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  Table of Contents

Norms for Formation

Spiritual Direction
Third Order
Regular Spirituality

History of the Third Order Regular
Diversity of the Third Order Regular
Francis: Father & Teacher of the Third Order Regular
Contemplative Nuns of the Third Order Regular
Method for Reading the Writings of St.Francis
Symbols of Identification
& Unity

Development of the New Third Order Rule
GENERAL..imagesblu_gry.gif (541 bytes) Commentary on the Rule of the Third Order Regular
Rule of Life
& Statutes

Study of the Constitutions
Charism of Penance/The Meaning of Penance
The Way of Penance in Francis of Assisi
The T.O.R Charism of Penance
& Minority

& Poverty

Prayer:The Practice of Lectio Divina
Places in the Story of St.Francis &
The Brothers
of Penance

Penitential Spirituality in
the Franciscan Sources

Be Penitents
Comprehensive Course in Franciscanism
The Practice
of Mendicacy

Guidelines / Directions for Friars
Third Order Regular in Ireland
Franciscan Family Tree
  Fran. Federation

Franciscan Rule - Commentary

An Inspirational Document

Guided by the spirit of St. Francis, who simply and in a few words wrote down a Rule and Form of Life, this latest version of our Rule emphasizes the spiritual and Inspirational basis for our way of life rather than the canonical or juridical aspect.

For Francis "The Rule and Life of the brothers consists in living in obedience, chastity and without property". However, at the same time, he made it quite clear that the vows were the minimum expected. He immediately adds a measure which goes beyond the canonical dimension of the vows by his affirmation that the life of the brothers consisted, moreover and especially, "in following the teachings and footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ".

As an Inspirational document, the Rule nourishes a way of life, stays close to the origns, fosters ideals, creates a future and proposes goals. Our new Rule is rather like " our Franciscan gospel". In it we discover light for our fraternal way of life, which is the appropriate environment for living out our consecration and the stimulus for performing the works of mercy. The Rule also collects the very words of Francis which, in spite of the centuries, have not lost the fundamental insight of that liberated man to whom: "The Most High Himself revealed ... how I was to live". The considerable number of citations from the writings of St. Francis ensures what Pope Paul VI in "Ecclesiae Sanctae" calls "a truly living spirit". The present TOR Rule does not stifle the Spirit but, seeking to inspire rather than impose, it leaves room for the heart, for poetry, and for faith. Its tone and simplicity are closer to the original Franciscan experience and to the Francis of the Proto-Regula and the Regula Non-Bullata. More than a legal document, it seems rather the "Ideario" of an evangelical fraternity which seeks to express its own personal experience.

The text is entitled "THE RULE AND LIFE" but seems to have much more to do with Life than with Rule. It reflects Francis who liked to call the Rule "life" because it is closer to the idea of "charism" and "spirit" than to "norm", "law" or "canon". The necessary canonical legislation, regulations, and the special style of life or work, are all important aspects which each Franciscan Institute following this Rule will emphasize in its particular law: the Constitutions, Statutes, Chapter Resolutions, etc.

The Four Fundamental Values of the Rule:
Penance, Prayer, Poverty and Minority

After an intense examination of the characteristics of Franciscan spirituality which have inspired the different Institutes of the Franciscan Third Order Regular, there were four fundamental values which could be recognized. Neither poverty nor minority could be understood in a Franciscan sense except from the gospel life which demands "metanoia" or penance, nor did penance mean for Francis something other than living the gospel. These values are not contradictory but complementary to one another since they arise from the same spirituality. They are all important, indeed, each is essential for the Tertiary Family. It would not be very difficult to do a comparative study to show how these four characteristic values are interwoven throughout the primitive Rules and Constitutions of the Order. An examination of our present Constitutions and General Statutes will reveal how the four values of penance, prayer, poverty and minority permeate them. 

An Appraisal of the TOR Rule Approved by Pope John Paul II

  • presents the Gospel project of Francis as he describes it in his Testament.
  • it offers and expresses abundantly all facets of the Franciscan ideal of life.
  • it is the genuine expression of Francis' life for his followers among the brothers and sisters of Penance.
  • it includes all those elements which constitute the common identity of the Third Order Regular Family.
  • it is a "classic" document which will always need to be re-read and re-translated for each period of history.
  • it is an inspirational text.
  • it proposes an integrated collection of attitudes towards living the gospel.
  • it gathers together the characteristics of Franciscan spirituality.
  • it creates and expresses the basic unity among the Institutes of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and the Secular Franciscans, and with the First and Second Orders.
  • it provides a common text for TOR Institutes of brothers and sisters of both the active and contemplative life.
  • although written in a classical format, it embraces the teachings of the Vatican II Council on religious life.
  • it encourages a knowledge and familiarity with the Writings of St. Francis.
  • it constitutes a font of inspiration for initial and continuing formation.
  • it is arranged in 9 Chapters, 32 Articles, plus an Introduction (Letter of St. Francis to his Penitents), and concludes with an Exhortation and the Blessing of St. Francis.
  • it cites: 59 texts from the Bible; 86 from St. Francis, and 20 from Franciscan sources.
  • faithful to the Testament of St. Francis, written "in a few words and simply", it proposes a Rule of Franciscan Life which is: brief, spiritual, permanent, universal, inspirational, unifying, pluralistic, and inexhaustible.

"AND LET THE FRIARS NOT SAY: THIS IS ANOTHER RULE! ... It is a reminder, an admonition and an exhortation, it is my testament which I, brother Francis, your little one, give you, my blessed brothers."

At the direction of the Church, the brothers and sisters of the Third Order Regular Family have turned in search of "water, humble, pure and chaste" to the fount of their origins. Leaving behind the weight of centuries, regulations and customs, antiquated forms, we have gotten closer to Francis, the simple, evangelical, penitent "made prayer" to discover in the clear springs of his writings and life a greater clarity in living according to the form The Most High revealed.

The Title of the Rule of 1982

"The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters
of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis"

The new Rule is in accord with the previous Rules approved by Nicholas IV (1289), Leo X (1521) and Pius Xi (1927).

"Brothers and Sisters" dates from the time of St. Francis and the Order of Penance and the "Memoriale Propositi" of 1221.

"Third Order" is a term which was not easily accepted by the Franciscan penitents since it might imply a dependence on the Friars Minor but by the time of the Rule of Nicholas IV it had become commonplace in papal and other documents.

"Regular" is a term which refers to the observance of community life already begun in hermitages and hospitals during the lifetime of St. Francis. It was officially defended and received papal approval in 1323.

The addition to the title which is not found in the previous Rules is "..and Life.. ". This term is found more than 80 times in the writings of St. Francis, especially in the Regula Nonbullata where it means, above all, the style of life inspired by the Gospel, the Way of life of those who have been captivated by Christ.

In the Church of St. Nicholas in - Assisi (site of today's Post Office), Francis opened the missal and found the three texts: "go and sell.. ", "take nothing along... " and "deny yourself ". This is the Life and the Rule of the Lesser Brothers, the Poor Ladies, and the Brothers and Sisters of Penance "of St. Francis".

LIFE is a way of expressing the vital character of the Rule which is the "book of life" 2 Cel 208, the "norm of life" 1 Cel 32, and the "Rule which gives life" A, Clareno.

LIFE means to be humble, prayerful, poor, penitent .... to be a peaceful, joyful brother or sister, to incarnate the spirit of our way of being Christians, Franciscans.

LIFE in the terminology of St. Francis, means the commitment of the fraternity which receives its expression in the text of the Rule. This is written and corresponds to the realization of the Life.

LIFE because this Rule seeks to be more soul than law.

LIFE indicating identity, behavior, attitudes and values.

The Prologue:
In the Name of the Lord Jesus!

The beginning of the Rule and Life
of the Brothers and Sisters of the
Third Order Regular of St. Francis.

First Letter to the Faithful: the words of Francis in this letter addressed to the penitents are especially meaningful and also introduce the Rule of the Third Order Secular (Secular Franciscan Order) approved by Paul VI in 1978. They inspire the whole Rule and express in a special way our basic charism of Penance.

The Letter was discovered by a Protestant Franciscan scholar, Paul Sabatier in 1900 in the Guarnacci library of Volterra, Italy. At first, it was thought to be an extract of the Letter to All The Faithful since this Letter, although well known, had not yet been published in its entirety at that time. It is thought to have been written c. 1212 so that only the Prayer before the Crucifix and the Form of life given to St. Clare would be earlier!

Fr. Kajetan Esser OFM preferred the sub-title "Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance" as less generic and more exact. He points out that it is evident that Francis was not writing to All The Faithful but to the "Penitents" - those Brothers and Sisters of Penance who had accepted his evangelical or penitential program of life. That the Third Order or "Franciscan" Order of Penance developed from these Brothers and Sisters, Fr. Esser states there is no doubt. Indeed, in their studies, Frs. Rafaelle Pazzelli,TOR and Lino Temperini,TOR conclude that this Letter is the first "Rule" given by St. Francis to his followers among the penitents.

The content of the text presents the key ideas through which Francis proposed to form the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. In it one can discern the concept of the Saint concerning the "core" of the religious life, something which in other works is not easy to discover. Tile words of Francis reach the depths of theology and the mystical life.

"To do penance" involves: the love of God, the love of neighbor, striving against our sinful tendencies, to turn to the sacramental life (especially, the Eucharist), to live and work in total conformity to a life of conversion, to bring forth works worthy of Penance. In very few places does the insertion of the soul into the life of the Trinity appear so clearly expressed as here.

The concept of "body" is used by Francis in the sense of flesh or fallen nature, the cause of sin. It is not equivalent to "body" in the modern sense of being part of human nature. This can be recognized also from the very configuration we find set up in the text.

The simple sentences of the letter reveal a deep knowledge of the essential relationships of the Christian life. It is only when we overcome pride and self-centeredness that we can develop love for God and our neighbor, a love which is nourished by the Eucharist.

The PROLOGUE is used to offer a synthesis of the entire Rule.

The precise terminology of "Rule and Life" is a medieval formula which intends to express the identity of a corporation. Here is summed up the attitudes, the values and the Gospel principles which Francis proposed to his followers.

Chapter I

Our Identity

1. This Chapter begins with the classic formula of the Regula Bullata, the Rule of St. Clare, and is very similar to that of the Regula Non-Bullata. It presents our "Form of Life", emphasizing the spiritual dimension, of the members of the Third Order Regular within the Franciscan Family. We profess the canonical vows of obedience, poverty (the original and traditional formula of "sine proprio" was changed to avoid civil problems), and chastity meaning consecrated celibacy.

Our following of Christ is to be after the manner proposed by St. Francis, the history of religious life and the recent instructions of the Church. The four values of penance, poverty, prayer and humility appear explicitly.

Our following of Christ is proposed according to the form lived by St. Francis. It constitutes the note of identity with respect to other forms of religious life. We are Franciscans living a community form of life.

Some phrases are taken directly from Francis' 2nd Letter to the Faithful. They "are called to make greater efforts" in their observance of "the precepts and counsels of Our Lord Jesus Christ", and let them "deny themselves as each has promised the Lord".

In this first chapter, one can already notice that in the composition of the Rule, care was taken to remain faithful to the original texts while weaving them together.

2. The article on penance or evangelical conversion begins with the solemn declaration that to be a Franciscan TOR means to persevere in the faith and in the life of penance. The article gives a special emphasis to our basic charism of penance/ metanoia/ conversion. Three times the text will underline this value.

The way we are to live and express this conversion passes through prayer, poverty, and humility. This states the inter-relation of these four basic values.

Penance/conversion consists in abstaining from evil but, above all, persevering in doing good.

We are to know the Lord: in Scripture, in Creation, in the Sacraments, in Jesus Christ, and in recognizing our condition as sinners.

We are to adore the Lord with pure minds and heart: to be able to adore the Lord with pure minds and heart we need to confess our sins to a priest.

We are to serve the Lord: (in penance) in other words to serve Him in our neighbor by works of charity. For Francis bringing forth fruits of penance means to love our neighbor and to do him good.

3. Fraternity is the inheritance we have received from St. Francis, the "Universal Brother", and it is the environment in which the four basic values must grow and develop. The Franciscan life cannot be understood apart from Fraternity. This factor of fraternity exceeds the purely legal, canonical categories of obedience to the Church, to the Pope, and to the Ministers of the fraternity.

This fraternal, Franciscan style promotes our sense of belonging to the Church, the Order, and the wide-spread Franciscan Family. We see in these institutions something near, cherished, familiar.

The superiors of the Order are designated as "ministers" of the fraternity. They are called" i.e. they have received a "mission".

 The relations between the brothers and sisters should be characterized by respect, courtesy, tolerance, devotion, admiration, veneration, in other words, by the virtues which strengthen the sense of fraternity.

We are to "foster", or to work together with the whole Franciscan Family. In so doing, we construct unity and express our communion as children of the same Father, St. Francis of Assisi.

Chapter II

Acceptance into this Life

This chapter is concerned with the admission of candidates to our way of life and with their initial and continual formation.

Formation is considered, above all, as the longing for evangelical life, a living in an attitude of permanent conversion.

The characteristic quality of the TOR, penance or conversion, is highlighted in this chapter where it is cited four times.

4. Extending a welcome to our way of life. A vocation is a gift of God and to Him belongs the initiative. Our task is to help in discerning the vocation of the candidate and to accept this gift of God beginning with receiving him or her in a Franciscan way, that is, "kindly". The entire fraternity has the responsibility of collaborating in vocational promotion. Each of us can give the witness of our own vocation.

The Ministers have the responsibility to discern and to decide the suitability of the candidates.

5. The conditions for admission into the Fraternity:

  • Spiritual: That the candidate have faith in the Church and Sacraments.

    Human Maturity: That the candidate has the ability to live this way of life.

The Minister Provincial has the responsibility to give the final word on the reception of the new member. However, other words, including the next to the last, belong to the Fraternity!

It is advantageous that there be a gradual process until the definite admission. It begins with a period of probation "Let them be initiated.." into this life which is again defined as a fraternity. The criteria for admission are drawn from the Gospel. Franciscan religious life is presented as "an evangelical life" lived at an intense and radical level as presumed from the texts of Matt. 19,21; 16,24.

6. Initial Formation is the second step in this process. The Lord is the first Director and the principal One in charge! There must be an openness to let oneself be led by Him. The beginning of formation is declared to be a process of conversion. This uninterrupted conversion is the objective of what is called Continual or Permanent Formation. Our simple and humble style of life and even our religious habit and clothing, besides signifying the embrace of a penitential life is an element in the process of formation. The theological concept of "consecration to Gospel life" may be understood in a passive (consecrated BY God) and an active (consecrated FOR God) sense. Penance/conversion is stressed three times.

7. The Profession/Consecration or "being received into obedience" is the third step in this process of formation. The phrase means a promise to live in fraternity in a way of life which is not monastic. "To observe this rule and life always" denotes the perpetuity of the consecration. "This life and this rule" means that the consecration of one's whole life is not totally expressed the three counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity but is an offering or consecration of one's whole being. "To put aside cares and worries" is to observe poverty and minority while "To serve, love, honor and adore" is the expression of continuous conversion to God from a contemplative dimensions The phrase "With a single heartedness and purity of intention" is a way of expressing the evangelical value of chastity in a way similar to that of Vatican II (PC. 12) It underlines the idea of an unrestricted abandonment of all so as to give oneself exclusively to God's service.

8. Continual Formation is developed further from the previous article. The love of God and our love for Him finishes by making or converting us into the dwelling place of the Blessed Trinity. Our love becomes increasingly all-embracing and we enter into the spirituality which is expressed in the Catiticle of the Creatures.

The word "increase" is a call to continual conversion, one which is never finished. Love unifies and allows us to offer ourselves completely and undivided to the service of God and our neighbor (chastity). It makes it possible for us to be more available for the works of mercy. The fundamental concept of this article is expressed in the words "continually turning to God".

Chapter III

The Spirit of Prayer

This chapter presents a synthesis of the characteristics of Franciscan prayer: Trinitarian (9-11), praise (9-10), ecclesial (9), contemplative (9), cosmic (10) biblical (11), eucharistic (12), penitential (13), christocentric (13).

9. This article emphasizes the prayer of adoration and praise - blessing in the repetition of the words: "let them adore" (3X) and "let them praise" (4X). We are to unite ourselves in prayer with the whole Church in the Liturgy of the Hours with those same sentiments of praise and adoration. Francis desired that in the prayer of the Divine Office "the voice unites with the mind and the mind is united with God". We fulfill this ministry of prayer as humble believers. The second paragraph of this article is dedicated to those cloistered nuns who profess the TOR Rule.

10. In our prayer of praise of the Lord, as befits sons and daughters of Francis, we include all creation. We pray in, for and with all creatures and recognize our brotherhood with them. Our prayer is one of thanksgiving for His Holy Will, for His Son with the Holy Spirit, for all created things both spiritual and material, and for ourselves who have been created in the image and likeness of God. "May You be praised, My Lord, with all Your creatures. "

11. The absolutely essential means of coming to "be conformed" to Christ and His Gospel is meditation on the Word of God. After the example of Francis, our following of Jesus, is learned and is reached through adhesion to the Scriptures which we meditate and preserve in our hearts. Creation and events are illuminated by the Word of God. Before making any important decision, Francis always turned to the Scriptures and recommended to his followers "the perfumed words of Our Loid Jesus Christ".

12. The great esteem of Francis for the Eucharist is reflected in this article. We are to participate fully in the Eucharistic Sacrifice with great humility and great veneration. We are to give all reverence and honor to Jesus present in the Eucharist by our visits and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Further, we are to reverence His Holy Name and be respectful even of the written words which consecrate His Body and Blood. In the Eucharist, the Lord reveals and makes peace between all creatures and God. The Eucharist is the sign and cause of our unity.

13. A sincere recognition of our sins and the need to confess them before receiving Holy Communion. Fasting and deeds of mercy are means to encourage a spirit of sorrow and humility.

Chapter IV

Life in Chastity for the Sake of the Kingdom

14, Chastity is a both a gift of God and a response of man. It is a gift and work of God who formed us in His Image and created us through and in Christ. We accept this way of life in chastity based on the words and example of Christ, our Redeemer.

15. Our profession of chastity is for the Kingdom. This demands that we " be careful in what concerns the Lord" and seek His Will and to please Him. In this way, our behavior will express love for God and love for all His children. Any insistence on the dimension of availability ( chastity FOR the Kingdom = purpose) should be balanced by a focus on the presence of the Kingdom as a reason for consecrated chastity (chastity FOR the Kingdom = cause).

16. By our life, we should be signs of the Mystery of the Church expressing the Union of Christ with His Spouse, the Church. Our witness to this love and spiritual marriage is a gift of grace.

17. In imitation of Francis, we look to Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord. Our fraternal and filial relationship with Mary is not just an attitude of devotion. She is the perfect Model of the Lord's disciple and our inspiration for a total commitment of service to God. She shows us how to listen to God's Word in the Scripture and events of life, to believe in it in all circumstances and to live all its demands. Even when we do not understand, like her, we are to keep it in our hearts (Lk 2, 19, 50-51) until light comes. We confide in her maternal concern and protection.

Chapter V

The Way to Serve and Work

This is the chapter which is dedicated to Minority or Humility. It is expressed in our way of life and moving through the world. Therefore, any Service or Work should reflect our Franciscan spirit and identify us. To "live in conversion" not only supposes service to God but also to serve as "minors" in working for a better world.

  Francis based his idea of minority on the person of Jesus:

  • who came to serve and not to be served.
  • who chose to announce the Good News and peace to the poor.
  • who adopted an attitude of humility and meekness..

This chapter gathers together the views of Francis about work and its purpose:

  • to work so as to give an example.
  • to avoid idleness.
  • to provide for the needs of the Fraternity.
  • to share the situation of ordinary people.
  • to serve others.

18. Therefore, in deciding to say "yes" to a work or occupation, we see being able to work is a gift of God, to be done with fidelity and devotion, as a way of avoiding idleness and providing a service and a means of expressing our condition as poor people.

We are to refuse any work which smothers the spirit of prayer and devotion by not allowing space for prayer, which ends up in activism, and which does not reflect spiritual values or which is not in accord with our status as poor brothers and sisters.

19. We reflect and "preach" the value of minority or humility:

  • in humbly accepting wages for the work done.
  • in being satisfied with having the necessities of life.
  • in remembering that we are servants of God and followers of holy poverty.
  • in sharing with the poor what is not needed.
  • in seeking to avoid power and authority and prosperity.
  • in being servants ( repeated 5X in nos. 18 & 19 ).
  • in being submissive to every human creature for the sake of God.

This vision of Francis agrees very well with the criteria expressed in Perfectae Caritatis 13 and in the new Code of Canon Law.

20. This article begins with a list of qualities, attitudes and behavior which makes those who practice them living witnesses of humility and thus believable witnesses of Franciscan peace. Francis wants his followers to be meek, modest and humble and proposes that they speak to all respectfully and speak whatever may seem useful. Wherever they go they are to avoid arguments, involvement in litigations, or in judging others.

To carry on a program of peace, they should be happy in the Lord, joyful, suitably gracious and thankful.

Chapter VI

Life in Poverty

In this chapter, poverty is presented as an ideal of life. The specific forms of expressing poverty are left to the Constitutions and General Statutes. The inspiration of Francis overcomes merely juridical concepts such as speculative divisions into vow and virtue which are not in his radical concept of poverty.

Poverty for Francis is total renunciation:

  • of one's will.
  • of pride in one's talents and abilities.
  • of oneself.

They are truly poor:

  • who restore to God all His words.
  • who keep nothing back but give all to God.
  • who desire to be at the feet of others.
  • who love those who afflict them.
  • who do not rush to excuse themselves.

21. We are to be poor with and for the poor:

A. With Jesus who chose a life of poverty and who emptied Himself (kenosis).

  • the christological and scriptural motivation for our poverty.
  • with Mary, under the aspect of the poor handmaid, so dear to St. Francis.
  • Some consequences of this poverty:
  • that it rests not on a sociological but a theological base.
  • that a personal and community austerity be accepted if we are to be content with only the necessary in regards to food, clothing, trips, the use of money.
  • that we have a real trust in Providence.
  • unity and complimentarily between poverty and humility.

B. With the weak and lowly of society.

  • This is to be the motive for our pastoral charity and our works of mercy and for our choice of apostolates.

22. Poor pilgrims, they are truly poor in spirit who:

  • try to follow and imitate Jesus.
  • do not "appropriate" anything.
  • are not self-centered.
  • are-free and available as travellers and foreigners.

The greatness and value of poverty is that:

  • it makes us heirs of more important goods.
  • it makes us kings in the Kingdom of heaven.
  • it frees us from everything.
  • it inspires us to seek virtue.

Poverty, humility, and service are our true riches and we should want to possess nothing else under heaven.

Chapter VII

The Fraternal Life

The fraternal life is the heart and the composition of the Franciscan experience. The papal letter of John Paul II "Franciscanum vitae propositum" reminds us that the following of Jesus Christ is "living in fraternity". The Fraternity is where the fundamental values of penance, prayer, poverty and minority are expressed and develop. In one or another form the idea of fraternity appears throughout all the chapters of the Rule.

The concept of fraternity is not exclusive but inclusive and embraces:

  • the religious community (local, provincial, congregational)
  • The Franciscan Family (other TOR religious institutes, the SFO, and the Ist & 2nd Orders).
  • Humanity
  • All of creation.

23. The Franciscan community is inspired by the Word of God.

  • The brothers and sisters shall love another as Jesus loved; it is a privileged way of proclaiming Jesus Christ.
  • Love is translated into deeds; shown in our works.

The Franciscan fraternity expresses its love:

  • by explaining to others its needs. by asking for help.
  • living unaffectedly this interdependent life.
  • allowing others to live in atmosphere of freedom and trust.
  • being personally concerned to attend to others' needs (trust, charity, poverty, humility, freedom)

A community may be considered truly blessed when it is:

  • sincerely unselfish.
  • looks out for the sick.
  • is grateful to God for all that happens.
  • loves a brother for himself and not for his "usefulness".
  • wants to be what God wants it to be.

24. The weak in the Fraternity:

A. Each of us is weak in some way. We often offend others and feel offended by others therefore the Rule asks for mutual pardon:

  • whenever there has been any reason for irritation.
  • if there have been any uncharitable words.
  • for any action which has offended charity.

B. Anyone who has failed in our way of life through weakness:

  • is to be corrected by the Minister or other brothers or sisters but never by shaming or speaking badly about the person.
  • is to be treated with mercy without getting excited about sin nor behaving in a way that inhibits an attitude of charity.

C. We need to clearly recognize that our fraternity is made up of human beings and thus there will always be faults such as discourtesy, inconsiderate words or actions, carelessness, uncharitable judgement, bad taste, violent reactions, sin.

D. Each of us is sustained and helped by everyone else. Because of our status as penitents, "minors", we always need to count on the compassion and pardon of our brothers and sisters.

Chapter VIII

The Obedience of Love

24. As was the case of the other evangelical counsels, here the following concepts are underlined:

  • the christological motive behind our obedience.
  • the dimension of love which goes further than merely canonical or organizational regulations.
  • the spiritual foundation, inspirational rather than a juridic theology .

Franciscan obedience demands a self-emptying, a self-denial which should be understood in very close relation to poverty and humility. For Francis, it is an "Obedience of Love" when a friar or sister sees something better or more spiritually useful that what the superior commands and yet makes the sacrifice of one's own will to God and tries to carry out the superior's command. It is an "obedience of love" because it gives to God and our neighbor that which belongs to them.

25. "let them obey"

A. The positive aspect:

  • obey like Jesus Who seeks and fulfills the will of the Father.
  • to seek in our Chapters and meetings the will of God
  • to encourage one another to fulfill the Rule.
  • to encourage oneself to follow the Christ.
  • to serve and obey each other.

B. The negative aspect:

  • to renounce one's own will.
  • to forego any power or dominion over our brothers.
  • to refuse any profession which encourages prerogative and preeminence.

Three times in this article there is a reference to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Model of loving obedience.

26. The one responsible:

  • the minister and servant of the Fraternity. The very titles describe how a Franciscan superior is to exercise this role and authority.
  • the friars and sisters are to faithfully obey their ministers according to the Rule.

27. Rights and responsibilities in the Fraternity:

A. The duties and responsibilities of the ministers:

  • to be the Minister and Servant of the fraternity. to visit the friars and sisters.
  • to admonish them (but liuiiibly and kiiidly).
  • to encourage and animate them.

B. The rights of the friars and sisters:

  • to go to their ministers when they can't fulfill the Rule.
  • to be welcomed by the ministers with charity and kindness so that they can treat them with ease ... as employers with their subordinates.
  • to feel the freedom to speak about their problems.

28. No one is indispensable!

The poor and the ordinary people of society do not consider themselves indispensable or essential. If, theoretically and practically, the office of superior is considered as a service then this attitude will not be a serious problem for the fraternity.

Chapter IX

The Apostolic Life

This chapter deals with one of the most characteristic aspects of the Third Order Regular. The apostolate understood, above all, as the exercise of the works of mercy is essential to our consecrated life. This final chapter of the Rule is the natural development of our fraternal life of penance lived according to the evangelical counsels. It seeks to be something like an existential expression of our identity translated into a life of service to the poor and those in need. It presents the mission which grows out of the inner life of the fraternity and is adorned with kindness, humility, joy, mercy .... in other words with Franciscan qualities.

29. The soul of every apostolate is. Love:

Let them love: God with all their heart and soul and their neighbor as themselves.

Let them praise: the Lord in all His works (for this have they been sent) by their witness (in word and deeds) making known that there is no other God.

Love is translated into Mission. It is the "fruit(s) worthy of penance". There is no divorce between contemplation and action. Every conversion results in charitable service to the poor.

30. The wounded and the erring:

A. They are to be Messengers of Peace:

  • having it first of all in their own hearts.
  • then announce it with their words.
  • being instruments of reconciliation by their conduct, by their meekness and kindness, and by their efforts towards peace.

B. They are to be Apostles of Mercy:

  • to cure the wounded.
  • to bind up the bruised.
  • to lead back to God and His Church those who have strayed.

The explicit and implicit references are to all the works of charity and mercy carried out by the many congregations of the TOR Family.

C. The demands of Charity:

  • to dedicate ourselves.
  • to abandon one's body to the Lord.
  • to expose oneself to visible and invisible enemies.
  • to suffer persecution, misunderstanding or ridicule.

31. Humility in doing works of charity:

In any work of charity (praying, serving, working) we are to act without showing off, without trying to please ourselves, and without interior vanity in the words, deeds or whatever God does through us.

Everywhere and in every situation:

  • recognize that all goods belong to God.
  • thank God for all goods that have come from Him.

32. Summary:

  • make a serious effort to possess "The Spirit of God and His holy workings".
  • be faithful to the Church and firm in our Catholic faith
  • be faithful to the three Franciscan ideals: the holy gospel, humility, and poverty.

St. Francis desired that his disciples should have a copy of the Rule and to know it well, to speak of it often in their i-neetings, to recall the vows. The brothers and sisters are to observe it faithfully as each one has promised to do until death.

He asks no more of us than that we should live as each one has promised ... in true faith and conversion of heart. In us, even after seven centuries, his vision lives on in the Threefold Family of brothers and sisters which God raised up through him.

To those who were, who are, and who will be his followers, St. Francis gave his special blessing which are the closing words of the Rule. This Blessing is taken from the Testament of St. Francis to conclude this new Rule as it concluded the Rule of 1927, It serves as a link to the past versions of the Rule and the traditions upon which the present one is built and whose authentic Franciscan spirit it hopes to preserve and renew in our times.

Translated and adapted by Fr. Seraphin Conley,TOR from La Regla de la Tercera Orden de San Francisco, P. Luis Cuesta Nozal, TC, Pastor Bonus, no. 83, Curia General T.C., Roma, 1990 pp. 209-235.

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