2012 Capuchin Constitutions Note II

Layout of the structure and contents of the Constitutions

by Br Francisco Iglesias OFM Cap

(Translation of the Italian original text)

General Observations

(applicable to the twelve study guides on each chapter of the Constitutions)

1a. We should not forget that the Order did not wish to produce a text of the improved Constitutions that was technically complete in every detail. In fact this was not regarded as necessary. In order to facilitate (but not influence) each person’s reflection and in view of possible improvements or a better understanding of the text certain questions (doubts, perplexities, hypotheses, queries…) are raised at various points in these study guides to rouse the special attention of the readers. During the process of a meditative and prayerful reading of the Constitutions it will be the readers (all the friars), the real contributors, who will indicate pertinent observations for the true enrichment of the text with complete liberty.

2a. To deepen and find one’s bearings in knowing the Constitutions the following all-inclusive work might be helpful:

COSTANZO CARGNONI, OFMCAP., Bibliographic Study. Bibliography on the Legislative Renewal of the Capuchin Order (1964 – 2006), Roma 2007, pp. 59, (a Study Guide that will soon to sent to the whole Order).

On the other hand, to gain an idea of the many enrichments of the text, during the process of its development, most of all during the period of experimentation imposed by the Holy See on all Religious Institutes it might be helpful to consult:

FRANCISCUS IGLESIAS, OFMCap., Constitutiones Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum post Concilium Vaticanum II retractatae (a. 1968-1988): I. TEXTUS (22 maii 1988). Romae 1988, pp. LIII-173.

Finally to obtain knowledge regarding the Sources and other additional references in the text of the Constitutions in the Biblical field, the Franciscan field (Writings and Biographies of Saint Francis), the Second Vatican Council, the Code of Canon Law and the Fraternity or Order of Capuchins (for example, The Plenary Councils; the Constitutions from 1529-1925), it might be helpful to consult:

FRANCISCUS IGLESIAS, OFMCap., (curavit), Constitutiones Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum post Concilium Caticanum II retractrae (a.1968 -1988); II. FONTES aliaeque referentiae complementares circa Textum Constitutionum (22 maii 1988). Romae 1988, pp. XX-46. (In some of the translations into the vernacular which followed the original Latin text of the Constitutions some of the information in this publication appeared at least in substance).

Schema 1

Chapter 1


(Const 1-13)

“All the brothers are strongly urged to make personal study of the Rule, the Testament, and the Constitutions and to become deeply imbued with their spirit” (Const. 7, 4).

“The Ministers should be the first to live the life of our fraternity, and to observe the Constitutions, and with loving zeal they should lead the brothers to comply with them” (Const. 185, 3; 5, 3; 6, 4; 7).

  1. Aim:

The aim of the first chapter of the Constitutions is the following: to offer, by way of an introductory heading, a synthetic and general description of the profile (or identity) of the Capuchin Friar Minor (taking into account the specific contextual and editorial characteristics of a document such as the “Constitutions”).

2 Basic inspiration:

The inspirational basis of the first chapter of the Constitutions is, in a significant manner:

      1. The first chapter of the Earlier Rule of Saint Francis (ER) and the Testament
      2. all the other chapters of the present Constitutions (which serve as detailed explanations of traits or characteristics of a Capuchin put together in summary form in the first chapter of the Constitutions).
      3. The first chapter of the Constitutions of 1536.
      4. The basic platform of the Council Decree Perfectae caritatis (PC) (28.10.1965), specially its opening numbers.

3. Basic platform of the Council

The first chapter of the Constitutions is set out in a series of blocks by topics which coincide clearly with the Council’s famous theological outline of for the renewal of religious life, according to the Decree Perfectae Caritatis. The basic points that correctly identify and renew religious life, according to the Decree of the Council, are two: values; and the contemporary context (in concrete).

      1. Values:
        1. Fundamental Christian values in general (the personal centrality of Christ and the normative centrality of the gospel): the continual return to the sources of every form of Christian life (PC, n. 2; 2, a), 2,c).
        2. Specific Christian fundamental values (the original Christian values of one’s own charism, filtered through the founder and the spiritual heritage of the Institute): (PC, n. 2; n. 2, b).

Such values convey an “official” “birth mark”: they pertain to the Church.

            • They originate in the Church since they are recognised and made holy by the Church (can. 207).
            • They adopt the Church’s objective since they should assist in the mission of the Church, fully joined to its life and holiness (can 207, 2: 573, 2: 574, 2; Lumen Gentium (LG) 44: PC 2, b-d); Ecclesiae sanctae (Es) 12).

2. The Contemporary context

A criterion which is stressed by the Church when she speaks of the adaptation of Institutes themselves to the changed conditions of the times. (PC, n. 2, 2, d, e).

4. The Structure of the Text of the Constitutions

In this chapter the identity and life of the Capuchin Friars Minor is set on two great foundations: 1) our values; 2) our contemporary context.

1) Our Values:

a) Our original Christian values: existentially centring on Christ: the Gospel our highest law; the following and imitation of the humble, poor, crucified Jesus, dedicated to the service of others, especially the poor (see specially numbers 1 and 2).

b) Our specific original Christian values:

            • Franciscan values: Saint Francis: the significance of a “man” (the Founder). – Spirit and intention: his life (n. 3), his Rule (n. 5); his Testament (n. 6). The “healthy traditions” (nn. 3, 2ff; 5,2).
            • The traits or characteristics of a Franciscan:

The fraternal dimension and that of being lesser: The meaning of the “name”: Friars (Numbers 10ff; 11; 3, 1); Minor (n. 12) (in a spirit of being available and of service through fraternal charity and joy). Charitable obedience and fraternal love, in a spirit of faith in the ministers of the fraternity (Const. 10).

            • Apostolic dimension: meaning of our “mission” (n. 13).
            • The ecclesial dimension: the meaning of our love for and obedience to the Church and our “place’ and commitment to the People of God (numbers 8 – 9) by promoting fraternal relationship among all in solidarity, justice and peace (Const. 11,4 ff).
            • Capuchin values: (numbers 4; 7; 3, 3: 8, 3). For the Capuchin profile.

2. Our contemporary context: the topic of pluriformity

(inculturation) (numbers 5,4 ff; 4, 1-3, 5…).

In its content and formulation this text was inspired by the Letter of Paul VI dated 20 August 1974 which was addressed to the Minister General and all the Capitulars on the occasion of the Chapter in 1974. Cf Analecta OFMCap, 90 (1974) 278, LR 2,4; FA:ED, I, p. 100; ER 9; FA:ED, I, p. 70. There is an interesting report on the nature, extent and concrete application of pluriformity in unity that was presented to the General Chapter in 1974; Cf Analecta OFM Cap. 90 (1974) 304-309.

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Some points that need to be emphasised

a) Regarding the criterion of the Gospel

We should follow the gospel as our supreme norm in all life’s circumstances (n 1, 6). This is a very important expression used by Saint Francis when he was at the point of death. Cf. Saint Bonaventure Major Legend XIV, 5, FA:ED, II, p. 643; 2C, 216, 214: FA:ED p, 387, 385; Cf. Const. 185, 2.

b) Regarding obedience in the Church

Following the example of Saint Francis, who was a catholic and totally apostolic man, let us give faithful obedience to the Spirit of Christ living in the Church (First of all!) (Const. 9, 1).

c) Regarding the profile of a Capuchin (Const. 4).

With greater depth of content and succinctness… (It can be found also in other details of this chapter). Cf. the study guide for the Constitutions, History- Layout-Profile; Concise Introductory Note pp. 30 (October 2007), especially p. 21ff.

d) Regarding the aspect of logical layout

By way of example… It might be worth evaluating the “logical precision and coherence” (?) of the headings of the two articles in this first chapter, especially the second (Our Life in the Church), in view of the mixture of the content which it includes.

Rome, October 2007.