by Bernardino d’Asti
Translated by Patrick Colbourne O.F.M.Cap.
This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by P. Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap. In I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/1, pp.239-249. The only additions to the notes made by the translator are references to Francis of Assisi: The Early Documents, edited by Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., J. A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. and William J. Short O.F.M. Conv., New York City Press, New York, London, Manila, (1999) for an English version of quotations from the Writings or Biographies of St Francis.
Table of Contents
- Introduction by Contanzo Cargnoni O.F.M.Cap.
- The first prayer to the most holy Trinity in which we observe the first and greatest precept upon which the observance of all the other precepts depends
- The second prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and to his most sweet Mother who is our advocate
- Third prayer, in which the soul thanks God for all his gifts and laments all her offences and proposes never to offend again
- The fourth prayer, in which he prays to God on behalf of all people who are in the present life and all the souls in Purgatory
- The fifth prayer, to the eternal Father
- The sixth prayer, to the Son
- The seventh prayer, to the Holy Spirit
This is the first spiritual text in the Capuchin Order and it demonstrates how each renewal movement in the Church is born out of a deep experience of prayer. These exercises in affective contemplative prayer are made up of seven “devout prayers” to the Holy Trinity and develop into an act of adoration of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit to foster an act of love towards God which is the basis of the law and the objective of the spiritual life. The main spiritual theme of these prayers is the spirit and life of love with the continually recurring sigh of “I adore” as a kind of commentary on liturgical and Franciscan prayer. “We adore” or “we bless” are effective and excellent examples of evangelical adoration in spirit and in truth, which essentially is a prayer of praise which both the Albacina Ordinances of 1529 and the Constitution of S. Eufemia of 1536 claim to be the basic meaning of mental and contemplative prayer.
According to his biographers, Father Bernardino d’Asti had these exercises in prayer printed in Milan in 1535 at the editorial establishment of Antonio Castiglione. Another edition was published in Genoa by Antonio Belloni in 1557, the year of his death. This it would be the first publishing enterprise of the Capuchins. However up to now no copy of this edition has been found. Fortunately, however, a manuscript copy of the text was discovered in 1978 in cod. 64 in the Biblioteca Storico-Francescana di Chiesa Nuova in Assisi This is reproduced here in more modern language, with the appropriate punctuation, eliminating abbreviations, but without disturbing its original simplicity, the depth of its mystical emotion and warmth.
The first prayer to the most holy Trinity in which we observe the first and greatest precept upon which the observance of all the other precepts depends
3724 I adore you, most powerful Father, most wise Son, most gentle Holy Spirit, most holy Trinity, my most holy, most worthy and most excellent God, I adore and bless you and, as far as I am able, I thank you together with all your angels, saints and everyone, for your infinite goodness, since you possess all good to the highest, most exalted, infinite and immense degree and are most worthy of all love, most ardent pleasure and all that is excellent.
Because you, my Lord and my God, are as completely perfect as you are, I would like, desire and, as far as I am able, want most intently with all my heart, with all my soul, with my entire mind and with all my might. that I and all your creatures would desire more than anything else to be dissolved into nothing or suffer all kinds of evil rather that you, my most holy God, should want for anything that is good or suffer any evil.
3743 I beg of you, most sweet Lord and my God, increase, strengthen and preserve this desire in me and make me always love, reverence, fear, adore and bless you most fervently above all else and always burn very fervently with your love.
Forgive me, my most holy Lord, for not having loved you and for not loving you as I should even now, since my love of you is as little or nothing, O my most sweet, worthy and excellent Lord. I love you with many vices and sins, with such tepidity and negligence, with such ingratitude and malice, if it is possible to love you while being like this. Forgive me, Lord, I beg of you by means of your infinite goodness, by means of the merits and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, of his glorious Virgin Mother and all your saints. Do not let me remain so tepid and cold, so full of negligence and laziness, so full of vice [187v] and sin, so full of blemished love, but inflame my heart with the strong and unquenchable fire of your most ardent love, of that most perfect love which is never idle, but undertakes great things, which destroys whatever causes vice and sinful loving. Do not allow me to be separated from your love ever again.
The second prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and to his most sweet Mother who is our advocate
3744 I adore you, most sweet Jesus. I adore your most holy divinity, in which together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, you are my one God. I adore your most sweet and comely, most pure and most beautifully appointed humanity.
I adore your most worthy Mother for love of you and for the excellent goodness of your most worthy humanity and that of your most sweet Mother. As much as I can wish without offending you, I desire to suffer every kind of evil as soon as possible. From now on I desire that you would lack nothing that befits your most holy humanity and that of your most sweet Mother or that any harm should come to it.
I beg of you, most sweet Jesus, through the prayers, merits and love of your delightful Mother, to draw me by means of most ardent and chaste, pure and fervent love to your most sweet Mother and make me come towards you and reach you through her and through you to come towards and reach your most holy Father. Amen.
Third prayer, in which the soul thanks God for all his gifts and laments all her offences and proposes never to offend again
3745 I adore you, my most holy Lord and God, and I bless you and as far as I can I thank you with all your saints, for your infinite goodness and for your infinite love for me, a most iniquitous and ungrateful sinner, and for all your gifts of creation, redemption and vocation to the [188r] Reform, and for all your gifts that you have conferred on me a most vile and ungrateful sinner and which you continue to deign to confer. I confess all my iniquities and sins to you, my all-powerful God.
Most merciful Lord, I confess all my pride, all my gluttony and incontinence, my negligence and my laziness, all of my detractions and murmuring, all futile visions, all my sinful and unclean thoughts and my notable and continual ingratitude.
I confess all the innumerable, serious and horrible sins that I have committed in my heart, with my tongue, and in my deeds, all my omissions and bad actions, all the sins through which I have offended your most holy Majesty, my soul and my neighbour from the day of my Baptism up to the present time. I declare these to be my own fault, my most grievous fault, my most iniquitous and ungrateful fault, and I confess to you, my most sweet and pious Lord, that I am not worthy to raise my eyes to heaven, I am not worthy of any of your leniency or forgiveness. I am unworthy of any good and most deserving of every present, future, temporal or eternal evil
3746 I beg of your infinite goodness and mercy, through the prayers, merits and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, of your most sweet Mother and of all your saints and elect, angels and men, not to deal with me according to my iniquities, but according to your mercy.
My most merciful Lord, make me always love, adore, bless, reverence and fear you most fervently and always thank you for all the good things that you give me. Make me weep most bitterly for all my sins. O most sweet Lord I do not wish to ever offend your most sweet Majesty. I do not want to even commit either a mortal or venial sin.
My Lord, I beg of you to give my head water and my eyes fountains of tears. Give my heart most bitter contrition and displeasure, most intense and continual sorrow for all my vices and sins. Make me cry continually every day that I have damned my miserable soul so often and have often separated it from you its most sweet Lord and Spouse, and given it and enslaved it to infernal devils and often deprived it of the eternal happiness of the company of the angels and all the saints and of infinite treasure and the grace of your most sweet friendship and so often scandalised my neighbour, and, as far as I could, have been the cause and occasion of the damnation of many souls who had been redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3747 However, Lord, make even more sure and special that I weep most bitterly every day because I have offended your most sweet Mother. I beg of you, most merciful Lord, through all the merits and prayers of our lord Jesus Christ, of your most sweet Mother and of all your saints, that you forgive me and free me from eternal punishment, from the power of the Devil and from the place where they curse your most holy Majesty.
Lord, place me in Purgatory for as long as your mercy requires so that I will always be in your grace and always know, love, adore, bless, praise and glorify you for ever. Give me the grace, O my most worthy Lord, never to offend you again and make me always ready to suffer all the evil of this world, of Purgatory and of the deepest Hell for love of you rather than sin mortally.
Thus, my Lord, I desire, choose and, as far as I can, firmly propose to suffer all the evils that I have mentioned for love of you as long as I no longer mortally offend your most sweet Majesty. However, I propose to achieve this, my most kind Lord, not by relying on my own strength, but on your infinite mercy and your omnipotent assistance.
3748 Help me. Lord, and make me do what you help me to achieve and promise. Help me once more and make me refrain from venial sins and to spend my time well in future and often feel sorry for past evil.
So that you may deign to do this for me, I beg of you to give me you most holy virtues, your love, your grace and take away all my vices, sins and iniquities, all inordinate love of self, of the world, and of the flesh, and inflame my heart with the most ardent fire of your love and never permit me to be deprived of your virtues, nor entangled in my vices.
I beg of you, my most sweet Lord, to allow me rather to be afflicted by all the evils in this world and Purgatory out of love for you and your grace than that I would ever again offend you mortally, doubt you or err about the Catholic faith or commit any mortal sin against your most holy commandments or against my profession. Let me be separated from your love rather than be permitted to go to eternal damnation. Amen.
The fourth prayer, in which he prays to God on behalf of all people who are in the present life and all the souls in Purgatory
3749 We adore you, O most holy Lord and our God, and we bless you and, as far as we can, we give you thanks together with all your saints for your infinite goodness, for your infinite love, for the gifts of creation, redemption and our vocation to this most holy Order. We thank you for these and all the countless gifts that you have bestowed on all your creatures especially on angels and on men and on me a most vile and ungrateful sinner and we also thank you because you continue to deign to do this. We together with all your saints, all [189v] clerics together with our Supreme Pontiff and all the prelates of the holy Roman Church, us religious and all the members of this holy Order and Congregation, all Christians and all men who are now in this valley of tears and misery, and all those who will be, we beg of you to make us know you, O Lord and our God, and to love you most fervently.
3750 Make us always thankful for all of your gifts. Make us always observe your commandments most fervently, purely and completely and, through your grace, persevere in our profession. Finally make us come to that most happy end for which you created us, so that we may praise and bless you forever.
We pray to you, O most sweet Lord, for the souls of all our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, relatives, friends and benefactors, for all souls who are or will be in the pains of Purgatory, that you would deign to want to free them and lessen their pain and free them quickly and lead them to eternal glory, so that they may praise you soon and bless you with all your saints forever. Amen.
3751 We adore you most powerful, sweet and excellent Father and we bless you, and, as far as we can, give you thanks together with all your saints and elect for your infinite goodness, for your infinite love, for your infinite gifts and especially for your most sweet only begotten Son whom you have given to us. We beg of you, through his merits, to draw us to your Son by the golden chain of your love and through him make us come to him and reach him. Out of your love give us your most holy virtues and your grace and take all our vices and sins, all inordinate love of the world and the flesh and all its pleasures and vanities away from us and do not allow us to be deprived of [190r] your virtues nor stained by our vices.
Our most holy Father, make us always believe in you in the Son and the Holy Spirit with firm and solid faith which is inflamed by charity and confirmed by good actions, so that we will not perish but possess eternal life. Amen.
3752 We adore you, most wise, worthy and excellent Son and we bless you and, as far as we can, we give you thanks together with your most sweet Mother and all your saints and elect, for your infinite goodness, dignity and enchantment, for all your gifts, but especially for the admirable and most precious gift of your most holy Incarnation. We thank you for such excessive love, for such humility and for raising our human nature to such heights. We thank you for the nine months which you remained enclosed in the womb of the ever most pure Virgin Mother, for your most holy birth, for your most sweet and perfect way of life, for your most humble subjection, for all your troubled life, for your most holy Passion, for all your most precious blood, for all the evil that you underwent for us, for all the gifts which you gave and deign to continue to give us.
I beg of you, through your infinite goodness, sweetness, sympathy and generosity, through your super abundant merits, through all the merits, prayers and love of your most sweet Mother and all your saints and elect, that you would wish to cleanse me from all my vices, sins and iniquities, and embellish me with your most holy virtues, to take from me all inordinate love of self, of the world, or the flesh and of all its pleasures and vanities and deign to completely inflame me with your most fervent love.
3753 Make me, O my most sweet, worthy and excellent Lord, receive today and always, your most excellent Sacrament and receive you worthily in it. Make me always keep it close to my heart, in my soul, in my mind and make me love you above everything and reverence, fear, adore, bless, praise and glorify you forever and always burn with your love and be inflamed by your love ever more.
I beg of you, my most sweet Jesus [190v] Lord and my most worthy God, to draw all my heart, affections, love, my soul and all my hopes and desires to you. Make me place and establish all my wellbeing in you, for you are indeed my infinite treasure, my delight and my glory.
Jesus Lord and my God, make me embrace your most sweet and perfect way of life and follow it diligently. In the first place make me subject to you out of love for you, to the supreme Roman Pontiff, your Vicar General, to all my superiors and to every human creature in those things that do not displease your most holy Majesty.
3754 My most sweet Lord, out of love for you, make me despise all the pleasures and vanities of the world and of the flesh, as most vile dung, so that I may gain you, my infinite treasure, and possess you throughout my whole life and in the dreadful hour of my death and in my future eternal life.
O my most perfect Lord, make me patient and make me endure with a big heart for love of you all the insults that will be thrown at me, and all the bad things which you, O my most sweet Lord, permit to happen to me. Make me willingly forgive all who have or will insult me. Most generous Lord, forgive both me and them and make us live and die in grace. Amen.
3755 I adore you, most merciful, sweet and excellent Holy Spirit, and I bless you, and as far as I can give you thanks for your infinite goodness and for your infinite love and for all the gifts that you have given to us your tiny creatures and especially for the most precious gift of the Incarnation, passion and death of our most sweet Lord and God Jesus Christ. I thank you that you have cleansed, adorned, enlightened and inflamed all your saints. We beg this of you through all the prayers, merits and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, of his most sweet Virgin Mother, and all your saints. [191r]
Come, Holy Spirit, come most sweet love, come our most holy and excellent Lord and God! Cleanse and adorn, enlighten and inflame our hearts with the divine fire of your love and make us always think say and do what pleases you.
Forgive us, Lord, all that we have thought, said or done which was displeasing to your Majesty, and never more think, speak or do anything that displeases you.
Pater de coelis Deus, misere nobis.
Fili Redemptor mundi Deus, misere nobis.
Spiritus Sancte Deus, misere nobis.
O Most sympathetic, sweet and merciful Jesus, my true God, have mercy on us and assist us against our enemies and in all our needs, today and always, and save our souls. Amen.
- Cf. Mt 22:36-40; 1 Tim 1:5; 1 Jn 5:3. ↑
- Cf. Lk, 10, 27: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind.” ↑
- The build-up of emotion gives rises to paradoxical expressions, something that often happens in the language of the mystics, as here we see the expression of a desire to be dissolved into nothing, that is annihilation rather that that God should lack anything good or suffer any evil. ↑
- Cf. Jn 5:17: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” ↑
- Compare this prayer with n. 63 of the Constitutions of 1536, (Paul Hanbridge, Trans. The Capuchin Constitutions of 1536. A New English Translation, Collegio San Lorenzo da Brindisi, Rome 2009 [Revised] p. 33, 20) and you will understand the mystical inspiration of the early Capuchins, whose objective was to remove all “sinful loving” in order to achieve the perfection of pure loving union with God. ↑
- A prayer of proclamation and adoration to Jesus Christ in his divinity which follows a form that appears repeatedly among contemplatives as can be seen in fact especially in the method of contemplation used by Francesco da Jesi (see below). Adoration of Christ’s humanity is spontaneously linked to the presence of the Mother of God, who becomes the path to Christ, just as the Son is the path to the Father and the reason for the “attraction” to his most sweet Mother. Note the splendid concept: Jesus reveals Maria, and in turn Maria reveals Jesus who is the revelation of the Father. ↑
- In addition to the gifts of creation and redemption Bernardino d’Asti is anxious to thank God for the gift of his Franciscan vocation in the Capuchin reform. ↑
- This is a possible reference to the Earlier Rule of Saint Francis, chapter 10, 8: “to beware… of detraction and murmuring” (FAED, I, p. 105). ↑
- Cf. Jer 9:1 (Vulg).: “Quis dabit capiti meo aquam, et oculis meis fontem lacrymarium?” Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? ↑
- This is another line of reasoning that is often found in the language of the mystics. ↑
- Thus in this prayer the author is offering adoring thanksgiving for gifta received, together with a general confession of his own faults, and thus it is an example of the spirit of compunction and a practical commentary on the strong language of the Constitutions of 1536, n. 97, (Hanbridge, p 33, 20) “we have come to the Order … to weep for our sins, and to emend our life, to obey, and to carry the cross of penance following Christ”. ↑
- Franciscan “Order” and Capuchin “Congregation”. ↑
- In contrast to the previous prayer, this prayer is a community prayer, “We adore you”. This is a universal prayer which is offered up in a liturgical context as an intercession for everyone on earth and in Purgatory, including the Church, Pope, Bishops, priests and religious together with parents, relatives and benefactors in line with an official commitment issued to the early Capuchins and set down in the Constitutions of 1536 n. 43; (Hanbridge, p. 15, 3). ↑
- This is simply translating the words of the Gospel into a prayer: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;” (Jn 6:44); “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). ↑
- Note the simplicity and the richness of the theological thought ↑
- Cf. Phil 2:8-9. ↑
- Here there is probably an echo of the Litany of the Saints where we pray: Per mysterium sanctae incarnationis tuae, per adventum tuum, per nativitatem tuam, per crucem et passionem tuam…(Through the mystery of your holy Incarnation, by your coming, by your birth, by your cross and passion…) ↑
- The topic of embellishment of the soul is very dear to Bernardino d’Asti and it comes up again in the circular letter which he wrote to the Brothers in 1548. ↑
- The tranquil, deep and all-inclusive meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ focuses naturally on the Eucharist, as the centre of spiritual love, the summit of divine charity. Note the verbs that recur with ardour reminiscent of expressions of Saint Francis, for example in the Earlier Rule 23, 11 (FA:ED, p. 85.) ↑
- The pregnant meaning of consecrated religious life is “the following of Christ”. ↑
- Gospel “minority” and the joyful choice of “the last place” are well captured in this sentence which is repeated in the Constitutions of 1536 nn. 7-9; (Hanbridge p. 3, 19 – p. 4, 17) for more biblical and Franciscan references see 1 Pt, 2, 13; Earlier Rule 16, 6; Test 19 (following the Latin text the English translation makes no reference to quarrelling, whereas the Italian text in FF does p. 132); LP, 115; Spec Per 50 (FA:ED I, p 74; p. 125; II, p. 221; III, p. 294 ). ↑
- The intermixing of various emotions of adoration, thankfulness, praise, petition, purification, willingness to suffer, and willingness to forgive makes a heart which is intoxicated with the love of Christ jump. ↑
- Note how this personal prayer, making use of the first person, continues to evolve along with shared community prayer as if the person who is praying, even in solitude, represents a number of people and experiences being part of the Church. ↑
- These four verba (to cleanse, to adorn, to enlighten and to inflame) portray the spiritual life in four successive but non-chronological stages: purification, embellishment of the soul, enlightenment and union through inflamed love. This recalls the classical triple division of purgative, illuminative and unitive ways, which are wonderfully expounded by Giovanni da Fano in his Art of Union. ↑
- Here too it is likely that this is a reference to the Litany of the Saints which the Brothers always recited before meditation. Cf. Constitutions of 1536 n. 42: (Hanbridge p.14, 13). ↑