Our Life in Poverty
ARTICLE I: OUR COMMITMENT TO POVERTY
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who receives everything from the Father and, with the Father, communicates everything in the Spirit, was sent to evangelize the poor. Although He was rich, for our sake He was made poor and in our likeness that by His poverty we might become rich.
From His birth in a manger until His death on a cross He loved the poor and, as an example for His disciples, bore witness to the love of the Father Who seeks them.
The Church recognizes voluntary poverty, especially in religious, as a sign of the following of Christ and proposes Saint Francis as a prophetic image of evangelical poverty.
Through our poverty for the sake of the Kingdom of God we participate in the filial attitude of Christ toward the Father and in His condition of being a brother and servant among people.
Evangelical poverty embraces availability in love, conformity with the poor and crucified Christ Who came to serve, and leads to solidarity with the little ones of this world.
Let us not make the gifts of nature and grace our own as if they were given only for ourselves, but let us strive to use them entirely for the benefit of the People of God.
Let us use temporal things with gratitude by sharing them with the indigent and, at the same time, by giving an example of the proper use of things to people who desire them excessively.
We will truly proclaim to the poor that God Himself is with them in so far as we share in their lot.
Since evangelical poverty is a very great commitment of our way of life, let us deliberate in general, provincial and local chapters on how to observe it more faithfully each day in ways that are adapted to the changing times and, therefore, always in need of reform.
Chapters should consider in a special way the social use of the goods entrusted to [our] fraternities, whether money, houses or lands, that we might willingly commit ourselves to use them for the advantage of others.
For, in order that our individual and communal poverty be authentic, it must be a manifestation of an interior poverty that needs no explanation.
Poverty demands a frugal and simple way of life in clothing, food, dwellings, and a renunciation of every form of social, political and ecclesiastical power.
Let us live in conscious solidarity with the countless poor of the world and, through our apostolic labor, lead Christian people especially to works of justice and charity that further the development of peoples.
Those who, in the particular circumstances of a region, urge the poor to social and cultural development and to an eschatological hope by living with them, sharing their lot and their aspirations are worthy of praise.
Let us preserve a common life and willingly share among ourselves whatever we receive as individuals.
All [those] goods that in any way come to us, including salaries and pensions, insurance policies and grants, should be handed over for the use of the fraternity, so that individuals may receive from the fraternity the same food, clothing and other necessities.
Let superiors give the other brothers an outstanding example of the observance of poverty and promote its observance among them.
ARTICLE II: POVERTY CONCERNING
GOODS AND MONEY
Let us observe the poverty we have professed, remembering of the mind and words of Saint Francis: ‘Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.’
Therefore, as pilgrims and strangers in this world, while we are on our way to the Land of the Living, let us serve the Lord in poverty and humility.
Let us use temporal goods for the necessities of life, for the apostolate, and for works of charity, especially for the poor.
Superiors, whether personally or through others, can perform civil acts concerning temporal goods, if and when this may be necessary for the brothers or for the works entrusted to us.
The major superiors should designate the physical or juridical persons in whose name the goods entrusted to us may be registered before the civil law.
As children of the eternal Father, putting aside anxious care, let us place our confidence in divine providence and entrust ourselves to His infinite goodness.
Therefore we should not be immoderately preoccupied about goods, even about what is necessary for food.
Let us acquire the means and resources for the necessities of our life and apostolate, especially by our own labor.
When these are inadequate, let us confidently have recourse to “the table of the Lord” according to the laws of the universal and particular Church. Let this be done in such a way that, while we seek donations from people, we give them a witness of poverty, fraternity and franciscan joy.
Saint Francis, according to his own charism of poverty and minority in the Church, commanded his sons not to accept money in any way in as much as it is a sign of riches, a danger of greed, and an instrument of power and domination in the world.
But since the use of money is necessary because times have changed, the brothers, wishing to fulfill the intention of their Father, may use money only as an ordinary means of exchange and social life, necessary even for the poor, and according to the norms of the Constitutions.
Superiors, who by office have the responsibility of caring for the needs of the brothers, may use money for the necessities of life as well as for works of the apostolate and charity.
For the same reasons the other brothers, with the permission of the superior, can use money with the obligation of accounting for it.
But for everyone, whether superiors or not, the use of money must be such that it does not exceed the degree appropriate to those who are truly poor.
To safeguard poverty, the brothers should not have recourse to their friends, relatives or neighbors for money or other things without permission.
In compliance with the norms promulgated by the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory, it is lawful for superiors to use insurance policies and other forms of social security where this is prescribed by ecclesiastical or civil authority for everyone or for those of certain professions or where such things are commonly used by the poor of the area.
But let them diligently avoid all those forms of security which have the appearance of affluence or profit-making in the area in which they live.
It is appropriate, however, that they, like people of modest means, invest whatever money is really necessary for them in banks and similar institutions, even at a moderate rate of interest.
But they may not accept foundations, perpetual legacies or inheritances that have perpetual rights and obligations attached to them.
Let the brothers show people by their life that voluntary poverty liberates them from greed, the root of all evil, and from anxious concern for tomorrow.
Therefore, superiors should carefully avoid every accumulation or speculation in the use of money, although modest financial security may be maintained.
For every use of goods, including money, the provinces, fraternities and brothers should use as a precise and practical criterion: the minimum necessary, not the maximum allowed.
That we may not become degenerate sons of Saint Francis by keeping things unjustly, the goods not needed by a fraternity should be handed over either to the major superiors for the needs of the jurisdiction, or to the poor, or for the development of peoples, according to the norms established by the provincial chapter. Let the local chapter frequent make a common reflection on these matters.
Let the brothers initiate in the local chapter a reflection on the correct use of goods, recreation, the accumulation of clothes, personal gifts, travelling, and similar things according to the mind of the Constitutions.
The individual fraternities of the same area and even the provinces of the Order should be ready to share their goods or necessities among themselves and with others in cases of necessity.
It is the responsibility of the general minister with the consent of the definitory to dispose of the surplus goods of the provinces.
The other prescriptions of the universal law concerning contracts and alienation [of property] should be exactly observed.
Article III: Poverty in Our Buildings
We must spend our lives in humble and poor dwellings, always living there as pilgrims and strangers.
In choosing the site of a new house, we should keep before our eyes our life of poverty, the spiritual good of the brothers, and the various ministries that must be exercised. Let the dwellings be arranged in such a way that they do not appear inaccessible to anyone, especially to the lowly.
Nevertheless, let houses be suited to the needs and ministries of the fratemity, and conducive to prayer, work and fraternal life.
The construction, acquisition and alienation of our houses pertains to the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory, while observing the prescriptions of the law.
When the construction of houses has been completed, a local superior may not construct or demolish anything or enlarge a building without consulting the local chapter and obtaining the consent of the councilors and the permission of the major superior.
The local superior should carefully provide for the maintenance of the house and the care of the property obtaining the consent of the councilors in matters of greater importance.
Churches should be simple, becoming and clean.
Let great care be taken to see that they are appropriate for celebrating liturgical functions and eliciting the active participation of the faithful.
Sacristies must be suitable and sufficiently provided with sacred furnishings.
Everything that is used for divine worship should be becoming and in conformity with liturgical norms without offending poverty and simplicity.
ARTICLE IV: THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOODS
For the administration of money and other goods, treasurers should be appointed in the general and provincial curias by the respective major superior with the consent of the definitory.
Individual houses may also have local treasurers, appointed by the provincial ministers with the consent of the definitory. The office of treasurer in larger houses should ordinarily be distinct from that of the superior.
Treasurers should be truly qualified and fulfill their office under the direction and vigilance of the respective superior according to the norms of law and to prescriptions of the definitory.
AIl treasurers, administrators and local superiors should give an exact account of their administration to their respective superiors, local councilors and local chapter at a time and in a manner determined by the major superiors.
When they make their triennial report, the provincial ministers shall draw up a document signed by the definitory and present it to the general minister. This should contain an accounting of the financial situation of the province so that its needs may be appropriately provided for and the observance of poverty effectively supervised.
Vice provincials and superiors regular should also provide a financial statement for their respective major superiors, signed by the councilors if this can be conveniently arranged.
The general minister should provide a statement on the financial condition of the Order at the general chapter in a manner deterrnined by the chapter itself.
Major superiors shall do the same at their respective chapters.
As far as possible, let the administration of goods be entrusted to lay people, especially when it pertains to social or charitable works in which the brothers are only spiritual directors.
The prescriptions of the universal law should be scrupulously observed in the administration of goods.
It is recommended that one or more committees on financial matters be established in the provinces and vice provinces. Their function will be to offer advice concerning the administration of goods, and the construction, maintenance and alienation of houses.
The chapter establishes these commissions and also determines their competence. However, the major superior with the consent of the council apponits their members, some of whom may be lay people .
After consulting the major superiors or, if necessary, the Conference of Major Superiors, the general minister with the consent of the definitory is to establish limits, according to the differing values of currencies, beyond which major superiors are bound to ask either the consent of the council or the permission of the superior given in writing before contracting obligations, alienating goods or making extraordinary expenses.
The major superior, with the consent of the Council, shall do the same with appropriate adaptations for the local superiors of his territory.
Expenses are considered extraordinary, however, that are unnecessary either for the major superior to exercise his office or for the ordinary service of the brothers or for the local superior in those matters that do not pertain to the ordinary care of the fraternity entrusted to him.
Called to the gospel way of poverty, let us accustom ourselves to being in need after the example of Christ and mindful of Saint Francis who wished to be poor in such a way that, liberated from all things and from the chains of the heart, he might give himself completely to the Father Who cares for us all.
Let us not wish to be numbered among those who go by the ficticious name of “poor” who love to be poor in such a way as to lack nothing.
Let us acknowledge that Gospel poverty and its perfection consist principally in being totally available to God and people.
Therefore, let us not cling to earthly goods with an inordinate affection so that we may use this world as though not using it for the glory of the Father and the good of His children.