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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
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
GENERAL..imagesblu_gry.gif (541 bytes) Comprehensive Course in Franciscanism
The Practice
of Mendicacy
Guidelines / Directions for Friars
Third Order Regular in Ireland
Franciscan Family Tree
Federation, USA


A Comprehensive Course in Franciscanism

The Themes in the following list are those,which seem to be essential
to gain an overall view of Franciscanism in its special characteristics.

Since each of these themes could easily be the subject of an in-depth treatment, it is necessary to select from such a rich historic and spiritual patrimony according to a sound pedagogy and to impart the material gradually.

The use of images will be a precious help in teaching (slides, document,films, visits to sites,etc.).

If the material is to be used for a course of permanent formation over a three year period then it would be well for a team of lecturers to decide how the material should be divided.

The division of the hours of lectures and directed reading should be made by the presenter of each theme, keeping in mind the number of days and hours available.

Obviously there must be a certain logic to the presentation since some foundation is necessary for understanding some themes. Other themes can be presented wherever it seems convenient.

The following arrangement seems to work very well:

  • Three hours of presentation in the morning (with breaks).

  • In the afternoon, can alternate between small study groups with opportunity for dialogue.

- time set aside for learning traditional and new Franciscan    songs.
- composition of paraliturgical services of scriptural,        penitential, franciscan character.

The Reading List should be drawn up by each lecturer. He has the freedom to choose those texts which deal with the theme presented. The criteria for his selection should be that the texts explain the story and life of the Franciscan movement according to a fundamental idea without distortions, particularism or partisanship. There are examples listed for each theme -texts to examine and interprete in the light of history and the perspective of faith.


The bibliography is vast, whether on a general level or in a particular area. It takes a careful discernment to avoid being conditioned by one-sided viewpoints or the presumption of an historical postivism which misconstrues or ignores the reality of charism and the work of the Spirit.

Many helpful materials are available, even if all are not completely up to date. Each lecturer should know where to turn and which filter to use to achieve the goal of offering an objective, and well documented support.


  •  Introduction to the Issue.
  • Scholarly Historical Study and the "Annales" of Wadding.
  • The "Acta Sanctorum" of the Bollandists.
  • Franciscan Historical Study at the close of the 1800s.
  • The "Franciscan Question" from Sabatier to Today.
  • Some Gaps and Expectations for a Complete Picture.
  • Suggested ReadingSabatier, Paul. The Life of St. Francis of Assisi. 1893 and many editions thereafter.


  • General Overview of the Historical-Social Environment.
  • Ecclesiastical and Religious Conditions.
  • The Phenomenon of Challenge: Patarines, the Cathari or Albigensians, the Waldensians or the Poor of Lyons, the Joachimites, the Humiliati, the Beghards and Beguines, etc.

  • Heterodoxy and positive values, many of which were embraced by Franciscanism.

Suggested Reading

  • The Rule of the Humiliati (1202)

  • Any of the numerous studies available regarding the religious movements, both ortliodox and heretical, in the middle ages.


The Uniqueness of an Exceptional Charism

  • Biographical and Chronological Data.
  • The Family of Francis.
  • Assisi in the time of Francis: the rise of the Commune (I 198) and the war with Perugia. Dreams and failures of the young Francis.
  • Francis and the lepers. The Leper in Medieval Europe.
  • From his conversion to his evangelical mission.
  • The Crusades and the revolutionary method of Francis: not in battle but in meeting and dialogue.
  • Itinerant preaching and the enthusiasm of the Christian people.
  • Favorite bibilical and social themes of St. Francis.
  • The prophetic repercussions of a message.

Suggested Reading

  • The conversion of St. Francis as presented in the First and Second Life of St. Francis. The reasons behind the two viewpoints.


Historical and Informational Data

  • The First Order and its branches, from its origins through the 1500s.
  • The Second Order, the more important reforms and divisions.
  • The Secular Franciscan Order in its sources and institutions.
  • The Third Order Regular and its development. The ancient Order and modern Congregations of men and women.
  • The Secular or Apostolic Institutes.
  • Our shared heritage and characteristics.

Suggested Reading

  • Legenda Major: FF 1051-1064 (First Order)
  • Legenda of St. Clare, virgin: FF 3162-3178 (Conversion of St. Clare)
  • Themes from " Testi e Documenti sui TOF. " (Rome. 1991)


  • Introduction to the manuscripts.
  • Ancient editions.
  • Modern editions.
  • Authenticity and autograph.
  • Conjectural chronology.
  • Introduction to hermaneutics.
  • Types and arrangements ( rules, letters, prayers)
  • Fundamental ideas and charateristics.

Suggested Reading

  • Letter to a General Chapter (1220)
  • Admonitions (1216-1221)
  • Rule (Unofficial), chap. 23 (1221)
  • Testament of Siena (May, 1226)
  • Paraphrase of the "Our Father"
  • Praises for the hours or "Laudes Dei"



  • The striking phenomenon of St. Clare. Information and evaluation.
  • The "Little Plant" of St. Francis and the instructor of countless disciples.
  • The writings of St. Clare. Authenticity and a literary analysis.
  • The Process of her canonization. (1253)
  • The "Legend of St. Clare, virgin" (1255-1256)
  • Women in society and Church in the time of Clare.

Samples of important works

  • The First Life by Celano: FF 351-353.
  • The Testament of St. Clare (1247?)
  • Some depositions from the Process of Canonization.



  • General introduction.
  • Examples of Hagiography of that era.
  • Critical analysis of the sources.
  • Present edition of the Franciscan Sources in latin and modern languages.
  • The "Bullarium Franciscanum" and the diplomatic sources.
  • Writings of non-Franciscan origins. (cf. FF 2200-2319)

Some important examples of Hagiography.

  • The "Passions" and the "Acts of the Martyrs."
  • Famous Lives of the Saints from the 3rd to 6th centuries.
  • Letter of Jacques de Vitry (Genoa, 1216)


  • "Poenitentiam facere": an ancient, yet ever new, charism.
  • Penance and the penitentials in the middle ages.
  • The penitential movement and ecclesiastical movements.
  • The biblical-social connotation of "metanoia. "
  • The counterparts: conversion and works of charity.
  • The chronology and interpretation of the historical sources (cf. "Testi e Documenti sui TOF")
  • The support of historical data. (cf. Acts of the five Historical Congresses)

Recommended Reading

  • The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Chapt. 16
    (Founding of the Franciscan Third Order)
  • The Ancient Rule or "Memoriale propositi" (1221)
  • "Liber de La-adibus" of Bernard de Besse (1280-1285)
  • The Rule of Nicholas IV. (1289)



  • Rule of the First Order: the "non-official" (non-bullata) of 1221 and the "official" Rule of 1223.
  • The Rule of the Franciscan Order of Penance: ILF (1215) and the 2LF (1221) to all the-faithul penitents. The "Memoriale propositi" of 1221.
  • The Rule of Nicholas IV (1289). The new revisions for the SFO and the TOR in the course of the centuries.
  • Rule of St. Clare: Innocent IV (1253) and Urban IV (1263). A comparison with that of the First Order.

Suggested Reflection.

  • Compare the "unofficial" Rule (Rnb) with the approved Rule (Rb.)
  • Compare the First Letter to the Faithful with the Second Letter to the Faithful.
  • Compare the two Rules for the Poor Clares.



  • The thinking of Francis concerning the Friars and learning.
  • The Franciscan Masters of the Schools. Alexander of Hales begins a long list of scholars in different fields of learning.
  • St. Bonaventure: Philosopher, Theologian and Author of many works of mystical doctrine.
  • Raymond Lull, "Doctor Illuminatus"; author of 280 works.
  • BI. John Duns Scotus, "Doctor Subtilis," and the philosophical-theological encyclopedia.
  • Many other authors and doctors in the following centuries. The list could be updated to our times but it would make the topic overlong and a bit unmanageable. 

Recommended Reading

  • The "Itinerarium" of St. Bonaventure.

  • Some passages of Scotus dealing with charity and grace or the problem of "haecceitas."



  • Marian devotion and the honored role of Franciscans.
  • The "Speculum seu salutatio beatae Mariae Viriginis" of Conrad of Saxony (660 pages of Marian spirituality).

  • William of Ware, Raymond Lull, Duns Scotus and the Immaculate Conception.
  • The dispute at Ferrara in 1478 between the Dominicans and Franciscans.
  • The dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
  • Marian devotions.

Suggested Exercise

  • Look up texts on the Blessed Virign Mary in the writings of Francis.
  • Read and comment on the "Salute to the Virgin" of St. Francis.



  • Spirituality in general and spirituality of the different "schools."
  • Elements which are more or less common to the entire Franciscan Family:
    The "forma vitae" according to the Gospel;
    The following of Christ and conformity to Him;
    The revelation in Christ of God as the Highest Good and Infinite Love;
    The Eucharist, God as the living bread of life;
    The "fragrant words of the Lord";
    Missionary and Evangelizing spirit;
    The "Virgin made Church," which "has brought us our Brother, the Lord of the Harvest.
    The Church, as guardian of the depository of Faith and teacher;
    Prayer, the voice of all creation.
    The life-style of the fraternity, something more than community;
    Creatures, as "signs" of the Most High;
    Perfect joy; etc.
  • Elements which are characteristic of each branch of the Franciscan Family without claiming any monopoly on them):
    The First Order: minority and "highest poverty";
    Second Order: contemplation, poverty, minority;
    Third Order: penance or conversion (metanoia) and the works of mercy.

Examples for Recommended Reading

  • First Letter to all the Faithful (1215);
  • Letter to all Clerics (1218);
  • Testament of St. Francis (1226);
  • Second Life by Thomas of Celano: FF 681-686;
  • First Letter of St. Clare to S. Agnes of Prague (1235).


A Directed Approach to the Works

  • General Introduction.
  • St. Francis and St. Clare (treated elsewhere)
  • Bl. Giles of Assisi
  • Rizzerio della Muccia
  • David da Augusta
  • St. Bonaventure and his works on mysticism
  • "Meditatio pauperis in solitudine"
  • Gilbert of Tournai
  • Jacapone da Todi
  • Bl. Raymond Lullm, Bl. Angela of Foligno, Ubertino da Casale
    Ugo Panziera Giovanni da Calvoli
  • Angelo da Chiarino or Clareno

To this list can be added hundreds of spiritual writers down to modern times. The ascetics and mystics who were not authors are treated in the section "Franciscan Sanctity."

Recommended Reading

Passages from many works, for example:

  • "The Sayings of Blessed Giles";
  • any mystical work of St. Bonaventure;
  • "Dialogue of the Lover and the Beloved" by Raymond Lull;
  • "Book" of Bl. Angela of Foligno;
  • Letters of Angelo Clareno. etc.



  • Example of seraphic sanctity.
  • Saint's, Blesseds and Venerables of the Franciscan Family.
  • Servants of God and devout persons.
  • The Catalogue of the Saints.
  • The Martyrology.
  • Iconography
  • "Index ac Status Causarum" (VI Edition)

Analytical Reading

  • The "Martyrologium Franciscanum" of Friar Arthur Rothomagensis a Monasterio (1939 edition). Examples for analysis, merit, errors in attribution.



  • Motives and profile of this phenomenon.
  • Pier di Giovanni Olivi.
  • Urbertino da Casale.
  • Angelo Clareno.
  • Background and characteristics.

Recommended Reading

  • Sample Texts from the "Chronicon" of Angelo of Clareno, from the "Arbor Vitae" of Ubertino, or from the works of Olivi.



  • The social, political and ecclesiastical context around the middle of the 1300s.
  • Decadence and reforms within the franciscan world.
  • fra Giovanni della Valle; fra Gentile da Spoleto, fra Paoluccio Trinci.
  • St. Bernardine of Siena
  • St. John Capistrano
  • St. James of the Marches
  • Bl. Alberto da Sarteano In France, in Spain, etc.

Directed Reflection

  • The work of fra Paoluccio Trinci and its development.



  • The phenomenal expansion throughout Europe in the foundation era.
  • Ventures toward Islam: St. Francis, the Proto-martyrs, progress and setbacks.
  • Ventures in the middle and far East. The protagonists: courage and faith.
  • The New World: area, statistics and types of evangelization in the modern period,
  • The service of the Gospel in the last centuries.

Suggested Reading

  • Passages from "The Story of the Mongols" by Fra John of Carpino.



  • Robert Grossatesta, student of nature (cosmology, astronomy,physics, optics, etc.)
  • Raymond Lull and his intuition about the future mathematical logic.
  • John Peckham and numerical symbolism.
  • Richard of Middletown, precursor of modern physics. Roger Bacon, pioneer of modern experimental science. William of Ockham and the political-social sciences.
  • A survey of later centuries.

Suggested Reading

  • The "Ars Magna" of Raymond Lull (selected passages).

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