As pastor it is my desire and vision for the parish that we are all imbued with the Franciscan spirituality and to become educated as to how our friars live in fraternity.
To understand better, we will be including monthly reflections of Third Order Regular: Franciscan Rule and Life.
Prologue (Letter to the Faithful
We begin with the prologue, which is Francis’ letter to the lay faithful. People, who were called penitents, lived in their homes in the 13th century in the time of Francis. These people were both married and single and performed works of mercy. Those who were already living in community wanted to consecrate themselves as brothers and sisters in the spirit of St Francis of Assisi. They petitioned Rome in 16th century. Rome replied “you will be the Third Order Regular of St Francis of Penance”.
Prologue (Letter to the Faithful)
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, and with all their strength, (cf Mk 12:30) and love their neighbors as themselves, (cf Mt 22:39) and who despise the tendency in their humanity to sin, receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and bring forth from within themselves fruits worthy of true penance;
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” (cf Is 11:12) and the Lord will make His home and “dwelling place with them” (cf Jn 14:23). They are the children of the Heavenly Father (cf Mt 5:45) whose works they do. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (cf Mt 12:50). We are his spouses when the faithful soul is united by the Holy Spirit with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are brothers when we do the “will of the Father who is in Heaven” (cf Mt 12:50). WE are mothers when we bear Him in our hearts and bodies (cf 1 Co 6:20) with divine love and with pure and sincere consciences; and we give birth to him through a holy life which should enlighten others because of our example (Mt 5:16).
How glorious it is to have so holy and great a Father in heaven; and to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete; and to have a Brother and Son, so holy, beloved, blessed, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable over all things: Our Lord Jesus Christ who gave up his life for his sheep (cf Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father, saying “Holy Father, keep in your name (Jn 17:11) those whom You gave Me in the world; they are Yours and You gave them to Me” (Jn 17:6). And “the word which You gave Me I gave to them, and they accepted it and truly believed that it came forth from You. And they have accepted that You sent Me” (Jn 17:17). I “sanctify Myself for their sakes” (Jn 17:19). “I do not pray only for these but also for those who, through their word, will believe in Me” (Jn 17:20), may they be holy “in oneness as We are” (Jn 17:11). Father, I wish that “where I am they too may be and that they may see My glory (Jn 17:24) in Your Kingdom” (Mt 20:21).
CHAPTER 1: OUR IDENTITY
1. The form of life of the Brothers and Sisters is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, in poverty and in chastity. Following Jesus Christ after the example of St. Francis, let them recognize that they are called to make greater efforts in their observance of the precepts and counsels of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let them deny themselves (cf. Mt 16-24) as each has promised the Lord.
2. With all in the holy Catholic and apostolic Church who wish to serve the Lord, the brothers and sisters of this order are to persevere in faith and penance. They wish to live this evangelical conversion of life in a spirit of prayer, of poverty, and of humility. Therefore, let them abstain from all evil and persevere to the end in doing good because God the Son himself will come again in glory and will say to all who acknowledge, adore and serve him in sincere repentance: “Come blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” (Mt. 25:34)
3. The sisters and brothers promise obedience and reverence to the Pope and the Holy Catholic Church. In this same spirit they are to obey those called to be ministers and servants of their own fraternity. And wherever they are, or in whatever situation they are in, they should diligently and fervently show reverence and honor to one another. They should also foster unity and communion with all the members of the Franciscan family.
CHAPTER 2: ACCEPTANCE INTO THIS LIFE
4. Those who through the Lord’s inspiration come to us desiring to accept this way of life are to be received kindly. At the appropriate time, they are to be presented to the ministers of the fraternity who hold responsibility to admit them.
5. The ministers shall ascertain that the aspirants truly adhere to the catholic faith and the Church’s sacramental life. If they are found to have a vocation they are to be initiated into the life of the fraternity. Let everything pertaining to this gospel way of life be explained to them, especially these words of the Lord: “If you wish to be perfect (Mt. 19:21) go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” And “if anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)
6. Led by the Lord, let them begin a life of penance conscious that all of us must be continuously and totally converted to the Lord. As a sign of their conversion and consecration to gospel life they are to clothe themselves plainly and to live in simplicity.
7. When their initial formation is completed they are to be received into obedience promising to observe this life and rule always. Let them put aside all attachment as well as every care and worry. Let them only be concerned to serve, love, adore, and honor the Lord God, as best they can, with single heartedness and purity of intention.
8. Within themselves let them always make a dwelling place and home for the Lord God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that with undivided hearts, they may increase in universal love by continually turning to God and to neighbor. (Jn 14:23)
CHAPTER 3: THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER
9. Everywhere and in each place, and in every season and each day the brothers and sisters are to have a true and humble faith. From the depths of their inner life let them love, honor, adore, serve, praise, bless and glorify our most high and eternal God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With all that they are let them adore Him because “We should pray always and not lose heart” (Lk 18:1): this is what the Father desires. In this same spirit let them also celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in union with the whole Church.
The sisters and brothers whom the Lord has called to the life of contemplation (Matthew 6:31), with daily renewed joy, should manifest their special dedication to God and celebrate the Father’s love for the world. It was He who created and redeemed us, and by His mercy alone shall save us.
10. The brothers and sisters are to praise the Lord, the king of heaven and earth, (Mt. 11:25) with all his creatures and to give Him thanks because, by his own will and through his only Son with the Holy Spirit, He has created all things spiritual and material and made us in his own image and likeness.
11. Since the sisters and brothers are to be totally conformed to the Gospel, they should reflect and keep in their hearts the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the word of the Father, as well as the words of the Holy Spirit which are spirit and life (Jn 6:63).
12. Let them participate in the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ and receive His Body and Blood with great humility and reverence remembering the words of the Lord: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (Jn 6:54). “Moreover, they are to show the greatest possible reverence and honor for the most sacred name, written words and most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things in heaven and on earth have been brought to peace and reconciliation with Almighty God (Col.1:20).
13. Whenever they commit sin the brothers and sisters, without delay, are to do penance interiorly by sincere sorrow and exteriorly by confessing their sins to a priest. They should also do worthy deeds that manifest their repentance. They should fast and always strive to be simple and humble, especially before God. They should desire nothing else but our Savior who offered himself in his own Blood as a sacrifice on the altar of the Cross for our sins giving us example so that we might follow in his footsteps.
CHAPTER 4: THE LIFE OF CHASTITY FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM
14. Let the brothers and the sisters keep in mind how great a dignity the Lord God has given them because He created them and formed then in the image of His beloved Son according to the flesh and in His own likeness according to the Spirit. Since they are created through Christ and in Christ, they have chosen this form of life which is founded on the words and deeds of our Redeemer.
15. Professing chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, they are to care for the things of the Lord and they have nothing else to do except to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him. In all of their works the love of God and all people should shine forth.
16. They are to remember that they have been called by a special gift of grace to manifest in their lives that wonderful mystery by which the Church is joined to Christ her spouse.
17. Let the brothers and sisters keep the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever before their eyes. Let them do this according to the exhortation of St. Francis who held Holy Mary, Lady and Queen, in highest veneration since she is the virgin made church. Let them also remember that the immaculate Virgin Mary, whose example they are to follow, called herself the handmaid of the Lord.
CHAPTER 5: THE WAY TO SERVE AND WORK
18. As poor people, the brothers and sisters to whom the Lord has given the grace of serving or working with their hands, should do so faithfully and conscientiously. Let them avoid that idleness which is the enemy of the soul. But they should not be so busy that the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, which all earthly goods should foster, is extinguished.
19. In exchange for their service or work they may accept anything necessary for their own temporal needs and for that of their sisters and brothers. Let them accept it humbly as is expected of those who are servants of God and seekers of most holy poverty. Whatever they may have over and above their needs they are to give to the poor. And let them never want to be over others. Instead they should be servants and subjects to every human creature for the Lord’s sake. (1 Pet. 2:13)
20. Let the sisters and brothers be gentle, peaceful and unassuming, mild and humble, speaking respectfully to all in accord with their vocation. Wherever they are, or wherever they go throughout the world they should not be quarrelsome, contentious, or judgmental towards others. Rather, it should be obvious that they are joyful, good humored, and happy in the Lord as they ought to be. And in greeting others, let them say,
“The Lord give you peace.”