dismay to everyone. However many servants of God at the time considered that he was not inspired by malice but with zeal for his Order. He believed he was doing the right thing and something pleasing to God. And so it appeared that he did what he did out of great hatred. He said the very same thing when he later joined the Capuchins. However since he was an energetic and clever man he acted resolutely in everything. And he was very efficient in his actions. However, those who fished in deeper waters[399] believed that God permitted this so as to give those venerable first Capuchin Fathers a greater test and so give them a greater crown.

Since this was one of the greatest persecutions which our Reform suffered in the beginning and they all worried about whether they were excommunicated, as this was commonly claimed. If it were just a persecution that they only had to suffer physically, those servants of God were so fervent that they would have laid down their lives willingly for the observance of the Rule. They suffered every hardship with great joy. However when they heard and realised that there was an excommunication many of them became dispirited. They could not help themselves because most of them were simple. Nor could they appear in public for fear of being apprehended. This was very similar to the Holy Apostles. When they saw their Master have such an appalling death they wondered if having followed Our Lord had been a waste of time. This is what the two disciples said after the death of the Lord. They had left Jerusalem and were on their way to Emmaus. Jesus appeared to them in the form of a pilgrim and asked them why they were so melancholy. They answered, “We were hoping that this Jesus of Nazareth must rise again after three days. Today is the third day and he has not risen.”[400]

That is what happened to those poor fellows. When they found themselves amid so many tribulations and saw themselves so impugned by their adversaries they began to doubt whether the Reform was from God. For this reason many of them became afraid and returned to whence they came. Many returned under duress because they were captured by guards and forcefully brought back and incarcerated. The Good Master however did not fail to gather together his rustled sheep. For when matters were clarified they all came back again and with greater fervour. There is a saying that the more a hammer strikes an anvil the more the hammer wears out. Therefore this is what happened to that hard hammer Padre Fra Giovanni when he saw how God so favoured the Congregation of Capuchins and the more he saw the constancy of those servants of God. For however much he tried to keep the Friars from going to the Capuchins, more of them left. The more he persecuted them and threatened them with the terrors of excommunication the stronger was their conviction to recognise the Congregation conformed to all the things of God that usually suffer difficulties.

184. Therefore the Venerable Padre Fra Giovanni began to rethink his situation and say to himself, “Look. Fra Giovanni. You are offending God by wanting to stop this Reform!” As he said later, his conscience was so pricked by this that he began to fear that he could no longer say the slightest word in against the Capuchins. He became convinced that if he did not restore their reputation by becoming a Capuchin he could not see how he could save himself. And so, where before he thought of how to stop others going to the Capuchins, now he had been seized by God like the Apostle Paul. During Paul’s great fervour against the Church of Christ that infinite light appeared to him along the road and penetrated his heart. The Saviour of the world said to him, “Saul, it is difficult to kick against the goad.”[401] So Fra Giovanni could not withstand the constinuous, stinging lash of his conscience. Nonetheless before God gazed upon him and touched him with His power, he did not fail to do everything he could against the poor Congregation, using all his cleverness and learning to do this harm. For this reason he wrote so persuasively to a Court Procurator at that time that he poisoned both the Procurator and His Holiness against the poor Congregation. But since no power can resist the power of God, who orders all things in His infinite goodness for the benefit of His chosen ones, all these persecutions were as so many pearls and precious stones to adorn the Capuchin Reform. He gave them a grand foundation. Just as the Church of God was adorned with so many glorious saints in heaven and on earth because of many persecutions, so it was with our Congregation. Since those first Fathers were so purified they laid such a beautiful foundation for the Reform that her sons are still aware of it. And it is impossible for the seculars who knew them to forget that divine light which those servants of God spread everywhere. So even today they still give us bread and we benefit from their holy teachings. We all benefit still from the sweet fragrance which they bequeathed and from all their struggles.

185. Therefore Father John did not fail to do everything he could to have Brother Padre Ludovico’s Bull revoked or restrict it somehow because the Brief was a great comfort to the Congregation. For the Brief was also a great opportunity for all those Friars from the Order who wanted to come over to the Capuchins. When he heard about the Brief, and being a judicious man, he knew his Province would be stripped of all the good Friars within a short time. Because of this he made an ultimate effort, and if God had not helped it, the poor Congregation would have been overturned and annihilated, so well did he set himself to his task. As we said above, he wrote to the Procurator who spared no effort because he was just as angry towards the poor Capuchins. However Our Lord did not allow much harm be done. Rather, God struck both of them and everything came out completely the opposite to what they thought.

He used friends who did not let him down. Therefore a Brief was obtained with all the favours possible. He brought forward many witnesses who proved to His Holiness that the Capuchins were weak friars. They persuaded him that that the Capuchins had no justification. They said to him, “We understand them and know all to well well just who they are. They are uneducated and act without justification.” They said His Holiness was ruining the Order, which was in total upheaval. Because this sect the whole Order was divided. Under the pretext of observing the Rule these four madmen, have adopted an austere life which could not possibly last. They will be stuck in limbo, deprived of the Order and their Reform. For all of them will get sick and they will need to return reluctantly to a more comfortable, easier life. The world will be scandalised at this disturbance the Order and this improper innovation in the Church. If Your Holiness assent and revoke and annul the first Brief we promise him that we will give these simple fellows who desire to observe the Rule every opportunity to do so. As Your Holiness knows quite well, our Fathers already obtained a Bull of Reform, which Your Holiness kindly granted us because at all costs we want do the Reform more calmly and without dividing the Order[402]. And if they return to us they will be received kindly without imposing any penance upon them. We are not seeking anything else than to lead them back under holy obedience because they are wandering around like lost sheep.”

It was amazing. No orator’s tongue would be enough to describe how much astuteness and how many ploys were used by those Fathers, who were the most prudent and learned, to persuade His Holiness that he should revoke the Brief. Nonetheless the Lord God displayed a miracle greater than he ever displayed either before or since in favour of the poor Congregation. For on the surface those reasons were so true that His Holiness had to believe them completely, considering the weakness of the four Capuchin Friars[403], and that Order promised to give them every opportunity (to observe the Rule). But at this point there is a demonstration that the Holy Spirit governs the See of Peter. Nor can the See be deceived by false arguments. It was with good reason that the Seraphic Francis founded his Order on this very stable base whose judgement until today has always remained impartial and unshakeable.

186. Therefore His Holiness would hear nothing of this. He wanted the Brief to stay firmly in place since he had been the one to grant it to them. When the adversaries saw that along that line they could not accomplish their plan to put away all those poor fellows, they took another road. With dogged insistence they implored His Holiness to grant them a Brief that would prohibit any more friars from leaving. They could persuade those who had left to return again. However with all the authority that the Brief granted them Fra Padre Ludovico, Fra Matteo and Fra Raphael remained firm. Holiness conceded to this as a crown for the poor fellows. He granted a Brief[404] so that no more of Padre Giovanni’s Friars would be able to come to the Capuchin Congregation. He could encourage the return of those who had already joined them, on the condition that he gave them every opportunity to observe their Rule. He did not excommunicate those who did not want to return. However he had His Holiness include in the Brief the possibility of using the secular arm.

The Brief already granted to Fra Ludovico remained in force. He could not constrain Fra Ludovico nor Fra Matteo nor Fra Raphael to return to them. Rather, they could continue to do their Reform and receive every kind of person except those of Fra Giovanni and his Order. That Brief was sent to Padre Fra Giovanni, Minister of the (Province of the) Marches.

XXXV: What the Capuchin Friars did from 1526 until 1528

187. The tribulations of the first years 188. Fraternal love 189. Calumnies 190. The Capuchins supported by seculars 191. The example of Saint Francis 192. Consolations

187. You should know that the atrocious persecutions against the poor Capuchins lasted two years, that is, from 1526 until 1528. During this time the poor Capuchins were only a few and had obtained nothing from His Holiness except the Brief. As we have mentioned above Padre Giovanni da Fano had it weakened, though not annulled. During this time they had no friary. Fugitives they stayed in the woods like wild animals. No tongue could tell how much those poor fellows suffered, tried by our Lord God like gold in the furnace. They were in a sea of troubles to make it obvious that this was God’s work. This was much the same as the other works that without doubt His Majesty had performed when the Holy Church was founded by those first Fathers with so much effort and bloodshed over so many years. When the Saviour of the world died he left in the Church that part of the Cross which Simon Cyrene carried. In this way the cross always accompanied the primitive Church so that all those who wanted to live according to the divine will had to carry the cross.

Because God gave the Order of Saint Francis to the world as a help and benefit to the Holy Church, our Lord wanted it to always conform to Francis. And as has been seen, whenever holy and zealous Fathers wanted to restore the Order to its pristine state, they have always suffered the worst persecutions from lax Friars. This is obvious with the Reform of the Zoccolanti. For many years they were persecuted by the Friars who were lax and had little zeal for the observance of the Rule. And that is what our Lord wanted for the poor Congregation of Capuchins, so that those first Fathers who founded it would be truly conformed to the holy cross. When Padre Fra Giovanni Fano received the Brief he went after the poor fellows like an unfettered lion. And if His Holiness had granted him an inch of authority, he took a mile. He spread it abroad everywhere that they were all excommunicated and he tracked them down with the constable. However, their worry about whether they were excommunicated was one the severest trials the poor men had to suffer. Some of them returned and Brief stopped those those who had decided to join the Reform.

188. Fra Ludovico did not fail to help them as much as he could, however the evil was so widespread that they had nowhere to appeal and where Fra Ludovico could explain things. The poor fellows were wandering fugitives[405]. Some of them remained hidden in the mountains and deserted places. Others stayed in caves. Others stayed in truly inaccessible places. For whole months they lived on wild fruit and drank water. Some in hiding were secretly provided for by a farmer. Those who were caught in the net, and there were very many of them, were apprehended and imprisoned immediately. Many were lashed and atrociously afflicted in different ways. On the other hand they did not lack the support of the Most High God. Amid all the tribulations He gave those poor fellows amazing patience and such a good spirit that those grave tribulations seemed light and unimportant to them. They so rejoiced to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ that He gave them the invincible strength to never abandon the true observance of the Rule because of these tribulations or any of the other infinite afflictions that God permitted them. They comforted one another saying, “Do not worry, Brother. God will provide for us.” Freed from jail, those servants of God went back to their other companions. The strong love they bore one anther was such that separation from one another was the possible greatest sorrow they could have in this world. They were all happy to stay in the forest and live on herbs and water with his truly beloved brothers rather than remain in the physical comfort of the Order. Those who returned to the Order at first because of these fearful circumstances later returned to the Capuchins once things had calmed down.

189. At that time the wicked tongues of many Religious rose up. They strove with all their wit to pollute all the seculars who supported the poor Capuchins. They were saying publicly that the Capuchins were excommunicated and were losing both soul and body simultaneoulsy amid so many afflictions and difficulties because they were under the restricitions of excommunication. Although this was untrue, nevertheless they chilled many of those who had warmly welcomed the Capuchins at first. Now they avoided the Capuchins so as not to be excommunicated too. This caused the poor fellows to suffer very much because no one wanted to give them accommodation any more. They no longer had the places to which they used to withdraw. Consequently they were compelled very often to stay out under the trees or in caves.

Padre Fra Giovanni relaxed the fear of God in himself to extent that wherever he heard there to be some Capuchin Friar he would go there in person to capture him. Often he had a large company, not only of Friars suitable for the task, but also constabulary. He sought to get his hands on Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone more than anyone else. However he could not do this openly however because of the Brief. Therefore it evidently did not bother him. As for Fra Matteo, he did not take him too much into account nor did he trouble him because of the threats made him by the Duchess of Camerino. She would have given the same help to the others but they were being persecuted outside her jurisdiction, and also because His Holiness had been told that she loved the Capuchin Friars too inordinately and that as a woman she did not consider the great harm that she was giving to the Order, as well as the scandal the Church would receive because of the novelty of that habit. And His Holiness would be blamed. Therefore even though she did not stop writing to His Holiness, the Pope no longer gave her letters credence. This gave Padre Fra Giovanni ample opportunity to proceed against the Capuchins. So rabid was he that he thought of nothing else but how to persecute them.

190. At this time seculars gave great relief to the poor Congregation at this time. When many of them heard that the Friars had fled into the woods, they would bring them something to eat and consoled them saying, “Do not worry. I have heard that the Duchess of Camerino wants to ride to Rome on you behalf and to get a Bull promptly from His Holiness. Be happy. As long as I have some bread so will you. If my children lack bread then you will too. There is still faith in you. However the enemy wants to remove you from the face of the earth. Persevere then because Jesus Christ will help you.” The seculars often helped them often when the constabulary came to capture them. Knowing where the poor Capuchins were the seculars told them, “Don’t go up because they are not there. If you want to find and capture them go up such and such a mountain. You will find them there.” In this way they lead them away from the poor Capuchins whom they then warned secretly so that they could get away and not be caught.

191. The Reverend Camaldolese Fathers also gave them great comfort. They were the last resort for the Capuchins, as we have already mentioned above[406]. As well as these Religious, seeing themselves to be just like Father Saint Francis in the Legend of the Three Companions[407] consoled them and heartened them to persevere in the life they had begun amid so much difficulty. For in the beginning Father Saint Francis did not intend to set up houses as is usually done. His intention was to begin an Order where they would conform totally with the Holy Apostles in everything by leading an itinerant life. Perfectly founded in holy poverty they would go throughout the world preaching more by example than with doctrine. When he thought to find a mountain or solitary places where they could dedicate themselves easily to holy contemplation, they would make there some huts with walls and roofs made of lowly materials. When their quiet and tranquillity of mind was impeded due to frequent visits by seculars or other difficulties, they could leave those little hovels without difficulty[408]. They had cost nothing and had no obligation to them[409]. Then they would go somewhere else where they could dedicate themselves quietly to contemplation. At other times they used abandoned churches or the huts of other Orders, as clearly is the case of the Carcere of Assisi. In that little place there was little by way of other buildings where they could find shelter, since there was the naturally steep rock of the mountain. This belonged to the Monks of Saint Benedict[410]. The same for Our Lady of the Angels. As long as he lived, Father Saint Francis did want there to be anything but a few little cells made from thatchwork work and mud covered with straw, except for the devout little Church of the Monks[411].

192. Returning then to the poor Capuchins. They rejoiced very much at being able to lodge in abandoned churches, caves, hospices and other poor places compatible with their poverty. They were very glad to be pilgrims who had nothing else on earth except the rags they wore. The Lord God did not fail to give them his Spirit, since being completely detached from all earthly affection they were continuously rapt in God. With their minds always lifted up in contemplation of the things of God, every suffering was easy for them. Therfore they rejoiced when they saw everyone had abandoned them.

XXXVI: Having overcome the many tribulations and they were tempted to leave for the land of the infidels to seek martyrdom.

193. Infused virtue and acquired virtue 194. Dangers of the solitary life 195. The Capuchins on the verge of going among the infidels 196. Contemplation as the aim of religious life 197. Some Friars prefer the Anchoritic life 198. Padre Ludovico dissuades them from be too fond of solitude 199. Some contemplative Friars

193. It is not without reason that the learned called the holy virtues habits and held them to be of two kinds, that is, infused and acquired. They called faith, hope and charity infused habits. They called ‘acquired habits’ all the others that are acquired with struggle and one’s own efforts, as are the seven liberal arts. This was not without reason, because just as the habit and precious clothing adorn the body, so the habits of virtue adorn the soul and make it the worthy spouse of God. Without that clothing anyone who entered the wedding feast without the marriage robe the great King threw out into the darkness, bound hand and foot[412]. So all those at death who will be found to be without the habit of charity will be thrown out into the infernal darkness. The clothing of charity makes us sons of God, brothers of Christ and heirs of the kingdom and frees us from every evil. This was what made the first saints and leaders of Orders so fervent in leaving the world, with all the pleasures it offers, and begin religious life. For it seemed to them very difficult to live in this world in the grace of God because our nature is so prone to evil. Enlightened by God, therefore, they knew it was necessary to mortify the flesh. Onvious experience taught them that the more the flesh is mortified the more it is rendered obedient to the spirit. From this stemmed the observance of poverty, sleeping on the ground, fasting on bread and water and countless other afflictions that those servants of God found so as to humiliate the flesh and make it obedient to the spirit. Finally, to mortify the most important part, namely one’s own will, they prescribed holy obedience. In this they chose those most expert and enlightened in the service of God as their shepherds and superiors and submitted to their will. This was regarded as the first or at least the surest state in the service of God. In that state they knew God concurred with cooperated with them with his favour that it was impossible for someone truly obedient to be damned. This is because all our appetites are bridled by obedience.

In the beginning all this happened to our first Fathers. For some years they were tested and had passed through every kind of suffering. Not only did they eat just bread and water but many of them lived on fruit, herbs and water for entire months. They slept in caves, under tress and wherever they could. They were so accustomed to suffering that they worried about it. They were very enlightened by God. Nonetheless they knew that if Padre Ludovico was not their Prelate they would have easily foundered. This was the main reason that once they understood the greatness, nobility and necessity of obedience they were strengthened in the service of God. They founded themselves on holy obedience and received from God much more humility, spirit and mortification by virtue of holy obedience than they had done in all the abstinence they suffered as well as all the other afflictions that they had received because of the many persecutions.

194. No tongue could describe what those first Capuchins suffered. Nonetheless, just as I heard them say many times, the fruit of obedience held first place in the holy Order. Those servants of God used to say, “By the mercy of God we were protected, while staying in forests for entire months and years without seeing one another. I believe that someone staying on his own without falling is a greater miracle than raising the dead. As for myself I can’t think of a safer life than to be in the Order and let oneself be governed by his Superior. Nor would I want to return to the woods alone as a fugitive and live on the loose. No tongue could describe the grave temptations suffered by those servants of God who stay on their own. However, I am not saying that those servants of God are not helped a lot. Otherwise it would not be possible to last a single day, especially if His Majesty allows us to be persecuted unjustly. Therefore it is necessary to trust in His goodness. However when we can remain under obedience in the observance of the Rule, once can be content with things as they are[413]. In the beginning that suffering was a great strain. Then later the happy state of the Order made everything easy. May God preserve us in the quiet we have now. May he remove from us every temptation that would have us leave the Order. May he enable us to overcome every temptation by considering how to apply ourselves completely to holy contemplation. It is not true that we can become better outside the Order. Experience shows that. All those who leave the Order are in danger and God always allows them to be engulfed in every kind of sin. They become worse than seculars and a scandal to the world.”

Therefore that resolve of the first Capuchins to remain under obedience was a good thing, as will be described below.

195. Having defeated and weakened the enemy army and plundered and siezed their lands and cities, the worldly emperor returns with great rejoicing and pomp, absolutely happy. He invites all the Barons and important persons of his empire to join him te celebrate and to rejoice with him over the victory he had won. Those servants of God, the first Capuchins, did just that spiritually when they saw themselves free of the grave troubles they had suffered. Jubilant they all came together. They told one another about what they had suffered from the adversaries. With immense joy each exhorted his brother to endure every future evil that would come his way because of their wish to observe the life they professed. God strengthened and inspired them so much in their suffering that they did not like being without it. They were just like valiant captains for whom things are going well only when they find themselves fighting with enemies. And so those valiant servants of God were so used to fighting with demons in deserted places and caves against the many different temptations that they had suffered at that time, that if they didn’t have any opportunity to show how much they desired to suffer for the love of Christ they felt lazy.

For many months it lasted that each time they met they talked about the help that our Lord God gave them and how he inflamed their hearts. A discussion emerged among them about all of them going off to the land of the infidels to preach the Christian faith to them and die for that faith. They would tell each another, “Our Lord has sent us so many difficulties for no other reason than to make us see the world as an encumbrance. We are useless members and the whole world holds us in contempt. We have suffered so much, that now there is nothing left for us except our wretched life. Let us go to offer it to Jesus Christ. Just as he died for us, so let us die for the sake of his love and convert our neighbours to the true faith.”

196. This desire was so strong that Padre Ludovico had much to do to calm many of them. After they had tasted the sweetness of contemplation and they lived in such austerity where they were used to solitude, he also had to do to bring them back to the formalites[414] of the Order. Conversation together seemed difficult because their minds were so absorbed with prayers and divine thoughts that any other task seemed disagreeable. Their whole foundation was in prayer. They said, “The purpose of the Rule and religious life is nothing other than contemplation, using the appropriate means of abstinence, poverty and silence to conquer the passions and disordered affections and to submit the body to the prompting of the spirit. The observance of the Rule in the external matters that the Holy Spirit has set in place for us to mortify the flesh would be in vane if after we have done all these things, as we have done, the purpose of the Rule is still not attained. That purpose is to dedicate ourselves to perfect contemplation and to remain united with God, as much as our human frailty allows. Therefore we find ourselves in this way of life where God has brought us miraculously through persecutions. It does not seem right to us that after having suffered with so many struggles to come to this way of life that, once we have arrived, we allow ourselves to lose it by returning to formalities, conversations, manual tasks and other unnecessary tasks. Even if they are meritorious and done for the sake of obedience, they are not fitting for someone who can do more. It is like a great merchant who can gain a thousand scudi[415]. Surely he would not be happy by profiting just twopence[416]. We have the example of the Seraphic Father Saint Francis. In the beginning he mortified his body by subjecting himself to different practices. The Lord also had him pass through many difficulties. However, when he was purified he carefully fled every other task and gave himself totally to contemplation. Then he became a great prophet because he was so enlightened by God in lofty contemplation and he enlightened the whole world. With his life and his Rule he showed the true path to serve God.”

197. Some remained so steadfast in this opinion that they went to the extreme like the French priest Fra Guglielmo, a great contemplative. Despite the incentive of obedience, he withdrew to a very poor shack in the mountains of Foligno. There he gave himself completely to holy contemplation. I was in the old friary at Foligno when the news arrived that the poor fellow was ill. Padre Bartolomeo da Spello[417], the Guardian of that friary, immediately sent two friars. They were Fra Pietro da Pontremoli[418], a priest, and Fra Francesco da Cesena. They went to bring him back to the friary and under the mantle of the Order so that he could die within obedience. They had not gone half way when they learned from farmers that he had died. We were all saddened that he had died outside the Order, although there was some hope because of his good life.

I believe I should not by-pass Fra Francesco Milanese. While he was on Mount Sibilla, anchorites were there. Because of his great desire to join them he went looking for them for more than two months. Unable to find them he came back dissatisfied. On his return he told me, “I no longer want to believe that those anchorites are there.” What can we say about the great servant of God Fra Francesco da Macerata[419]. When the Friars got up in the morning they were waiting for him to do the cooking. However, during the night he had gone off into the mountains and stayed there for two or three months. Occasionally, whenever the urge came upon him, he returned. At night the poor fellow slept in caves. He ate herbs and fruit. Everyone was amazed that he hadn’t died. All this happened because of that first impulse which absorbed him so much that he seemed like a man from the next life. I will say nothing about Padre Fra Pacifico of the Marches, a very holy man. For two months he went in search of solitary places where he could devote himself completely to holy contemplation. When he couldn’t find what he desired he returned to his mother and said, “Know that I have been deceived by the devil. Nonetheless God has drawn out this good from my being tempted about solitude. I no longer wish for it. I sincerely confess that there is no better place to serve God than among the Capuchins.”[420]

198. So because of the great fervour that simmered in heart of those servants of God they desired nothing else than to suffer and to dedicate themselves to holy contemplation. Moreover the Lord never failed to always give them the opportunity to prove themselves, as well as the light to be on guard against plunging headlong from such lofty heights to which they had arrived. It pleased the Lord God to put it into the heart of Padre Frate Ludovico to assemble all his sons to inform them that this was a temptation of the enemy to make them leave the Order. He said to them, “My beloved brothers and sons, I do not dislike your strong desire for solitude. I’d say though that nothing is good and religious if it is not done under holy obedience. We see this with the early Fathers. Under Constantine the Great the persecution of the Church ceased and she received peace. There were no longer matryrs in the world. Some, fervent with the love of God, having caste out the demons of the idols, wanted to cast them out also from the forests and deserted places and so went into solitude. And Monastic Life began in this way. However, since they were not experienced, many of them went wrong because of the temptation of the devil. That is why those Venerable Fathers judged that solitude is not for everyone. Those Venerable Fathers only sent into solitude to work at contemplation, the aim of the religious and coenobitic life, certain ones they judged worthy, those who had mortified their passions and their vices[421] for a period of some years under obedience in a monastery of the congregation.[422] It was not good that religious Orders lack this state of life that occupied primacy of place in the Church of God, but on the condition that they[423] not distance themselves from obedience, but rather they should receive the food they needed from the Monks. That is why all the ancient abbeys had some little cells and solitary places on the site of the abbey where the solitaries stayed, whom they judged to be of greater perfection. In this way the imperfect Monks saved themselves in the abbey under obedience and the most perfect were given the opportunity to reach greater perfection. This arrangement was judged the most appropriate and suitable for the salvation of everyone. Naiive solitude, that is, to leave the world to go into solitude without experience and mortification, was regarded as extremely dangerous. They knew from experience that very few persevered and so they prohibited that kind of solitude. Those who left the world had to remain under obedience to some holy man for some years. They called these Abbots. They had four or six disciples, some more and some less. Those early Fathers were convinced that religious life should be led in this way, until Basil the Great[424] came along. He made a Rule and ordered that everyone should live under obedience.”

Therefore we have begun this holy Reform, however I do not want us to end up following our own ideas, but let us align ourselves in everything to the example and teaching of the early Fathers and especially of our Seraphic Father Saint Francis. He always observed this way of life in his time That many of the perfect ones always lived the anchoritic life. In great poverty and abstinence they remained in remote little places far from ordinary dwellings[425]. We see this in the friary of the Carcere of Assisi, Scarzuola[426], Farneto[427], Speco di Canale di Sant’Urbano[428] and many other places in the Province of Saint Francis where Father Saint Francis and all his companions dwelt as did other holy men in all the Provinces. Father Saint Francis called them his ‘Round Table.[429]’ That is way I want us to go. We will take up friaries far from the towns. We wisht that anyone who wants to stay in a solitary cell, having being judged as suitable, be allowed and be given every possible support. In this way you will have your wish. However, my sons, stay calm.”

This talk pleased those servants of God so much that they calmed down completely. They knew that the Holy Spirit had had this told them for their salvation.

199. This was the reason that Padre Ludovico put in the first Constitutions that whoever wanted to lead the solitary anchoritic life, when his superior judged him suitable, should be given every support. In this way the Congregation should never want for holy men dedicated to holy contemplation, completely detached from every obstacle.[430] He said, “Those few who give themselves to perfection will be more important than all the rest. With their example the seculars will be always be close to the devotions of the poor Congregation.” So many holy men practised solitude in the beginning. The Venerable Padre Frate Giovanni di Fano was an example of this. For six months he fasted on bread and water while he was in a little cell on the site of the friary at Scandriglia. If Padre Fra Ludovico hadn’t taken him from there to send him to begin the Provinces of Lombardy, he said he would have stayed there for the rest of his life[431]. The same goes for Padre Fra Antonio Corso. He stayed a whole year in a little cell in the friary of San Valentino at Foligno. During that time he didn’t eat bread but only ate five ounces of beans each day[432]. Frate Vincenzo da Foiano stayed eight years in a little solitary cell in the friary at Montecasale. He fasted continuously on bread and water[433]. Frate Giovanni from Puglia stayed eight months at the Spisciolo[434] at Montecasale during which time he did not eat bread but only a bowl of vegetables each day[435]. The same friar also stayed five years in a cave in Puglia while fasting continuously on bread and water. Frate Giovanni Spagnolo stayed four years in a little solitary cell in the friary of Montepulciano. He fasted continuously on bread and water[436]. These have been during my time and I have known them all. It would take too long to tell about so many holy men in all the Provinces who in their time have led the solitary life with highest poverty and great strictness about food.

To the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

XXXVII: When the Friars gave themselves to serve the plague victims

200. The sack of Rome 201. Capuchin serve plague victims 202. The copious fruits of this apostolate 203. The Pope is told about it 204. The Friars did everything for the love of God 205. The felicitations of the Duchess

200. From the beginning of the world there always have been and always will be many different tribulations. This is because our first father Adam corrupted the root of our nature through original sin. Because of this we have been rendered unstable. We have badly distorted the good nature that our Lord gave us to the extent that we have always known confilict, one brother against another. Like a confused Babylon throughout the whole universe little else but confusion has been seen. However when the Son of God came from heaven on high by his death he merited for his chosen ones the remedy for every evil: which was charity. In every age, wherever there was charity among his subjects, it has always been made known through their dazzling and shining acts of love towards God and neighbour. Whenever earth and heaven were so enriched by these chosen ones, wherever they were, like glowing embers they enlightened and flamed everyone in the love of God with their example and preaching. However it is quite clear when there are only a few of them in the world. This is just what happened in 1527. During the time of Clement VII the Duke of Bourbon took Rome and sacked it with a great army on the 17 May.[437] They maltreated the Church so badly that the Supreme Pontiff and all the Prelates of the Church fled, leaving the city to the discretion of it enemies. A part of these were heretics. The sins and disgraces in that time were so many that all Italy was in chaos. From then on Italy worsened with the bad practices that those people introduced, and in the shortage of food and the things necessary for human life. This was because there was always a shortage of everything. The people had become so wicked that in 1528 and 1529 there was the most dreadful plague and a great famine. I know about this because I had the plague in my leg and remember all this things very well indeed. During these travails the only thing one saw were the dead – those died from the plague, or from the famine or had been killed either by the very worst kind of men or by soldiers. Wherever one went there were dead bodies and wolves that ate them. It was terrifying to go a journey because there were very few people. Many towns were burnt and land that was no longer inhabited.

201. The poor Capuchins had some rest at this time because all the persecutions ceased. This happened because there were other things to think about for there were both sick and dead among the Religious. It seemed that the very sky would weep. Consequently the fire of love that burned in those servants of God could not stay hidden. Instead a murmur began among them. One would say to the other, “What shall we do? Now is the time to give our lives for Jesus Christ because so many of our poor brothers are dying like desperate men, seeing themselves abandoned by everyone and the majority without Sacraments. Let us go to find Padre Fra Ludovico. If he agrees we can go with his blessing, one here and one there, to serve those who are infected.” They made this known to the whole multitude and went off to Camerino and the place at Colmenzone[438]. Padre Fra Ludovico knew this was a work of God, that His servants were so afire to do such a pious work where they risked their lives. He showed great joy over this and kept them with him for a night. In that time they prayed altogether very fervently. Passionately they commended themselves to our Lord Jesus Christ so that in such a difficult task He would deign to protect them and not allow them to be deceived.

The following morning Padre Fra Ludovico celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit and gave Communion to all of them. When Mass was over he gave them a most beautiful sermon. He said, “Blessed sons and brothers, before you I found myself in this task of serving the plague victims. For in 1523 a great plague came to the places around Camerino and I began to serve them. From experience I know the risks that there are. Therefore do not trust in yourselves but hope in the Lord God alone who will have to free you from every temptation of the devil. Because of this, keep an open eye to always go two by two, for you will have to work with all sorts of people and with great opportunities to do evil. However I emphasize this as I have experienced it myself: God will wonderfully help those who go with the right intention. Try to spend part of the night in the praise of God and say your Office and Mass in the morning because you won’t have time during the day. Be careful not to accept from anyone money in safe keeping nor get involved in any sort of business. Instead attend only to gain souls. Know that to lay down one’s life for the salvation of one’s neighbour is a kind of martyrdom that is very acceptable to the Divine Majesty. Therefore unite your mind with Jesus Christ. Go to this work of charity for the sake of His love alone. And if you die there be very sure of your salvation.”

When Padre Fra Ludovico said these and many other words those servants of God heaved a great sigh. Crying out they all said with a loud voice, “May it please my Lord that just as He died for me I may die now for the sake of His love so as to serve my neighbour. However so many are my sins that I do not believe to be worthy of such a great gift. My Father, pray for us that God may preserve us and that we not offend him.”

Padre Fra Ludovico replied, “It is not that right that I rest while my sons are amid such difficulties. So he accompanied them. Taling a companion he went away to serve the infected in another place. Having received the blessing, they all went off happily to where Padre Fra Ludovico sent them.

202. When those people saw that they had two Capuchins in their land they were so happy that it seemed that everything bad would leave them. When they enetered different regions they would begin in an area and visit the infected within a short time. Weighing up their needs they then provided whatever each one required. So if someone was gravely ill they heard his confession. If some were dying of hunger the Friars went to the rich and they provided them for their necessities. They put into monasteries and other safe places many poor girls who, left without father and mother, were in danger of coming to grief. Some who were dying and had no one who would bury them because of their poverty. These servants of God buried them. When some were on the point of death, with great fervour they conforted them so that they would be contrite for their sins and hope in the mercy of God. They would make their wills. sort out their affairs and return the property of others. The poor plague victims had such faith in them as if they were Angels of God. They administered no other Sacrament to them except confession, which is necessary for salvation. Because of their good words many made restitution. Many poor people went to confession, who otherwise would have died like irrational animals without confession and other things necessary for salvation. Finding themselves in the presence of those servants of God those people had a happy death.

203. The rumour of their fame was such that it spread throughout Italy. All those people carved those servants of God in their hearts and even remember them still today. Their fine example was a great benefit to the poor Congregation. For when this good example was reported to the Lady Duchess of Camerino, Caterina Cibo, she wrote about it to her uncle, Pope Clement. She said that the Capuchins to whom His Holiness had granted the Brief were all saints. She told him about the things they were doing. If there was an inch she took a mile in writing in support of the poor Capuchins. The Pontiff was very glad about this and within a short time granted them the Bull[439]. It was reported that when His Beatitude was conversing with others he said, “Look how much good we have done in listening to those poor Capuchin Religious. Look at what my niece writes to me about them.” And he had it read publicly.

204. It pleased the Lord God to preserve them as they persevered in that service, as they said this later. God so protected them that they said, “We were like so many blocks of wood[440]. The least inappropriate thought never passed through our minds.” It was amazing. They worked with all kinds of people day and night, male and female, with girls openly or in houses where there was no one else but them. Yet it seem as though they were bodiless Angels. They said, “Whoever does not have the very best intention and is not protected by God should not begin such an undertaking. Nor would I advise anyone who has not been well proven to set himself to such a task. There are many great opportunities (to err). Some of them threw purses full of scudi at us and said, “Father, do with this as you please.” And we replied to them, “We do not have permission to keep money for anyone, let alone give it out or receive it for ourselves because our Rule does not even allow us to touch it.” Then the sick person began to call those around and exclaim, “Now these are true servants of God. In the time of plague there is a lot of thieving because those who set themselves to bury the dead and be with the infected usually do so because of greed for money. These servants of God do it for the love of God and risk their lives to help the rest of us. May you be blessed!”

Everywhere it spread that these holy Religious want nothing but do everything for the love of God. Because of this many trusted them like their own children.

It pleased the Lord God that the plagues stop in 1530. I have heard it said that more than a third of the people had died, and in many places more than half. The plague was everywhere throughout Europe and in almost the whole world.

205. All our Capuchins returned together to Padre Fra Ludovico. They all told one another the great things God had done through them and how God had preserved them. None of them had had any headaches but were always healthy and cheerful. Many were disappointed that they hadn’t died. With great joy they all gave thanks to God. One day the Lady Duchess went personally to the place where they were and wanted to see them all. She said to them, “Now have no more fear that your Congregation be brought down because your merits are so great that it is impossible that God abandon this holy Reform.” Turning to Padre Fra Matteo da Bascio she said to him very amicably, “Padre Fra Matteo, what do you think about this fair booty gained by your example? Now you have the Bull the adversaries can no longer harm you. See poor fellow, how much good has come from your efforts and how many brothers have followed you. Be happy then because it is clear that this is a work of God.” Padre Fra Matteo replied, “My Lady, I deserve hell because I am ungrateful for all the many benefits I have received from God with the support of your Ladyship, and I praise him duly. If God has drawn some good from my efforts it is because of his mercy, not because I am worthy of any good. Totally edified, the Lady Duchess left them and sent them a lot of food. From then on she always carried them in her heart and strongly supported our Congregation.

Padre Fra Ludovico sent some Friars to stay at Camerino[441], some at Fossombrone[442], some at Montecampano[443] and in other little friaries that they had received. They prospered still further with large numbers.

To the praise and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

XXXVIII: How from 1526 until 1528 there were opposing views in the Order about whether or not the Capuchin Reform was the true one, which according to the prophecies, had to be done

206. Disagreement caused in the Order by the Capuchin Reform 207. Why it was judged to be the true Reform 208. Five Friars obtain another Brief 209. Archangelo da Matelica 210. Fra Tomaso Romito 211. He advises the General of the Observants not to disturb the peace of the Capuchins 212. Difficulties the Reform met among the Zoccolanti.

206. There was never such a great disagreement, so to speak, between the Scribes and Pharisees about whether Christ was the true Messiah as there was in the Order about whether the Capuchin Reform was the true one or not. Was it the one that had to be done, in accordance with the prophecies of holy men? The majority, almost all, believed not and that in a short time it would go up in smoke. Hence a great disturbance emerged between the lax Friars and those zealous Friars who wanted to observe the Rule. Some of the lax Friars spoke just like the Scribes and Pharisees did when our Lord performed miracles on the Sabbath, “This man is not from God because he does not observe the Sabbath.”[444] This is how those lax Friars spoke, “This Reform is not a good thing. We all know that leader of theirs who used to be with us. Although he is a good man nevertheless he is not really a man of great spirit, as would be needed to carry out a Reform?” Others said, “You are deceived because the prophecy says that the true Reform will be carried out simple, uneducated persons without human endorsement. Precisely who will have begun the Reform will be even less clear. This is because God wants the honour for it.”

It began in 1525 but it didn’t increase until after the dispersion. This was in 1527 when the Duke of Bourbon took Rome and sacked it on the 17th May and all Italy was topsy turvy. After this dispersion Fra Matteo and Fra Ludovico appeared. With a band of barefoot men they set the whole world abuzz. The whole Order became confused. This is because the Lord our God never fails anyone who commends himself to Him faithfully. The zealous Friars desired the Reform for a long time but a way to bring it about could never be seen since lax Friars fought against it so pitilessly. Now to me this now looks to me like a miracle of God: we were so deeply divided among ourselves that we no longer agreed on anything, however the Reform was carried out in our hearts before we separated ourselves physically. Don’t you see now that the Reform was done when God moved the hearts of all those whom He wanted in the Reform so that when they saw that pointed cowl they would go to that Reform? It is not possible to remain silent about this for I am one of those, just as there are many others in all the Provinces. We decided to go without hesitation. There you see how the Reform happened. There can be no mistake, because it is done so as to observe what we have promised to God. Nor would God allow us to be deceived so that such a multitude, moved by zeal for the observance of the Rule, should come to grief. So with the Reform already done, not much time passed before the good Friars joined this Reform. Please God, even if I was the first, at least I was not be the last.

That is what the great servant of God Brother Bernard of Offida said.

207. At the time in was impossible to remain calm about it. No one talked about anything else. The zealous Friars were so enthusiastic that they said openly, “Won’t the day ever come when I may leave behind so many transgressions and do penance for my sins?” They confused one another, because the lax Friars said, “You are mad. Even if this be something good you will not be able to persevere there because they live like shepherds who remain out in the field. How is it possible to guide an Order in such austerity? You’ll go there but last three days before you return. You have never tried to sleep in stalls, hospices, caves and under trees like those madmen do. They are barefoot and threadbare and have nowhere to come together.” Wonderful God! Instantly those servants of God began to weep inconsolably. With a loud voice they said, “This is the true Reform and this is the thing that most inspires me to join it: it is founded on suffering and on the cross of Christ. What else does it mean to reform if not to return to the holy Order’s proper shape given it at the beginning? Now can’t you see that nothing makes it clearer to us that this is the true Reform than to see it conform in everything with Father Saint Francis and all those first Fathers who dwelt in such poverty in huts, caves and the poorest places? With all the Reforms that have been done, has the Order ever returned to that original state as these poor fellows have done? It has to be said that it is the true Reform.”

208. When they saw how much disquiet these rumours produced within the Order the Superiors, with all their ingenuity, sought a way to respond to the situation. The leading Fathers consulted together about a possible remedy. It was ordered that His Holiness be approached. He might want to provide a remedy with a Brief so that no more Friars would leave. This would be the last resort should His Holiness not want annul outright the Brief he had granted to Padre Ludovico. His Holiness kindly granted that no more Friars might join[445]. However he did not want to annul that Brief. Under this shadow gossip arose that all the Capuchins had been excommunicated. Many holy men who wanted to join (the Capuchins) were impeded by fear of excommunication. On the other hand many of them, no longer able to do violence to the spirit, went off to Rome and sought a Brief to be able to join the Capuchins. That is what happened in September 1528 with five very fervent Friars who were unaware that Fra Ludovico had obtained the first Bull[446] from His Holiness. They were Padre Fra Bernardo da Offida[447], Padre Fra Pietro da Appignano[448], Padre Fra Antonio da Pennabilli[449], and Padre Fra Paolo da Collamato[450]. Despite threats from the Superiors they agreed among themselves and took the habit in the above-mentioned way. They persevered most fervently until their death. Almost all of them did miracles.

I will say no more here about Padre Fra Bernardo da Offida because I am writing down all his life[451]. However I would like to say a few words about Padre Frate Antonio da Pennabilli. I met him in 1534 in the old friary at Foligno[452]. That friary was being built when this holy man was passing by with Padre Fra Bernardino da Montolmo[453]. When that servant of God saw we had so much work in his great charity he decided to stay with us five or six months. He worked so faithfully that he made all the cells of lattice and mud with his own hands. It was amazing. He fasted the entire forty days of the Benedicta[454] mostly on bread and water. Nonetheless he worked hard all day. He spent a large part of the night in the church pouring out his tears. In all that time I was never aware of any idle word escape from his lips. He did all his work in silence. Later he returned to the Marches and there he died a very holy death.

I do not much about the others except this. I know they all had a holy death in our Congregation.

209. There were some others who came at the same time like Frate Arcangelo da Matelica[455]. He was in the Province of Saint Francis for some years. I was in the same fraternity[456] with him for about a year in the friary at Narni. I saw the holy life that this servant of God led. In particular he was very zealous about poverty. He so surpassed strictness regarding the necessary things that he with great effort could barely endure it. In his garb he never wanted anything else but old clothes. He wore so few clothes that everyone was amazed that he didn’t perish from the cold. As for food he rarely ate anything other than bread and uncooked greens. Most of the time he fasted. A speech impediment gave him a lot of trouble while saying Mass. The poor fellow often felt afflicted because he felt unable to pronounce the words adequately. This was a deep humiliation for him, so much so that he thought he was the vilest creature in the world. He returned to the Marches and, as he told me, he was the first to weave the cloth of the Friars in the Province of the Marches. He was very happy about this because it seemed to him that manual labour was part of the observance of the Rule.

I will say nothing about Padre Fra Silvestro[457], who was very motivated[458], and about others whom I knew who came at that time for the reasons mentioned above. The disquiet caused by the lax Friars so abounded that it was not possible for the zealous Friars to stand up to it. When the lax Friars used to meet they would do nothing else but denigrate the Reform, saying it would not last.

210. And so a certain General of the whole Order was passing by the town of Gubbio. He went in personal to visit Fra Tommaso the Hermit[459] to ask him what he thought about the matter and to ask that he commend him to God and if His Majesty would reveal to him whether this was the true Reform and if it would last. This Hermit was a man famous for his holiness. In the beginning of his conversion his spirit had been nourished by Blessed Archangelus[460] who was at Santo Ambrosio. I heard this from his own mouth because I have spoken at length with him many times and he told me his whole life story. This Hermit was staying in Saint Nicholas where the Capuchins are today.[461] There he had a cell that was well accommodated so as not to hear either the bells of the town or any other loud noise. He had had arranged a table where he ate so that when he had finished he removed it and his cell appeared to be empty. He used to sleep on the same table. The Duke of Urbino provided for all his needs. He fasted thirty years on bread and water and the fame of his holiness spread everywhere. He received many revelations. On one occasion he saved the Duke of Urbino and his entire army from death. He had had a vision and immediately sent a runner to warn the said lord who was thus saved[462].

211. So the Father General[463] went to this Hermit. After praying he received a revelation from God and reported it to the General. “Know my Father that the Capuchin Reform is from God and it will go ahead despite your antagonism because your Order has very become lax. Father Saint Francis has begged this reform from God. Therefore be at peace. Do not persecute it, because you are offending God.”

212. Those words helped calm that poor Father very much. From then on he was more circumspect. During the General Chapter he strove to enjoin the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers and during his time the Bull was obtained from Clement VII[464]. The hope that this Reform would go ahead held back many holy Friars who did not join the Capuchins. Once the General was passing through the Province of Saint Francis and was in the friary at Foligno. Padre Fra Battista da Norcia asked him for permission to join the Reform. The Provincial Minister wanted to use him as confessor for the nuns of Santa Lucia in Foligno[465] and asked the General not to send him to the Reform. The General replied, “I want him to go to the Reform or otherwise he might go to join the Capuchins.” And so it happened. The order was given for Padre Fra Francesco da Iesi go to Rome to obtain the Bull for the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers. He returned from Rome thinking that the Reform was as good as done. The lax Friars imprisoned him. The Bull was scorned to the degree that the zealous Friars completely despaired of ever being able to carry out the Reform. Padre Iesi and Padre Fra Battista and an almost countless number from all the Provinces came to the Capuchins. This was a main reason that the profile of Congregation grew. To the praise of Jesus Christ. Amen.

XXXIX: How the first Bull was obtained.

213. Padre Ludovico seeks advice from the assembled friars on what to do 214. They are received by the Duchess of Camerino 215. The Bull Religionis zelus 216. The General of the Zoccolanti refuses to protect the Capuchins. They pass to obedience of the Conventuals 217. Two authentic copies of the Bull 218. It is solemnly made public in Camerino 219. Fra Ludovico as the recognised head of the Reform 220. The benefits gained from the Reform

213. When those servants of His had been prepared and purified in the desert of suffering and countless hardships, the Lord God was pleased to lead them into the promised land of peace and tranquillity. Since the wars and harsh famines had abated somewhat Fra Ludovico, with the great solicitude of a good shepherd, went with his brother Fra Raffaele to search the mountains and plains for the lost sheep whom Fra Giovanni da Fano and their other adversaries had scattered. When he found them he gathered them together and sought their counsel. For them to stay as they were without having any support from Holy Church was not good because this gave their adversaries a free hand to do them all kinds of harm. Fra Ludovico said, “And then many Friars zealous about the observance of the Rule have written to me. They would join but are held back in fear of the excommunications. We cannot consolidate our Congregation and take up some places by staying this way.” On hearing these words his other companions were very pleased. By common agreement they chose Padre Ludovico to take up this task and be leader and guide in this undertaking.

214. One morning Fra Ludovico said the Mass of the Holy Spirit and everyone received Communion. Then with tears and long prayer they commended themselves to the Lord God to help them in such a difficult task. They decided they should all go to the mother[466] of the poor Congregation, the Duchess of Camerino. She received them very kindly and gave them all a very good hearing. As he began to speak Fra Ludovico said to her, “You Ladyship it is the consensu and opinion of all these brothers of mine to beg you to exercise the usual charity and kindness that you have always shown us. You know how much we have suffered these past two years, especially these brothers of mine who are more dead than alive as a result of their great suffering. For a long time they have been fugitives in the mountains and no longer know the taste of food suitable for rational creatures. For a long time they have lived on herbs, fruit and water. Your Ladyship can see from their faces that they no longer have the faces of men but look more like exhumed corpses.” Lifting her eyes slightly, for a good while that devout Lady was mute with such heartfelt compunction, her eyes full of tears. Catching his breath somewhat Fra Ludovico continued to speak. “All this is happening to us because we do not have a Bull from His Holiness with which to defend ourselves. Therefore we all beg that you might use all your diligence and obtain for us a Bull since a Bull is more adequate and important than a Brief. We ask that it may annul and topple the one His Holiness granted to Padre Fra Giovanni, who believes he is doing the right thing and that they will carry out the Reform among themselves. What a Reform that has been with that Brief. Against the intention of His Holiness, they have imprisoned many of those poor Friars who had joined us. Nor have they observed anything they promised to His Holiness. When these things are reported to him they will not be too favourable towards us. His Holiness should believe us because they will never Reform or do anything good. Rather, they will do everything they can to stop ours.”

215. The Lady Duchess understood these words and that getting a Bull was more than necessary to maintain and promote the growth of the Reform. Such a Bull would be their defence and bastion where they might guard and defend themselves from those found to be such bitter friends towards it[467]. She ordered that a note be made of all they wanted from His Holiness because she would not fail to give them every support[468].

So Fra Ludovico went to Rome on the third of July 1528 while His Holiness was still in Viterbo, it being the fifth year of his Pontificate. This was because he had already left Orvieto where he had retreated because of the attack and sack of Rome. The Supreme Pontiff was returning to Rome but spent some days of recreation in Viterbo[469]. In that city therefore His Holiness gave the first Bull to the Congregation of Capuchin Friars.

216. Fra Ludovico received the Bull in this way. Since His Holiness did not want disunity to appear in the Order he wanted the Bull presented first to the General of the Zoccolanti Fathers. At that time it was the Spaniard called Scalzo[470] because he had come from the Spanish Reform. The Supreme Pontiff later made him Cardinal under the title of the Holy Cross. Padre Ludovico presented himself to this Reverend Father at the order of His Holiness. On behalf of the Supreme Pontiff he asked him if he wanted to receive the Congregation so that it would depend on him under his obedience. However there was this condition that with Vicar General of the Capuchins being elected, as a sign of submission, the Vicar General should present himself to him or notify him so that the Vicar General should be confirmed by him. In the Bull His Holiness wanted that every time a Vicar General was canonically elected by the Capuchins that he (the General) would confirm it. If he is unwilling to make any confirmation it would be held that he would have nothing else to do with that Congregation.

When Scalzo heard the proposal he replied, “As His Holiness wants I am happy to accept you under my obedience and to give you even opportunity, , so that you may live in a reformed manner provided however that you remove that pointed cowl from your heads and that in your clothing you conform with the use in the Order. However, if you do not want to take off that scarecrow outfit and wear habits that conform with the Order I will not accept you. Nor would I regard you as Friars of Saint Francis by hermits and men who want to live in your own way.”

Padre Ludovico reported to His Holiness what the General had answered. So that they might not have any excuse and be unable to complain that the Reform was done without their knowing anything, the Supreme Pontiff sent him again this time to the Protector of the whole Order. He would ask him if he would wish to meet with the General and if they would satisfy themselves in the name of all the Order regarding what His Holiness wanted. The Protector was Cardinal della Valle[471]. Fra Ludovico went to him and carried out the same deputation on the part of His Holiness. However, since he had already met with the General earlier he gave the same response that the General had given him.

Fra Ludovico returned to the Supreme Pontiff who was very displeased with these responses and he knew how much the General disliked the Congregation of Capuchins. Nonetheless it seemed wrong to him that the Reform should not be dependent on the Order in some way. So he said, “The Conventual Fathers have been around longer than the Zoccolanti Fathers even though the latter have the seals of the Order. Nonetheless, because of their antiquity it is more fitting that you depend on them rather than the Zoccolanti Fathers. We have wanted to give them the honour. They will not complain about us but about themselves. I want the Reform to go ahead in as much as We do not want to impede anyone who wants to do good. Therefore go to the Father General of the Conventuals and make him the same offer that you have made to the General of the Zoccolanti.”

So Padre Ludovico went to the Father General of the Conventuals[472]. He made known to him what was the mind of His Holiness about the Congregation of Capuchins and that he was about to grant them a Bull. He told him how His Holiness wanted the Reform to depend upon the Order and how the Reverend Father General of the Zoccolanti did not want to accept them and that his part he was begged that he would have them under his tutelage. Hearing this the Most Revered Father General of the Conventuals embraced Fra Ludovico with great joy and said to him, “My reverend Father, the slightest hints of His Holiness are all precepts to me. It is not necessary that he should beg me about this. For me it is enough to know that it pleases him. For without this I have always regarded you as dear sons and beloved brothers and that we all fight under the standard of Father Saint Francis. Because I am certain that you desire nothing else than to live in the perfect observance of the Rule, I who am unworthily head in this holy Order am obliged by conscience to give you every support. I would very much fail my obligation if I did not embrace you and offer you every possible support in the future. Therefore go and report to His Holiness that to me it is very good thing that he give you the Bull containing every possible support and that I willing accept you.”

Returning to His Holiness he kindly requested of him the Bull according to the form of the minute which His Holiness had wanted to understand well and had considered many times. The then consulted with some Cardinals and other Prelates of Holy Church. He had the dependence on the Reverend Father General of the Conventuals added. In this way they were completely detached from the Zoccolanti Fathers.

217. This was the good means and method to advance the poor Congregation for if there had been the slightest dependence on the Zoccolanti Fathers and if they had the slightest occasion to have it over us the Congregation would never have gone forward. Therefore everything that could vex the poor Congregation of Capuchins was provided for by the instinct of the Supreme Pontiff for the Holy Spirit. With this beautiful decree in the city of Viterbo the Lord God wanted that the first Bull in favour of the Congregation of the Friars Minor called Capuchins be obtained from the Supreme Pontiff on the 3rd of July 1528. Two authenticated summaries were also obtained[473].

As soon as Padre Ludovico received the Bull he returned to Rome in great fervour to give infinite thanks for the benefit received to the Lord our God in the church of the Prince of Apostles. He did this because His Majesty had deigned to incline the heart of the Supreme Pontiff in doing this good to the poor Congregation. Enlightened by God he knew clearly that the Congregation would advance for until that time he had always been doubtful about it. Spending some days there he went to visit all those personages who loved and favoured the holy Reform. With great joy he showed them the benefit received from God.

218. Then with great haste he went back to Camerino where he had left his beloved companions. When he arrive he showed the great favour they had received from God through His Holiness and through the intercession and support of the Duchess of Camerino, Caterina Cibo. The poor fellows were waiting day after day. When they heard that their adversaries who attacked them so severely had been defeated, their joy was so great that they all went as one to the chapel singing Te Deum laudamus. Amazed at this new experience, the Lord Duke and his consort imagined what it might have been – that Padre Ludovico had returned from Rome with good news. He sent them a servant to say he wanted them in the salon. Kneeling in his presence all those poor fellows were weeping for joy and gave thanks to God and to the Duke and Duchess. They said to them, “We poor men acknowledge this benefit from God through the intercession of you both with His Holiness.” Fra Ludovico took the Bull from his tunic and handed it to the Lord Duke[474]. However he gave it to the Lady Duchess. He wanted the Friars to recognise this benefit and favour as hers, being the niece of the Pope. She immediately gave the Bull to the Most Reverend Monsignor Bishop of Camerino and asked him to read it and then to have it made public. The Monsignor kindly fulfilled everything. Hence during the day, because there were more people, he had it made public to the sound of trumpets with solemnity in the square. It contained every possible favour for the augmentation of the holy Reform.

219. With the Bull read and publicised Fra Ludovico took it in hand because he said the Bull was only for him and his brother, Brother Raphael. This was the reason that Fra Ludovico exercised the office of General for ten years. He did so without being elected by the Friars as Orders usually do during Chapters, but in the strength of the Bull. For His Holiness had made him head of the Reform and declared him the legitimate Prelate of our Congregation for the Congregation was small and they had not yet started friaries. It was also because the Duchess, by the will of the Friars, had informed His Holiness that there was no one more suitable for the task than Brother Padre Ludovico . He would help the Congregation with his greater zeal and would embrace every effort more readily for the sake of the Reform, exposing himself more often to danger for his life because there was no shortage of hardship in that time. Therefore the Supreme Pontiff gave them this suitable leader because he desired that the Reform make progress.

As for the two copies he wanted one to stay with the Duchess and the other to remain with Father Raphael.

His Holiness commanded that when the Congregation had grown to some suitable number Fra Ludovico should by all means convoke the General Chapter. Then according to the due ceremonies that the Order uses they should elect the Vicar General, Provincials, Custoses and Guardians, as the Rule requires[475].

220. It was by the providence of God that His Holiness gave them that head because, humanly speaking, the Congregation would never have grown if God had not given them such robust instruments like the Lady Duchess. In that time she was very capable with His Holiness. She supported the Congregation not only for herself but she strove to attract of the main personages and Barons of Rome to devotion towards the Capuchins and especially because the majority of them continuously had the ear of His Holiness. They disposed him so much that notwithstanding the strong arm of the adversaries they nonetheless obtained from him all that they wanted. It was truly amazing to get that Bull in times when the Supreme Pontiff was amid so many problems and didn’t have many cardinals with whom to consult. One cannot but think it was the providence of God which numbers it among all the other miracles God did to found the poor Congregation and to give courage to those venerable Fathers suffered so much at first from many tribulations, imprisonment and persecutions. They were completely beaten. If our Lord God had not relieved their spirits to hope in the providence of His Majesty with this miracle, human frailty being what it is, they would have been completely at a loss and knocked down. As desperate men they would have been unable to continue the Reform. Completely dispirited and some here and there returned to the Order. Most of the Friars were more inflamed in the desire for the perfect observance of the Rule and were hunted into the harsh deserts to observe their profession there under the wings of the mercy of God. However they were all revived by that Bull and became more ardent in their desire to never want to abandon the observance of the Rule but, if necessary, to lay down their lives for it.

The Bull threatened excommunication to anyone who would have given any more trouble to the Capuchins[476]. So the adversaries lost hope completely of ever being able to remove from the earth the memory of that habit of Saint Francis that had been lost for many years. For there was great disagreement about this because they would not have wanted the Friars of that Reform to wear that pointed cowl on their heads. Nonetheless it pleased the Lord God that it was brought to light and given to the whole world by the Head of the Holy Church just as it was taken from this world by Pope John XXII. Out of a sound respect and by the providence of God he deprived the Order of the habit of the Seraphic Father Saint Francis. He deprived the Order of such a rich treasure because it was unworthy in its laxity and scant observance of the Rule. To the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

XL: On the first General Chapter gathered by Padre Ludovico in the lodge of Albacina Castle of Fabriano in the Marches

221. The canonical election 222. Convocation of the first Chapter 223. The electors 224. The Discourse of Fra Ludovico 225. The election of Superiors 226. The fervour of the first community 227. The first constitutions

221. Our Lord shows how great and important ruling over souls is in the New and Old Testaments. As with our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles after his death, and as in the synagogue too for all those that had to rule and govern souls, the Lord God wanted them selected either by himself or with other means. Our Lord did not trust that this very noble office could be exercised worthily by men without a special gift and support from the Holy Spirit. This is clear when he wanted to choose the Apostles in order to give shape to the Church. He went up a mountain and persevered all night in prayer. The following day he chose twelve Apostles[477]. He did this to have us know that it is not those who are chosen according to human favour who are good shepherds but only those who are chosen by God for such an office. So Saint Paul says it is not permissible to take up such an office except by those on whom like Aaron[478] it has been imposed by God. Therefore God elected the Apostles. Consequently the Holy Spirit has called all those in the Church of God who have been true and Catholic Prelates. Therefore when the Apostles had to choose seven Deacons the gathered the multitude together. The whole multitude did not elect them. Rather the Apostles imposed such an office because they had received the authority from God[479]. Therefore since antiquity it has been the practice in all the Orders that those who had to rule were chosen by election in Chapters, invoking the Holy Spirit with all their heart so that he might show to their minds those who are chosen by His Majesty. Therefore the Apostles said at the election of Matthias, “Lord show us whom you choose.”[480] They did not say, “Give us the grace to choose a good man.” Instead they said, “Show us whom you have chosen.”

222. Therefore this was the reason that the early Fathers and holy Founders of our Reform convened a Chapter. They had gone years without coming together for Chapter and without legitimate leaders. So when the poor fellows obtained the Bull form His Holiness by the grace of God they could breathe somewhat free from the grave persecutions that they had suffered earlier. They said to one another with loving affection, “It would be good that as soon as our Congregation is established that we should come together and hold our Chapter. For although His Holiness has given us Padre Ludovico as Head, it was imposed on him at the same time that when the Congregation reached a certain number, he should convene the Chapter.” They said, “I want willingly that the one who has rule and governance over me be elected by the Holy Spirit as is the practice in the Order.”

It pleased the Lord God that these words came to the ears of Padre Ludovico . He immediately sent for Father Matteo and some older Friars. Taking counsel among themselves as judicious men they made know to the multitude that they should come together for the General Chapter. Since the poor fellows were in the mountains of Camerino and Fabriano because of the almost constant persecutions, some of them by order of Padre Ludovico were accommodated in a hut[481] near a little church and a tiny house. All the poor fellows gathered there.

223. One Thursday morning Padre Ludovico said the Mass. Then they all congregated together in the hut to eat. Because there was no table some of them put their mantles on the floor. They ate some bread and fruit that the farmers had brought them. The joy of those servants of was great to se themselves so conformed to Father Saint Francis as they had desired for so long. They were so joyful also to be able to be together to eat that small amount of bread in peace that they for a good while they were not seen.

When they had finished eating Padre Ludovico gave them a beautiful sermon to inflame them to thank God for such a gift as obtaining the Bull and that His Majesty gave them the grace to eat altogether without fear. Then he made a proposal to them. “Beloved brothers you know that we are assembled to hold our General Chapter in which we will elect our Father General. We will make those few Guardians that we can and give some order to our Congregation. Because we are so few and the majority of us have come new to the Reform and there are many novices and young friars it appears to me, if it also seems to you, that we elect twelve[482]. To them we remit all authority as twelve vocals to elect the Father General and all the others.”

Everyone was happy with this and so they elected twelve in whom all the others put and entrusted themselves. Then Padre Ludovico added, “This number twelve is very celebrated in the Sacred Scriptures. Our Lord had twelve Apostles[483]. Because of this our Father Saint Francis also wanted twelve companions from whom our Order took its origin. Therefore because we have undertaken to imitate our Father we can be pleased to elect these twelve on who will have all authority.

And so it was done.

They elected twelve very holy men, that is, Father Matteo, Padre Ludovico , Father Paul of Chioggia[484], Father Rufino of Crema[485], Father Angelo of Sant’Angelo in Vado[486]. I don’t remember the others. These were the principal Founders of our Congregation. It is not without mystery that these twelve holy men started it because according to what our Seraphic Father says in a prophecy a Reform will be done in the spirit of the Founder[487]. Just as the Holy Order was begun by means of the Holy Spirit, so those servants of God who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and strengthened through many tribulations began to renew the life of our Father Saint Francis.

The true spirit of most high poverty appeared among them gathered altogether because, as was told to me, there was nothing else to eat during the entire little Chapter except bread and fruit and a cracked flask full of wine. The all drank with the same cup that had no base. They found it in that little house. Just like poor saints when they had drunk they turned the cup upside down again.

224. Therefore very early on the Friday morning they gathered together in the little church. Padre Ludovico said the Mass of the Holy Spirit and all the others received Communion. Then they persevered in prayer for about an hour.

The Padre Ludovico began to speak about the chapter agenda[488]. He said, “Brothers and sons in Christ. We have all gathered here in the name of the Holy Spirit. To be his servants we need to do nothing more and nothing less that what His Majesty shows us in our minds. We remember the great gift that His Majesty has deigned to grant us that we find ourselves at the very beginning of this holy Reform. So many servants of God in our Order longed for it so much. Many of them have died and have not been able to see it. However His Most high Goodness has chose us who are the simplest and the least in the whole Order so that the Reform would depend on him and not on man. You all know how much we have suffered. The early Church was persecuted for many years and it finally pleased the supreme Creator to give them peace at the time of Constantine. This is what he had done with us during the time of the Vicar of Christ, Clement VII and thanks to our blessed Virgin Mother who has prayed for us and who has helped us greatly. And the Lord God has used that beloved instrument of our Congregation the Duchess of Camerino, Caterina Cibo. By means of the Bull obtained from His Holiness we have received peace and security, the possibility to start friaries, to receive every kind of Friar, the build churches so that we may fulfil our obligations in them. Because these things could not be done unless there was someone among us who would guide us, but because the Congregation has not expanded very much it will do for now to elect the Vicar General and some Guardians.

Even though we are few in number we have prudently deputed the vote to the twelve brothers and commending ourselves to them in the name of the all the Congregation so that they may elect the one whom God inspires. Brothers it is a long time that we have slept in the woods under trees and in caves. Now let us accommodate ourselves in some little house or huts according to the form of holy poverty where we may rest under cover and say our Masses and Offices. Therefore lift your minds to the Lord and let us invoke the Holy Spirit.”

As Padre Ludovico stop it seemed that the Holy Spirit descended on those servants of God because they all began to tremble. He softened their hearts in such a way that in loud voices they began to cry profusely that for a good while they looked around at each other’s face and could not say a single word. After regaining their breath somewhat they all knelt down and invoked the Holy Spirit.

When this was concluded with the appropriate prayers, at the order of Fra Ludovico they all began to sit down. Again he spoke some words to them but neither he nor anyone else could contain their tears. Their hearts were so touched! And not without reason because when those hearts which had been purified from every earthly affection found the Holy Spirit they were filled completely with spiritual sweetness at the presence of the one whom they long since loved. For the sake of his love they had suffered many deprivations and persecutions. They found themselves now on the way and strengthened with the hope that God would give them the grace from then on to be able to observe what they had promised him in peace and every opportunity. Therefore they did not cease thanking God with their hearts. Their love was such that it kept them uplifted. They were like men estranged from earthly things that enjoyed heaven.

225. Therefore they arrived at that point in the Chapter and elected four Definitors. The first of these was Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone. He had placed the Bull and all authority into the hands of the twelve vocals. Among themselves they intended and decided first that there would not be any Prelate in the Congregation. Therefore Padre Ludovico said, “Now I declare that the Congregation does not have any Prelate who has been elected by the Friars according to the practice in the Order. Therefore each of us who are gathered here in the name of God represent the General Chapter of all the poor Congregation, which we have restricted by common consensus to the twelve vocals.” This was the reason therefore that they elected Padre Ludovico the first Definitor. The second was Father Matteo da Bascio. The third was Father Angelus of Sant’Angelo in Vado. The fourth was Father Paul of Chioggia.

After the election of these four Reverend Fathers as Definitors they all gathered again with great devotion in the little church and invoked the Holy Spirit. Then they came to the election of the Father Vicar General. Once the tellers sat down to take the vote of each friar that simple little Chapter unanimously called Father Matteo da Bascio Vicar General. No other secret ballot was needed. He however on no account wanted to accept the burden. He claimed that God called him through the revelation he had to go preaching and that His Holiness had told him to go about preaching. “Furthermore I do not have the grace to rule the Friars but the grace to help the souls of the faithful by preaching the commandments of God to them.” Nevertheless all the others remained steadfast in their opinion and regarded the election as sound and valid. Realizing that this was the will of God he lowered his head humbly. Falling to his knees he commended himself to the Lord God in such a way that he moved everyone. He said, “My Lord Jesus Christ, I am the least of your creatures. From eternity you have known me and that I am inadequate in everything, ignorant and the vilest sinner. Yet on the other hand I wax on about how you want to steer such an important Reform to the desired port of salvation amid such powerful, numerous and contrary circumstances. Having chosen me for this office I beg you therefore that because of my sins you do not fail to take up the task of governing in me. For you know our hearts and with your firm hand can knock down and resist all the fiery blows that I see the infernal enemy is preparing to us against your sheep. Rather I ask for death rather than to be the cause of the loss of even on of the least of your sheep through my rough ways and poor rule.

When that servant of God had finished his prayer to the great satisfaction of everyone, they all sat down. Padre Ludovico gave him the seals, the first Brief and the Bull. He was the first legitimate Vicar General of the poor Capuchin Congregation and Reform. He received many Friars and holy men to the Congregation.

Then they came to the election of Fathers Guardian. The first was Padre Ludovico who was elected Guardian of the friary at Fossombrone. The place had already been started but had not yet been accommodated. For this reason he was there since he was from that town and was known by everyone. Guardians were also appointed for Camerino, Albacina the third, the fourth for Montemelone. They were all sent with their little families to those places.

226. Once they arrived they began to officiate[489] and to say their Masses and eat together with great joy. The joy of those poor men was so great that they felt reborn. When they rang their little bells for the Divine Office and the Mass, for many days it seemed as though their hearts melted. The joy of the seculars was great too. They came to their Masses from five or six miles away. They liked very much to hear the Masses of those holy men said slowly, with deep humility and with such devotion that they thought they were in heaven. The fame of their holiness was such that it warmed those in the main Order who desired Reform because a great disagreement came about between the spiritual Friars and the lax Friars. They talked about little else. Their fame also began to reawaken the seculars too because in all their feasts they gave sermons with great fervour to the seculars. The Father General gave permission to all of them, lay friars and priests, to be able to speak of God and direct everyone to the observance of the commandments of God. Because of this many young men converted and were received by Father Matteo. Anyone who heard them speak about God considered himself blessed because, like glowing embers, the inflamed the heart of everyone who heard them.

The fervour of those servants of God was such that apart from the needs of nature they persevered almost continuously in prayer. It was wonderful that united together they had from God the immense desire for the perfect observance of poverty that lasted many years. Rarely, if ever, did they eat anything cooked, but only bread and water and raw vegetables. Because they were accustomed to solitude they rarely conversed with one another. They had it carved in their hearts to never want to use things except by necessity. Even with pots. If there was some superfluous pot they immediately gave it away. Sometimes they went for four or five months without seeing meat. Because of this there was a common impression that the Capuchins did not eat meat. There wasn’t much in those little friaries except for habits. They wore coarse habits that were all patched which were worth no more than half a scudo. This was the norm that the whole Congregation followed inviolably.

227. With the chapter agenda concluded and all the Guardians sent to their friars, the four Definitors and the Father General and some other older Friars stayed back together made the Constitutions. These were more heavenly than human. The Constitutions done by the Chapter gathered at Rome in 1536 are based on these. In substance they are the same but more ample. I remember two Friars of the Marches came to our friary in Foligno. They brought us the Constitutions[490]. The joy was such that even though it was night we all came together to read those Constitutions. They appeared to us to be alight to give us the way in which we should govern ourselves. To the praise and glory of Jesus Christ. Amen.

XLI: On the visitations made by our first Father General, Father Matteo da Bascio

228. Conformity with the will of God is the certain norm of perfection 229. The practice of obedience 230. The visitations of Fra Matteo 221. Memories left to the Friars from the visitations 232. Austerity of life 233. Fraternal charity

228. The more earthly things are conformed to heavenly things the more it is necessary to say that they are perfect. The government and good ordering of heaven completely depends on and springs from the divine goodness. With its infinite power and goodness the divine essence embraces and gathers all creatures to itself. He transforms them so irreversibly in himself that he renders then immortal, happy and blessed because they can never contemplate anything else with great effect than the universal cause of all good. Therefore this is that Divine Majesty who governs and gathers out of love all his chosen ones,. They are more perfect and have greater merit in so far as they are more united with him through holy contemplation and the knowledge of his goodness. This is just as we see in the world since the more an Order is united with God than another is it is said to be more perfect.

229. When our Congregation was united and gathered under the rule of its General they benefited very much from that guide given them by God in their General. For if those servants of God lived all the holy virtues earlier. Nevertheless obedience did not have for them that efficacy with goes with it because they were dispersed everywhere. Because of the many persecutions the poor fellows went around like sheep without a shepherd. However when that shepherd began to visit them he revived holy obedience among them for if they had the virtue before they nevertheless could not put it into action. Because he found their hearts quite purified this holy virtue had great power in them so that all them like meek lambs willingly submitted to the shepherd with great joy. They confessed quite frankly that even if they suffered very much in the deserted places, nonetheless it seemed to be of little merit to them because their works were not seasoned by holy obedience.

230. That great servant of God began with great fervour to visit them in their little friaries. When they knew from a distance that the Father General was coming, with their Guardian they all came out. With a loud voice they all cried out, “Jesus.” Then the Father General responded in the same way. When they met that good shepherd embraced his sons tenderly, giving them the kiss of peace. Then altogether they went back to the Friary. This was beginning of their hospitality towards strangers who came.

He visited them all with great love. He stayed with them at least a week and every day gave them a sermon totally afire with the love of God. Nor could that servant of God ever tire of saying that the Congregation came form God and not from men. “And if anyone is unsure about this, I am sure. For when I was at Montefalcone I had not thought of doing a Reform, no less of reforming myself. However, after being often visited by the Holy Spirit, I knew that not only I but also the whole Order was in need of reform. He made know how far away we were from the true observance of the Rule. This is what woke me up to rethink my situation. In order to be more enlightened I began with great fervour to fast on bread and water more than usual and to pray more often, commending myself resolutely to the Lord God so that he might deign to enlighten me. Something wonderful happened once when I was going to a castle for alms, both when I was going and when I was returning. Both times in the same place I clearly saw revealed before me a barefoot Capuchin Friar. For a good while I saw him going along a short distance ahead of me. Sometimes he went off the road and then came back onto it. He gazed at me graciously. As I hurried up to see who it was he suddenly disappeared from view. I have always believed that it was our Father Saint Francis who, by the mercy of God, wanted to restore his habit and his way of life to the world. Therefore this was the reason I gave myself to prayer with greater fervour. I ate little and slept and slept little. This was because I felt my heart burning with the desire to know what that habit was and what did he want to show me by appearing with it. I will keep silent about what God has revealed to me so that you do not think I was some holy man. God revealed the habit and life of our Father Saint Francis to me, his vilest creature, neither because of my merits nor holiness but for the sake of the good that he wanted to bring from it. Nor will I ever be content until I see myself lead an itinerant life detached form every earthly affection because God revealed to me that this was the intention of our Father Saint Francis – that his Friars would be perfectly detached from the world in perfect poverty. Therefore he called it ‘most high’ poverty[491], different to all the forms of poverty in the world. Therefore my sons no you can be called legitimate sons of Father Saint Francis. Being in such poor little friaries you have no such affection because fondness for earthly things is a heavy weight which binds the soul to the earth so that it cannot to fly to its creator. Know therefore that our Father Saint Francis was enlightened by God and knew that it was not possible to be completely able to apply oneself to the practice of perfect contemplation without the true foundation of poverty. The desire to possess has set the world on fire[492]. Don’t you see beloved sons that all the virtues were par excellence in our Lord Jesus Christ, nonetheless poverty and humility appeared in His Majesty more than any other did? Therefore it would be of little importance to reform externally if we did not reform ourselves inwardly for God gazes mainly upon the heart. When he finds it purified from affection for oneself and for worldly things he fills it with his Spirit who carries with himself every virtue. Nor would you be able to maintain this state and in such high poverty unless you practise holy prayer because all good comes from God and he most of the time he usually does not give his graces except to the one who asks them of him. It was an amazing thing that when God promised Abraham that he would multiply his people to be more than the stars in the sky, nonetheless the wife of Isaac was sterile and did not produce children[493]. The holy patriarch prayed to God and gave him the fruit of his holy marriage[494]. Therefore the great Father Gregory says[495] that God had promised him the multiplication of his seed with this condition, that Isaac ask it of him in prayer.

231. “Therefore I leave you with these two very important things: the observance principally of most high poverty which we have promised to God, and the continuous practice of holy prayer. If you continue to exercise yourselves in it you will always be enlightened more by God and the perfect love of God will grow in you. By the grace of God it is not necessary to remind you about abstinence because all of you practise it. Rather I tell you to go moderately with it. I see silence and lovingness among you along with all the other good manners. It only remains to remind you about the frequency of prayer that is most important of all because all the other virtues are imperfect without prayer. Through prayer the love of God increases in us which perfect sour works because God does not take into account how long you have endured in a good work but with how much love. We go barefoot. We fast. We obey. We say the Office, the Masses and do other good works, but we will receive the merit for them from his Divine Majesty according in accord with how much love we have done them. Therefore exercise yourselves in this, in the love of God and in loving one another if you want to be perfect and pleasing to God. We have made our Constitutions. Observe not through fear of punishment but the for the love of God. These will be like a hedge that so that you may never enter to ruin the vine of the Rule you have promised. In so far as you wrap yourselves in this hedge, you will always be innocent of having offended the Rule.”

That holy man hear the culpa few times as I have been informed by those early Fathers. Rather he always lightened with sweetness the great weight that those servants of God carried in that great suffering they went through in the beginning. He was accustomed to say that it pleased him very much that the Friars were joyful and that they often visited one another and had brief spiritual conversations. He said that sadness and melancholy greatly held back he servants of God from the spirit. For this reason he wanted them to be joyful and that they pray often rather than very long in order not to become wearied. They should mix contemplation with vocal prayer and exercised themselves in reading some spiritual book and in speaking about God. Because for the one who is not perfect in contemplation trying too hard makes it too difficulty and generates great tedium. Hence many withdraw from it and fall away from it completely because of tedium and absent-mindedness. Therefore he thought that joy and the joyful practice of the holy virtues profited greatly for continuing in them and in keeping sound.

When the Friars asked him advise, “What can we do Father to please God?” He always answered, “Be humble and be joyful” as if to mean, “If you have these two things, with holy prayer they will be enough.”

232. At that time he wasn’t necessary to encourage the Friars to practise abstinence or prayer, nor in wearing hair-shirts, even less so in the observance of silence and all good manners. Good and fervent Friars always practised these in the holy Order. If anything they probably practised these too much. It was necessary rather that the Superiors be careful with the friars so that these things wouldn’t be done to extreme. More often than not they extended themselves beyond their strength. Consequently there was a lot of sickness among them. The general desire was so great among those early servants of God that they never thought of anything else except to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ. Because of this the Superiors often strove to console them and instruct them in the way of God. This was especially so for the your so that they would not act off their own heads but would allow themselves to be guided buy their elders. There was a lot to do in this because many of them got sick because they wanted to do more than they could. Because of the great, general austerity and the little possibility there was to show nurse the sick some of them had to leave and go to a more lax Order. Therefore those holy Superiors (acted), just like our Father Saint Francis at the Chapter of the five thousand Friars, called the Chapter of Mats, held at Our Lady of the Angels. That good shepherd took from them more than five hundred iron rings which they wore against their bare skin, as well as a number of hair-shirts and countless other instruments. He did this because they were becoming ill for having been extreme in their way of suffering[496].

233. Thus those early Capuchins were so fervent that there was a real need for the Superiors and other Fathers to be balanced and moderate in that austerity. Therefore the servant of God Fra Matteo was a man profoundly expert in penance. It was amazing that during a visitation or in his manner of going about things rank was unknown among the Friars. Rather, as brothers they all desired fraternal correction not only from the Superiors but also from any of the brothers. He was very gracious towards them. Nor was there any need to do any examination because as soon as the Friars were aware of the least fault they accused themselves. And they exaggerated the gravity of the fault as much as they could because of their desire to receive a penance for it. As a result the visitations of this servant of God were always joyful because he never found anything which gave him sorrow. On the contrary, it gave him great joy to see his sons who were so simple and desired so much to suffer. To the praise of God. Amen.

XLII: On the establishment of many friaries and many friars received the habit.

234. Spread of the Reform 235. The first friaries 236. The life they led 237. Numerous vocations 238. The glorious state of the Congregation 239. Tribulations

234. It pleased the Lord God that when the Bull of the Reform of the Capuchin Friars was made public (as we said above[497]), this new thing spread throughout all of Italy in a very brief time. In the Order it was the cause of great joy among the zealous Friars who desired the Reform. Some Capuchins appeared in all the Provinces of Italy and in a short time they established friaries. All those Friars who had desired the Reform for such a long time came to the Capuchins. The Congregation grew into a great number and it was necessary to increase the number of friaries.

235. The first person to begin this work was the Duchess of Camerino. When she didn’t have a place at hand for the poor Capuchins she asked the Fathers of Saint Jerome who lent her one they had near Camerino. It was about three miles from the city at a place called Colmonzone[498]. The poor Friars made some little cells and stayed there about four years until she could make the one nearer the city and where the Capuchins are today. This was the first friary of the Congregation. Later the Duchess didn’t really want to accommodate another little place for them called Saint Lucy in Montemeloni near Rancia. This was because the Lords of Camerino, since ancient times, had many possessions and lands there. Her Lady ship had her endowment relocated in those properties. For a part of each year she went to the country for a little relaxation without her Capuchins. She wanted them to start a friary there instead. She supplied for and provided for all their needs[499].

Being a judicious man Padre Ludovico knew that in the beginning many Friars would come to Camerino because it is the first Friary. For the comfort of the poor Friars he wanted to start a little place in Fabriano which would be used more as a hostel than a friary. A little church was accepted. Near the church was a little house. Later, because that wasn’t adequate, the poor Friars built a hut. This was by the providence of God because just as the prophecy says when it speaks about the Reform, ‘after the dispersion the Congregation of poor Friars will be in the third friary. They will be enlightened by God that this is the true Reform.’ Therefore this was the third friary, the one which was near Fabriano, above a little castle called Albacina. Later the poor men met in that third place and celebrated their first General Chapter. And according to the prophecy, all of them as with one mouth said that in that Chapter they had received a new light from God and were sure in their minds that this was the true Reform.

The fourth friary in the Marches was in the city of Fossombrone.

236. When this fervour had passed few Friars came to the Congregation from 1528 until 1530. This was because at the time there were the greatest tribulations of wars, plagues and the worst famine. While earlier they had no houses and went about as fugitives in the mountains because of the grave persecutions, in that time the poor Capuchins were recollected in those little friaries with so much spirit. They gave themselves to holy contemplation with some much quiet that it seemed as though the era of the early holy Religious would be renewed in the world. Those Religious dedicated themselves with so much spirit and fervour to penetrate the harsh deserts that they looked more like Angels than men. That is what the great servant of God John Cassian wrote in his Conferences[500] and in the Book on the Solitary Life, ‘They looked more like Angels than men.’ Some of them only lived on bread and water. Others lived on herbs. Many only ate fruit.’ So too the poor Capuchins. Because all their little friaries were far from cities and populated areas, they remained there continuously practising an unbelievable abstinence in such a way that there were some who fasted continuously. These ate a little bread once a day and drank water. Others sustained their poor lives with five ounces of beans or other fruit each day and by drinking water.

However, leaving aside those few who observed such a degree of austerity, speaking generally they were all content with bread, vegetables and herbs. They went four or five months when they not only didn’t eat meat, they didn’t even see it. Because they were so few and were happy with little, they were hardly visited by seculars. However when it was necessary for they to go out, the people from everywhere ran to see them and hear them speak of God. Although they were simple and uneducated, most of them spoke very highly about the things of God and of the great good and glory of the next life that they appeared like flaming Seraphim. They reduced to wonder all those who heard them. In this way they moved nearly all of Italy to devotion. It seemed this was the hand of God because many, on rethinking their situations, left their evil life for a good life. And the time itself demanded it because the world was full of tribulations. Everyone thought they were being punished and chastised by God because of their sins. The Lord God worked marvellous things through their preaching and it seemed that just to see the poor Capuchins produced awe filled wonder in those who gazed at them. Sighing, they all said, “Now what will become of us miserable sinners? All of them are holy and yet they do such harsh penance.”

There is no tongue that could express the degree of veneration in which everyone held them. The poor men went around barefoot and ashen in the face. They were like exhumed corpses. The evoked more stunned wonder the less they were seen. When they stayed in their friaries they observed perpetual silence. Nothing was ever said except in a lowered voice. The all ate together with great silence. They said the Divine Office and then retired some into the church, others to their cell and some into the woods. In those friaries it seemed as though there was no one there because they were all busy, each by himself in some necessary task or in holy contemplation. In this was the beginning of the true religious life in the holy Reform. These were the first fruits that the poor Capuchins gave to the Lord God. They consecrated themselves to God so ardently that it was done with the greatest effort human frailty allowed. Since then the poor Congregation, either in general or in particular has never been able to match those true servants of God. For they strove in all and through all to conform to Father Saint Francis and his companions. Nor do I believe that the friaries taken up by Father Saint Francis were poorer than those were that the Capuchin Friars took up in the beginning. Nor did Father Saint Francis and his companions dress as poorly nor with cloth as lowly as the poor Capuchins did. This is obvious in their habits which are kept as relics. For the entire Congregation dresses in arabesque[501], the worst cloth you can find. Nor did they want to dress in any other kind of cloth. For among themselves they would have regarded using a comfortable cloth a great disgrace and it would have shown little spirit when all the others dressed so poorly. We read about Father Saint Francis and his first companions who in the beginning stayed in the place of Rivo Torto, in the Carcere of Assisi, in Farneto, in the Speco di Sant’Urbano, in the Hermitage at Cesi[502] and other old places. We read about how they put aside all the ceremonies and other things that occupied them and applied themselves to nothing else apart from holy contemplation. That is how it was with those poor Capuchins. When they read the Legend of the Three Companions, where one can see the way of life which Father Saint Francis’ led[503], they strove to imitate him and dedicate themselves to the contemplative life, the goal and perfection of religious life.

237. It pleased the Lord God that in 1530 the wars, plagues and famine ceased. In this time a great number of Friars came to the holy Reform from the order – not only simple and uneducated ones but a great multitude of the most learned and holy men that were in the Order. So then the poor Capuchin Congregation could lift its head in the world because the coming of these great men and their preaching made the Congregation very celebrated throughout the world. This was especially so among the Prelates of Holy Church who conceived such devotion towards the Capuchins that they revered them like Apostles of Christ. Removed and knocked down therefore were all the bad opinions and murmuring of the adversaries, of those who defamed and detracted the holy Reform with pestiferous tongues. With great support from the Prelates of Holy Church the poor Capuchins were able to obtain from them whatever they desired.

238. In this time many friaries were started in all the Provinces. Many Provinces were added where previously the Capuchins had no friary at all. Many nobles and ordinary men came from the world to receive the Capuchin habit. The Congregation never had such glory before the world as in this time up until 1543 when it received a great mortification in the departure of Brother Bernardino Ochino. It was such a blow that everything was about to be completely ruined. Many considered that the by his departure the Congregation received great harm.

Comparing the state of the Congregation from 1528 until 1533 with the period 1533 until 1543, the latter was the more glorious. I was in the Congregation at that time. On rethinking it carefully I say that the more glorious period that ever was in our Congregation was between 1528 and 1533 because it was more in conformity with the beginning of the Order and with the time of Father Saint Francis. I do not deny that the second state of the Congregation until 1543 was more glorious before the world. Nor do I deny that there was a great number of more learned Friars and great preachers. However since the Order of the Seraphic Francis is founded on humility, poverty, despising oneself and on holy and perfect contemplation, the Congregation was never more conformed to those things they call perfection as it was in that first period. There it truly renewed the first state of the Order with every degree of perfection. The habit, life, humility, despising of the word and the true contemplation which Francis had with his companions were all made present in the world. That prophecy is verified which says, ‘In the last days a Reform will be done in the spirit of the Founder. The Holy Spirit will call the novices who come in that day. They will be without guides and teachers.’ This was because they were so few in numbers that they had no novitiates or other ceremonies that are sought after. Nonetheless they were so edified by the very good example that they received from all those servants of God that it was quite enough to give the religious form of living and form them in all fair conduct. Therefore the prophecy says, “Although this Reform will not appear in their works of perfection, nonetheless they will not be deprived of merit of the early saints. For in that time charity will have cooled, that charity which made those early saints so fervent. Nonetheless they will suffer the greatest tribulations because they will be greatly attacked inwardly by the demons. They will suffer the greatest temptations. They will be persecuted outwardly also and experience tribulations from wicked men. But those who persevere in that good and holy ideal and die in the holy Order will receive from God the glory like that which those holy Friars received who, comforted by charity, walked with great delight and finished gloriously in the holy Order.”

239. To this day there has never been a Reform so impugned and persecuted by men, as was the poor Congregation of Capuchins. No other Order or Reform ever had such opportunity or facility to be able to leave suffering and turn its back on it as much as the Congregation of Capuchins. Not only was it easy to leave the Congregation, but there were all the persecutions also. These could have taken the Friars and have them lead a lax life. They were very tempted by this because those who stayed by their own wish or for the love of God, and not for other reasons, died in the holy Congregation. Therefore their deeds were the more meritorious as they were done with a more tried will. This made them deserve the glory of the first saints of the Order who with all their hearts despised themselves in the perfect observance of the Rule. To the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

XLIII: About some ambitious men who, when they saw the devotion of the people because of the novelty of the habit in the beginning, usurped the habit of the Order

240. About some who dressed in the Capuchin habit without authority. 241. Angelico from the Fratta di Perugia. 242. His deeds in Montecasale 243. His end. 244. Criticism of the opinions Joseph Zarlino. 245. Raphael of Venice. His followers become Capuchins. 247. Others who came at that time. 248. A Bull of Paul III.

240. In the early Church when the people saw the magnificent things which our Lord Jesus Christ worked in his holy Apostles they had a great admiration for them. In a manner of speaking they were outraged by the Holy Spirit to believe that a crucified man was the great God who created heaven and earth. They captivated their mind in the service of Christ in such a way that a countless number, despising all earthly things, risked their lives for Christ in order to see that the holy Apostles and their disciples spoke in all languages, raised the dad and did countless other prodigies. There were some others, on the other hand who were not moved by either faith or the Holy Spirit but from the ambition because of their desire to be adored and followed by the people. They were baptised and took on the shape of Christians. For example there was Simon the Magician[504] and countless other false apostles and false Christians with whom Saint Paul was kept occupied defending himself from them and from their false doctrine which they introduced into the Church. Finally, by the grace of Christ, the Holy Church was purified of all false doctrine.

It was just like this at the beginning of our Congregation. Some ambitious men saw the devotion of the people and how much the habit of the Seraphic Father Saint Francis was universally honoured by the people. Therefore by themselves and on their own authority they dressed in that habit and with much effect and arrogance appeared preaching. With great fervour they exhorted everyone to believe what they told them. Putting the pointed cowl on the heads of these vagabond men and their bad example was an act of cunning by the infernal serpent. It was of no small moment because of the scandals that the demons made those who wore that habit do in order to have the habit hated by the world.

241. So that it doesn’t look as though I am speaking in vain I am glad to write down some of them and mention them by name. Among these the first was a certain Brother Angelico from Fratta di Perugia. He was in the Order of the Zoccolanti Fathers. Because he was man weak in the head, as soon as he was aware that Fra Matteo and the other holy men had taken up the capuchin habit, he apostatised from the Order on his own accord. Without the authority of His Holiness he took up the capuchin habit and in it went around different parts of Venice and preached there with great fervour. He converted some and clothed them in the same habit and made himself a sect of vagabonds. It pleased the Lord nonetheless to draw good from evil because when he was preaching and talking in the city of Chioggia a Priest was there, a very virtuous and holy man. Earlier he had been a member of the Franciscan Order. However, for the sake of the honour of his four sisters, who were about to go astray, he begged His Holiness to be able to become a Priest and find husbands for his sisters and them return straightaway to the holy Order. (This he did.) When he saw Bother Angelico he inquired about him and knew that the Congregation of Capuchins had already begun. He believed Brother Angelico had the authority to clothe[505], though this was not true.

The venerable Priest said in his heart, “You have to return to the Order. To be able to observe the Rule, where can you do it better and for the greater benefit of your soul than in this holy Reform?” He immediately got procured a coarse habit and was received by Brother Angelico. He was given the name Brother Paul and was the fourth Capuchin. This is discussed more amply in his biography[506]. God drew out so much good from this for he was a holy man and died a holy death.

242. A little later Brother Angelico wanted to return to his homeland and left those parts with some of his disciples. He started a friary at Montecasale where he established himself very well. He had the citizens there believe that he was the reformer of the Order of Saint Francis. There it pleased the Lord to bring about a good result because Brother Tullio of Potenza[507] came to him. He was a learned and seemly young man[508] in the friary at Borgo ad was received by Brother Angelico and he was clothed immediately. The following Lent he preached in the cathedral of Borgo with a very great reception. Because of this preaching the very fervent, young Brother Rufino of Borgo converted. He later had a holy death in our Congregation. Brother Angelico clothed him in the professed habit without any period of probation according to the Rule[509]. Not long after the great servant of God Bother Raniero[510] of Borgo came to the Order and was received by Fra Ludovico of Capranica[511].

The news that Brother Angelico had usurped the habit and started a friary at Montecasale arrived to the ears of Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone. He obtained (a letter) from His Holiness that constrained Brother Angelico under the pain of excommunication either to incorporate himself with the Order under obedience or to take off that habit. Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone sent Fra Ludovico of Capranica. When he showed this letter to Brother Angelico with its excommunication, he decided to flee from Montecasale, taking his first companions with him. Brother Tullio stayed behind while Brother Rufino, because he was a simple youth, went with him because it seemed to him that it was not good to leave his Master, Brother Angelico. However when a relative of his called Nero came to learn of this, he followed Brother Angelico with great fury and caught up with him high in the Alps. Furious at having learned that Brother Angelico had apostatised he seized a sickle[512] he was carrying and cried loudly, “Brother Angelico, Brother Angelico! Today you make me do something that I would rather not do! You ought to be ashamed for having betrayed a city, and even more so for leading off my Brother Rufino!” Terrified by these words Brother Angelico returned Brother Rufino to Nero. Fra Ludovico of Capranica received him and clothed him in the caperone[513]. In this way Brother Rufino was professed before he was a novice.

243. Brother Angelico continued on his journey. When he arrived in the Marches he took up the habit of a hermit and began another Congregation. However, after he began a school for children in a castle he became such a disgrace among the people. Prosecuted by the captain of the guard, he fled. He realised his plans were not succeeding. Humiliated, he returned to Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone and humbly begged that he would receive him. He received him and sent him to Scandriglia. This was the first friary in the Province of Rome[514]. Since he was a good talker, being a preacher, Fra Ludovico sent him to Naples to take up the friary of Saint Ephrem. He preached there with great approval[515]. For some years he persevered, giving very good example. However, tempted by the enemy again, he left the Order and died badly in secular dress.

244. It seems to me that I should not be silent about the venerable priest Don Joseph, a Venetian. He has composed a certain little work[516]. However he has picked up a crab[517], as the saying goes, in wanting to criticise the Reverend Father Marius for not writing well in his Chronicle when he says Fra Matteo was the first Capuchin who began our Congregation. Rather Brother Paul of Chioggia was the one who rediscovered the Capuchin habit. That this is so completely false is apparent in this. Did His Holiness name Brother Paul of Chioggia in either the Bull or the Brief that was earlier? Obviously it is clear that Fra Matteo and Fra Ludovico and his other companions are nominated there. On the contrary, it is obvious that there is no mention there of Brother Paul of Chioggia. Furthermore all Italy was aware that Fra Matteo was the first Capuchin when he went preaching. Would Don Joseph be able to say perhaps that Brother Paul of Chioggia was the first Capuchin in those parts? This is also false because Brother Angelico was before him. What can we say? The entire Order maintained and still holds Fra Matteo was the first Capuchin. How is it possible that Don Joseph know more about it than the whole Order since we have the testimony of Fra Matteo that he was the first to discover the Capuchin habit? Therefore in this way Don Joseph has spoken against Father Marius erroneously.

245. The second one to take the Capuchin habit was a hermit, a Venetian called Brother Raphael[518]. When he saw the honour given to Brother Raphael and his disciples he wished for that himself. Without any authority and off his own bat he clothed and collected about ten disciples. Brother Raphael spoke well and had a simple knowledge of the Scriptures. His preaching was well received. He showed the greatest fervour and the number of his disciples further increased. Then he heard that Fra Ludovico had obtained a Bull[519] that excommunicated those who wore the Capuchin habit outside of the Congregation. So he set off on a journey with all his disciples to go to Rome and beseech from His Holiness Clement VII to be able to wear that habit and to begin a new Order. When he arrived in Terni by certain ones who thought they were hermits invited him to start a house in the Abbey of the Mantarella[520]. Brother Raphael liked this very much. Wanting to increase his numbers and went and preached many sermons there that were very well received. Having planned to open a house there, he went in procession with all the people to go to where they had planned that house to be. He carried a large cross on his back. However, because the mountain was rough and very steep, after he had gone a short distance he was so weary that he couldn’t continue. He put the cross down on the ground. He turned to the people and with great fervour he began to cry out and say, “Oh my Lord, how heavy your cross was!” He gave a very solemn sermon there on the cross. He was so fervent that he moved all the people to tears and he went back with all the people.

246. Another day he took the cross and had a devout hermitage[521] built in a short time. It is there today still. He left some of his companions there and continued on his way. He stayed in Rome many days but he was never able to speak with His Holiness. Rather, His Holiness became angry when it was reported to him that Brother Raphael wanted permission to wear the Capuchin habit and start a new Order. His Holiness sent a message to him that if he didn’t take off that habit he would excommunicate him and have him die on a galley. Fearful and despairing of ever obtaining what he desired, he became a hermit against. Almost all his companions became Capuchins. I knew Brother Lucido Cipriotti, Brother Innocent of Venice, Brother Juniper and Brother Francis. They all had a holy death in our Congregation. However Brother Raphael was not accustomed to be under obedience. He didn’t want to lose his freedom.

All this happened while Charles V was in Rome. Brother Lucido told me he was present when Charles V and a few others entered Saint Peter’s. The masons who were building the wall brought an arch down to the ground. A little ivory box with the lance of the Cross of our Lord bounced out from where it fell. Not knowing what the clamour and rush of the crowd were all about, Charles took fright, especially at the dust which looked like a cloud and at the cry of the people, “Miracle!”[522]

247. Three others took up the capuchin habit. Two were two hermits from the mountain of Spoleto. One was called Brother Bear and the other Brother Wolf[523]. They wore it about fourteen years and because they were regarded as good men no one said anything to them. However, when they heard about the excommunication they took it off.

The other was called Pensabene. He went for many years in the capuchin habit. I knew him and often spoke with him. However he later withdrew to Rome and because of his good life was given care of a monastery. For many years he lived in the hermit habit.

248. When Clement VII died – during whose time most of these things happened – Paul III assumed the Papacy[524]. By his kindness he granted to the Capuchins a much more ample Bull with greater authority than before. It put an end to all the apostates who were wandering around in the Capuchin habit because this Bull excommunicated them[525]. In this way they ceased to lacerate the poor Congregation. To the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

XLIV: How the adversaries thought they would impede our Congregation so that at least it wouldn’t grow very much

249. The Observants wants to impede the Capuchin Reform. 250. Prohibitions made against Observant Friars crossing over to the Capuchins. 251. The miracles perform by the Capuchins and the help of some illustrious persons watch over their way. 252. Bernadine of Colpetrazzo invited to become a Capuchin. 253. Numerous vocations.

249. The lax Friars are the ones who have impugned our Congregation with all their cleverness. They realised that they could no longer stop it. Rather everything they did resulted in their dishonour and, by the grace of God, the benefit and increase of the Congregation. Through the industry and will of their major Superior they all met together and consulted. They said, “Until this point we have attacked our own Reform and have played the game of the Capuchins. For even though we impeded them, the many good Friars who desired the Reform, and often asked us the obedience to go there, have joined the Capuchins. Therefore it is better that we make known everywhere that we wish to support the Reform. Otherwise we will be stripped of all the good Friars. Let us obtain a Bull in their favour. We can handle them that way.

Therefore it was ordered that a Bull be obtained from His Holiness. It was obtained with great support. The order was given on the part of His Holiness and the General that in all the Provinces that Provincial Ministers exhort the good Friars to be calm for the order was already given that the Reform be carried out completely[526]. On the visitations the Ministers exhorted to the true observance of the Rule those Friars who wanted to reform and how it was necessary for them to be deprived of all the privileges which the Order enjoys. They depicted the Reform as very harsh. They did this to frighten them so that not many would go to it. They demonstrated by this that for those who had the wish to leave it was not necessary to go to the Capuchins. A short while later they wrote down all those who wanted to go. This was no small obstacle. With great boldness they preached against those who had left and those who wanted to the Capuchins. They reviled them saying that they had no brains and that they were hypocrites and unstable. They said that the Capuchins did everything just to live in their own way and that His Holiness had promised to uproot them and dispose of them. They also said the Capuchins were damned because they were excommunicated and that they were the cause of such obvious travail to the Order.

250. When the visitations were over the order was given that in all the Provinces that the poorest and most remote friaries in each Province be assigned to them, friaries which are suitable to contemplation and the true observance of poverty. But it pleased the Lord God that this little alchemy be made known when it came to the touchstone for the Ministers impeded many of those who were written down. The Ministers said that they wanted to make use of those Friars. They removed many of those who had already gone to the Reform in order to make use of them in the Friaries of the community. They were angry and despairing of even being able to obtain their Reform. This was the reason that the desire in their hearts to become Capuchins was ignited even more. Once they (the Superiors) saw that they could not continue in this way they had recourse to His Holiness and obtained a Brief that was full of lightning against those who would go to the Capuchins[527].

This Brief lasted two years. However, Fra Ludovico had recourse to His Beatitude and said to His Holiness that he was stopping many poor fellows who wanted to observe the Rule but could not. His Holiness answered, “All that I have done has been done to put an end to the squabbles. It is not my will to stop anyone who wants to do good. Go therefore. Remain silent and do not speak. Nor do I want you to repeat this to anyone. I give you permission to receive the better ones carefully. From a distance have them transfer from one Province to another with the great discretion. In this way I provide for those for whom I have granted the Bull, leaving it in place, and I provide also for those who want to do good.”

Fra Ludovico departed and received many of these, though secretly. They came to him indirectly. The adversaries were very angry and redoubled their complaints that the Capuchins were excommunicated because they did not observe the Brief of His Holiness. This was providential. Because the Capuchins were keen, if there had not been this impediment, they would have made a bundle of every kind of herb[528], as the saying goes. In this way, thanks to the prudence of His Holiness, many outstanding men were received. I have this from the mouth of the Very Reverend Father Francis of Iesi himself. He was one of those who came at that time. There was not shortage of those who said that a holy man had been rapt in paradise but didn’t see any Capuchins there. From this they argued that all those who died in that state[529] went to hell. With these scare tactics they tried to keep Friars from going to the Capuchins, especially the simple ones.

Also they gave to understand that during the General Chapter the Capuchins would be completely uprooted. So they tried in every way to prevent the Congregation from going ahead.

251. It pleased the Lord God to demonstrate how much the Congregation pleased him when he began to make those holy men, the first Capuchins, shine with miracles, thus making known their holiness everywhere. This was the way that fended off all the blows when the adversaries saw all these miracles. Then a great schism occurred between them. The same thing happened to them as it did to the Scribes and Pharisees when our Lord enlightened the man born blind[530]. “This man is not from God because he doesn’t observe the Sabbath.” However the blind man shut their mouths with this reasoning. He said, “It has never been heard of in the world that one has enlightened a man born blind. If this man was not from God, how could he have opened my eyes? We all know that God does not listen to sinners.” This is what happened among the Friars. The lax ones said that the Capuchins were excommunicated and were damned and died as enemies of God. The simple ones replied, “If it is as you say, how is it possible that the perform miracles to which so many true witnesses have testified and which is known all over the world? God does not bear witness to falsehood but to truth. Therefore it is certain that they are servants of God and true observers of the Rule of Saint Francis.

Our Lord God wanted to help us also by putting into the hearts of many very worthy and important persons that they should support the poor Congregation. So during this time the Most Illustrious Lord Camillo Orsino undertook our protection. Together with the Most Illustrious Lord Ascanio Colonna they supported us very much with His Holiness. They did so much so that His Holiness granted them the Bull, as was said in its place[531]. When the adversaries found themselves opposed by these persons, they were disconcerted. They obtained a Brief that knocked down the one the adversaries got in order that none of their Friars could come to the Capuchins except under the pain of excommunication[532]. This was judged impious and against the sacred canons. They didn’t want anyone impeded who wanted to go to a more perfect life[533]. Although His Holiness had given the adversaries the Brief to settle them as we said above, he secretly gave permission to be received. When the door was open, those who had desired to come to the Reform for such a long time sprang everywhere like unchained lions. It was a bunch of many flowers that adorned the little garden of the poor Congregation of Capuchins.

252. At that time I was in the friary of Saint Anthony of Pissignano, a castle in the realm of Spoleto[534]. Two Friars came and one of them called me aside and said to me in secret, “Do you want to join the Capuchins?” However, because I was young I had little understanding of such matters. I answered him, “I don’t want to come to the Capuchins without the obedience.” He replied to me, “You simple fellow, everyone knows that you are naïve[535]. Can’t you see that the door to paradise is open and that this is the time that our Lord God by his mercy has given us the opportunity to observe our profession just like Saint Francis and his companions observed it? Blessed will be the one who knows how to accept this beautiful gift given him by God. I want to go there since God is inviting me.” I can’t remember his name but I do remember the place he came from, Gualdo di Nocera and that he was a lay Friar. That servant of God left and entered the Capuchins and died after eight months. It was revealed to a holy man that God received him into heaven without tasting the pangs of purgatory.

253. There would not be a tongue able to describe with what fervour those first servants of God came to the Congregation even though they were aware of the extreme suffering experienced there because there were no friaries to shelter from the cold or from the rain. Many of them stayed in abandoned Churches. This was the case at Saint Valentine’s in Foligno and many other places. Many of them stayed in caves and shacks as best they could. With all this the desire they had for the perfect observance of the Rule was such that they seemed like Seraphim alight with the love of God. When they spoke with seculars they warmed them all in the love of God like glowing embers. To those Friars it seemed as though they weren’t suffering at all. The contentment they had from being in most high poverty amid so many persecutions made the harshness of their life easy for them. Such was the wonder of the world to see those servants of God so hammered, going here and there seeking out some refuge that conformed to their desire. On top of all this they had no shortage of persecutions, however as the Scripture says, “For him night is like day”[536]. The darkness of the persecutions and extreme suffering were not such that the daylight of the Holy Spirit did not always inflame them to suffer even more for the love of Christ.

Some seculars also came. It seemed that according to everyone’s opinion they must have had greater spirit because they had not been influenced by the lax Order. Nevertheless the Lord God concurred with those holy Religious very much because they had desired the perfect observance of the Rule so much that there was never one of those who came from the world whose holiness they could equal. It was miraculous that they could adjust so easily to so much suffering after being used to being so comfortable before. They all said, “This is thanks to God.” Amen.

XLV: How, after the first Bull, through many signs and witnesses, the Reform began to be recognised everywhere to be from God

254. Despite the opposition the Reform continues to spread. 255. Some famous Friars join the Capuchins. 256. Colpetrazzo comes with a companion. 257. The admirers grow in number. 258. A reply of Bartholomew of Spello. 259. The good effects of the coming of John of Fano. 260. Francis Tittelmans. 261. John Zuazo.

254. After the first Bull was obtained the Lord God wanted this holy Reform to make it grow. For it had expanded into all the Provinces of Italy. Many came to the Reform and took the habit with such devotion that it was clearly known that the Holy Spirit called them. Many friaries were established. It was known everywhere that God was giving increase to the Congregation of Capuchins.

Hence, since there were in the Order many lax Friars who attacked the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers, these set themselves to uproot the Capuchin Reform with all their strength using all their ingenuity and favour. These were the ones who spoke every evil of the Capuchins to the simple and to those they thought wanted to join the Capuchins, in order to stop them and remove the idea from their minds. However the Holy Spirit had these understand that all those things were lies. The more weary they grew of hearing them, the more of them agreed to go to Rome and seek a Bull from His Holiness and they all joined the Capuchins. They did this because the lax said there was an excommunication and that none of them could go to the Capuchins. The obtained the Bull in order not to be excommunicated, even though this was not true. On the contrary the Capuchins had obtained the Bull but these didn’t know that. These were others than the five Friars of whom mention is made elsewhere[537].

255. It pleased the Lord God that some came who before had greatly persecuted the poor Congregation. These were Religious of great authority and general renown. They were very gifted in letters and good bearing and enjoyed great credibility still in the Order. In a big way these shut the mouths of those who reproached the Congregation. For these ones discovered the truth for themselves when they were questioned by their secular friends who said to them, “What does it mean? You used to speak so badly of the Capuchins and now you have joined them.” As their excuse those venerable Fathers said, “Because in that state we were deceived by passion because of the great love we bore towards our Order. We were unaware that we were deceived and off the track, persecuting and reproaching Friars better than ourselves. Now the mercy of God has enlightened us and made us recognise that this is the true Reform and that the true observance of the Rule is in this Congregation. For this reason we have joined. And because we are certain that we have given scandal and bad example, kneeling we ask you forgiveness for all grumbling we have done against these servants of God. About these things it is quite true that we have trust that we have received the mercy of God for these things because we have done them ignorantly. We thought we were doing something good to help our Order. We didn’t know that the Lord God was preparing this holy Reform for us for our good. Now we have recognised this and are here by the mercy of God.”

When the seculars heard these words and it became known everywhere a perpetual silence fell upon those who lacerated the Reform. For from then on, when they heard such grumbling about the Reform, the people no longer believed that it came from those informed Fathers. They knew these Fathers were outstanding men who testified against themselves for having done wrong and who testified that the Congregation was holy. The seculars were very scandalised to hear evil said of the Capuchins. When news of the coming (to the Capuchins) of those venerable Fathers spread throughout the Order those who desired the Reform rejoiced over it greatly. Every scruple about excommunication was lifted from the simple and zealous Friars. And when the lax Friars spoke to them about it they didn’t believe them any more. Because of this, they also became dispirited.

256. When I was a young cleric in the friary in Terni, Our Lady of Graces[538], I had a great desire to become a Capuchin. However because I had heard of an excommunication it deterred me. However one day I had a discussion with the Father confessor of the nuns. His surname was Pan’fresco, a Perugian Father and a very good man. I said to him, “Father confessor, because it is never said of the Capuchins, I wonder if they are a band of hypocrites.” That good Father replied, “O my son, do not say that. Already some of our main Fathers and holy men have let our Order.” I said to him, “I understood that so-and-so has left.” He replied to me, “And another one even more important has left.” When I heard this I was overwhelmed with joy. A little later I left for the Capuchins with a companion. We departed from that same friary.

257. In this way the Congregation continued to grow and be consoled in the Lord. However, the opposition grew weaker. The majority of the Friars in the Order changed their minds. Although at first they would have detracted the Congregation, now they spoke well of it. And just as I saw with my own eyes, some whom no one would ever have thought because they were regarded as Friars of little spirit, said among themselves, “What are we going to do? This one and that one (and they recounted many) have gone to the Capuchin Reform. What are we waiting for except to go there ourselves? You know that it is from God, that it has been supported so much by His Majesty. It should never have made any progress because of all the opposition it received. God will judge us according to this because he has prepared for us this opportunity to observe the Rule to the letter and we stay here so as not to lose these bodily comforts.”

This kind of talk cut to the quick[539] those lax Friars who earlier used to say as much evil as they could about us without any encouragement. Nonetheless when they heard these things they didn’t dare to speak about it any more. Instead they were detaching themselves from that faction. Truly it was a work of God that within a short time there were very few who remained who persecuted the Reform.

So then in the time from 1528 until 1543 the Congregation grew very much in Friars and friaries. However, when the Ochino[540] left us in about 1545, all the persecutors rose up again. If they ever thought to be victorious over the Congregation and to dispose of it, at they time they felt certain, especially since they knew that His Holiness Paul III was very angry against the poor Congregation. However, according to the growth in the number of persecutors, on the other hand our Lord God showed greater miracles. The more it seemed that the Congregation would go to ruin, the more God lifted it up. Many important persons who supported the opposition went to His Holiness to persuade Him to remove this Congregation from the face of the earth. As they said themselves afterwards, God turned the words around in their mouths. For when they began to speak they saw that His Holiness was not very pleased when ill was said of the Reform. They said, “Even I have been of the opinion and I was determined to annihilate them completely. Now the Lord God has changed my heart. It is quite enough to punish the one who errs and to preserve the good.” That personage confirmed what His Holiness said and he greatly commended the poor Congregation to him. And he said, “Holy Father, forgive me. I came to tell you the complete opposite. Now I am compelled to praise them.” The Pope replied, “Oh didn’t I tell you that they have God on their side?”

In general there still would be one who would detract them. But for each of those found, you would have found one hundred who spoke well of the Capuchins. They were very sympathetic and instead blamed the part of the opposition, saying that this was a persecution. “If Brother Bernardino (Ochino) fled,” they said, “he has fled so that he does not have to die in a prison.” This general comment favoured us very much because His Holiness and all the holy Prelates of the Church kept an eye on not making a disturbance when they saw the Congregation enjoy such approval. Rather those holy Prelates discussed the case and all took the side of the Congregation. Finding the Congregation purged of the wicked doctrine of Brother Bernardino, the supported it more than ever. However, because I talk about this in another place, I will not say any more here[541].

258. To return to the original point, our Congregation went from strength to strength. Hence Brother Bartholomew of Spello went with a companion to Our Lady of the Angels. I heard this from his own mouth. Because of his devotion he remained there in the Church a long time at prayer. As it pleased God, he was recognised by one of the Fathers there who was very fond of Father Bartholomew and wanted very much to speak with him. He appeared at the grill and made a sign that he wanted to talk with him. This Friar was the venerable Father John Baptist of San’ Severino. There was no more educated a man of holy life in the whole Province. He was publicly rumoured that the Mother of Jesus Christ often appeared to him and had reassured him of his salvation. He always read cases of conscience and did the disciple every night, even when he was old.

As this Friar spoke with Father Bartholomew he said to him, “My Father, many things are said against you here. I do not believe them and when I have heard them I have been very saddened. You know I have always liked you and I am certain you would never tell me lies. Is it true that you are excommunicated?” Father Bartholomew answered, “I am much amazed at Your Paternity since, being the man that you are, that you give credence to lies such as these that in this austerity we would want to lose both body and soul at the same time, being bound under excommunication. Our Congregation has never been excommunicated. Rather everything we have done we have done it with the authority and good grace of His Beatitude. First a Brief was obtained and now, by the grace of God, a Bull has been obtained to be able to wear this habit, to receive Friars of any kind as well as seculars, to establish friaries and all that is necessary for the welfare of our Congregation. Rather, I tell you that His Holiness and all the Roman Court have known that this is the true habit which Father Saint Francis and the whole Order wore for more than a hundred year. And I say to you that the Congregation still is growing. The life that the Order led in the beginning has been resumed. It has been ordered that poor friaries be built according to what Father Saint Francis wanted.”

With many tears that venerable Father then embraced Father Bartholomew. He said to him, “You are blessed. Continue, sons, because you have taken the right road of observing before God what you have promised him. It is clear that the Order is very lax. Father Saint Francis has pleased God so much that he has merited this particular gift, that after so many years, when it has become lax, that it reform just as we have seen it reformed many times. I have not looked forward to anything else except that one day such a Reform come about because it was very necessary. May God be blessed, and our Father Saint Francis, because now I see it. And I am certain that this is the true habit of Saint Francis. This can be seen from the habits kept as relics in our friary at Alverna.” Kissing the habit he said again with great tenderness, “May God forgive my incapacity. If I were not so old I would join you right now.”

From that time on when that holy man heard evil said of the Congregation he reprimanded them and said to them, “These are all lies. I am convinced that this is the true Reform.” He exhorted everyone very much to join that Reform. This was no small benefit because when the simple heard the words of this venerable Father many of them came and took up the habit. They no longer believed the lies.

259. The conversion of Father John of Fano was no small benefit and support to our Congregation when, after persecuting the Congregation so much, he took up the Capuchin habit.

He was preaching in the city of Brescia in Lombardy when he was in the Zoccolanti habit. In the middle of his sermon he saw two Capuchins enter and kneel down. He immediately fixed his eye on them and enumerated the list of their crimes. He called them hypocrites, false Religious, vagabonds and the like. The poor fellows remained kneeling with their heads lowered, listening to the crimes humbly and with great patience. Their humility was such that they edified all the people. When he had finished fulminating against them they say down to listen to the rest of the sermon. Father John then turned to the people and said to them, “When you find some of these hypocrites make the sign of the cross and cry ‘mercy!’ because they are all devils.”

It pleased the Lord God to put into the heart of the venerable Father that if he did not restore their good name by joining them he could not be saved. The Lord God did not want such a good and worthwhile man to perish. For after receiving the habit from Padre Ludovico he was sent to establish the Provinces of Lombardy. He preached in Verona with great acceptance. Having established a friary there he came immediately to Brescia. When he appeared in the piazza with his companion there was a gentleman there who was his great friend. He had had him in his house when Father John was preaching in the Zoccolanti habit. He was present when Father John had fulminated against the Capuchins from the pulpit. When he saw Father John appear in the piazza, with great amazement he cried out “Mercy!” three times and made the sign of the cross. Everyone heard this and the people ran to see who it was. Father John remembered what he had said in the pulpit. He thought that the gentleman and all the people were scandalised by him. Hence the venerable Father immediately threw himself upon his knees and with many tears admitted his fault to him and to all the people. However the gentleman embraced him and said to him, “Father, forgive me. I did not cry out because of the words you said in the pulpit but because I knew that you were so inimical of this habit and now you are dressed in it too.” Taking him by the hand he led him to his house with great joy. He wanted him to preach. While speaking with those gentlemen with whom he was so familiar, to tried to show them that taking up the Capuchin habit had not been a light matter but because he was goaded by his conscience for having persecuted them so much. “I could not see how I could save myself if I did not restore their good name. Furthermore I was certain that this is a Reform sent to us by God for our salvation.[542]

Thus it spread even among the secular in favour of the Capuchins. These and many other examples about which I could write about but won’t so as not to be too long made it clear to everyone that the Congregation and Reform of the Capuchins was a work of God.

260. By way of confirmation of what has been said, the coming of Father Francis Tittelmans was no less an authority. He was one of the very learned men in the Order in his day and was cherished by it. He was a Reader and, in a manner of speaking, a patron of the Order. He was in his Province in Flanders where he had written many books and had them published. Many of them still remained to be printed[543]. Enlightened by God, nonetheless, he left all these opportunities and came to Italy. He became a Capuchin in our friary in Rome. He did this with such fervour that not long after being clothed he asked the grace of the Father General to serve the sick in the Hospital of the Incurable. He stayed there some months and if the Father General had not shifted him he would have finished his life in that work.

He was the cause of such wonder that he was visited by many ultramontane Fathers who had known him when he was so honoured in the Order. Now they saw him deprived of books like a simple friar, barefoot and dressed in a habit of rough wool. He served those poor sick people with such love. In wonder they said to him, “O my Father, how have you been able to put aside study completely?” The servant of God answered them, “I have undertaken that task which the Seraphic Father taught me. Know that I have exchanged all my Augustines, Jeromes and Chrysostoms for these. These are my collections of books – to serve these poor people so commended to us by the Lord God. Books teach us to do good and the completion of the lessons is to do what they teach us. The Rule of Father Saint Francis has humility for its foundation. The one who is humble observes the Rule better than anyone. I do not consider it less a good thing that God may have called me to the Order and called me to this Reform. I have been unable to resist the many inspirations and stinging prompts that I had while among those comforts. It pleased the Lord God to lead me to this state and if I were able to bring this Reform to Flanders I would die content. This is what has moved me more than anything else.”

When the Court in Rome came to know about this servant of God it gave great support to our Congregation. His holy life closed the mouth of anyone who saw such a worthy man go continuously barefoot and give himself so much to the despising of himself. He wanted so much to live by his own work. I have it from his own mouth, that the Rule may be observed badly without observing the Testament of our Father Saint Francis[544]. He gave himself to making baskets in order to give them then to seculars so as to receive part of his food from them. Because many other Friars worked and received bread for it that servant of God ate it so joyfully that it seemed as though the bread had come down from heaven. He used to say, “Now I am observing the Rule and Testament in the precept about working.” He was so adamant that when weren’t busy in matters of obedience or indeed in saying Masses, Offices, prayers and study that as a spiritual exercise and for the sake of holiness they should spend all that time in physical work. When he was adorned with so many miracles after his death all the Friars knew that his doctrine about working was good and pleasing to God.

The example of this servant of God moved many ultramontane Friars to come and take up the Capuchin habit. And when there was murmuring about our Congregation in those parts, they answered: “If the Reform was not good, the great and learned Brother Francis Tittelmans would not have entered it. These serious men honoured our Congregation everywhere and made it celebrated throughout all Christendom.

261. The arrival of Brother John from Spain was of no less benefit. By hearsay and reputation he was regarded as a holy man and the revelations he received from God endorsed his holiness. However what was important was to have received holy martyrdom. Preaching the Christian faith in Cairo he and his companion flew away to heaven with the palm of holy martyrdom[545].

It would a big task to want to tell of those things that the Lord God showed by way of confirmation that this was his work. Therefore may this be enough. May anyone who reads it be able to consider the great things that happened in the beginning.

To the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and his most sweet Mother and of our Father Saint Francis. Amen.

XLVI: On some of the example and important miracles which occurred during that time after the Bull was obtained.

262. Their conversation was in heaven. 263. Popular aura: a) I don’t want to play games with Saint Francis! b) Enlighten this girl! 264. The vision of a young Friar in the friary at Rome. 265. The vision of a Dominican. 266. The Constitutions of Albacina. Why they were called the Constitutions of the Friars of the eremitic life. How the early Friars were sustained by the support of the Church.

262. The practice of holy prayer and contemplation, of staying in the wilderness and being recollected among themselves and with seculars was the whole foundation that those servants of God laid. This was the reason many of them had well adapted oratories in the woods. They covered some of these with broom and other lowly materials so that if it rained they could stay there without getting wet and keep them dry. When they were sought ordinarily during the days they were in these oratories. They delighted very much in solitude. And so the Father Guardian knew where they were if the were something he had to ask them to do. This silence and being in the wilderness gave them wide scope to always keep their minds in God. They exercised themselves in taking the discipline. They did this so that it would help them prepare for holy prayer. Many of them said, “If one has no taste in any way for the passion of Christ it seems he is unable to pray.” It often happened that when some friendly secular came and struck up with them he began talk. After having talked with him a good while in the most beautiful discussion, the Friar turned to the secular and said to him, “You are very welcome! When did you come?” Amazed by the this the secular replied to him, “O Father, I have already be speaking with you a while.” Thinking he had only just met him, the Friar said, “Forgive me because I do not remember it.”

This happened because of being perfectly detached earthly things. As the Apostle says, their converse is no longer in this world but in heaven[546].

The seculars derived the greatest consolation from this and regard them as all saints. Because of their great faith the Lord God worked many great miracles by means of his servants. In all their tribulations they all had recourse to the Capuchins and they regarded all the words the Friars told them as if Jesus Christ had said it to them.

263. It lasted for many years then that when they established some little friary again in some city or region where they had not been seen, the people ran to see them and listen to them speak, as if they were Apostles. Everyone thought that the Friars performed miracles and that God would reveal to them all they wanted to know.

a) I could give many examples of this, but in order not to weary the reader I will speak of one. The first time the friary was established in Norcia[547] there was an old man who strongly resisted having to give them a little bit of bush which was next to that friary. One of our devotees said to him, “You will see what will happen to you. All these Friars are saints and they speak with Saint Francis, and if they tell him that you are working against them, pity you!” Saint Francis appeared to him the following night and whipped him soundly. Before dawn in the morning he quickly went off to the Friars, more dead than alive. Throwing himself down on his knees he asked forgiveness with many tears. He said to them, “Take all you want! Last night Saint Francis has given me so many blows that he left me for dead. I didn’t believe that you spoke with Saint Francis as I had been told. I don’t want to play games with Saint Francis any more!”

b) What happened at Leonessa when the friary was first established there was no less important. A priest and lay friar went out to quest. A very devout woman had little girl who had been born blind. She grieved very much over this. She had heard that the Capuchins were all saints. The first time she saw the two Friars who went around asking for alms, and she heard them called Capuchin Friars, the woman said, “Poor me! These are those saints to whom Jesus Christ grants what they request. What am I to do? I must be sure to take this poor little girl!” Taking her by the arm she quickly ran after the Friars, crying out. Weeping, she said, “Fathers, Fathers. Enlighten for me this child who was born blind!” When the Friars heard these words they considered them as the words of a woman and of little importance and they didn’t turn around. However, she cried out with tears like the Canaanite woman[548], “Enlighten this little girl for me!” And she followed them to the door. The priest was embarrassed and annoyed by these words. He faced the woman and said, “Woman, I am not God that I may enlighten those who have been born blind. Be on your way. You are simple.” The woman did not give in yet. Rather, she cried, “I know that you are not Jesus Christ. But you are his servants. He grants everything you ask of him.” Seeing her simplicity and great faith he said to her, “Do you believe that is we pray to Jesus Christ for her that God will enlighten her?” The woman answered, “Yes. I do believe it.” The priest said, “Up then. Come to Mass tomorrow morning and bring her. I will pray for her during Mass.”

The woman came to the friary the following morning. The priest said the Mass of the Saint whose feast occurred that day. A lay novice served the Mass. When it was over he said to the priest, “Go and speak to the woman so that she may give you the blind child.” The novice took her by the arm and led her before the priest. He took the Missal and read her the gospel about the man born blind[549]. When he came to the words where Jesus bent over and made some mud with his spittle, the priest reached down and picked up some earth and spat upon it. With that saliva he made some mud and smeared the mud on the eyes of the little girl. When he came to the words Go to the pool of Siloam he sent the novice and the little girl and her mother to the holy water font and washed her eyes in it. At good crowd was present who had heard Mass. When the little girl felt herself washed and all the people present she opened her eyes. Everyone began to cry, “Miracle! Miracle!” For a long time she stayed with her eyes open. Her eyes had never been seen before, except as closed. They appeared clear and fine much to the joy and wonder of everyone. Then she closed them again and she remained with them closed for fifteen days, even thought they were clear and fair. At the end of the fifteen days she opened them again and could see perfectly. Later, when she grew up, she got married.

I heard all this from the priest himself. Those early Capuchins did these and similar things in all the Provinces. Those things were almost countless but the memory of them is lost because the Friars neglected to have them written down.

264. They had many revelations that likewise are no longer known. I want to speak about one of them. There was a devout sacristan in the friary at Rome. Once during winter when the nights are long this devout young man found the lamp extinguished. It was the lamp that burned in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He fretted over this. He usually got up each night two or three hours before Matins to go and see if the lamp had gone out. Finding out one night he went to the kitchen to light the flame. There he found three Friars lying around the fire. The devout youth thought they were foreign Friars who slept near the fire because they hadn’t been assigned a place to rest. He said to them, “Oh you poor fellows. I don’t mind telling you that you look quite refresh after having slept next to the fire. Why didn’t you have them give a cell in which to rest?” They answered him, “Have no fear, son. We are not here to do you any evil or to harm you in any way.” The youth replied, “I am not afraid. Who are you?” They said, “We are dead friars. Because we have transgressed the order about staying too long in front of the fire, and because we have spoken idly and wasted a lot of time, the universal just judge has condemned us to purgatory. For our punishment and purgatory he has assigned us to the place where we committed our error which is this fire. Therefore, be on your way so that you may help us a great deal. Commend us to the Father Guardian so that he can have Masses and other prayers said fur us even though we are unworthy for having spent time vainly in the holy Order. The youngster promised them that he would fulfil that duty. For many days the Father Guardian had prayers said for them. One evening the devout youth was resetting the clock. He heard a clear voice that came from above his head in the ceiling. It said to him, “We thank you sacristan for the charity we have received from you and from the other Fathers. You will no longer find us in the fire. Released and purified now through the grace of Jesus Christ we are flying away to heaven.”

265. This next thing was no less important. There was a lay friar[550] of the Order of Saint Benedict in the friary of Our Lady of the Oak in Viterbo. While he was praying, in an ecstatic vision he saw two dead Capuchin Friars. He saw one who obviously went to heaven straight away. He didn’t see where the other one was. Amazed at this he turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, what will become of that one?” Immediately it was revealed to him that the Friar went to purgatory for a short time. He saw the friary clearly and the whole scene where the Friars had died. When he returned to his senses that image remained in his mind. Recalling the vision made him ever more fervent and he decided to become a Capuchin. The next morning he left and went in great fervour to Rome. He was received as a novice at the friary at Monte San Giovanni[551]. AS he entered the friary he said to himself, “This is the place where I saw the two dead Friars in the vision.” He disclosed this to the Novice Master and to all the Friars he said, “I beg you to tell me the truth. On such and such a date did a Friar die here in the friary?” He was answered, “On such and such a day and such and such a time two priests died here. Today is the sixth day since they died. One of them was Father Francis of Flanders[552], Vicar of the Province of Rome. The other was Brother John Mary Bresciano, a simplex priest[553]. The lay Friar knew then that the vision had been real. He persevered in a holy life with in the Order. His name was Brother Valerian[554] and he died a holy death. The Flemish went to paradise and the other to purgatory.

266. In that Chapter at Albacina they made some very devout Constitutions. They had no sooner arrived at the Friary in Foligno than the Friars who brought them said, “See, we are bringing you the Constitutions! All those poor Friars came running and Brother Francis Cesena, a cleric, began to read them. All the Friars began to cry out of devotion. It was something wonderful that in such a short time such simple Friars composed such concise and substantial Constitutions that were so pertinent to our way of life. Though expanded, the Constitutions that the Congregation has now were later substantially drawn from these in Rome.

These Constitutions were entitled: These are the Constitutions of the Friars Minor called Capuchins of the eremitic life. This was because when Fra Ludovico attempted to obtain a Bull from His Holiness he was advised by a certain reverend Father called Brother Jerome of Sessa. He was from the Camaldolese of the Fratta of Perugia and such a learned and holy man that he was chosen by Paul IV to become a Cardinal. In order to give him the Hat he had him go to Rome. However he succeeded to persuade His Holiness in such a way that His Beatitude let him return to the Fratta. There, not long after, he died[555]. Therefore this Reverend Father advised Fra Ludovico to base his Congregation on that of Saint Romuald – not be united with it as one but like their Congregation and the Order of Saint Benedict. Their Reform bas based on the order of Saint Benedict and they professed a monastic life. Apart from the Rule they have Constitutions to lead an eremitic life. Therefore they had themselves called Hermits of the Fratta. With their Constitutions they came to separate themselves from and be different to the other Monks of the Abbey. So on the one hand they were Monks of Saint Benedict. On the other hand, because of the privileges they had received from many Supreme Pontiffs, they have nothing to do with the Order of Saint Benedict. “Do it hat way,” this holy Father said. “Found your Reform on a solitary and reformed life. While observing the Rule of Saint Francis, be nearer to us by having yourselves called Friars Minor of the eremitic life. In this way you will come to separate yourselves from all the Order of Saint Francis by your habit and way of life. So that His Holiness will not regard this as something novel base yourselves on us. For while we live under the Rule of Saint Benedict, nonetheless the Church allows us this eremitic and withdrawn life. Have yourselves granted our privileges and in this way unite with us so that you will last the effort of obtaining from His Holiness a habit which is different and so remote from the common life of all the Orders which otherwise will regarded as something completely new. And the Prelates of the Holy church always abhor novelty.

Because of this those our early Fathers thus entitled our Constitutions and His Holiness granted all the privileges which the aforesaid Friars of the Fratta enjoy[556]. However those venerable Fathers considered this well and judged this novelty of a Congregation of the eremitic life to be an even greater novelty since there had never been this title in the Order of Saint Francis before. However to make better known to His Holiness and all the Prelates of Holy Church that our Reform is not something new but something old, because in the beginning Saint Francis founded the Order in this habit as well as in the way of living poorly and withdrawn. Therefore the Bull which His Holiness gave us was founded on the early way of life of the Order and that the Capuchins wanted to return to the true observance of the Rule.

Great difficulty came from this about how to make everyone understand that this was the true habit of Saint Francis. The habits preserved in reliquaries and images helped us very much.

267. As this understanding grew all the Supreme Pontiffs have granted our Congregation all they have requested for the preservation and growth of the Reform. They have done this so kindly and easily many times. In certain particular needs our Fathers did not know whether to ask. Guided by the Holy Spirit the Supreme Pontiffs themselves have provided for the Congregation in such a divine manner that judicious men of sound mind know that God guided the Pontiffs. Just how necessary for the preservation of the Order is union with the Church is seen clearly for without her it would be impossible for the Order to exist. Anyone who reads carefully about the serious problems the Order has had in different times knows that it would have been completely annihilated if God had not freed us by means of the Holy Church and in particular the Supreme Pontiff.

Returning to our early Fathers. With firm deliberation to observe all they had promised God they put all their hope in our Lord God, in his providence and in the governance of Holy Church. Above all they founded themselves in most high poverty which they strictly observed to the point that they were more inclined to the extreme rather than the middle way. One of those Fathers told me that when that Chapter gathered in the hut at Albacina that they had nothing but a few pieces of fruit for food and broken flask of wine. In that little house they found a glass without a stem. They all drank using that. When they had drunk they tipped it upside down, as we said above[557]. These were the choice foods and great provisions that the community was accustomed to make for itself at Chapter time. Those servants of God enjoyed that poverty so much that for a long time after they departed they were more refreshed in their spirit than if they had been refreshed physically by choice foods.

XLVII: About the holy man Brother Matteo da Bascio and how he abdicated the Generalate.

268. The again prohibits the Observants from joining the Capuchins. 269. The abdication of Fra Matteo. 270. Fra Ludovico if Fossombrone succeeds him.

268. When the adversaries of the Capuchins heard that Fra Ludovico had obtained the Bull and how the first Chapter had been celebrated and the Capuchins had taken up friaries, the adversaries all began to think that the Reform would go ahead. The good Friars who desired Reform who were hated and persecuted by them hurried so that the door would not be closed and they came to the Congregation. The adversaries grew in hatred. Having recourse to Rome they proposed to His Holiness that it he did not repair the situation it would be necessary to leave many friaries because all the good Friars went to the Capuchins and the Order remained stripped completely.

Prudently His Holiness considered that it was not good that so many Friars enter the Reform while it was so young. Also, if the Order did not have an adequate complement of Friars that this could easily ruin it. So he issued a Brief[558] so that no more Friars would be able to come. This was something truly good but poorly conceived for the Capuchins who wanted to increase. So many Friars wrote that that they would have wanted to come. The insistence of the Friars was such that Fra Matteo, the General, had to go to Rome and revoke the Brief. They all knew quite well that the Lady Duchess of Camerino would have supported it and with the slightest hint would have obtained from His Holiness whatever she desired.

269. Father Matteo was bothered by these problems. Still all his intention was to go throughout the world preaching and leading a very austere life as God had revealed to him. Therefore he decided he did not want these problems any more[559]. So he went to Fossombrone where Padre Ludovico was and said to him, “Father, I have come because you are the first Definitor and since the Bull addresses you. You know how much I resisted when you made me General because I knew what would have happened to me. Now the Friars want me to go to Rome to obtain a Brief so that the Friars of the Order may join us. I am not suitable to go into palaces. Therefore I beg that you may want to accept this undertaking.”

Fra Ludovico answered, “It is necessary to go to Rome because our adversaries have tried as hard as they could to impede the Bull. Therefore let us do it this way. You hold the seals and also the title of General. Send me to Rome with your obedience. Give me my brother as my companion and be at peace. Let us not do anything else unusual because of the many poor Friars who have settled down and have taken heart that the Congregation will go ahead. Otherwise you will be the cause of putting their leaving again into their heads.”

Fra Matteo replied, “All that you have said is true, but my spirit is not quiet. Therefore do it my way neither without making another Congregation nor for any other motive. Take the seals and the Bull because in Rome it is important to have full authority, and go to Rome.”

270. Thus it was concluded. So Fra Ludovico immediately took the seals and Fra Matteo remained at peace about it. Following his first intention, he persevered with it until death.

XLVII: How Padre Ludovico went to Rome and how he established the first friary in Rome

271. The first Capuchin friary in Rome. 272. A commission of Cardinals. 273. The coming of Francis of Iesi. 274. The Capuchins in the Hospital for the Incurable in Rome. 275. Wit the Pope the adversaries insist against the Capuchins.

271. Fra Ludovico had taken up the task again of helping the poor Congregation. He was inflamed with a new fervour. Fra Ludovico was like the great Maccabeus who with his sword at his side gave it to his enemies like an unchained lion[560]. First of all he went to the mother Duchess of Camerino. He told her everything, that again the adversaries were plotting against the poor Congregation and that it was very necessary to establish in Rome a little bastion and establish a continuous residence to be able to instantly oppose the fiery blows of the adversaries. He received letters of support from Her Ladyship in which she wrote to certain important persons who could help a lot with His Holiness, warning them to stay vigilant and keep her advised as well as the Lady Marchioness of Pescara, Victoria Colonna[561]. She too had taken to be mother of the poor Congregation.

Leaving Camerino Padre Ludovico arrived in Rome in a few days. He took up a little place called Our Lady of Miracles near the Peoples’ Gate[562] almost on the banks of the Tiber. There the poor Capuchins began their friary in Rome.

272. News of this spread and when the adversaries saw that despite the Brief Fra Ludovico still received Friars, their hearts were inflamed to make the ultimate effort to completely remove the spectacle of the Congregation of Capuchins who appeared so offensive to them. That those Friars came and Fra Ludovico received them was contra the Brief was because His Holiness greatly desired the augmentation of the Congregation. On the other hand the adversaries insisted with him very much. His Holiness wanted partly to satisfy the adversaries to whom he had granted the Brief. On the other hand he didn’t want to impede anyone from doing the right thing. So he appointed three Cardinals[563] over the matter who could grant permission to Fra Ludovico to be able to receive some Friars were suitable for the building up of the holy Reform. With that Brief he refrained the unrestrained wish that the Capuchins had to receive anyone.

273. Father Francis of Iesi came to the Congregation at this time. When Fra Ludovico saw him he said, “Father, you have come at a bad time because our adversaries have obtained a Brief so that we may not receive any Friars. Nonetheless it is true that His Holiness has appointed three Cardinals to whom we may have recourse. If they give us permission we ma receive some Friars. However, it is not likely. The last time I was there to beg permission for someone else they sent me away very angrily so that I don’t think we will be able to obtain this permission.” Father Francis answered, “That’s not important. Go and listen to what they tell you.” Fra Ludovico went and asked the permission. He was given a great rebuff and sent away. When Father Francis heard this he said to Brother Padre Ludovico , “That is not important. Come with me because I want to ask them for it for myself.” Fra Ludovico returned again and kneeling down Father Francis said these words with great humility, “My Lords, I have promised to God the Rule of Saint Francis and I cannot observe it where I am. Now I ask your permission to go and observe it because the Lord God grants me this and His Holiness has appointed you to give permission for those whom you know to be truly suitable. I am one of those. I have come to do you due reverence and I ask you blessing.” With out any reply he got up from the ground.

When they heard this they called Fra Ludovico aside in order to know who this Father was. Fra Ludovico answered, “This is one of the first Fathers, one of the holiest and most learned there is today in our Order.” The Cardinals replied, “If that is so, receive him with the blessing of God, because that is the will of His Holiness.” And so he was received. However because he was very contemplative and liked solitude, finding himself in that disturbed little friary he still doubted whether that Congregation would go ahead because there still weren’t any men of good order[564]. He made an agreement with Fra Ludovico and said to him, “Father, I have great faith in advancing our Reform. Therefore I want to return to the Zoccolanti and do as much as I can. If it turns out that our Reform goes ahead and the Reform of the Capuchins does not go ahead, I want you to promise me to come with all the Capuchins to this Reform. If ours does not go ahead and yours grows, I promise to return with as many reformed Friars I can.”

Thus the pact was made. With mutual concord he returned and went to find Father Bernadine of Asti who, at that time, was Procurator of the whole Order. With the favour of God they immediately obtained the Bull of the Reform from His Holiness. When this venerable Father returned to the Province of Saint Francis to begin with the support of the Bull, the Zoccolanti immediately put him in prison along with his companion Father Baptist of Norcia assurance that they would never see the sun again. However, as it pleased God, they were freed. They took themselves off straightaway and went to Camerino and the both of them became Capuchins again along with many others.

274. Now to return to Padre Ludovico . Since it seemed to him that that place was not very suitable[565], he procured to have another that had been a monastery of Nuns called Saint Euphemia. The poor Capuchins lived there for many years in the beginning. Then they took up the Hospital for the Incurable and it had many good and holy Friars[566]. Their service to the sick was so pleasing to God and the people that all of Rome and the majority of the Prelates of the Holy Church became devoted to the Capuchins. For they found that Hospital almost completely abandoned and without any organisation. They reorganized it into such a beautiful state of organisation and cleanliness that many nobles had themselves brought to that hospital in their infirmity because those servants of God ran it. The devotion to do good for those servants of God grew so much that the contributions[567] increased by more than half within a short time. When it fell to me to do my little bit there I heard that fifteen and twenty thousand scudi [568] came in at a time and when wood was collected. Very often there were five hundred beds in the hospital, as I saw with my own eyes. The poor fellows served the sick day and night with such solicitude that their fame spread through all of Christendom.

275. The adversaries could not tolerate that the poor Congregation was going ahead. They procured letters from all the Princes of Christendom addressed to His Holiness. With great cleverness they arranged for His Holiness to receive them all at the same time. For His Beatitude they were very stupefying and a great bother because they were all of the same tenor and made the same point that His Holiness was ruining the Order of Saint Francis if he allowed thew Congregation of Capuchins to go ahead. When he heard this, His Holiness almost regretted having granted that Bull and decided to revoke it. It was referred to us by someone who heard him say, “What have I done because the world is upside down for my having given the opportunity to those servants of God to observe their Rule? I have made a great mistake if it causes such an outcry! Well then, if they do not want them, let us remove them.”

There was no shortage of those continually in the ear of against the poor Capuchins. And I don’t mind telling you that the infernal tried his hardest to quench that light that shone through the good example which those poor Capuchins gave. However, as it pleased the Lord God, while His Holiness was in such a bad disposition against the Capuchins, one day there was a great storm. The storm was unusual with such prodigious rain, hail, wind and lighting it seemed as if the end of the world had arrived. Lightning bolts fell on all the principal Churches of Rome. It lit up the Castle and split the Angel in half. It fell on Saint Peter’s, Saint John Lateran and did the greatest damage to Mary Major[569]. Because of this the acquaintances of His Holiness said that he spoke these words, “The Lord God is angry with us because of the persecutions done against the Capuchins. My Lord, let your anger cease and I will not fail to give them every support, despite the opinions of the opponents, if this is your will.” It was something amazing, because His Holiness had no sooner said these words than the storm disappeared completely. But in order to satisfy partly the wishes of the adversaries, he sent the Capuchins from Rome, as will be described here below[570].

XLIX: How because of a grave persecution the Capuchin Friars were evicted from the city of Rome at the time of Clement VII

276. Padre Ludovico calls to Rome some of the more illustrious Friars. 277. They are accused before the Pope. 278. Inconsistencies in the accusations. 279. The Capuchins are chased away from Rome. 280. They stop in Saint Laurence outside the Walls. 281. The effective defence of their supporters with the Pope. 282. They return to the Friary in Rome. 283. The sword.

276. The rational creature was created by the Most High God in pure and true freedom. God gave him power to do good and evil. However, using this freedom for evil he fell into the power of Lucifer. It pleased the Supreme Creator to restore his creature again to a better state. In that state he can ascend to heaven not only with his own merits but clothed and adorned with the glorious Christ, glorifying His Majesty and accepting as due all the pains that he suffers in this world. As the Apostle Paul says, to those who love God all things are turned in the favour[571].

This is just what happened to the Capuchin Friars. When Padre Ludovico had taken the place at Saint Euphemia as a dwelling for the poor Friars, they stayed there in the greatest poverty, in continuous contemplation and prayer. Seculars rarely saw them and when they did see them they were dumbfounded to see such poor, austere men, all barefoot. They were emaciated because of their many fasts and the tears that they poured out continuously in holy prayer. For they had a great fear of being torn away from one another and that the poor Congregation would be annihilated because of the many threats that the adversaries let fly from their lips against them. The Capuchins heard that the adversaries had arranged letters against the poor Congregation to come to His Holiness from all the Christian Princes, even from Charles V[572]. We have mentioned this already. So Padre Ludovico made it known in all the Provinces that some of the eldest Fathers, men of good order, should come to Rome. Since the Congregation had grown to a good number, he wanted to organise a Custos and Visitator for each Province. This he did. About one hundred and fifty friars met in Rome. It didn’t seem to him to be a good thing that the Friars been seen for too long through Rome. However since they all wanted to visit the holy places, he made a procession. Altogether with their head those servants of God went off to Saint Peters. They were barefoot and with such mortification that all Rome ran to see them. It was such a novelty that it set the whole city abuzz; not only the city but it was written about throughout all Christendom. Such devotion grew towards he Capuchins generally that anyone who saw them thought himself blessed.

277. When the adversaries heard all this, their desire grew to make an ultimate effort to disperse the Capuchins. So they set about with great insistence to visit their friends, especially persons of importance. The filled their heads with the idea that the Capuchins made procession because of hypocrisy, to have themselves regarded as holy. However, intrinsically they were hypocrites. “Because,” they said, “we know them. They are superficial men who do not want to stay under obedience. They everything in order to live in their own way. They have divided our Order. Thinking it is the true Reform, many good Friars have gone over to them. With the departure of the good Friars we are ruined. Now can you see that what is at issue is the ruination of a poor Order? Therefore you can gain a crown before God in repairing the ruin which we clearly see will become of us.”

They insisted so much with these and similar persuasive words that all those persons came together and made an effort that all of them come to the feet of His Holiness at the same time. All those who knew the best way and could do it best had His Holiness see that the sojourn[573] of these madmen was such a great novelty that the whole world was confused. “Judicious persons are all amazed at Your Holiness; that you would have granted them that Bull which will be the reason why all the holy Order of Saint Francis will be turned upside down. Because devotion towards the other Friars is diminishing and they lack alms a great deal and they will loose even more. This is because in general the people think that the Capuchins are holy. There will be so much confusion that one day it could come to blows to the dishonour of Your Holiness and of the Holy See. Now while they are so few it can be remedied very easily and you would do something pleasing for all of us who have been familiar with this holy Order for so many years and we have never seen anything in it but good. We know how bad this aberration is because those poor Fathers have truly come to us with tears in their eyes to beg us to meet with Your Holiness to remedy the situation.

His Holiness loved the poor Congregation tenderly and enlightened by God he didn’t believe any of those evil things said to him about the poor Capuchins. Therefore he replied to them, “We have granted that Bull with great maturity. Therefore it is not fitting that we revoke it. Rather we want it to be well received and that those poor fellows rejoice in it. For the great saint himself submitted and assigned the holy Religion of Saint Francis to our protection and we know how great is the need in the Order for this Reform. I am very amazed at those Fathers who have made this commotion.”

When those personages heard these words they didn’t dare to reply to His Holiness about the Bull. Rather with much humility and in awe of the Congregation they begged His Holiness to test them and humble them in order to have the hypocrisy used by the Friars disclosed to everyone. With one voice they all strongly insisted with His Holiness that he should not fail to give this satisfaction at least to those venerable Fathers.

His Beatitude thought to himself that the poor Capuchins would benefit from being humiliated and of suffering for the love of God. Therefore he yielded so that test they Friars be tested, though it was of little moment as will be said.

278. The calumnies had no place in the presence of His Holiness or with the ordinary people because no one could say anything but good of the Capuchins. Because of this the complaints had little effect. Instead the Congregation received greater support and devotion from everyone because when they left the house, as will be said, many personages hurried to the place in order to see how they ate and how they slept – those persons who had spoken against the Congregation with His Holiness. Searching throughout the place they saw that the poor fellows all slept on bare boards with a block of wood for a pillow. At the fire they found a pot of cooked bread and near by a table set with a little tablecloth with two loaves. In the whole house they found neither meat, nor eggs nor cheese, but some gourds of wine and a small jug of oil. All these adversaries became fond of the Capuchins and told everything throughout all of Rome.

279. Therefore, as was said above, Padre Ludovico decided on a certain solemnity to have all that fair Company see Rome. Therefore taking the side of the adversaries His Holiness sent out an edict that all the Capuchins leave Rome under holy obedience. When he heard this Padre Ludovico wanted to know how it came about how His Holiness now hunted them from Rome, when before he had always cherished them. “We wanted to know what we had done,” he said to some acquaintances of His Holiness. One of the Pope’s friends answered, “My Father, have patience. His Holiness likes you, as he has already shown and will show again in the future. But you will see how it goes. It is necessary that the take the side of those who don’t want you seen anywhere. Everything will work out well. Do this sign of obedience. God will help you.”

Padre Ludovico returned to his sons and gathered them all together. At the time the poor fellows had said the Office and had to go to eat that small amount of bread. He had them all sit down and gave them a very beautiful sermon. He said, “Sons and brothers. May our Lord God be blessed who still visits us with the usual tribulations. The greatest sign I have had while exerting myself for this poor Congregation that is from God is this: that he has always accompanied us with the cross like all the other Orders which are pleasing to his goodness. This has given me great hope that our Lord God will bring a great good from this Reform. Therefore blessed sons do not be dismayed by the corrections that our Lord send us like a good father. Rather, you should rejoice for having this clear sign that we are sons of God who corrects our negligence with great kindness so that like good sons we may take courage and grow in greater fervour. His Holiness is sending us from Rome not because he dislikes us but in order to take the side of those who do not want us in this city. Therefore do not doubt that we will have to suffer shame and reproach but as the greatest honour just like all the other troubles that we have received. Therefore I want us to obey with making any reply to His Holiness. Therefore everyone take the Breviary. I don’t want anything else to be taken and let us go away from here because this I sour crown.”

It was a wonderful thing, because such a great joy came upon those poor fellows that with one voice they all burst into Te Deum laudamus. They lined up. A lay friar with immense fervour and a bigger beard than anyone else took the large wooden cross that they had already carried to Saint Peter’s. Singing the Te Deum and united all together they came out of the place with lowered eyes. All were barefoot. When the people asked them, “Where are you going, my Fathers?” they answered, “We are like sinners, cast out from Rome. Because of our sins we are not worthy to dwell in this holy city. Therefore, please pray to God for us.”

280. It pleased the Lord God that once the poor fellows arrived outside Rome at Saint Lawrence outside the Walls and not knowing where to go, it was by his providence that they Friars were offered accommodation by the Fathers there and that every kindness would be shown them there[574]. They accepted the offer with great thanksgiving. For Padre Ludovico saw that it was a work of God who had prepared a place for them where they could stay and be able to negotiate with His Holiness. Those Fathers assigned them rooms to be able to fulfil all their needs. And kindly they also gave them to eat. That accommodation was not vain because, just as I have heard from the same Reverend Fathers in Gubbio, they were so edified by the conversation of those servants of God that wherever they were found speaking with seculars they exalted the Friars as high as heaven. They had never seen such humble Religious, of good disposition and holy. The testimony of those good Religious was of great benefit among the ordinary people.

281. News of their tribulation spread finally to the ears of the Lady Marchioness of Pescara, Victoria Colonna. Straight away she was so animated that those poor fellows had been so maltreated that she put the whole House of Colonna into upheaval with letters. Still unsatisfied she rode in person to Rome, leaving from San Marino. First of all she wanted to see them all and speak with Padre Ludovico . I remain silent about what she did with His Beatitude except that she informed him about the holiness of those servants of God so that he remained satisfied about the matter. She so confirmed him in his devotion towards the Congregation that he never again acted against the Capuchins again for any reason.

What can we say about that early mother, the Lady Duchess of Camerino? She rode in person immediately but when she arrived, His Holiness had already allowed the Capuchins to return because of Lord Camillo Ursino. When he heard that the poor Capuchin fugitives were in Saint Lawrence outside the Walls, with great displeasure and quite furious, he went straightaway to His Holiness. When His Beatitude saw the Lord in before him he began to laugh, seeing that his face was so transformed. For by nature he was jovial and kind. He said to him, “What is the matter, Lord Camillo, that it seems to you that we have chased your Capuchins out of Rome?” The kind Lord answered, “Holy Father, I believe that you were aware that I am very angry. To tell the truth, it seems to me I am justified in part. I know very well that His Holiness has done this in order to appease certain ones except it would not be fitting for the profession they make to use such terms. Forgive me Your Holiness. This is one of the great scandals that have taken place many times in Rome. Because there is not doubt that the life of this poor fellows is beyond reproach, because I know as much as can be known about their life. Among the ordinary people they are venerated as saints. Nonetheless they have been hunted from Rome so disdainfully. They can be accused of nothing else except going in procession to visit the sacred temple of Saint Peters. And to punish a multitude so unjustly in this way – I will leave Your Beatitude to consider the scandal that will come from this.”

When the Pope heard that Lord speak so angrily he had compassion for him. Wanting to calm him, he answered him lovingly, “All that you say is true. I am also aware of it. Nonetheless, since the edict has gone out we cannot do anything else while preserving the honour of the Holy See because we would show imprudence. However, go and say to them that I am happy for them to return to Saint Euphemia. With my blessing they may stay there in peace and pray to God for me so that I may not fail them whenever I may be of assistance to them. Tell them also to be careful not to complain about anyone, but to tell Your Lordship everything that happened to give occasion to their adversaries. So that this may not appear trivial, leave them be for some days, according to your judgement. Without saying anything more to me, the task to have them return is yours.”

282. Lord Camillo left His Holiness and went directly to Saint Lawrence with the good news. In an instant you would have seen those servants of God all gathered together weeping and going in procession into the Church. In front of the Blessed Sacrament they gave boundless thanks to His Majesty who had prospered them so kindly.

After staying there some days they returned joyfully two by two to Saint Euphemia. The majority of the notable persons who supported them visited them. It was something marvellous. Before they could say a single word they burst into tears. Such was their compassion for the Friars.

283. While they were staying at Saint Lawrence, a grumbling arose among all the people against those who had been the cause to the point where they could not show themselves in Rome. There was nothing else to say. But what was more important was that Brother Meo[575] Sanese, called the Brandano and who was a sackcloth hermit regarded by all Italy as a holy man, when he heard about the poor Capuchins, with great fury he walked night and day until he arrived in Rome. When he arrived at the People’s Gate he began to cry in a loud voice, “Come to Rome all kinds of rogues, gamblers, blasphemers, spies, thieves, fools, traitors, ruffians and whores of every sort. Because here they will find a home and will be cherished along with all the other people who do evil. Only the servants of God cannot have a home here and stay. Woe to you Rome! You who kill the prophets and persecute the servants of God! You cannot bear the light but, like bats, you seek out nothing but darkness. You give no abode except to rogues! Friend of darkness, you have chased out and sent away the poor Capuchins who gave you light.” This tedious ballad[576] and great fervour lasted three days and ploughed up all of Rome. It was so effective on the furore of the people that those adversaries couldn’t appear anywhere. It was necessary that if they didn’t want to die of hunger they had to petition His Holiness to have the Capuchins return.

L: On the many great tribulations which the poor Capuchins had in different houses at this time

284. Rapid growth in the number of Friaries. 285. Tribulations. Different cases of the maltreatment of Friars. 286. God wants his servants respected.

284. It pleased the Lord God still to train those early Fathers in all sorts of tribulations. Since the Holy Congregation had already come to give birth to many good and holy sons, Padre Ludovico gave instructions that houses be established in each of the Provinces. So they started houses in all the Provinces near to the Marches straightaway they had established friaries in the Marches earlier. The first was Camerino, as well as Fossombrone and other little places. In the Province of Saint Francis the first was Saint Valentine’s at Foligno[577]. The second was the place at Narni[578]. The third was at Montecasale[579]. The fourth was at Collepepe[580]. Scandriglia[581] was the first in the Province of Rome. The second was at Riete. Later they left it and took up the place that they have nor for novices[582]. This is the one they have now. The third was Our Lady of Miracles[583]. The fourth was Santa Euphemia[584]. The first in Tuscany was at Montepulciano[585]. The second was at Sarteano[586], the third, Cortona[587]. Ferrara was the first in Romagna. It was a place abandoned by certain hermits outside of Ferrara[588]. The old house at Faenza[589] was the second. The third was at Forli[590] and the fourth at Bertinoro[591].

Then little by little the holy Congregation spread throughout all the Provinces of Italy. However the greatest rumour was in Calabria since in 1532 many Fathers of the Province of Calabria took the Capuchin habit.

285. Because the poor fellows had never been seen before in all the Provinces except the Marches they suffered many tribulations. That is what happened to four of them who came from the Marches to go to Rome. When they were in a castle in Foligno, on a hill called Colfiorito, a wicked man grabbed his sword and beat those poor fellows with it from behind. He called them thieves, cheats and murderers. A poor woman saw him maltreat the poor fellows this way and said to that vile man, “You poor fellow. Don’t you know that they are poor Religious? Why harm them?” The man answered, “You won’t say that when they steal your chickens! These are the biggest swindlers on the face of the earth and you do not know them.” Continuously he would hit one and then the other. This persecution lasted for a distance of three miles until he gave up because he was tired and fell to the ground like a dead man after having made the poor fellows walk so quickly. They finished up by thanking God. When they saw he couldn’t continue and had stopped persecuting them, kneeling down they said to him very joyfully as with one voice, “May this be for the love of God and your charity.”

Father Peter of Pontremoli[592] told me this. He was one of the four to whom this happened.

A similar thing happened to Brother Gratiano da Norcia[593] and Brother Benedict Bergamasco. As they were coming from Norcia they were taken by Cassian and put in prison[594]. They were thought to be spies and it was decided to hang them. However the Governor didn’t want justice done without the evidence of witness, or unless they confessed. So the order was given to torture them. When they removed the habits from them they saw that these two wore a harsh hairshirt against their bare skin. In their sleeve were the discipline and the Rule. Immediately they regretted mistreating them so and said to one another, “These aren’t spies, but a real servants of God.” So they let them go.

Again something similar happened to Brother John Pugliese. When he was coming from Alverna he was apprehended as a spy in the castle of Poppi and put deep within the tower where there was a long wide beam with a little bit of straw on it. Beneath it was water. He stayed there twenty-four days without eating anything else but the straw and drinking that bad water until he was freed miraculously by God, as will be told in its place[595].

Something similar happened to Padre Ludovico of Capranica when he was with Brother Benedict[596] of Anchaiano at the end of the Valle Strettura, near the city or Terrani. They came across a little boy who began to cry from fear. A wicked young man heard the boy crying and came running. When he saw those poor Capuchins he turned against them with great fury and said many terrible things to them and that they wanted to rob the little boy. They he beat them many times. I was there when that holy man came to the friary at Narni. With great joy they recited the whole affair, giving thanks to God for having visited them.

Something similar happened to Father John of Viterbo[597]. Padre Ludovico sent him to Puglia. What you will hear is what happened to him. While he was on the journey he met a cavalcade of people. When he saw those two poor little Friars, the leader of that cavalcade had Brother John and his companion stop. He said terrible things to them and offended them with coarse language while those Friars remained kneeling on the ground. They stayed quiet without answering a single word. They accepted the injury said to them willingly for the love of God. When that nobleman should have softened at the humility of those servants of God, it provoked him more to anger instead, like a cruel man. He became so furious that he called a servant and ordered him to take the leather belt from his sword. He ordered to have them stripped and be beaten until he said, “Do not hit them any more.” There among the men in the company of that gentleman there was not one who would say the slightest word in favour of those poor Friars. Rather they all stayed still like spectators of this deed. When his habit was removed Brother John was very happy to gain that precious joy of being scourged like our Lord[598] for no cause at all. To him it seemed like the greatest treasure and richest gain to be like his Lord. However when his habit was removed the heavy, rough hairshirt Brother John wore against his bare skin became visible. Because of this, in a flash, the lion was transformed into a meek lamb. With many tears he came down from his horse and kneeling down asked him forgiveness. Then out of tenderness that servant of God, Brother John also began to weep. With great tenderness he embraced that gentleman and said to him, “My Lord, it is obvious that we are sinners as you have said because we are not worthy to accompany Our Lord. May God count this in your merit because you have told us the truth and I do not see it as an injury but as fraternal correction.”

When the nobleman heard these words and saw the deep humility of these servants of God he changed into another man and gave them many offerings. With tears he turned to his company and said, “In truth I tell you that I have been so edified by the humility of these two servants of God that from now on I promise to always keep this Order in my heart.” All the others in his company confirmed what that nobleman had said. Turning to those poor Friars he offered them all he possessed in the world and, when necessary, “I will lay down my own life for your Order.” With such contentment they parted. The Friar remained with some gain in merit and the cruel man now changed into a pious man went on his way.

I want to relate only one more example that happened in the city of Gubbio to someone who was dressed like a Religious but who had a very villainous heart. God gave him the chastisement he deserved although I do not believe that God gave him punishment just for the wrong he committed against the poor Capuchins[599]. So Father Joseph of Colleamato[600] was with Father Bartholomew of Spello in the city of Gubbio on the vigil of Our Lady in September. The two poor fellows went to a house of Religious in order to eat for the fast. It happened that at the time the superior was not at home. When they knocked on the door the Vicar of the house let them in with great charity. When they asked him for the love of God if would give them something to eat, the Vicar took them to the refectory. They wanted nothing apart from bread and wine. However the Vicar felt sorry for them because they were so tired, he wanted them given a salad. Low and behold, while these poor fellows were eating, the Superior came home. He was more than a little angry for having admitted those poof fellows into the refectory. Watching them as they ate the salad he said to them angrily, “You show off as saints. Today is the vigil of Our Lady and you are gorging yourselves quite nicely. If I was here you would not have entered the refectory. I eat bread and water and you who show yourselves to be more perfect than others accommodate yourselves here quite well.” He said many terrible things to them and then left the refectory in a fury. In that rage he went walking through his garden still grumbling as he went past a big wall. Suddenly and unexpected wind sprang up and hit the wall and knocked it down on top of him. He died miserably.

I heard this from Father Bartholomew of Spello who was there. All the people in those parts said that the wind was extraordinary because it was not heard either before or after the wall fell. They say subtle whistling sounds were heard in the air. It wasn’t considered that this befell him because of the Capuchins. They say that the poor fellow was saying Psalms, but that it was judgement from God. I subscribe to this also. His Majesty knows why the had that poor fellow die with such a sudden death, just as he alone knows all his other secret judgements.

For the sake of its usefulness, it seems to me that I shouldn’t remain silent about one thing that happened in Rome. There was a very learned Religious who was very capable with His Holiness. He was so inimical towards our poor Congregation that it seemed he never tired of putting us into the displeasure of His Holiness and seeking Briefs against us. After persevering for some months in this iniquity, the Lord Our God didn’t want it to go any further. For the heavy hand of His Majesty was upon that Religious. He became frenzied. He went around the house screaming with such strong voices that it was astonishing and frightening to everyone who heard him. He died miserably within a few days.

A similar thing happened in the friary at Narni where I was. At that time the venerable Father Eusebio da Ancona, Vicar of the Province of Saint Francis, was there[601]. Listen now to this great spectacle.

Two Religious came to that Capuchin friary. They had the excuse of having come to speak with Father Eusebius. One them spoke with him in secretly. Deceptively he said to him, “Father, I have a great desire to become one of you. If you want to receive me within a few days I will come.” That Father answered him, “Wait a little so that I may decide.” He gathered us all together and told how that Religious wanted to be one of us. And Father Eusebius asked our opinion as to whether he should receive him. Once it was decided that Father Eusebius receive him, he was welcomed with much affection by everyone. And this is what he desired in order to have the opportunity to do what he did. For he came not to be a Capuchin but to corrupt a young man who had become a Capuchin a few days earlier. Having the opportunity to speak with that young man he did all he could to take him from the Order, even though he was professed. This displeased Our Lord God so much that he demonstrated it with sings no long after. For after returning to his religious house, three of four days later he climbed a tree to collect fruit. He fell from the tree and broke his neck and died without being able to say, “Jesus!”

What will we say about a secular in the city of Spoleto who had taken away his nephew who had been clothed as a Capuchin. Earlier he had taken away another who was his neighbour. Then he went around boasting and cursing the Order. He said, “I have already taken away two from this Order!” Vengeance on him was great because not long after the two children he had were killed.

There were four citizens in the same city that took back a novice from our Congregation. All four died unexpectedly not long after.

286. I have written all these examples so that everyone will be careful not to stop the one who wants to serve God; and to bear respect for religious persons. Because there are countless obvious examples of his justice that make it clear that His Majesty does not want his servants offended. Rather, each one should show them reverence, having respect for the one whose servants they are. This is just as the proverb says, “Respect the dog for love of its master.”[602]

LI: About Padre Ludovico Fossombrone and how he was incarcerated by the head of a Religious Order

287. Padre Ludovico distrusts an invitation made him by a certain Superior. 288. Despite that he is put in jail. 289. He is quickly released at the intervention of a certain nobleman.

287. The principal head of Religious Order could not even bear to hear the name of the Capuchin Friars. One day he sent a message to Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone and to ask him if he would kindly go and speak with him the following morning because he had to confer with him about some things of great importance[603]. Oh Lord God, there is not evil one would not commit if he separates himself from your goodness! Behold the father of lies who blows in the ears of that person to get a hand on Fra Ludovico and he begins with a falsehood. He said he had to confer with him. The impious enemy knew well. With Fra Ludovico out of the way, he who struggled so mightily to defend the poor Congregation which opposed him, that it would soon fall and he would have the victory. Therefore he persuaded that Superior to send for Fra Ludovico as he did. That good Padre Ludovico , as our valiant fighter, was perceptive. Having nothing to do with that Superior he suspect some deceit. Among the other favours God did to help our Congregation he gave it great and important personages who would defend it. And the great number of these still increased, even ecclesiastics. That is Bishops and Cardinals openly spoke in our favour wherever and whenever it was necessary both privately with His Holiness and even in public and in the sacred Consistory. So what did Fra Ludovico do? When he received the call from that Prelate he went off to find one of those lords who supported us. He was the bravest and most valiant at arms. He always had a band of swordsmen around. He gave him a full account of everything. That lord advised Fra Ludovico not to go. He said it was a trap to snare him. Since he had nothing to do with him he should not get involved. However, Fra Ludovico did not want to give bad example himself by showing little humility in not going. More over he feared giving the proof of pride especially since the other had sent to him to ask that he come and that the discussion had to be about something important. So he asked that lord to be content to let him god. He said to him, “My lord, you would not agree that I give this bad impression of myself and show myself badly brought up. Therefore, kindly allow me to go and we will se what he wants. If it is something honest, licit and opportune to be done, we will agree quickly and I will return to Your Lordship. However if wants to put me in jail and does so, I go there willingly for the love of God. Then your support will help me. So we will do it like this. I will go early tomorrow morning to find him and I will quickly see to it to hurry with him and I will return to you. If I have not returned from him by the third hour or by mealtime be sure that Fra Ludovico is in jail. Then Your Lordship will be able to come do me a favour and free me, just as the Angel of God rescued Peter from the hands of Herod.[604]” The lord promised to do that.

288. When morning came Brother Padre Ludovico , as he said, went quite early to find that good Prelate. As soon as he entered the monastery and the Prelate saw him, he had Fra Ludovico taken and put in prison along with his companion without saying anything. He had it in mind to keep him there a long time, to die there, so to speak. While the Congregation was without its strong leader it would be easy to send it up in smoke. He also had the cowl[605] removed from Brother Padre Ludovico ’ habit. Throwing it beneath his feet he trampled on it. He insulted and mocked it as if it were an animate object. He was so blinded by anger that he said, “Lay on the ground you cursed cowl because you have caused me many woes.

289. The third hour came, the time to eat. The meal was prepared. When the lord did not see Fra Ludovico appear, he thought what might have happened truly had, that is, that Fra Ludovico had been imprisoned. Although he wasn’t completely certain, nonetheless because of the great love he had for the Congregation he got up immediately in the greatest rage. He gathered all his court. Almost all of them were soldiers. Riding with those armed men he went to the monastery of the Prelate. This brigade surprised no one because that Lord usually went around Rome accompanied by so many people. When they arrived at that monastery everyone dismounted. They knocked on the door. When those inside heard it was that Lord they opened the door straightaway. They all entered that house and as he had already ordered his soldiers, guided by those who were familiar with the rooms, the took to the stairs and covered all the main exits of the monastery, particularly those which went to the Church. They did this so that the Prelate could not escape and so that the Friars or others in their favour should not raise a din. Having done all this, the lord sent word to that Superior that he wanted to say two words to him and that if deign come him that he was waiting in the cloister. But when that Prelate heard these words and saw so many swordsmen, he and all his Friars were very frightened. Therefore the Superior came. He no sooner arrived when that lord began to rebuke him vehemently in good style. He called him a false Religious and a traitor. He added that he should bring Fra Ludovico and his companion immediately into his presence, because he knew for certain that the Prelate had used deception to make Fra Ludovico come in order to speak with him. Then, instead of discussion, like a deceiver and liar he had him put in prison. He said that if he didn’t have Fra Ludovico brought there with his companion immediately, that he would not only treat the Superior very badly but that then he would burn him and the whole friary. Because this lord was known to be terrible that Prelate was assailed by fear along with his Friars. Neither he nor any of the others dared to say the slightest word. However, Fra Ludovico and his companion were brought from prison instantly. Having sown the cowl back on, the two were removed from the prison and given to the Lord. He left the friary immediately, taking Fra Ludovico away with him and he returned him to his Friars.

Thus with this holy caution the Lord God freed the poor Congregation fro the hands of this persecutor who was so inimical of the poor Congregation. As to who this lord was it seems to me that I should remain silent out of respect. It is enough to say that he was powerful and courageous and influential with His Holiness, as well as a most ardent admirer of our Congregation.

LII: About Padre Ludovico and when he went to Sicily and was beaten back by a storm several times

290. How Saint Francis founded his Order on divine providence. 291. Fra Ludovico leaves Rome directly for Naples. 292. Repeated vain attempts to reach Sicily. 293. His timely return to Rome where he stays. 296. The teaching of Fr. Francis of Iesi on the government of Superiors.

290. With good reason our Seraphic Father said that his order was founded upon the providence of God. So the Three Companions say in their Legend that in the beginning Saint Francis did not know the will of the Lord God about what Rule and way of life with which he should regulate all those who would come to the Order. One day, like many other days, he was in a solitary place. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him just as if he were on the cross. He spoke to him and said, “Francis, found yourself and all those who will want to follow you on my cross and my will. Because I have sought from my Father a people who may content itself in my will alone in these last days; that they may rest in me just as I rest in my Father and He in me. Therefore your rule will be my Gospel and your life will be my life. Go therefore, Francis, and write the Rule which I will give you.[606]

Saint Francis was at Fonto Palombo when he wrote the Rule. When Christ revealed to him the word: Want to have nothing under heaven, it seemed to Father Saint Francis that such a great multitude could not live without anything. He turned to Jesus Christ to know how this could be. The Lord answered him, “Francis, I don’t want it that you Friars have nothing under heaven. Rather, I want to provide for all their needs. Therefore they will be founded on my providence. I know how much human nature can endure and how much I can provide for them[607].”

291. All this is demonstrated in what I want to write now. Father George of Calabria had preached in the cities of Palermo and Messina, as well as many other cities on that Island. He so effectively that in everyone from the least to the greatest there was a burning desire to have a friary of Capuchins in their city. They immediately wrote to Fra Ludovico asking him that he might go to Sicily because they had all decided to build as many friaries as he wanted. When Fra Ludovico saw he had been asked to go Sicily by personages staying in Rome and more so by letters, he decided on day to go. However, on the other hand, he feared the anger of that Prelate who had put him in prison. He left Rome with misgivings but not after seeking counsel of some of his friends. One morning he left and decided to go straight to Naples, then for Sicily. When that Prelate saw that Fra Ludovico had departed he went straight to His Holiness. He put the poor Congregation in such a bad light with His Holiness that the Pope had almost completely decided to destroy it. When the friends of the Congregation heard this they offered great resistance. However the fire grew greater. Because of this many of them wrote to Fra Ludovico that he should return quickly to Rome because the Congregation was falling. All these letters were tied in a bundle and confidently sent to Fra Ludovico all together.

292. At that time Fra Ludovico had arrived at Faro to make the crossing to Sicily. However the passage seemed bad so they waited some days. One day, seeing that the weather had calmed, he set out to sea with many others. When they were a short way out when an unusual storm arose. The sailors, terrified by the horrendous storm, hurried back to port. Whey they entered port and Fra Ludovico had disembarked from the frigate, the tranquil weather and fair passage returned. Again the sailors got everything in order. Calling Fra Ludovico they began to row, however, like before, the same storm arose so that when the sailors had returned to port they began to think among themselves that their luck wan not natural. The storm stopped when they returned. Although they still wanted to make the crossing, this time they were delayed two days. The third time they set out to sea they went further then the other two times. However when they had arrived about halfway such a storm rose again that they almost drowned and rebutted with great fury. This caused great awe among the crew and all the passengers. So they said to one another, “This is a miracle of God because the sea is calm and it is not the time for storms. Nonetheless, when this Friar comes aboard, it seems as though the gates of hell will open. How the sea boils! Then as soon as we return the bad weather stops. Could it be that he is a prophet Jonah?[608] Where is this Friar escaping from? God wants to send us all to the bottom because he is a sorcerer or because of some sin of his! Let him go about his own affairs, but he is not boarding this frigate any more.” And they said to each other, “I have never seen this kind of Friar before.” Calling Fra Ludovico and examining him carefully, they said to him, “Father, where do you come from?” When he told them he was from the Marches and a Friar of Saint Francis, belonging to a new Reform, a sailor said to him, “Tell me, please, what business you have in Sicily?” Fra Ludovico answered, “My business is good. I am going there to start some friaries of our Order.” They discussed this a lot. However, when they saw he truly was a Religious they calmed down and remained astonished by the novel behaviour of the sea.

293. A little later, while Fra Ludovico was walking, a messenger arrived and handed him a bundle of letters in which he saw how much danger the Congregation was in. Because of this he left the port immediately and revealed to his companion that the Congregation was about to be completely ruined. Falling to their knees, they commended themselves to God with many tears. They gave him infinite thanks for his having prevented the passage. Fra Ludovico knew clearly that this had been a miracle of God, because if he had crossed over to Sicily and that Prelate had a little more time, it would have gone badly for the poor Congregation. He said, “I knew that storm had arisen for me, not to send me to the bottom but so that the poor Congregation would not be sunk by the headlong waves of persecutors and be completely ruined.” Turning to his companion he said, “Now I know that God loves us and wants the Congregation to go forward. Let us return to Rome because if a plot has been organised against us if we can escape it we will be no small thing we do. I hope in Our Lord Jesus Christ to free us from this as he has done all the other times.”

Having returned to Rome very quickly he found that the prelate had used all his possible favours and had obtained from His Holiness that the Congregation be completely eliminated and that no other Reform be done in the Order of Saint Francis except that of the Zoccolanti Fathers. However it pleased the Lord God that as Fra Ludovico appeared and revealed the wickedness of the Prelate to those who supported us, that the diabolical plot was thwarted. Fra Ludovico was heard to say that of all the perils through which the poor Congregation had passed, this was the greatest and most dangerous.

From then on Fra Ludovico took such heart that he no longer feared even if the whole world was opposed to him. For from many signs he was certain that it was the will of God for the Congregation to go ahead. From this time he hardly left Rome and always went carefully inquiring secretly if there had been anything raised again by the adversaries with His Holiness. Not long after, that Prelate, to his great dissatisfaction, left Rome and went to Lombardy[609]. This was very good news for Fra Ludovico because as long as he was in Rome we were not safe. Nonetheless the Lord God guarded the Congregation from this and every other peril.

294. The venerable Father Francis of Iesi said that nothing was more effective in making him believe that the Congregation was of God and the true Reform, as much as seeing how God governed it from the beginning with the lowliest of instruments and how the providence of God was always demonstrated in it. Nor did the true observance of the Rule ever go as well nor with so much simplicity as when it was governed by simple persons. That holy man said that the more government was lacking in human terms, the more the government of God was manifest. Therefore when God chooses a man for spiritual government, His Majesty supplies wherever the natural man is deficient. For example, one who governs would have to be learned, speculative and of sound natural intellect in order to know naturally all the deceits the infernal enemy uses to tempt his subjects. However when these things are lacking in a Superior our Lord God supplies for them with good inspirations. Therefore every Superior should have to know and hold as certain that his strengths will not succeed in ruling and governing his subjects according to God. Recognising himself as unfit he humbles himself before God and has recourse to him assiduously in holy prayer so that His Majesty may deign to govern him and not let him govern himself. He ought to hold as certain that he can never govern except badly and in prejudice of the sheep of God.” So this holy man said, “If we consider it carefully, the Order has never badly governed more nor ever relaxed more and given birth to more scandals in the world than when it was full of learned men. While the Order was governed by Father Saint Francis with his simplicity and by his companions and all the simple Friars during his time, it always stayed in perfect observance of the rule. However when the learned Brother Elias with many of his other learned followers began to rule the Order with the teaching and prudence of the flesh of the flesh, it immediately with ambitious persons. The beloved Order of God began to decline under their government. This happened because the learned generally trust themselves and rule according to their own prudence which has no place in the Order because the Order is founded on God and on his providence and on simplicity. Remove simplicity from the Order and the foundation upon the Order it is established is removed. There is nothing more repugnant to simplicity than human, carnal prudence that always keeps an eye on how to accommodate the flesh. Therefore, when a Superior does not know how to stand in the place of God; when he doesn’t know that truly his government is ordered by God; and when he doesn’t know that he has been put in that position by God and not by himself, and for the benefit of the sheep of God, he cannot rule and govern well. This is especially true when he organises the government for his own glory and does not seek the honour of God nor the good of the sheep, but his own honour and comfort, he perverts the office of superior because he does not seek the honour of God. Our Lord orders not only the Order but the whole Church when he says, “Without me you can do nothing. I am the vine. You are the branches.”[610] Therefore government comes from God and not just from man. However, when there is teaching and holiness, there is nothing better, despite the other circumstances.”

LIII: About the first Fathers of the Province of Calabria whom Father John of Terranuova wrote. He was present for all these things and was one of the first Fathers[611].

295. The Capuchin Reform in Calabria. 296. The initiators. 297. After a dialogue between Bernardino of Reggio and Ludovico da Fossombrone the Calabresi Friars decide to don the Capuchin habit. 298. They ask permission of the General and it is denied them. 299. Padre Ludovico of Reggio obtains the support of the Dukes of Nocera and gathers his followers. 300. A letter.

295. While all these things in Rome and the Marches and other parts were going on in the way you have heard above God had already begun to send new knights everywhere in order to support the venture. Still His Majesty wanted still to make another very beautiful (so to speak) choice of outstanding men as a greater succour and support for his work. This was in Calabria from where he brought forth such Reverend and valorous Fathers. Though I am avoiding the task of discussing them in length in order to say everything fully, I will say something from a distance so that the reader may understand everything I put down on paper.

296. So in the Province of Calabria there were three very venerable Fathers, leaders in that Province for both learning and holiness. One of them was called Fra Ludovico of Reggio[612]. The next was Brother Bernardino of the same city. The last was also called Brother Bernardino and was from Bisignano. Apart from his learning, Fra Ludovico of Reggio was a great man at governing. Brother Bernardino of Reggio was also very educated and a great theologian. Because of his great learning they called him il Giorgio because in his teaching he imitated the great Venetian scholar called il Giorgio and who belong to the same Order[613]. As I said, these three Fathers were very zealous about the Rule and their vows. Already for many, many years they had desired a true and perfect Reform. Many other Friars with them shared this same burning desire.

297. As it pleased the Lord God, the Reform of the Capuchin Friars had begun in the Marches, the Fathers of Calabria however did not know that the Capuchins had established a friary in Rome. By the providence of God the Brother Bernardino called George mentioned above came to Rome[614]. (From here on when I have to name him I will always call him il Giorgio or Father George instead of Brother Bernardino.) In Rome he heard talk about the Capuchin Friars. He went to find Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone at Santa Euphemia. They talked for a long time about how much God had already done in the Marches and Rome by means of Brother Padre Ludovico , and equally about the good desire the Friars of Calabria had to reform themselves.

After the long discussion they parted company with a good resolution, though without saying anything to anyone. Father George went from Rome. He had Fra Ludovico give him a cowl[615]. He took it with him secretly. It was like ours, of that poor, coarse cloth which the Capuchins wear. When he arrived in Calabria he communicated everything to Padre Ludovico of Reggio and with Father Bisignano and the others who were of the same mind. (I will say who they were later in the proper place.) When those good Fathers heard all this they all decided together to take up the same habit. Father George showed them the cowl of the Capuchin habit, and in particular put it on the head of Brother John of Terranuova who was the youngest among them at the time. However, before they carried out the matter they decided to ask permission of that General to be able to undertake a solid and true Reform in their Province. IN this way the General or the other Friars did not have, or to say it better, would not take the opportunity to complain about them. They asked for one or two houses in that Province, or more in needed, which were suitable for their purposes. That is what they did.

298. So, since this was the time, the General Chapter had to be celebrated in Messina[616] in 1532. To go there to do this the General passed through Calabria. On the opportunity of his return he wanted to celebrate the Provincial Chapter. This was done in the friary at Scigliano. When Padre Ludovico of Reggio and Father George heard this they did not want to go to that Chapter. So in order to observe courtesy and to carry out what they had concluded they sent in their place two Friars with letters to the General to ask that permission. They did this also to better observe what canon law orders us: anyone who wants to leave and Order or Congregation even if for a stricter one, the place where he enters, is where he asks permission[617]. They added that if he did not want to grant them what they asked about reforming themselves, that at least he grant that they be able to do the Reform of the Capuchin Friars which they already understood to be in Rome.

When the General received these letters, instead of granting them the grace they asked, he tried to take and put in jail the bearers of those letters. However God wanted to help his servants. He worked it that when some good Friars, friends of Father George and the others became aware of this, they advised to those poor fellows secretly as they waited for the reply in the cloister. They advised them to depart immediately because the Father General wanted to incarcerate them. Hearing this they left by the door which goes to the Church and went of to safety. They took another road so as not to be overtaken if the General should send other Friars after them to apprehend them.

299. When those poor fellows returned to Padre Ludovico and his other companions, they decided to do what they had already concluded and which they later did. So Padre Ludovico went away to Filogascio to find the Lord Duke and Lady Duchess of Nocera[618], the patrons of that State. Both were very Catholic and very affectionate towards the Order of Saint Francis. They were particularly good to those who were zealous in the observance. Once he revealed their desire to Reform, he asked the Duke and Duchess to give their support for this undertaking. Like true and magnanimous Princes, who love goodness, they promised Padre Ludovico to give their support and succour as generously as possible for such an important undertaking. With very sympathetic letters they immediately sent a messenger to the Viceroy[619] of that Province to give this task better favour. Hearing this, Padre Ludovico began to gather together all the Friars who desired such a Reform. In the beginning they number fifteen. They were Padre Ludovico , Father George, Father John Candela and Father Bonaventure, Father Francis Palamone. These were all from Reggio. Also there were Father Bernardino and Father Francis of Bisignano, Father Michael of Castrovilla, Father Angelo of Calanna, Father Dominic of Mollocche, Padre Ludovico and his brother Bonaventure from Radicina, Father Francis of San Martino and Father John of Terranuova. He ordered that all of them come to Filogasio where, as has already been shown, the Lord Don Ferrante, the Duke of Nocera, and the Lady Dionora, the Duchess, his consort, had promised them all their support.

300. Hence Fra Ludovico departed from the Lord Duke and went to Pizzo, a nearby castle. From there he wrote to Father George who had already returned to Reggio. I have a copy of the letter in my hand and I will put it down here exactly word for word as it was:

Reverend Father and ever beloved in the Lord. The Illustrious Lord Duke of Nocera has offered us every help and support. The Lord Gismondo left this morning for Cosenza and has taken letters of His Lordship to the Most Excellent Viceroy of the province in order to obtain his support and letters for Rome. I wrote to Brother Cataldo as Palamone and the other companions that we are hoping for the best in everything, since the matter is favourable in itself. Hence the kind God will not lack kindness and mercy toward those who love him. Therefore it is necessary that you come as soon as possible to Filogasio both to expedite our affairs and also to provide in anticipating our adversaries so that we do not have to suffer traps and dangers since at this time we are not in a safe place. Come, therefore, with these Friars whom I am sending you. From our other companions, send two of them to Seminara for Brother Bonaventure of Reggio. Of those still with you let two go to Oppido to get Brother John of Terranuova. Also give orders that some go to Cinquefrondi for those Friars who are there since they share our mind and desire. Let them bring the letters they find there. Let us do everything that has to be done as soon as possible and with that prudence God has given you. Nothing else. Pray to God for me. I will tell you more when we speak together. From Pizzo, the Vigil of Pentecost, in 1532.

LIV: On Father George and his other companions

301. Padre Ludovico of Reggio, superior of the Friars of Calabria. 302. Friaries which the Congregation had then. 303. They change the shape of the cowl.

301. When Father George received the above letter he did everything that Padre Ludovico had ordered him. So within a few days the above mentioned Friars had all gathered at Filogaso in the Friary of the Reverend Fathers of Saint Dominic. In order to have a guide and head on whom all should depend so that things would go in and ordered manner, they elected their Superior. Thus Padre Ludovico of Reggio was elected as Vicar Provincial Superior and Father.

Before I say any more, I do not want to leave out showing how, when their Chapter was done, in one accord with the means of the Lord Duke they wrote to Rome. They united with the Capuchin Friars of Rome, that is, of the Marches, knowing that those had already obtained the Bull and that Fra Ludovico da Fossombrone, who was the head, had accepted them very willingly. And so, one body was made between the Fathers of Calabria and the others. Fra Ludovico wrote to the Province from Rome not only accepting them and incorporating them with the others, but more over he also confirmed their election of Padre Ludovico of Reggio as the Vicar.

302. So then in this way the Congregation began to stand firm with so many good and Reverend Fathers coming to join her. Someone said that when these Friars came to do this union that the other Capuchin Friars further north had no other friary except the one in Rome. That is very false. Apart from the one Rome, in the Marches they had the place in Camerino, the one in Fossombrone, the one in Foligno, and the one at Montecasale. Both of these are in Umbria. Likewise in the Marches they had the friary at Fano[620], the one at Pennabilli[621], the one in Pietrarubbia[622]. In the Province of Saint Francis there was the one at Narni. In the Province of Rome they had the friary at Scandriglia, Rieti as well as others[623]. However, this is not very important. Let us continue to follow the weightier matters.

303. Returning to what I was saying. In their Chapter the Friars of Calabria did not make any Statutes[624]. They submitted themselves to the Friars of Rome. They only reformed the cowl. They took off the one they had earlier and sewed on one like the one we now wear. It was right that the shape of the cowl return, the one which Father Saint Francis had worn on the most noble and worthy part of the body, which is the head.

For the rest of that year, until something better could be provided, those poor Friars wore the same cloth in colour and price which they had worn until then, changing nothing of the habit except the cowl. They did this because they did not have the opportunity in the beginning to provide for themselves poor and coarse cloth so quickly. When they reached the stage of being able to clothe themselves, the above mentioned Lord Duke and Duchess provided them with roughest and poorest cloth. They have worn this continuously until today.

I cannot continue without saying something to illustrate the goodness of that Lady. With her own hands and those of her maids cut and sew the habits for those poor Friars. Because of this, by the work of the infernal serpent, there was not shortage of persecutions and problems for them. As is his usual practice, the dragon spread his pestiferous poison in Calabria just as he had done in the Marches and was doing in Rome.

LV: About the persecutions the Fathers of Calabria suffered in the same year of 1532

304. Papal Brief against the Calabrian Capuchins. 305. The tribulations begin. 306. They hide in the mountains. 307. Brother Peter of Seminara. 308. Padre Ludovico of Reggio consoled and healed by Saint Francis. 309. New troubles. 310. Eulogy of the Duke and Duchess of Nocera. 311. The Papal Brief is presented to the Duke.

304. In the month of August that same year (1532) a Prelate of a certain Order reached Rome. As soon as he arrived he began to show the bitterness of wormwood and bile that he bore in his breast against the poor Capuchins. However, for the sake of just vengeance and good bearing, the most just God worked it that he be removed from his office of Prelature[625]. But before this privation took place I can tell you that he exercised tongue and hands against the poor Capuchins.

He gave such a bad and wicked report about the rest of us to the Supreme Pontiff that he obtained a Brief[626] against us. It was full of lightning bolts and excommunications, not only against the Capuchin Friars of Calabria, but it was similarly against those who accepted them, or kept, supported, spoke with or gave alms to them or in any other way had dealings with them. This Brief arrived and Padre Ludovico of Reggio received notice of it. So that the Friars would not be found and issued the excommunication and then taken and imprisoned, as happened to some of them later, he divided the poor fellows into two groups. One he sent to Filogassio to stay in the palace of the Lord Duke. The other he sent off into the woods and the hermitage of Saint Elias, situated in the mountains of Galatro. Formerly it was a monastery of Monks of Saint Basil but then abandoned.

305. I am compelled to stop here somewhat to show what God had done many years before in order to reveal this matter to the world. An old farmer[627] of that region told this to a Friar. He used to work in certain fields near the hermitage. Often at midday a fair youth appeared to him dressed in a capuchin habit. Once he said to him, “Know that here, years into the future, certain Friars will come out from here who will wear their habit in the way you see that I do. They will save themselves in this hermitage.” Once he said these words, the young man disappeared. The old man used to tell about these things by did not understand what it meant. When the Capuchin Friars came later he remembered the vision and he quite openly told anyone who wanted to hear about it. One of the old man’s sons became a Capuchin Friar and when Father Marius[628] was in Calabria in 1567 that Friar was still living. He was called Brother Anthony of Castelvetro.

Let us return to the earlier story. Father Vicar Padre Ludovico sent one part of our poor Friars to this hermitage. As I have already mentioned, the other part was in Filogassio, except for the Father Vicar and his companion. They stayed in the church of Saint Anthony outside Panaia, where the Friars dwelt all together until the Lord Duke built them a friary. When the excommunication came, the Provincial of certain Friars adverse to us made two companies of his Friars. One he sent the mountain of Galatro and the hermitage. The other he sent to Panaia and the church of Saint Anthony. He knew that there were Capuchins in each place.

306. Now hear what the kind Father God did, he who always takes particular care of his beloved children. One part of those Friars went towards the above-mentioned hermitage to apprehend, bind and lead off to prison the poor fellows there. No one knew about the intention of this company. However, when they were about five or six miles away from the hermitage, the voice of a shepherd went up. Crying as loudly as he could, he said, “Flee, Capuchin Friars because you’re your enemies are coming to get you!” When another shepherd heard that voice he cried out in the same way. From person to person, voice to voice, so to speak, the news arrived in a moment to the Friars who were in the hermitage. Hence they departed that house quickly and were saved while the inflamed persecutors were still four or five miles away. When those twenty angry Friars arrived they didn’t find anyone, except a little bread and some grapes. The Capuchin Friars left these behind as they departed so that when the others arrived tired they could give succour to their afflicted nature with those few simple and poor foods and catch their breath. They did this gladly. Having taken the food, thus tricked, they didn’t know what to do next or where to go to catch those poor fellows.

307. Now hear what the Lord God did to show his kindness towards the one who with simplicity and through ignorance makes a mistake, thinking he is doing the right thing; and also to confound the proud ready to do evil knowingly. Those adverse Friars had with them one of their novices called Brother Peter of Seminara[629]. I Brother Marius not only knew him but spoke with him about these things at length. When this novice arrived with the other Friars at hermitage and saw with what strictness and poverty those Capuchin Friars lived, he began to think that that was the true life that real Friars of Saint Francis should live. Thinking about this he turned to the others and said to them, “I don’t want to be one of your Friars any more. I want to become of these poor fellows because I am that they are true sons of Saint Francis.” Once said he left in a flash and went off to find the Capuchin Friars. He searched for them and found them and they received him. He was always a very good Friar. In the time when I spoke with him he was an old man. And thus those clever men returned home without their novice and without the prey they wish.

308. The other company sent by that Superior went straight to Panaia at the same time as the other one that went to Galatro. In the same way God offered the same help to those in the church (or the house of the church of Saint Anthony that is) which he had already given to the other sons of his. Padre Ludovico was there alone with his companion. That mob was well equipped with clubs, arms and with other instruments that they use to take men. As it approached they met a boy. When he saw them, without saying anything, he started to run as fast as he could and quickly arrived at Saint Anthony. When he arrived, he said, “Flee, Capuchin Friars, your enemies are coming to get you.” The boy told them about the people he had seen in such good order. Padre Ludovico then said to his companion, “Flee into the wild (since there they were near a large forest)) because I am right behind you to follow you quickly.” Thus said, they went away. Fra Ludovico went to one part and his companion went to another, although they were near to one another so that if one of them was captured the other could give the news to the Lord Duke. As he was fleeing Fra Ludovico wanted to jump over a ditch. Being a little old he fell in it and go up as soon as he could. He hurt his leg. In that anguish Saint Francis appeared to him dressed in the same habit and identified himself as such and said to him, “Go, son, and continue the undertaking you have begun and do not fear anyone because I will always support and help you.” At this, he disappeared. Then, without any injury, Padre Ludovico climbed easily out of the ditch and went even further, more to pray rather than flee the furore of the adversaries.

The others arrived shortly at the place and, not finding the Friars they returned to their convent. After a long interval in the forest and not hearing anything he found his companion who was a short distance from him. Together they went to the Lord Duke at Filogassio and to find the other Friars[630] who stayed there in safety.

Oh great goodness of God, how generous he shows himself in helping those whom he chooses to favour through his mercy and who trust him and turn to him with very firm hope! He showed this particularly with those poor Friars of Calabria by giving them unusual[631] help similar to the beginning.

309. I have already spoken of the band that went to the hermitage of Saint Elias to take the Friars, and how those who wanted to take them returned confused. Our Friars feared their return and went to dwell in another part of those mountains until that fury passed. Having some information about this, the adversaries again set out to try to capture them. Because a disturbed mind, enduring in anger, never tires until it has put its twisted purpose into effect. Physical exertion can easily tire, but a disordered appetite is never satisfied until it arrives at its desired end. Therefore when the adversaries heard that the Capuchin Friars had found safety elsewhere, they made another company and set out straightaway to where they understood those poor fellows were. However they didn’t exactly know the how to get there. As God wanted however, as they were travelling among those mountains they strayed from the way. Finding themselves in the wilds they didn’t know which way to turn. So His Majesty again wanted to bridle their ferocity and abase their pride by bringing their plan to nothing. They met a youth that knew nothing of this plan and journey. They asked him if he knew where the Capuchin Friars lived. The young man replied, “I certainly know where they live.” They asked him to show them the place because they wanted to go there to become Capuchin Friars with them. Inspired by God, the young man said to them. “Come with me, Fathers, because I will show you where to go in order to find them.” Making himself their guide he took them far away from where the Capuchins were. He led them in the opposite direction and had them walk a good distance to where they would not be able to find them at all. He showed them a distant mountain and said, “Fathers, do you see that mountain? The Capuchin Friars live there. When you come to the summit, turn to the side and there, in some caves, you will find them hiding.” And in this way he led them away many miles from the place. Having said this, he left them, pretending to resume his journey.

The adversaries went and searched that mountain everywhere. They found neither Friars, nor Caves nor any person who would show them the way of the maze and labyrinth of those mountains. Finally tired, lost and hallucinating, after going around for a long time, they returned to their friary in shame.

Their young guide feared that they would meet someone else who would show them where the Capuchins Friars made their abode. So he departed and went to find the Capuchins and told them what had happened and what he had done. The Friars thanked God and him. Fearing the arrival of those people, they left and went to another part. Some of them went to Filogassi to tell everything to Padre Ludovico and the others who stayed with such loving kindness in the place of His Excellency.

310. It has already been said how, from the beginning, the blessed hands of His Majesty began to plant this little vine of his. With the controversies it had God always surrounded it with a very good hedge. By means of the potentates of the world it was defended from and freed from the cruel hands of those who wanted to uproot it and destroy it. It has been said how the Friars of the Marches and of these other provinces mentioned above were powerfully helped by the Duke and Duchess of Camerino and by Her Ladyship Victoria Colonna, the Marchioness of Pescara, indeed by the whole House of Colonna. That House was truly a solid column[632] and firm support of this Congregation of ours. In the same way, in Calabria the same kind God wanted to help and support those poor fellows and to work particularly through the Duke and Duchess of Nocera, as has been seen already. The Duke had a beautiful, catholic and valiant spirit. So too she was a truly Christian and holy women from the very noble House of Bavaria from which came and still do so many Dukes and Princes of such prominence[633]. As they often said, God had disposed these two Lords to place the whole state and the lives in support of the poor college of Capuchin Friars. They showed this with very good works in a thousand ways, and in particular, sending his Lord Abbot[634] to Rome in order to assist and help this matter alone with His Holiness. The Abbot did a great deal in our favour with His Beatitude.

311. But before I say any more, it is necessary to return to the adversaries. As I have said, two there were bands, one sent to the hermitage of Galatro and the other to Panaia in order to catch the Capuchins. With hands full of flies, as the saying goes, and without fruit, they returned. Their Superior became more furious than ever. Hearing that the Friars were gathered in Filogassio and were staying in a frank and secure fortress he was furious. Without any respect for that Lord and with out fear of giving scandal to the world, he thought to send two of his Friars to present the papal excommunication to our Friars even in the very palace of the Duke. So he chose two of the most suitable Friars he had. He handed them the excommunication and commissioned them to go to Filogassio and without any respect to that Lord or any other person, to put the excommunication into the hands of our Friars themselves. Then they could not hide behind any excuse. The two were to make it public that these were excommunicated. The two messengers fulfilled their duty and left with the intention of doing everything committed to them, to fulfil in pounds what was commanded them in ounces.[635]

When Padre Ludovico returned from the forest, together with Father George and with Brother John of Terranuova and the other Friars he stayed in the palace of the Duke. The Duke had assigned the poor fellows rooms apart where they stayed easily without failing to do their duty both in the prayers and other activities that belonged to their state and profession. One day they were at prayer when they heard the Duke calling. This was because the two ambassadors had arrived at Filogassio and carried the Brief with them, as already said, in order to serve notice on those poor Capuchins that they were excommunicated. They presented it to them with those protests and ceremonies that are used in doing these sorts of things and also to show that anyone who gave them support in any way was excommunicated, as will be said here below.

LVI: About the debate which took place in the place of the Duke of Nocera[636].

312. The Duke protests about the way in which the Brief was served in him. 313. He proposes a cross-examining debate and it is accepted. 314. Padre Ludovico begins the discussion with his reasons for the separation. 315. The first reason: ownership. 316. The second reason: preciousness in dress. 317. The third reason: recourse to money. 318. Fourth reason: the impossibility of observing the Rule spiritually. 319. The Capuchin Reform has not been the first and is quite licit. 320. Historical overview of the various Franciscan Reforms.

312. When those two ambassadors arrived at the palace of the Duke they asked an audience to be able speak with His Excellency and they were introduced. As soon as they entered the presence of his Lordship, with great presumption they said His Excellency should not support such apostates and excommunicates. They added that he should these Friars over to them according to the will of His Beatitude as the Brief shows. Otherwise they wanted to pronounce excommunicated all those who accommodated them, gave them alms, those who conversed with them and gave them any help or support. Among his three sons the Duke had a young son called Lord Don Tiberius[637] who, because he was the youngest child, was very much loved by his father. At this time he was the bishop of Potenza and being like his father, and so loved our Congregation very much. After the two aforementioned messengers had said these words arrogantly to His Excellency, he answered them agitatedly. He struck them with an angry and fiery glare in such a way that they lost their boldness. He said, “I swear on the life of Don Tiberius, my son, that anyone who would have the audacity to want to excommunicate or even pronounce as excommunicated without giving time for recourse to His Holiness, he will just have time to receive Holy Communion. The others will learn what it is to serve notice of excommunication in my State with such arrogance and without observing the due ceremonies that His Holiness wishes.”

Taking the Brief he kissed it and put it on his head. Then he read it with great reverence. Then turning to those Friars he said, “It is true that when His Holiness commands, like a good Christian, I am ready for every hint of precept of His Holiness. But it does not prohibit me recourse to His Holiness, and if you have badly informed him on the part of the opposing view, recourse cannot be denied. Therefore I accept all that His Holiness commands but I request time to be able to have recourse and that I may give my reasons. However, with presumptuous words you have dared to serve me such an excommunication without having any respect for me. You should blush with shame because while you don’t want to do the right thing you try to block those who want to do good and observe their Rule and profession, which is the intention and will of Father Saint Francis.”

313. Then he offered to have Padre Ludovico and Father George and the others brought into their presence. Then if necessary they might give their reasons on their part. He affirmed that if the two Friars made convincing allegations in their defence and by which the Capuchin Friars remained convicted he would do all within his power to have them return and remove that newly assumed habit. In this way their undertaking would go no further. But if, on the other hand, it happened that these Capuchin Fathers good reasons on their part, their opponents will have to leave in peace and promise to give no further trouble to those poor fellows. Nor should they give even the slightest indication with either words or actions that they want to present or serve any excommunication or Brief.

The two Friar adversaries who were already struck with fear agreed to everything that the Duke proposed believing they had already won for they thought that the Capuchin Friars would not have the kind of reasons which in such an argument would be superior. And so, as I said above, the Duke called Padre Ludovico and the other Capuchins. Of them all only three came, that is, Padre Ludovico , Father George and Father John of Terranuova.

When they arrived before His Excellency the two messengers, giving no thought to modesty brazenly began to reprimand those poor fellows, rebuking them for having left without any reason. They humbly replied however that they did it compelled by necessity in order to observe the purity of their Rule, which they could not do while among them and that they would have found this to have been necessary every time.

Then the Duke said, “No more vane words.” He had the doors of the room locked and order that no one be admitted while he was with those Fathers. He had chairs brought for everyone and wanted the discussion to take place in his presence. This was offered to the Capuchin, and they likewise agreed.

314. Therefore they all sat down with the Lord Duke between them. Padre Ludovico began by saying, “I am sorry, my Reverend Fathers, that at least for our honour and that of others it is necessary for me that I must put my hand to exposing the wounds beneath our clothing which we should keep concealed and well hidden. Nonetheless I am forced by your exorbitant anger and for our justification to show that our leaving you has not been without the most urgent cause. Rather we have been obliged and more than forced by conscience to do it. So I declare before God and men that I am not committing any fault in saying the things I am ready to make known. Nor do I have to give account to the just tribunal of God. Even though we are talking on such a subject before the Lord Duke here present, because he is the most loving father of all, we can have complete confidence and be free to say every one of our reasons. Therefore, my Fathers, do you want to be the first to begin to speak, or would you rather us?” They replied that he should begin. “Just as you wish,” answered Brother Padre Ludovico . “I am happy to do so.”

315. “First of all I will speak about ownership[638] which has made us divided us and because of which because of which we have left. You know how Father Saint Francis commands in Chapter Six of the Rule and gives this precept that the Friars may not appropriate neither house, nor place nor anything. This means, as the Supreme Pontiffs who have clarified the Rule understood, that this ownership is neither in common or in particular. Therefore Clement V declares that it is not permissible for Friars to oblige persons under judgement regarding any temporal thing[639]. The privileges that relax this precept are all against the Rule of Saint Francis. Therefore having chapels, being involved with burials, being careful that places not be taken from us either by communities or particular owners, obliging universities to give so much per year for the food and clothing of the Friars – all these things are against the Rule. Tell me. You cannot deny that this is what is done among you others. Now you experience the consequences yourselves and as you will see, even you will say that we had reason and cause to leave you, because we saw in this the will of Father Saint Francis to continue in this.”

One of those Fathers replied and said that because the multitude of Friars had increased so much and the alms of seculars were so inadequate, they were forced to do this in order to live. It would have been impossible to live to do otherwise and impossibility is not subject to the law.”

Then the Duke said, “My Father, it seems to me that your reply is not relevant.”

Then Padre Ludovico added, “You know, my Fathers, how Saint Paul also says that evil should not be done so that good may come of it[640]. According to you, what goes against the Rule? To provide temporal goods especially in those things which are quite obviously superfluous, or to provide the least possible? How many superfluous things are used, and used lavishly, and for which there is no necessity! If these were left aside, taking only those things necessary for life, simple alms would be enough. I am more certain of this than I am of being here and speaking in the present. Even if the multitude (of Friars) were bigger than the crowds who led Xerses into Greece, the mercy of God who abundantly feeds all living things will never fail to provide alms for his servants day by day, provided that they are observers of the his Rule.”

316. “Now we come to the second point. Now I am speaking about lowliness in dress. Friars are obliged to observe that precept of the Rule where Father Saint Francis expressly commands in Chapter Two that all the Friars dress in lowly cloths. Therefore those Friars who do not dress in the poor cloth used in the province or country[641] are not observing this commandment, as Pope Clement V declares[642].

Then one of those Fathers answered. The other one didn’t know what to say because what the Rule says is something quite clear. He said that their clothes were also lowly, even if they were not of the same coarseness and lowliness which the Capuchin Friars wear. In fact that harshness of cloth is necessary for the Order because Saint Francis and his companions did not go around in such lowly and heavy cloth.

Fra Ludovico replied. “My most cordial Fathers and ever beloved brothers in Christ. You also know, because you have read it often, that all the mendicant Orders not only loved poverty in all things, but they held it in special regarding dress, according to the example of Christ Jesus and John the Baptist. In the gospel we read that John’s food and drink were simple and very poor and that he went about dressed in clothes made of camel skin[643]. According to some learned men[644], such clothing is not the way it is usually depicted, that is, with just the on pelt worn that covered the body from the shoulders down to the knees, front and back and both sides, leaving the arms and the rest of the leg bare. They say however that it was long attire down to the feet, woven and made from animal skins and that it had the same harshness as a coarse, heavy hair shirt[645]. To return to what I was saying. It was not only the leaders of religious Orders who dressed in real lowly cloth, but the Rule expressly tells and commands u that the Friars ought to dress in lowly clothes. Such lowliness should be of such a style that when sackcloth is put on to patch them, as the Rule says our Friars may do, the lowliness of the cloth should be inconformity with the sackcloth in such a way that it doesn’t make the patch obvious. Furthermore, this lowliness, according to the Declaration of Pope Clement V, should be understood as that kind of lowliness that poor use for clothing in the region where the Friars lives[646]. It is certain that the poor do not dress in the kind of cloth that you are wearing and which you baptised as ‘lowly.’ Rather, your clothing is of such lowliness that the rich of the world make their cloths form it. The nobility would still be glad to wear it.[647]

The other of the two replied. He said, “This controversy and disagreement was the same when Brother Alexander of Alexandria was general. When he died there was great uproar and all kinds of unbecoming things[648]. In his Extravagante, Pope John XXII put an end to those arguments. He ordered the Friars to dress in the cloth that the Prelates judged to be lowly[649]. Our Prelates and Superiors judge these to be appropriate and that those who dress in them are not going against the Rule. So it follows that we can wear it with good conscience.”

Fra Ludovico replied, saying, “The intention of the Supreme Pontiff was not and is not to go against the Rule. Therefore, wanting to be certain, he put the burden on the conscience of the Prelates to dress the Friars in the lowly cloth that the Rule requires. He left this matter to the judgement and decision of the Superiors in order to quell the current uproar and the upheaval of a multitude of Friars. He also thought that those Superiors would have a conscience and not have their Friars go against the commandment given us by our Seraphic Father about the matter of dress. If he would have thought otherwise, His holiness would not have been so open handed. Now it obvious that lowliness of cloth has gone to pot[650]. I firmly believe that just as it goes against the will of Saint Francis, it also goes against the mind and will of that Supreme Pontiff.

“As to your saying that our most zealous Father and his companions didn’t ear cloth as harsh and heavy as we wear, I say that this is completely false. I don’t want to say more about this because it is quite clear and more than obvious. Just to convince you only, let their habits and tunics that Saint Francis and his companions were speak. How can you deny this, since there are many of these habits which our early Fathers wore? These show to be of that lowliness and harshness which we wear. Therefore, why accuse our dress, since it conforms to that of our Father just as it does to so many other saints and Fathers also.

“Regarding the step we have taken in this matter of dress, we likewise read that all the zealous reformers of our Order before us have done the same. So when Clement 5 died and his Declaration was despised by the lax, it can be said that they dressed in truly carnal cloth, and no longer used vile cloth but noble cloth. The controversy you spoke about came from this. The pope put his hand to it in order to quieten such an uproar. Because after this liberality, the true zealots of poverty and simplicity, touched in the heart and spurred on by such zeal to observe the Rule, stripped off the strange habits that the community wore. They disposed of them like profane habits and dressed in the coarse cloth the poor wear.[651]

Here Padre Ludovico fell silent and waited for those Fathers to make some reply. However, they remained silent. So the Lord Duke added, “My Fathers, what these Capuchin Fathers say seems to me to be a clear as noon day. Therefor, if there is nothing said to which you can to make a reply we will continue so that everything that has to be said will be said.”

Then Padre Ludovico turned to Father George and said to him, “My Father, it is right that Your Reverence say his part and show these brothers the right and broad reasons which have urged us to separate from them so that your discourse may help them better understand. If they are not happy with that, at least the Lord Duke will know and understand the reasons which have made us make these changes.”

317. Father George accepted this task. After first bowing his head in reverence towards the Duke he then turned his gaze and speech to those Fathers. I believe they would have wished to be anywhere but there, and that they hadn’t agreed with the Duke to come to this discussion because they saw that they mask[652] they wore was about to be disclosed. I return to what I was saying. Father George faced those Fathers and said, “It is also very clear, my Fathers, that the fact of recourse to coin and money goes against the Rule. Saint Francis also says in Chapter four of the Rule that they Friars may in no way receive coin or money, either themselves or through an intermediary[653]. When our Seraphic Father gave us this commandment, since it was very important, he said, “I firmly command… etc.” Therefore, since the intention and clear will of Saint Francis is known from this passage, Clement V declares and says that the Rule is not observed in that Friary where they quest money or receive offerings of money indifferently[654]. In order not to go on and on, but to stop here, I say this. You know yourselves know how things go with your receptacles and moneyboxes in the church and the other ways, about which I keep silence. However I do not wish to leave out what I haven’t said since were have come to this point and we are in a place where we can speak candidly. The Lord Duke is here who, as Padre Ludovico has said, is your father and ours. And also because you yourselves, by giving us so many troubles, have urged us to speak in this way.

Since we have to continue to speak somewhat, let us not omit from this discussion about coin and money, a very important part. As I have touched upon, with strong words our blessed Father prohibited us from receiving money. He then grants permission to have recourse to spiritual friends to clothe the Friars and for the infirm. Like something close to his heart he repeats at these words at the end of that chapter: “This is always (permissible) except, as has been said, they may not receive coin or money.” Was it enough to have said it already? Certainly. Therefore why does he repeat it? In order to reveal his mind to the Friars whom he wants to be completely detached and distant from receiving coin and money. He wants them not only to be a long way from receiving them and strangers to dispensing them, but also from wanting them in any manner or form. Hence I am urged to say that recourse to spiritual friends can only be had for the sake of the infirm and to clothe the Friars. About the other needs then I say that these must be very exacting and necessary in such a way that it is not possible to do less so that these needs are similar to the needs of the sick.

“In order to make the point clearer, I add this. Consider the above mentioned words: “This is always (permissible) except the Friars may not receive coin or money” themselves. Nor must they have it received for any reason of their own at all. Nor may they spend it or have others spend it for them. Nor should they keep account of it and ask for it. Nor can they dispose of it or lock it away in boxes. No should they keep the keys of such boxes. They must have nothing to do with money and such things. If it happens that such recourse be necessary, according to the Nicholas III, they may ago the spiritual friend[655], who is the one to whom they tell their need, and they may ask alms of him[656]. If he wants to give it, then he may be told where he may fulfil this double service. If he wants to carry it out himself, no more need be said. When he doesn’t want to do it himself, he can be asked to give the task to someone he prefers and so through that person met the need of the Friars. In this way he disposes of the money through the hands of someone else. However, if the almsgiver does not want to do this, with his permission, the Friar can present to him someone who can accept the money. If this same almsgiver is not happy with that person, one, two or three other persons, or as many as necessary can be presented to him until he is happy with one of them. Once he has received the alms, that person may only spend it on the need for which the Friars asked it and on nothing else. While that money is not spent, ownership and dominion remain with the patron who gave it to them. If he wants to have it back for any reason, he may take it back. The Friars must not ask more alms than they need. If there is a surplus they are obliged to return the excess to the patron. If there is some other necessity, with his permission, they may have it spent to meet their other need. However, they may not spend the surplus money in anyway whatsoever without mentioning it to the patron and without his permission. If there is the case where the Friars have some other alms offered them by benefactors or other things even if indifferent[657], they must not and cannot have recourse to spiritual friends while there is some other way. For as Nicholas III declares, they should have recourse when there is no other way but to spend money[658].

“About alms left or offered to Friars, and I am speaking about money, if there is no need they may not nor must not accept them, nor have them deputed to someone else, unless there is true, certain, present or proximate necessity. Then they may be accepted. According to the concession of Martin V, who ever offers the alms or leaves it, either himself or through agents, may leave it in the hands of the administrator. However it is a better and safer thing that the patrons hold it themselves. Then where it occurs later for the Friars to have to spend, then the Friars may ask them[659]. However, as I was saying, it may not be done with or without such necessity.

“Furthermore I say that the Friars may not have any dominion over such pecuniary alms, nor ownership nor personal use. Rather those patrons who gave them or left them (or the heirs in fact) have the ownership while the alms go unspent. The Church does not derive ownership from these things and such kinds of indifferent recourse. Therefore, whose ownership is it? Whose money is it? Please, answer and show me whose ownership it is.”

Both Friars were quiet, having been silenced. Father George added, “Do you know, Fathers, who has the ownership of these things. Can you demonstrate it? Those who have it spent. The Friars have them brought to the administrator and they have them spent. Isn’t it obvious that they not only have the use but also take dominion over the alms? How much could be said about this passage! What will we say? That every time something can be obtained by begging it is not permissible to have it bought. I will leave you to judge whether this precept is contravened among you.”

318. One of the two Fathers replied, “If these things you say may be true, and this is not conceded, why have you had to do such an impetuous and scandalous novelty as leaving us just to do the right thing in every thing. Tell me. If you didn’t want to handle money or the other things that you say are superfluous and not necessary, who ever forced you to do so? You could have and should have renounced active and passive voice in so far as you have lived with these scruples of yours, and stayed in a house and in lived in peace in the Order where you were called.”

Il Giorgio replied. “I will give two replies to your words. But before I speak I want to let the Rule speak for us. It says that in whatever place the Friars are, where they know they are unable to observe the Rule spiritually, they may and they should have recourse to their Ministers[660], etc. We understand this to mean, as Martin V puts it, that there the Rule cannot be spiritually observed when some ownership is connected with that friary, like having possessions, houses, vines and having the care of souls or in fact because that area or castle is inadequate to provide for the Friars when they beg. Instead at harvest time it is necessary to find and put things aside to live on for the year, to go questing and keep stores against the purity of the Rule. In that friary or in those parts there would be some strong danger of offending God and of the damnation of the soul and of the honour of the Order[661].

“However let us make this second point. Almost all the Doctors of the Order who speak about the Rule say that not being able to observe it spiritually is when it is not observed according to its rigour, strictness and purity by having recourse to money against the Rule[662]. Similarly, since being able to have it is a proximate occasion of sin, not being able to have it is tranquillity of heart, candour of conscience and purity of heart. However, who clarifies this passage better than Saint Francis? He was accustomed to say that something is done spiritually which is done purely and religiously, according to the spirit and not according to the flesh[663]. Therefore he said, ‘Let the Friars be careful that above all things they desire to have the Spirit of the Lord and his holy operation, etc.[664] ‘What is difficult for us, and if I were to say it is impossible I would not tell a lie, is to have it among you. Our Father says about this that when this is missing we must and can have recourse to the Ministers. When he says ‘they should,’ he commands that they must have recourse. And with the words ‘they may’ he doesn’t want them to be impeded. Before we made this move or did this new thing, as you call it, we had recourse to he Reverend Father General. We asked him for a place to reform ourselves and live spiritually according to what the Rule requires. The good Father should have welcomed his sons with open arms and granted them the just grace they asked. He despised the freedom Saint Francis gives to the subjects in chapter ten; ‘in whatever place the Friars are, etc.’ Therefore we did not fail to have recourse. Then speaking about Ministers, of whom the first is the General, Saint Francis continues and says, ‘However let the Ministers receive them charitably and kindly. Let them have such familiarity with them so that they may speak and act as lords do with their servants. For this is the way it should be, that the Ministers be the servants of everyone.’ I return to what I was saying. Your Generalissimo[665], as he is called, has little regard for this freedom granted by Saint Francis to the Friars in such matters. At the same time, he takes little account of reform. He proved this in the Friary at Sigliano by imprisoning those poor Friars who brought the letters we sent in order to make our request. So behold the charity and kindness that Saint Francis wants shown to the Friars in such matters. Therefore, neither you nor anyone else should be surprised if we have removed ourselves from your company with this novelty.

319. “We come now to the two answers I promised to give you. First of all I reply to the point you said that it was easy for us to remain with you with a sure conscience, renouncing active voice, etc. I say this would be impossible to do, to remain still and live in peace and see things go as they go. Furthermore, anyone among you who wants to live this way, and there is always some one who says so, they hurl at him so many derogatory words that in order to live tranquil and to continue spiritually, as the Rule says, he would need the patience of Job. One who is naturally blind can live in calm since he is blind. However what about the one who sees and does not want what he sees. So this is easy to say but very diffuclt to do. However, what is more important is this. If a body which is sick with fever, how can the left or right arm say to any other part of the body, ‘I am well. I am not sick?’ Certainly the arm cannot say it because if the whole body is suffering, all its members suffer. With the bread which is eaten and which comes from your granaries; with that wine which is drunk which comes from the cellar of the house; with those usual dishes which are eaten as soon as they come; and with the thousands of other useless expenses which are made, how can the conscience remain calm and the mind tranquil? The one who eats, drinks and uses the other purchased things – and God knows how they are purchased – how can he stay with his heart in peace? I want you to understand that such a one has fallen asleep, if he is actually alive, for he resembles a dead man. As the saying goes, that the one who has skinned the stolen animal has to pay as much as the one who stole it. What else is our staying with you and living how you do if not tacit approval? It does not just happen in a particular place but even throughout the whole Province. Therefore this seems to be impossible. Therefore we have done what you see we have done.

“Because you call our action fickleness and a scandalous novelty, please be ready to listen. I am sure that you know the Rule and the declarations of the Supreme Pontiffs. Similarly I know that you have read all about the zeal of our early Fathers and also how there have been such Fathers zealous about our Rule progressively down to our own times. Therefore as I do the same thing it is not without amazement and surprise at your actions, hearing you disparage it because we have left and that you would call it fickleness and a scandalous novelty.

320. [“Now in order to have you understand and likewise to tell you our reasons so that you may better understand me, I will do a very general overview[666].

“You know therefore that after the death of our Father Saint Francis how the Order remained on its feet for some time, even though it was short. The Order lived universally in the observance of the Rule. However, then Brother Elias came along. He was always a very lax Friar. He asked almost countless privileges against the purity of the Rule from His Holiness and diluted regular life in various other ways in such a way that because of him everything went to ruins. However Saint Anthony of Padua and other zealous Friars resisted him courageously as his relaxed[667] life and bad governance increased. Because of this, the aforesaid Brother Anthony and Brother Adam of Marisco with many other holy and zealous Friars had recourse to the Supreme Pontiff. In the Chapter gathered in Rome with Gregory IX present his relaxations were exposed. His Holiness deprived Brother Elias of the Generalate. Brother Albert of Pisa[668], of the Province of Tuscany, was elected in his place. It was the year 1232. That General was a very zealous, learned and holy man. With Brother Haymo English[669], by the arm of His Holiness Gregory IX, they removed all the transgressions and abuses of Brother Elias from the Order. Then with many other zealous Friars the General, with the support of His Holiness, maintained the Order in the observance of the Rule. At that time Brother Leo, Brother Angelo, Brother Rufino and Brother Giles and many other companions of Saint Francis were still alive. After the death of Brother Albert, Haymo the Englishman was elected General. Because he was of the same spirit and very zealous, as much as was possible with the support of Gregory IX he kept the Order strong in the observance of the Rule. Brother Crescentius of Iesi from the Province of the Marches succeeded him[670]. He was elected in 1245. Gregory IX had already died and Innocent IV had assumed the Pontificate. Because Brother Crescentius was more zealous about the Rule, during that time the enemy of human nature raised up a great persecution against those zealous about the Rule. He had many of them die in prison. He brought down the poor Order so far that if God had not provided, it would have been completely ruined. However, as it pleased God, secretly and without a noise Brother Crescentius was removed from office and made Bishop of Iesi. However he was able to enjoy the Episcopate for only a short time, for shortly afterwards he went to give account to the Lord God. The venerable holy man, blessed John of Parma[671], was elected. He reformed the Order.

“This venerable Father was elected in the year 1248, in the fourth year of Innocent IV. With great holiness he governed the Order nine years. However when he saw that he could not maintain the Order in the observance of the Rule he resigned from the Generalate, citing his inability. Saint Bonaventure succeeded him. He strove very much to reform. Among other things he ordered that the Friars not use glass or pewter vessels at table. Blessed Giles was still alive at this time. He died six years after Saint Bonaventure was elected[672]. The Order lived very well during the time of Saint Bonaventure. After he died, the venerable Father Bonagratia became General in the year 1279. He commanded under pain of excommunication that in the place of the Portiuncola the Friars were not to receive any money offering either themselves or through any intermediary. Such offerings had to be returned to the patrons. Later, however, during the time of Clement V the order was very lax in its buildings, its clothing, its stores of grain, wine and other alms, as well as in the reception of annual and perpetual bequests[673]. In that time Father Ubertino of Casale, Brother Raymond Gaufreddi and many other zealous Friars had recourse to the Supreme Pontiff. Then the Council was congregated in Vienna on the first of October 1306 and it concluded in the May the following year after the Ascension of the Lord. The Council itself decided in the controversy between Ubertine and his followers, who were for the observance of the Rule, and Brother Alexander of Alexandria who defended the relaxed life of the Community. The Council declared that the lax life led by the common relaxation of the Friars was not licit for Friars Minor. This matter was committed to the Superiors of the order, burdening their consciences that they should take away all the abuses and relations about dress, granaries, and the like. In no way should they receive perpetual requests and certain yearly alms. When the venerable Father Consalvo[674] Minister General at the time, receive those decisions from the Sacred Council, he visited the whole Order. Where he found sumptuous he either removed the Friars or had them pull the buildings down. He stripped the Friars of odd habits and superfluous clothing. He paid back annual and perpetual patrimonies to the proper patrons. Acting courageously he reformed the whole Order, both the Community and individual Friars even though because of this he suffered many persecutions from relaxed Friars and he lay down his own life. However, all this was a double crown for him, just as he revealed to one of his devotees when he appeared to him after receiving his martyrdom.

“In 1323, after Clement V and Brother Alexander of Alexandria, the defender of the relaxed life had died, in the Province and Custody of Narbonne, since the Friars of the Community had granaries, cellars and many incursions[675] against the Rule, some zealous Friars rose against the Community. They stripped off their odd habits and put on lowly, heavy habits. With the support of seculars they took the Friary of Narbonne and other nearby friaries, and removed lax Guardians and Custodes and put in Friars zealous for the observance of the Rule. Thus in that Province as in others too, while not worrying about sustaining woes and physical death in order to live with a safe conscience. There was a great upheaval throughout the Order at that time between the zealous sand lax Friars.

“What can I say about the time of Pope John XXII? Cruelly persecuted by lax Friars, many Friars poured out their blood for the sake of zeal for the Rule. What can we say about the time when William Farinerio became General in 1348 during the time of Clement VI? He reformed the lax way of living by having the Constitutions of Saint Bonaventure observed, even though he did not contribute any of his own. What can we say about 1352? When Brother Gentile of Spoleto, from the Province of Saint Francis, and many other zealous Friars saw the Order relaxed, they appealed to Clement VI. Many important persons helped them with His Holiness. They succeeded in having four places given them in the Province of Saint Franics. These were the friary of the Carcere in Assisi, the friary at Giano, the friary of the Romita de Cesi, and the friary of Monteluco at Spoleto. In each of these friaries twelve friars could be accommodated. These Friars could be received either from the Order or from seculars or wherever they would come from. Immediately they made narrow, small and lowly habits which were completely different from those of the Community in their measurements, lowliness and shape. In the Bull His Holiness commanded they might not be impeded by anyone. This Reform brought great joy to all the zealous Friars. However, when Clement VI died in that same year and Innocent VI was created, the General Chapter congregated in Assisi. The lax Friars worried that the Reform would go ahead. They set so many snares that they brought the Reform down.

“Therefore, my Fathers, see if the spirit of condemnation towards this life of ours is satisfactory to you. Now if you condemn it, it is as good as condemning your own Reform which, as you say, began with Brother Paoluccio of Foligno, a lat friar and holy man. His relative, the Lord of Foligno, supported the beginning of your Reform. He obtained from the General of the time the devout friary at Brugliano, situated in the mountains of Foligno. In all the Provinces many other zealous Friars were moved by this holy example. The zealous Friars were unable to defend themselves from the lax and loose Friars[676] because at the time the Church was in schism for many years. With one Pope residing in Rome and the other in Avignon they didn’t know which to believe and to which of these to have recourse. However, as it pleased God, when the Council of Constance met in 1405 under Martin V, the zealous Friars had recourse to that Council. That Council gave it a Vicar General, namely Brother Nicholas Radulfi. He was the first Vicar of your Reform and they were called Friars of the Observance. Then your Reform separated from the Community. Then Martin V died and Eugene IV assumed the Papacy in 1443. His Holiness wanted the General at the time, Brother Anthony de Rusconibus, to order a Commissary General for your Reform from here to the Alps. He gave them Brother John Mauberto. No long after he gave Brother John of Capistrano as Commissary beyond the Alps. In Italy, because of the preaching and the good example of Saint Bernardine, many Friars reformed themselves and Pope Eugene issued a Bull in favour of the Reform so that it could elect its own Vicars General and Provincials without encumbering the Conventuals any more, just like us Capuchins. They were not called Ministers or Generals, but Vicars General and Provincials. His Holiness wanted the Vicars General and Provincials to have the same authority that the Ministers have. From then on your Congregation lived separately under Vicars General and Provincials as we do. If you deny it, and how can you, that Capuchins cannot be under Vicars General and Provincials, it will be necessary to say that you cannot be there either. If you assert that you can be there, you confirm also that we can be Capuchins Clement VII had the same authority as Eugene IV who allowed the Observants to stay under Vicars and not Ministers, the name not being all that important.

“Now let us put all this aside and return to where I left off. From 1495[677] to the time of Eugene when the reform of your observance began there were about ninety-four years during which the Friars of the observance were under the Conventual Ministers.

“Now we come to another little point, and if it tires you, my Fathers, have patience.

“In 1502, under Alexander VI, Father Berardino of Feltro and Father Angelo of Clavasio in Spain, in the Custody of the Angels, saw that the Friars of the family universally no longer lived in the pure observance of the Rule. They provided the occasion from which a Reform was born. It still endures. Hence moved by holy zeal Father John of Guadalupe of that Province had recourse to the Roman Court and obtained permission through a Brief to be able to live in a reformed way and as Custos to receive whichever Friars he liked. Neither he nor his companions were subject to anyone except to the General so that they could live in the observance of the Rule and the Holy Gospel with greater calm. But what did your Friars do? They couldn’t bear to see those poor fellows make progress apace in the pure observance of the Rule. They made use of Queen Elizabeth. She was a truly holy and very prudent woman and was regarded by popular opinion and reputation to be the best Queen in her day. Nonetheless she let herself be persuaded by the words and arguments of your Friars at the time. Because of her Pope Alexander VI himself revoked the Brief already given to the poor Reformed Friars and had them return to the others, just as you think to do with us. However we have hope in God that through his goodness he will help us, just as he has inspired us to do what we have done. So those poor fellows left the friaries they had taken up, compelled to obey the Pope. When the above mention Brother John saw this, he set out on a journey to Rome to petition His Holiness and to make every effort to obtain again that lost entitlement. However, while he was on the journey the Lord God called him to a better life and with him was extinguished the whole design. However Father Angelo with Father Peter of Melgara obtained a Brief from Julius II to be able to continue the begun Reform, and to take up the friaries that had been left. And so they remain this way until the present.]

“Therefore this novelty of ours has not been the first in the Order. On the contrary, any one who discusses it will find that there have been many like ours. Because it has happened many times, therefore it is not something new. Consequently it must not be called a novelty. Rather it must be called licit and right. Indeed it is necessary to do it and must be done when to do otherwise is not acceptable.

“But tell me, when do you think the Order was more lax? Was it when your Reform came about? Or is it now when our own Reform has come out? I would say also that your Reform is further from the observance of the Rule than the Order ever was when your Reform began. If your Reform is licit and you preach it as a holy Reform, why wouldn’t ours be licit?”

Here Father George went silent. Then the Duke turned and said to the two other Friars, “Do you have anything to reply to these things?” They agreed that what Father George had said about all the Reforms was true.

LVII: The replies which Padre Ludovico gave about the pointed cowl[678]

321. The debate continues. 322. The Rule talks about the pointed cowl. 323. The capuchin habit is like that of Saint Francis. 324. When the shape of the habit was changed. 325. Provisions contrary to the Rule. 326. Begging conforms to the letter and the spirit of the same Rule. 327. Conclusion of the debate.

321. Then those Fathers proposed this question. They said, “If you are making a Reform as the others have done, shouldn’t you do as they did? For the many changes and separations have been done in the aforementioned Reforms, the shape of the habit was never changed. Although they put on stricter habits, they never ever put on a cowl other than the one the others wore then and wear now. Therefore in both shape and colour they resembled one another. This pointed cowl which you have taken up was never worn by Saint Francis nor by his other Friars.”

Then the Duke turned to our Friars and said, “And you, Father, who do you say? I liked very much the discourse you did about all the Reforms. Now I know something about all the changes that I didn’t know before. Now I understand quite well just how much has been done in this change and separation of yours. Now I await the reply that you would give these Friars while talking about this cowl which you have taken up again.”

Then Father George turned to Padre Ludovico and said to him, “It falls to you Father to satisfy His Lordship and these Friars regarding the cowl.”

322. Padre Ludovico answered, “Since it pleases you, I am content. Therefore I turn to you, my Fathers. I say that you must go back and consider that word of the Rule in chapter two. There it speaks about novices and professed and concedes to them the clothes they must wear. About novices it says, ‘Then let them be given the clothes of probation, that is, two tunics without a cowl, the cord, etc. and the capparone down to the cord.’ About the professed it says, ‘And those who have already promised obedience, let them have one tunic with the cowl and for any one who wants it, another without the cowl.’ So then mention is made obviously about the cowl under precept. Therefore, according to the letter, one does not understand a rounded cowl[679] like the one you wear, because the shape of the novice habit is no different to the one of the professed. You all wear it in the same way. Your cowl can be, and indeed should properly be called a scapular just as many do call it in fact since from that little curve the rest of it then, which is the larger part, falls upon the back. If your Fathers and all the other Friars say together that they have attached the cowl to the habit, this is quite false. Because it is not the cowl which is attached but the extremity of the scapular, though that is attached. Therefore you do not wear the cowl sown to the habit but the scapular even though the Rule says that the habit of the professed should have the cowl attached and says nothing about a scapular.

323. “Furthermore, by denying that Saint Francis and his companions wore this kind of pointed cowl you show that you have never seen or known what the Saint’s habit was like. Please tell me and answer me this, if in fact you have something to say in reply. Either you have known what the habit of our Father or his companions was like, or you haven’t known. If you have never known or seen how it was, how can you dare to say that this habit which you wear with the scapular on top is the habit of Saint Francis? If you have seen it, you should have known it. Therefore if you did know it, how bold you are to testify that the habit we wear is not the shape of the habit worn by our Father and his companions and all the Order for a period of so many years? Many of those habits remain today as relics for the world especially anyone who wants to see. In our Calabria today one can see the entire habit of our Blessed Peter Catani that is kept in the friary of our Conventual Fathers in Castovillari. There are some of the same habits in the friary of La Verna. The habit of Blessed Raniero is in Borgo San Seplocro. But what more? In Florence there is the habit which Father Saint Francis wore when he had the sacred stigmata.

“So the habits themselves are opposed to you. They themselves manifest the truth. What more? Even the walls speak about it. Therefore, let them come. Let the stones come. Let the marble come. Let them speak to those who in this matter are harder than stones, tougher than marble in their obstinacy, more insensible than the materials from which murals and pictures are made. All these things also speak out openly. Can it be that you who say you see so much do not have eyes since because of your hardness you show that you have no understanding? Look at us and you will see what was the habit and dress of your Father and of your other predecessors. As you look, trust the facts. If you trust by now you will be completely satisfied. What do I want to say about this? The old paintings cut off all argument. Our Seraphic Father is seen in paintings everywhere with this habit! All the saints of the Order except Saint Bernardine are painted the same way in so many places and in so many old churches throughout Christendom, particularly in Rome in Saint John Lateran, Saint Mary Major, in the upper church in the Sacro Convento in Assisi and countless others. I have known from certain others worthy of faith that in Compostella, sculptured in stone above the door of the Church, is our blessed Father wearing this habit with the proper cowl. When because of his devotion he went to visit the church of Saint James in Galicia[680] and how at Compostella he miraculously established a house. Similarly in Paris at the tomb of Alexander of Hales and Nicholas or Lyre the two are carved in stone in your own church and they are depicted in these proper habits and pointed cowls. Some one who saw it testifies that in the regal library in Spain there is a beautiful picture painted of Saint Francis as a Capuchin. However, so as not to go around, in our own Calabria, these things can often be seen, especially in the church of the Conventual Fathers in the region of Nicotera.

“There is little wonder my dear Fathers that Father Saint Francis wanted to wear such a cowl with his habit since in ancient times the early Monks all usually wore the pointed cowl. It can be seen that today that the Carthusians wear it. They began many years[681] before the birth of Saint Francis. So if you deny the cowl[682] you come to deny the meaning and strength of the word since a capuccio is something which can only be worn on the head.[683] The scapular takes its name from the shoulders. As has been said already, what you wear is a scapular. Where does it say in the Rule to wear the scapular?

“You already know that Brother John, later called the Hat for what he did, was the first to remove the pointed cowl from his head and put it on his shoulders and wore a cap on his head. This displeased our Father Saint Francis so much that the cursed him. God confirmed his curse. For when he left the Order, he despaired and hung himself.

324. “It is true that at the time of Pope John XXII His Holiness deprived the whole Order or the pointed cowl. Nonetheless, His Holiness did not assign that scapular with that little circular cape like the mozzetta worn by major Prelates. Instead time and indulgence have introduced it. Pope John only ordered that instead of the pointed cowl a round cowl be sewn to the habit where the pointed cowl used to be. Behind the shoulders there was a piece of cloth like a scapular. This was the way the Friars used to wear it then. It is not how you wear it.

“Therefore since we truly want to reform ourselves and observed the Rule purely, we have also wanted to take up the habit that Father Saint Francis wore not only is its lowliness and coarseness, but also in its shape, which is this cowl.

“If you wish to say something or add anything to what I have said I leave that to your wish.”

One of them replied that they would be many things to say however they wished to let them pass in silence so as not to offend the ears of His Lordship with too much talking.

The Duke immediately responded, “Both of you can say as much as you want because I am enjoying this very much.”

325. Since all the others remained silent, Padre Ludovico replied. “I am more than certain that the kindness of His Excellency willingly listen to this discussion. With permission therefore and with his grace I would say two other words to these Fathers in order to better show them the reason for our departure.”

Again the Duke responded, “Speak too.”

Therefore he spoke. “You know that Saint Francis says in Chapter Six of the Rule that the Friars ought go confidently begging for alms. Thus he shows openly that he wants his Friars to be poor in such a way that in order for them to live it will be necessary for them to go door to door questing in order to sustain life. On this word Clement V says that it is not likely that Saint Francis wanted the Friars to have granaries, cellars[684] or other things stored for a long time. However, like poor men they should have to beg for their needs. If I base myself on the words of this Supreme Pontiff, how great is the transgression in the community and in your Order. I will not descend to particulars. You know about that yourselves.”

One of the Fathers answered that they did this because there were so many Friars and, furthermore, for the peace[685] of the Friars so that the spirit would not be lost because of the Friars going around too much. He affirmed that mental quiet[686] is more in accord with the spiritual life. This is better acquired by staying at home than by going around so much. Therefore it was judged better to collect grain and wine, oil and other things at harvest time or throughout the year or most of the year for a Friar who goes around so much cannot have spirit. Therefore if we store these things we may then stay firm and quiet in the friaries, some attending to studies, others to prayer, others to confessions. Thus with the Divine Office and other exercises we help souls very much. However you Capuchins, what do you do with your wanderings? Moreover, how are you a benefit to Holy Church? You do not attend the dead. You do not want burials. You don’t want to hear confessions. For myself, I don’t know what you are good for.”

The Duke said, “Calm down, Father, you are slipping into insults.”

Straightaway Fra Ludovico added, “Lord, allow them to say what they want so that they speak the truth, because we will be the lesser if they do not speak. Then he faced the Fathers. Almost smiling he said, “Before I reply to what you say, I acknowledge that your Order is not only full of good men, but there is a great abundance of them who deserve honour as much for the goodness of their life as for their learning. On the other hand I acknowledge that we other poor fellows are completely useless and of no benefit. Indeed we are unworthy of the bread we eat. But to come to these particular things that say about us, that we do not go to the dead, etc. I say that just as we do not do this, as you say, that in the secret of your heart it probably brings you great satisfaction and great joy because while we are not doing it, none of your gain is taken from you by us. However, because of this you do not stop taxing and calumniating us in order to strike at us with rod in hand. If you speak against us while we are not depriving you of any gain what would you say about us if we accepted burials and did all the other things that bring food home and put our hand to take away all that is offered to you? If you now have the tongue to speak against us because we do not do and say these things, I think that ten tongues would come from one mouth then to accuse us.

“About confession, because this is important since those diabolical heretics deny this most holy sacrament, I answer that doubtlessly it would be a great mistake if we refused such a pious and holy work if in the time of necessity there was no one else to fulfil such an office. But then there is no shortage of many Religious and equally good and holy priests who, because of their charity not only want to fulfil this work but desire to do so, I add that it befits them by way of obligation. Therefore it is not necessary for us to attend to such matters. Even if we do not go to the dead, we do not neglect to pray for them with Offices and Masses. If we do not hear confessions we are not denying this the most holy sacrament. Nor do we deny that confession is good and among ourselves we practise it with all diligence. The same goes for the other most holy sacraments.

326. “But now we come to the other point about going around for alms. I say that if we want to observe the purity of the Rule begging is necessary. Therefore our going around in order to observe the Rule should not be condemned. And if the spirit is lost by going around to beg, may Saint Francis, my Father, forgive me. Therefore by saying that they ought to do this, you haven’t understood very well. You have not taught your Friars that the spirit benefits from the collection of things. However, these ones have found the better way than the one you taught us, my Father[687]. It isn’t that way, may Fathers. It isn’t the way you say. At the hour of death we will see the whole truth.

“Now I was to reply to what you have proposed to me. This single reply will be divided into two. Then, if it pleases His Excellency and you, my Fathers, I would like us to end this matter we are discussing together.

“First of all I say that keeping stores of similar things for long periods is something that pertains to the rich and not to poor mendicants who profess most high poverty. Equally it is against the intention of Saint Francis, as Clement V declares. While the Order lived in observance it never kept granaries, cellars and other stores. However as it grew indulgent the more it grew lax and no longer cared about the purity of the Rule but lived according to the privileges sought by the lax Friars. Every time some true Reform began within the Order they lived without abundant and large stores of these things.

“The second reply that I want to give is this. You say that by going about questing one loses quiet of spirit. Please tell me, even though you so many stores, why do you send your Friars around every day for alms, one minute for grain, another for wine, another for silk since there is so much abundance in this Calabria of ours? Forgive me if I go too far. You are sorry for yourselves for having provoked us to anger. I don’t want to stand here and tell you about the large cheeses, the meat, the eggs and what is even worse, the money. You see it is not only occasionally that these things are gathered, but questing for these things is done nearly every day because you are not content with those already stored at home, even though they were given generously and collected from patrons.

327. “So my Fathers these things we have said and other things which could be said have made us leave you and we confirm that we will no longer return to you since were are united with the Congregation and Reform of the Capuchin Fathers. They have the Bull from His Holiness and their Vicar General is in Rome. He has accepted us and received us.

“If you have anything else to say, speak. For if what has been said doesn’t seem to be adequate to you, we are more than ready to reply to all the proposals you make.

Those Fathers answers that they didn’t want to prolong the discussion.

So then the Duke said to those Fathers, “My Fathers, I exhort and pray you to be calm and not annoy these poor fellows. For if you offend them I will show the world and all the rest of you how much I have been offended. Let them live in peace, in their quiet. In whatever way I may be of use to you with my honour you will find me ever ready to be of service to you and all your Order.”

From that day on, especially in the state of that Lord, they no longer showed hostility towards the Capuchin Friars openly. However they did not fail to do as much as they could in secret against them. Amen.

LVIII: About the joy and support which the glorious Victoria gave to the whole of our Congregation and which the reverend Fathers of Calabria had

328. General satisfaction at the triumph of the Calabrians. 329. Friars who went over to the Capuchins at that time. 330. Paul Pisotti of Parma, opponent to the Reform. 331. Rapid propagation of the Capuchins. 332. How much the coming of many famous Friars was a benefit to the Congregation. 333. The Friars of Calabria were not the first Capuchins.

328. The Church of God was enlarged, made illustrious and favoured by those glorious triumphs which, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the glorious martyrs obtained against the infernal enemy throughout the whole world. The infernal enemy desired nothing else than to denigrate the name of Jesus Christ. Those valiant knights of Christ also triumph over tyrants and this was a huge undertaking since they were themselves emperors in the world. Their victory against the world and the flesh was no lesser one, gloriously overcoming love of children and of things. Therefore every year the orthodox Church celebrates their holy memories because these ignite in the hearts of every faithful Christian the will to follow them. So by the providence of God it followed on that for each one who died thousands converted. Therefore how precious was the death and suffering of those first flowers of Holy Church!

This is exactly what happened to the poor Congregation of Capuchins. The suffering of those early servants of God has be a great benefit to the world. In particular those Very Reverend Fathers of the Province of Calabria gave great joy to all the poor Congregation when it became know how valorously they fought in the depth of tribulations and how they were victorious over the schemes of the infernal enemy.

Because I was in the Province of Saint Francis at the time I was very well informed about the holiness of the Reverend Fathers. Any one who reads this should know that until that time very few learned Friars had come to our Congregation. However it was heard that in 1532 in the General Chapter at Messina that our Fathers in the Order gathered together with the intention of making every effort to remove the Congregation of Capuchins. All the lax Friars were very much expecting to persecute it. It pleased the Lord God that their plan did not succeed because in such a great multitude there is no shortage of holy men who had a conscience about impugning this work of God. So the lax Friars did not prevail. I remember a Clareni Friar returning from that Chapter. He was unaware of who we were[688]. Near the gate of Spello my companion and eye asked him what had been decided against our Congregation.

That good Father answered, “Things have gone rather weakly. They have made a nice speech that they have decided to have them remove the cowl. But who will make you remove it? You know that now many good men have entered that Congregation. They have great credibility with the world and are greatly cherished by the Court. Therefore they no longer need to think about it.”

329. And so it spread throughout all the Provinces and it seemed that it was the hand of God that among many outstanding men in the Order they were waiting for each other to make a move. However, when they heard about the coming of the Calabresi Fathers it seems that the Holy Spirit enlightened them. They said to one another, “What are we waiting for now? The matter is clear. This is a work of God.”

With great fervour they came from the Province of Rome. I knew them: the venerable Father Bernardine of Asti[689], Father Lawrence of Riete[690], and Father Francis of Soriano. From the Province of Tuscany came Father Jerome of Montepulciano, Father Benedict of Siena (the wretched Ochino), Father Liberius Lombard[691], Father Dominic of Bologna[692], and Father Raphael of Vuolterra[693]. From the Province of Saint Francis came Father Francis of Iesi[694], Father Baptist of Norcia[695], Father Bartholomew of Spello[696], and Padre Ludovico of Foligno[697]. From the Province of the Marches came Father John of Fano[698], Father Eusebius of Ancona[699], Father Bernardine of Monte dell’Olmo[700] and Father Nicholas of Ancona[701].

330. It would take too long to tell about all the outstanding men who came from all the Provinces to our Congregation at that time.

There was no shortage of opponents nonetheless. For once the Chapter at Messina was finished the Father General of the whole Order returned to Rome. As we have said above he was very determined and made every effort against the poor Capuchins. He obtained a Brief and called them the Apostates of Calabria. He was so rabid against those Fathers because he felt the greatest insult at their leaving the Order and joining the Capuchins. He was almost beside himself. The poor fellow was blinded by passion and so he excommunicated them in the Brief. He used his tongue to give His Holiness such a pestiferous impression that he depicted them all as destroyers of their Order. Therefore His Holiness ceded to him and granted him in that Brief for all those who were involved with them or gave them alms or who supported them in any way they be excommunicated.

Many important persons who supported our Congregation heard of this. Being completely well informed about the condition of those venerable Fathers, they bold resisted and gave the correct information too His Holiness. Once he understood His Holiness immediately revoked the Bull. Very angry, that Superior left Rome. He was very melancholic for His Holiness now having a bad impression of him. Not long after, as a just punishment from God, he was deposed from his office, as will be said in its place[702].

331. Now to return to the Fathers of Calabria. Once they had obtained that victory, the Lord God gave them peace and calm. Padre Ludovico da Fossombrone accepted them all and incorporated them into the holy Congregation as legitimate sons of Saint Francis and zealous observers of the Rule.

They began to organise things in all the Provinces so that there was a Custos or another person who would represent Padre Ludovico . Then the whole Congregation clung totally to Jesus Christ. They stayed in their little friaries with great tranquillity because earlier that had little rest because of the serious tribulations.

Therefore it pleased the Lord God to increase them through these tribulations with a good number of very holy men. They organised themselves to give better order to the Congregation. When the seculars saw the good example of those Fathers, also they began to take up the holy habit, especially in Calabria. Therefore within a short time they had established many friaries. From 1532 until 1536 more than five hundred Friars came to the Congregation of Capuchins from the Order and from among the seculars. Therefore it became known that the matter had been consolidated and that His Holiness no longer listened to the adversaries, and how he had given such an authentic Bull, all those zealous for the observance of the Rule felt a great impetus. In some Provinces it happened that forty Friars left at once in such a way that the Order became completely defoliated of men outstanding in learning, renown and holiness.

So then the Congregation of Capuchins overcame it opposition completely everywhere. It was a perfect work because it was from God and not from men. It is obvious that it is from God because of the great change that the Holy Spirit did in the heart of those Fathers. First of all, almost everyone said that they never believed that the Congregation of Capuchins would make any progress. They believed it would dissolve into smoke. This was because of the little faith they had in the Founders and because of the great status which they had themselves as great preachers, educated men highly regarded by the Order and used to living well. None the less in a flash you would have seen them acquire spirit and glow with an incredible zeal for the observance of the Rule. They gave a kick to all comforts and despised honours, status as superiors[703], lecturing[704], being confessors. They also despised the comfort of beautiful friaries, rich tables, fine cells, nice habits, good shoes, boots, riding, the servants who served them as lords, good infirmaries and countless other comforts when they came to the poor Congregation to be received by those simple fellows whom earlier they had despised so much. So they began, stripped of every earthy comfort and dressed in a woollen[705] habit. It could more be called sacking than cloth. They were barefoot with nothing on their feet for the great cold. Where they first had multiple habits, now they restricted themselves to just one habit and a poor mantle. In exchange for the libraries they used to have, among the Capuchins they were allowed the Rule and the Breviary. Anyone who could have a new Testament and some written sermons considered himself rich. I will say little about eating. A bowl of cooked bread and vegetables was regarded as great self-indulgence. I will not say anything about the austerity of their dwellings since before they built any poor places in the beginning the majority of them stayed in huts. It would take too long to tell about the austerity of the early days, especially since it will be spoken of in its own place.

Nonetheless those Reverend Fathers embraced that heavy cross with so much fervour that the one who could be humbled more and suffer more for the love of Jesus Christ considered himself blessed. They said, “This is truly a work of God, for even though I read sacred theology and other sciences to others, I none the less acknowledge sincerely now that I never understood what the Rule of Saint Francis was. However now I see how the Capuchins observe it. Nor did I ever know what the capparone was. Now I see the Capuchin novices wear it.”

It was something amazing that for they had been in the Order for such a long time without ever understanding the Rule. Therefore it is a clear sign of what the Seraphic Father Saint Francis said: the Rule is not understood except by the one who observes it.

332. Therefore our Congregation grew to a great number in a short time. This was because men came who for a long time were practised in the spirit and who already had the stamp of religious life. For them one glance was enough to consider all the things that were observed in the Congregation. So when they understood within a few days the way of life which they had desired for such a long time they embraced it with such spirit and fervour that within a short time they were capable of walking in the perfect of observance of the Rule no only themselves. Moreover they were all capable and ready to rule and govern not only a poor Congregation but were suitable for every kind of government. When Chapters were held they did not think too much about finding Definitors and other superiors because there were a lot of eligible Friars. While those venerable Fathers lived in our Congregation they always persevered in the perfect observance of the Rule. Because of the great experience they had in religious life they were able to know prudently what was harmful and what was beneficial to maintain the Order. What happened to Noah also happened to them. Noah knew how to give account of his life before the flood and what was done after the flood. So these venerable Fathers had experience before they came to the holy Reform and equally had knowledge of what was necessary to live in the pure observance of the Rule. This understanding and ability benefited our Congregation in no small way, because they strove with good regulations to oppose all those that with time could stain it.

333. Now to return to those early Fathers of Calabria. In those parts those holy and venerable Fathers were a great benefit. They gave a solid foundation to those southern Provinces because they were the ones who started in Sicily, founding the first friary there in the city of Messina[706]. They greatly edified the whole Island with their preaching, particularly in the cities of Messina and Palermo. So then those Calabresi are greatly deceived who say the Reform began in Calabria at the same time as in the Marches. One can know how far this is from the truth by this. They began while the General Chapter was held in Messina. This was on the 12 May 1532. Our Congregation began in 1525. Rather, when Father George came to Rome and brought to Calabria a cowl the make known the shape of the habit which Fra Ludovico gave him, the first friary had already been established in Rome at Scandriglia and in Rieti too. Houses had also been established in the Province of Saint Francis at Foligno, Narni and Montecasale at Borgo Sansepolcro. In the Marches there were already five house and in the Province of Tuscany similarly there were at least three houses. And may they no longer say that they have been the inventors of the capuccio. However it is quite true that they were the first throughout the kingdom of Naples and in Sicily. With my own ears I have heard Father Bernardine of Asti say that those venerable Fathers of Calabria had written to him, submitting themselves with all humility to the Prelates of the Congregation. Everything they did they did it through the commission of Padre Ludovico what then rule the whole Congregation and resided in Rome. To the praise of Jesus. Amen.

LIX: On the difficulty our Fathers had to persuade Padre Ludovico da Fossombrone that he had to convoke the General Chapter

334. Anger has always caused excesses. 335. Ideas of Padre Ludovico Fossombrone on the Reform. 336. A conversation between Victoria Colonna and one of the principal Fathers on how the Congregation was going. 337. Victoria Colonna exhorts Padre Ludovico to convoke the Chapter. 338. Why he didn’t want to do this.

334. All the great servants of God and holy men have done great things in order to render due honour to God. They endured countless adversities with amazing patience just as is manifested in the Scriptures about the Holy Apostles, martyrs and other servants of God. However often those who had endured many things at first, when they felt their honour touched they could nothing else but respond. This is what we see with David. He had endured every evil because of the persecution of Saul and his son Absalom. However when the daughter of Saul despised him because with such humility and fervour he had danced before the ark of God he could not remain strong[707]. The same for the very patient Job. When he saw himself despised by his friends, he couldn’t keep it in, but complained about them many times[708]. It would take too long to refer to all the examples one could. Therefore Our Lord commands us with many injunctions not to offend our neighbour, threatening to send us to hell for the least offences[709].

This therefore was what has made and will make men do many evils, so that one is despised and trampled on by his neighbour. Any one who thinks about it carefully will see that the majority of these excesses have been caused by anger.

This was the main cause that Padre Ludovico did some things that he should not have. He felt he deserved that greater respect be shown him than what he received according to his opinion, even though those Reverend Fathers and holy men bore him every possible respect. If I had not known them all, I dare say I would have doubted it. However because I have been well acquainted with their humility and holiness, if anyone said it I would never have believed it. Because of this it must be said that Padre Ludovico should have had more patience. However I say frankly that as long as the Order lasts it will be greatly indebted to him for the many efforts he underwent in order to bring this poor Congregation into the good order it has.

335. Since the Congregation had grown into a good number of Friars, with all the difficulties it pleased the Lord God to give it some order so that confusion not emerge. As all the principal Fathers were limited to Rome, and since it had been some time that the poor Congregation had not gathered the Fathers in General Chapter, they understood that Padre Ludovico should by all means convoke the General Chapter in Rome. The Holy Spirit was persuading them all to be very diligent because, nevertheless, it was clear there were great difficulties because the intention of Padre Ludovico was very different from the opinion of the others regarding the government of the Congregation. For he had determined that it be governed and be precisely according to the spirit of Father Saint Francis and observe the Rule well. Furthermore he had decided that they be called the Saint Francis’ Capuchin Friars of the hermitical life. This was because he wanted to be separated completely from the Order. Nor did he want to conform in dress or anything else to the others who lived under the same banner[710]. He drew all this from the Three Companions of Saint Francis wrote, that is, Brother Rufino, Brother Leo and Brother Angelo Tancredi of Rieti. They wrote about the first intention our Seraphic Father had about how the Friars Minor should live. His intention was, as they said, to found an Order that was not obliged to many ceremonies nor establish houses that obviously are usually grand and sumptuous. Rather, they should live in little houses in isolated places built of mud and thatch. Furthermore this good Father wanted the Friars to work in conformity with the Rule[711] and to live in part by their own labours. They should also be careful to strip themselves of every earthly affection. Most high poverty and simplicity should be apparent in their living, food, clothing and dwelling.

On the other hand our Fathers did not think to distance themselves in any way from the Order. Even though those Fathers were holy men and he regarded them as such, non the less Fra Ludovico believed that they did not have this intention and that in a short time they would return the Congregation to the same ceremonies to which they were accustomed in the Order. Because of this Padre Ludovico remained firm[712] as will be said more amply in its place.

336. Nonetheless, it pleased the Lord that when the Fathers saw Padre Ludovico ’ hardness they didn’t have the heart to say anything to him. They decided to send one of their number, the principal[713], to the Lady Marchioness of Pescara, Victoria Colonna, the most loving mother of our Congregation. Along with the whole Congregation Fra Ludovico had received countless benefits from her. With great modesty and prudence that Father went. During his discussion with Her Excellency, among the other spiritual matters that Lady said, “My Father, you should rejoice very much that you have come to this holy Reform. For unless I am mistaken, in the Order from which you came you were one of the important Fathers, and because of a common corruption you did not observe the Rule there. Instead I think that you were careful about greatness and the things which stain the pure observance of the your Rule. And as the saying goes I think that our Lord God dragged you by the hair and led you to where you may observe your profession perfectly and be sure of your salvation. In this holy Reform of Capuchin Fathers you did not find many difficulties nor may ambitions. Therefore I think that that you didn’t observe a scrap of poverty. No on the contrary in this Reform you see how well it is observed in all things. In dwellings today you one doesn’t see poorer houses in any Order than yours. It seems as if Father Saint Francis has appeared again since they are so conformed to those dwellings, as few as they were, that the blessed Father established in the beginning. I don’t recall having seen many except the one at Greccio in the Rieti valley. Regarding food and clothing, the poor Capuchins makes their habits from natural wool so that there are fews days in which I buy any for them. I think your habit is made from it. I need not say much about food because the poor fellows because the majority of them fast on bread and water continuously. Anyone who can’t is content with raw vegetables or in fact they make soup from cooked bread. I am well aware of all this. As for honesty then, I think all of you are saints. For the austerity of your life, your stinging disciplines and holy prayers are such that in regard to the body it is appropriate to think something else, that even the devil does not have the strength to tempt you. Therefore you are blessed, my Father, especially by being founder of this new beginning because you not only merit for yourself by doing good, but you will be rewarded by God as the inventor and founder of this holy Order. I would be pleased, my Father, that it there was anything not completely right that you would let me know about it. I say this because a few days ago one of the Fathers spoke to me. I don’t know who he was. He was probably a simple lay Friar and I didn’t want to hear him. However, since you are a capable and learned man, and because you are my confidant and I speak with you about everything. Therefore I would be grateful if you tell me everything.”

Because of his great surprise that venerable Father raised his eyes to heaven. With great wonder, with his mind and his tears, he gave thanks for the providence of God who inspired her Ladyship to say those words and give him the opportunity to say all he desired. Therefore with great humility he told her, “My Lady, Your Excellency should know that I have come for that reason. Therefore may you not be surprised at what I have done and about the tears I have shed because I have given thanks to his providence with my mind for having inspired you to initiate this discussion because I did not know how to begin.

“You have given me the opportunity. Therefor I say to you that there is no doubt that I was dying in that state in which I used to be. I was well given over to damning myself because I frankly confess that I never understood what the Rule of Saint Francis was. I knew very well how to make syllogisms and to speak about sacred theology. However I knew very little about what was required for my salvation. Now by the mercy of God I am in this holy Reform. I know very well that I have spent most of my time vainly. I could not express the perfection of this holy Reform and the great simplicity with which the poor Capuchins observe their profession. And because Your Excellency has always been a good mother to them and desires that it be preserved in all perfection, our Fathers have sent me just to tell you that we lack one thing only. When this matter is resolved it could be said that we will lack nothing. Because you have given me occasion and also because of our need I want to tell you what the matter is so that you may provide a remedy for us. We all hope that Your Excellency can do this easily. Therefore what is lacking is this. Our Padre Ludovico da Fossombrone has governed our Congregation for ten years and His Paternity has never convened a General Chapter. This is against the Rule and intention of our Seraphic Father who requires that the General Chapter gather every three years[714]. A General Chapter was held at the beginning, but was of little import because they were so few Friars. Because Your Ladyship, according to you prudence, would be able to work with this Father of ours so that he may completely want to convene the Chapter. However above all I would advise to say nothing that others have spoken with you about this so that he does not imagine that we want to remove him from office.”

337. That Father left her and having understood the matter after some days Her Ladyship left straightaway for San Marino where she stayed. She found secret and suitable ways and sent to Padre Ludovico to say to him that he should come to San Marino. When he arrived in her presence she began beautifully to say that it would be good if he convened the Chapter since the Congregation had grown.

He replied. “My Lady I know that what you are saying is true. I do in fact want to do that but it is still not the time.” Padre Ludovico did this for the reasons we have said above. He did not do it because of ambition, as some say. I have been well informed on this matter. I say that is not true.

Although it seemed to her that he was right, after many petitions and having confronted him many times the Lady Marchioness ultimately said to him, “Padre Ludovico , I want you to promise me by all means to convene the Chapter. You are not to depart from me if you do not promise me. You know how much I love the Congregation and especially you who are its head. I know you have the Congregation at heart. However I would have believed that such a just matter would have been adequate indication for you.” Seeing him so determined, she left him alone for a while and gave him time to think it over.

Padre Ludovico was destroyed when he saw himself accosted by the valid arguments of that Lady. Never the less he feared that it would have been the ruin of that the poor Congregation. She was compelled to speak with him one more time. “Forgive me, my Father, you are not going to leave in my good grace if you do not promise me. I will keep you here many days, though out of kindness and not in prison therefore, as some say. Rather I will give a room for you and your companion.” She did not want to give him permission to leave. They talked all day together about the things of God. This made her believe that this Father was happy and she returned yet again to ask him the same thing.

Padre Ludovico saw that if he didn’t promise her, Her Ladyship would have been scandalised since she was so holy and good and loved the Congregation so much. He made up his mind and promised her. In this way he softened about holding the Chapter. However because Her Ladyship led a spiritual life she felt remorseful for having detained him and not allowed him to depart. She thought that this would have been a violence, just as if his confessor had obliged him by conscience. She immediately went to His Beatitude Paul Third and confessed it. His Beatitude bowed his head low because she had the audacity to retain the Head of an Order and he absolved her from excommunication. However he knew about her holiness. Because of the great love she bore towards the Congregation he wanted to console her. He said to her, “I know very well that Your Excellency has done this because of the great love she bears towards her Capuchins. I believe that you have maintained that love and have not sinned because regarding your good intention. However I absolve you from the excommunication because it was not your business to do violence to a religious person. Instead you should have made it known to me. Therefore next time you will be more careful. Do not think you have scandalised me. Rather I am completely edified by your good heart. Come with every confidence because I regard you as before.” So he sent her away with great joy and order that Fra Ludovico convene the Chapter.

338. It seemed to those venerable and judicious Friars who had come to our Congregation, whom we mentioned above, that the Congregation had been sent and directed very much by the Holy Spirit to the perfect observance of the Rule. Therefore they knew that the Chapter was necessary. Although he had made the promise to the Lady Marchioness, aware of this and seeing that Fra Ludovico continued nevertheless, they wrote again to Her Excellency. She personally returned to His Holiness and told him everything.

Padre Ludovico did not do this out of any suspicion he had about those venerable Fathers who had come again to the Congregation but because they were novices in the Congregation. He knew quite well that they were very holy men. On the other hand those who were established and old in the Congregation were mainly simple Friars. However those who had come recently were learned and high in the esteem of everyone. Therefore he considered that the positions of leadership[715] would go into their hands and that they would fill the Congregation with the ceremonies which they brought with them from whence they came. He abhorred those ceremonies so much that it made him worry and stay firm regarding the convocation of the Chapter. He felt his suspicion was reasonable since earlier some of them had persecuted the Congregation very much. Therefore he said, “Who knows if they have not come in order to ruin it?”

Truly this good Father loved the Congregation very tenderly since he had given birth to it with so many travails and sorrows. If it had been any one else I do not know how he would have succeeded amid so many persecutions as this good Father did by the grace of God. He was very much loved by everyone and I remember hearing this said by many Friars who never saw him, “I like to look at Fra Ludovico like Father Saint Francis. I really believe he is a very holy man and I have the greatest devotion towards him because if he were not a holy man he would never have been able to persevere amid so many travails.” If he had not excused himself, they certainly would have re-elected him. The Friars were sympathetic towards his weakness, as they should be, considering how many benefits they had received from him. Amen.

LXX: On the first General Chapter held in Rome in the year 1536 at Saint Euphemia

339. The Holy Spirit always assists the Church. 340. Consequences of the disagreement over the celebration of the Chapter. 341. Padre Ludovico was moved by good zeal. 342. The Chapter convoked in Rome. 343. New Superiors are elected. 344. Padre Ludovico contests the election. 345. The Chapter is convoked again for the month of September. 346. Effects of this convocation. 347. Bernardine of Asti comforts the Friars who are somewhat disorientated. 348. New consolations. Benefactors.

339. All the things of God are very well ordered and all the things ordained by God lead to the desired purpose with good means. This is clear in regard to the Church, the spouse of Jesus Christ. So that she would be the true spouse worthy of His Majesty, when he descended from heaven and became man, with his evangelical doctrine he himself gave her the very best form in which to be governed and render due worship to the Most Holy Trinity. When he died to fulfil our redemption he returned to heaven. Since it seemed to him correctly that men would not be adequate to govern this spouse of his, he sent them the Holy Spirit, so that not by others but by the Holy Spirit operating in men he would receive the due honour. By his immense goodness the Spirit perseveres continuously in the Church militant until the day of judgement, always teaching and correcting through the Prelates of the Church herself. The shape of the primitive Church was given by the Holy Spirit himself, as was the way she should resist the infernal enemy and the pestiferous doctrines of heretics. When the Holy Fathers assembled in the Sacred Councils, they condemned the false doctrines and other abuses which through the temptation of the devil were introduced into the body of Christianity. They reawakened and re-introduced in the Church that first shape that was given by the Holy Spirit himself.

Therefore, since he depended on the same Spirit as a legitimate son of Holy Church, our Father Saint Francis organised his little flock in the beginning and gave it the Rule that conformed to the apostolic life and that first shape which was given to the Church. He did this so that when through the instigation of the infernal enemy some laxity was introduced into the Order itself and it departed from the true observance of the Rule, that every year almost like a council the Fathers should assemble and reform the Province to which they belong. And every three years a General Chapter should assemble to provide for the whole Order so that it would be preserved in its first form.

340. Therefore our poor Congregation suffered a lot for having gone ten years without ever convoking a General Chapter. This was because in the beginning, from 1525 until 1528, the Congregation was always small in number and suffered so many persecutions. They were not only unable to convoke the Chapter, but they went a long time without seeing one another. For fear of being apprehended by the adversaries they remained hidden in the woods and caves. However when Clement VII granted the Bull in 1528 the poor fellows assembled in the hut at Albacina as we have mentioned above. This was the first General Chapter. Later, however, because of the grave persecutions, the poor fellows could not assemble. However when in 1536 the Congregation had grown to a large number, it was decided that a General Chapter be held. Yet because Padre Ludovico did not feel that this Chapter be held just yet for the aforesaid reasons, great ill feeling came about among our Fathers, even though truly they were all holy and each of them was moved by good zeal. There was the one with sound understanding who took this side: he saw that the Congregation was like that beginning which our Seraphic Father gave to the Order. Because of the antagonism of the Friars Francis wrote the Rule and there was the resistance that Brother Elias and all his followers gave him. For as long as our Father lived Brother Elias always opposed to him. Nevertheless there was always the one who would also take the wrong view when he saw disagreement among the servants of God because they were all regarded as saints by everyone and by the Prelates of Holy Church. However when the truth became known, the Congregation remained completely glorious in all her beauty. This was because it later bore the greatest fruit that had ever been borne in Christianity.

It is no wonder therefore that as long as we are in this world we are often visited by the Lord our God. This is because our weakness is such that there is no one, as holy as he may be, who cannot in a short time become a devil. However that Goodness who loves us so much, who helps us by keeping us between hope and fear and always cuts away those things that could make us proud. Because of this it is obvious that there has never been a Congregation so holy that there was not some member of Lucifer’s.

Hence there was not as much harm as there was gain because any one who trusts in himself does not receive instruction.

Such satisfaction was derived from this Chapter through the preaching done by our Preachers on the holy Apostle that it was written about throughout all Christendom. The Constitutions and other beautiful ordinances were made as will be said later. The Congregation was consolidated in such a way that from then onwards every doubt was removed from the heart of the Friars.

341. Being restrained therefore our Fathers compelled Padre Ludovico with many valid arguments that he should convoke the Chapter. Those Reverend Fathers showed the poor Fra Ludovico that it was a good thing in such a way that he no longer knew how to excuse himself. However he had his concept in mind which he did not dare to reveal. His idea was to guide the Congregation in the true and perfect observance of the Rule and he worried that celebrating a Chapter would ruin all his plans. Hence the resistance he gave was with holy zeal. He worried that it would be the final extermination of the poor Congregation. This was the greatest sorrow he suffered, that his good idea was understood by few or by none except by certain ones dear to him with whom he conferred in secret. The poor fellow was always supported by these few who understood his plan.

For his greater mortification it pleased the Lord God that he was not understood. So much confusion came from this misunderstanding that the whole Congregation turned on him. Such as human weakness goes those Reverend Fathers and the whole body of the Chapter did not estimate that his zeal was good or that the concept he had was good. The cause of all the trouble was that it wasn’t known. But since it seemed to them that it wasn’t zeal but an ambition, almost the whole Congregation turned its back on him.

342. Hence the Friars and the Lady Marchioness knew that even though he had promised to hold the Chapter because Her Ladyship insisted so much, nevertheless because he was a judicious man there was no shortage of ways to withdraw from the promise. Therefore they decided that Her Ladyship should go personally and notify His Beatitude, Paul III of happy memory, about the matter. The Lady Marchioness went and gave this information to His Holiness and impressed upon him how important it was that Fra Ludovico must hold the Chapter.

Having understood this His Holiness immediately sent a Bishop to Padre Ludovico on his behalf to impose upon him under obedience that he must hold the Chapter on the solemnity of Pentecost. So then Padre Ludovico made it know throughout all the Provinces that the Chapter would be held at Santa Euphemia and that all the Friars come who were of some consideration and suitable for leadership. Almost the entire multitude of Capuchins came to Santa Euphemia from all of Italy.

With all the vocals assembled in the refectory wanting to begin chapter business, this holy Chapter was opened in the name of God with all the ceremonies that the Order uses. It was 1536[716]. With everyone seated Padre Ludovico, as Head, gave a very beautiful sermon to the Friars. At the end he said these considered words. “Ever observant Reverend Fathers and brothers. You know how I have exhausted myself many, many years for this Congregation. It has been enough. God knows how much I have suffered persecutions and troubles. It is right that today I take a rest, especially since so many venerable and truly honourable[717] Fathers have come. Without comparison they are more capable than I to sustain this one but every other burden. Therefore unburden me and give the task to others because today is the time that I take a breather and rest.”

He said these proper and formal words. If he had not said them he would have been confirmed again (in office) with doubt according to the judgement of everyone. For he was already accustomed to that yoke and had managed it well for many years.

343. After the invocation of the Holy Spirit the elections were held. Six Father Definitors were elected. The first was Father Bernardine of Siena. The second was Father Bernardine of Asti. The third was Father John of Fano. The fourth was Father Eusebius of Ancona. I don’t remember the other two[718]. When they came to the election of the General, because Father Bernardine of Siena was the first Definitor, he gave a brief and well-suited sermon. He exhorted the Friars about the election with all sincerity. “So that you do not make a mistake by thinking that I am suitable for this office, do not vote for me. I want you to know that His Holiness does not want me to become General. To indicate this he has given me a Brief about it so that you might believe me. Do not be scandalised by this as if I am fleeing from the effort of helping the poor Congregation because this is not true. Rather this is happening because there are men here whom Saint Francis would choose them as companions if he were to return. It is not permissible for me to say more than that.”

Immediately Father Bernardine of Monte dell’Olmo replied. “You are obliged to indicate it and I offer myself to debate with you about it.”

Father Bernardine of Siena replied. “It is not necessary to reveal who it is. Anyone who has some judgement will know who it while discussing it.”

Thus the holy and blessed election was carried out. In the first scrutiny Father Bernardine of Asti was elected. He was both a learned man and good bearing[719] and holiness. He was perhaps the first in all the Franciscan Order in his day as was obvious. His teaching, his good governance and his holiness were obvious in the nine years in which he governed the entire poor Congregation. He was the one who guided it into true religious life.

344. When the election was done, therefore, the poor Padre Ludovico was not very happy about it, not because he wasn’t pleased with that venerable Father. For in popular opinion and reputation he was regarded by all the Order for who he was. However he knew him badly because it he felt that the Friars did not had not had the respect for him which he truly deserved.

I believe this was a secret judgement of God for on one occasion Padre Ludovico was in the Marches to speak about matters of the Order with a Reformed Conventual Father called Brother Nardo, a Perugian. Padre Ludovico was praising the Capuchin life to him. Brother Nardo replied, “It is not necessary that you praise it for me because I am certain that this is the true Reform of the Order of Saint Francis. And I know that you have exhausted yourself very much. None the less I tell you that you will not die in it.” Padre Ludovico replied, “What will be is what God will want.” This was regarded as a prophecy anyone who knew of it because Brother Nardo was a holy man and always lived in a reformed way like a Capuchin with his companion called Brother Rufino. I have known them both.

To return to Padre Ludovico. Once the election was done he often showed with external signs that he didn’t like this election, especially when a lay friar brought him the news. Moreover, the whole body of the Chapter had assembled in the refectory to eat, and Brother Bernard of Fossombrone, a lay friar, had mounted the pulpit to give a little sermon to the Friars while they ate. Brother Bernard was a man of great spirit and the Friars really enjoyed his simplicity. Padre Ludovico entered the refectory and made Brother Bernard come down. Climbing the pulpit he gave a short sermon. It would have been better that he hadn’t done it because it gave great grief to all those Fathers and because he showed himself to be very sad. This was not enough. He took his leave of all the Friars placed at the usual tables in their Provinces and houses. The poor Father was unable to calm down. Worrying whether the poor Congregation would go wrong under the leadership of that good Father Bernardine of Asti Fra Ludovico went off to find the Cardinal of Trani at the time[720] with whom he had great familiarity. He had often made use of his support in the various needs of the Congregation as they occurred. He told him that if the Congregation was ever in danger of being ruined, it was mores so then than ever before. And as His Lordship had always helped it, he should not want to fail it in this great need.

345. Moved by these words, the Cardinal went straight away to His Beatitude Paul III and gave him a full briefing about it. On hearing these things, like a most vigilant shepherd he wondered if some plague of ambition had entered the poor Congregation. Since he wanted to provide quickly, that holy pastor ordered that the General Chapter assemble again in Rome in the next September. The Father General simply did all that His Holiness commanded.

346. That His Holiness had the General Chapter assemble again was of no small importance to the poor Congregation. This was because the Congregation was very young and not well established. Because it was the first Chapter everyone hoped that the Congregation would have become firmer in that Chapter. When they saw it was in danger more than ever because of Padre Ludovico and other poor men, and worrying about what our barque would go through, some withdrew to the solitary life and some to other Religious Orders. I knew many such as Father Joseph of Macerata and Father Bernard of Borgo Sansepolcro. That saintly man Brother Anthony Corso[721] and many others withdrew with Padre Ludovico. They took up a place in Rome called Saint Thomas’. Brother Augustine of Bassanello and many others stayed with Padre Ludovico. All this produced a great fear that the Congregation would be completely ruined. The desire of many Fathers to advance the Congregation cooled as they wondered if His Holiness would deprive us of the cowl and submit us to the Zoccolanti Fathers.

Our adversaries did not fail to sow a lot of darnel against us by speaking with His Holiness. They went to visit many of our friendly personages. They said to them, “Didn’t we tell you often that there they had no foundations? Everything they do is nothing other than ambition in order to draw the people along behind them and make them believe with that austerity that they were true observers of the Rule. However they are hypocrites. Look now at their first Chapter. Now they are divided among themselves because each of them wants to dominate. It would be best if Your Holiness took that cowl off their heads and had them submit to our obedience. Because in a short time none of them will remain when they see themselves under obedience since they are used to going around like vagabonds and each one doing his own thing. One day they will give some great scandal if His Holiness does not make them return to us.”

All these views spread everywhere. The simple Friars entered into a great fear. They said among themselves, “What do we want to do? For myself, I do not want to return again into transgression of the Rule. To go to other Religious Orders is not fitting. Let us prepare ourselves to go off into the desert. Father Saint Francis put it into the Rule that if it is not possible to observe it in the Order the Friars may go alone or with the companion to the desert, if the Pope checked these words well[722]. Therefore blessed was the one who prepared mantles, guns, hatchets and other things to go to the desert. For many months there was talk of little else.

347. Immediately the Father General began to visit and console the poor Friars that they did not have to worry about anything. “As long as were are in the perfect observance of the Rule God will never abandon us nor permit the Congregation to be deprived of the habit of Father Saint Francis. It has been hidden for such a long time and His Majesty has now revealed it we, by his grace, are clothed in it. No should we believe that the Lord God would wish to deprive us of it without cause. Neither the Order nor any Reform has ever been so universally and in such perfect observance as our Congregation is today, and do you want God to deprive us of it? I will never believe that because when His Majesty grants some benefit to an Order, he never deprives it of that benefit as long as it is not used badly or for some dreadful sin. This is not the case among us who are, by the grace of God, in the perfect observance of the Rule. Therefore be of good courage because there isn’t any danger. I have spoke with His Holiness and he is fond of us. He has no plan to ruin us as our adversaries say, or to submit us to the Zoccolanti Fathers. Instead he did everything to satisfy Padre Ludovico and because of some suspicion that His Holiness, like other Prelates of the Church, had that there may be some ambitious Friars among us. He did this to purge the Congregation, not to ruin it. Rather I tell you and assure you that the Congregation will never be impeded from what it has been granted. It will never be ruined except by itself. As long as it walks in the footsteps of our Father Saint Francis, as it has until now, it will always be safe.”

Everything that His Very Reverend Paternity said was fulfilled because the Congregation was never certain of perseverance as long as that second Chapter was not held.

On the other hand when the simple Friars said that they were worried that the congregation would be ruined and therefore they wanted to go into the desert, some of those more attuned to the spirit laughed. They referred to the words of Blessed Giles when a Friar asked him, “What will we do my father if persecution comes in our own times?” The holy man answered, “If we are in the observance of the Rule, even if rocks fall from heaven they will not harm us.” Our Lord knows very well that we cannot observe our profession and give him due honour without the Order. The Order sustains us like a mother keeps us so that even though there may be many well established in the spirit and enlightened by God in contemplation, that if the Order were to be ruined these would be able to maintain themselves in the desert places helped by God. However so many simple, young and old Friars with whom there is not enough spirit, if the Congregation were to go bad, all these would perish. Some would return to the world and others to lax Orders, so that God would be little honoured by it. Therefore do not worry whether his Majesty will preserve it or not.” In this way they were consoled.

348. It pleased the Lord God that many men of great value came from the Order to our Congregation during these difficulties. Among all these was the great servant of God and very learned Brother Francis Tittelmans with his two companions, Brother Leonard, a priest, and Brother Martin, a lay friar. These brought great favour to the Congregation both because they were learned and because of the great hope that they would have of favouring the Congregation with their learning and their great reputation. There was great favour also with His Holiness and Prelates of the Church with the coming of these outstanding men. And this was not small affront to the adversaries. Many noble and famous seculars were also clothed (in the habit). Thus it was obvious that if the Lord God struck us on the one hand, on the other he never failed to help us and console us while walking on such a harsh journey. For the Capuchins were in the extremities of suffering, especially in eating. Because of their many fasts on bread and water no one was ever seen with any colour in his face. Nor was there any shortage of the devil’s temptations. Still within a short time those poor Friars who had left returned again to the Congregation and gave the greatest joy to everyone with their presence. For they were so united in love and charity that when anyone left they felt heartbroken. The great servant of God Brother Anthony Corso did the same. Padre Ludovico remained almost alone. Of those who did not return, almost all died badly. They acknowledged and said frankly to anyone who wanted to listen, “Brothers, do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the devil. Know that there is nothing better than the Capuchins. If we had not returned it would been easy for us to die damned.”

This confirmed many simple Friars who were tempted by solitude.

Also the support many important persons gave them was also great. They persuaded His Holiness that he should embrace the Congregation of Capuchins. The Lord Camillo Orsino was one. He always supported the Congregation most faithfully. Her Ladyship Victoria Colonna, the Marchioness of Pescara supported the Congregation not only by herself. She tried to convert many Lords and to draw them with letters and words to devotion towards the Capuchins. These were continuously at the ear of His Holiness. The adversaries could not say a single word in Court without them knowing about it. Point by point they rebutted their schemes and machinations against the Congregation and disposed His Holiness to do everything good for it.

Also there was no small benefit in that certain important persons who persecuted the Congregation died one after the other within a short time.

However what was more important were the fervent holy prayers sent continuously to the Lord God for the preservation of our Congregation. Writing to the whole Congregation, the Father General continuously advised that ardent prayers be offered. To the praise of God. Amen.

LXI: How the General Chapter assembled again in Rome in the month of September by command of His Holiness Paul III

349. The fear and uncertainty of the Friars. 350. The Cardinal of Trani presides at the Chapter. 351. Bernardino of Asti is re-elected General. 352. Ludovico expounds his points of view at Chapter. 353. He abandons the Congregation. 354. His end. 355. The exhortation of The Cardinal of Trani. 356. The benevolence of the Pontiff.

349. With all the material creatures created by the Most High God was co-created and joined an encompassing quality that inclines them each to its end where like a centre they are preserved and are at rest. While they have not yet arrived at their centres or their ends for which our Lord God has created them they never rest but are always in motion. Similarly spiritual creatures always struggle and are never at rest until they arrive at their end. The Apostles of Jesus Christ, having already tasted the holy conversation of the Son of God who had left them by bodily death and returned to his Father, were never content nor ever rested until through bodily death they were united in heaven with their much beloved and sweet Master. This made them with every degree of perfection despise the world with all its things. Rather then they were contented when they saw themselves in conformity with the life of the Lord. Their desire to return to his presence was so great that they desired with an intense desire to be all martyred, having carved in their heart to every rejoice outside of the enjoyment of their Lord.

It was just like this with the poor Congregation of Capuchins. Most of them had been fugitives in the mountains and in the woods for about ten years for fear of being captured and returned again to the lax life. So with many tears the servants of God continuously commended themselves to him so that he would give them the grace to be able to settle in order to dedicate themselves perfectly to holy contemplation, so dear to God. They knew that in the sea of this world one cannot taste God in the slightest way except through holy contemplation. While being so afflicted and travailed it didn’t seem they could enjoy the purpose of religious life, which is holy prayer. Therefore being unsettled was a great affliction for them. They very often said to one another, “We have always thought and hoped that when the General Chapter gathered the Congregation would have to be consolidated. Now we find ourselves more unsettled than ever. It seemed to us for many years that a short time would pass in order to see what may become of us. There is hope in that His Holiness has taken up the task to erect and calm the Congregation. For since the Order was founded at the time of our Father Saint Francis when there was some doubt born the Order has always had recourse to the Holy Shepherd of the Church. His Holiness has always provided for its needs. Therefore were are of good courage because it was not without reason that he had had this Chapter reconvene. The Order has never received any harm from the Pontiff.”

350. By the grace of God therefore the designated time came. All the vocals were assembled again in Santa Euphemia. It caused great astonishment among seculars and disturbed the entire poor Congregation. None the less, as it pleased God, His Holiness ordered that not only the vocals come but all the Friars who could. And so it was done. Furthermore His Holiness made the Cardinal of Trani his Commissary at the Chapter. When the body of the Chapter had gathered in the refectory in order to being the holy Chapter, His Lordship gave them a very beautiful sermon. He spoke about the charity and holy union which they had to have with one another and about the grace which God had given them in calling them from the world to serve His Majesty in such a Congregation. He also spoke about risk, not only that which had been in the past, but which was still present more than ever. Therefore they had to be with the fear of God and walk straight ahead in everything with truth, simplicity and purity of heart, especially in the election. The election had to be done with all sincerity and far from any subornation. The Friars should strip themselves completely of all ambition that is like a venomous snake. ‘Where it enters and bites it poisons the whole body and puts at risk anyone who is struck by its bite. Therefore you should come to this election with that fear of God which is necessary for good and holy Religious, electing the one you judged to be the best and most suitable for this office. Thus your election will be carried out not only canonically but also in a holy way.’

351. When the Cardinal finished speaking the came to the invocation of the Holy Spirit and then the election of scrutineers. The Cardinal wanted to be one of them. They began to count the votes. It was a wonderful thing that those little brothers went with so much simplicity to give their vote to the Monsignor who was in the middle of the other two scrutineers. As is the custom, one of them wrote down the votes. Once they had given their vote they kissed His Lordship’s hand. When he saw the great simplicity and purity of those servants of God he derived such devotion and was completely convinced and well edified. Astonished, he took joy in watching those Friars proceed with such modesty, silence and devotion. The same Father Bernardine of Asti was elected unanimously in the first ballot. Thus he was announced as General and confirmed by the Cardinal. On behalf of His Holiness he handed him the seals. In the presence of all the Chapter he offered himself to Father Bernardine and the Congregation for the future as defender, benefactor and father of all, just as he had been before.

Then he turned to Padre Ludovico and encouraged him to give all his obedience to the Father General and to help him as much as he could.

352. The entire body of the Chapter gathered again in the refectory on returning from the church after the election. As is the custom His Lordship wanted the entire Chapter to be seated each in his place. While all the Friars were gathered together with the Cardinal, a lay Friar came into the refectory. I knew him by sight but I do not remember his name[723]. Beside himself like a drunk man, in the middle of the refectory he threw himself to the floor and rolled three times[724]. Then with great fervour he turned to Padre Ludovico and said, “You imagine yourself to have made this Congregation and you are deceiving yourself very much because Jesus Christ has done this an not you. While it may be true that you have struggled ten years for the Congregation and all the things went well for you thanks to the Congregation. The one time you have disagree with the Congregation and you have knocked down its Head. Pride does not please God!” He then gave a little jump and fled away. This was a great surprise to everyone.

The Cardinal began to speak again. Turning to Bother Ludovico he said to him, “Padre Ludovico , I encourage you to be at peace and be calm. If, for you peace of mind, you wish to propose something to the Congregation, say it confidently in the presence of these Fathers so that anything that can be done to satisfy you may not be overlooked.

Padre Ludovico replied, “Monsignor and other Fathers. I asked three things that have always been my intention for the Congregation to observe. The first is this. I wish the Friars to work and that they may live partly from their own labours. The second is this. That just as the Father General of the Conventuals confirms the election of our General, according to the Bull our General should receive that confirmation from the Father General of the Zoccolanti. The third is that the Friars should lead an eremitical life and exercise themselves in holy contemplation. It was never my will to make a Reform that would return again to the laxity of the others, being subjected to many superfluous and fruitless ceremonies, but that the Vicars keep a sharp eye to receive just a few and good men. Houses should be established far from the cities so that while being withdrawn the Friars would not get entangled with the world, but exercise themselves in abstinence and holy contemplation. For there is no need to make another Order that lives in a lax manner like the others and which again returns to large convents, studies, confessions, learning to chant and other similar ceremonies as good as they may be. However the Church of God does not need someone to do these things since she has many who do these things already. Rather the Church does need someone to revive the ancient fervour and good customs of the early Fathers and holy Religious. For just as we see all the Orders if they have become lax and leave the solitary houses, they have retreated to the delights of the city. Therefore this was my intention. To make a Congregation of a few, perfect observers of the Rule of Saint Francis who only exercise themselves mainly in the true observance of poverty. As for preachers who have to preach in the cities they should be only a few, good ones of them and only a few good ones of those learned men who come to the Congregation. Because our Reform would be vain if we should return in a short time to that lax life which we led in the Order before. God has given us a great grace in that he has separated completely by habit and customs from the others. I would be content by an act of union regarding representation and dependency on the General. As for everything else we would be of that kind that our Father Saint Francis calls Friars of the desert. He says he wants to be one of those and calls them Friars of the round table, separated by His Majesty from all the others in the deserted places in order to listen to and contemplate very attentively what Our Lord God says to their minds[725]. This has been the sorrow which has weighed on me the most, that I see this poor Congregation which has been made with so much struggle and brought to this conclusion, that in a short time it has to return to the flesh pots of Egypt.

Padre Ludovico concluded and the Cardinal turned to the Fathers, saying, “And you, Fathers, how do you respond?”

The Father General wanted the first Definitor to reply, who answered, “Monsignor, to the first proposal of Padre Ludovico I reply that I have also always been of this opinion that in observance of the Rule that the Friars work manually. None the less, some agree, some disagree. Yet we are about to resolve that. The second proposal about being under the Zoccolanti, we are of the contrary opinion. As for the third, we will establish an arrangement that partly attends to contemplation, partly to the divine office, to study and other necessary things since preaching and helping one’s neighbour is no less important that working and staying so isolated.

353. Rising to his feet the Cardinal, somewhat stunned, said loudly, “O Father, why did you have to speak?” He was stunned that he had replied only four words to such a long speech of Brother Ludovico. With great kindness the Cardinal turned to Ludovico and encouraged him to be at peace. Then the Father General with all the Father Definitors all with tears threw themselves upon their knees in front of Padre Ludovico . They begged him to be at peace. They said he would always be the patron of the Congregation and offered him to choose whichever companion, province and house he wanted. They said that whatever he desired would allows be given him. However when the Cardinal saw that he was obstinate, he reprimanded him, forbidding him to ever come before him again. Then he turned to the Fathers and said to them, “My Fathers, it is better for you that this Father stay by himself because he would always oblige you to do something. Therefore allow us to help him there.”

Thus is happened for His Holiness gave him a Brief so that he could stay off on his own with the capuchin habit. However because the Bull commands that the pointed cowl may not be worn outside the Congregation, he wanted the point of the cowl to be removed. And so the poor Father stayed here one minute and there the next. Never the less he always gave good example.

354. At the end of fourteen years our Father General, Father Eusebius of Ancona, told me when I was in Rome to go and find Padre Ludovico who was in the city of Perugia at the time. He told me on his behalf to beg him to return to the Congregation. I went and begged him warmly. The poor fellow answered me, “I have been outside the Congregation for fourteen years and no one has ever made the offer or said the words that this Father says to me!” So within a few days he returned was received and placed in the house of Amelia[726]. The poor fellow was very happy there. However when this reached the ears of Lord Carpi[727], Protector of the Franciscan Order, he wanted him sent away again. Why it was is unknown. The poor fellow departed weeping. Nor has it ever been possible to know what had become of him except I was told the he was staying in the mountains of Cagli in a hidden place which no one knew about but a certain friend of his who took him bread once a week. He led an anchoritic life. However since I have not been able to know for certain, I cannot affirm more than that. It is enough that there is an example for all to keep one’s head lowered and to fear the judgements of God.

355. Returning to Monsignor Trani. With great kindness he turned to the body of the Chapter and said to them, “My Fathers, be of good courage, because I have been completely edified by this holy Congregation. I have seen very well and first hand that there is no ambition among you, which I doubted at first. Rather there is only simplicity. I have always supported you and will support you more than ever. Be careful to make good use of this beautiful state that our Lord God has given you in the womb of the Holy Church in these such wicked times. Do not fail yourselves or the Church who has so much hope in you because you are regarded as holy men by every one. All eyes are on you and there is no other mirror today which shows us the apostolic life. There is no other Order in which the image of holiness and observance of the gospel of Christ except in your Congregation. I tell you that in the Court, when one wants to use some metaphor for holy men we say, ‘he is like a Capuchin!’ On the other hand, in this garden of Saint Francis with so many beautiful plants the enemy of human nature will not fail to sow some wild, foul smelling weed. Therefore help yourselves with the example which our Lord gave us. After his resurrection he appeared to Magdalen in the form of a gardener[728] with a hoe in his hand. It was as if from then on he would be like a gardener always ready to root out all the weeds which would come forth in the garden of the Holy Church after His Majesty was assumed into heaven. Do likewise yourselves. Do not spare the hoe. I say this to you Superiors. Root out the weeds if you want to continue. Do not be too ready to receive too many of them because they are few the chosen of God whom His Majesty will support so much that they will be able to endure this life. Where there is a multitude is precisely where confusion emerges. Be humble. Where there is humility, there is God, and where there is God this is every good. I will not fail to keep His Holiness informed. Know that if you persevere in you simplicity you will always be supported and helped by His Holiness and the whole Court.”

Thus he departed, blessing everyone on behalf of His Holiness. That holy Prelate recommended himself humbly to everyone to pray for His Holiness, for all the Church “and for me who am completely yours.”

356. On returning he informed His Holiness and all the Court very well. He depicted them all as holy men. As a result, because everyone already loved the poor Congregation, it was loved much more from then on. In particular His Holiness embraced us and gave us the Bull and every possible support. This was one of the things that consolidated our Congregation more than any other Bull or favours that it had received. For until this time there had always been some doubt because of the many problems that the Congregation had. After this a great multitude of Friars came from the Order, and even more seculars. Novitiates were ordered in all the Provinces. To the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ, of his most fair Mother and of Father Saint Francis. Amen.

LXII: On the great support that Paul III’s Bull gave to our Congregation

357. The doubts and anxieties of the first years. 358. The Bull Expone nobis. 359. How Francis of Iesi announced it to the Friars of Foligno.

357. While their beloved Master was present with them the Apostles of Christ were never perfectly enlightened and completely convinced that he was the true Messiah. Doubts always remained. If on seeing the miracles their Master did they strengthened their belief that he was the true Son of God, none the less in his passion they all lost faith. If the Lord had not confirmed them for forty days with many appearances they would have been completely desperate. Therefore it was necessary that our Lord confirm the Holy Church with every degree of perfection after his death and before he ascended into heaven.

So it was with the Congregation of Capuchin Friars. There was little with which to begin. However if then God and those first Fathers of ours had not helped it, it would have been completely ruined. For there was always a doubt in the hearts of the Friars that it would arrive safe and sound to its safe harbour[729]. This lasted for ten years in which time the poor Reform suffered so many shipwrecks that everyone often thought if had to go to ruin. This was because there was no other authentic Bull obtained from His Holiness except the one Padre Ludovico obtained from Clement VII in 1528. However because the Pontiffs were dying there were not many that with great difficulty could obtain their Bulls. Therefore there was a lot of doubt. For on the one hand there were very powerful persecutors who always had the ear of His Holiness. And on the other hand the Congregation was small, with many weak and simple Friars. They could not come from the Order because there was the Brief that excommunicated them if they did. As for the seculars, when they saw such an austere life, although many had the desire, they were none the less frightened by that austerity of life. The poor fellows stayed in those little houses in deserted places so that they were rarely seen. However like solitary sparrows abandoned by everyone they stayed under the wings of Our Lord, waiting on his mercy so that one day he would consolidate their poor Reform, they sought nothing else except to be able to serve Jesus Christ.

Hence all day, when they had said their office they abandoned their dwelling and fled into woods to pour out their tears. They were so inflamed in the love of God that they seemed to be like so many Seraphim. Then when they emerged from the wood they were so much like Maccharius, Anthony and Hilary. This was the reason that those servants of God always remained steadfast amid so much suffering in the Congregation. For even though they lacked many diversions for the maintenance of human life, their love of God was such that it kept them happy and fed their bodies. This was the real foundation that was given to our Congregation -–suffering with spirit. When comforts came and peace was given to the Congregation, the same thing happened as it did to the early Church when it received peace under Constantine the Great. Christians gave themselves more surely to the comforts of the body. However as long as persecution lasted the Church was always full of holy martyrs who fill heaven. In this way war benefited them more than peace. Thus it was with the poor Congregation of Capuchins. For when Paul III gave us the Bull[730] the external persecutions partly ceased. All the Friars were overjoyed, as it occasioned great joy among them.

358. Hence when the Friars from the Chapter they said with great joy, “Let us rejoice brothers because the Lord God likes us for when we wondered if the Congregation would be ruined, then the Lord God exalted it more. He has consolidated it so that now there is no more danger that it will go to ruin. The adversaries who bit at it have been struck with such a bite that they no longer dare to speak about it. Now we are glad and let us make use[731] of this possibility that we have received from God to perfectly observe the Rule we have promised to God. Let us be careful not to use this benefit badly because our Lord God would deprive us of it. Let us strive,” said those holy old men, “to avoid wasting time and from too much conversation with seculars and with Friars because it cools the spirit very much. From this emerge idle words and countless disturbances[732]. But let us all dedicate ourselves to holy contemplation that our Father Saint Francis and all the Order at that time practised so much. Because of this the Rule tells us: ‘May those who do not know letters care to learn them, but above all they should desire to have the Spirit of the Lord and his holy operation[733], which is all those things which make us suitable for prayer, to pray always to God with a pure heart. Although all these things that our Father put in the Rule may be very important and if observed well dispose us marvellously to holy contemplation, none the less it shows nothing was closer to his heart than holy contemplation. It is the ain of all the other things. Therefore the venerable the venerable Father Bernardine of Asti said, “As long as the Friars observe the Rule God will always defend the Congregation. Yet they will not be able to observe the Rule unless they dedicate themselves to pray because the aim of the entire Rule is nothing else but holy contemplation. Therefore let us established ourselves well in holy humility, the most stable foundation of all the virtues. And let us enjoy this beautiful gift that God has given us.”

This Bull was the reason that many came to the Congregation both from the Order and from among seculars. Then the Congregation held it head high. Many houses were established in all the Provinces of Italy. When they used to go on a journey and met with Religious, with great joy they used to tell them, “I don’t know if you know our Friars are no longer thinking about coming to your Order as you told your friends. Instead our Congregation has received many of your Friars. It would be much better to speak well of your Friars than to go around telling seculars that we are finished. Have patience. Our Congregation has never been better than today. May God forgive us everyone.”

Brother Angelo da Collescipuli[734], a very simple old lay Friar, when he came across certain friends of his, said, “Rejoice brothers because His Holiness supports our Reform. He has given us all his blessing and such an authentic, favourable and complete Bull whose like has never been received before.”

359. When the venerable Father Francis of Iesi was in the friary at Foligno he gave a very beautiful sermon to the Friars. He was bring the news about the Bull just received. “You know beloved brothers that the first sons[735] and the last sons[736] are dearest to their Father. We have seen this spiritually in the Holy Church. For in the early Church those early saints were so cherished by His Majesty that he granted them with great kindness whatever they asked of him. It was well known that they were dear sons because he was so familiar with them by appearing to them and working such stupendous miracles through the Apostles and Martyrs. This is just how it was at the beginning of our Order. He was so familiar with our Father Saint Francis and all those early Fathers that he has never since shown so much love to anyone else. The same today because we see in our Congregation that we can say that we are the youngest sons because we are closer to the day of judgement. Even though many Reforms have been done, nonetheless there has never been one so cherished and favoured by God and by Holy Church like our Congregation today. When the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers began they were unable to obtain anything for many years until the gathering of the Council of Constance. When the Blessed John of Capistrano obtained a declaration he wanted it read publicly with great solemnity from the pulpit for it seemed to him that had received some great benefit[737]. Today we have obtained from Holy church all those favours that we wanted like the last sons of the Eternal Father. I say youngest because in all the world there are few who have not turned their backs on Jesus Christ. We are the vilest men in the whole world. Because of a little good will in us, our Lord cherishes us so much that there was never a Congregation so cherished by the Church and its Prelates. But what will say about the world? Was there ever an Order more cherished than us? On the one hand we should rejoice about it and on the other we should fear that if we are not grateful to him, God will need to make another hell more horrendous and more painful that the one he has made and where he may put us. There is no sin in the world that displeases God more than ingratitude. Therefore with all the opportunities we have to serve God, if we are not all saints we will be the unhappiest creatures to be found in the world. If God will have some compassion on the other Religious, and they will be very much excused because they did not have the opportunity, what excuse however will we have? We deserve our venial sins be imputed to us a mortal sins. As Religious we are more detached from the world than many others since we don’t have confessions and other involvement with seculars. We will live on alms, unlike those who live off their income[738]. It is necessary for them to take care of possessions and of taking collections at the proper time and make other efforts that are necessary before the fruits of the earth may be enjoyed. We however, without any effort, enjoy cooked bread, filtered wine and ripe fruit. The Holy Spirit could not have given us could not have given us a more expedite way to have the necessities of nature than to live by begging so that we might have more time to be able to attend to divine worship and to mental prayer in particular. Therefore Our Lord does not lack those who strive to gain things. However he has very few in the world who praise him and who afire with his love through holy contemplation. Therefore our Father Saint Francis say our Lord revealed to him, “Know, Francis, that I have asked from my Father a people who are only happy with me. Therefore I have chosen you along with all those who want to follow you as my special servants, and I will provide for them in all their needs.[739]

“Therefore, my sons and brothers, behold the promises of Our Lord. Just as he cares for us so he provides for us. Who would ever have hoped to receive these favours from the Holy Pontiff? It is for no other reason except the will of Our Lord who inspires the Holy Pontiff and all the Prelates of Holy Church and the whole world to always do us good, so that we may be the means between God and sinners. If they continually offend him, we continually praise him and placate the anger of his Majesty. The whole world cries, ‘Pray! Pray for us!’ Therefore what are we to do if not to completely strip ourselves of ourselves and give our heart to God? This is what he wants from us. Who would be so wicked then to want to do something other than praise his Majesty who has placed us in such a noble state where we do on earth what the blessed spirits do in heaven?”To the praise and glory of his Majesty. Amen.

LXIII: About some lax Friars who gave great resistance to both the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers and the Capuchin Reform.

360. Opposition given to the Zoccolanti Reform and the Capuchin Reform. 361. The conduct of the General Paul Pisotti of Parma. 362. The reprimand given him by Sixtus of Rivarolo. 363. Advantageous consequences for the Capuchins.

360. Just how important a good leader and holy leadership is to the Order may be seen in this. As long as our Seraphic Father lived the Order was always completely innocent and within the most perfect state of true evangelical observance, just as the author of the Memoriale della Religione [740]says. And as we see in all rulings[741] both spiritual and temporal, the Order prospers in so far as these things are directed by good guides. Hence you must know that when the Congregation began it was very much attacked not only by the Order but also by certain lax Friars for whom living the Rule seemed to great an evil. Therefore when those zealous Fathers used to talk about the Reform when they were in the Order at the time, these lax Friars immediately opposed them with all their power. They sought to impede it as much as they could; not only so that the Reform not be done, but that it not even be talked about. The Lord God usually does not give full power to the enemy. However he only relaxes his grip in so far as it fulfils his plan and produces a benefit for his elect. Therefore they could not much impugn what the Reform had become. However it went along weakly, the Capuchin Reform happened. If they attacked their own Reform, they strove much more viciously to impede and annihilate ours. They were unable to do much because at the time a General who feared God very much governed the Order[742]. They were unable to turn him to their way of thinking. Rather he always took the side of the enthusiastic Friars and of the good. He always supported the Reform even though feebly because of the great opposition he had. In this way both Reforms endured. Because this leader was not wicked nor a persecutor of the good, but rather he favoured them, the adversaries thought up another piece of malice. Since the General Chapter was soon and in order to expire the office of that good Father, they strove with their machinations and ways to have some one elected who was completely in accord with their will. They wanted someone who hated all those that he saw to be inclined towards a good life and true observance of the Rule.

361. He was very learned, but lax and without spirit[743]. When the whole multitude gathered for the General Chapter in Messina on 12 May 1532, for the feast of Pentecost, they elected this learned man who was wanted so much by the lax Friars. He was the greatest enemy the Capuchin Congregation ever had. He no sooner took up the post of General than he began with great fury to persecute the poor Congregation. When he came to Rome he completely let go of the fear of God as bridle for himself. When those Fathers in Calabria sent him their letter asking him to allow them to be able to reform, he sought with great astuteness take hold of the bears of the letter to put them in prison. Then like an unchained lion he struck at those Fathers in order to get rid of them if they had not been helped by our Lord God by means of the Most Excellent Lord the Duke of Nocera. The Duke was like a father to the Fathers of Calabria in that beginning when they began the Capuchin Reform in those parts as will be described in its place[744]. However when he came to Rome he made use of all the Christian Princes in order to knock down this poor Congregation to the ground. He used letters to be favoured by them with His Holiness. He sought and obtained Briefs which fulminated so much that they not only excommunicated those who joined the Capuchins, but also anyone who gave them alms, anyone who received them into his homes, and anyone who spoke with them. As is described in its place, he put Padre Ludovico in prison with the intention of having him die in jail. However the Lord miraculously delivered him from his hands.

It would be a shame to commit to paper what he did to the Reform of the Zoccolanti Fathers. He sent Commissaries to the Provinces and said he sent them to promote the Reform. When he found Friars who supported it or who wanted to join it, he had them put in prison. On one occasion one of the friends of this General who at that time was Minister and belonged to that clique of lax Friars, when a holy old man went to ask him permission to come to the Capuchins. Furious, he took a lump of wood and clubbed him as much as he wanted. I could name others, both perpetrators and victims[745], but for the sake of appropriateness I will not put it down on paper, because I know both. Of those who were imprisoned many things could be said of those lax Friars without spirit. However since it seems to me this matter should not be enlarged upon, I will leave it.

362. This wretch lasted some years. In this time our congregation suffered extraordinarily. It pleased the Lord God that when this General went on visitation, this happened in the Friary at Mantua. A holy man was there called Brother Sistus, who was adorned by miracles and was regarded a very holy man by everyone. He had many revelations from god. One of them was this. He was called by the General on visitation and asked if he wanted to say anything in the visitation. The servant of God knelt down and answered him with many tears. “Reverend Father, I have nothing else to speak about in this visitation except your defects. Therefore I ask your pardon and I regret I have to say this bad news. Therefore know what Our Lord has revealed to me and wants me to tell you. The Reform was extremely necessary for the full observance of our Rule and by the merits and prayers of our Seraphic Father God had granted it to the Order. Because you and your followers have impugned the Reform of the Order and put it all into confusion, Father Saint Francis has begged from our Lord God that the said Reform be done whether you want it or not. However it will not be done within the Order but in another habit. It will be detached from you r Order completely. And so because of your demerits and your complicities you have deprived the Order of the Reform which was so necessary for it. Because of this the Lord God does not want you to continue in this office. Rather within a short time you will be removed with your great vilification and you will die miserably as a persecutor of those who want to do good.” This holy man began to weep so uncontrollably since ti was so close to his heart. For a good while he was unable to say the slightest word. However, rising before the General, he hurried back to his cell. Just as all the Friars saw, for many days he did little else but weep as he considered the anger of God which had to befall that General and the great harm to souls which had to follow on in his Order. For he had impeded such a good thing which God had granted it because of the merits of Father Saint Francis.

The prophecy of the holy man was fulfilled for not long after, by the just judgement of God, that General was deprived of office and died in a most miserable way[746].

When this man had died, our Congregation breathed somewhat. Everyone understood that he knew that the Lord fought for us. They were so lost that from then on that clique dissolved completely, especially because the government of the Order changed. The man[747] who was elected in his place proceeded with more fear of God although he did not fail to do all he could to stop anyone coming to the Capuchins from the Order.

363. The frightening death of that poor fellow was a great benefit to those who had desired to come to the Capuchins. For it was known that the matter was from God because his opinion did great harm because they said that the Capuchin Reform was not the true Reform and that it would last only a short time. However when they saw how God helped the Reform many great servants of God decided to come. It was also instructive for the adversaries who withdrew for fear of the anger of God. It was instructive also to Padre Ludovico da Fossombrone since even he began to doubt whether the Reform would be able to achieve it goal because he had been so beaten on account of the grave tribulations. Therefore the vengeance was very opportune because he grew in courage and he was so strengthened that from then on, as he used to say, no doubt ever entered his mind that the Congregation came from God. The poor fellow said, “In the depth of our misery the Lord God has given us a helping hand. Therefore sons let us not be ungrateful to him and let us acknowledge this benefit from him. For I frankly confess that even though I was struggling very much, none the less because of all the opposition it was impossible that this outcome happen by human means. However we have received from the mercy of God because as for myself I was totally lost in such intrigues for many years, because God always enlightened me regarding the situations and all my undertakings ….”

LXIV: About the disturbance and little edification the aforementioned controversy over Padre Ludovico gave to the Roman Court

364. Bad example. 365. Disastrous impression caused by Padre Ludovico’s conduct. 366. The Pope shows his kindness towards the Capuchins. 367. Cardinal Quiones does the same. 368. The Irish Friars ask the Capuchins to accept them. 369. The campaign against the Capuchins after the Chapter of 1536.

364. No matter how simple a person may be, I believe every one can know on his own just how much bad example has been the of great evil at every time and in all the nations of the world. In the Old Testament because of the bad example given by some scoundrels in a city of the tribe of Judah and done against the wife of a Levite, the tribe of Benjamin was almost completely eradicated by command of God[748] as a result of that scandal and bad example. It would be too much to want to describe the harm which bad example has always done in the world. It would be enough to say that from it come almost all evils. On the other hand every good is born of good example. Our Lord’s saying to the Hebrews wasn’t without purpose, “Which of you would accuse me of sin?[749]” He wanted to show that the good example and the good life of a man are almost impossible unless they re from God. It is clear sign that a man is in the grace of God because all God works that are acceptable to God are from the Holy Spirit. So on the contrary bad works in men are a clear sign that they are stripped of divine grace and possessed by the infernal enemy and all the evil they do they do by instigation of the devil.

365. Therefore this is what caused the disturbance which Padre Ludovico gave in the General Chapter held in Rome when he had that disagreement with all the other Fathers of the Chapter. This spread abroad and was known not only by the Friars but also by the whole Roman Court that was taken by great surprise. When this first affront was reported to His Holiness he held a poor opinion of the whole Congregation, wondering if it was infected by ambition. For everyone expected quite the opposite, that the Friars were all saints since they were thin and pallid because of their many fasts and because they all went around barefoot and dressed in habits of coarse natural wool which they used more as sackcloth than to keep warm. Therefore they said, “How is it possible that any of those poor fellows might desire to dominate in such a miserable life?” They talked about this a lot among themselves in such a way that all those Prelates who first supported them turned their backs on them. However this didn’t spread around too much even though it was discussed among the noblemen and judicious persons. As for me who is writing this, at that time I was in the city of Siena. I was required to go as companion of the alms questor, the priest Father Bernard of Seggiano. He was called by a nobleman who said to him, “Father Bernard, I want to know if what is said is true.” Brother Bernard replied, “May Your Lordship say whatever he wants so that I may reply.” The nobleman said, “It is said here that a disagreement has broken out between two of your Fathers in that when the Chapter was held in Rome each of them wanted to be General. One them, because he couldn’t be General has left you and has made another sect. So where there used to be one Congregation before, now there are two Capuchin Congregations.” Brother Bernard replied. “My Lord, the rumour that our Congregation is anything other than one Congregation is false. It is true that the Father who founded the Congregation, because things did not go the way he wanted in that Chapter is a little angry. Since he founded it he loves it very tenderly. Like a zealous person it seemed to him that it would be organised in such a way that its austerity would be somewhat moderated because it could not last with everyone. This was the reason. However with all this the Congregation is not divided. Rather in that Chapter it was consolidated more than ever because the Father General was elected there by common consent. He is one of the more learned Fathers and the holiest in the whole of our Order according to his public opinion and his fame. The Order had never elected a General before as our Order is accustomed to do. Our Fathers have made some beautiful ordinances and His Holiness has granted us a Bull again.” The nobleman was completely satisfied.

366. Moreover it pleased the Lord God to persuade the whole Roman Court and the Prelates of the Holy Church. For when our Fathers became aware that those Prelates did not cherish us as before, they met among themselves. With much maturity they considered what could be done to persuade the Roman Court. Inspired by God, one Father rose to his feet and said, “Reverend Fathers, do not worry about the dissatisfaction of the Court. If you give me the merit of obedience I hope in Jesus Christ to turn the whole Court back to devotion towards our Congregation in a short time.” The Father General answered with all the other Fathers, “We not only give you the merit but because it is such an important thing we impose it upon you. With every act of charity we implore you to take up this task.”

Given Father Justin of Panicale as his companion, a very venerable lay Friar and a holy man, this venerable Father began. First he informed His Holiness. With a long discussion he freed his heart of any shadow that he may have had earlier about the poor Congregation. By the words of this venerable Father His Beatitude was clear about the goodness of the Congregation. From then onwards the Congregation received every possible support from him. He had such a high regard that one day when he was going to do some exercise[750], he met the Father General with another Father. And with much reverence and humility the good Pastor blessed them and he greeted them and showed them reverence by bowing his head. The Master of ceremonies felt it had not been a good for His Holiness to bow to two Friars in public. When he was at table for a little recreation he said to him, “Holy Father, you have not observed due solemnity this morning[751] because you bowed to two Capuchin Friars.” His Beatitude replied, “Now am I not obliged to do reverence to the relics of the saints?” “Yes,” he answered. The Pope said, “I have given reverence to two saints and have not failed due solemnity. Those are all holy Religious among whom the apostolic life and holiness of life shine more than any other Religious in these times.”

367. This Father nevertheless continued to visit all the Cardinals. He visited two every day with such good grace that did not leave them without leaving them as most friendly. Within two months he turned around the entire Court to devotion towards our Congregation. Finally he also wanted to visit the Cardinal of Holy Cross who was a member of our Order and a major enemy of the Congregation in the beginning. One day he went personally to find ur Fathers and commanded them under the virture of holy obedience certain things he wanted them to do. He said, “I am Protector and corrector of this Order and I will make you see how much I can do. One day he came across seven of our Friars who were going to the seven Churches[752]. In a rage he rebuked them sharply. He said to them, “Are you going seven by seven[753]? I will not be long and I will cut off your steps and put you in good order myself.” When this Father had spoken with him it was an amazing thing and judged by everyone as a work of the Holy Spirit that he turned with great devotion towards the Capuchins. Not long after the good Prelate fell ill. He felt remorse for what he done against us earlier and sent one of his to our friary to speak on his behalf. “Reverend Fathers, my Cardinal is gravely ill and sends me to ask forgiveness so that if at first you received some sinister thing from His Lordship that you may forgive him. He begs you to prayer for him to God for his health because he has great faith in you. And if you obtain this grace from God he promises to be a good Father to you.” Our Lord did not want to extend his life any further, but because he was in this good disposition he passed to a better life[754].

368. Finally it pleased the Lord God to well inform and everyone both Religious and secular and to clarify for them all that there was no ambition in the holy congregation. Rather it remained spotless and pure in it s beauty and purity. Its fame spread so far that when the General Chapter was held later in Rome an Ambassador was sent specifically from the island of Ireland with a letter to that Chapter. The contents of the letter said that people and all the Religious of that Island, after hearing about their fame, begged our Fathers to send some of our Friars to establish houses because they all had to reform themselves and would do whatever our Fathers told them. However, since they had not yet received a Bull to be able to go out of Italy, our Fathers wrote back to them that they were unable to go because his Holiness did not want it[755]. That Ambassador begged vigorously that they might give him our Constitutions but our Fathers did not agree. The he returned very discontented and I was present for all these things.

369. Some lax Friars who had persecuted our Congregation continuously made a great issue about this General Chapter and the dissatisfaction the Court derived form it. They thought with this opportunity to send us all to oblivion, saying among themselves, “This is our turn to make His Holiness know that these Capuchins are a mob of ambitious men, who because they could have what they liked among us, have mad themselves that sect. However they are all hypocrites and vagabonds.” They began to give false testimony with great and moved all their friends. They said to them, “What have we always told you about these Capuchins, that they have no foundation. Have you seen the beautiful Chapter they have held?” And they gave them all the worse details while asking them to help their Order. “These madmen have already completely ruined it and you will merit before God by preserving such a great Order from which so many saints have come. Now these madmen have denigrated it. It is necessary therefore that you help us in the presence of His Holiness so that he may have them return to us because there is not a shred of obedience among them. Everyone does what he wants and one day they will produce some great scandal.”

Many important persons were moved by these words and went personally to His Holiness and told him all these things. However, since His Holiness had been well informed by the Cardinal of Trani, he did not believe their words.

The not only moved the Prelates of the Church. They procured letters from many Christian Princes addressed to His Holiness and which said that tolerating the Capuchin sect was ruining the Order of Saint Francis. Therefore, since I was in Naples, I was well informed by the words of a Spanish lay Friar of ours, called Brother Angelo. When he was a soldier he was acquainted with Charles V and was present when the Emperor went to Rome at the time of Paul III. His Majesty was visiting the more important places of Rome like the seven Churches, the stations and other pious places. His Beatitude said to him, “Where does Your Majesty want to go tomorrow morning?” Charles answered, “I want to visit the Holy Trinity Monastery.” The Pope replied, “I don’t know if Your Majesty has seen certain Religious who have appeared recently and who live in our Rome there along the way you are taking tomorrow morning. The seem to me to be holy Religious and if it pleases Your Majesty to go there for Mass tomorrow morning because they say very devout Masses. I would like it very much if you consider their life a little.” Charles replied, “I will go there willingly.” And so he did. Because our Friars were advised, they all went to meet him with great reverence. When he returned later His Holiness asked him what he thought. His Majesty answered, “On the surface they are very holy, resplendent in their poverty and very austere life.” The Pope responded, “Does Your Majesty remember writing to me about certain Religious who had recently come about and that I did the wrong thing in supporting them?” Charles answered, “I don’t remember it.” His Beatitude gave a signal and the letter was read and then given to the Emperor. When he saw it he said, “This is my letter. I was badly informed.” Charles never revoked anything he had decided. “I revoke this and where I begged Your Holiness earlier to remove this Order, now on the contrary I beg him to preserve it and do for it every possible good.”

It was not without the providence of God that all the undertakings the lax Friars took up against the poor Congregation that the Lord God always refuted them with shame and detriment. They were even discovered by their friends. They became such a nuisance that no one wanted to listen to them because of the just judgement of God. To the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his most holy Mother and of our father Saint Francis. Amen.

LXV: About o deceptive and false proposition made to His Holiness by the General of the Order to ruin the Congregation of Capuchins

370. The effects of hatred. An example. 371. Attempt of the Observant General to submit the Capuchins to himself. 372. A commission of Cardinals is nominated to examine the question. 373. The Capuchins are opposed to the union. 374. Cardinal Sanseverino defends them effectively. 375. The ruling of the commission is favourable to the Capuchins. 376. Bernardino of Asti invites the Zoccolanti to a debate before the Pope. 377. The Zoccolanti are refuted. 378. The Capuchins are victorious.

370. There was nothing as harmful to the synagogues as was the hatred they bore towards Christ. He always considered them blind. Even though that divine light would have been enough and sufficient to illumine countless worlds, none the less it could not penetrate the hard hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees. However how much that immense goodness strove to draw them to himself with the highest teaching, with countless miracles and with a most brilliant life in which the virtues shone extraordinarily. As he said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How may times have I wanted to gather you like a hen gathers he chicks under her wings and you didn’t want it?[756]” However the always resisted him to the point where they put him on the cross outside the city. Hence because of this they were reproached by God and cursed. These are the effects of hatred that never cease as long as it is not vindicated on one’s brother.

Therefore to help everyone I would like to give an example about this of two Religious who names I can’t remember, although I have been well informed of the whole thing. One of them did a great injury to one of his brothers who died a little later. He sent to beg that the one who was injured might forgive him. He never wanted to forgive him even though his brothers begged him more and more to do so. When this poor fellow knew that his adversary did not want to forgive him, his heart hardened in such a way that he said, “Nor will I not forgive him.” Soon that unhappy soul passed to the next life. He was no sooner buried when, as the Religious were eating in the refectory, the one who had been buried appeared. Turning to the Superior he said, “Have my adversary leave the table because God wants it so. This done, the deceased placed his hand on the shoulder of his adversary in the middle of the refectory. He said, “Know that because my brother here did not want to forgive me, and because this has been the cause of my damnation, God the just judge wants that in your presence he come with me into hell.” The ground opened beneath them and they were swallowed.

This was in a friary in the city of Forli in Romagna and the whole is still there today where those Religious throw dirt and other rubbish. The hole never closes up but always remains the same way.

Therefore these are the evil effects that hatred produces.

371. Hence in 1539 some lax Friars were with their General, who was so bad that he persecuted both Reforms, that of the Zoccolanti Fathers and that of the poor Capuchins, just as we mentioned above. This is what see form the clear experience of all Congregations whenever there is one that deserves to have servants of God. In ours since the time of Father Saint Francis there has been Brother Elias with his followers who always resisted him and later persecuted the companions of Father Saint Francis along with all the zealous Friars and good servants of the Lord. Therefore no one was surprised if with some of his followers and lax Friars this Prelate was always opposed to our Congregation, since he was aware that the Congregation prospered between 1536 and 1543. God exalted it throughout this time since very excellent and holy men left the Order for the Capuchins in that time, and among these was the great servant of God Brother Francis Tittelmans and many others. So it came about that this Superior, along with all the lax Friars, saw that as for His Holiness they were unable to stop the Congregation from going ahead. His Holiness had already granted us the Bull. Taking advice among themselves they thought to see whether, with all the possible support, His Holiness would grant to them that the Congregation be under this General, just as we depended upon the Father General of the Conventual Fathers. So leaving that one should depend on this one. They thought to themselves, “When we have them under our obedience we will treat them as we please. One day we will remove that cowl form their heads. When another Pontiff comes, one who is friendly towards us, we will give to them well and truly.”

Just as they thought so they went united to His Holiness accompanied by the support of many important persons. They said to him, “Holy Father, our Order is completely divided. All this comes from the Bulls and Briefs issued by this Holy See, because as kindly fathers they want to console everyone without being aware of the ruin of our Order. For many madmen, since they don’t like the strictness of obedience, are leaving the Order and making many sects under the appearance of wanting to reform themselves. Because there are enthusiastic Friars among us who have done a Reform and I endure great effort to provide for them. All day there is nothing else to do but remove those who do not want to be there because it seems too harsh for them. As for the others to whom the common life seems too difficult, we want them to go there. Now we have thought, with the good grace of Your Beatitude, that since there is the Reform of the Capuchin Fathers where even though they live austerely they still do not have the sound leadership of a head who would keep them in awe, but they live in great liberty. Now if Your Holiness may grant us that they be under our obedience and not under the Conventuals because we have the seals of the Order, the Order will remain more united. Where there may be many disagreements because of our Friars who go there, the occasions will be removed of taking up the ears of Your Holiness all day to obtain Briefs and Bulls. I promise to give them every support and show them every kindness.”

The matter was painted so well and with so many reasons that the Pope and all the Court thought that it would be good. This discussion with His Holiness lasted may days in such a way that His Holiness thought that by doing this all the upheaval would be settled. They were sure the matter would succeed. Such was the joy they derived in talking about it together that it spread even publicly. They said among themselves, “If this succeeds, they will no longer go around with those cowls.” They wronged our Fathers when Clement granted them the Bull which ‘Il Scalzo’[757] did not want to accept as the Pope wanted him to do. This was considered the easiest way to cut off their passage so that both the cowl may no longer be seen on the earth, and remove all the other changes that our Fathers did. Who would want it, that when we have them under our obedience, that we not send them to oblivion? May God forgive Il Scalzo. If it weren’t for him the Capuchins would no longer be mentioned to day. He has ruined this Order!”

372. It was the will of God that this proposal spread abroad and came to light with many Capuchins. The majority of the Congregation still agreed that it had never passed through a danger as great as this before. They agreed that the Congregation would never go ahead unless it detached itself completely and if what happened to Amadei and Clareni[758] happened to us. Therefore when His Beatitude saw that the Capuchins were not opposed and that it seemed reasonable to them, he felt happy to make this union[759]. On the other hand, however, he felt within himself a certain repugnance so that he wondered if he would be making a mistake. It was by the Providence of God that this Holy Pastor did not hurry to issue a Bull. Instead, instructed by the Holy Spirit, he wanted both parties to choose three Cardinals, the Zoccolanti Fathers three and the Capuchin Fathers three others. Each party tried to elect the most supportive ones. Those elected accepted graciously[760]. It lasted for many days that they conferred together every day, each one citing different reasons about what would be best.

The deputed Cardinals wanted that with everything they decided that both parties would be silenced and content without being able to appeal further in order to put to an end all the disputes and quarrels that would emerge from then on.

373. Our Fathers took advice among themselves. For many days they commended themselves to the Lord God. Enlightened by him they knew this was a very potent cause for the complete ruin of the poor Congregation. Because of this it lasted for many days that they spoke every day with these Cardinals whom they elected, showing them the danger they were ent4ereing by making this union. It pleased the Lord God to enlighten the Cardinals through these discussions. So from then on they preached to the other Cardinals chosen by the opposing party, for two of our Cardinals had completely agreed that the union take place.

In the midst of all this they Capuchins did not fail to write about it to all the Provinces so that they would pray.

In 1539 when Father Bernardine of Asti had finished his triennium and Brother Bernardine of Siena was elected, the Father General immediately wrote to him, making him Procurator at Court. That letter and obedience was given him in my presence in the old Friary at Spoleto. So he then returned to Rome. It was by the providence of God that this Father was in Rome for our benefit during these difficulties.

374. The old Cardinal of St. Severina was one of those chosen by our Fathers. He was always most loving towards our Congregation. He turned all the Cardinals who were first of the contrary opinion in favour of the congregation. He saw that our little barque was at risk of going askew. So when th Cardinals of both parties assembled, this Monsignor said openly that he would never consent that our Congregation be submitted to those Fathers. He also begged strongly our two Cardinals to never consent to such a thing as giving a judgement against the Capuchin Friars. Equally he exhorted the other Cardinals of the opposing party. He said, “Monsignori, I know very well that each of you is moved by a purpose, thinking that he is doing the right thing. But if the truth be known, as God-fearers and persons who have professed to be lovers of the truth and of justice, let us not set ourselves the task of making the poor Congregation subject to those Fathers whom Your Lordship support. It would be no different to the judgement Pilate made against Christ. He was so impious that he gave the judgement that Christ be given into the hands of his enemies. As the Evangelist says, Pilate gave Jesus into their power so that they could do all the evil they wanted. There has never been in the world a sentence more unjust and against every good law than when malefactors are given to their enemies to be punished. To give a judgement against the poor Capuchins, my Monsignori, would be the no less an injustice because these Fathers have shown themselves to be opposed to them in so many ways. Therefore may God forbid that such an unjust sentence come from us. From the beginning they have founded themselves well on the Holy Spirit through the Supreme Pontiff who gave them good orders with which for many years and with so much profit they have governed themselves of the observance of the Rule. And I have known Fathers so venerable that they would have been capable not only of directing an Order but the whole of Christianity. We should think that they have left this Congregation sufficient doctrine through their Constitutions and their good example. If that doctrine is observed they can be led to the desire end of salvation. Therefore first of all we should keep our gaze upon the honour of God and then on the salvation of our souls and those of these poor fellows. We should also consider the scandal that could come out from it in public and in the Court too, since His Holiness has given us this task. I am afraid that if were are not alert that we, may God forbid, will provide some stumbling block from which will emerge dishonour for God. Therefor if we submit this Congregation to these Fathers, as they desire, these poor fellows will again begin to be completely afflicted and persecuted by them. You know full well how this Congregation was persecuted by this Order as soon as it began. They have never stopped knocking them down. How many of them have they imprisoned, how many punished. How many times have they tried to seize them, even using secular force, persecuting them everywhere. Have they not had letters sent to His Holiness from the Christian Princes so that they could remove this poor Congregation from the Church of God? There is no palace or tribunal in Rome before which they have not argued against these poor men. I will keep silent about the calumnies which they have attached to these fellows and with which they have tired the entire world. What would we say about the Briefs and excommunications that they have obtained against them? All this clearly shows openly that these poor fellows are a stick in the eye for them. And now we want to believe their sweet words when they say they want to give them every support! Leave them so that their feet may stay in the stirrups and they and let the matter be judged by us! Let the Bulls and Briefs say what they want, because they want to be among these poor fellows like ravenous wolves to send them to oblivion. So they will visit them and they will punish and chastise every speck of defect. And when there are no important defects they will find some paltry excuse to make them stumble from one house to another[761]. They will assign lax and dissolute Friars on purpose to unsettle these poor fellows. They will send the best Friars away friaries in different parts under the pretence that they should reform those friaries. To conclude in a word, any evil they can do against this Congregation in order to ruin it, they will do. It is clear that they desire nothing else. We will be the cause of such a great wrong and will give account to God and scandalise the world since the Congregation is so highly regarded if it will be said of us that we have ruined it and not them. Therefore I will never ever consent to this, and I also pray that Your Lordships not agree to it.”

375. It pleased the Lord God to help the poor Congregation through these words because they all resolved to judge in favour of the poor Capuchins. Not only that but by common agreement they went to His Holiness and informed him that this was an invention to ruin this poor Congregation and that His Holiness be careful not to listen to them any more. Because at the time of Clement VII of happy memory, when His Holiness gave them the Bull, he wanted the Capuchin Fathers to go first to their General and then to the Protector of the Order to accept them under his obedience. This was only to present their General when he was elected in order to be confirmed by the General of these adversaries. And the adversaries didn’t want to accept them. Now they know that if they had accepted them they could have ruined them easily and quickly. They regret this and now want to regain that facility to be able to ruin them. It is enough that they remain under the Conventual Fathers who do not bother them. Rather they give them every support.”

These words so pleased His Holiness that not long after he gave us yet another very authentic Bull, much more ample Bull than the first one that Pope Clement gave us. He put in the Bull that our General had to be presented not to the General of the other Fathers, but to the General of the Conventual Fathers who is to confirm him. And if he doesn’t confirm him, it is understood that the Bull confirms him. Paul III, of happy memory, gave this Bull in the year 1537[762]. The Congregation had all this support from our Lord God by means of the Monsignor Santa Severina.

376. From that time on the adversaries no longer dared to speak any more about this. However, they took another road because they did not stop defaming us everywhere with their pestiferous tongues. Because of this the venerable Father Bernardine of Asti, our General, although he was very humble by nature, nonetheless he could not longer endure in silence the many insults the poor Congregation suffered from them. Hence one day this good Father took into his company Father Francis Tittelmans and Father Francis of Iesi. He conferred with them about wanting to invite the adversaries to a debate and to remove the mask once and for all. Those reverend Fathers liked the idea very much and also offered themselves to go with the Father General and with the help of God to show themselves valiant in this undertaking.

So together they went to find Cardinal Campeggio. They said to him, “Monsignor, we know that you are a friend and benefactor of these Fathers who oppose us. We know how much you love them. Therefore we have come to you to explain to them our mind and beg you to favour us only in this. In your kindness and for the love you bear those Fathers would you make known to them and show them just how determined we are to carry this out resolutely. Until now we have been quiet like humble lambs. However we see that our humility is worthless in quieting our adversaries. Nor do the reasons we have, nor is the judgement they have received have received have any value against stopping their tongue. For they still continue to bite at us, to cut us, and want to take this life away from us. Therefore we have decided to become lions for the love of Jesus Christ and for the defence of our Congregation. Moved by this we have come to Your Lordship to beg you to let those Fathers know that we invite them to debate with us before the Supreme Pontiff and in the presence of all the sacred Consistory. We want to prove and uphold all we have done and are doing about our Reform. We have done everything well and in a holy way. We should not have done otherwise for the sake of the certainty of our conscience and the observance of the Rule we have promised. We are prepared and very ready to do everything we have said about these things. With the arrival of these present difficulties, we will see with this debate such blemishes that it would have better for them never to have opened their mouth against us.”

The Cardinal replied to this proposal, “What could you ever say against these Fathers?” Father General replied, “Does Your Lordship command me to reveal what could be said and will be said in the presence of the whole world?” The Cardinal said that he and the other two Fathers also, if they wanted to speak, should say all that they could and not to leave our anything. The Fathers replied, “We are certain that Your Lordship loves those Fathers.” Turning to the Father General the Cardinal said, “I am certain that you love them also since you are like a most loving Father to them since you were with them so many years.” Father Bernardine replied, “Therefore I am about to speak with confidence so that Your Lordship may provide for them and for us.” That Father began to speak further about the things that the others were doing. He spoke so much that the Cardinal understood very well that the Fathers had a case.

377. He immediately had the mule readied and he went personally to find those Fathers. Then with a long talk he revealed to them that Father Bernardine of Asti and Father Francis Tittelmans and Father Francis of Iesi were awaiting them with the desire to debate with them. He said they ought to prepare themselves to sustain the things that they had said against the Congregation of Capuchins. Therefore he said, “Call the most learned men you have and if your courage is enough, come now because they are expecting you.” However when those Father heard these three Fathers named who were at that time the most learned there were in all the Franciscan Order, they lost heart completely. They did not have the courage to come out in public.

This was of no small benefit from then on in putting a check on their tongue. Once the Cardinal heard this he became indignant with them[763]. He returned then to our Fathers. He said to them, “My Fathers, when you told me this about these Friars, it was true that you had thousands of reasons. I would like to be for them the greatest enemy which that Order has.” Father Bernardine replied, “Monsignor, not that. Continue your devotion towards that Order because there are some good men there and charity requires us to love one another. In regard to what we said being true, we offer ourselves again to prove it and will submit to the punishment of the galleys if we do not prove it.”

378. And so better acquainted with the truth, the Monsignor no longer favoured those Fathers against the Congregation of Capuchins. Rather every time it was necessary for him to speak with Cardinals or others he always spoke in favour. Without blaming the good Friars, the falsehoods of some with little caution and bad manners spread in common knowledge. They were checked in such a way that they did not speak about them carelessly. However when out of passion the lax Friars spoke about them in Court they were no longer believed. Therefore the venerable Father Asti said that one should not always remain silent, because a distinction should be made between personal insults and those which result in the dishonour of an Order and of the truth.

It pleased the Lord God that through this confrontation the strength of the bold slanderers weakened very much. It was quite well known that this did not come from that holy Order but from some lax Friars who could not suffer anyone to advance in doing good. By the mercy of God our Fathers and the entire Congregation were freed by the way this tribulation was met. To the praise of Jesus Christ and his Most Holy Mother. Amen.

LXVI: About the departure of Brother Bernardine Ochino of Siena form us and about his arrival

379. The danger occasioned by the departure of Ochino. 380. Bernardino Ochino as a Zoccolante. 381. He joined the Capuchins. 382. His portrait. 383. The triumphs of his eloquence. 384. The reputation he enjoyed with the Pope. 385. However, he lacked humility. 386. He was not the founder but the destroyer of the Congregation. 387. He was contaminated at Valdes. 388. He is re-elected against his will. 389. While preaching in Venice he is cited to appear in Rome. 390. Having arrived in Florence he decides to flee to the Lutherans. 391. He passes through Mantua. 392. He relaxes an obedience to Marianus of Chianciano. 393. The true cause of Ochino’s departure. 394. Brother Marianus in Tuscany.

379. Hidden are the judgments of God who penetrates and knows all things from eternity. Much inferior are the judgements of men who know through accidents and external things, and therefore they are often deceived. However our Lord god, who sees the heart, cannot be deceived. The holy Apostles rejoiced very much when they saw Judas join the holy number of twelve Apostles, the more so since he was such an astute wheeler and dealer[764] they thought he would be a great benefit to everyone. However when they knew that he betrayed his Master and was the reason for everyone dispersing, by common agreement they called him a traitor[765]. This is just what happened to the poor Congregation of Capuchins when Brother Bernardine of Siena joined us. Everyone thought that our Congregation would soon become illustrious because he was a great preacher and had a great reputation everywhere. However when the wicked outcome that he did became known everyone thought that it would have to be our ruin. Because this tribulation was so great because of the prevarication of this man to the poor Congregation of Capuchins, that if God did not lend a hand it would have been totally ruined without any hope of ever being able to get up again. For the blow was great and the Congregation was stunned in such a way that no one can say what it would have become of it if it had not been defended by the mercy of God.

However without any fault of his the Congregation was continuously lacerated. The tearful Congregation was completely timid and ashamed during that time and didn’t know where to look. It was only the trust the trust that she had in God and Saint Francis and likewise in her innocence that gave the Congregation the courage to lift her eyes to heaven toward Him who sees the truth. He is the Father or mercy who keeps guard over wards and the abandoned. He willingly stays with those anxious and afflicted at heart. He gazes upon the humble and offers his supreme and powerful help to the one who trusts in him and has recourse to him with a sure faith and firm hope. In this he offered courage and gave respite at that time to our poor Congregation struck down because of the Ochino. He was elected General of the whole Congregation on the fourth day of May at the Chapter held in Florence in 1539[766]. Everyone thought this election would be for the growth and glory of the Congregation because he was such a great man and great hopes were held for him. Everyone believed that he would be a great asset even in the Court because he was a Prelate who could obtain anything with a couple of words if he wanted to. None the less it was truly a judgement of God that in a garden of such beautiful plants God would permit the infernal enemy to plant such a plant that, in the Church of God and throughout all Christianity, bore fruit so pestiferous with evil odour that everyone was infested. In this beautiful garden of the Poor Congregation the enemy sowed this dreadful darnel. He was truly the noonday devil[767] who was transformed into an Angel of light[768]. Hence it came about that the deceived not only the poor Capuchin Friars regarded him as a saint because of their simplicity. He also deceived the Prelates of Holy Church and all the Christian Princes who also regarded him as a holy man.

380. This evil weed took its origins from the city of Siena. When he was young he was so gifted by God with a bright mind and fair appearance that everyone loved him. Although he was born to parents where we not quite nobles, he was nonetheless cherished by the nobility of Siena. Acquiring an education he was quickly introduced to worldly learning. However, the desire came to him to become a Religious. He was clothed in the Congregation of the Zoccolanti Fathers. A little later, since reckless youth is not very used to being still in the holy virtues, the other youngsters were sorry to lose their beloved companion. So one day they decided to retrieve with a trick. So some of the youngest ones dressed as women, knowing that there was no other way to be able to speak with him. They went off the friary of the Zoccolanti Fathers at Capriola, as it is called. They used the excuse that one of them was the sister of Brother Bernardine the Ochino and all the other women were nobles who were accompanying her. When the Guardian came, the one who pretended to be his sister said, “Reverend Father, I desire only to see my brother for if all the others are saddened that he may become a Friar, I am very happy to see him clothed in this holy habit. I desire nothing for him except perseverance. Therefore, in your presence and when it would please you, I would like to encourage him with just a word.”

Thinking that they were all women, the Guardian freely allowed him to speak to them all. When the counterfeit women had encircled him they suddenly took off the women’s clothes all around. Some of them unsheathed their poniards[769] that they carried beneath their cloths. They confronted the Friars and some of the others, the stronger ones, took hold of him. They carried him off hanging like a heavy sack[770] and removed his habit.

The Superiors took this as a joke. For many days Siena spoke of nothing else. Then however he could not withstand the influence of the affections of his young companions for he was well liked by the young. Mature and judicious persons regarded it as fickleness and it was quickly regarded in a bad light. Because of this he decided to return again to the Order where, dedicating himself to learning, he turned out a very good theologian in a short time, learned in all the sciences. He persevered and soon became a preacher. He was never happy preaching in the Zoccolanti habit[771]. There were some who said that he sought to become General in a General Chapter but because he did not succeed he cut himself off from that Congregation and came to the Capuchins. No one believed this because all those Fathers who came to the Capuchins prompted some gossip from those they were leaving.

381. Therefore when he came to us he gave such a very good example externally that the change was considered truly to have been done by God. For he was most austere in his dress, food and sleep – especially sleeping on a bare board. By nature he was tall and thin and the board bruised his sciatic bone. This gave him so much pain that he was unable to endure the hardness of the wood. None the less in order to conquer himself and get used to sleeping so poorly he made a hole in the wood. When he lay down he used it as a hip hole.

382. When he became General he carried himself with such fervour in his preaching that he was a wonder to everyone in such a way that he disposed everyone to the perfect observance of the Rule, especially obedience. So wherever he was pleased to place them, all the Friars went joyfully and happily without his repeating the request. Among the things he said to dispose everyone’s heart was this example that he used. “Tell me, sons, if one of us should die and after death three farthings were found in his habit, because he had not confessed it and had not revealed them wouldn’t he be judged by all of us as damned because he died in ownership. He would be deprived of a Church burial. But what can we say of that Brother who death who does have three farthings but ten scudi[772] of self will? Won’t our Lord God find him in ownership? We will deprive him of burial, but the Lord God will deprive him of paradise and put him in hell since the ownership of self will is no less a sin than the ownership of earthly things.”

He was very mannered in eating. Always, after he had four mouthfuls he folded his napkin and began to give a sermon with that innate grace he had by nature, that beautiful pronunciation and spoke mostly in Sienese. And not only this, but he spoke with such lofty thoughts on spiritual religious life that you would have seen in flash all the Friars hanging on his words, forgetting to eat. The sweetness that resonated in the ears of everyone was such that it seemed everything else would be forgotten!

He was so loving on his visits that everyone loved and honoured him as a father. He was never upset and he never wanted other than a lay friar as his companion. Throughout that triennium he visited all of Italy on foot even though he was not very robust. And the visitations were harsher then because were not the comfortable friaries as there are now. Often it was necessary for him to lodge in the home of seculars. When he found some poor Brother upset by the temptation of the enemy he comforted him with a word.

383. I will not say much about his preaching because he in his time he was regarded by word of mouth and fame as the best preacher in Christianity. They said he was a master of the new preaching of the Sacred Scriptures. Anyone who could imitate him more was regarded a better preacher. He preached in all the main cities if Italy. Ordinarily he never went to preach unless by a Brief from His Holiness. Sometimes different cities sought more Briefs in order to have him. However it was up to His Holiness then to judge whom he wanted it to be. So as not to be unfair to anyone, he wanted the Brief be obtained first.

There is no tongue that could express the great things that he did in his preaching. I will give some examples so that this can be understood. When he was preaching in Naples it was necessary to recommend a very important pious work. He commended it with such grace that when a collection was taken among the listeners five thousand scudi were collected. Another example. One morning he felt indisposed and he forgot to say anything to the sacristan so that he not ring the bell. When he had rung the bell the second time, as the sacristan came along, he said to him, “May God forgive you Father that you have rung the bell. I feel ill and I cannot preach.” The sacristan replied, “May God forgive you Father for having said nothing to me! But what difference does ringing the bell make? All the places were taken by midnight. The roof of the Church is full of people. All the arches are full. Is that my fault?” The preacher replied, “Do not worry. Leave it to me.” Taking his mantle he went to the pulpit and said these words, “My people, forgive me. I cannot preach because I feel ill. Go so that you may be blessed.” Nothing else was needed. Such a great cry went up that there was not an eye that was not weeping. For quite a while the people could not be consoled.

They went up to the roof and lifted tiles. In order to hear they put their ears to the opening since they couldn’t understand in the church.

Another example. When he was preaching in the city of Perugia a nobleman had a dispute in which his brother had been killed. The matter disputed was worth many thousands of scudi. He had already received two judgements in his favour. The gentleman’s adversary had recourse to the preacher and said to him, “Father, I am desperate!” He told him about the dispute and that he already considered it lost. He said, “I am not worried about any harm to myself, but about my four poor daughters at home. If the case is lost harm will befall them.” The preacher replied, “Do you want to be a good Christian?” The nobleman promised him this with many tears and the preacher sent him away. He had the opponent, the winner of the dispute, come to him. He said to him, “There is a nobleman in this city who wants to send four noble and well brought-up maidens to a brothel. Nonetheless he is so rabid, that without having any respect for God, for his own conscience and for honour, he has decided to do such an evil deed. Because I know that you are a nobleman and a judicious person of conscience, I have sent for you so that you might tell me according to your judgement what such a thing would deserve. The nobleman replied, “Oh! Father there would no punishment that could be given that would be enough.” The preacher replied, “You are that man but you are not aware of it.” The nobleman replied, “May God forbid, Father, that I should do such a great wrong. I am a Christian and I desire to be saved.” The preacher replied, “Don’t you have a dispute with someone? Don’t you know that he has four daughters at home? If you proceed with the litigation what will happen to those poor daughters? They will have to go to a brothel.” He said this too him with such grace that the nobleman knelt before him and thanked him with many tears, saying, “You have removed me from the hands of Lucifer. The matter, which is justly under dispute, has not yet come to me. None the less I make a present of it to you.” And that is what happened. That nobleman often said afterwards, “I have donated that to him and would donate it again, and I have never regretted it. If that Father were to ask for the eyes of my head, I would give them to him.”

I won’t talk about the reconciliations[773] that were of every possible kind although he could tell of them. He concluded them all with great facility.

384. But what shall we say about the grace he had with the Prelates of the Holy Church? One time, among the other, when His Beatitude Paul III was at Saint Mark’s, Brother Bernardine went to tell something to him. He found His Holiness who was already mounted on his horse in the square of Saint Mark’s. He entered the square where there were countless personages. No sooner had these two Friars entered and you would have seen in a flash all those Prelates stand back and made way to them, all with their hats and berettas in their hands. When he arrived to His Holiness he knelt down. The Pope bent down and took him by the arm and said, “Stand up, Brother Bernardine.” He replied, “I am fine, Holy Father.” “Get us,” said the Pope, “I don’t want you kneeling down.” Rising to his feet he said something to him that wasn’t heard. However the words of His Holiness were. He said to him, “Where Brother Bernardine is, there is Pope Paul, and where Pope Paul is, there is Brother Bernardine. If I am Pope I am so for your Congregation.”[774] On returning to the Friary, Brother Francis Calabrese, a preacher and very good Father and who was his companion said to him, “Father, be very careful because you are in great danger! Oh! The are great favours!” Ochino replied, “These Prelates do these things by way of custom and do them to one another.”

385. This was nothing but a caution from God that he gave through that good Father. Finding himself in such high regard and favours he needed a deep humility. Later it was considered he had none and because of pride God allowed him to fall. This is what is told in the Legend of the Three Companions about Saint Francis. In his day there was a great preacher in the Order who, because of the grace he had in preaching, was called the Apostle of Christ. Not long after he left the Order miserably. Father Saint Francis was asked how his ruin came about because he seemed to be so virtuous and well adorned with every good custom that everyone thought he was holy. None the less he had fallen so miserably. The Seraphic Father Saint Francis answered, “Son, poverty, obedience and chastity are good. All the virtues are good. However, if these are not founded on humility they are worthy nothing. He lacked this. Therefore God has allowed him to fall.” Thus Brother Bernardine Ochino was judged a miserable disgrace because finding himself in so many favours he was not founded on holy humility.

386. Because of him our Congregation was exalted before the world, although these favours harmed it very much if one considers it well. Because the Capuchin Friars were called blessed since they had such a man in their Order, that later turned into our accusation and peril. However I say that his departure benefited us more that his coming did. This was the reason that many thought that he had begun our Congregation. It is very false to say he founded our Congregation. For when he came, which was in 1534, nine years after the beginning of the Congregation, there were already more than three hundred Friars. Therefore he was among us eight years, and he was General for about five of these[775]. So it is obvious that did not found the Congregation. Instead it can be said that he was the destroyer of the Congregation which by his arrival acquired nothing except worldly and vain praises. He however acquired quite a lot from the Congregation because it was this holy habit that exalted him. For before he came, when he was with the Zoccolanti he was not regard highly both in his preaching and other things. However the novelty of the Capuchin habit and the holiness of the others who edified the whole world with their example gave Ochino great credibility in his preaching. For when everyone saw him dressed with that habit dressed like all the other Capuchins they thought he was holy just like the others. So you see that the Congregation magnified him, and it was not as many say that he exalted the Congregation. This was what the Illustrious and holy man Saint Ludovico, the Bishop of Toulouse, regarded as a vain opinion when one of our Friars was speaking with him. He said, “Father, our Order has become very great because you have taken up this habit.” Ludovico, the great servant of God replied, “May God forgive you Father. You are deceived because I have not honoured the Order. Rather it has honoured me since the Lord has put me in such a height of truth and goodness, because the Order honours and makes blessed anyone in it who lives and dies in the holy observance of the Rule.”

387. Therefore Bernardine of Siena exercised the office of General for three years. He convened the Chapter again the city of Naples where, just as I have been well informed, the poor wretch took the poison of heresy. One was there who said that before Brother Bernardine came to the Capuchins he was contaminated through the contact and great friendship he had with a certain Master Augustine Piemontese of the Eremitano Order and when he was Regent in Tuscany at Holy Spirit in Florence. Similarly he was a great friend of Master Julius of Milan of the same Order, and of Don Peter da Luca, a Canon Regular. All these were heretics of the Marches who later fled to Germany. None the less I feel quite sure that was infected before he came to the Capuchins because there was no obvious sign of it. Rather on the contrary he appeared to be very zealous about the things that the Holy Church observes. However something convinces me most that this was not true. For I understood this, as I said earlier, from a Friar who was a close acquaintance and a good man and was present in Naples. I understand that before the Chapter was convened and then afterwards that he had the closest acquaintance and friendship with a Spanish doctor called the Valdetta[776]. He was the worst heretic though a secret one so that everyone held him to be a good man. This man contaminated Ochino. One day our Friar heard him say, “If Valdetta was alive today, because he died a little later, he would have been burned because he was the worst heretic.” The evident sign was that after this contact Ochino began to limp because on visitation he no longer wanted to see the Friars and it seemed that he abhorred all the things of the Order. In his preaching both in Naples and in Venice he was often noted[777]. However because he enjoyed such great devotion these things were net seen in a bad light. And if it passed through the mind of a Friar that Ochino was blemished he would confess himself with great bitterness and would have driven out the idea as a diabolical temptation. This was the reason that it was not known.

However after he went away and his falsehood was obvious, as they thought over gain the things he said, the Friars reprimanded themselves and said, “How were we so blind that we didn’t know he was a heretic from the things he said!”

388. Therefore this devotion was the reason that he was re-elected again. In that election he made great resistance. He didn’t want to accept it. Indeed he fled. Since the Fathers forced him, with many tears he received the seals again. I firmly believe this was because he had already decided in his mind to no longer keep the poison hidden but to sow it. Because he was a man of judgement he knew that if he wanted to preach it he would have to flee if he didn’t want to be burnt.

389. Therefore when he was preaching in Venice he began to vomit the poison openly. This came to the ears of that most vigilant Pastor, Paul III, by means of the Nuntio[778]. That Holy Pontiff loved the Congregation very tenderly, and His Holiness loved Ochino very much in particular. Therefore he wrote to him very kindly that he come to Rome. He didn’t use any harshness with him because it could have removed him from the justice that he deserved. Judicious persons have judged that if Ochino went to Rome when His Holiness saw him contrite he would have forgiven him quite easily. However he did not go. He started out on the journey to Rome but when he arrived in Bologna he thought to speak with Monsignor Contarini, the Legate for Romagna at the time. However he found him gravely ill and a little later he passed to a better life[779]. Therefore he not only did not speak with him, but he did not even see him. There was no shortage of those who said that Contarini would have dissuaded him from going to Rome if he did not want to lose his life or rot in prison. This is very false as the Most Reverend Monsignor Ludovico Becchatello, Archbishop of Ragusa and nobleman of Bologna testified. At that time he was with His Lordship Contarini. He affirmed that when Ochino came to the palace he spoke with no one else except him.

390. Leaving Bologna he came to Florence. It is very certain that the heretic Don Peter di Lucca did everything he could to make Ochino go to Geneva. He was the one who dissuaded him from going to Rome, showing him the letters that he had received from the Duke of Saxony. There are judicious persons who believe that this Duke gave a lot of money to Ochino through this Don Peter.

Hence he decided to strip himself of that holy habit and dress like a secular and he took the road for Geneva. He took with him his companion Brother Juniper, a lay Friar, and one of his brothers the Priest Brother Francis[780]. In that Friary in Florence there was a lay Friar Brother Marian of Chianciano. In the world he had been a soldier and a judicious person. He knew the German language. Ochino thought to use this man. However he knew quite well that the man was Catholic and a good man, and if he discovered that he wanted to go to join the Lutherans that good Friar would never have gone. In order to take him and make use of him he gave him to understand in secret that he wanted to go to preach against the Lutherans. He had him understand that he hoped to convert all of Germany in a short time and if it was necessary to die there that he went with this holy desire of dying for Christ. “Therefore if you wish to accompany me you will gain this beautiful crown.” On hearing this, Brother Marian who desired nothing else that to die for Christ felt that his chance had come. However he was sure about the matter of removing the habit. Ochino, however, told him, “We are going this to be able to pass and leave Italy. For it we were to be seen going to the Lutherans with the habit we would be taken as Catholics. However, going as seculars no one will give it a thought. They will think we are men going on their journey.” With these words he deceived the poor Brother Marian.

391. There were differing opinions because some said Ochino went with his habit. Others say he was dressed as a merchant. Let any other opinion go. This is the truth. They departed Florence and no one was aware of it except the one who cut the tonsure from whom I have heard these things. With the three other aforementioned Friars Ochino left Florence in the secular dress of Florence. He went straightaway to Geneva. He remained unknown as far as Mantua. He went to a palace outside Mantua where there were Cardinal Gonzaga and Lord Ascanio Colonna. When Ochino arrived, His Lordship gazed at him with great surprise. He said, “If I didn’t see you in this clothing I would have said you Brother Bernardine Ochino of Siena. You resemble him very much.” Ochino replied, “I am him. May Your Lordship not be scandalised by this because I am saving my life, if you are happy to know nothing else.” Having said these words he withdrew to one side with Lord Ascanio and talked with him some time. Then he quickly went away. However when it was known that he went to Geneva, the Monsignor of Mantua bit his finger because he did not know about it. Otherwise he would have apprehended him and sent him bound to His Holiness.

392. Therefore when he arrived at a certain point which offered an extensive panorama of fair Italy, going on a little further he could no longer look. The miserable Ochino stopped. Weeping he said, “Oh Brother Bernardine, today you are losing fair Italy, the holy Congregation and the high regard that you have had. May God forbid that you lose your soul too. Brother Marian was slightly ahead. When he heard these words he immediately went back and took the bridle of the horse. With a fiery face he said to him, “What are you saying?” Ochino replied, “Be careful, my son, to press on. It is nothing.” Brother Marian replied, “Does it seem to you that these are words about pressing on? You told me you that you wanted to go to preach against the Lutherans. Now with these words you show that you are a Lutheran! May it please God that I not commit such a grave error of leaving the Holy Church and leaving my Order in order to become a Lutheran. We are not going any further. Write me a reference with your own hand so that I may be received. Write that I am innocent and that you have seduced me by saying that you wanted to go to preach against the Lutherans and go where you want because I no longer trust what you say. Ochino was frightened by these words. So that Brother Marian would not cause any confusion, he wrote him a letter so that he might be received. He also wrote that seals of the Order already sent to Father Raphael of Volterra at Verona be given to Father Bernardine of Asti who had been first Definitor at the General Chapter.

393. Thus accompanied by the infernal enemy and by two poor Friars, that is, by his natural brother and by the aforementioned Brother Juniper, the wretch went off to Geneva, leaving the poor Congregation in a see of travails.

Some said he left in anger because he could not be a Cardinal. I believe all these things are fables that he desired honours. He had more of these than he wanted. If he desired favours, he had all Italy in the palm of his hand. I believe there was no other cause of his leaving than that which the venerable Father Bernardine of Asti said. It was because he cared little about prayer because he was rarely, if ever, seen at prayer. Moreover it was that he gave His Holiness to understand that he wanted to write a book against the Lutherans. He wanted His Holiness to give him permission to be able to study prohibited books. Just as I have heard, for a long time his cell was full of them. He boasted of having seen all the books of the world except the Koran of Mohamed, which he also wanted to see. I believe this is what did him real harm. It would have been better spending that time in prayer. Furthermore I heard as a certainty that the devil appeared to him. Trusting him Ochino asked the explanation of certain difficult passages of Saint Paul. I believe the devil deceived him. Some say that the devil forced him, but this is false.

Therefore the devil, pride and the lack of prayer were the cause of the damnation of Ochino. May the Lord our God free us from every evil, above all from the diabolical doctrine of the heretics.

Therefore this was the tribulation that our poor Congregation had and which we have mentioned above. Now below we will talk about it more amply.

394. Brother Marian therefore returned to Tuscany and was kindly received by the Father Vicar of the Province. Given his simplicity and good will, he was given no penance. It was he who told everything that has been said about the journey that Ochino did.

LXVII: About what His Holiness did regarding the Congregation of Capuchins because of the departure of Ochino

395. Ochino’s fall revealed to a novice in Foligno. 396. The intention of Paul III to suppress the Congregation. 397. He proposes this to the Consistory. 398. The defence by the Cardinal of San Severino. 399. The Cardinal Protector calls all the Vicar Provincials to Rome.

395. By means of the Supreme Pontiff the Lord God did not fail to help the poor Congregation. Nor did he fail to give warning of this tribulation since he revealed it some days before it came. For in the Province of Saint Francis, in the old Friary of Foligno there was at that time a simple novice. Because he was a lay Friar, he helping his master to exercise charity to certain Friars who had just arrived at the Friary. When his master saw that he was not doing the service well because he didn’t know how to do it, he said to him, “Leave it be. Go to the church.” The novice went and because he was accustomed not to leave until his master gave him a signal so that he may go to rest. His master forgot about him and the novice persevered in prayer until morning because all the Friars had gone to rest. As morning drew near he miraculously saw the two doors of the church open. There entered a very beautiful and honoured procession of persons all dressed in blue. One part of them was dressed in priestly vestments. They made a deep bow before the Blessed Sacrament, the tomb in front of the altar was surrounded by those Priests. Without too loud a voice, but with a mild one, they sang a beautiful Office with many lights and incense. The Novice who saw this was certain the procession was of secular Priest and other persons that had come to visit the church because of their devotion. Therefore he remained very still and staying on his knees he listened to the Office. When the ceremonies were over, the procession left while singing. One of those Priests drew near to the Novice said to him, “Simple fellow, have you seen what we have done?” the novice answered, “I have seen it, lord. But who are you?” The priest replied, “Do not be afraid. We are all dead Friars sent by the Lord our God to do this Office that you have seen. Tell the Father Guardian and the Father Vicar of the Province[781] about it so that they may say the Office devoutly more than ever. Let them prepare themselves because very, very soon the Congregation will undergo the greatest tribulation.” So it was. Within two months, the Siena went away.

396. Therefore, while in the city of Perugia[782], His Holiness heard about Ochino’s leaving the Catholic Church by means of a letter the Siena wrote to him. His Holiness was very upset. Immediately there was no shortage of evil tongues who set themselves pointed this out to him and told him that the whole Congregation was infected. In order to anticipate the danger of great evil of a bad sign throughout Christendom that could follow on from this, whenever this would be, with the opinion of some important persons he kept with him, he decided to uproot the Congregation of Capuchins completely. However, since the Holy Spirit governed him, he didn’t want to act hastily without first returning to Rome and consulting with the Scared Consistory about the matter. He gave an indication of the decision in his mind when he was passing by the city of Spoleto. When His Holiness lifted his eyes and gazed at those hermitages on the mountain he wanted to hear the name of each of them. They continued in this discussion. When they came to the house of the Capuchins visible from the road he asked which hermitage that one might be. He was told that the poor Capuchins lived there. On hearing this, raising his arm and making a circle in the air, he said with a somewhat disturbed spirit, “Away with all the Capuchins.”[783]

There is still more. The venerable Father Jerome of Montepulciano[784] went to visit him at Bologna[785]. Since his blood brother was always in the presence of His Holiness, Father Jerome was well acquainted with him. After many discussions that good Father commended the poor Congregation to him. His Holiness replied, “You know that until now you all should have been disbanded. However, since I am aware that God loves and helps you, I cannot fail to help to help you. Be good and do not fail to fulfil your duty before the Lord God and you do not fail your good example to the Church.”

397. Therefore when he arrived in Rome His Holiness convened the sacred Consistory in order to discuss the matter and give the order that our Congregation be removed. It was proposed in the senate of so many Illustrious Monsignori and the matter settled. They all decided to remove the imminent danger to the Church, since the Congregation had such a good reputation. If it was true that it had been contaminated, it was to be uprooted before it could germinate far and wide the thorns it kept hidden in its breast and would vomit the poison it had taken from Ochino. This would be ruinous to Christianity. After having weighed up all these things in the sacred Consistory they all concluded that what His Holiness proposed was right and approved his opinion and judgement that there was no better way than this to be free of the danger.

398. It pleased the Lord our God to be present in that sacred College in support of the Capuchins. In all those things that concern the universal good of the Holy Church the Holy Spirit has never failed to be governor and guide over the tongues and decisions of the Prelates and Ministers of Holy Church, especially of its universal Head. Hence the Illustrious Monsignor Santa Severina was present in the Consistory. Having heard the acerbic words of His Beatitude against us as well as the opinion of the entire Consistory, he remained quiet and said because of the great love he bore towards our Congregation. Then God put his hand to our aid and made the Pope turn towards Monsignor Santa Severina. He said to him, “And you, Monsignor, you have not said a thing, so quiet and thoughtful! Why aren’t you saying anything? Say your opinion openly.” Showing himself moved by charity and justice together, with the formalities they use, the Cardinal answered. “Most Blessed Father. It seems to me that with our Brothers Your Holiness has already decided to uproot this Congregation of Capuchin Friars. I don’t blame this if it is true that the entire Congregation were blemished and contaminated by the cursed plague of heresy. I agree too to remove them from the body of the Church so that they not infect the others. However until now no one has proposed the way that the Congregation should be removed. I am not speaking about the other Brothers, but I see here such a great difficulty –that gives me a lot to think about. I don’t see very well how such a thing may be done without causing very great scandal and giving birth to such rumour and anger that God knows when it would ever quieten down. The reason is this. We know that at present the Congregation of Capuchin Friars has the greatest acceptance before the whole world. This is because they lead (at least in appearances) such a holy life and because their observance of the Rule is so lofty that it seems that the apostolic life in the world has been renewed and made present again through them. It seems strong to me that in leading such a life done this way externally that there are some good men among them and who go in the truth and are completely innocent. Our wanting to remove them puts us at further risk of scandal mainly by punishing the innocent. This is not only against charity but it is even against all justice. Furthermore we will give the world reason to murmur against us, saying that we can’t suffer to see before us one who lives in a holy way. Those who will say this will be Catholics. Hence there is a danger that scandalised by what we have done – and therefore this would the greatest scandal that could be given at present – that many will become heretics because of this, losing the devotion and faith that they have in this Consistory. They will say that the lax, the dissolute and the wretched are left to live without being bothered while those who want to live a strict, simple and apostolic life are extirpated by us and removed from the face of the earth. We don’t want to see them before us again because we fear the plague of heresy in them – and we are not so certain about this- so that they do not infect the others. We should also fear that with effect of annihilating them cause is not given the world to abandon the true faith of the Holy Roman Church and to draw near to the Lutheran sect. Furthermore we will give cause to the very heretics themselves in Germany to unfetter their cursed tongues in speaking evil of us for doing this thing. They already know about the life these poor fellows lead and are compelled to praise it. Now if they hear that we have removed it each of us can think what they will say and what a picture their tongues will paint of us. Now can’t if be that if Ochino is a wretch that these poor fellows may be good men? For this consequence does not necessarily follow that the Siena, the Head of this Congregation, has been discovered a heretic, therefore all the Friars are heretics. It doesn’t follow. Therefore let us be careful that in wanting to eradicate the darnel that we do not pull out the good grain. It would seem to me, that before we arrive at any resolute conclusion about this matter that a careful research be done very diligently as to whether they are heretics or innocent. If we find that they walk in the truth, let us help and support them in every way because this is the office of a good mother that the Holy Church is. But if we find that they are all culprits then we should do everything in our power to free the Church from such a danger. Thus when the world hears about our diligence we have had in this matter, they will give praise and not any blame. Therefore let us look to discover the truth and walk sure footedly so as not to stumble. For even though one hesitates, nothing is lost because of this, even if they are guilty as is feared, but this is not yet known for sure. For once their infirmity is known perhaps they ought not to be removed. We will not only be justified by this fact and be blameless, but as I have said we will be praiseworthy. Most Blessed Father and Illustrious Brothers, this is my opinion and my vote.”

399. The Cardinal then stopped. This opinion and reasonable discourse pleased the entire sacred Consistory. Thus it was ordered that this be done. The universal Protector was called and His Beatitude ordered him to have all the Provincial Vicars and other Fathers of our Congregation come to Rome. Thus it was carried out.

LXVIII: About what His Holiness did when the Fathers of the Congregation came to Rome

400. The Cardinal Protector reports the result of the inquest to the Pope. 401. The Vicar Provincials are convoked to Rome. The anguish of the Friars. 402. The opposition of the Zoccolanti si renewed. 403. The Superiors go to the Apostolic Palace. 404. The Vicar Provincials are received by the Pope. 405. They return home to their friaries.

400. Our Fathers arrived in Rome at the house of Saint Nicholas. On behalf of His Holiness the Cardinal Protector did not fail to examine very diligently each of those Fathers and some other Friars too about the matter. Knowing that the Congregation was completely sound, pure and innocent of that evil of which it had been unreasonably blamed and held in suspicion with out any case, he reported everything to His Beatitude.

I am saying this because if there were any, indeed there were very few, who were contaminated by Ochino they fled off after him. The few suspects who remained I say were suspects and not heretics. The Friars imprisoned these. Some were put into the hands of the Holy Office. Others were given to the Protector who had them punished.

401. When the Pope heard about the soundness of the Congregation and knew of the diligence already exercised by the Capuchin Friars he was very happy. By means of the Protector, the Cardinal of Carpi, he let the Fathers know that he wanted to speak with them and assigned to them a set day. The poor Capuchins still didn’t know what was lodging in the mind of the Pontiff. They feared that he still wished to ruin them. Hence they were very frightened, waiting for the assigned day to have to present themselves before him and suspecting to hear something that would inflict an incurable wound upon their hearts. This was because the rumour was going around that His Holiness wanted to annihilate them completely. Many in the Congregation began to prepare themselves. If His Holiness wanted them to go back to another Order they would sooner ask him permission to go off into a desert and with his good grace and blessing life the anchoritic life. Many prepared guns and hatchets to cut wood. Some prepared mantles and other necessary things. With great joy they awaited the judgement of His Holiness in order to have the opportunity to be able to go into the desert. Others planned to join the Conventual Fathers and under their obedience stay a certain poor little places that they have in the woods and there observe the Rule. Others said they would ask permission to be able to go to Turkey to be able to preach the Christian Faith and receive holy martyrdom. There was the lament of the poor older Friars who considered the fact more maturely and carefully. They thought of how important it is to be in the disgrace of the Supreme Pontiff and how difficult it was without the Congregation to be able to observe the Rule. For them all the other options to be taken were vain except to have recourse to holy humility and abandon themselves to the hands of the Supreme Pontiff and humbly beg His Holiness to allow them to remain in the observance of our Rule. They were comforted saying, “Let us give ourselves to holy prayer and worry about nothing. Because God governs the Supreme Pontiff and His Majesty will never fail anyone who wants to do what is right. You will see that His Holiness will do nothing else to us but good.” With this hope they abided together.

402. In all the friaries they did little else except pour out tears before the Blessed Sacrament since they were so attacked by the infernal enemy and persecuted by the adversaries who if they ever hoped to be victorious over us it was when they heard of Ochino’s departure from us. Gloating[786] over us, they said, “This time the pointed cowl has had it. God does not tolerate nor like hypocrisy. Instead he unmasks it in his own time. All these Friars are blemished because they have had a good instrument in the powerful tongue of Ochino who has contaminated them all. Little is needed to ruin them because they are in disgrace with the Pontiff. He who makes the Bulls can destroy them. They can help our cause. Their vigour in persecuting us revived in such a way that among themselves they spoke of little else. Regarding seculars they went just to visit their devotees and said, “Do you know? All the Capuchins have to return to us because His Holiness has discovered their hypocrisy.” They also went to our devotees and told them, “The Capuchins are all excommunicated unless the come back to us. What do you say now, you who thought they were holy!” Often publicly when they met them on a journey, as soon as they could make them out in the distance, they cried in a loud voice, “There are the heretics!”

On the other hand, some of those who had come to the Capuchins saw that early support waning. Where everyone once honoured them, now they saw themselves despised by everyone. These left and returned to the others. In order to win[787] their kindness these said every evil against the Capuchins. Among them was Brother Timothy Pugliese. Because he had received some penances from the General for his defects, when he saw that the General had left he immediately jumped up and went off to our adversaries. In agreement with them, Brother Timothy went to His Holiness to testify against us with infamies that the entire Congregation was contaminated. This was more harmful to the poor Congregation than anything else because in the Capuchin habit he stood in the presence of His Holiness and added matches to make the fire bigger. When our Fathers were presented before His Holiness he said publicly, “Holy Father, just as when Adam sinned he contaminated and blemished all mankind that is what Ochino has done. When he became a heretic he contaminated the entire Congregation of Capuchins.”

Then in a loud voice the venerable Father Bernardine of Asti said, “The false witness will not go unpunished.[788]

He did not fail to do what he could in order to ruin the poor Congregation. Nor did the Lord fail to punish him because he became hated by the world. Everyone called him Judas the traitor. That this man carried out such a wicked task and that he was so ungrateful to his mother Order displeased everyone. Later he wasn’t in any Order and he died that way.

403. When the fixed day came, all those poor, beaten and pale Friars went in procession (it may be said) to the sacred Palace. If those Friars who went had their share of worry, no less was that which was in the heart of the Friars who stayed at home. When they saw evening arrive and the Fathers had not yet returned, nor did anyone know anything certain about them, a great suspicion entered them. There were those who said that the Pope had put them all in prison. However such a rumour was false. None the less there was nothing else but for such a lacerating sorrow to reside in the hearts of those fellows. To heal themselves they had no other remedy than to begin to pray. They did this most fervently with many tears. If ever a humble and tearful cry came from a troubled heart was heard and heeded by God, I believe it was the prayer that those poor Friars sent to the divine throne.

404. These languished at home and the others were afflicted in the Palace waiting to hear the final sentence of our ruin. After a long delay they were finally introduced to the Pope. He let all of them kiss the holy feet. Then he talked with them a while. This was all told by the Fathers who were present. They all remained kneeling. At the beginning of his talk he was a little sharp and he give them a good mortification. Then little by little his speech softened. He said how when he was of a lesser rank he had always been most affectionate towards the Congregation and that he was one of the Cardinals who supported it at the time of Clement VII. His house was always open to the Capuchin Friars. He regretted that Ochino had repaid him so, since His Holiness had always loved him and had always shown him the greatest kindness. “None the less he has written me a letter in such a manner that would not have even been written to an infamous cleric.” He also recalled the Bull he had done that was so amply in support of the Congregation. Finally he softened to the extent that we want to offer himself as a kind father provided that the Capuchins wanted to be good men and good sons of the Holy Roman church and true servants of God. Holding a glove in his hand he said, “We see that God himself miraculously keeps you in his hands just as we hold this glove. For when we were in Perugia we decided to uproot you. Having arrived in Rome and called the Consistory, God changed our mind completely. We are of another will. Therefore, be good. Be true, humble Friars of Saint Francis and you will be helped by us. Go because we will provide for your concerns.”

Then he turned to our Reverend Protector who was present there. He said to him, “Monsignor, you are their Protector. Furthermore we make you their Vicar General also. Over them we give you all our authority. We will speak together about what has to be done to help them.”

405. So with this speech and with his holy blessing, after kissing his feet again, those good Fathers were dismissed from his presence. When they arrived at our Friary they found the poor fellows were all worried, discontent and frightened about the reasons already given. On entering the door someone said, “Do not fear brothers because there is good news!” It was wonderful. In a flash they all gathered and went as one into the church singing the Te Deum. With many tears of joy they gave thanks to God for the help he had given them with the Supreme Pontiff.

Since those Fathers were residing in Rome the Monsignor Protector order that they all stay. Meanwhile our situation was considered.

LXIX: On the fear the poor Capuchins had because of the threats of His Holiness, Paul III, angered because of the departure of Ochino

406. The Apostles abandon their Master. 407. The trepidations and anguish in which the Capuchins lived. 408. Persons who sympathized with them. 409. The departure of Ochino was instead a good thing for the Capuchin Reform. 410. Vibrant praise of those early Fathers of the Congregation.

406. The Apostles’ fear was great when they saw their good Master taken from them by the synagogue and maltreated by them so shamefully. For he was that infinite light that illumined the whole world with the teaching that he, the Divine Wisdom, had brought from heaven from the divine source of the Most Holy Trinity. He enlightened everyone who wanted to believe with prophetic discourse, rising from the dead and countless other miracles. From all these things a great acclamation came from everyone saying, “He will raise up a great prophet for us.”[789] Therefore because of this support the people called our Lord the Messiah, Prophet and Master. This resulted in great gladness and immense joy for the holy Apostles when they saw themselves favoured and respected by everyone and guided and instructed by Christ. Many times the Magdalene and other cherished friends of Christ fed them. On Mount Tabor he show them his glory. This pleased them so much that Peter cried in a loud voice, “Lord, it is a good thing that we are staying here on this mountain!”[790] However when they saw themselves deprived of all these things, the simple Apostles did not yet understand the mystery that the Lord our God had not fully revealed to their minds as he did later by giving them the Holy Spirit. He enlightened and strengthened them by this light in such a way that, like a great sea of light, the orthodox Church was enlightened. It descended like streams from the great sea to particular saints, apostles, teachers[791], prophets and others. Deprived of all these things, a great confusion was born in them, as the Prophet says, “I will strike the Shepherd and all the sheep will be scattered.”[792] This is just how it happened that all the all the holy Apostles were scattered, abandoning their Master. Their fear of dying was so great that Peter denied Christ[793] and all the others, except John, fled. Some hid in the mountains and others in caves. Frightened, they expected to die from moment to moment, considering the terror that the hatred and threats of the High Priest, Scribes and Pharisees of the synagogue gave them. And all this happened because they were struck by human fear on abandoning that infinite goodness by their infidelity.

407. This is just what happened to the poor Capuchins when they saw the Holy Pontiff justly angry towards them because of the apostasy of their General. And all the more so when they heard the threats that His Beatitude had let escape from his mouth in that furor to have the poor Congregation of Capuchins completely annihilated.

When our Fathers were assembled in Rome by command of His Holiness and before his tribunal had already heard words pregnant and full of terror, when they returned to the Friary they wrote and advised all the Provinces about the matter. They begged that everyone together must pray to God incessantly, that through his mercy he might not look upon our negligence but that he might free us from such ruin. From these letters and warnings of our Fathers there generated in the hearts of the Friars an immense sadness and fear of being completely removed from their opportunity for the observance of the Rule; or of being enemies of His Holiness. It was horrendous to think of it. Everywhere all the poor fellows were terrified. They lacked support from all quarters because, since it was a matter of heresy, none of our friends or the important persons who loved our Congregation dared to speak about it with His Holiness. Founded in profound humility, with prayers, sighs and tears they all addressed themselves to God who alone could help us and free us from such ruin into which the whole Congregation had fallen not because of its own doing – it was completely innocent- but because of the General. All our supporters drew back as soon as they saw us because even they received blamed from our adversaries, who said to them, “Look at your Capuchins and their hypocrisy. His Holiness wants them all to return to the Order otherwise they will remain excommunicated.” This gave them ample scope still to cling to our Lord since all the Court and Prelates of the Church were angry towards us. All the poor fellows remained completely astonished that they hardly spoke to one another. However when they met a kindly gaze they faced them and with tears said to them, “What will become of us, my dear brother? Many of them embraced one another and said with tears, “I will never believe that our Lord God may allows us to be separated from one another.” So great was the love that reigned between them that nothing gave them greater pain as much as did the fear that the Congregation would be completely shattered and that they would have to separate from one another.

408. The venerable Father Francis of Iesi gave them great comfort with sermons and exhortations. He said, “Do not worry, my sons. Trust in the mercy of God because his Majesty never fails those who commend themselves to him with a pure heart.” He composed certain litanies of the mercy of God along with prayers and orations and he order that they be said each day.

Such was the communion between those servants of God and their fervour and perseverance in holy prayers that if they had ever commended themselves to God with all their hearts, this time surpassed all the other times.

Holy Religious, the Hermits of the Fratta of Camaldolo, also helped the poor Congregation. When they heard about this grave tribulation some of their older and more judicious Fathers proposed these words: “The Congregation of Capuchins was never exalted higher or more pleasing to God that today!” Prophetically they said these words, “Thanks to Bernardine of Siena[794] this Reform has grown very much. If God had not helped it with this tribulation the Congregation would have become lax within a short time. However this will be a purging that will purify it of all those who have little good will.”

In Genoa there was a saintly woman called Madonna Pellotta whom I knew and with whom I have often spoken. I have been well informed by the Friars of that time that this holy woman loved the poor Congregation so tenderly. When she heard about the tribulation she did nothing else for months but weep and with great fervour beg our Lord God and his holy Mother for the preservation of the poor Capuchins.

It doesn’t seem to me that I say nothing about the venerable and holy Capuchin women from the Monastery in Naples[795] and what they did. When they heard about the tribulation they persevered for many months and years in the most fervent prayers in common. In particular many of them afflicted themselves fasting on bread and water and other afflictions to placate the anger of the Lord God so that he might not look at our wretchedness, but that according to his mercy preserve this poor Congregation.

I will leave off speaking about the loving and devout city of Perugia that was completely dedicated in its devotion towards the Capuchins. Had they been able to they would have given all they possessed in the world in defence of the poor Congregation. When they met the poor Friars and seeing them so afflicted and pale in the face, they said with a loving voice, “Oh you poor fellows, I have heard tell that you have had it this time! Have patience and do not worry because God will help you.” In particular the venerable old Anton Berrettaio didn’t dare to leave his house for fear of hearing some new evil about his sons. He spent most of his time weeping for them. There was always someone who said to him, “Antonio, have you seen the flight of your Capuchins? Whom will we believe now? They seemed like saints to us. It seems as though the sun is hidden from us. There was no other light in the world and now this infernal enemy has taken this good from us. For the whole world rejoiced over the exemplary life of these servants of God. I cannot believe that God won’t help them. This is nothing else but envy and wickedness.” The affection that all the Perugians bore towards the Capuchins universally was such that they never believed any evil of the Congregation. Instead they had great compassion towards us and many devout individuals prayed God for us constantly.

Suffice it to say that I could speak of many throughout Italy who had great compassion for the poor Congregation. When the storm cloud passed and its innocence was revealed, the Congregation revived in the affection of everyone more than ever. His Holiness, all the Court and Prelates of Holy Church knew it was holy and good, and it was publicised and manifested as such. Our devotees arose again and opposed our adversaries with great constancy. The adversaries bit at the Congregation so atrociously and they went around sowing the idea that it was necessary for all the Capuchins to abandon the cowl and that we would all be disbanded and brought to nothing. When our friends came across these they said to them, “You poor fellows! You would do better to keep quiet!” From then on this resulted in the fact that no one believed anything they said any more. This was the greatest blow our adversaries could ever have in public because they lost almost all credibility. Also from this resulted that which the venerable Camaldolese Father said: that by the grace of God the Congregation was almost completely purged of lax Friars, all of whom returned to when they came.

409. We spoke above about the joy the holy Apostles had from the honour given them by the people because of the great devotion the people bore towards Jesus Christ; and when he was taken from them there was great confusion and shame that they because of this. The same happened to the Capuchins. When Ochino was their General, because he was an outstanding man of such prospects because the whole world adored him as a saint. At preaching he was the best in all of Italy and perhaps in all Christendom. He preached with such acceptance that he often had twenty or twenty five thousand persons at his sermon. He enjoyed so much credibility with the Court and with all the Prelates of Holy Church that everyone held him to be an Apostle of Christ. I won’t spend too long on him because I have already spoken about him at length in another part. It is enough to say that our Congregation received great honour because of him and everyone held it in the palm of their hand. However when this wretch fell from such a high summit, all the glory of the Capuchins that they received because of him was changed into a bitter lament. This was something God guided. For although the entire Congregation lived in perfect observance of the Rule at the time, it lacked something in this regard that is more important: the holy Cross. Our Lord so loved and embraced the Cross when he came into the world that he embraced it in the crib indissolubly. He never abandoned it for the entire course of his life until, when on the Cross, he commended his immaculate spirit to the Eternal Father. His goodness seeks it so much in those who serve him that most of what he does for them in this world is to make them sharers in his cross and to adorn them with it life legitimate sons.

Therefore because of the great welcome of world and the glory of Ochino that the Capuchins received the cross of Christ weakened in them. For they not only praised us with words but were also very abundant in their alms. The strict poverty that everyone observed came to be tarnished. In this way they also received harm because many would not have come to the Congregation to receive the holy habit because they had little spirit. They came because of that worldly glory. Therefore it was the mercy of God that this plague was removed from the poor Congregation in order to restore us wholly into the pure observance of the Rule, into that first poverty of spirit and despising of the world. It was a great instruction for us never to entrust ourselves again to the lures of the world and to remain continuously in the fear of God, founding ourselves on true humility and considering Bernardine of Siena. He was a very learned man, old in the Franciscan Order, highly regarded by everyone. How miserably he fell. As one great servant of God said, “I do not think he fell for any other reason if not because we was so self assured and trusted so much in himself that he had abandoned holy prayer completely.” Therefore this holy man said, “It is not possible to be able to persevere very long in the Order without prayer.”[796]

410. Therefore it pleased the Lord God to turn everything to our God. For our Prelates learned from this that from then onwards they were very careful in receiving Friars. From this it followed that all the time that those holy old Friars governed the Congregation was maintained in the perfect observance of the Rule. Universally it was always very quiet. However, when the Congregation was deprived of the governance of those holy cold Friars by bodily death, it began to expand and the spirit began to cool. Those who went through that tribulation were so refined in holy contemplation and in the holy virtues that I who knew them would say that all those who died in the holy Order could be canonised without any other miracles. For attaching themselves to the feet of Christ they constituted a portrait[797] of one continuous prayer. Because they were well suited and expert the majority of them fasted on bread and water most of the years. The conversed little with one another because, as the devout Bernard[798] says, they felt they were never more alone than when they were accompanied by other men. For it seemed to them that in solitude they were accompanied by Jesus Christ and in the company of men they were deprived of him. When any secular, one of our devotees came to the friary this is what they did. Only the porter spoke with him or the Father Guardian. No other Friar appeared. They all fled instead. Some withdrew into the woods, some into their cells, others into the church. They spent almost all their time fruitfully. When they gathered together sometimes like beloved brothers they always spoke about God or the Rule. Such was the relish they felt in holy prayer that those servants of God were drawn to it like iron to a loadstone. To them it seemed like committing a great sin to spend time in fruitless things. Often I saw and experienced the bright, clear conscience of those servants of God. When it happened some times that one stopped to talk with his brother, no matter how short a time it was, as soon as he became aware of it he knelt down and admitted his fault, “Forgive me, my brother, because I have made you waste time.” Then with great sorrow he would have gone off to confess himself. Those servants of God could not tolerate any blemish on their conscience that was not immediately from them with tears. Their good conscience made it easy for them to guard themselves from every stain of sin and to habituate themselves in every kind of virtue. Like Angels of God that do not have bodies, every kind of suffering seemed easy to them for the love of God. Their submission[799] and reverence for their superiors was such that the superiors only had to make known their intention and these carried it out immediately. Like perfect men they strove not only to be obedient the commands of their superiors but also to their simple intentions. They behaved this way in everything pertaining to the perfect observance of the Rule. This was for them like a hedge that never allowed anything come near them that the holy Rule proscribes us. With this holy caution those servants of God preserved themselves. So they not only observed the precepts of the Rule, but they perfectly observed all the counsels. They were so detached from every passion that with great delight and without difficulty they ran rapidly in the service of the Lord unto the vault of heaven. It seemed that the providence of the Lord would favour them in everything for because of the great devotion that the seculars had for them, it seemed reasonable that alms should abound, which are often the cause of making us offend holy poverty. Nonetheless it was a miracle of God when some alms were brought to them. They went whole months in which there was no meat in those friaries. This happened by the will of God in order to preserve those servants of his in perfect poverty, because a rumour went around in general that the Capuchins did not eat meat, nor did they want more of anything than for a day. When they ate, they gave all that was given them for the love of God. According to the custom of those early saints, those poor fellows contented themselves with greens and legumes. They ate little else in those houses. Most of the greens they ate raw. Thus hidden away from all earthly cares in those solitary little places they lived like Angels of God in perfect peace and communion. They rarely left those friaries and when it was necessary to go for alms, it seemed like a thousand years to return. The enjoy conversation with one another so much that when they were away from the friars they felt a great bitterness. It felt as though they were deprived of…[800]

LXX: About what our Monsignor Protector did in support of the Congregation

411. Support of the Cardinal Protector. 412. Francis of Iesi, Commissary General. 413. The preachers are suspended from the office of preaching. 414. They all have to explain some articles. 415. Peace returns.

411. Not long after His Lordship came personally to the Friary of Saint Nicholas. He consulted with all the assembled Fathers about what had to be done for a more solid organisation of the poor Congregation. Each gave his opinion. Because His Lordship loved the Congregation supremely he always helped it most faithfully. There was one time when he came to Perugia with His Holiness[801]. It was at the time when Ochino went away. Because of his devotion he was passing by Our Lady of the Angels and he wanted to visit those holy places where our Father Saint Francis had been. When he came to our house of the Carcerelle, after he had seen the house and the Friars very informally he wanted to go. Kneeling down I said to him, “Monsignor, I commend the poor Congregation to you. You are our Protector. If we ever have some need you would be a father to us. You have always been that way towards us. Now there is greater need than ever.” That holy Prelate replied, “Father, do not be remiss yourselves. Commend yourselves to God because the Congregation now is difficulty[802]. In so far as I can and know how I will not fail to help it.”

412. So he did, for the first thing was to give a head in making the venerable Father Francis of Iesi Commissary General even though according to the Constitutions this office would fall Father Bernardine of Asti since he was first Definitor. Nonetheless when he heard that Father Iesci never liked the doctrine of Ochino and that he never wanted his prayer[803], His Lordship trusted him more than anyone else. By his own authority he chose him as Commissary General on behalf of His Holiness. That good Father dedicated himself to persecute the doctrine of Ochino like an unleashed lion. The sermons and good exhortations of this good Father were of such benefit that even though the entire Congregation was in great disarray it calmed down in a very short time and was completely purged. However there was little to purge because the few contaminated by Ochino took to the road on their own accord.

Not many days later His Lordship gave permission for each to return to his Province. He ordered that at Pentecost the following year (which was 1543) the General Chapter be celebrated in Rome. In that Chapter Father Francis of Iesi was elected Vicar General[804].

413. Therefore, once the Chapter was celebrated, in order to better purge the good field of this little Congregation of ours of every weed, if there was any or if any were to come about, our Protector suspended from the office of preaching all the preachers the Congregation had. This was of singular benefit because if there was any preacher moved by sinister intent to exercise that holy office, when he saw he could not do it among us he would take himself off. So it happened. For some who appeared to be good, zealous and full of spirit left the Congregation. They quickly revealed that that had within the breast an intention other than what was fitting for them. For they preferred the fruit they received from the world for their preaching rather not exercise that office for the love of God.

So by this road the poor Congregation was freed of many vain glorious men who having left the habit they previously wore to put on ours returned to take up the old one. In this they were discovered not to have much spirit.

This suspension of the preachers lasted for about two years.

414. When His Beatitude saw that the Congregation was completely purged he restored the preaching. Nonetheless he wanted that those preachers could preach who had well understood and explained some articles that the Monsignor gave them. These articles will be discussed in their place[805]. All that His Holiness ordered was carried out, that is, the Protector had carried out the order on his behalf and by his commission. When the preachers had explained those articles they sent them to the Protector in Rome and His Holiness gave them written permission to preach.

415. More than ever the whole Congregation was calm in the perfect observance of the Rule. When our adversaries saw that their plans did not succeed they lowered their wings. Often when our devotees met them the devotees said to them as a joke, “Have you prepared the habits for the Capuchins? They still haven’t arrived. I doubt they will come any more. How much better it is to say ‘Our Fathers’ than to go about snapping at anyone who wants to do the right thing!” From then on, they haven’t dared to speak any more of them. They had almost lost all hope when they saw how God had freed us from such a peril.

LXXI: On certain revelations Our Lord Jesus Christ gave to a great servant of his called Brother John the Spaniard, Capuchin and Martyr

416. The revelations of John Zuazo on the future of the Congregation. 417. On the revelations in particular: a) The Congregation is pleasing to the Lord; b) it is the worthiest, highest and most perfect state; c) no heretic will die in it; d) the conduct of the General pleases the Lord very much; e) in what consists the observance of the Rule; f) abuses displease God very much; g) regarding preaching; h) two kinds of Friars; I) divine Providence towards the Capuchin Order; j) the certainty of these visions; k) about the Brief issued against the Observants who came to the Capuchins; l) two other kinds of Friars; m) on obedience to the General of the Conventuals; n) four degrees in the observance of the Rule; o) on obedience to the Prelates of the Church; p) on Purgatory; q) criteria to knew whether these revelations are true; r) their purpose. 418. Various redactions of these revelations. 419. Conclusion.

416. The General Chapter had been held in Rome and it was after the election of the venerable Father Francis of Iesi as General by the whole Congregation. It pleased the Lord God to re-assure everyone with different apportions and revelations just how pleasing the Congregation of Capuchins was to him. In particular there was great servant of God called Brother John the Spaniard. He was very assiduous in holy contemplation, as will be said in his biography[806].

Father General enjoined him therefore to ask the Lord about some passages and some doubts that were useful to the Congregation when he appeared to him in prayer. That our Lord appeared to him in prayer was commonly known among the Friars. Although the Lord revealed many things to him, the General did not want to know about any of them unless they were useful for the Congregation.

So this servant of Christ, Brother John the Spaniard, a priest, was in the friary named Magdalene at Montepulciano. He was there in September and part of December 1543. He was there in the month of April until 10 July in 1544. In that friary this servant of God led an anchoritic life. He ate only once a day and that was just a little bread and water. He remained withdrawn in a little cell above the other cells in a corner of the Friars’ dormitory. He didn’t come to the Office or any of the other things with the other Friars except every morning he said Mass with great devotion. Then he immediately withdrew to that cell. These revelations were given to him at three times and in two particular places. One part was in that friary at Montepulciano. The other part was in the Friary at Assisi called the Carcarelle[807].

417. Therefore the General was in the place at Montepulciano when this particular question occurred to him: Was this the true Reform of the Order of Saint Francis? By this he understood that the true Reform is the one prophesied by our Father Saint Francis and that had to be done in the last days. That is, it is the last Reform of the Order. He enjoined Brother John to ask the Lord about this in particular when he appeared to him as he had done at other times: if it would please him to reveal to Brother John how pleasing the Congregation was to him. And if it was for his glory and universal usefulness and if it pleased him that these things could be written down.

a) When the Lord appeared to him in the aforesaid friary, Brother John asked him saying, “My Lord, you know what has been enjoined on me by my Superior. Now if it is acceptable to you and if it results in you glory, may it please you to reveal to me how pleasing the condition of our Congregation is to you. For as you know we find ourselves amid great travail.” The first revelation lasted almost the whole month of December. During this time he appeared often with great visible splendour and spoke to him out loud. Once he spoke to him in his mind and with greater splendour, but inwardly and not visibly. He said to him, “Know my son that I have made this Congregation and it is very pleased and beloved to me. Therefore say also to the General that he can be happy because I am take special care of it and it cannot fail because of any diabolical or human malice.” Although this vision lasted for a long time and he revealed and showed to him wonderful things, nonetheless the Lord didn’t want Brother John to tell the General anything other than the things that were useful for the Congregation.

When he heard these things the Father General was felt completely re-assured within himself to not be surprised at either the struggles or travails that would happen to them, but to help the poor Congregation with zeal and all solicitude. Giving a sermon he said, “I no longer worry to much about Friars who leave the Congregation because the Lord takes care of it and he is the one who provides[808] for it. Let each one be on his guard not to go crooked because the Lord will chase him from the Congregation immediately. As for myself I fear that the Lord may send me away for not being what he would want. Where have you ever seen greater blows than those our Lord has given to the bad Friars who were in this poor Reform? He has not only driven them from the Order also from his Church and with his permission he has let reprobates go off the heretics. There has never been a zeal so great as that which the Lord has had and still has to preserve this holy Reform.”

b) The second interval was during the following winter in the month of December, close to the Nativity of Our Lord. Brother John was more assiduous at prayer than usual when the Lord appeared to him openly. He contemplated him with his physical eyes. The first words he said to him were, “Know Brother John, just as I have said to you already, that the Congregation is the worthiest, highest and most perfect state there is. It is more acceptable and pleasing to me than any other state in the whole Church militant and in all of Christendom. Know too that I delight in this Congregation more than any other state. Repeating it often he said, “You can be certain that if there were another state or another life more perfect than this one I would have shown it to you and I would give you light and the opportunity so that you could go there and serve me. But because there is none more perfect, by persevering in this state in the true observance of the Rule until death you will be most pleasing to me and I will delight in you.”

The Lord told him that he wanted delight in him, therefore he gave him the grace to go to preach to the infidels and he flew off to heaven with the palm of martyrdom.

c) The third interval was in the following Spring, from the month of April near Easter until the 12th of July. In this one the Lord God deigned to condescend and show himself in such a kindly and familiar way to Brother John. He did not only during his continuous prayers, Masses and Divine Offices day and night, but even while he was eating and sometimes while he rested. He appeared to him with the greatest abundance, liberality and clarity. He said to him, “Know Brother John that the Congregation is very pleasing to me just as I have told you at other times. In the Congregation I do not want any Friar who has died in mortal sin. Although I may wait some time to allow for penance, nonetheless I will finally send away all the incorrigible Friars who do not amend their ways and live with malice in the Congregation.” Our Lord was referring to those Friars who have died in heresy. And the Father General understood that God would not permit any heretic to die in this holy Reform with the holy habit of Saint Francis while it did not mean that they could die there in other mortal sins.

d) The Lord revealed more to him, saying, “The General and other Superiors should not feel sad at the departure of Friars because I permit this because of my hidden judgement. However with every diligence they should maintain the others who remain in spirit and fervour, joyful and content in the true and pure observance of the Rule. It pleases me very much,” the Lord said, “that with his sermons the Vicar General enlighten, preserve, strengthen and increase the love of the Friars in their perseverance just as he has done until now.” The Lord also said, “It pleases me that he recognises this gift and benefit I have given him of being elected Prelate and Pastor of such a seraphic and evangelical flock. I grant it such perfection in all these difficult times. Therefore he should acknowledge that all good comes from me. Let him be careful not to consider himself adequate, rather let him strive to fulfil the duty his office requires and to give good example. With good example and sermons, he should enlighten his sheep inwardly and externally as is required of such a shepherd. If he feels that he does not have the strength to do this office, let him not worry and many he not lack faith. Because I will help him all the more. I will not fail to supply for him since I have chosen him and enjoined on him this burden.”

e) The revealed to him still more and said, “Know, Brother John, that true observance of the Rule consists completely in having in truth my true, living and pure Spirit as is written in the rule; just as it also says that all things must serve that Spirit. Moreover I tell you, Brother John that many Friars without this spirit and without true humility and ardent charity want to show themselves too zealous about poverty. However with that dry and cruel zeal the knock down and confound the true and pure spiritual observance of the Rule. In this they become proud, contentious, restless and unstable. Becoming restless among themselves they completely leave behind the peaceful and tranquil foundation of holy and evangelical poverty and humility, since through their continuous restlessness they drive from themselves the true, living, holy and charitable spirit, the ultimate foundation of the Rule. Know that all the other ceremonies, exercises and observances are worthwhile and please me in so far as they proceed from that Spirit and lead to holy prayer and a living love for me. Without these conditions the above mentioned things displease me, or rather, they displease me very much as things that are opposed to the true spirit. Know, Brother John, how much it has pleased me to see you – through my grace- completely stripped of all earthly things and submitted to me. You have practiced in this spirit for about fifteen years. During which time I say that you have never failed to perfectly observe the precepts and counsels of the Rule. Know that I want these things written down for universal usefulness so that the Friars may knows that true observance consists in this. Therefore I have wanted that it be written in the Rule: super omnia desiderare debent habere spiritum Domini [809].

Constrained by the will of the Lord, even though he in himself he recognised as very vile and completely unworthy of such a gift, Brother John would never have been aware of this perfect observance if the Lord had not revealed it to him. And the Lord commanded him that he would have all these things written down.

f) Furthermore the Lord said to him how much the observance of the holy evangelical counsels pleased him. I very much lament, “said the Lord, “over Friars of the Congregation who though they have the name and order as true observers of the gospel many of them distrust my providence. They wear pockets and carry provisions of things to eat as if they were in the land of the infidels. In the friaries they do superfluous quests[810] and keep provisions for many days with some excuse that Friars might arrive and such similar things. These things promote laxity more and are more sensual and are not in conformity with evangelical perfection. Those who are in the truth trust in me both when on journeys and in all the other friaries. With a living and true faith they go without any provision, entrusting themselves to my providence. I have never failed these in their necessities but have provided for them abundantly.”

Furthermore the Lord said to him, “Know that the Constitutions please me very much, and much more their observance. They explain how to observe the holy gospel counsels and Rule. I lament that some Prelates break and act against these ordinances for the smallest reason that is more towards laxity than perfection. It also displeases me when they enforce the Constitutions without keeping an eye on charity towards ones neighbour. The Constitutions should be observed while keeping an eye on love for me and for ones neighbour and with spirit. Without that spirit and my love nothing pleases me.”

g) Furthermore the Lord said, “It pleases me supremely that the Friars completely submit themselves and trust in my providence and goodness and totally distrust themselves.” This was because when His Holiness took away the faculty to preach because of the departure of Ochino, the Father General enjoined on the Friars that they not preach after asking the Lord is this was his will. Then the Lord said to him, “It pleases me supremely that Friars completely submit to my will in every thing and trust in my providence as said above.”

The Lord added further, “It displeases me that Friars trust in the favours of the world or of some friend. They should neither desire nor ask of me either paradise or anything, but serve me simply for the sake of my love, casting all their cares from themselves onto me. Nor should they ask from me the favour to preach which I have taken from the Congregation by means of my Vicar because it was not expedient that they repatch. Nor should they desire anything because this is the state of perfection and these things are all unfitting because they tarnish a living hope in my providence that this state of perfection requires. However it seems to me that if they submit to my good pleasure in all things, they should not look to anything else about preaching. Rather they should fervently beg me that I make use of them and glorify myself in them and show my goodness when, how and where it pleases me and is for my greater glory.

h) Furthermore the Lord revealed to him, “Know, Brother John that there are two kinds of Friars. The first love me with a strong love. These are all those who strive to persevere in my grace and remain completely free of mortal sin. I have many of these not only in the Order but also in the world. However I am much more pleased with those in this Congregation because they are more detached from the world and who are in this grade than I am with all the others together who are outside the Congregation, that is in the world, and who practice in this degree. The second kind of Friars are those who love me with a strong and fair love. There are few of these. Nonetheless there are many more in the world than in the Order. I am not saying that they are more perfect, but they are of greater simplicity and lack malice. I am well pleased with those who are very much in this grade, the more so when I find them in true observance and in the perfect state of imitation of my gospel.”

i) “Know, Brother John, that his Congregation is much beloved to me and much loved by me. If it happened that there were only three Friars who remained in the true observance of the Rule, I would be more pleased with them than with the rest of the whole world[811]. Know that I don’t take account of many Friars and great preachers who have little trust in me and even less observe the Rule and the evangelical perfection shown them in that Rule. However I do take account of those please me because they totally submit to me and desire nothing else as their final purpose but me. Know that even though the true and perfect observers of the Rule are few, considering the great multitude of the Order, nonetheless when it please me I will glorify my self in them. With these few I will make myself known to the world that in all the rest of the world together. Therefore I tell you I have taken away preaching from the Congregation (as I told you), for my Vicar has carried out my will, because it is not expedient for them to preach. For the world is scandalised because of Ochino, not because of hearing the preaching but by pointing them out the people would go to them. I will be glorified in you much more by your humility, you remaining patiently resigned to obedience to my Church than I would be if you preached. I want you to preach with silence and good example for preaching with example is no less important or of less merit than preaching with words. When it pleases me, I will restore preaching with greater fruit of souls and for my greater glory.

“Further I tell you Brother John that the Congregation is still not completely purged of foul-smelling heresies. Though there are no heretics, but there are some that have been infected. Therefore I do not want the Congregation to preach as long as these Friars do not review themselves, blinded as they are through the instigation of the devil. In fact if they remain obstinate I will have driven them out of the Congregation. Because they are the cause of impeding preaching, with great harm to my Church because of the fruit of souls that the good preachers would have had by preaching. I will send them away too both for having tarnished my Congregation that I love so much and also for having given scandal to the Christian people. Know that if they do not review themselves they will not only be driven from this Congregation but I will cut them off like dry branches from my Church and from me, head of the Church in this life and in the next.”

j) The Lord appeared to him for many days. He always affirmed the same, saying all the aforesaid things that will be soon fulfilled. Do not worry whether these apparitions are deceits or illusions of the enemy because divine providence never does anything in vane but orders all things to their due end. “Therefore one does not need to think whether such a Reform and Congregation is founded and ordained by my clemency and kindness. It is criterion of my work if it is known to be attacked, opposed and persecuted by the demons and their members; and if I free it from so many tempests, debilitating and confounding the power and strength of the adversaries. Now that the port of salvation is near, even though the Congregation is still travailed, nonetheless it will come to its goal by my grace. The fruit I intended to derive from it when I ordained it will follow when I it pleases me. Nor will it be impeded.”

k) Note that the Zoccolanti had obtained a Brief from His Holiness so that none of the Friars could come to the Capuchins. Father General enjoined on Brother John to ask the Lord, if it pleased him, to reveal his will on this matter and if that Brief had to be observed. When he appeared to him the Lord responded to the question. He said, “Tell the General that if any good Friar comes from the family, it pleases me that he receive him even though the Brief is to the contrary. Because the Brief was obtained by human favour and was not proposed by my Vicar himself. Furthermore the Pope cannot prohibit a non-Christian man from living in a Christian way and observing the divine law. Similarly the Pope cannot prohibit a Friar from observing his Rule and, if he is professed, he cannot prohibit him from living as a Religious if he can and wants to do so. Nonetheless, since there is the Brief, for the sake of reverence towards the authority of the Church is does not please me if the Brief be disdained. Therefore so that it does not generate scandal and look like some disdain toward the things of the Church, these Friars should be received very cautiously and without a din by sending them to the furthest Provinces. Although the Brief is of such a tenor, nonetheless it is not the will of my vicar. He granted the Brief because of their insistence. I am very pleased with some Prelates who have acted this way.”

Note that the Father General wanted to be sure and when he spoke with His Holiness regarding what his will was regarding the Brief, he found it was just as the Lord had revealed it. His Holiness said to him, “I granted them that Brief because of their insistence. However, receive the Friars still. However, so that they do not take up my ears all day, do it cautiously and transfer the Friars away.”

l) The Lord appeared to him another time. He said to him, “Know Brother John that in the Congregation there are two kinds of Friars, both blameless and pure. However the first are like dry sticks that are disposed to receive fire. They might not come to the perfect simplicity to which I have called them and to which I desire them to come. However because of the violence they do to themselves out of love for me they may yet be ready. When the time I have appointed comes I will ignite the fire of love there and with the abundance of my grace I will make use of them to my glory. The second kind are those who come to the perfect purity of a perfect life. These are completely submissive and ordered to my will in such a way that they are purged of all self-will. They desire nothing else than to be conformed to my will. These are rare. Without a living spirit it is impossible to observe the Rule meritoriously and perfectly. Know that those who truly do not seek this spirit not only do not observe the Rule but attack it in the others and destroy it as much as they can. These displease me intensely.”

m) Note that this doubt emerged among the Friars, whether the congregation stood with good conscience under the General of the Conventuals since the General of the Zoccolanti had the seals of the Order. Our General wanted to clarify this doubt. He enjoined on Brother John to ask the Lord about it. When he appeared to him, Brother John asked him about the doubt to which the Lord answered. He said, “Know, Brother John, that the Friars Minor promise obedience in three degrees and to three kinds of persons. This is contained in the first Chapter of the Rule where obedience and the observance of the Gospel are promised to me and out of love for me the authority of Holy Church is received. The second is the obedience promised to the head of the Church, which is the Pope and his successors canonically elected to whom Saint Francis promises obedience and reverence. However in the third place and degree, for the sake of my love, all the Friars of the Order promise holy evangelical obedience to Saint Francis and to the other successors. In regard to the first degre