The Rule of the
Secular Franciscan Order
of St. Francis to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (circa 1210-1215)
Concerning Those Who Do Penance
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with
their whole soul and mind, with all their strength, and love their neighbors as
themselves and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body
and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.
Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women
when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because the spirit of the
Lord will rest upon them and he will make his home and dwelling among them, and
they are the sons of the heavenly Father, whose works they do, and they are the
spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the
faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ, we are brothers to him when
we fulfill the will of the Father who is in heaven .
We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and
body through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him
through a holy life which must give light to others by example.
Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy
Father in heaven! Oh how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable
Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.
Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and
such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable
above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep and prayed
to the Father saying:
"Oh holy Father, protect them with your name whom
you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to
me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you, they
have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world.
Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not
pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will belive in me through their
word that they may be holy by being one as we are. And I desire, Father, to have
them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom."
Concerning Those Who Do Not Do Penance
But all those men and women who are not doing
penance and do not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and live
in vices and sin and yield to evil concupiscence and to the wicked desires of
the flesh, and do not observe what they have promised to the Lord, and are
slaves to the world, in their bodies, by carnal desires and the anxieties and
cares of this life.
These are blind, because they do not see the true
light, our Lord Jesus Christ; they do not have spiritual wisdom because they do
not have the Son of God who is the true wisdom of the Father. Concerning them,
it is said, " Their skill was swallowed up " and " cursed are those who turn
away from your commands ". They see and acknowledge, they know and do bad things
and knowingly destroy their own souls.
See, you who are blind, deceived by your enemies,
the world, the flesh and the devil, for it is pleasant to the body to commit sin
and it is bitter to make it serve God because all vices and sins come out and "
proceed from the heart of man " as the Lord says in the Gospel. And you have
nothing in this world and in the next, and you thought you would possess the
vanities of this world for a long time.
But you have been deceived, for the day and the
hour will come to which you give no thought and which you do not know and of
which you are ignorant. The body grows infirm, death approaches, and so it dies
a bitter death, and no matter where or when or how man dies, in the guilt of
sin, without penance or satisfaction, though he can make satisfaction but does
not do it.
The devil snatches the soul from his body with
such anguish and tribulation that no one can know it except he who endures it,
and all the talents and power and knowledge and wisdom which they thought they
had will be taken away from them, and they leave their goods to relatives and
friends who take and divide them and say afterwards, " Cursed be his soul
because he could have given us more, he could have acquired more than he did. "
The worms eat up the body and so they have lost body and soul during this short
earthly life and will go into the inferno where they will suffer torture without
All those into whose hands this letter shall have
come we ask in the charity that is God to accept kindly and with divine love the
fragrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ quoted above. And let those who do not
know how to read have them read to them.
And may they keep them in their mind and carry
them out, in a holy manner to the end, because they are spirit and life .
And those who will not do this will have to render
an account on the day of judgement before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Secular Franciscan Order
- The Franciscan family, as one among many
spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all
members of the people of God--laity, religious, and priests-- who recognize
that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of
Assisi. In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other,
they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the
life and mission of the Church.
- The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special
place in this family circle. It is an organic union of all Catholic
fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the
faithful. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit,
strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession
they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of St. Francis by
means of this rule approved by the Church.
- The present rule, succeeding Memoriale
Propositi (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV
and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and
expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its
interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the
General Constitutions and particular statutes.
The Way of Life
- The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is
this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example
of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of
his life with God and people.
Christ, the gift of the Father's love, is the
way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which
he has come to give abundantly.
Secular Franciscans should devote themselves
especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and
life to the gospel.
- Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to
encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and
sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The
faith of Saint Francis, who often said " I see nothing bodily of the Most High
Son of God in this world except his most holy body and blood," should be the
inspiration and pattern of their eucharistic life.
- They have been made living members of the
Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been
united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should
go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people,
proclaiming Christ by their life and words.
Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church
and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to
living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an
open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.
- United by their vocation as brothers and
sisters of penance, and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them
conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical
interior change which the gospel itself calls conversion. Human frailty makes
it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.
On this road to renewal the sacrament of
reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father's mercy and the source of
- As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father,
so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.
Let them participate in the sacramental life of
the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one
of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of
- The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord,
was open to his every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with
indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family.
The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating
her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.
- United themselves to the redemptive obedience
of Jesus, who placed his will into the Father's hands, let them faithfully
fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them
also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to him even in difficulties
- Trusting in the Father, Christ chose for
himself and his mother a poor and humble life, even though he valued created
things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper
spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material
needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of
the goods received for the benefit of God's children.
Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as
pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should
strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession
- Witnessing to the good yet to come and obliged
to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they
should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.
- As the Father sees in every person the features
of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular
Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of
the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and
ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with
the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of
people redeemed by Christ.
- Secular Franciscans, together with all people
of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so
that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that
anyone who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself, let
them exercise their responsibilities competently in Christian spirit of
- Let them individually and collectively be in
the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and
their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they
should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.
- Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a
sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.
- In their family they should cultivate the
Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make
of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.
By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and
wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for
his Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and
spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being
attentive to the vocation of each child.
- Moreover they should respect all creatures,
animate and inanimate, which bear the imprint of the Most High, and they
should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the
Franciscan concept of universal kinship.
- Mindful that they are bearers of peace which
must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal
harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in
everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.
Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance,
they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.
Since they are immersed in the resurrection of
Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend
toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.
Life In Fraternity
- The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into
fraternities of various levels--local, regional, national, and international.
Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various
fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and
of the constitutions.
- On various levels, each fraternity is animated
and guided by a council and minister (or president) who are elected by the
professed according to the constitutions.
Their service, which lasts for a definite
period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of
responsibility to each member and to the community.
Within themselves the fraternities are
structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions,
according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under
the guidance of their respective council.
- The local fraternity is to be established
canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign
of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for
developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening
the apostolic life of its members.
- Requests for admission to the Secular
Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council
decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.
Admission into the Order is gradually attained
through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year*, and
profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in this process of
growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive
Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes. [* changed to 18 months in USA
eff. July 2003]
Profession by its nature is a permanent
Members who find themselves in particular
difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal
Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the
Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm
of the constitutions.
- To foster communion among members, the council
should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as
meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should
adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and
encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. This communion continues with
deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.
- Regarding expenses necessary for the life of
the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity,
all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their
means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher
- As a concrete sign of communion and
coresponsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the
constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well-prepared religious for
spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the
four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been
united for centuries.
To promote fidelity to the charism as well as
observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the
fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should
take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious
superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher
fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.
Blessing of St. Francis (1226)
May whoever observes all this be filled
in heaven with the blessing of the most high Father,
and on earth with that of his beloved Son,
together with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.