Those Who Wish to Accept Our Life and
the Formation of the Brothers
Article I: The Calling to Our Life
God, in His goodness, calls all Christian faithful in the Church to the perfection of love through different states of life in order to promote the holiness of each one and the salvation of the world. Each one must give a response of love to this call with the greatest freedom, sothat the dignity of the human person may be in harmony with the will of God. All of us should gratefully rejoice over the special divine grace of the religious calling given to us. By responding to our Capuchin Franciscan calling, we offer a public and social witness to the abiding and eternal presence of Christ’s life; we follow the poor and humble Christ, and spread His message to [all] people, especially to the poor, wherever they may be. In this way, in a brotherhood of pilgrims, of penitents in heart and deed, we devote ourselves to all in a spirit of minority and joy for the saving mission of the Church.
Concern for vocations arises above all from the brothers’ awareness that they themselves are living and offering to others a program of life that is extremely rich in human and gospel values. By embracing this life candidates develop their own humanity and offer genuine service to God and people. If we are to present convincing witness to this way of life, we ourselves must be continually renewed. All brothers should work together earnestly to foster vocations out of a desire to carry out God’s design according to our charism. Mindful of Saint Francis’ concern when he saw the growth of the primitive brotherhood, let all the brothers, especially the ministers and the individual fraternities, exert indefatigable care in recognizing and cultivating genuine vocations especially by the example of their life, prayer and speech. In this way we work together with God Who calls and chooses whomever He wishes, and we contribute to the good of the Church.
Various kinds of pastoral care for vocations should be diligently promoted, especially in circles closer to the spirit of our Order. Greater results are obtained where there are brothers specifically assigned for promoting and coordinating vocations. Let all the brothers, however, contribute to the effort as a sign of the fruitfulness of Franciscan life. To foster vocations, it is very helpfu1 to offer young people an opportunity of participating in some way in our fraternal life. This is best done in houses that, at the same time, are suitable for offering help in personal reflection. That vocations to religious life may be properly cultivated and more suitably prepared, the provincial ministers, with the consent of the definitory and, if it seems opportune, the advice of the provincial Chapter, may establish special institutes according to the needs of regions and times. They should be organized according to the norms of sound pedagogy in such a way that, in addition to science and the humanities, the students, in a manner consistent with their age, social and family backgrounds, may lead a Christian life suited to their age, spirit, and growth. [In these conditions] a vocation to religious life may be discerned and encouraged. Studies undertaken by a student should be so arranged that they can be easily continued elsewhere.
ARTICLE II: ADMISSION TO OUR LIFE
Saint Francis was concerned about the purity of our life. Discerning beforehand that his Brotherhood would grow into a large multitude, he was, at the same time, fearful of a number of unsuitable brothers. Since the Brotherhood should, therefore, increase continually in virtue, in the perfection of charity, and in spirit rather than in number, let those who wish to embrace our life be seriously screened and selected. The provincial ministers shall diligently inquire whether those who are admitted to our life meet the requirements of the universal law as well as our own for their valid and lawful admission. The following must especially be observed: a. candidates should be suited by disposition for the communal living of our gospel fraternal life; b. it should be evident that they enjoy the physical and mental health necessary to lead our life; c. candidates should show by their lives that they firmly believe what holy mother Church believes and holds and are endowed with a Catholic sense; d. it should be established that they enjoy a good reputation especially among those who know them well; e. they should be endowed with the required maturity and a fervent will, and certainty should be had that they have entered the Order to serve with sincerity God alone and the salvation of people, according to the Rule and way of the life of Saint Francis and our Constitutions; f. they should be taught according to the standards of each one’s region and there should be hope that in the future they will be able to carry out their respective duties with fruitfulness; g. especially if there is question of older candidates or of those who have already had some experience of religious life, all useful information concerning their earlier life should be obtained; h. if it be a matter of admitting secular clergy or of those who have been admitted into another institute of consecrated life or seminary, or of the re-admission of some candidates, the prescriptions of the universal law should be observed.
Christ, our most wise teacher, when responding to the young man who manifested a desire to achieve eternal salvation, said that whoever wanted to be perfect should first sell all that he had and give to the poor. His imitator Francis not only fulfilled this in deed and taught it to the others whom he received, but also decreed in the Rule that it should be observed. Let the provincial ministers, therefore, take care that these words revealed in the Holy Gospel be made known and explained to the candidates who, invited by an interior love of Christ, come to our Order. In this way, at the proper time before their perpetual profession, they may renounce their goods above all in favor of the poor. Candidates should prepare themselves interiorly for the future renunciation of goods and condition themselves for the service of all peoples, especially the poor. Let the brothers, however, avoid involving themselves in any way in these arrangements, according to the Rule. Moreover, let the candidates be ready to contribute to the entire fraternity their strengths of intellect and will as well as their gifts of nature and grace in fulfilling the duties which they accept in the service of the people of God.
In addition to the general minister, it is the responsibility of the provincial minister in each province, to receive candidates to the postulancy, novitiate and profession. He can delegate this faculty to the provincial vicar, vice provincial and superior regular. Before they admit candidates to the novitiate, superiors should consult their own council or three or four brothers named by that council. Before they can admit them to first profession and to perpetual profession, they need the consent of their council. If need be, they should also consult those who have special competence in the matter.
The master of novices is responsible for conducting the rite of receiving novices by which the novitiate begins, unless the provincial minister decress otherwise. The provincial minister himself, however, receives, in the name of the Church, the vows of the professed. He can, nevertheless, delegate another brother of the Order for this. Let the prescribed liturgical rites be observed in the reception to the novitiate and the making of profession. Religious profession is made ordinarily within the solemnity of the Mass, using the following formula approved by the Holy See for the Franciscan families: “Since for the glory of God, the Lord has given me this grace of living more perfectly and with a firm will the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I N.N., in the presence of the assembled brothers, and into your hands, Father N.N., vow for three years (or. . . year[s]) (for all the days of my life) to live in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity according to the Rule of Saint Francis confirmed by Pope Honorius III and according to the General Constitutions of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor. Therefore with all my heart I give myself to this Brotherhood that through the work of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, our Father Francis and all the saints, and with the help of my brothers I may fulfill my consecration to the service of God and of the Church.”
The nature and goal of the three gospel counsels, promised by vow at profession, is that, with a heart liberated by grace, we may be united with Christ in a chaste, poor and obedient life for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven following the footprints of Saint Francis. The gospel counsel of chastity for the Kingdom of heaven, a sign of the world to come and a fountain of a more abundant fruitfulness in an undivided heart, entails the obligation of perfect continence in celibacy. The gospel counsel of poverty in imitation of Christ, Who though he was rich was made poor, entails, in addition to a life poor in fact and in spirit, a dependence upon superiors, a limitation in the use and disposition of goods and also a voluntary renunciation, before perpetual profession, of the capacity of acquiring and possessing goods. Let [this renunciation be made] in a form which, as far as possible, is also valid in civil law. The gospel counsel of obedience, promised in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ who was obedient even to death, requires, for God’s sake, a submission of the will to legitimate superiors whenever they command according to our Constitutions “in everything that is not contrary to our conscience and the Rule.”
ARTICLE III: FORMATION IN GENERAL
Formation is the development of the brothers and fraternities in such a way that our life may daily become more conformable to the holy Gospel and to the franciscan spirit according to the requirements of places and times. This formation must be continuous, extending throughout our entire life as regards not only human values but also those of our gospel and religious life. Our integral formation looks to the entire person, especially in its psychological, religious, cultural and even professional or technical aspects. But it embraces two phases: initial and ongoing formation.
All formation is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit That gives life from within to those forming and those being formed. Active formation demands the cooperation of those being formed, who are the principal authors of and the ones responsible for their own growth. Throughout his life, every brother is at the same time the person needing to be formed and the one forming because everyone always has something to learn and to impart. This principle should be laid down as the program for formation and should be put into practice in our life. To live together as lesser brothers is a principal part of our Franciscan vocation. Therefore fraternal life should always and everywhere be a basic requirement of the formation process. In order that individual fraternities, especially those specifically formational, be capable of carrying out this primary function, it is necessary that they draw inspiration and encouragement from the primary fratemity, the provincial fraternity. Although all of the brothers are the ones forming, some brothers are required to be charged with greater responsibility for this duty. Foremost among these are the provincial minister and the guardians, who are the ordinary animators and coordinators of the formation process of the brothers. Then there are qualified formators who assume this particular duty in the name of the fraternity.
The Order shall have at its disposal the means of formation that respond to the requirements of its own charism. Since particular attention must be given to brothers in the initial stages of formation, each jurisdiction should provide adequate educational programs. The process of education requires above all a team of responsible brothers who work according to consistent norms throughout the entire journey of formation. Let such a group have the appropriate assistance of the entire fraternity. Since the Secretariate and centers of formation are of great importance, care should be taken that they be provided for and made effective. Let the General Secretariate for Formation be at the disposal of the general superiors and the superiors of the different jurisdictions, providing them assistance and information that they may promote all that pertains to formation. Likewise, let each province have a Council of Formation and, in centers of formation, let there be a brother with the particular responsibility of promoting whatever pertains to formation. Let individual provinces or groups of provinces, according to local circumstances, have their own program of formation in which the goals, plans and specific guidelines of the entire formation process are expressed.
ARTICLE IV: INITIATION INTO OUR LIFE
Initial formation into our life requires that candidates, under the guidance of formation personnel, gain the necessary experience and knowledge and gradually enter into the Franciscan Gospel way of life. During the period of initiation the formation of the candidates, which harmoniously unites the human dimension with the spiritual, should be thoroughly sound, integrated and adapted to the needs of places and times. Suitable means of education should be employed. Above all, let the candidate perform tasks and duties that gradually lead them to acquire self-control as well as psychological and emotional maturity. Taking into consideration their individual personalities and gifts of grace they should be introduced into a spiritual life that is nourished by the reading of God’s word, by active participation in the liturgy, and by personal reflection and prayer. In this way they may be drawn more and more to Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. The brothers in formation should acquire a thorough knowledge of the Capuchin Franciscan spirit and its practice not only by studying the life of Saint Francis, his mind concerning the observance of the Rule, the history and sound traditions of our Order, but, most of all, by assimilating internally and practically the life to which they are called. Let them especially cultivate fraternal living both in a community and with other people whose needs they are ready to meet, so that they may learn to live each day more perfectly in active partnership with the Church. The special initial formation of the brothers should be arranged with a view to the various duties they must perform and according to the unique circumstances and statutues of the circumscriptions. All periods of formation must be spent in fraternities that are specifically suited for living our life and for imparting formation and that have been designated for this purpose by the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory. The provincial minister, however, with the consent of the definitory, may permit the period of the postulancy to be spent outside our fraternities. The establishment, transfer and suppression of a novitiate house pertains to the general minister with the consent of the definitory and must be done in writing. In particular cases and by way of exception, the same authority may allow a candidate to make his novitiate in another house of the Order under the guidance of some approved religious who takes the place of the master of novices. A major superior can permit a group of novices to live for a certain period of time in another house of the Order designated by him.
Every brother, given to the fraternity by God, brings joy to it and, at the same time, is an incentive to renew ourselves in the spirit of our vocation. Indeed, the work of initiation rests with the entire fraternity since the candidates belong to it. However, let the provincial minister, with the consent of the definitory, determine the manner and limits within which the initiation is to take place and entrust its direction to brothers who are experienced in the spiritual, fraternal and pastoral life and are endowed with learning, prudence, discernment of spirits and knowledge of souls. The directors of postulants, novices and professed must be free from all duties that could interfere with the care and direction of the candidates. Whenever circumstances suggest, associates may be given them especially in those matters concerning the care of the spiritual life and the internal forum.
The period of initial formation begins on the day when, after being accepted by the provincial minister, one enters the fraternity and continues until perpetual profession. It is carried out according to the norms of universal law and our own. A document should be drawn up conceming this. From that day the candidate must be gradually considered a member of the fraternity in regard to his formation, life and work, in a manner to be determined by the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory. Initial formation, as the integration into our fratemity, embraces the postulancy, novitiate and postnovitiate.
The postulancy is a period of initial formation and of the choice of accepting our life. The time and different ways of this first period are determined by the provincial minister with the consent of his definitory. During this period the candidate comes to know our life, while the fraternity, on its part, comes to know the candidate better and is able to discern his calling. The formation of postulants aims primarily at completing their catechesis in the faith and includes an introduction to liturgy, methods of prayer, franciscan instruction and an initial experience of apostolic work. It must also reinforce and promote human maturity, especially emotional maturity, and an ability to discem the signs of the times in light of the Gospel.
The novitiate is the period of a more intense initiation and a more profound experience of the Capuchin Franciscan life of the Gospel according to its basic demands and presupposes a free and mature choice of religious life. The direction of the novices, under the authority of the major superiors, is reserved to one director, a brother of the Order who has professed perpetual vows. The formation of the novice should be based on the values of our consecrated life as known and lived in light of the example of Christ, the Gospel insights of Saint Francis, and the sound traditions of the Order. Let the rhythm of the novitiate respond to the primary aspects of our religious life, particularly through a special experience of faith, contemplative prayer, fraternal life, contact with the poor, and work. In order to be valid, the novitiate must comprise twelve months spent in the novitiate community itself. Its inception and form are determined by the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory. An absence from the novitiate house that exceeds three months, either continously or intermittently, renders the novitiate invalid. An absence that exceeds fifteen days must be made up. Everything else required by universal law must be diligently observed. A document is to be drawn up attesting to the beginning of the novitiate by which life in the Order begins.
The post-novitiate is the period in which the brothers, progressing further in maturity, prepare themselves for the definitive choice of our gospel life that is undertaken through perpetual profession. Since the fraternal gospel life holds the principal place in our calling, priority should also be given to it during the time of the post-novitiate. Therefore let the same religious formation be provided for all brothers for the period of time and in the manner determined by the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory. Let the brothers, according to each one’s gift and grace, apply themselves to a more profound study of sacred scripture, spiritual theology, liturgy and the history and spirituality of the Order; let them also exercise various forms of the apostolate as well as domestic work. But such formation should always be made in view of the life and careful maturation of the individual.
ARTICLE V: THE PROFESSION OF OUR LIFE
Let us frequently consider how great is the grace of religious profession. For through it we embrace, under a new and special title, a life dedicated to the honor and service of God that impels us to the perfection of charity. Firmly and more intimately consecrated to the service of God, we represent Christ united by an indissoluble bond to his spouse the Church. In order that through this consecration we may gather more abundant fruit from the grace of baptism we bind ourselves to live out the gospel counsels according to the Rule and Constitutions. In this way we intend to free ourselves from the impediments that can draw us away from perfect charity, spiritual freedom, and the perfection of divine worship. By means of profession, finally, while we enjoy a special divine gift within the life of the Church, we help its salvific mission by our witness. We, therefore, exhort the brothers to prepare themselves for profession with great care, by spiritual exercises, by an intense sacramental life, especially one that is Eucharistic, and by fervent prayer. Let this be done more intensely and in a special way before perpetual profession.
When the novitiate has been completed and the fitness of the novice has been proven, temporary profession of vows may be made for a period determined by the provincial minister with the novice himself, [and] renewed freely until perpetual profession. But if a doubt arises concerning suitability, the time of probation can be prolonged by the provincial minister although not beyond six months. If the novice is judged unsuited, let him be dismissed. Of itself the time of this profession shall not be shorter than three years nor longer than six; if it seems appropriate, however, it may be extended, but only in such a way that the entire period during which the brother is bound by temporary vows does not exceed nine years. If a brother is judged suitable and freely petitions for it, perpetual profession is made at a time determined by the provincial minister after consultation with the one making profession, safeguarding the integrity of the three years of temporary profession and never before the completion of his twenty-first year. By means of this profession a candidate is definitively incorporated into the fraternity with all rights and obligations according to the norm of the Constitutions. When the time of temporary profession is completed, a brother can depart and, if there are just causes, can be excluded from subsequent profession by the competent major superior after he has heard his council. We should observe all other prescriptions of the universal law that concern profession, especially those concerned with the disposition of goods before temporary and perpetual profession.
The religious habit is given during the rite of religious profession, even though the clothes of probation may have been previously received. Let us remember the clothes we wear must be a sign both of our consecration to God and of our minority and fraternity. Clothed as we are with the meek and humble Christ, let us not be fradulent minors but those who are sincere in heart, word and deed. The signs of humility that the brothers wear outwardly contribute little to the salvation of souls unless they are animated by a spirit of humility. Following the example of Saint Francis, therefore, let us make every effort to become good and not merely to appear so, to be the same in word and in life, within and without and, considering ourselves less than all others, as the Rule admonishes us, let us surpass others in showing respect. Our habit, according to the Rule and custom of the Order, consists of a tunic with a hood, chestnut in color, a cord and sandals, or, for a just cause, shoes. Let the brothers, as a sign of their consecration and a witness of poverty, wear the habit of the Order. The norm of pluriformity applies to the custom of wearing the beard.
At the times determined by the provincial minister with the advice of his definitory, let the local fraternity, after hearing the director’s report, conduct a communal reflection and discussion about the suitability of the candidates and its own program for dealing with them. During the novitiate and before the time of perpetual profession, the perpetually professed brothers who have lived for four months in the respective fraternity should also express their opinion by a consultative vote in the manner determined by the provincial minister. Nor should the brothers in temporary vows be overlooked; they may express their opinion even though they do not have a vote. A report is to be sent to the provincial minister concerning every such meeting and the results of the votation.
Moreover, a document of both temporary and perpetual profession is to be drawn up, together with a record of a brother’s age and other necessary information. This document should be signed by the professed, the one who receives his profession and two witnesses. This document, together with others prescribed by the Church, should be carefully kept in the provincial archives; let it also be recorded by the provincial minister in a book of professions to be kept in the archives. In the case of perpetual profession, the provincial minister should notify the pastor of the place of the baptism of the professed brother.
The faculty of dismissing a postulant or novice whom he judges unfit for our life belongs to the provincial minister and also, by special mandate, to the others mentioned in number 19. The master of novices or postulants possesses the same faculty, but with the consent of the council of the fraternity, when there is a grave reason that will not permit any delay. The provincial minister is to be notified immediately of this action. The general minister, with the consent of the definitory, can grant an indult of departure to a professed brother in temporary vows who requests it for a grave reason. This indult, ipso jure, contains a dispensation from the vows as well as from all obligations arising from profession. The prescriptions of the universal law of the Church should be observed in those other cases concerning the transfer to another institute of consecrated life or to a society of apostolic life, leaving the Order, and the dismissal of a brother after either temporal or perpetual profession.
ARTICLE VI: SPECIAL FORMATION
Saint Francis writes in the Testament: “Let those who do not know how to work, learn.” This admonition reveals a new and, in our day, more urgent meaning for us. Work can hardly be performed properly without special and adequate formation.
It is the responsibility of the Order to help every brother to develop his own grace of working. Thus, while working, let the brothers mutually encourage one another in their calling and foster the harmony of their fraternal life. Each brother according to his gifts should be formed for the various tasks that must be performed. Therefore some may learn skills and technical trades, while others may engage in pastoral or scientific studies, especially those of a sacred character.
While serving the Lord in minority, however, let all the brothers be aware that they must desire above all else to have the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity. Let the brothers take care, therefore that, while becoming skillful with their hands and well equipped intellectually, at the same time they be proficient in the special grace of working and be holy. Let them apply themselves according to their abilities to the work of special formation in a spirit of self-denial and discipline that, through the development of their personality and the cultivation of their mind, they contribute to the good of the Order, the Church and human society. Let studies, enlightened and inspired by the charity of Christ, be entirely in keeping with our life. When engaged in studies, therefore, let the brothers develop their minds and hearts in such a way that, in keeping with the intention of Saint Francis, they progress in their calling. In fact, formation for any type of work is an integral part of our religious life.
The brothers who are called to sacred orders must be taught according to the norms laid down by the Church taking into acount the nature of our brotherhood. The consent of the provincial minister and his definitory is required for the reception of sacred orders. The same care should be provided in each province for the intellectual, apostolic and technical formation of the other brothers according to each one’s gifts. Formation in philosophy and theology, especially according to franciscan teaching, should harmoniously and gradually reveal the mystery of Christ to the minds of the students. In our apostolic Order, a pastoral concern should so permeate the entire formation that all the brothers, according to each one’s abilities, may be able to proclaim by deed and word the Kingdom of God as disciples and prophets of our Lord Jesus Christ. The pastoral needs of the regions as well as the missionary and ecumenical responsibilities of the Church should be kept in mind. The provincial ministers, with the consent of the definitory, may establish in their provinces appropriate centers for the brothers’ special formation. Let them provide for this in other ways, especially through collaboration between provinces or the franciscan families in so far as local circumstances permit. However, if the brothers in the period of initial formation attend centers of instruction outside the Order according to the conditions and needs of the region or province, their Capuchin Franciscan religious formation must be meticulously supplied. The provincial ministers should take care that suitable brothers receive special training at institutes, schools and universities in the sacred sciences, as well as in the other sciences, and in the arts and technical skills, as it seems appropriate for the service of the Church and the Order.
Let those responsible for formation be aware that the brothers in formation are the principal authors of their own formation, the responsibility for which rests primarily upon them in trusting collaboration with formation personnel. In their method of teaching, in conversations with students, and in conducting classes, formation personnel should ensure that the brothers in formation acquire a living and consistent cultural development. Let them manifest diligence in preparing and presenting their lectures, under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium; let them keep up with the progress of their own disciplines and adapt their lectures to their demands. Finally, it is recommended that they exert their energies upon scholarly research, writing and publication, especially in franciscan matters. To this end, Franciscan Institutes promoted by the Order can offer assistance to these and other brothers. In addition to a central or regional library, which is highly recommended, there should be a common library in all our houses adequately supplied to meet the needs of the particular fraternity. Access to our libraries, where it is possible, should be provided for outsiders, while taking the necessary precautions.
ARTICLE VII: ONGOING FORMATION
Ongoing formation is a process of personal and community renewal and of harmonious adaptation of structures by which we continue to be capable of living our vocation according to the gospel in the actual circumstances of the time. Though it involves the person as a unified whole, ongoing formation has a two-fold dimension: spiritual conversion through a continual return to the sources of Christian life and to the primitive spirit of the Order and their adaptation to the times; and, cultural and professional renewal by means of a quasi-technical adaptation to the conditions of the times. All these contribute to greater fidelity to our vocation.
A brother who has completed the period of initial formation can hardly claim to be fully equipped for all his life. Ongoing formation, therefore, is intended for all brothers. Without a doubt, it is primarily both the personal obligation as well as the right of each brother to apply himself to his own continuing formation, since this is nothing other than a continuous implementation of our vocation. At the same time, however, this formation must be regarded as the ordinary and pastoral duty of all superiors.
Particular norms for ongoing formation should be developed in each province according to the different places and conditions of persons and times. The program should be organic, dynamic and integral, embracing the entire religious life in the light of the gospel and in the spirit of brotherhood. The manner in which our daily life is led greatly assists ongoing formation. The first revered school of formation is the daily experience of religious life, in a normal rhythm of prayer, reflection, community life and work. Moreover, extraordinary means or resources are also highly recommended, e.g., new or renewed ventures in ongoing formation, with the help of either the local or provincial fraternity, within each province or region, or with that of the Conference of Major Superiors. Our International College established in Rome is recommended for fostering the spirit of brotherhood in the whole Order, for pursuing formation and for promoting franciscan learning.
Let each brother take special care to walk worthily in the Capuchin Franciscan vocation to which he has been called by God. Therefore, all of us should strive to maintain and strengthen for ourselves and for others the gift of a religious vocation and of perseverance by faithful cooperation, prudent watchfulness and consistent prayer. Let us also beware, brothers, of apostasy of the heart which occurs when, because of tepidity, someone hides a worldly heart beneath a religious exterior, abandons the spirit and love of his vocation, and yields to a worldly spirit of pride and sensuality. Remembering the apostle’s admonition: “Do not be conformed to this world,” let us, rather, avoid whatever savors of sin and weakens religious life. After we have left the world, therefore, let us desire nothing else, let us wish for nothing else, let nothing else please us than to follow the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity and to please Him always that we may truly be brothers and men poor, meek, thirsting for holiness, merciful, clean of heart, those, in fact, through whom the world may know the peace and goodness of God.