Our Life in Fraternity
Jesus Christ, the first born among many brothers, fashions a true brotherhood out of the human race.
He is present as the bond of unity in the midst of those who gather together in his name.
The Church, as the community of all believers, favors institutes whose members renew fraternal harmony in a sharing of life and charity.
In such a way not only does the human dignity of the children of God develop in freedom, but apostolic efficacy is strengthened as well.
Inspired by God, Saint Francis initiated a gospel form of life that he called a brotherhood according to the example of the life of Christ and his disciples.
We who profess this form of life, therefore, truly constitute an Order of brothers.
For this reason, united by faith in God our Father and nourished at the table both of the divine word and the Eucharist, we love one another that the world may know we are Christ’s disciples.
Article I: The Cultivation of Fraternal Life
As brothers given to each other by the Lord and endowed with different gifts, let us accept one another with a grateful spirit. For this reason, wherever we may be gathered together in the name of Jesus, let us be of one heart and one mind, always striving to advance to greater perfection. As true disciples of Christ, let us love one another from the heart, bearing one another’s burdens and faults, applying ourselves without interruption to divine love and fraternal charity, striving to give an example of virtue to one another and to everyone, and doing violence to our own passions and evil inclinations.
Let us cultivate mutual dialogue, sharing experiences with confidence and manifesting our needs to one another. Moreover, let the spirit of brotherly understanding and sincere esteem permeate everyone.
By reason of the same vocation the brothers are equal. For this reason, according to the Rule, Testament and earliest custom of the Capuchins, let all of us be called brothers without distinction.
The precedence necessary for the service of the fraternity flows from the responsibilities and roles actually exercised.
Moreover, within the Order, province and local fraternity, all offices and responsibilities are to be available to all brothers, although paying attention to those which require sacred orders.
Everyone should help the another according to the gifts he has received, even in daily household chores.
Let us take care that, in our fraternities, differences of age contribute to a harmony of spirit and a mutual enrichment.
Signs of loving care and gratitude should be shown to the brothers of advanced age.
Let the young brothers show proper esteem for the older ones and willingly profit from their experience.
Let the older brothers, however, try new and sound forms of life and activity and let both, [young and old], shere their unique treasures with one other.
When a brother falls sick, the superior should immediately provide with fraternal charity all that is necessary for his body and soul, according to the example and teaching of Saint Francis, and entrust the sick brother to the care of a competent brother and, if necessary, to a doctor.
There should be an infirmary located in an accessible part of the house even outside the enclosure.
In provinces where it seems useful, a provincial infirmary may be established.
Let each brother, reflecting that the person of Christ is hidden in the sick, consider what he would wish to be done for him in case of sickness and recall what Saint Francis wrote in the Rule: no mother is as tender and caring toward her son, as each one of us should be toward our spiritual brother.
Therefore, each one should strive to take care of a sick brother, visit him willingly and comfort him fraternally.
Let the superior frequently and fraternally visit the sick brother and not neglect to provide for his soul, either personally or by means of another, and, if he knows that he is seriously ill, to inform him of the gravity of his situation with prudence and prepare him for the sacraments.
The sick brothers should remember our position as lesser brothers.
Let them leave their care to the doctor and to those who nurse them, so that they do not violate holy poverty with injury to their soul but give thanks to the Creator for everything.
Let them remember that they are called, in accordance with their vocation, to a willing acceptance of sickness and infirmity in order to be made more fully conformable to the suffering Christ and to strive to experience with a heart centered on God some small part of His passion. Let them imitate St. Francis who praised the Lord for those who patiently endure trials and infirmity according to His most holy will. Let them also remember that, by filling up in their own body what is lacking in the suffering of Christ the Redeemer, they can contribute to the salvation of the People of God as well as to the evangelization of the whole world, and strengthen fraternal life.
Superiors should constantly foster common life.
In establishing fraternities, whether in our own houses or in rented dwellings, they should consider the different personalities of the brothers and the necessities of life and apostolate, fostering in this way the work of the whole.
While favoring access to our houses or dwellings, the entrance of outsiders should be so regulated with prudence and discretion that an atmosphere conducive to privacy, prayer and study may be safeguarded.
An enclosure or an area reserved for the brothers alone should be maintained in our houses in order to safeguard religious life.
However, where an enclosure cannot be maintained because of particular circumstances, the major superior with the consent of his council shall provide norms adapted to the local circumstances.
It pertains to the major superior to determine the precise boundaries of the enclosure or to change them for legitimate reasons and remove it for a time.
The local superior can dispense from [the enclosure] in urgent cases per modum actus.
In order to encourage the quiet demanded for prayer and study, let those who enter our houses be ordinarily received in visiting rooms that are furnished according to requirements of simplicity, prudence and hospitality.
Let our fraternities not confine their charity within the walls of the house but rather, according to the unique character of each house, be open to peoples’ needs with a gospel concern.
Laymen who wish to share more in our life whether for prayer, fraternal exchange or an apostolate may be admitted to the fraternity.
If it is to be a temporary stay, consent of the local chapter should be had; but if the stay is to be protracted, the consent of the major superior is also required.
The major superior with the consent of the council may admit laymen perpetually dedicated to God as members of a family, after drawing up an agreement before hand concerning their mutual rights and obligations.
The fraternity itself by means of a common reflection under the direction of the superior, should supervise its use of the social means of communication so that poverty, a life of prayer, fraternal life and work are all protected and the good and activity of all [these media] serve.
Let them use these media with moderation and mature discrimination; those that are dangerous to faith, morals and religious life should be studiously avoided.
Let the brothers, especially the superiors, take care that accomplishments ofgreater importance,whether in the fraternities, provinces or the entire Order be made known by appropriate means.
Before leaving the house, the brothers should ask permission of the superior according to the custom of the province.
As for undertaking journeys, let each brother, before asking permission, conscientiously weigh the reasons in light of our state of poverty, spiritual and fraternal life, and the witness given to people.
Superiors should use prudence in giving permission for traveling. It is the responsibility of the general minister with the consent of the definitory to issue norms regarding permission to travel for the whole Order; and of the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory for his province.
The norms of universal law shall be observed when it is a matter of living outside a house of the fraternity for an extended period.
Let the brothers be mindful of our state of poverty and humility in the use of the means of transportation.
Judgment about the appropriateness of having vehicles useful for a ministry, office or service of a fraternity as well as about their use belongs to the provincial minister, after listening to the definitory.
Let all the brothers who visit us be received with fraternal charity and a joyful spirit.
Wherever possible, brothers who are travelling should willingly stay in houses of the Order, at least for passing the night.
Of their own accord let them show the superior letters of obedience, share in the life of the fraternity and conform to the customs of the place.
As far as possible, they should inform the superior in advance of their arrival.
Brothers who have been sent to other provinces for formation or other reasons should be received by the ministers and the local fraternity as their own members; they should adapt completely to the fraternity attentive to the prescriptions of number 133,5 of the Constitutions.
But if brothers, for reasons of study, stay for a long time in a house of another province, the major superiors of those involved may fraternally come to an agreement about payment for living expenses.
Brothers who, in particular circumstances, must live outside a house [of the fraternity] with the blessing of obedience, enjoy the benefits of that fraternity to which they have been assigned since they are members of it.
They should always feel united to the fraternity and, in turn, not neglect to contribute to the spiritual growth and economic support of the Order.
As true brothers in Saint Francis, let them visit our houses and love to stay there for a while especially for reasons of spiritual recollection.
Let them be received with charity and offered whatever spiritual and material help they need.
The provincial and local superiors should care for them with fraternal sollicitude and visit and encourage them frequently.
Major superiors especially are encouraged to observe justice and gospel charity toward brothers returning to the world.
The variety of religious groups, which has developed by the plan of God for the good of the Church, flourishes as well within one and the same franciscan spiritual family so that the charism of the Founder may spread and exercise its vigor through many brothers and sisters, including the Secular Order.
Let us live, therefore, in a brotherly communion of the same spirit and willingly promote through mutual cooperation the study and common initiatives of franciscan life and activity.
We should cultivate a special bond with our sisters who, in the contemplative life, offer a sacrifice of praise each day, seek to hold fast to God in solitude and silence, and promote the Church with a hidden apostolic fruitfulness. After consulting the major superior, the general minister with his definitory will collegially decide the matter of associating a monastery of Capuchin Poor Clares with our Order according to the norms of canon 614 ff. The major superior enjoys real authority over the associated monastery as determined by the Constitutions of these sisters. In the same way let us be united with fraternal affection with those religious institutes that are spiritually united with our Order.
Let us properly fulfill our religious and familial responsibilities to our parents, relatives, benefactors, supporters and all those who belong to our spiritual family; and let us commend them to God in our community prayers.
Within the ambit of the franciscan family, the Secular Franciscan Fraternity or Order occupies a special place that both shares and promotes its authentic spirit. It should be esteemed as necessary for the fulness of the franciscan charism.
In it, the brothers and sisters, moved by the Holy Spirit, are prompted to attain the perfection of charity in their secular state by professing to live the Gospel after the manner of Saint Francis.
The Secular Franciscan Order, united to our Order by its origins, history and sharing of life, has been entrusted to our care by the Holy See.
Let the brothers, therefore, be eager to show from their heart a truly brotherly attitude for members of the Secular Order, nourish by their example fidelity to the gospel life, and effectively foster the Order itself among the secular clergy and the laity.
Our superiors have the right to establish fraternities of the Secular Franciscan Order in all our houses and elsewhere, observing theprescriptions of law. Let them be vigilant so that a true, vital sharing be fostered between the fraternities of our Order and those of the Secular Order.
Superiors should take care that by sharing and coordinating resources with the other franciscan families continual and zealous spiritual and pastoral assistance be provided for the Secular Franciscan Fraternity especially through suitable brothers properly assigned to this ministry according to the norms of its particular legislation and the universal law.
Let the brothers willingly offer spiritual assistance to this Order. Always mindful of its secular status, they should not interfere in its internal government, excepting in cases mentioned in law.
As a sign of co-responsibility, the governing board of the respective Secular Franciscan fraternities should be consulted whenever it is a matter of appointing spiritual assistants or of establishing fraternities.
Likewise, let all associations cultivating the spirit of Saint Francis, especially those of young people, be promoted and assisted spiritually. Let our houses become centers of fraternal gathering and inspiration for all, clergy and laity, who wish to follow the footprints of Christ under the direction of Saint Francis.
Christ, himself a pilgrim on earth, at the last judgement will say to those on his right: ‘I was a stranger and you made me welcome.’
Saint Francis desired as well that anyone who came to our houses would be received with kindness. Therefore let us welcome everyone with the greatest charity, especially the afflicted and the unfortunate, and help them in their needs.
Let those whom we are permitted to receive into our houses according to local circumstances, especially priests and religious, be treated by the fraternity with total graciousness.
ARTICLE II: THE LIFE OF THE BROTHERS IN THE WORLD
Greatly rejoicing in the created and redeemed world, Saint Francis felt united by a fraternal bond not only to people but to all creatures as well, as he himself celebrates with wonderful praise in the Canticle of Brother Sun.
Enlightened by such contemplation, let us admire and protect the works of creation of which Christ is the beginning and the end. These become even more transparent through scientific research and lead us to adore the Father in his wisdom and power.
Therefore we should have great esteem for all that human genius has drawn forth from created things, especially in works of culture and art in which God reveals His gifts to us.
In the mystery of Christ, let us also gaze upon the world of people which God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son.
For, although weighed down by many sins, yet endowed with great opportunities, [the world] provides the living stones that are used in the building of the dwelling-place of God that is the Church.
Through divine inspiration, Saint Francis recognized that he had been sent to reform peoples in a newness of life.
Initiating a new form of gospel life, therefore, though no longer of the world, he, nevertheless, remained in the world and wished that his fraternity would also live and work among people to bear witness by deed and word to the joyful message of gospel conversion.
Therefore, since we participate in his mission, let us live in the midst of the world as a gospel leaven so that people, seeing our fraternal life centered in the spirit of the beatitudes, may realize that the Kingdom of God has already begun in their midst.
In this way we will be present in the world to serve the living God and, in charity, humility and franciscan joy, we will devote ourselves to promoting the peace and well-being of the world and of the Church .
According to the spirit of Saint Francis, let us not only proclaim by word but spread peace and salvation as well by deeds inspired by fraternal charity.
Moved by this spirit, let us attempt, in a gospel manner, to guide into a peaceful and stable way of life those divided by hatred, jealousy, contrasting ideologies, class, race and nationality.
Therefore, let us blend the energies latent in our fraternity with those initiatives and institutions, whether they be national or international, that appropriately work vigorously for the unity of the human race, universal justice and peace.
Trusting above all in the providence of God, let us so walk in the world with hope and Franciscan joy that the confidence of our contemporaries may be strengthened.
Freed from the useless anxieties of the present age, and as collaborators with divine providence, let us feel obliged to relieve the needs of the poor by our action and, especially in times of public disaster, to offer the services and goods of the fraternity to all the needy.
After the example of Saint Francis, who had great compassion for the poor, and the founders of the Capuchin fraternity, who helped those suffering from the plague, we should live dose to brothers in need, especially the sick, eager to offer fraternal service to them.
Knowing that divine providence is revealed to peoples not only through events and deeds, but also through currents of thought and ideologies that are valued as signs of the times, we should look upon them with an open and confident spirit so that we might cooperate with God who acts in the history of the world and in the evolution of society.
Thus, living the truth in charity, we will be witnesses of hope in the Lord God and collaborators of people of good will whom we will guide to recognize God the almighty Father and the Supreme Good.