The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order

The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order

Prologue: Exhortation of St. Francis to the Brothers
and Sisters of Penance (circa 1210-1215)

* Concerning Those Who Do Penance

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and
mind, with all their strength, and love their neighbors as themselves and
hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and
Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these
things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will
rest upon them” and he will make “his home and dwelling among them”, and
they are the sons of the heavenly Father, whose works they do, and they
are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with
our Lord Jesus Christ, we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will
of the Father who is in heaven”.

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body through divine
love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a
holy life which must give light to others by example.

Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh how
glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy
Paraclete.

Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved,
beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our
Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep and prayed to the
Father saying:

“Oh holy Father, protect them with your name whom you gave me out of the
world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they
received it. They have known that in truth I came from you, they have
believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the
world. Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their
sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will
belive in me through their word that they may be holy by being one as we
are. And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see
this glory of mine in your kingdom.”

* Concerning Those Who Do Not Do Penance

But all those men and women who are not doing penance and do not receive
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and live in vices and sin and
yield to evil concupiscence and to the wicked desires of the flesh, and
do not observe what they have promised to the Lord, and are slaves to the
world, in their bodies, by carnal desires and the anxieties and cares of
this life.

These are blind, because they do not see the true light, our Lord Jesus
Christ; they do not have spiritual wisdom because they do not have the
Son of God who is the true wisdom of the Father. Concerning them, it is
said, “Their skill was swallowed up” and “cursed are those who turn away
from your commands”. They see and acknowledge, they know and do bad
things and knowingly destroy their own souls.

See, you who are blind, deceived by your enemies, the world, the flesh
and the devil, for it is pleasant to the body to commit sin and it is
bitter to make it serve God because all vices and sins come out and
“proceed from the heart of man” as the Lord says in the Gospel. And you
have nothing in this world and in the next, and you thought you would
possess the vanities of this world for a long time.

But you have been deceived, for the day and the hour will come to which
you give no thought and which you do not know and of which you are
ignorant. The body grows infirm, death approaches, and so it dies a
bitter death, and no matter where or when or how man dies, in the guilt
of sin, without penance or satisfaction, though he can make satisfaction
but does not do it.

The devil snatches the soul from his body with such anguish and
tribulation that no one can know it except he who endures it, and all the
talents and power and “knowledge and wisdom” which they thought they had
will be taken away from them, and they leave their goods to relatives and
friends who take and divide them and say afterwards, “Cursed be his soul
because he could have given us more, he could have acquired more than he
did.” The worms eat up the body and so they have lost body and soul
during this short earthly life and will go into the inferno where they
will suffer torture without end.

All those into whose hands this letter shall have come we ask in the
charity that is God to accept kindly and with divine love the fragrant
words of our Lord Jesus Christ quoted above. And let those who do not
know how to read have them read to them.

And may they keep them in their mind and carry them out, in a holy manner
to the end, because they are “spirit and life”.

And those who will not do this will have to render “an account on the day
of judgement” before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Secular Franciscan Order

* Chapter 1

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by
the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of
God–laity, religious, and priests– who recognize that they are called
to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. In various
ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to
make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and
mission of the Church.

* Chapter 2

The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle.
It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout
the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities
the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity
in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to
live the gospel in the manner of St. Francis by means of this rule
approved by the Church.

* Chapter 3

The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules
approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the
Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church
in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the
Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions
and particular statutes.

The Way of Life

* Chapter 4

The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the
gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis
of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life
with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into
which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give
abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful
reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.

* Chapter 5

Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and
active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred
Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of Saint
Francis, who often said “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God
in this world except his most holy body and blood,” should be the
inspiration and pattern of their eucharistic life.

* Chapter 6

They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and
raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with
the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses
and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by
their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his
example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full
communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and
trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

* Chapter 7

United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance,” and
motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their
thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior
change which the gospel itself calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it
necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged
sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

* Chapter 8

As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and
contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the
Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms
proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

* Chapter 9

The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to his every word
and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and
declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular
Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her
complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

* Chapter 10

United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed his
will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties
proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the
poor and crucified Christ, witness to him even in difficulties and
persecutions.

* Chapter 11

Trusting in the Father, Christ chose for himself and his mother a poor
and humble life, even though he valued created things attentively and
lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment
from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be
mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods
received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of “the Beatitudes,” and as pilgrims and strangers on
their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their
hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

* Chapter 12

Witnessing to the good yet to come and obliged to acquire purity of heart
because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves
free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

* Chapter 13

As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn
of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle
and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image
of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves
on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom
they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed
by Christ.

* Chapter 14

Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to
build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God
may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows
Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them
exercise their responsibilities competently in Christian spirit of
service.

* Chapter 15

Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting
justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous
initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make
definite choices in harmony with their faith.

* Chapter 16

Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation,
redemption, and service of the human community.

* Chapter 17

In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace,
fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world
already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should
bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for his Church. They
should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual
journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being
attentive to the vocation of each child.

* Chapter 18

Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which
“bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from
the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of
universal kinship.

* Chapter 19

Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up
unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony
through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone
and in the transforming power of love and pardon.

Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to
bring joy and hope to others.

Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true
meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate
encounter with the Father.

Life In Fraternity

* Chapter 20

The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various
levels–local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its
own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are
coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the
constitutions.

* Chapter 21

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council
and minister (or president) who are elected by the professed according to
the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready
and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to
the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways
according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various
needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their
respective council.

* Chapter 22

The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the
basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the
community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a
sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the
apostolic life of its members.

* Chapter 23

Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented
to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new
brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of
initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of
the rule. The entire community is engaged in this process of growth by
its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive
Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss
their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue.

Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act
of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

* Chapter 24

To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular
and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other
Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt
appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and
encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. This communion continues with
deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

* Chapter 25

Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs
of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and
sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local
fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher
fraternity councils.

* Chapter 26

As a concrete sign of communion and coresponsibility, the councils on
various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable
and well-prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make
this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families,
to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and
to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or
president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a
regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as
for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to
the norm of the constitutions.

Blessing of St. Francis (1226):

May whoever observes all this be filled in heaven with the blessing of
the most high Father, and on earth with that of his beloved Son, together
with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

————

Obtained from listserv@american.edu

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