Franciskansk spiritualitet

Franciscan Spirituality

 

SPIRITUALITY AS REFLECTED IN THE VARIOUS RULES

 

A. GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 

There was a rumor around the time of Vatican II that all the Religious Orders and Congregations would be combined so as to have only several Institutes according to their function or apostolic ministry: mission work, teaching, pastoral ministry, health and social work. The supposed proposal was meant to simplify the administration of the Church's religious institutes. Does this seem to you a good idea? Why or Why not?

 

There are surely hundreds of religious congregations in the Church. She gives them official approval to recognize that they have been raised up by God to enrich the Church by their special gifts and to minister to special needs. By the very fact of their existence, they remind the People of God of special values found in the Gospels and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. So, their very existence is already a form of apostolate, even before any functions or services they may carry out. To overemphasize the function is to lose sight of the faith vision. Even atheistic or anti-clerical governments have often left "practical" religious institutes alone when they suppressed religious groups. They were seen as an efficient and inexpensive way of providing a necessary civil service, for example, in hospitals or old age homes. Meanwhile, the contemplative institutes were dispersed without mercy as "useless" to the State, for their value can only be appreciated in the light of faith.

 

All these institutes share the same desire to try to follow Christ, to "live the Gospel. " However, their differences lie in the vocation of the Foundress or Founder who was inspired to live according to a particular way or vision. Therefore, Francis of Assisi respected the way of St. Augustine or of St. Benedict, but this was not the way he had been called to follow. He makes it quite clear in his Testament that he was inspired by God to live the Gospel in a special way.

 

The special way of a religious institute is found in its charism, its Gift from God, to help persons advance in holiness and to build up His Church. In the conciliar and post-conciliar documents, the Church has called religious to rediscover that charism, that basic vision, and to see how it is valid in modern circumstances and how they are to live it today. Therefore, the Franciscan Family is called to live the Gospel after the pattern of St. Francis of Assisi. Since there are not Three St. Francis', his three Orders must all reflect his spirituality in their Rules and way of life. They all share a common charism, yet in each Order there is an aspect or characteristic especially pronounced or emphasized:

 

Penance/ conversion is given a particular emphasis in the Secular Franciscan Order and in the Third Order Regular but it is also found in the First and Second Orders of St. Francis.

 

Prayer/ contemplation is basic to the Poor Clares, the Nuns of the Third Order Regular, and Hermits, but it is part of the tradition of the whole Seraphic Family.

 

Minority and Poverty are the special cliaraceristics of the branches of the Friars Minor but are also reflected in the Second and Third Orders.

 

Talking about the spirituality of a saint may seem quite esoteric, but it is simply a consideration of his or her special way:

 

To represent God (Faith).

To speak of God (Evangelize)

To go towards God (Spiritual Journey)

To treat with God (Prayer)

 

A brief and simple examination of some of the holy Founders and the spirituality inspired by their example might give us an understanding of how all this might look in their lives.

 

For St. Francis of Assisi:

•GOD is the Father who does all out of love.

CHRIST, in His Humanity, is the Son who show us the Father; our Brother.

 

MAN has been reconciled by Jesus and shares in the life of God who is Good, All Good, the Highest Good. Therefore, Francis looks even at sinners with optimism and preaches conversion.

 

CREATION is the reflection of God's goodness; all are fellow creatures, our brothers and sisters.

 

WAY TO GOD is in the freedom of the "sons," in trustful poverty, humility, simplicity lived in fraternity. Brothers are a gift of God as an affirmation of his vocation; peace and joy.

 

PRAYER is simple, affective, centered on the humanity of Jesus as seen in the Gospels. God is everywhere and any formula is good if it is the trusting prayer of a "son."

 

For St. Benedict:

•GOD is the Almighty, the Transcendent.

 

CHRIST is Our Redeemer and High Priest.

 

MAN is the Privileged Adorer, expressing the praise of all creation.

 

LITURGY is the principal "work" of the monastic community; it teaches and evangelizes.

 

For St. Ignatius of Loyola:

•GOD is Creator, Lord, Owner of the Universe. CHRIST is the King.

 

MAN is his soldier in the battle against evil.

 

PLAN of Life discovered in the Spiritual Exercises, the Examen of Conscience, Personal Meditation.

 

For St. Dominic:

•GOD is Truth.

 

CHRIST is the Word revealing the Father.

 

MAN is a Student seeking after Truth.

 

WAY of Life centered on Study, Science, and Preaching the Truth.

 

B. SPIRITUALITY REFLECTED IN THE EARLY RULES

 

Some useful background material can be found in the Statement of Understanding Franciscan Penitential Life, also known simply as the Madrid Document. We might briefly reflect on what we know of the origins of the Franciscan Order of Penance, the conversion of St. Francis and his first followers, their work of preaching of penance as "Penitents of the City of Assisi," their transfer from The penitential to the clerical state. There are various testimonies, such as Celano and Bonaventure, that Francis gave a Rule of Life to the men and women who constituted "his" Order of Penance

 

The Rule of Life for the Penitents surely developed as did that of the Friars Minor from some basic Scriptural texts, with probably a homily and commentary by St. Francis on some aspect of the Gospel according to St. John. We can say that his teaching is to be found in two forms, inspirational and juridical.

 

The inspirational form is to be found in the Letter to the Faithful (1213-1216) or perhaps, more accurately, ...TO THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE. This Letter forms the Prologue to both the Rule of the Third Order Regular and the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order to emphasize their common origin. In this writing, Francis sets forth the essential conditions for living a penitential life:

•A turning to God with all that one is (The Shema).

Loving one's neighbor as oneself.

Acknowledging and despising one's personal tendency to sin.

Receiving the Eucharist devoutly.

Allowing God's Spirit to dwell in us.

 

St. Francis uses striking imagery to illustrate the action of the Spirit in realizing Christian conversion. The Penitent throughout his lifetime demonstrates true conversion by bringing forth the "fruits of penance."

 

The juridical form may be found in the text of the Memoriale Propositi. There is no existing copy of the primitive text drawn up with the help of Cardinal Hugolino and approved "viva voce" by Pope Honorius III. However, there are many copies so that we can see substantially the Form of Life set down for the Penitents of Francis in what is called the Memoriale Propositi of 1221.

 

(N.B. The titles of the Rules follow the usual custom of being called by the first important words of papal documents, thus Supra Montem of Nicholas IV, Inter Cetera of Leo X, Rerum Conditio of Pius XI, and Franciscanum Vitae Propositum of John Paul II.)

 

1. MEMORALE PROPOSITI

 

Here begins the Rule and Life of the

Continent Brothers and Sisters.

 

In the Name of the Father,

and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

THE MEMORIAL of what is proposed for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance living in their homes, begun in the year 1221, is as follows:

 

DAILY LIFE

 

1. The men belonging to this brotherhood shall dress in humble, undyed cloth, the price of which is not to exceed six Ravenna soldi an ell, unless for evident and necessary cause a temporary dispensation be given. And breadth and thinness of the cloth are to be considered in said price.

 

2. They are to wear their outer garments and furred coats without open throat, sewed shut or uncut, but certainly laced up, not open as secular people wear them; and they shall wear their sleeves closed.

 

3. The sisters in turn shall wear an outer garment and tunic made of cloth of the same price and humble quality; or at least they are to have with the outer garment a white or black underwrap or petticoat, or an ample lined gown without gathers, the price of an ell is not to exceed twelve Pisa denars. As to this price, however, and the fur cloaks they wear, a dispensation may be given according to the social standing of the woman and the custom of the place. They are not to wear silken or dyed veils and ribbons.

 

4. And both the brothers and sisters shall have their fur garments of lamb's wool only. They are permitted to have leather purses and belts sewed in simple fashion without silken thread, and no other kind. Also, they shall lay aside any other vain ornaments at the bidding of the Visitor.

 

5. They are not to go to unseemly parties or to shows or dances. They shall not donate to actors, and shall forbid their household to donate.

 

ABSTINENCE

 

6. All are to abstain from meat save on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, except on account of illness or weakness, for three days at blood-letting, in travelling, or on account of an especially high feast intervening, namely, the Nativity for three days, New Year's, Epiphany, the Pasch of Resurrection for three days, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, St. John the Baptist, the Assumption of the glorious Virgin Mary, the solemnity of All Saints and of St. Martin.

 

On other days, when there is no fasting, they may eat cheese and eggs. But when they are with religious in their convents, they have leave to eat whatever is served to them.

 

And except for the feeble, the sick, and those travelling, let them be content with dinner and supper. Let the healthy be temperate in eating and drinking.

 

7. Before their dinner and supper let them say the Lord's Prayer once. Likewise, after their meal, and let them give thanks to God. Otherwise, let them say three Our Fathers.

 

FASTING

 

8. From the Pasch of the Resurrection to the Feast of All Saints they are to fast on Fridays. From the Feast of All Saints until Easter they are to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, while still observing the other fasts enjoined in general by the Church.

 

9. They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the Fast of St. Martin, from after said day until Christmas and throughout the greater fast from Carnival Sunday until Easter.

 

10. The sisters who are pregnant are to refrain, until their purification, from the corporal observances except those regarding their dress and prayers.

 

11. Those engaged in fatiguing work shall be allowed to take food three times a day from the Pasch of the Resurrection until the Dedication feast of St. Michael. And when they work for others it will be allowed them to eat everything served to them except on Fridays and on the fasts enjoined in general by the Church.

 

PRAYER

 

12. All are to say daily the canonical hours, that is, Matins, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. The clerics are to say them after the manner of the clergy. Those who know the psalter are to say the Deus in nomine tuo and the Beati immaculate up to the Legem pone for Prime and the other psalms of the Hours, with the Glory be to the Father; but when they do not attend church, they are to say for Matins the psalms the Church says or any eighteen psalms; or at least to say the Our Father as do the unlettered at any of the Hours.

 

The others say twelve Our Fathers for Matins and for each of the other Hours seven Our Fathers with the Glory be to the Father after each one.

 

And those who know the Creed and the Miserere mei Deus should say it at Prime and Compline. If they do not say it at the Hours indicated, they shall say three Our Fathers.

 

13. The sick are not say the Hours unless they wish.

 

14. All are to go to Matins in the fast of St. Martin and in the Great Fast, unless inconvenience for persons or affairs should threaten.

 

THE SACRAMENTS, OTHER MATTERS

 

15. They are to make a confession of their sins three times a year and to receive Communion at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

 

They are to be reconciled with their neighbours and to restore what belongs to others. They are to make up for past tithes and to pay future tithes.

 

16. They are not to take up lethal weapons, or bear them about, against anybody.

 

17. They are to refrain from formal oaths unless where necessity compels, in the cases excepted by the Soverign Pontiff in his indult, that is, for peace, for the Faith, under calumny, and in bearing witness.

 

18. Also in their ordinary conversations they will do their best to avoid oaths. And should anyone have sworn thoughtlessly through a slip of the tongue, as happens when there is much talking, lie should the evening of the same day, when he is obliged to think over what he has done, say three Our Fathers in amends of such oaths. Let each member fortify his household to serve God.

 

SPECIAL MASS AND MEETING EACH MONTH

 

19. All the brothers and sisters of every city and place are to foregather each month at the time the Ministers see fit, in a church which the Ministers will make known, and there assist at Divine Services.

 

20. And every member is to give the treasurer one ordinary denar. The treasurer is to collect this money and distribute it on the advice of the Ministers among the poor brothers and sisters, especially the sick and those who may have nothing for their funeral services, and thereupon, among the other poor; and they are to offer something of their money to the aforesaid church.

 

21. And, if it be convenient at the time, they are to have some religious who is informed in the Word of God to instruct them and strengthen them to perservere in their penance and in performing the works of mercy. And except for their officers, they are to remain quiet during the Mass and sermon, intent on the Liturgy, on prayer and on the sermon.

 

22. Whenever any brother or sister happens to fall ill, the Ministers, if the patient let them know of it, shall in person or through others visit the patient once a week, and remind him of penance; and, if they find it expedient, they are to supply him from the common fund with what he may need for the body.

 

23. And, if the ailing person depart from this life, it is to be published to the brothers and sisters who may be present in the city or place so that they may gather for the funeral; and they are not to leave until Mass has been celebrated and the body consigned to burial.

 

Thereupon each member, within eight days of the demise, shall say for the soul of the deceased: a Mass, if he be a Priest; fifty psalms, if he understands the Psalter, or if not then fifty Our Fathers with the Requiem aetertiam at the end of each.

 

24. In addition, every year, for the welfare of the brothers and sisters living and dead, each priest is to offer three Masses, each member knowing the Psalter is to recite it, and the rest shall say one hundred Our Fathers with the Requiem aeternum at the end of each.

 

25. All who have the right are to make their last will and make disposition of their goods within three months after their profession, lest anyone die intestate.

 

26. As regards making peace among the brothers and sisters or non-members at odds, let what the Ministers find proper be done, even, if it be expedient, upon consultation with the Lord Bishop.

 

27. If contrary to their rights and privileges, trouble is made for the brothers and sisters by the Mayors and Governors of the places where they live, the Ministers of the place shall do what they find expedient upon the advice of the Lord Bishop.

 

28. Let each member accept and faithfully exercise the ministry or other offices imposed on him, though anyone may retire from office after a year.

 

29. When anyone wishes to enter this brotherhood, the Ministers shall carefully inquire into his standing and occupation, and they shall explain to him the obligations of the brotherhood, especially that of restoring what belongs to others. And, if he is content with it, let him be vested according to the prescribed way. He must make satisfaction for his debts, paying money according to what pledged provision is given. They are to reconcile themselves with their neighbors and to pay up their tithes.

 

30. After these particulars are complied with, when the year is up and he seems suitable, let him on the advice of some discreet brothers be received on this condition: that he promise for his whole lifetime to observe everything written here, or to be written or abated on the advice of the brothers, unless on occasion there be a valid dispensation by the Ministers; and that he will, when called upon by the Ministers, render satisfaction as the Visitor shall ordain if he have done anything contrary to this condition. And this promise is to be put in writing then and there by a public notary. Even so, no one is to be received otherwise, unless in consideration of the estate and rank of the person it shall seem advisable to the Ministers.

 

31. No one is to depart from this brotherhood and from what is contained herein except to enter a religious Order.

 

32. No heretic or person in bad repute for heresy is to be recieved. If he is under such suspicion, he may be admitted if otherwise fit, upon being cleared by the bishop.

 

33. Married women are not to be admitted except with the consent and leave of their husbands.

 

34. Brothers and sisters expelled from the brotherhood as incorrigible are not to be received again except as it pleases the more prudent members of the brothers.

 

CORRECTION, DISPENSATION, OFFICERS

 

35. The Ministers of any city or place shall report public faults of the brothers and sisters to the Visitor for punishment. And, if anyone proves incorrigible, after consultation with some of the discreet brothers, he should be denounced to the Visitor to be expelled from the brotherhood and thereupon it should be published in the meeting. Morevover, if it is a brother he should be denounced to the Mayor or to the Governor.

 

36. If anyone learns that a scandal is occuring relative to brothers and sisters, he shall report it to the Ministers and shall have the opportunity to report it to the Visitor. He need not be held to report it in the case of husband against wife.

 

37. The Visitor has the power to dispense all the brothers and sisters in any of these points if he finds it advisable.

 

38. When the year has passed, the Ministers with the counsel of the brothers are to elect two other Ministers; and a faithful treasurer, who is to provide for the need of the brothers and sisters and other poor; and messengers who at the command of the Ministers are to publish what is said and done by the fraternity.

 

39. In all the above mentioned points, no one is to obliged under sin but only under penalty; yet so that, if after being admonished twice by the Ministers he should fail to discharge the penalty imposed or to be imposed upon him by the Visitor, he shall be obligated under guilt as contumacious.

 

The "Ancient Rule"

The First Rule of the Third Order

The Memorial of 1221-1228.

 

Upon reading it for the first time, the text may seem quite disappointing and seems to have nothing of Francis' penitential spirituality in it. However, we must remember that it was written to express in the canonical language of that time a description of these Brothers and Sisters of Penance. A deeper examination will give up the Franciscan spirituality contained within it.

 

1. The witness of poverty

 

The penitents were to wear poor and simple clothing to express humility of heart and their detachment from worldly goods or fashions (Chapter 1).

 

The brothers and sisters were to make a monthly contribution to carry on the Fraternity's work for the poor, the sick, and to provide funerals for the poor (Chapter VIII, 2).

 

They were to promptly make a final testament or a Will providing for the disposal of material goods to prevent discord and litigation among their relatives arising from greed (Chapter X).

 

2. The spirit of penance

 

This was indicated in their willingness to embrace the external signs of fast and abstinence. They were to abstain from meat four days each week and on particular vigils throughout the year (Chapter 11, 1-2).

 

There was a continuous fast from the feast of St. Martin until Christmas and from Ash Wednesday until Easter (Chapter III, 1); fasts on Wednesday and Friday from the Feast of All Saints until Easter (Chapter 11, 6, Chapter III, 4).

 

They renounced any participation in secular entertainments as shows, dances, feasts, etc. (Chapter 1, 7).

 

3. The life of prayer

 

They were to recite the Our Father before meals. Those who could not read to recite the seven canonical hours each day were to pray 54 Our Fathers with the Doxology (Chapter IV, 3 -4).

 

Community responsibility to recite Matins during the lent of St. Martin and the liturgical season of Lent (Chapter V, 1).

 

All the brothers and sisters of a local fraternity should come together once a month for to assist at Mass (Chapter VII, 1).

 

They were to arrange for a monthly'religious instruction as a kind of encouragement to deepen their penitential committment (Chapter VII, 3).

 

The deceased members were to be remembered by special suffrages (Chapter IX, 2-3).

 

4. Works of mercy

 

There were a number of practical obligations to encourage works of charity among the members of the fraternity.

 

They were to provide for weekly visits to sick brothers and sisters (Chapter VIII, 1).

 

They were to provide for any need material assistance to the sick of the fraternity.

 

5. Messengers of peace

 

Contrary to the custom of those troublesome times, the penitents refused to take up arms to cooperate in the countless small but deadly wars of their society. Further, they even refused to carry personal weapons of protection for these were seen as signs of force and indicated a readiness for violence (Chapter VI,4). It was equivalent to the conscientious objection of modern society.

 

They were willing to take oaths only when it would contribute to the cause of peace (Chapter VI, 4).

 

They pledged themselves ready to restore peace among the brothers and sisters of the fraternity as well as among others (Chapter X, 2).

 

Before entrance into the Order of Penance, they were obliged to be reconciled with their neighbors (Chapter X, 6).

 

THE RULE APPROVED IN THE SUPRA MONTEM.

 

The Rule approved on August 18, 1289 in the Bull Supra Motenm by the Franciscan Pope Nicholas IV preserves substantially, although with important juridical modifications, the original text given by St. Francis to the Brothers and Sisters of the Order of Penance. Therefore, we can easily conclude that this evolution of the Rule does not betray the genuine spirit of the Seraphic Founder but officially expressed the Church's approval of that spirit.

 

The establishment of the "Third Order" was the realization of an ardent desire of St. Francis to extend the religious life to people living in the world, adaptable to their varied conditions. To strive toward a greater Christian perfection according to the norms set down by the Holy Founder and approved by the ecclesiastical authorities was a committment that devout Penitents assumed with enthusiasm. The evangelical spirit of Francis found its most authentic expression in the Third Order which, perhaps, better embodies the ecumenical concerns of the Saint and re-echoes the beats of his seraphic heart.

 

The soul of the Franciscan Third Order consists in a spirit of penance, of humility, of self denial, of prayer, but most of all, of love. It is precisely love which, while causing one to strive toward God with ardor, detaches the heart of the Penitent from the passing goods of the earth. Poverty, characteristic of Franciscan life, is itself the fruit of love, of an ever greater love. To embody the evangelical spirit and to reproduce the example of Christ represents the ideal of every follower of the Poverello enrolled in his Third Order. And that this has not been a utopian state or a pipe dream, the history of seven centuries is a clear witness!

 

The Rule of the Franciscan Third Order, notwithstanding its brevity, has won universal admiration not only in the religious sense but also in the strictly human sense. Roman Pontiffs, experts in spirituality, legislators, historians, sociologists, statisticians, etc. unanimously have expressed their unconditional appreciation for this form of the seraphic life. And the secret of such agreement over the course of centuries lies in the fact that the Rule of the Third Order, imbued with the eternal principles of the Gospel, resonates completely with the spiritual and unchangeable needs of the people of God on pilgrimage on the roads of earth towards the future glory of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

The global themes, addressed by the Rule of Nicholas IV to encourage a more intense spirituality in the followers of the Third Rule can be summarized in a few essential points. It should be mentioned that the norms given to the Penitents by the Pope can be classified according to three levels: precepts, formal counsels, and admonitions or exhortations, optional elements left to the initiative and spiritual generosity of each member.

 

1. The love for poverty and the struggle against greed

 

Although the Penitents did not expressly profess the three vows, nevertheless they are held to live the spirit of the vows. The unbridled attachment to passing worldly goods is the cause of many sins and the root of all evils.(l Tim.6,10) The goods of this world often cause forgetfulness of the treasures of heaven. Those who do not detach their hearts from what they possess, Jesus affirms, "cannot be My followers." (Lk. 14, 33). In fact, " It is easier for a heavy rope to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. " (Mt. 19, 24) The Rule of the Franciscan Third Order warns against the dangers represented by riches: though not obliging the renunciation of earthly goods as in the case of religious, it does demand that the heart be kept unfettered of them. And, in order that such detachment be effective and lasting, the Rule obliges the Tertiaries to draw up a Will as soon as possible.

 

In conformity with this spirit of detachment, the Brothers and Sisters of Penance should abstain from excessive comfort, from superfluous luxury and from worldly elegance which are the great evils of our own century (cfr. Chapters 3 and 9). The savings obtained by limiting oneself to the real necessities of life according to one's state in life should be distributed to the poor who have a right to whatever is superfluous (Lk. 11,41).

 

2. The love of the cross and the struggle against sensuality

 

The first struggle every person endures as soon as he achieves an awareness of life is the struggle against the desire of the senses which demand insistently the forbidden fruit. In such a situation, the only way to preserve innocence is to take hold of the cross. To control the impulses of the heart and the body, to deny undisciplined desires, to impose on oneself sacrifices and denial is the duty of whoever wants to to have in Christ the inheritance of heaven. The Rule on this point requires, not only modesty in dress (Chapter III) but also the refusal to assist at immodest celebrations and shows (Chapter IV), the practice of fast and abstinence (Chapter V), of going to confession and communion (Chapter VI) and most of all, the practice of regular daily prayer (Chapter VIII).

 

The Rule does not demand heroic penance but a renunciation that is possible for everyone and a spirit of penance that is constant, that is to be practiced every day. To carry one's cross for the love of Christ is the condition of glory. It is precisely because of its love of the Cross that the Franciscan Third Order was called from its very beginning the "Order of Penance." And penance has remained over the centuries the unchangeable hallmark of its fidelity to the spirit of its Founder.

 

3. Humility and the struggle against pride

 

Pride, affirms the Bible, is the root of every evil (Eccl. 10: 15). Pride is often the prevailing value in society. To appear rich, important and content is the dangerous temptation of every person in this world. To seek honors, to desire to be served is tile claim of people of the world. All this is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.

 

Following the reaching of Christ, the Rule approved by Nicholas IV teaches the spirit of Humility which ought to express itself concretely in serving God, in obeying those in authority, and in loving the brothers.

 

a.) The service of God

 

In their relationship to God, the penitents should not be content with doing what is strictly necessary as most Christians do. The Rule urges them to be generous and perservering. It encourages a faith that does not doubt, a loyalty to God joined together with a humble mind and a burning heart. The Tertiaries were given directives to aid them to establish a deeper relationship with God than the ordinary Christian. For the Rule, the precept of the Church to receive the Sacraments once a year was not sufficient but they were to approach the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist also on the Feasts of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost (Chapter VI). Nor was it sufficient for the Franciscan Penitent to recite morning and evening prayers as does the good Christian. Rather, in imitation of the priests and religious, the Tertiaries were bound to recite daily the seven canonical hours. Those unable to recite the Hours of the Liturgy should offer instead 12 Our Fathers and Glory be to the Father for Matins and 7 for each other canonical hour. (Chapter VIII) The Brothers and Sisters were to recite an Our Father before and after each meal so that they might live throughout each day in continual and intimate union with God. It is important to point out here how the Rule of Nicholas IV (Chapter XI) repeats from the original Propositum Vitae (Chapter 6, no. 5 Capistrano- Collection) the clear exhortation to all the Penitents to close their day with an Examination of Conscience, a practice which was to become one of the most efficacious means of holiness of religious spirituality. Nor should it be sufficient for Tertiaries to assist at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation but, in so far as possible, they should assist at Mass every day.

 

b.) Attitude towards superiors

 

One sincere expression of the love of God is humble obedience to superiors who are His representatives in the government of human society. The Rule takes for granted that every Tertiary gives the obedience owed to his superiors: the youth to his parents, the wife to her husband, the servant to his master, and everyone to the legitimate civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The Rule speaks expressly of the obedience owed by the Brothers and Sisters to the superiors of the Order: the Visitator (Chapters XVI & XIX) and to the Ministers (Chapter XV & XIX). A sincere and humble obedience is still the most effective medicine against pride.

 

c.) Relationship with the Brothers and Sisters

 

The Rule, as if to remove from the soul the last vestige of pride which always contrasts one person against another, reminds the Tertiary of the greatest commandment of the Lord Jesus: to love one another mutually as He has shown us by His words and own example. To be a brother in Christ and St. Francis is the fundamental relationship of life for the followers of the Third Rule. Charity is the soul of Christianity: seraphic love is the basic characteristic of Franciscanism. The Brothers and Sisters were to live in an atmosphere of Christian and Franciscan love. To love one another, for each member to seek the good of the other; for all together to seek the Glory of God -- this is the forma vitae, the lifestyle of the Tertiary. And this characteristic dynamic of seraphic love directing them all towards God the Father with sentiments of children makes of the Penitents brothers and sisters. To continue living in this spirit of fraternity, the Tertiaries are held to respect justice (Chapter II), to remain in mutual harmony to visit the sick of the Fraternity (Chapter XIV), to pray for the departed members (Chapter XIV), to offer alms generously for the benefit of the poor brothers and sisters and for the sick and departed whenever there should be a need (Chapter XIII).

 

CONCLUSION:

 

These concepts of Franciscan Spirituality taken from the Rule approved by Nicholas IV are not a new idea in the life of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. Rather, this Rule keeps all its freshness and vitality because it is in strict continuity with the spirit of the original propositum vitae which flowed from the mind and heart of the Seraphic Founder. In the Rule of Nicholas IV, the same spirit of Francis is alive, though in a form that is more canonical and systematic. In it we still see the living ideal which St. Francis proposed to the Penitents from the very beginning; there still pulsates his universal love directed towards God and the Brethren. In the millions of followers of this Franciscan penitential movement, God's Minstrel sings in each passing century the beautiful Canticle of love in all its richness.

 

Fr. Lino Temperini, T.O.R.

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