The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, tr. by Paschal Robinson, , at sacred-texts.com
1.—In the Name of the Lord begins the life of the Minor Brothers.
The Rule and life of the Minor Brothers is this, namely, to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without property and in chastity. Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Honorius and to his successors canonically elected and to the Roman Church. And let the other brothers be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors.
2.—Of those who wish to embrace this Life and how they ought to be received.
If any wish to embrace this life and come to our brothers, let them send them to their provincial
ministers, to whom alone and not to others is accorded the power of receiving brothers. But let the ministers diligently examine them regarding the Catholic faith and the Sacraments of the Church. And if they believe all these things, and if they will confess them faithfully and observe them firmly to the end, and if they have no wives, or, if they have and their wives have already entered a monastery, or have, with the authority of the diocesan bishop, given them permission after having made a vow of continence, and if the wives be of such an age that no suspicion may arise concerning them, let them [the ministers] say to them the word of the holy Gospel, 1 that they go and sell all their goods and strive to distribute them to the poor. If they should not be able to do this, their good will suffices. And the brothers and their ministers must take care not to be solicitous about their temporal affairs, that they may freely do with their affairs whatsoever the Lord may inspire them. If, however, counsel should be required, the ministers shall have power of sending them to some God-fearing men by whose advice their goods may be distributed to the poor. Afterwards, let them give them clothes of probation, to wit, two tunics without a hood and a cord and breeches and a chaperon reaching to the cord, unless at some time the same ministers may decide otherwise according to God. The year of probation being finished, they shall be received
to obedience, promising to observe always this life and rule. And according to the command of the Lord Pope 1 in no wise shall it be allowed them to go out of this religion, because, according to the holy Gospel: "No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." 2 And let those who have already promised obedience have one tunic with a hood, and if they wish it another without a hood. And those who are obliged by necessity may wear shoes. And let all the brothers be clothed in poor garments and they may patch them with pieces of sackcloth and other things, with the blessing of God. I admonish and exhort them not to despise or judge men whom they see clothed in fine and showy garments using dainty meats and drinks, but rather let each one judge and despise himself.
3.—Of the Divine Office, and of Fasting; and how the Brothers must go through the world.
Let the clerics perform the Divine Office according to the order of the holy Roman Church, with the exception of the Psalter; wherefore they may have breviaries. 3 But let the laics say twenty-four Paternosters for Matins; five for
[paragraph continues] Lauds; for Prime, Tierce, Sext and Nones,—for each of these, seven; for Vespers, however, twelve, for Compline seven; and let them pray for the dead.
And let them fast from the feast of All Saints until the Nativity of the Lord. But the holy Lent which begins from Epiphany and continues for forty days, which the Lord has consecrated by His holy fast, 1—may those who keep it voluntarily be blessed by the Lord and those who do not wish may not be constrained. But they must fast during the other one until the Resurrection of the Lord. At other times, however, they shall not be obliged to fast, except on Fridays. But in time of manifest necessity the brothers shall not be bound to corporal fasting.
I indeed counsel, warn, and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ that when they go through the world they be not litigious nor contend in words, 2 nor judge others; but that they be gentle, peaceful, and modest, meek and humble, speaking honestly to all as is fitting. And they must not ride on horseback unless compelled by manifest necessity or infirmity. Into whatsoever house they may enter let them first say: Peace be to this house! And, according to the holy Gospel, it is lawful to eat of all foods which are set before them. 3
4.—That the Brothers must not receive money.
I strictly enjoin on all the brothers that in no wise they receive coins or money, either themselves or through an interposed person. Nevertheless, for the necessities of the sick and for clothing the other brothers, let the ministers and custodes alone take watchful care through spiritual friends, according to places and times and cold climates, as they shall see expedient in the necessity, saving always' that, as has been said, they shall not receive coins or money.
5.—Of the manner of working.
Let those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working labor faithfully and devoutly, so that in banishing idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, to which all temporal things must be subservient. They may, however, receive as the reward of their labor, the things needful for the body for themselves and their brothers, with the exception of coins or money, and that humbly, as befits the servants of God and the followers of most holy poverty.
6.—That the Brothers shall appropriate nothing to themselves: and of seeking Alms and of the Sick Brothers.
The brothers shall appropriate nothing to themselves, neither a house nor place nor any-
thing. And as pilgrims and strangers 1 in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go confidently in quest of alms, nor ought they to be ashamed, because the Lord made Himself poor for us in this world. This, my dearest brothers, is the height of the most sublime poverty which has made you heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven: poor in goods, but exalted in virtue. Let that be your portion, for it leads to the land of the living; 2 cleaving to it unreservedly, my best beloved brothers, for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, never desire to possess anything else under heaven.
And wheresoever the brothers are and may find themselves, let them mutually show among themselves that they are of one household. And let one make known his needs with confidence to the other, for, if a mother nourishes and loves her carnal son, how much more earnestly ought one to love and nourish his spiritual brother! And if any of them should fall into illness, the other brothers must serve him as they would wish to be served themselves.
7.—Of the Penance to be imposed on Brothers who sin.
If any of the brothers, at the instigation of the enemy, sin mortally by those sins for which it has been ordained among the brothers that
recourse should be had to the provincial ministers alone, the aforesaid brothers are bound to have recourse to them as soon as possible, without delay. But let the ministers themselves, if they are priests, impose penance on them with mercy; if however they are not priests, let them have it imposed by other priests of the Order, as it may seem to them most expedient, according to God. And they must beware lest they be angry or troubled on account of the sins of others, because anger and trouble impede charity themselves and in others.
8.—Of the Election of the Minister General of this Brotherhood, and of the Whitsun Chapter.
All the brothers are bound always to have one of the brothers of this religion as minister general and servant of the whole brotherhood, and they are strictly bound to obey him. At his death the election of a successor must be made by the provincial ministers and custodes in the Whitsun Chapter, in which the provincial ministers are always bound to convene at the same time, wheresoever it may be appointed by the minister general, and that once in three years or at a longer or shorter interval as may be ordained by the said minister. And if at any time it should be apparent to the whole of the provincial ministers that the aforesaid minister general is not sufficient for the service and the common welfare of the brothers, let the
aforesaid ministers, to whom the election has been committed, be bound to elect for themselves another as custos in the name of the Lord. But after the Whitsun Chapter the ministers and custodes may each, if they wish and it seem expedient to them, convoke their brothers to a chapter in their custodies once in the same year.
The brothers must not preach in the diocese of any bishop when their doing so may be opposed by him. And let no one of the brothers dare to preach in any way to the people, unless he has been examined and approved by the minister general of this brotherhood, and the office of preaching conceded to him by the latter. I also warn and exhort the same brothers that in the preaching they do their words be fire-tried and pure 1 for the utility and edification of the people, announcing to them vices and virtues, punishment and glory, with brevity of speech because the Lord made His word short upon earth. 2
10.—Of the Admonition and Correction of the Brothers.
Those brothers who are ministers and servants of the other brothers, shall visit and admonish their brothers, and shall humbly and charitably correct them, not commanding them
anything against their souls and our Rule. The brothers however who are subject must remember that, for God, they have renounced their own will. Wherefore I order them strictly to obey their ministers in all things which they have promised the Lord to observe and are not against their souls and our Rule. And wheresoever there are brothers who see and know that they are not able to observe the rule spiritually, they ought to and can recur to their ministers. And let the ministers receive them charitably and kindly and show so great familiarity toward them that they [the culprits] may speak and act with them as masters with their servants, for thus it ought to be, since the ministers are the servants of all the brothers.
I also warn and exhort the brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ that they beware of all pride, vainglory, envy, covetousness, 1 the cares and solicitudes of this world, of detraction and murmuring. Let not those who are ignorant of letters care to learn letters, but let them consider that, beyond all, they should desire to possess the spirit of the Lord and His holy operation, to pray always to Him with a pure heart and to have humility, patience in persecution and in infirmity and to love those who persecute, reprove, and accuse us, because the Lord has said: "Love your enemies . . . and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you." 2 "Blessed are they that suffer persecution
for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." 1 "But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved." 2
11.—That the Brothers must not enter the Monasteries of Nuns.
I strictly command all the brothers not to have suspicious intimacy, or conferences with women, and let none enter the monasteries of nuns except those to whom special permission has been granted by the Apostolic See. And let them not be godfathers of men or women, that 3 scandal may not arise on this account among the brothers or concerning the brothers.
12.—Of those who go among the Saracens and other Infidels.
Let all of the brothers who by divine inspiration desire to go amongst the Saracens or other infidels, ask leave therefor from their provincial ministers. But the ministers must give permission to go to none except to those whom they see are fitted to be sent.
Moreover, I enjoin on the ministers, by obedience, that they ask of the Lord Pope one of the Cardinals of the holy Roman Church to be governor, protector, and corrector of this
brotherhood, so that being always subject and submissive at the feet of the same holy Church, grounded in the Catholic faith, 1 we may observe poverty and humility and the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we have firmly promised.
64:1 This is the text of 1223 and represents the Rule at present observed throughout the first Franciscan Order. It is here translated according to the text of the original Bull which is preserved at the Sacro Convento in Assisi. A duplicate of this document, contained in the Pontifical Register at the Vatican Library, has been consulted for certain passages less legible in the original.
65:1 See Matt. 19: 21.
66:1 See above, page 34, note 2.
66:2 Luke 9: 62.
66:3 This passage: ex quo habere poterunt breviaria, may also be rendered: "as soon as they can have breviaries." (See Wadding, Opusc., p. 179.) But the latter translation has less foundation.
67:1 See Matt. 4: 2.
67:2 See Tit. 3: 2 and II Tim. 2: 14.
67:3 See Luke 10: 5 and 8.
69:1 See I Peter 2: 11.
69:2 See Ps. 141: 6. It was this Psalm that St. Francis recited at the hour of death.
71:1 See Ps. 11: 7 and 17: 31.
71:2 See Rom. 9: 28.
72:1 See Luke 12: 15.
72:2 Matt. 5: 44.
73:1 Matt. 5: 10.
73:2 Matt. 10: 22.
73:3 This is comformable to the original bull, which reads nec hac occasione; but most of the printed texts give ne, "lest scandal arise," Instead of nec.
74:1 See Col. 1: 23.