THE CONDITION OF THINGS, especially in Italy, was, at the close of the twelfth century and for a little while so serious, that, although society stood firm universally in the Christian Faith, exceedingly many men, nevertheless, distracted by cupidity for fleeting things and elated by the pride of life, rushed forth into every moral depravity [morum pravitatem]; and, with the charity of Christ already growing weak, they fostered hatreds at all times and impelled city-states to calamitous internal wars. Nothing therefore could be more wished at that time than that a singular man be raised up by God, who, distinguished by the praise of all virtues, both brought opportune remedies to these evils and called the peoples back to a Christian spirit. Now, indeed, no one is ignorant that the duty of emending the society of those times had been divinely committed to Francis of Assisi, who countering [opponens] unbridled vices with the study of Christian humility and poverty, strove to conjoin all in mutual charity. And sop when very many disciples flowed together from all sides towards such a man, there grew up an indeed immense Franciscan Family, since from the members [sodalibus] of the three Orders which Francis himself established, then successively from those tertiaries who, desirous of a more perfect life, (and) observing [agents] a common life, were named members of the Third Order Regular. Therefore deservedly [merito] these also have celebrated the memory of the Seraphic Father throughout this year, in the seventh centenary [septimo exeunte saeculo] of his most holy death [obiti], not only with the holding of pious supplications and sacred solemnities in public, but also with more active resolutions of piety in a glad spirit [animo]. For indeed all know how diligently, from the beginning of their institute, the tertiaries regular contended to put on the holy spirit of Francis, and accustomed themselves to the same (spirit) in displaying [traducere] many works of religion and charity. Wherefore it happened that Our Predecessor Pope Leo X, after having promulgated [data] the Constitution Inter cetera, fully approved their Rule. But in fact, as it happens in human affairs, very many things indeed, with the passing of time [decursu temporum], which had been decreed by Pope Leo X, either entirely became obsolete [prorsus obsolevere] or did not agree entirely [omnino] with the certain prescriptions of the Code of canon law. For which reason it was necessary that that law of Leo X be accommodated to these Our times and likewise to the more recent decrees of the Church, so that the Tertiaries Regular, and the many other religious families of simple vows which, since they have put on the spirit of Francis in the establishment of the same and use the franciscan name, have Francis as (their) Father in a certain manner, seizing from this [inde] a new increment, may proceed with alacrity or even better [maiore optime] to merit it from the Christian and civil republic. And since the task [munus] of emending this kind of law, having been placed before the business of the Sacred Congregation of Religious, had resulted in [confecisset] (a law) more fully imbued and congruent with the law of the Church today, it submitted the same to be approved by Us pro officio; of which Law indeed are these chapters which are here reported:
THE RULE OF THE THIRD ORDER REGULAR OF THE SERAPHIC FATHER ST. FRANCIS
CHAPTER I A Summary of the Religious Life 1. The form of life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, chastity, and poverty.
2. The Brothers and Sisters, in imitation of (their) Seraphic Father, promise obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope and to the Roman Church. They are also bound to obey their own Superiors canonically instituted, in all things which respect the general and special end of their own Institute (from the Rules of the I and II Orders, ch. I).
CHAPTER II On the Novitiate and Profession 3. The Brothers and Sisters to be received into this Third Order ought to be faithful Catholics, not suspect of heresy, firm in obedience to the Roman Church, not bound in matrimony, free [expediti] of debts, healthy in body, prompt in spirit, stained by no vulgar infamy, reconciled with their neighbors. And concerning all these things, before they are received, by him who has the faculty of receiving, they are to be diligently examined (Rule of the III Order, approved by Leo X, ch. I), after having observed the sacred canons and their own Constitutions.
4. The year of novitiate ought to have this goal [propositum] under the discipline of a Teacher, that the soul of the pupil [alumni] be formed [informetur] by the study of the Rule and Constitutions, by pious meditations and assiduous prayer, by thoroughly learning those things which pertain to the vows and virtues, by opportune exercises to exstirpate the seeds of vices by the root, to pasture together [compescendos] the movements of the spirit, to acquire the virtues. Moreover lay members [conversi] are to be diligently instructed [institutantur] in Christian Doctrine, with a special conference [collatione] held for them at least once a week (can. 565 § 1 and 2).
5. With the time of probation complete, let those who are found suitable, be admitted to profession.
CHAPTER III On Charity towards God and neighbor 6. Having removed the obstacles, which impede sanctity [sanctimoniam] through the three sacred vows, let the Brothers and Sisters strive together [contendant] to fulfill the Divine Law, which wholly [tota] depends upon charity towards God and neighbor. Charity is the form of all virtues and the chain of perfection. To mortify vices, to advance in grace, to pursue [consequendam] the sum of all virtues, (there is) nothing better, nothing more able to prevail [validius] than charity.
7. A great sign of and assistance for the love [dilectionis] of Christ est the frequent, nay daily approach [accessus] to the Most Holy Eucharist, which is at the same time both a sacred banquet [convivium] and the memorial of His Passion. Let the religious souls also take care to frequently visit and devoutly venerate the Lord Jesus, remaining with us under (this) wonderful mystery: for This is the greatest Sacrament in the Church and an unexhausted fountain of all goods.
8. However the proof of the love of God [dilectionis in Deum] is the exercise of charity towards (one's) neighbor; for that reason, in the true disciple of Christ charity shines out the most upon (one's) neighbor; let all speech be orderly [ordinata], useful and honest: so that charity abounds in work, it is necessary that it abound beforehand in the heart.
CHAPTER IV On the Divine Office, prayer and fasting 9. Let the Brothers and Sisters, just as their own Constitutions provide [ferunt], worthily [digne], attentively and devoutly perform [persolvant] the Divine Office. Let the lay brothers [conversi] and lay sisters [conversae] say twelve Paters for Matins and Lauds, (and) for whatever other canonical hour five.
10. Moreover every [quolibet] day, unless legitimately impeded, they ought to hear Mass, and to take care to have a pious priest approved by the Ordinary of the place, to propound the word of God to them on certain days and to induce them to penance and to virtues (Rule of the III Order. op. cit., cap. IV).
11. They ought also every [quolibet] day to consider within themselves and (before) God, what they have done, said and thought, or to accomplish [peragere] an examination of conscience; to humbly seek pardon [veniam] concerning their own faults and to offer and commend (their) proposals of ammendment to God.
12. Let all take care to nurture and foster daily by means of frequent meditation on the Passion Christ the fervor of devotion; let them follow (their) Seraphic Patriarch and imitate (him), so that they may also be able to exclaim with St. Paul: "With Christ I have been crucified to the Cross." "Moreover, I live now not as I: Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:19-20)
13. Besides the abstinences and fasts to which all the faithful are obliged [adstringuntur], let them observe those which are ordained in their own Constitutions, especially the vigils of the Solemnities of the Immaculate Conception and (their) Seraphic Father Francis.
CHAPTER V On the interior and exterior manner of comportment 14. Since the Brothers and Sisters of this Fraternity are called of Penance, let them bear each day the cross of mortification, as truly befits [congruit] penitents.
15. It is proper [opportet] that above all they abstain from every curiosity, as much in clothing as in whatever other things. And according to the wholesome counsel of Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, having put aside the other vain ornaments of this generation [saeculi], they ought not carry any corporal ornament, except their own religious habit (Rule op. cit., ch. VI). They are bound also to observe the cloister according to the sacred canons and their own Constitutions.
16. They ought also to be sparing in words and speech [locutionibus], which are rarely multiplied without sin. Let the comportment [conversatio] of the Brothers and Sisters be such, that they edify all in word and example and remain [sint] mindful that the Lord has said: "Let your light so shine in the sight of men: that they see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in Heaven." (Mt. 5:16). Let them announce peace to all, using a humble and devout salutation: and let them always bear about [secum deferant] peace, not only upon their lips [in ore], but also in their heart. (Rule op. cit, ch. VI).
CHAPTER VI On the care of the infirm 17. If any Brother or Sister has fallen into infirmity, let there be no one to deny a helping hand [operam suam adiutricem]; but it will be fitting [congruum] for the Superiors to arrange services [servitium] on behalf of the infirm. Let the rest, not assigned to such services, not be disgusted to visit the infirm, and to comfort (them) with consoling words. Let all with a glad spirit be responsible for [praestent] the offices of charity not only to the infirm, but also to the aged, or those indigent in another manner, just as befits [decet] the sons of the Seraphic Father.
18. Let the Superiors be bound to warn the infirm brother or sister concerning accepting the penance of infirmity, concerning the true conversion to God that must be made, and also propose (to them) the nearness of death and the breadth [districtionem] of the Divine Judgment and at the same time the Divine Mercy (Rule op. cit., ch. VII).
19. After any Brother or Sister has passed from this life [ab hac luce migraverit], the Superiors will take care that his burial be celebrated with great piety (Rule op. cit., ch. IX). On behalf of the soul of the each departed, moreover, let them perform [persolvantur] the established suffrages faithfully.
CHAPTER VII On work and the manner of working 20. Let those who sell themselves to the service of God, with the assistance of the grace of the Holy Spirit, flee idleness, and apply (themselves) faithfully and devoutly to the divine praises, or to the works of religion [religiositatis] or charity (cf. Reg. II Ord., cap. VII).
21. For this reason let the religious fulfill their own duties [officia] for the sake of God, and whatever the Superiors ask of them, according as they bear the strength, let them complete it devoutly and faithfully, as has been said. Let them not object to the more vile things, which must be done; rather let them accomplish [peragant] (these) as freely as the others, following the footsteps of (their) Seraphic Father.
22. Let all things be done in charity, and may the holy love [amor] of God impel the spirits of the religious to complete (their) works in such a manner [ita], that it happens that they work naught but on behalf of His honor and glory: let them fulfill the admonition [monitum] of Saint Paul, the Apostle: "Whether you eat, or drink, or do anything else: (do) all unto the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31).
CHAPTER VIII On the obligation of observing those things contained in the Rule. 23. Each and every thing contained in the present Rule is a counsel to save souls more easily from vice, and none are obligatory under pain of sin [ad peccatum], mortal and venial, except (where) one was obliged by human or divine law. (Rule op. cit., cap. X).
24. However, the Brothers and Sisters are obliged to do the penances imposed on them by (their) Superiors, when these are required concerning something [super hoc]. Also they are obliged to the essential three vows: to poverty, in accord with [iuxta] the terms of their own statutes; to chastity, by binding themselves to observe celibacy and in addition [insuper] by a new title, that is of this very vow, to abstain from whatever act, both external, as well as internal, opposed to chastity; to obedience, by assuming the obligation of obeying the mandate of a legitimate Superior according to [ad] the norm of their own Constitutions (cf. Rule op. cit., ch. X).
25. Let all, both Brothers and Sisters, undertake [instituant] and arrange (their) life according to the prescription of the religious state which they have professed and let them first of all faithfully observe those things which pertain to the perfection of their own vows. Let them especially do those greatest things, which induce them to follow the charity and poverty of (their) Seraphic Father: for it greatly befits a son to reproduce [referre] both the image and the virtues of his own Parent.
CONCLUSION THE BLESSING OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS Let whoever has observed these things, be filled full in heaven with the blessing of the Most High, the heavenly Father, and on earth let them be filled full with the blessing of His Beloved [dilecti] Son, with the Most Holy Spirit and with all the Virtues of Heaven and all the Saints. And I, Friar Francis, your little poor one and slave, as much as I am able, confirm for you inside and out this most holy blessing, which you have with all the Virtues of Heaven and all the Saints now and unto the ages of ages. Amen. (The Testament of St. Francis).
Indeed, wholly [prorsus] abrogating the ancient law of Leo X, We freely, with the passing of seventh century after the death of Francis, approve and confirm this Rule of the Third Order Regular of the Seraphic Father Francis with Our apostolic authority: on that account [id] We plainly will have complete trust that the Tertiaries Regular, and all those who, even if they do not have solemn vows by arrangement [ex instituto], will nevertheless conduct [agunt] a religious life, with Francis as (their) leader, strengthened by the spirit of (this) new Law, in that distinguished [egregie] manner (which) Our Predecessor Pope Benedict XV wrote about, that for all the other Tertiary members, who remain involved with the business and cares of the world, they may be as an example unto the cultivation of Christian perfection, and may continue to go ahead of them as leaders in the quest for sempiternal life [ad sempiternam salutem quaerendam].1
We command these things, decreeing, that the present Letters and Statutes inserted and enclosed in them, be and remain [exstare ac permanere] firm, valid and always efficacious, and that they receive [sortiri] and obtain their own full and entire effect, and that they approve those thing to which they pertain [spectant] or could pertain afterwards, now and for the longest [amplissime] time; and so it must be rightly judged and defined, and becomes ineffectual [irritum] from now on and void [inane], if anything otherwise concerning these things, by whoever, with whatever authority, knowingly or unknowingly happened to attempt it. Not withstanding contraries of whatever kind, even those worthy of special and individual mention. Moreover We will, that these Letters, copied and excerpted, even printed, subscribed by the hand of any public Notary and fortified with the seal of a man constituted in ecclesiastical dignity, be shown wholly [prorsus] the same faith, (with) which these very present ones are regarded, if they were exhibited or shown.
Given in Rome at St. Peter's, on the 4th day of the month of October, on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, in the year 1927, the sixth of Our Pontificate.
C. Card. LAURENTI,
Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of ReligiousDE SPECIALI MANDAT SS.MIFR. ANDREAS CARD. FRÜHWIRTH,Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church
Ioseph Wilpert, Protonotary Apostolic, Deacon. Dominicus Jorio, Protonotary Apostolic.(L + P.)
Registered in Canc. Apostolica, vol., XXXVI, n. 87.
1 Cf. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. XIII, p. 131 (N. M.).
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