Search This Blog

Friday, July 6, 2012

Writings of St. Francis - Letters continued

Epistula ad fratrem Leonem, or Letter to Brother Leo

This is one of the two autographs of Francis. It is kept as a relic in the cathedral church of Spoleto. It originally belonged to the Poor Clares of Spoleto, who donated it to the Friars Minor Conventuals of Spoleto in 1604. After the unification of Italy this precious document was lost, and it was only after 1895 that it was rediscovered and presented as an authentic autograph of St. Francis.
The Letter is a touching document, which gives witness to the brotherly concern of Francis for his "pecorella di Dio" Brother Leo. No wonder that the only two autographs of the saint, namely this letter and the parchment with the praises of God and the blessing, were dedicated to him. 

Brother Leo, wish thy brother Francis health and peace!

I say to thee: Yes, my son, and as a mother; for in this word and counsel I sum up briefly all the words we said on the way, and if afterwards thou hast need to come to me for advice, thus I advise you: In whatever way it seemeth best to thee to please the Lord God and to follow His footsteps and poverty, so do with the blessing of the Lord God and in my obedience. And if it be necessary for thee on account of thy soul or other consolation and thou wishest, Leo, to come to me, come!

Epistula toti Ordini missa, or Letter to the entire Order

This Letter is known under different headings, such as "Letter to the General Chapter of the Order". Esser prefers to use the name given by the manuscript of Volterra, "Epistola toti Ordini missa". Esser also includes a prayer as a conclusion for this Letter. The prayer starts with the words "Omnipotens, aeternae", and Esser includes it here because that is where it belongs according to the Assisi Codex. 

The Letter refers to the state of the Order towards the end of Francis' life. In 1224 the bull "Quia popularies tumultus" gave permission to the friars to have an oratory and to keep the Eucharist. This document, together with the decree "Sane cum olim" of 1220 could have provided the occasion for Francis to speak about the reverence due towards the Eucharist and the dignity of the priesthood. The Letter also mentions the saint's faithful observance of the norm to pray the divine office according to the norms of the Church.

In the name of the Highest Trinity and Holy Unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

To all the reverend and much beloved brothers, to the minister general of the Order of Minors, its lord, and to the other ministers general who shall come after him, and to all the ministers and custodes and priests of the same brotherhood, humble in Christ, and to all the simple and obedient brothers, the first and the last, Brother Francis, a mean and fallen man, your little servant, gives greeting in Him who has redeemed and washed us in His Precious Blood, and whom when you hear His Name adore ye with fear and reverence, prostrate on the ground; the Lord Jesus Christ, such is the Name of the most High Son, blessed forever. Amen.

Hear, my lords, my sons and my brothers, and with your ears receive my words. Incline the ear of your heart and obey the voice of the Son of God. Keep His commandments with all your heart and fulfil His counsels with a perfect mind. Praise Him for He is good and extol Him in your works, for therefore He has sent you through all the world that by word and deed you may bear witness to His voice, and you may make known to all that there is no other Almighty besides Him. Persevere under discipline and obedience and with a good and firm purpose fulfil what you have promised Him.

The Lord God offers Himself to you as to His sons. Wherefore, brothers, kissing your feet and with the charity of which I am capable, I conjure you all to show all reverence and all honour possible to the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the things that are in heaven and the things that are on earth are pacified and reconciled to Almighty God. I also beseech in the Lord all my brothers who are and shall be and desire to be priests of the Most High that, when they wish to celebrate Mass, being pure, they offer the true Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ purely, with reverence, with a holy and clean intention, not for any earthly thing or fear or for the love of any man, as it were pleasing men. But let every will, in so far as the grace of the Almighty helps, be directed to Him, desiring thence to please the High Lord Himself alone because He alone works there [in the Holy Sacrifice] as it may please Him, for He Himself says: "Do this for a commemoration of Me;" "if any one doth otherwise he becomes the traitor Judas and is made guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Call to mind, priests, my brothers, what is written in the law of Moses: how those transgressing even materially died by the decree of the Lord without any mercy.

How much more and worse punishments he deserves to suffer "who hath trodden under foot the Son of God and hath esteemed the Blood of the testament unclean by which he was sanctified and hath offered an affront to the spirit of grace." For man despises, soils, and treads under foot the Lamb of God when, as the Apostle says, not discerning and distinguishing the holy bread of Christ from other nourishments or works, he either eats unworthily or, if he be worthy, he eats in vain and unbecomingly since the Lord has said by the prophet: Cursed be the man that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully. And He condemns the priests who will not take this to heart saying: "I will curse your blessings." Hear ye, my brothers: If the Blessed Virgin Mary is so honored, as is meet, because she bore Him in [her] most holy womb; if the blessed Baptist trembled and did not dare to touch the holy forehead of God; if the sepulchre in which He lay for some time, is venerated, how holy, just, and worthy ought he to be who touches with his hands, who receives with his heart and his mouth, and proffers to be received by others Him who is now no more to die but to triumph in a glorified eternity: on whom the angels desire to look. Consider your dignity, brothers, priests, and be holy because He Himself is holy. And as the Lord God has honoured you above all through this mystery, even so do you also love and reverence and honour Him above all.

It is a great misery and a deplorable weakness when you have Him thus present to care for anything else in the whole world. Let the entire man be seized with fear; let the whole world tremble; let heaven exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest. O admirable height and stupendous condescension! O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under a morsel of bread. Consider, brothers, the humility of God and "pour out your hearts before Him, and be ye humbled that ye may be exalted by Him. Do not therefore keep back anything for yourselves that He may receive you entirely who gives Himself up entirely to you.

Wherefore I admonish and exhort in the Lord, that, in the places in which the brothers live, only one Mass be celebrated in the day, according to the form of holy Church.

If, however, there be many priests in the place, let one be contented, through love of charity, by hearing the celebration of another priest, for the Lord Jesus Christ replenishes those who are worthy of it, present and absent. He, although He may seem to be present in many places, nevertheless remains undivided and suffers no change; but One everywhere He works as it may please Him with the Lord God the Father, and the Holy Ghost the Paraclete, world without end. Amen.

And since "he that is of God heareth the words of God," we who have been more specially destined for the divine offices, ought, in consequence, not only to hear and do what God says, but also—in order to impress upon ourselves the greatness of our Creator and our subjection to Him—to watch the vessels and other objects which contain His holy words. On that account I warn all my brothers and I strengthen them in Christ, wheresoever they may find the divine written words to venerate them so far as they are able, and if they are not well preserved or if they lie scattered disgracefully in any place, let them, in so far as it concerns them, collect and preserve them, honouring in the words the Lord who has spoken. For many things are sanctified by the word of God, and by the power of the words of Christ the Sacrament of the Altar is effected.

Moreover I confess all my sins to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost and to the Blessed Mary ever Virgin and to all the Saints in heaven and on earth and to the minister general of this our religion as to my venerable Lord, and to all the priests of our order and to all my other blessed brothers.
I have offended in many ways through my grievous fault, especially because I have not observed the Rule which I have promised to the Lord and I have not said the office as prescribed by the Rule either by reason of my negligence or weakness or because I am ignorant and simple. Wherefore, by all means as far as I am able, I beseech my lord, the general minister, to cause the Rule to be inviolably observed by all, and let the clerics say the office with devotion before God, not attending to melody of voice but to harmony of mind, so that the voice may be in accord with the mind and the mind in accord with God, so that they may please God by purity of mind and not coax the ears of the people by voluptuousness of voice. As for myself I promise to keep these things strictly, as the Lord may give me grace, and I leave them to the brothers who are with me to be observed in the office and in the other appointed regulations. But whosoever of the brothers will not observe them, I do not hold them as Catholics or as my brothers and I do not wish either to see them or speak [with them], until they have done penance. I say this also of all others who setting aside the discipline of the Rule, go wandering about; for our Lord Jesus Christ gave His life lest He might lose the obedience of the most Holy Father.

I, Brother Francis, a useless man and unworthy creature of the Lord God, say to Brother Elias, the minister of our whole religion, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to all the ministers general who shall be after him and to the other custodes and guardians of the brothers, who are and shall be, that they have this writing with them, put it in practice and sedulously preserve it. And I entreat them to guard jealously those things which are written in it and to cause them to be carefully observed according to the good pleasure of the Almighty God now and ever as long as this world may last.

Blessed be you by the Lord who shall have done these things and may the Lord be with you forever. Amen.

Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God, give to us wretches to do for Thee what we know Thee to will and to will always that which is pleasing to Thee; so that inwardly purified, inwardly illumined and kindled by the flame of the Holy Ghost, we may be able to follow in the footsteps of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by Thy grace alone come to Thee the Most High, who in perfect Trinity and simple Unity livest and reignest and gloriest God Almighty forever and ever. Amen.

Epistula ad Ministrum, or Letter to a Minister

The contents of this Letter give a clear indication regarding the circumstances of its composition. Francis writes to a certain Minister who has asked him to retire from his office and go to live in a hermitage. It seemed that the friars were giving him a lot a trouble! Francis answers in a brotherly spirit. The Minister was to remain in his post and take this decision as an act of obedience. Moreover he was to accept his brothers and forgive them, even if they persecuted him.

The Letter also mentions the Chapter of Pentecost, as the occasion in which the Ministers convened for decision-making. The Chapter was held every year, but after 1221 only the Ministers took part in it. 

To Brother N., minister: May the Lord bless you

I speak to you, as I can, concerning the state of your soul. You should accept as a grace all those things which deter you from loving the Lord God and whoever has become an impediment to you, whether they are brothers or others, even if they lay hands on you.

And you should desire that things be this way and not otherwise. And let this be an expression of true obedience to the Lord God and to me, for I know full well that this is true obedience.

And love those who do these things to you. And do not expect anything different from them, unless it is something which the Lord shall have given to you. And love them in this and do not wish that they be better Christians. And let this be more valuable to you than a hermitage.

And by this I wish to know if you love the Lord God and me, his servant and yours if you have acted in this manner: that is, there should not be any brother in the world who has sinned, however much he may have possibly sinned, who, after he has looked into your eyes, would go away without having received your mercy, if he is looking for mercy. And if he were not to seek mercy, you should ask him if he wants mercy. And if he should sin thereafter a thousand times before your very eyes, love him more than me so that you may draw him back to the Lord.

Always be merciful to brothers such as these. And announce this to the guardians, as you can, that on your part you are resolved to act in this way.

At the Pentecost Chapter, however, with the help of God and the advice of the brothers, out of all the chapters of the Rule that treat of mortal sin we shall make one chapter such as this:

If any one of the brothers at the instigation of the enemy should sin mortally, he is bound by obedience to have recourse to his guardian. And all the brothers who might know that he has sinned are not to bring shame upon him or speak ill of him, but let them show great mercy toward him and keep most secret the sin of their brother; because it is not the healthy wbo are in need of the physician, but those wbo are sick (Mt 9:12).

Likewise let them be bound by obedience to send him to his custodian with a companion. And let that custodian mercifully take care of him as he would like to be taken care of if he were in a similar position (cf. Mt 7:12). And if he falls into some venial sin, let him confess this to a brother who is a priest. And if there is no priest at hand, let him confess to his brother, until he has contact with a priest who will absolve him canonically, as it has been laid down.
And the brothers who are not priests should have no power to enjoin any other penance except this: Go and sin no more (cf. Jn 8:1 1).

Keep this writing with you until the Chapter of Pentecost that it may be better observed, when you will be there with your brothers. And you will take care to add, with the help of God, these things and all else which is lacking in the Rule.

Epistula ad populorum rectores, or Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples

Luke Wadding discovered this letter in the writings of Francisco Gonzaga OFM, Minister General of the Order between 1579-1587. In his study "De Origine Seraphicae Religionis Franciscanae", Venice, 1603, p. 806, Gonzaga states that John Parenti, who was the first Minister General of the Order (1227-1232), brought a copy of this Letter from Spain. The authenticity of this Letter is also proved by the second version of the Letter to the Custodians, where it is mentioned.

In this Letter Francis addresses the consuls or leaders of the Italian communes, and reminds them of their Christian duties. He particularly reminds them of the duty to provide means for praising God, and to see to it that their citizens be good Christians. In various instances of Francis' life we notice that he dealt with political leaders, as in the case of the message given to Otho IV at Rivotorto (1 Celano, 43), his wish that leaders provide ample food for the poor on Christmasday (2 Celano, 200) and his meeting with the sultan of Egypt
It could be probable that Francis asked the political leaders to give a sign for the praises of God (by ringing bells, for example), prompted by the experience of the "salat" of the islamic "muezzin" in the Orient, where Francis was in 1220/1221.

To all mayors and consuls, magistrates and rulers throughout the world, and to everyone who may receive these letters: Brother Francis, your little and despicable servant in the Lord God, sends his wishes of health and peace to all of you.

Pause and reflect, for the day of death is approaching. 1 beg you, therefore, with all possible respect, not to forget the Lord or turn away from His commandments by reason of the cares and preoccupations of this world, for all those who are oblivious of Him and turn away from His commands are cursed and will be totally forgotten by Him. And when the day of death does come, everything which they think they have will be taken from them. And the wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, so much greater will be the punishments they will endure in hell.

Therefore, I firmly advise you, my lords, to put aside all care and preoccupation and receive with joy the most holy Body and the most holy Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in holy remembrance of Him.

And you should manifest such honor to the Lord among the people entrusted to you that every evening an announcement be made by a town crier or some other signal that praise and thanks may be given by all people to the all-powerful Lord God. And if you do not do this, know that you must render an account before the Lord your God, Jesus Christ, on the day of judgment.

Let those who keep this writing with them and observe it know that they will be blessed by the Lord God.

Writings of St. Francis - Letters continued

Epistula ad Fideles I, or First version of the Letter to the Faithful

First Version: Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of the Order of Penitents
Thomas of Celano (First Life of St. Francis), 37, tells us that Francis gave a way of life to the brothers who formed part of the "ordo poenitentium", and who wanted to embrace the evangelical life in the world. Kajetan Esser concludes that this letter, in fact, forms the nucleus for this form of life given by Francis, and later approved by the Church in the "Memoriale Propositi" of 1221.  The
text of the letter was discovered by Sabatier in the Guarnacci Library. Sabatier named the document "Verba vitae et salutis".

In his study, "Origins of the Franciscan Order", pp. 44-45, Esser gives us a presentation of the early history of the Order of Penitents, which later developed into the Third Order. "In the only report which refers to the brotherhood as being one of penance the Friars Minor call themselves `viri poenitentiales de civitate Assisii oriundi' [Legend of the three companions, 37]. We will not concern ourselves more deeply here with the problematics of the Franciscan Third Order of the `fratres et sorores de poenitentia in domibus propriis existentes'. By reliable testimony it can be traced only to 1221".  This first version of the Letter to the Faithful has been included in the new Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order approved by Paul VI in 1978.

In the Name of the Lord!


All those who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with their whole strength (cf. Mk 12:30) and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) 2. and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, 3. and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4. and produce worthy fruits of penance:

5. Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing> them, 6. since the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon them (cf. Is 11:2) and He will make His home and dwelling among them (cf. Jn 14:23). 7. They are children of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45) whose works they do, and they are spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

8. We are spouses when the faithful soul is joined to our Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. 9. We are brothers to Him when we do the will of the Father Who is in heaven (Mt 12:50). 10. [We are] mothers, when we carry Him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience and [when] we give birth to Him through [His] holy manner of working, which should shine before others as an example (cf. Mt 5:16).

11. Oh, how glorious it is, how holy and great, to have a Father in heaven! 12. Oh, how holy, consoling, beautiful and wondrous it is to have such a Spouse! 13. Oh, how holy and how loving, pleasing, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all things to have such a Brother and such a Son: our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave up His life for His sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and who prayed to the Father saying:

14. 0 Holy Father, protect those in your name (Jn 17:11) whom you have given to me in the world; they were yours and you have given them to me (Jn 17:6). 15. And the words which you gave to me, I have given to them, and they have accepted them and have believed truly that I have come from you and they have known that you sent me (Jn 17:8). 16. I pray for them and not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). 17. Bless and sanctify [them] (Jn 17:17) and I sanctify myself for them (Jn 17:19). 18. Not only for these do I pray, but for those who through their words will believe in me (Jn 17:20), so that they may be made holy in being one (Jn 17:23) as we are one (Jn 17:11). 19. And I wish, Father, that where I am they also may be with me so that they may see my glory (Jn 17:24) in your kingdom (Mt 20:21). Amen.


1. All those men and women who are not [living] in penance 2. and do not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; 3. [who] practice vice and sin and follow [the ways of] wicked concupiscence (Col 3:5) and the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16); 4. [who] do not observe what they have promised to the Lord, 5. and bodily serve the world by the desires of the flesh (1 Pet 2:11), the anxieties of the world and the cares of this life: 6. [such people] are held fast by the devil, whose children they are and whose works they perform (cf. Jn 8:41). 7. They are blind, since they do not see the true light, our Lord Jesus Christ. 8. They do not have spiritual wisdom, since they do not possess the Son of God, Who is the true wisdom of the Father. 9. It is said of these people: Their wisdom has been swallowed up (Ps 106:27), and: Cursed are those who turn away from Your commands (Ps 118:21). 10. They see [and] acknowledge, they know and do evil deeds, and, knowingly, they lose [their] souls.

11. See, you blind ones, you who are deceived by your enemies: by the flesh, the world, and the devil; because it is sweet to the body to commit sin and it is bitter for it to serve God; 12. [and] because all vices and sins come forth and proceed from the heart of man, as the Lord says in the Gospel (cf. Mk 7:21). 13. And you have nothing in this world or in [the world] to come. 14. And you think you possess the vanities of this world for a while, but you are deceived, since the day and the hour will come to which you give no thought, [of which] you have no knowledge, and [of which] you are ignorant (cf. Mt 25:13). The body becomes sick, death approaches, and this man dies a bitter death. 15. And no matter where or when or how a man dies in the guilt of sin without doing penance and satisfaction, if he is able to perform [some act of] satisfaction and does not, the devil snatches up his soul from his body with so much anguish and tribulation that no one can know it unless he has experienced it.

16. And every talent and power and knowledge and wisdom (2 Chron 1:12) which they think they possess will be taken away from them (cf. Lk 8:18; Mk 4:25). 17. And they leave their substance to their relatives and friends, and these have taken and divided the inheritance among themselves and afterwards they have said: "May his soul be cursed since he could have acquired more and given more to us than he did!" 18. Worms eat the body. And so they have lost body and soul in this passing world, and both will go down to hell where they will be tormented without end.

19. In the love which is God (cf. 1 Jn 4:16), we beg all those whom these letters reach to accept with kindness and a divine love the fragrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ which are written above. 20. And those who do not know how to read should have them read to them frequently. 21. And, since they are spirit and life (Jn 6:64), they should preserve them together with [their] holy manner of working even to the end.

22. And whoever shall not have done these things will be held accountable on the day of judgment (cf. Mt 12:36) before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rm 14:10).

Epistula ad Fideles II, or Second version of the Letter to the Faithful

The Letter to the Faithful has probably had an evolution quite similar to that of the Earlier Rule of the Friars Minor. This second version, which is the most developed, is the result of the evolution of the Franciscan penitential movement. The Letter insists upon the dignified reception of the sacraments of penance and the eucharist, in an evident attempt to educate lay persons in the Catholic faith, against the heretical doctrine of the Cathari. Regis J. Armostrong OFMCap, "Francis and Clare. The Complete Works", p. 67 (see below for full biographical indication), states: "The second version of the Letter to the Faithful begins with an emphatic statement concerning the Incarnation. It may well be a catechetical tool promoted by the ideas of the Cathari, members of a heretical sect who maintained that Christ was not God but even less than a man since matter was impure. The Cathari saw Christ as an angel adopted by God who took on the appearance of a man. They propagated their doctrine by embracing an evangelical, poor manner of living. Thus, many aspects of their life resembles that of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance". 

1. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. To all Christian religious: clergy and laity, men and women, and to all who live in the whole world, Brother Francis, their servant and subject, [offers] homage and reverence, true peace from heaven and sincere love in the Lord.

2. Since I am the servant of all, I am obliged to serve all and to administer to them the fragrant words of my Lord. 3. Therefore, on reflecting that, since I cannot visit each one of you in person because of the infirmity and weakness of my body, I have proposed to set before you in this present letter and message the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Word of the Father, and the words of the Holy Spirit, which are spirit and life (Jn 6:64). 4. Through his angel, Saint Gabriel, the most high Father in heaven announced this Word of the Father—so worthy, so holy and glorious—in the womb of the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, from which He received the flesh of humanity and our frailty. 5. Though He was rich beyond all other things (2 Cor 8:9), in this world He, together with the most blessed Virgin, His mother, willed to choose poverty. 6. And, as the Passion drew near, He celebrated the Passover with His disciples and, taking bread, gave thanks, and blessed and broke it, saying: Take and eat: this is My Body (Mt 26:26). 7. And taking the cup He said: This is My Blood of the new covenant which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28). 8. Then He prayed to His Father, saying: Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me (Lk 22:42). 9. And His sweat became as drops of blood falling on the ground (Lk 22:44). 10. Nonetheless, He placed His will at the will of the Father, saying: Father, let Your will be done (Mt 26:42); not as I will, but as You will (Mt 26:39). 11. And the will of the Father was such that His blessed and glorious Son, Whom He gave to us and [Who] was born for us, should, through His own blood, offer Himself as a sacrifice and oblation on the altar of the cross: 12. not for Himself through Whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3), but for our sins, 13. leaving us an example that we should follow in His footprints (cf. 1 Pet 2:21). 14. And [the Father] wills that all of us should be saved through Him and that we receive Him with our pure heart and chaste body. 15. But there are few who wish to receive Him and be saved by Him, although His yoke is sweet and His burden light (cf. Mt 11:30).

16. Those who do not wish to taste how sweet the Lord is (cf. Ps 33:9) and love the darkness rather than the light (Jn 3:19), not wishing to fulfill the commands of God, are cursed; 17. of them the prophet says: They are cursed who stray from your commands (Ps 118:21). 18. But Oh, how happy and blessed are those who love God and do as the Lord Himself says in the Gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:37, 39).

19. Let us love God, therefore, and adore Him with a pure heart and a pure mind because He Who seeks this above all else has said: The true worshipers will adore the Father in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23). 20. For all those who worship Him are to worship Him in the spirit of truth (cf. Jn 4:24). 21. And let us praise Him and pray to Him day and night (Ps 31:4), saying: Our Father Who art in heaven (Mt 6:9), since we should pray always and never lose heart (Lk 18:1).

22. We must also confess all our sins to a priest, and receive from him the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. 23. He who does not eat His Flesh and does not drink His Blood (cf. Jn 6:55, 57) cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Jn 3:5). 24. Yet let him eat and drink worthily, since he who receives unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself not recognizing—that is, not discerning—the Body of the Lord (1 Cor 11:29). 25. Moreover, let us perform worthy fruits of penance (Lk 3:8). 26. And let us love our neighbors as ourselves (cf. Mt 22:39). 27. And if there is anyone who does not wish to love them as himself, at least let him do no harm to them, but rather do good.

28. But those who have received the power to judge others should exercise judgment with mercy as they themselves desire to receive mercy from the Lord. 29. For judgment will be without mercy for those who have not shown mercy (Jas 2:13).

30. Let us then have charity and humility; let us give alms since this washes our souls from the stains of [our] sins (cf. Tob 4:11; 12:9). 31. For people lose everything they leave behind in this world; but they carry with them the rewards of charity and the alms which they gave, for which they will have a reward and a suitable remuneration from the Lord.

32. We must also fast and abstain from vices and sins (cf. Sir 3:32) and from any excess of food and drink, and be Catholics. 33. We must also visit churches frequently and venerate and show respect for the clergy, not so much for them personally if they are sinners, but by reason of their office and their administration of the most holy Body and Blood of Christ which they sacrifice upon the altar and receive and administer to others. 34. And let all of us firmly realize that no one can be saved except through the holy words and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which the clergy pronounce, proclaim and minister. 35. And they alone must administer [them], and not others. 36. But religious especially, who have left the world, are bound to do more and greater things without however leaving these undone (cf. Lk 11:42).

37. We must hate our bodies with [their] vices and sins, because the Lord says in the Gospel: All evils, vices, and sins proceed from the heart (cf. Mt 15:18-19; Mk 7:23). 38. We must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27). 39. We must observe the commands and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ. 40. We must also deny ourselves (cf. Mt 16:24) and place our bodies under the yoke of service and holy obedience, as each one has promised to the Lord. 41. And no one is to be obliged to obey another in anything by which a sin or a crime is committed.

42. The one to whom obedience has been entrusted and who is esteemed as greater should be as the lesser (Lk 22:26) and the servant of the other brothers. 43. And he should use and show mercy to each of his brothers as he would wish them to do to him were he in a similar position (cf. Mt. 7:12). 44. Nor should he become angry with a brother because of a fault of that brother, but with all patience and humility let him admonish him and support him.

45. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh; rather, we must be simple, humble, and pure. 46. And let us hold ourselves in contempt and scorn, since through our own fault all of us are miserable and contemptible, vermin and worms, as the Lord says through the prophet: I am a worm and no man, the scorn of men and the outcast of the people (Ps 21:7). 47. We must never desire to be over others; rather we must be servants and subject to every human creature for God's sake (1 Pet 2:13). 48. And upon all men and women, if they have done these things and have persevered to the end, the Spirit of the Lord will rest (Is 11:2) and He will make His home and dwelling among them (cf. Jn 14:23). 49. They will be children of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45) whose works they do. 50. And they are spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50). 51. We are spouses when the faithful soul is joined to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. 52. We are brothers when we do the will of His Father Who is in heaven (cf. Mt 12:50). 53. [We are] mothers when we carry Him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to Him through [His] holy manner of working, which should shine before others as an example (cf. Mt 5:16).

54. Oh, how glorious it is, how holy and great, to have a Father in heaven! 55. Oh, how holy, consoling, beautiful, and wondrous it is to have a Spouse! 56. Oh, how holy and how loving, pleasing, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all things to have such a Brother and Son, Who laid down His life for His sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and [Who] prayed to the Father for us saying: Holy Father, protect those in your name whom you have given to me (Jn 17:11). 57. Father, all those whom you gave me in the world were yours and you have given them to me (Jn 17:6). 58. And the words which you gave to me I have given to them; and they have accepted them and truly know that I came from you and they have believed that you have sent me (Jn 17:8). 59. I pray for them and not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9); bless and sanctify them (Jn 17:17), and I sanctify myself for their sakes so that they may be holy (Jn 17:19) in being one as we are (Jn 17:11). 60. And I wish, Father, that where I am they also may be with me so that they may see my glory (Jn 17:24) in your kingdom (Mt 20:21).

61. Let every creature in heaven, on earth, in the sea and in the depths, give praise, glory, honor, and blessing to Him Who suffered so much for us, Who has given so many good things, and [Who] will [continue to] do so for the future.

62. For He is our power and strength, He Who alone is good [Who] is most high, [Who is] all-powerful, admirable, [and] glorious; [Who] alone is holy, praiseworthy, and blessed throughout endless ages. Amen.

63. All those, however, who are not [living] in penance and do not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; 64. [who] practice vice and sin and walk [the paths of] wicked concupiscence (Col 3:5) and evil desires; 65. who do not observe what they have promised and bodily serve the world by the desires of the flesh (1 Pet 2:11), the cares and anxieties of this world, and the preoccupations of this life: 66. [such people] are deceived by the devil, whose children they are and whose works they perform (cf. Jn 8:41). They are blind because they do not see the true light, our Lord Jesus Christ. 67. They do not have spiritual wisdom because they do not have within them the Son of God Who is the true wisdom of the Father. Of these people it is said: Their wisdom has been swallowed up (Ps. 106:27). 68. They see [and] acknowledge, they know and do evil, and, knowingly, they lose (their) souls. 69. See, you blind ones, [you who] are deceived by our enemies, the flesh, the world, and the devil. For it is sweet to the body to commit sin and bitter to it to serve God, because all evils, vices, and sins come from and proceed from the heart of men, as the Lord says in the Gospel (cf. Mk 7:21, 23). 70. And you have nothing in this world or in [the world] to come. 71. You think that you possess the vanities of the world for a while, but you are deceived, since the day and the hour will come to which you give no thought, of which you have no knowledge and of which you are ignorant.

72. The body grows weak, death approaches, family and friends come, saying: "Put your affairs in order." 73. See, his wife and his children, relatives and friends pretend to cry. 74. Looking at them, he sees them weeping [and] is moved by an evil impulse. As he thinks to himself, he says: "Look, I put my soul and body, as well as everything I have, into your hands." 75. Certainly, that man is cursed who confides and entrusts his soul and body and all his possessions into such hands; 76. for, as the Lord says through the prophet, Cursed is the man who confides in man (Jer 17:5). 77. And immediately they summon the priest to come. The priest says to him: "Do you wish to receive pardon for all your sins?" 78. He responds: "I do." "Do you wish to make restitution as far as you can from your substance for all that you have done and for the ways [in which] you have defrauded and deceived people?" 79. He responds: "No." 80. And the priest asks: "Why not?" "Because I have placed everything in the hands of relatives and friends." 81. And he begins to lose the power of speech and thus that miserable man dies.

82. But let everyone know that whenever or however a person dies in mortal sin without making amends when he could have done so and did not, the devil snatches up his soul out of his body with so much anguish and tribulation that no one can know it unless he has experienced it. 83. And every talent and power and knowledge which he thinks he possesses (cf. Lk 8:18) will be taken away from him (Mk 4:25). 84. And [whatever] he leaves his relatives and friends they will snatch up and divide among themselves. And afterwards they will say: "May his soul be cursed since he could have acquired more and given us more than he did." 85. Worms eat [his] body. And so he loses body and soul in this brief life, and will go down to hell where he will be tormented without end.

86. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 87. I, Brother Francis, your little servant, ask and implore you in the love which is God (cf. 1 Jn 4:16) and with the desire to kiss your feet, to receive these words and others of our Lord Jesus Christ with humility and love, and observe [them] and put [them] into practice. 88. And to all men and women who will receive them kindly [and] understand their meaning and pass them on to others by their example: If they have persevered in them to the end (Mt 24:13), may the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless them. Amen.

Writings of St. Francis - Letters

Writings of St. Francis - Letters

(Seventeen letters are attributed to St. Francis in Wadding's edition of the Opuscula. But some of these are disputed. The following are generally accepted as coming from St. Francis)
(The following pages have been compiled from different sources. The major sources are: Internet Sacred Text Archive; The Franciscans – website of T.O.R; The Classics of Western Spirituality - Francis and Clare - Translation and Introduction by: Regis J. Armstrong, OFM, Cap. and Ignatius C. Brady, OFM).

Epistula ad fratrem Antonium, or Letter to Brother Anthony

The "Chronica XXIV Generalium Ordinis Minorum" mentions Anthony from Lisbon, who entered the Franciscan Order after being a canon regular of St. Augustine, prompted by the heroic example of Bernard and his companions, first Franciscan martyrs in Morocco (1220). Anthony, later universally known as Anthony of Padua, was sent to teach theology to the brothers in Bologna around the year 1222. In this short note, Francis approves Anthony's academic vocation, but exhorts him not to extinguish the "spirit of prayer and devotion" (RegB 10).
I Brother Francis send wishes of health to Brother Anthony, my bishop. It pleases me that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, as long as in the words of the Rule you "do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion" with study of this kind.

Epistula ad Clericos, or Letter to the Clergy

This is one of the "eucharistic" documents of Francis. It reflects the decisions taken by the IV Lateran Council in 1215, and also the papal decree "Sane cum olim" (1219). The Legend of Perugia, 18, states that Francis showed great respect for the sacrament of the Eucharist, and often admonished his brothers to show reverence and care for churches, altars, etc. The Letter to the Clerics has been handed down in two versions. The first one was found in a 13th century Missal in the Benedictine monastery of Subiaco, with the sign of the "Thau cum capite", so characteristic of Francis (cfr. Parchment given to brother Leo). 

1. All of us who are clerics should be aware of the great sin and ignorance which some people have toward the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy written words which consecrate [His] Body. 2. We know that it cannot become His Body without first being consecrated by [His] word. 3. For in this world we have and see nothing corporally of the Most High except [His] Body and Blood, and the words through which we have been made and have been redeemed from death to life (1 Jn 3:14). 4. But let all who administer such holy mysteries—especially those who administer them carelessly—consider the sad state of the chalices, the corporals, and the altar-linens upon which the Body and Blood of our Lord are sacrificed. 5. And [the Body and Blood of the Lord] is left by many in dirty places, carried about in a miserable manner, received unworthily, and administered to others without discretion. 6. Even His sacred written words are sometimes left to be trampled underfoot; 7. for the person who does not have the spirit does not perceive the things of God (1 Cor 2:14).

8. Are we not moved by a sense of piety concerning all these things, since the good Lord offers Himself into our hands and we handle Him and receive Him daily with our mouth? 9. Or do we forget that we must come into His hands (cf. Hebr 10:31)? 10. Well then, let us quickly and firmly amend our ways in these and other matters; 11. and wherever the most holy Body of our Lord Jesus Christ has been unlawfully housed and neglected, let it be removed from that place and deposited and locked in a precious location. 12. Likewise, wherever the written words of the Lord may be found in unbecoming places, they are to be collected and kept in a place that is becoming. 13. And we know that we are bound to observe all of these matters above all else according to the precepts of the Lord and the constitutions of holy Mother Church. 14. And whoever has not done so, let him know that he will be bound to give an account before our Lord Jesus Christ on the day of judgment (Mt 12:36). 15. Those who make copies of this writing so that it may be better observed should know that they will be blessed by the Lord God.

Epistula ad Custodes I, or First Letter to the Custodians

There are two versions of the Letter to the Custodians. The circumstances of composition are similar to those of the Letter to the Clerics. The first version was found by Sabatier in the Codex 225 of the Guarnacci Library. In the letter Francis speaks about the importance of rendering public adoration to the Eucharist on the part of preachers, on the part of priests who celebrate the Eucharist and on the part of common Christians. 

Regarding the term "custos" or "custodian", Esser states that "in the documents of the Roman Curia...we detect a certain complexity in regard to this office ... The term does not seem to have been used at first in a proper sense only, inasmuch as the Final Rule prescribes that, in place of an incompetent minister general, the friars are to elect for themselves another as custos in the name of the Lord. Thus, the term could apply even to the highest superior in the Order ... Yet by the time St. Francis wrote his Testament the word had certainly come to mean a clearly defined office. The provinces by that time were, obviously, divided into smaller administrative units, headed by a custos" (K. Esser, "Origins of the Franciscan Order", Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1970, pp. 67-68).

1. To all the custodians of the Friars Minor to whom this letter is sent, Brother Francis, your servant and little one in the Lord God, sends a greeting with new signs of heaven and earth, which are great and extraordinary in the sight of God and yet are regarded as of little importance by many religious and other people.

2. I beg you, with all that is in me and more, that, when it is appropriate and you judge it profitable, you humbly beg the clergy to revere above everything else the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy written words which consecrate [His] Body. 3. The chalices, corporals, appointments of the altar, and everything which pertains to the sacrifice must be of precious material. 4. And if the most holy Body of the Lord is very poorly reserved in any place, it should be placed in a precious location under lock and kept according to the mandate of the Church and carried about with great reverence and administered to others with discretion. 5. In a similar way the written words of the Lord, whenever they are found in an improper place, should be gathered together and kept in a becoming place.

6. And in every sermon which you give, admonish the people concerning [the need of] penance, and [tell them] that no one can be saved unless he receive the Body and Blood of the Lord (cf. Jn 6:54). 7. And when It is sacrificed upon the altar by the priest and carried to any place, let all the people, on bended knee, praise, glorify, and honor the Lord God living and true. 8. And you must announce and preach His praise to all peoples in such a manner that at every hour and whenever the bells are rung, praise, glory, and honor are given to the all-powerful God throughout all the earth. 9. And my brothers [who are] custodians to whom this writing shall come and [who] have made copies to keep for themselves and to give to the brothers who have the office of preaching or the care of the brothers; and who have preached everything which is contained in this writing to the very end, should know that they have the blessing of the Lord God as well as my own. 10. And let these matters be for them [an expression of] true and holy obedience.

Epistula ad Custodes II, or Second Letter to the Custodians

1. To all the custodians of the Friars Minor whom these letters shall reach, Brother Francis, the least of the servants of God, sends greetings and holy peace in the Lord.

2. Know well that in the sight of God there are certain matters which are very lofty and sublime which are sometimes considered worthless and inferior by people; 3. while there are other things, cherished and esteemed by people, which are considered worthless and inferior by God. 4. I ask you in the sight of the Lord our God, as much as I can, to give the letters which treat of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord to the bishops and other members of the clergy; 5. and keep in mind what we recommended to you in this regard. 6. Make many copies of the other letter containing an invitation to proclaim the praises of God among the peoples and in the piazzas which I am sending to you to give to mayors, consuls, and rulers. 7. And propagate them with great diligence among those to whom they should be given.

Writings of St. Francis - Rule of Life Given to St. Clare

Form of Life given to Saint Clare

"Because by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live a life according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I Resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers to always have that same loving care and solicitude for you as I have for them."

Last Will written for Saint Clare

"I , little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of his Holy Mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask and counsel you , my ladies, to live always in this most holy life and poverty. And keep most careful watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone."

(These two brief texts come from Chapter VI of Rule of St. Clare)

Writings of St. Francis - Testament of St. Francis

Testament of St. Francis

In the Bull "Quo elongati" of 1230 Pope Gregory IX states that when Francis was approaching his last days ("circa ultimum vitae suae"), he gave a commandment ("mandatum") to his brothers, which he called Testament.
The Testament, written probably in 1226, when Francis was dying, is the most important autobiographical document of the poverello. The description of this document as a "mandatum" indicates the style of a last will given by Francis to the brothers on the model of Christ's own "mandatum" in John 13-17, and particularly in the light of Christ's commandment of love unto death.
In the Testament written in Siena in 1225 (cfr. dictated writings), Francis expressed his last will in three points, which form the basis of this later Testament, namely, fraternity, poverty and obedience to the Church.

The Testament is well documented in the manuscript tradition, and is found in the Assisi Codex. The critical edition of the Testament is that of Kajetan Esser OFM, "Das Testamentum des heiligen Franziskus von Assisi", Münster, 1949.
The Testament was always a hotly debated document in the history of the Order. It presents the evangelical ideals of Francis as he originally conceived them, and sometimes it entered in direct conflict with the interpretations of the Rule given by the authority of the Church. All reform families in the Franciscan tradition held the Testament in great esteem. However, the intentions of Francis are clear in the text of the Testament, namely that this is a spiritual document which does not bind in conscience like the RegB. Nevertheless, the Testament remains a valuable document to trace the original inspiration of Francis, and the humble beginnings of the Order. 


The Lord gave to me, Brother Francis, thus to begin to do penance; for when I was in sin it seemed to me very bitter to see lepers, and the Lord Himself led me amongst them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, that which had seemed to me bitter was changed for me into sweetness of body and soul. And afterwards I remained a little and I left the world. And the Lord gave me so much faith in churches that I would simply pray and say thus: "We adore Thee Lord Jesus Christ here and in all Thy churches which are in the whole world, and we bless Thee because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world."

After that the Lord gave me, and gives me, so much faith in priests who live according to the form of the holy Roman Church, on account of their order, hat if they should persecute me, I would have recourse to them. And if I had as much wisdom as Solomon had, and if I should find poor priests of this world, would not preach against their will in the parishes in which they live. And I desire to fear, love, and honour them and all others as my masters; and I do not wish to consider sin in them, for in them I see the Son of God and they are my masters. And I do (his because in this world, I see nothing corporally of the most high Son of God Himself except His most holy Body and Blood, which they receive and they alone administer to others. And I will that these most holy mysteries be honoured and revered above all things and that they be placed in precious places. Wheresoever I find His most holy Names and written words in unseemly places, I wish to collect them, and I ask that they may be collected and put in a becoming place. And we ought to honour and venerate all theologians and those who minister to us the most holy Divine Words as those who minister to us spirit and life. And when the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I ought to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the holy Gospel. And I caused it to be written in few words and simply, and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me. And those who came to take this life upon themselves gave to the poor all that they might have and they were content with one tunic, patched within and without, by those who wished, with a cord and breeches, and we wished for no more.

We clerics said the Office like other clerics; the laics said the Paternoster, and we remained in the churches willingly enough. And we were simple and subject to all. And I worked with my hands and I wish to work and I wish firmly that all the other brothers should work at some labour which is compatible with honesty. Let those who know not [how to work] learn, not through desire to receive the price of labour but for the sake of example and to repel idleness. And when the price of labour is not given to us, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door.

The Lord revealed to me this salutation, that we should say: "The Lord give thee peace." Let the brothers take care not to receive on any account churches, poor dwelling-places, and all other things that are constructed for them, unless they are as is becoming the holy poverty which we have promised in the Rule, always dwelling there as strangers and pilgrims. I strictly enjoin by obedience on all the brothers that, wherever they may be, they should not dare, either themselves or by means of some interposed person, to ask any letter in the Roman curia either for a church or for any other place, nor under pretext of preaching, nor on account of their bodily persecution; but, wherever they are not received let them flee to another land to do penance, with the blessing of God. And I wish to obey the, minister general of this brotherhood strictly and the guardian whom it may please him to give me. And I wish to be so captive in his hands that I cannot go or act beyond his obedience and his will because he is my master. And although I am simple and infirm, I desire withal always to have a cleric who will perform the office with me as it is contained in the Rule.

And let all the other brothers be bound to obey their guardian and to perform the office according to the Rule. And those who may be found not performing the office according to the Rule and wishing to change it in some way, or who are not Catholics, let all the brothers wherever they may be, if they find one of these, be bound by obedience to present him to the custos who is nearest to the place where they have found him. And the custos shall be strictly bound, by obedience, to guard him strongly day and night as a prisoner so that he cannot be snatched from his hands until he shall personally place him in the hands of his minister. And the minister shall be firmly bound by obedience to send him by such brothers as shall watch him day and night like a prisoner until they shall present him to the Lord of Ostia, who is master protector, and corrector of this brotherhood. And let not the brothers say: This is another Rule; for this is a remembrance, a warning, and an exhortation and my Testament which I, little Brother Francis, make for you, my blessed brothers, in order that we may observe in a more Catholic way the Rule which we have promised to the Lord. And let the minister general and all the other ministers and custodes be bound by obedience not to add to these words or to take from them. And let them always have this writing with them beside the Rule. And in all the Chapters they hold, when they read the Rule let them read these words also. And I strictly enjoin on all my brothers, clerics and laics, by obedience, not to put glosses on the Rule or on these words saying: Thus they ought to be understood; but as the Lord has given me to speak and to write the Rule and these words simply and purely, so shall you understand them simply and purely and with holy operation observe them until the end.

And whoever shall observe these things may he be filled in heaven with the blessing of the Most High Father and may he be filled on earth with blessing of His Beloved Son together with the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, and all the Powers of heaven and all the saints. And I, Brother Francis, your little one and servant, in so far as I am able, I confirm to you within and without, this most holy blessing. Amen.

Writings of St. Clare - Letter to Ermentrude of Bruges

Clare's letter to Ermentrude of Bruges

The Irish Franciscan scholar, Luke Wadding, in his "Annales Minorum", ad. ann. 1257, supplement 20, states that Clare wrote two letters to Ermentrude of Bruges. Ermentrude was the daughter of the bailiff of Köln. In 1240 she left on a pilgrimage. She arrived in Bruges, Belgium, where she lived for twelve years in a hermitage. Upon hearing about Clare and the Poor Ladies she left for a pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, but found that Clare was already dead. When she returned to Bruges she transformed her small hermitage into a monastery of Poor Ladies and then instituted other monasteries in Flanders. The text given in "Annales Minorum" is a fusion of the two letters, and its authenticity has been questioned by various scholars. However, its contents are widely accepted as echoing Clare's thoughts as written down to Ermentrude. 

To Ermentrude, dearest sister, Clare of Assisi, humble handmaid of Jesus Christ, greetings and peace.

I know that you, o dearest sister, have fled the filth of the world, with the help of God's grace; for which I rejoice and give thanks with you and again rejoice that you tread the paths of virtue strenuously with your daughters. Be faithful, dearest, to him to whom you are promised until death, and you will be crowned by him with the laurel of life.

This labour of ours is brief, but the reward is eternal; let the noises of the fleeting world and its shadow not confound you; let the empty spectres of the deceiving world not drive you mad; shut your ears to the whispers of hell and, strong, break down its attempts [against you]; willingly bear adverse evils and let provident goods not puff you up; for the one requires faith, the other demands it; what you promised God, faithfully render, and he will repay you.

O dearest, look on heaven that invites us, and bear the cross and follow Christ who preceded us; indeed, after various and many tribulations we shall enter through him into his glory. Love with your whole heart God and Jesus, his son, crucified for our sins, and never let his memory escape your mind; make yourself mediate continually on the mysteries of the cross and the anguish of the mother standing beneath the cross.

Pray and be always vigilant. And the work that you began well, finish and the ministry you assumed, fulfil in holy poverty and sincere humility. Do not fear, daughter, God is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works, he will pour out his blessing on you and your daughters; and he will be your helper and your best consoler; he is our redeemer and our eternal reward.

Let us pray God for each other, for in bearing each other's burden of charity we shall fulfil the law of Christ.  Amen.

Writings of St. Clare - 4th Letter to Bl. Agnes of Prague

The fourth letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague

To the other half of her soul and repository of the special love of her deepest heart, illustrious queen, spouse of the Lamb of the eternal King, the Lady Agnes, her own dearest mother and, among all the others, her special daughter, Clare, unworthy servant of Christ and useless handmaid of his handmaids who live in the Monastery of San Damiano in Assisi, sends greetings and her prayer that Agnes, together with the other most holy virgins, will sing a new song before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and will follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

O mother and daughter, spouse of the King and all ages, even if I have not written to you as frequently as both your soul and mine would have desired and longed for, do not for a moment wonder or believe in any way that the fire of my love for you burns any less sweetly in the deepest heart of your mother. The truth is that a shortage of messengers and the obvious perils of travel have hindered me. But now, as I write to your love, I rejoice and exult for you in the joy of the Spirit, spouse of Christ, because like that other most holy virgin, Saint Agnes, you have been in an astonishing way espoused to the immaculate Lamb, who, having assumed responsibility for all the vanities of this world, takes away the sins of the world. Happy, indeed, is the one permitted to share in this sacred banquet so as to be joined with all the feelings of her heart to him -

Whose beauty all the blessed hosts

of the heavens unceasingly admire,

Whose affection moves,

whose contemplation invigorates,

Whose generosity fills,

Whose sweetness replenishes,

Whose remembrance pleasantly brings light,

Whose fragrance will revive the dead,

And whose glorious vision will bless

All the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem,

Because the vision of him is the

splendor of everlasting glory,

The radiance of everlasting light,

and a mirror without tarnish.

Look into this mirror every day,

O queen, spouse of Jesus Christ,

And continually examine your face in it,

So that in this way you may adorn yourself

completely, Inwardly and outwardly,

Clothed and covered in multicoloured apparel,

Adorned in the same manner with

flowers and garments

Made of all the virtues as is proper,

Dearest daughter and spouse of the most high King.

Moreover, in this mirror shine blessed poverty, holy humility, and charity beyond words, as you will be able, with God's grace, to contemplate throughout the entire mirror. Look closely, I say, to the beginning of the life of this admired one, indeed at the poverty of him who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.

O marvellous humility!

O astonishing poverty!

The King of the angels,

The Lord of heaven and earth is

Laid to rest in a manger!

Consider also the midst of his life, his humility, or at least his blessed poverty, the countless hardships, and the punishments that he endured for the redemption of the human race. Indeed, ponder the final days of this mirrored one, contemplate the ineffable love with which he was willing to suffer on the tree of the cross and to die there a kind of death that is more shameful than any other. That mirror suspended upon the wood of the cross from there kept urging those passing by of what must be considered, saying: O all you who pass by this way, look and see if there is any suffering like my suffering. In response let us with one voice and in one spirit answer him who is crying out and lamenting: I will remember this over and over and my soul will sink within me. Therefore, seeing this, O queen of the heavenly King, you must burn ever more strongly with the fervour of charity! Furthermore, as you contemplate his indescribable delights, riches, and everlasting honours, and heaving a sigh because of your heart's immeasurable desire and love may you exclaim:

Draw me after you, Heavenly Spouse, we shall run in the fragrance of your perfumes! I shall run and not grow weary until you bring me into the wine cellar, until your left hand is under my head and your right arm blissfully embraces me; and you kiss me with the most blissful kiss of your mouth.

As you are placed in this contemplation, may you remember your poor little mother, (knowing that I have inseparably inscribed the happy memory of you on the tablets of my heart, for I regard you as dearer than all others. Why say more? Let my physical tongue be silent, as it is said, and let the tongue of the Spirit speak.

O blessed daughter, since in no way at all could my bodily tongue express more fully the love that I have for you, that which I have written is certainly inadequate. I beg you to receive these words with kindness and devotion, seeing in them at least the motherly affection, by which every day I am stirred by the fire of love for you and your daughters; please ask them to pray for me and my daughters in Christ.

Indeed, inasmuch as they are able, my own daughters, and especially the most prudent virgin, Agnes, our sister, beg you and your daughters to pray for them in the Lord.

Farewell, dearest daughter, together with your own daughters, until we meet at the throne of glory of the great God, and pray for us.

I must now commend to your charity, as fully as possible, our dearest bearers of this letter, Brother Amato, beloved by God and human beings, and Brother Bonaugura.  Amen.

Writings of St. Clare - 3rd Letter to Bl. Agnes of Prague

The third letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague

To Agnes, most venerable lady and sister in Christ, deserving of love before all other mortals, blood-sister of the illustrious king of Bohemia, but now sister and spouse of the most high King of the heavens, Clare, most humble and unworthy handmaid of Christ and servant of the Poor Ladies, sends her prayer for the joys of salvation in him who is the Author of Salvation and for everything better that can be desired.

I am filled with such great joy about your well-being, your happiness, and your favourable successes through which, I understand, you are thriving on the journey you have begun to obtain the reward of heaven; and I breathe again in the Lord with elation equal to my knowledge and belief that you are supplying in wonderful ways what is lacking both in me and in the other sisters who are following in the footsteps of the poor and humble Jesus Christ.

I am indeed able to rejoice, and there is no one who could separate me from such great joy, since I already possess what under heaven I have yearned for, and I see that you, supported by some kind of wonderful claim on the wisdom that comes from God's own mouth, are formidably and extraordinarily undermining the stratagems of the cunning enemy, the pride that destroys human nature, and the vanity that beguiles human hearts.

I see, too, that you are embracing with humility, the virtue of faith, and the arms of poverty the incomparable treasure that lies hidden in the field of the world and the hearts of human beings, where it is purchased by the One by whom all things were made from nothing. And, to use as my own the words of the apostle himself, I consider you someone who is God's own helper and who supports the drooping limbs of his ineffable body. Who, then, would tell me not to rejoice about such great and marvellous joys? That is why you, too, dearest, must always rejoice in the Lord, and not let bitterness and confusion envelop you, O Lady most beloved in Christ, joy of the angels, and crown of your sisters.

Place your mind in the mirror of eternity;

Place your soul in the splendour of glory;

Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance;

And, through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Divine One himself,

So that you, yourself, may also experience what his friends experience when they taste the hidden sweetness that God alone has kept from the beginning

For those who love him.

And completely ignoring all those who in this deceitful and turbulent world ensnare their blind lovers, you might totally love him who gave himself totally out of love for you, whose beauty the sun and moon admire, and whose rewards, in both their preciousness and magnitude, are without end. I am speaking about the Son of the Most High, to whom the Virgin gave birth and, after whose birth, she remained a virgin. May you cling to his most sweet Mother, who gave birth to the kind of Son whom the heavens could not contain, and yet, she carried him in the tiny enclosure of her sacred womb, and held him on her young girl's lap.

Who would not abhor the treachery of the enemy of humanity who, by means of the pride that results from fleeting and false glories, compels that which is greater than heaven to return to nothingness? See, it is already clear that the soul of a faithful person, the most worthy of God's creations through the grace of God, is greater than heaven, since the heavens and the rest of creation together cannot contain their Creator and only the soul of a faithful person is his dwelling place and throne and this is possible only through the charity that the wicked lack. For the Truth says: The one who loves me, will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and we shall come to him and make our dwelling place with him.

So, just as the glorious Virgin of virgins carried him physically, so, you too, following in her footsteps especially those of humility and poverty, can without any doubt, always carry him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body, containing him by whom both you and all things are contained, and possessing that which, even when compared with the other transitory possessions of this world, you will possess more securely. Regarding this, some kings and queens of this world are deceived; even though in their pride they have climbed all the way up to the sky, and their heads have touched the clouds, in the end they are destroyed like a pile of dung.

Now, I thought that I should respond to your charity about the things that you have asked me to clarify for you; namely, what were the feasts-and I imagine, that you have perhaps figured this out to some extent-that our most glorious father, Saint Francis, urged us to celebrate in a special way with different kinds of foods. Indeed, your prudence knows that, with the exception of the weak and the sick, for whom he advised and authorized to use every possible discretion with respect to any foods whatsoever, none of us who are healthy and strong ought to eat anything other than Lenten fare, on both ordinary days and feast days, fasting every day except on Sundays and on the Lord's Nativity, when we ought to eat twice a day. And, on Thursdays in Ordinary Time, fasting should reflect the personal decision of each sister, so that whoever might not wish to fast would not be obligated to do so. All the same, those of us who are healthy fast every day except Sundays and Christmas. Certainly, during the entire Easter week, as Blessed Francis states in what he has written, and on the feasts of holy Mary and the holy apostles, we are also not obliged to fast, unless these feasts should fall on a Friday; and, as has already been said, we who are healthy and strong always eat Lenten fare. But because neither is our flesh the flesh of bronze, nor our strength the strength of stone, but instead, we are frail and prone to every bodily weakness, I am asking and begging in the Lord that you be restrained wisely, dearest one, and discreetly from the indiscreet and impossibly severe fasting that I know you have imposed upon yourself, so that living, you might profess the Lord, and might return to the Lord your reasonable worship and your sacrifice always seasoned with salt.

Stay well, always in the Lord, just as I very much desire to stay well, and be sure to remember both me and my sisters in your holy prayers.

Writings of St. Clare - 2nd Letter to Bl. Agnes of Prague

The 2nd Letter to the Blessed Agnes of Prague

To the daughter of the King of kings, handmaid of the Lord of lords, most worthy spouse of Jesus Christ and therefore, very distinguished queen, the Lady Agnes, Clare, useless and unworthy handmaid of the Poor Ladies, sends her greetings and the prayer that Agnes may always live in the utmost poverty.

I thank the one who liberally bestows grace, from whom every best and perfect gift is believed to come, because he has adorned you with such a good reputation founded upon your virtues and has made you shine with the honours of so much perfection. He did this so that once you have been made a diligent imitator of the Father who is perfect, you may deserve to be made perfect, so that his eyes may not see anything imperfect in you. This is that perfection with which the King will unite you to himself in marriage in heaven's bridal chamber where he sits in glory upon his starry throne, because despising the heights of an earthly kingdom and the less than worthy offers of an imperial marriage, you have been made an imitator of the holiest poverty, and in a spirit of great humility and the most ardent charity, you have clung to the footsteps of him with whom you have been worthy to be united in marriage.

Moreover, since I know that you are laden with virtues, I shall refrain from saying too much as I do not wish to laden you with superfluous words, even though to you no word seems superfluous of those that could be the source of some consolation for you. But because one thing is necessary, I invoke this one thing and advise you, by the love of him to whom you have offered yourself as a holy and pleasing sacrifice, to be mindful, like a second Rachel, of your founding purpose always seeing your beginning. What you hold, may you continue to hold, what you do, may you keep doing and not stop, but with swift pace, nible step, and feet that do not stumble so that even your walking does not raise any dust, may you go forward tranquilly, joyfully, briskly, and cautiously along the path of happiness, trusting in no one and agreeing with no one insofar as he might want to dissuade you from pursuing your founding purpose or might place a stumbling block in your way, preventing you, in that perfection with which the Spirit of the Lord has called you, from fulfilling your vows to the Most High.

No concerning this, so that you may walk more tranquilly along the way of the Lord's commands, follow the advice of our venerable father, our Brother Elias, minister general. Prefer his advice to the advice of others and consider it more precious to you than any gift. Indeed, if someone tells you something else or suggests anything to you that may hinder your perfection and that seems contrary to your divine vocation, even though you must respect him, still, do not follow his advice; instead, poor virgin, embrace the Poor Christ.

Now that you have made yourself contemptible in this world for his sake, look upon and follow the one who made himself contemptible for your sake. Gaze upon, examine, contemplate, most noble queen, desiring to follow your spouse, who is more beautiful than the sons of humankind, and who for your salvation became the vilest of men, despised, struck, and flogged repeatedly over his entire body, dying while suffering the excruciating torments of the cross. If you suffer with him, with him you will reign, grieving with him, with him you will rejoice, dying with him on the cross of tribulation, with him you will possess mansions in heaven among the splendours of the saints, and your name will be recorded in the Book of Life and will bring you glory among men and women. This is why you may forever in eternity share the glory of the heavenly kingdom rather than what is earthly and transitory, eternal goods instead of those that perish, and why you will live forever and ever.

Farewell, dearest sister and lady, for the sake of the Lord, your spouse; and constantly remember me, as well as my sisters-for we rejoice in the good things of the Lord that he is accomplishing in you through his grace-in your devout prayers to the Lord.

Also, as often as possible, please remind your sisters to pray for us.

Writngs of St. Clare - First Letter to Bl. Agnes of Prague

Writings of St. Clare - Her Letters

Letters to Blessed Agnes of Prague

Reading the letters of St. Clare to Agnes of Prague, one wonders who she was and how she came to know Clare from distant Assisi? Agnes was a princess, born in Prague in 1205. Her parents were King Premsyl Ottokar I of Bohemia (1197-1230) and Constance of the Arpad dynasty of Hungary. Agnes' cousin was St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), Patron of the Franciscan Secular Order.

When she was only three years old, according to royal custom, Agnes was enagaged to Boleslaus, the son of the duke of Silesia, who soon died. The young princess was educated in a Premonstratensian monastery. In the meantime she was engaged to the son of Emperor Frederick II, the future Henry VII, who at that time lived in the court of Duke Luke Leopold of Austria. Agnes was sent there, but her engagement was soon turned down by her father, when Henry married Leopold's daughter. Agnes returned to Prague, and received offers of engagement once more by King Henry III of England, and by the Emperor himself. The young princess, however, had made a vow of virginity, and refused all offers of marriage.

In 1225 the first Friars Minor had arrived in Prague. Through them Agnes came to know all about Clare and the Poor Ladies of San Damiano in Assisi. In the meantime, in 1227, Elizabeth, her cousin, had joined the Order of Penitents instituted by St. Francis, and built a hospital in Marburg, where she personally took care of the sick. After the death of her father Premsyl Ottokar I in 1230, Agnes decided to embrace voluntary poverty according to the way of life of Clare of Assisi. Her brother, Wenseslaus I, gave her property in 1232, on which she built a hospital dedicated to St. Francis, which she left under the care of the Crosiers of the Red Star (a confraternity which later embraced the Rule of St. Augustine). She also built a church and friary for the Friars Minor, and a monastery for the Poor Ladies who joined her from Trent, after her explicit request to Pope Gregory IX in 1233. There she consacrated her life to God on Pentecost Sunday of 1234. Agnes wanted to live according to the style of evangelical life which the Poor Ladies at San Damiano had embraced. She died in Prague in 1282, and was declared Blessed by Pius IX in 1874. On 12 November 1989 Pope John Paul II canonised her.

Clare wrote various Letters to Agnes. Four of them have been preserved. The first Letter was written before 11 June 1234, that is, before Agnes' profession. Clare still calls her "daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia". The second Letter was written in the period between 1234-1239, during the time when Friar Elias was Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor. He is mentioned in the Letter. The third Letter is dated 1238, because it answers to a difficulty concerning abstinence from meat, as a result of Pope Gregory's wish in 1237 that the Poor Ladies abstain from meat like the Cistercians. The same letter could also refer to Agnes' personal wish that the hospice of St. Francis founded by her be left to the care of another religious Order, so that she and the Sisters could be free of temporal concerns. Pope Gregory IX was initially against the idea, but later on accepted to hand over the hospice to the Confratrernity of the Crosiers of the Red Star. The last Letter was written much later, in 1253, just before Clare's death, because in it Clare mentions Agnes, her sister, who returned from the monastery of Monticelli some months before Clare died at San Damiano.

The Letters are profoundly mystical. They develop various themes of feminine spirituality, particularly the mystical espousals with Christ; consecrated virginity; praise of the virtue of poverty; the contemplation of Christ, poor and crucified; the blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnation; practical norms for fasting and abstinence; the humility of Christ contemplated in the various mysteries of His life.

The First Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague

To the esteemed and most holy virgin, the Lady Agnes, daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia: Clare, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and useless handmaid of the Cloistered Ladies of the Monastery of San Damiano, her subject and servant in all things, presents herself totally with a special reverent [prayer] that she attain the glory of everlasting happiness.

As I hear of the fame of Your holy conduct and irreproachable life, which is known not only to me but to the entire world as well, I greatly rejoice and exult in the Lord. I am not alone in rejoicing at such great news, but [I am joined by] all who serve and seek to serve Jesus Christ. For, though You, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honour and dignity of the world, and could have been married to the illustrious Caesar with splendour befitting You and His Excellency, You have rejected all these things and have chosen with Your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus You took a spouse of a more noble lineage, Who will keep Your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ:

When You have loved [Him], You shall be chaste; when You have touched [Him], You shall become pure; when You have accepted [Him], You shall be a virgin.

Whose power is stronger,

Whose generosity is more abundant,

Whose appearance more beautiful,

Whose love more tender,

Whose courtesy more gracious.

In Whose embrace You are already caught up;

Who has adorned Your breast with precious stones

And has placed priceless pearls in Your ears

and has surrounded You with sparkling gems

as though blossoms of springtime

and placed on Your head a golden crown

as a sign [to all] of Your holiness.

Therefore, most beloved sister, or should I say, Lady worthy of great respect: because You are the spouse and the mother and the sister of my Lord Jesus Christ, and have been adorned resplendently with the sign of inviolable virginity and most holy poverty: Be strengthened in the holy service which You have undertaken out of an ardent desire for the Poor Crucified, Who for the sake of all of us took upon Himself the Passion of the Cross and delivered us from the power of the Prince of Darkness to whom we were enslaved because of the disobedience of our first parents, and so reconciled us to God the Father.

O blessed poverty,
who bestows eternal riches on those who love and

embrace her!

O holy poverty,
to those who possess and desire you

God promises the kingdom of heaven

and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life!

O God-centered poverty,

whom the Lord Jesus Christ

Who ruled and now rules heaven and earth,

Who spoke and things were made,

condescended to embrace before all else!

The foxes have dens, He says, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man, Christ, has nowhere to lay His head, but bowing His head gave up His spirit.

If so great and good a Lord, then, on coming into the Virgin's womb, chose to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that people who were in utter poverty and want and in absolute need of heavenly nourishment might become rich in Him by possessing the kingdom of heaven, then rejoice and be glad! Be filled with a remarkable happiness and a spiritual joy! Contempt of the world has pleased You more than [its] honors, poverty more than earthly riches, and You have sought to store up greater treasures in heaven rather than on earth, where rust does not consume nor moth destroy nor thieves break in and steal. Your reward, then, is very great in heaven! And You have truly merited to be called a sister, spouse, and mother of the Son of the Father of the Most High and of the glorious Virgin.

You know, I am sure, that the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor: for he who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. Such a person cannot serve God and Mammon, for either the one is loved and the other is hated, or the one is served and the other despised.

You also know that one who is clothed cannot fight with another who is naked, because he is more quickly thrown who gives his adversary a chance to get hold of him; and that one who lives in the glory of earth cannot rule with Christ in heaven.

Again, [you know] that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, you have cast aside Your garments, that is, earthly riches, so that You might not be overcome by the one fighting against You, [and] that You might enter the kingdom of heaven through the straight path and narrow gate.

What a great laudable exchange:  to leave the things of time for those of eternity,
to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth,

to receive the hundred-fold in place of one,

and to possess a blessed and eternal life.

Because of this I have resolved, as best I can, to beg Your Excellency and Your holiness by my humble prayers in the mercy of Christ, to be strengthened in His holy service, and to progress from good to better, from virtue to virtue, so that He Whom You serve with the total desire of Your soul may bestow on You the reward for which You long.

I also beg You in the Lord, as much as I can, to include in Your holy prayers me, Your servant, though unworthy, and the other sisters with me in the monastery, who are all devoted to You, so that by their help we may merit the mercy of Jesus Christ, and together with You may merit to enjoy the everlasting vision.

Farewell in the Lord. And pray for me.

Clare of Assisi

The Blessing Attributed to Saint Clare

The Legend of St. Clare states that Clare blessed her Sisters, present and future, before she died. Later documents give three blessings by St. Clare, all of which are substantially identical: one to Agnes of Prague, one to Ermentrude of Bruges and one to all the Sisters. These blessings have been copied in mediaeval German, Dutch, French, Italian and Latin. The texts are so similar that they have been presented as authentic and faithful to the original blessing which Clare imparted upon her Sisters.

1. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

2. May the Lord bless you and keep you. 3. May He show His face to you and be merciful to you. 4. May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace.

5. I, Clare, a handmaid of Christ, a little plant of our holy Father Francis, a sister and mother of you and the other Poor Sisters, although unworthy, 6. ask our Lord Jesus Christ through His mercy and through the intercession of His most holy Mother Mary, of Blessed Michael the Archangel and all the holy angels of God, and of all His men and women saints, 7. that the heavenly Father give you and confirm for you this most holy blessing in heaven and on earth. 8. On earth, may He increase [His] grace and virtues among His servants and handmaids of His Church Militant. 9. In heaven, may He exalt and glorify you in His Church Triumphant among all His men and women saints.

10. I bless you in my life and after my death as much as I can and more than I can 11. with all the blessings with which the Father of mercies has and will have blessed His sons and daughters in heaven and on earth. Amen.

12. Always be lovers of God and your souls and the souls of your Sisters, and always be eager to observe what you have promised the Lord.

13. May the Lord be with you always and, wherever you are, may you be with Him always. Amen

The Rule of Life of Saint Clare

The Rule of St. Clare is the only rule in the Catholic Church written by a woman.


Chapter I

In the name of the Lord, here begins the form of life of the Poor Sisters.

The form of life of the order of the Poor Sisters that Blessed Francis established is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without anything of one's own, and in chastity.

Clare, the unworthy servant of Christ and the little plant of the most blessed Francis, promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Innocent and his canonically elected successors, and to the Roman Church. And as, at the beginning of her conversion she, together with her sisters, promised obedience to Blessed Francis, so now she promises his successors to observe the same obedience inviolably. And the other sisters shall always be obliged to obey the successors of Blessed Francis and Sister Clare and the other canonically elected Abbesses who succeed her.

Chapter II

Those who wish to live this life and how they are to be received.

If, by divine inspiration, someone comes to us desiring to accept this life, the Abbess is bound to seek the consent of all the sisters; and if the majority has agreed, she may receive her, after having obtained the permission of the Lord Cardinal Protector. If she sees that the candidate is acceptable, let the Abbess diligently examine her or have her examined concerning the Catholic faith and the sacraments of the Church. And if she believes all these things and is willing to profess them faithfully and to observe them steadfastly to the end; and if she has no husband, or if she has a husband who has already entered religious life with the authority of the Bishop of the diocese and has already made a vow of continence; and if there is no impediment to her observance of this life, such as advanced age or ill-health or mental weakness. let the tenor of our life be thoroughly explained to her.

If she is suitable, let the words of the Holy Gospel be addressed to her that she should go and sell all that she has and take care to distribute the proceeds to the poor. If she cannot do this, her good will shall suffice. Let the Abbess and sisters take care not to be concerned about her temporal affairs, so that she may freely dispose of her possessions as the Lord may inspire her. However, if some council is required, let them send her to some discerning and God-fearing men, according to whose advice her goods may be distributed to the poor.

After her hair has been cut off round her head and her secular clothes have been set aside, she may be permitted three tunics and a mantle. Thereafter, she may not go outside the monastery except for useful, reasonable, evident, and approved purpose. When the year of probation is ended, let her be received into obedience, promising to observe perpetually our life and form of poverty.

Let no one receive the veil during the period of probation. The sisters may also have little mantles for convenience and propriety in serving and working. In fact let the Abbess, with discernment, provide them with clothing according to the diversity of persons, places, seasons and cold climates, as it shall seem expedient to her by necessity.

Young girls who are received into the monastery before the age established by law may have their hair cut round their heads; and, after they have put aside their secular clothes, they may be clothed in a religious garb, as the Abbess sees fit. However, when they reach the age required by law, let them make their profession clothed in the same way as the others. The Abbess shall carefully provide a Mistress from among the more discerning sisters of the monastery both for these and the other novices. She shall diligently form them in a holy way of life and proper behaviour according to the form of our profession.

Let the same form described above be observed in the examination and reception of the sisters who serve outside the monastery. These sisters may wear shoes. No one may live with us in the monastery unless she has been received according to the form of our profession.

And for love of the most holy and beloved Child who was wrapped in such poor little swaddling clothes and laid in a manger and of his most holy Mother, I admonish, beg and exhort my sisters always to wear poor garments.

Chapter III

The Divine Office and fasting confession and communion.  Let the sisters who can read celebrate the Divine Office according to the custom of the Friars Minor. For this reason they may have breviaries, reading them without singing. Those who, for some reasonable cause, are at times unable to recite their hours by reading them, may, like the other sisters, say the Our Fathers.

Let those who do not know how to read say twenty-four Our Father's for Matins; five for Lauds; seven for each of the hours of Prime, Terse, Seat, and None; twelve, however, for Vespers; seven for Compline. For the deceased , let them also say seven Our Father's with the Requiem aeternam at Vespers; twelve for Matins, whereas the sisters who can read are obliged to recite the Office of the Dead. When a sister in our monastery shall have departed this life, however, let them say fifty Our Fathers.

Let the sisters fast at all times. They may eat twice on Christmas, however, no matter on what day it happens to fall. The younger sisters, those who are weak, and those who serve outside the monastery may be mercifully dispensed as the Abbess sees fit. In time of manifest necessity, however, let the sisters not be bound to corporal fasting.

With the permission of the Abbess, the sisters may confess at least twelve times a year. Let them be careful not to introduce other talk unless it pertains to the confession and the salvation of souls. Let them receive Communion seven times a year, that is, on Christmas, Thursday of Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, the feast of Saint Francis, and the feast of All Saints. The Chaplain may celebrate within the enclosure in order to give Communion to the sisters who are in good health or to those who are ill.

Chapter IV

The election and office of the Abbess; The chapter, and the officials and discreets.

The sisters are bound to observe the canonical form in the election of the Abbess. Let them quickly arrange to have the Minister General or the Minister Provincial of the order of Friars Minor present. Let him dispose them, through the Word of God, to perfect harmony and to the common good in the election to be held. Let no one be elected who is not professed. And if a non-professed is elected or given to them in another way, she may not be obeyed unless she first profess our form of poverty.

At her death let the election of another Abbess take place. If at any time it should appear to the entire body of sisters that she is not competent for their service and common welfare, the sisters are bound as quickly as possible to elect another Abbess and mother according to the form of life described above.

Let whoever is elected reflect on the kind of burden she has undertaken and to whom she must render an account of the flock committed to her. Let her strive to preside as well over the others more by her virtues and holy behaviour than by her office, so that moved by her example, the sisters may obey her more out of love than out of fear. Let her avoid exclusive loves, lest by loving some more than others she may cause scandal among all.

Let her console those who are afflicted. Let her also be the last refuge for those who are troubled, lest, should they fail to find in her the remedies for health, the sickness of despair might overcome the weak.

Let her preserve common life in everything, especially in whatever pertains to the church, the dormitory, refectory, infirmary, and clothing. Her Vicaress is bound to preserve it in the same way.

The Abbess is bound to call her sisters together at least once a week in the chapter, where both she and her sisters should humbly confess their common and public offences and negligences. Let her consult with all her sisters there regarding whatever concerns the welfare and integrity of the monastery, for the Lord frequently reveals what is best to the least among us.

No heavy debt may be incurred except with the common consent of the sisters and by reason of manifest necessity, and let this be done through a procurator. Let the Abbess and her sisters, however, be careful that nothing is deposited in the monastery for safekeeping; for such practices often give rise to troubles and scandals.

Let all who hold offices in the monastery be chosen by the common consent of all the sisters to preserve the unity of mutual love and peace. In the same way, let at least eight sisters be elected from the more discerning whose counsel the Abbess should be always bound to use in those matters which our form of life demands. Moreover, the sisters can and should, if it seems useful and expedient, remove the officials and discreets and choose others in their place.

Chapter V

Silence, the parlour, and the grille.  Let the sisters keep silence from the hour of Compline until Terse, except those who are serving outside the monastery. Let them also continually be silent in the church, the dormitory, and the refectory, only while they are eating. At all times, however they may be permitted to speak with discernment in the infirmary for the recreation and service of the sick. Nevertheless, they may communicate whatever is necessary always and everywhere, briefly and in a low tone of voice.

The sisters may not be permitted to speak in the parlour or at the grille without the permission of the Abbess or her Vicaress. Let this e who have permission not dare to speak in the parlour unless they are in the presence and hearing of two sisters. Moreover, let them not presume to go to the grille, unless there are at least three sisters present who have been appointed by the Abbess or her Vicaress from the eight discreets who were elected by all the sisters for the council of the Abbess. Let the Abbess and her Vicaress be themselves bound to observe this form of speaking and this very rarely at the grille and, by all means never, at the door.

Let a curtain be hung inside the grille which may not be removed except when the Word of God is preached or when a sister is speaking with someone.

Let the grille have a wooden door which is well provided with two distinct iron locks, bolts, and bars, so that, it can be locked, especially at night, by two keys, one of which the Abbess may keep and the other the sacristan. Let it always be locked except when the Divine Office is being celebrated and for the reasons given above. Under no circumstance whatever, may a sister speak to anyone at the grille before sunrise or after sunset. Let there always be a curtain on the inside of the parlour, which may not be removed.

No one may speak in the parlour during the Lent of Saint Martin and the Greater Lent, except a priest for Confession or for some other manifest necessity, which is left to the prudence of the Abbess or her Vicaress.

Chapter VI

The lack of possessions.  After the most high heavenly Father saw fit by his grace to enlighten my heart to do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessed Father, Saint Francis, I, together with my sisters, willingly promised him obedience shortly after his own conversion.

When the blessed Father saw we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt of the world, but, instead, regarded such things as great delights, moved by compassion he wrote a form of life for us as follows:

"Because by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live a life according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, Resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers to always have that same loving care and solicitude for you as I have for them."

As long as he lived he diligently fulfilled this and wished that it always be fulfilled by his brothers.  Shortly before his death he once more wrote his last will for us that we or those, as well, who would come after us would never turn aside from the holy poverty we had embraced. He said:

"I , little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of his Holy Mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask and counsel you , my ladies, to live always in this most holy life and poverty. And keep most careful watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone."

As I, together with my sisters, have ever been solicitous to safeguard the holy poverty which we have promised the Lord God and blessed Francis, so, too, the Abbesses who shall succeed me in office and all the sisters are bound to observe it inviolably to the end: that is, by not receiving or having possession or ownership either of themselves or through an intermediary, or even anything that might reasonably be called property, except as much land as necessity requires for the integrity and proper seclusion of the monastery, and this land may not be cultivated except as a garden for the needs of the sisters.

Chapter VII

The manner of working.  Let the sisters to whom the Lord has given the grace of working work faithfully and devotedly after the Hour of Terce at work that pertains to a virtuous life ads the common good. Let them do this in such a way that, while they banish idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all other things of our earthly existence must contribute.

At the Chapter, in the presence of all, the Abbess or her Vicaress is bound to assign the work that each should perform with her hands. Let the same be done if alms have been sent by some benefactors for the needs of the sisters, so that, in common, a recommendation may be made for them. All such alms may be distributed for the common good by the Abbess or her Vicaress with the advice of the discreets.

Chapter VIII

The sisters shall not acquire anything of their own; begging alms; the sick sisters.  Let the sisters not appropriate anything, neither a house nor a place nor anything at all; instead, as pilgrims and strangers in this world who serve the Lord in poverty and humility, let them confidently send for alms. Nor should they be ashamed, since the Lord made himself poor in this world for us. This is the summit of the highest poverty which has established you, my dearest sisters, heiresses and queens of the kingdom of heaven; it has made you poor in the things of this world but exalted you in virtue. Let this be your portion which leads into the land of the living. Clinging totally to this, my most beloved sisters, for the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his most holy mother, do not ever wish to have anything else under heaven.

Let no sister be permitted to send letters or receive or give away anything outside the monastery without the permission of the Abbess. Let it not be permitted to have anything that the Abbess has not given or permitted. Should anything be sent to a sister by her relatives or others, let the Abbess give it to the sister. If she needs it, the sister may use it; otherwise, let her give it lovingly to a sister who does need it. If, however, money is sent to her, the Abbess with the advice of the discreets, may provide for the needs of the sister.

As for the sick sisters, let the Abbess be strictly bound to inquire with diligence, by herself and through other sisters, what their illness requires both by way of counsel as well as food and other necessities, and let her provide for them charitably and kindly according to the resources of the place. Because everyone is bound to serve and provide for their sisters who are ill, let them do this as they would wish to be served if they were suffering from some illness. Let each one confidently manifest her needs to the other. For if a mother loves and cherishes her child according to the flesh, how much more diligently should a sister love and cherish her sister according to the Spirit.

Those who are ill may lie on sacks filled with straw and may use feather pillows for their head; those who need woollen stockings and quilts may use them.

When the sick sisters are visited by those who enter the monastery, they may answer with brevity, each responding with some good words to those who speak to them. But the other sisters who have permission may not dare to speak to those who enter the monastery unless in the presence and hearing of the two sister-discreets assigned by the Abbess or her Vicaress.

Let the Abbess and her Vicaress, as well, be bound to observe this manner of speaking.

Chapter IX

The penance to be imposed on the sisters who sin; The sisters who serve outside the monastery.  If any sister, at the instigation of the enemy, has sinned mortally against the form of our profession, and, Wafter having been admonished two or three times by the Abbess or other sisters, she does not amend, let her eat bread and water on the floor before all the sisters in the refectory for as many days as she shall of been obstinate. If it seems advisable to the Abbess, let her be subjected to even greater punishment. Meanwhile, as long as she remains obstinate, let them pray that the Lord will enlighten her heart to do penance.

The Abbess and her sisters, however, must beware not to become angry or disturbed on account of any one's sin, for anger and disturbance prevent charity in oneself and in others.

If it should happen may it never be so that an occasion of trouble or scandal should arise between sister and sister through a word or a gesture, let she who was the cause of the trouble, before offering her gift of prayer to the Lord, prostrate herself humbly at once at the feet of the other and ask pardon, but also beg her with simplicity to intercede for her to the Lord that he might forgive her. Let the other sister, mindful of that word of the Lord; "If you do not forgive from the heart, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you" generously pardon her sister every wrong she has done her.

The sisters who serve outside the monastery may not linger outside unless some manifest necessity requires it. Let them conduct themselves virtuously and say little, so that those who see them may always be edified.

Let them strictly beware of having suspicious meetings and dealings with others. They may not be godmothers of men or women lest gossip or trouble arise because of this. Let them not presume to repeat the gossip of the world inside the monastery. And let them be strictly bound not to repeat outside the monastery anything that was said or done within which could cause scandal.

If anyone should innocently offend in these two matters, let it be left to the prudence of the Abbess to mercifully impose a penance on her. But if a sister does this through a vicious habit, the Abbess with the advice of her discreets, may impose a penance on her according to the nature of the fault.

Chapter X

The admonition and correction of the sisters.  Let the Abbess admonish and visit her sisters, and humbly and charitably correct them, not commanding them anything that is against their soul and the form of our profession. Let the sisters, however, who are subjects, remember that they have renounced their wills for Gods sake. Therefore let them be firmly bound to obey their Abbess in all things they have promised the Lord to observe and which are not against their soul and our profession.

Let the Abbess on her part, be so familiar with them that they can speak and act with her as ladies do with their servant. For this is the way it must be: the Abbess should be the servant of all the sisters.

In fact, I admonish and exhort the sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ to beware of all pride, vainglory, envy, avarice, care and anxiety about this world, detraction and murmuring, dissension, and division. Let them be always eager to preserve among themselves the unity of mutual love which is the bond of perfection. Let those who do not know how to read not be eager to learn. Let them dire

ct their attention to what they should desire to have above all else: the Spirit of the Lord and its holy activity, to pray always to him with a pure heart, and to have humility, patience in difficulty and infirmity, and to love those who persecute, blame, and accuse us, for the Lord says:

"Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But whoever perseveres to the end will be saved".

Chapter XI

The custody of the enclosure.  Let the portress be mature in her manner of acting, discerning, and of a suitable age. Let her remain in an open cell without a door during the day. Suitable companion may be assigned to her who may take her place in everything whenever necessary.

Let the door be well secured by two different iron locks, with bars and bolts, so that especially at night, it may be locked with two keys, one of which the portress may have, the other the Abbess. Let it never be left without a guard and securely locked with one key.

Let them most diligently take care to see that the door is never left open, except when this can hardly be conveniently avoided. Let it never be opened to anyone who wishes to enter, except those who have been given permission by the Supreme Pontiff or our Lord Cardinal. The sisters may not aglow anyone to enter the monastery before sunrise or to remain within after sunset, unless a manifest, reasonable, and unavoidable cause demands otherwise.

If a bishop has permission to offer Mass within the enclosure, either for the blessing of an Abbess or for the consecration of one of the sisters as a nun or for any other reason, let him be satisfied with both few and virtuous companions and assistants as possible.

Whenever it is necessary for other men to enter the monastery to do some work, let the Abbess carefully post a suitable person at the door, who may only open it to those assigned for work and to no one else. Let the sisters be extremely careful at such times not to be seen by those who enter.

Chapter XII

The visitator, the chaplain, and the Cardinal Protector.  Let our Visitator always be taken from the Order of the Friars Minor according to the will and command of our Cardinal. Let him be the kind of person who is well known for his integrity and good manner of living. His duty shall be to correct any excesses against the form of our profession, whether these be in the head or in the members. Taking his stand in a public place, that he can be seen by others, let him speak with several and with each one concerning the matters that pertain to the duty of the visitation as he sees best.

We ask as a favour of the same Order a chaplain and a clerical companion of good reputation, of prudent discretion and two lay brothers, lovers of a holy and upright way of life, in support of our poverty, as we have always mercifully had from the aforesaid Order of Friars Minor, in light of the love of God and our blessed Francis.

Let the chaplain not be permitted to enter the monastery without a companion. When they enter, let them remain in an open place, in such a way that they can always be see each other and be seen by others. They may enter the monastery for confession of the sick who cannot go to the parlour, for their communion, for the last anointing and the prayers of the dying.

Suitable and sufficient outsiders may enter, moreover, according to the prudence of the Abbess, for funeral services, for the solemnity of Masses for the dead, for digging or opening a grave, or also for making arrangements for it.

Let the sisters be strictly bound to always have that Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church who has been delegated by the Lord pope for the Friars Minor as governor, protector, and corrector, that, always submissive and subject at the feet of that holy Church and steadfast in the Catholic faith, we may always observe the poverty and humility of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his most holy Mother and the Holy Gospel we have firmly promised. Amen.