The Brothers’ Life of Prayer
Prayer to God, as the breathing of love, has its origin from a movement of the Holy Spirit through which an interior person listens to the voice of God speaking to the heart.
For God, Who has loved us first, speaks to us in many ways: in all creatures, in the signs of the times, in people’s lives, in our heart, and, above all, in His Word in the history of salvation.
As we respond to God speaking to us, we achieve fullness in prayer to the extent that we move from our love of self and pass over into Christ, the GodMan, in communion with God and people.
For Christ Himself is our life, our prayer and our activity.
We truly carry on a filial conversation with the Father, therefore, when we live Christ and pray in His Spirit which cries in our heart: Abba, Father!
Since we have been more intimately consecrated for divine worship through the profession of the evangelical counsels, let us strive in freedom of spirit to pursue this life of prayer faithfully and continually .
Let us above all cultivate the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all temporal things should contribute that we may become true followers of Saint Francis who was seen not so much as praying as having totally become a prayer.
Desiring above all things the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity, praying always to God with a pure heart, let us offer people a witness of authentic prayer in such a way that they may see and sense in our faces and in the life of our fraternities the goodness and kindness of God present in the world.
Let our prayer be a special manifestation of our calling as lesser brothers.
We truly pray as brothers when we gather in mutual love in the name of Christ so that the Lord may be really in our midst.
And we truly pray as lesser ones when we live with the poor and humble Christ, presenting the cry of the poor to the father and effectively sharing their lot.
As the prophets, psalmists and Christ himself taught us, our prayer should not evade reality, but, after the example of Saint Francis, who found the Lord in a leper, let it become each day more incarned in life’s situations, in the events of history, in the popular religiosity and practices of the people, and in the particular culture of the regions.
Thus prayer and work, inspired by one and the same Spirit of the Lord, far from being opposed to each other, complement one another.
Franciscan prayer is affective, a prayer of the heart, which leads us to an intimate experience of God. When we contemplate God the Supreme Good from Whom all good flows, our hearts cannot but break in adoration, thanksgiving, admiration and praise.
Beholding Christ in all creatures, let us go throughout the world proclaiming peace and penance, inviting everyone to the praises of God as witnesses of His love.
Since we have been consecrated to the service of God by baptism and religious profession, let us place the highest value on the sacred Liturgy, which is an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, the summit of all the Church’s activity, and the source of all Christian life. Let us strive to nourish our spiritual life and that of the fraternity from the liturgy, and to open its treasures to the faithful.
For that reason, we should have the greatest respect for the mystery of the Eucharist and the Divine Office, which Saint Francis wished to shape the entire life of the brotherhood.
To this end, it will be beneficial for the fraternities to designate brothers to prepare the liturgical celebrations, so that each day, in fidelity to the liturgical norms and in their spirit, these may be ever more renewed with creativity and spontaneity.
As for the rite, the brothers should conform to the prescriptions issued by the competent ecclesiastical authority of that region in which they live.
Let us fully, consciously and actively participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice in which we celebrate the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ until He comes, holding back nothing of ourselves so that He Who gives Himself totally to us might receive us totally.
Each day a Community Mass should be celebrated in our fraternities so that it may be more obvious that in the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread we are lifted up to communion with Christ and with one another. Where this cannot be done each day, it should at least be celebrated periodically and participated in by all the brothers.
Where an individual celebration [of the Eucharist] is not necessary, it is laudable to concelebrate to manifest the unity of the sacrifice, of the priesthood and of the fraternity.
The Eucharist in which our Lord Jesus Christ is present to us under the consecrated species should be reserved in our oratories or churches in a preeminent place and manner.
Following the example of Saint Francis, let us venerate above all else Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist. With Him let us offer ourselves and our actions to God the Father, and frequently pour out devout prayers before Him Who is the spiritual center of the fratemity.
In the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in our prayers, conscious of the catholic sense of Saint Francis, let us implore God for Holy Mother Church, for those who govern us, for all peoples, and for the salvation of the whole world, especially for the whole Franciscan family and for all our benefactors. With a devout sense of charity, let us also commend to God all the deceased.
Regarding suffrages, it is decreed: a Mass for the Dead shall be celebrated by each fraternity at the death of the Roman Pontiff, of a general minister, and of a former general minister. Let the same be done for general definitors and former general definitors in each fraternity of the group to which they belonged.
It is the responsibility of the provincial chapter to determine the suffrages to be offered for deceased provincial ministers, former provincial ministers and for deceased brothers, parents and benefactors.
Every year, after the solemnity of Saint Francis, each local fratemity shall celebrate a memorial liturgy for all deceased brothers and benefactors.
The Church joins in Christ’s song of praise and intercessory prayer not only in celebrating the Eucharist but in other ways as well, especially in celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours, and it unites us to such a gift .
Therefore, let the entire fraternity gather together each day in the name of Christ to celebrate in common the Liturgy of the Hours. Where this cannot be done in its entirety, at least Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer should be celebrated in common.
It is recommended, moreover, that the brothers do the same wherever they may be or meet one another; and, according to the circumstances of the place, the Liturgy of the Hours should be celebrated with the faithful.
The local chapter, with the approval of the major superior, should arrange the schedule and work of the house in such a way that the course of the day may be sanctified by the praise of God, taking into account the special circumstances of persons, times and cultures.
Let those who cannot celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in common remember that, even when celebrating in private, they are united spiritually with the whole Church and especially with their brothers. Let those brothers who say the Office of the Lord’s Prayer privately according to the Rule, pray it with the same profound intention.
In the Liturgy of the Hours we speak to God with His words taken from Scripture and God Himself comes to meet us in His word and speaks to us.
That the word of God may penetrate our hearts more profoundly and form our entire life more effectively, let the Liturgy of the Hours be living and vibrant, with praise worthy intervals of silence that very fittingly contribute to an attentive and fruitful celebration.
In imitation of Saint Francis who frequently expressed his feelings with song and music, let the Liturgy be celebrated with song, as far as possible, at least on feast days.
Let the brothers pay attention not so much to the melody of the voice as to the harmony of the mind, so that the voice may be in harmony with the mind and the mind with God.
Let us preserve and promote that contemplative spirit that shines in the life of Saint Francis and our forebears. Therefore let us give a greater place to it by fostering mental prayer.
Authentic mental prayer leads us to the spirit of true adoration, unites us intimately with Christ, and renders the Sacred Liturgy continually efficacious in our spiritual life.
Moreover, that the spirit of prayer may never grow cold within us but be ever more inflamed from day to day, we must give ourselves to its exercise in our daily lives.
The ministers and the others to whom the care of the spiritual life is entrusted should take pains that all the brothers make progress in the knowledge and practice of mental prayer.
Let the brothers, then, draw the spirit of prayer and prayer itself from the genuine sources of Christian and Franciscan spirituality that they may acquire the eminent knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Mental prayer is the spiritual teacher of the brothers who, if they are true and spiritual lesser brothers, pray ever more interiorly. To pray, in fact, is nothing other than to speak to God with the heart; in fact, whoever speaks to God with his lips alone does not pray at all. For this reason everyone should apply himself to mental prayer or contemplation and, according to the doctrine of Christ, the best teacher, endeavor to adore the eternal Father in spirit and truth, striving earnestly to enlighten the mind and enkindle the heart rather than to formulate words.
Let the primacy of the spirit and of a life of prayer be totally brought into effect both by the fraternities and the individual brothers, wherever they may be, as the words and example of Saint Francis and sound Capuchin tradition demand.
It is of the greatest importance to form one’s conscience about the vital necessity of personal prayer. Each brother, wherever he lives, should take sufficient time every day for mental prayer, for example, an entire hour.
The provincial and local chapters should see to it that all brothers have that time necessary for mental prayer, whether this is done in common or in private.
In its chapters, let the local fraternity examine itself concerning the common and personal prayer of the brothers. Let the brothers, especially the superiors as their pastoral duty, feel themselves responsible for inspiring a life of prayer.
As disciples of Christ, although poor and weak, let us so apply ourselves to prayer that those who sincerely seek the Lord may be invited to pray with us.
Above all let us cultivate among the People of God the spirit and the development of prayer, especially interior prayer, for from the beginning this was a charism of our Capuchin Fraternity and, as history testifies, the seed of genuine renewal.
As sons of God, let us allow ourselves to be led in our prayer by the Holy Spirit so that It may make us grow day by day in communion with Father and with our brothers.
In the spirit of the Holy Gospel, let us especially reflect on and preach to the faithful the mysteries of the humanity of Christ, especially His nativity and passion in which Saint Francis marveled at the love and humility of the Lord.
Let us, in particular, venerate, especially through liturgical worship and the rosary, the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, conceived without sin, daughter and handmaid of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse of the Holy Spirit, “[the virgin] made Church,” according to the words of Saint Francis, and let us especially promote devotion to her among the people. For she is our mother and advocate, the patroness of our Order, the companion of her Son’s poverty and suffering, and, as experience witnesses, the way to arrive at the spirit of the poor and crucified Christ.
In the same way, let us venerate, according to ancient tradition, Joseph her spouse.
Let us encourage and promote, according to local custom, veneration of our holy Father Francis, the form of the minors, and of the saints, especially our own, but in a way that such veneration is always in conformity with the spirit of the sacred liturgy.
In order to renew our religious life continually, all the brothers should make an annual retreat and also have other occasional periods of recollection which might laudably be organized in various ways according to a diversity of duties.
To this end, the ministers should provide the necessary time and opportunity for each one, including those who live outside a house [of the fraternity].
Every fraternity must be truly a praying fraternity. In order to achieve this, it is useful, according to the manifold grace of God, to encourage, either in provinces or in regions, fraternities of recollection and contemplation in which brothers can devote themselves for some time to the spirit and life of prayer, as God gives them the grace.
Let those brothers, in communion with the provincial fraternity, be mindful of what Saint Francis wrote for those who wish to live religiously in hermitages.
It is the responsibility of the provincial chapter or of the Conference of Major Superiors to determine the advisability of such fraternities and to provide for their administration.
Let silence, which is the faithful guardian of the interior spirit and required by charity in community life, be held in great esteem in all our fraternities in order to preserve a life of prayer, study and recollection.
It is the responsibility of the local chapter to protect the atmosphere of prayer and recollection in our fraternities, keeping out of them whatever might impede it.
The reading of Sacred Scripture and other spiritual books is an effective means of nourishing true devotion and of fostering the experience of God. Let each brother faithfully take a sufficient period of time for himself to do such reading.
That we might always have before our eyes the way and life that we have professed, norms should be promulgated in each province concerning the public reading of Sacred Scripture, the Rule, the Testament and the Constitutions and the renewal of profession in common.