The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way: for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. The Lord Himself led me among them and I showed a heart full of mercy to them. When I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body. Afterwards I tarried a little and left the world.
The Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would pray with simplicity in this way and say: ‘We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the whole world and we praise You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.’
Afterwards the Lord gave me, and gives me still, such faith in priests who live according to the rite of the holy Roman Church because of their orders that were they to persecute me, I would still want to have recourse to them. If I had as much wisdom as Solomon and found impoverished priests of this world, I would not preach in their parishes against their will. I desire to respect, love and honor them and all others as my lords. I do not want to consider any sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them and they are my lords. I act in this way because, in this world, I see nothing corporally of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood which they receive and they alone administer to others. I want to have these most holy mysteries honored and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places. Wherever I find our Lord’s most holy names and written words in unbecoming places, I want to gather them up and I beg that they be gathered up and placed in a becoming place. We must honor all theologians and those who minister the most holy divine words and respect them as those who minister to us spirit and life (cf. Jn 6:63).
After the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel. I had this written down simply and in a few words and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me. Those who came to receive life gave whatever they had (cf. Tob 1:3) to the poor and were content with one tunic, patched inside and out, with a cord and short trousers. We desired nothing more. We clerical brothers said the Office as other clerics did; the lay brothers said the Our Father; and we quite willingly remained in churches. We were simple and subject to all.
I worked with my hands and I still desire to work; and I earnestly desire all brothers to give themselves to honest work. Let those who do not know how to work learn, not from desire to receive wages, but for example and to avoid idleness. When we are not paid for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door. The Lord revealed a greeting to me that we should say: ‘May the Lord give you peace.’
Let the brothers be careful not to receive in any way churches or poor dwellings or anything else built for them unless they are according to the holy poverty we have promised in the Rule. As pilgrims and strangers, let them always be guests there (cf. 1 Pet 2:11).
I strictly command all the brothers through obedience, wherever they may be, not to dare to ask any letter from the Roman Curia, either personally or through an intermediary, whether for a church or another place or under the pretext of preaching or the persecution of their bodies. But, wherever they have not bee received, let them flee into another country to do penance with the blessing of God.
I firmly wish to obey the minister general of this fraternity and the other guardian whom it pleases him to give me. I so wish to be a captive in his hands that I cannot go anywhere or do anything beyond obedience and his will for he is my master. Although I may be simple and infirm, I nevertheless want to have a cleric always with me who will celebrate the Office for me as it is prescribed in the Rule.
Let all the brothers be bound to obey their guardians and to recite the Office according to the Rule. And if some might have been found who are not reciting the Office according to the Rule and want to change it in some way or who are not Catholics, let all the brothers, wherever they may have found one of them, be bound through obedience to bring him before the custodian of that place nearest to where they found him. Let the custodian be strictly bound through obedience to keep hin securely day and night as a man in chain, so that he cannot be taken from his hands until he can personally deliver him into the hands of his minister. Let the minister be bound through obedience to send him with such brothers who would guard him as a prisoner until they deliver him to the Lord of Ostia, who is the Lord, the Protector and the Corrector of this fraternity.
Let the brothers not say: ‘This is another rule.’ Because this is a remembrance, admonition, exhortation and my testament which I, little brother Francis, make for you, my blessed brothers, that we might observe the Rule we have promised in a more Catholic manner.
Let the minister general and all the other ministers and custodians be bound through obedience not to add to or take away from these words. Let them always have this writing with them together with the Rule. In all the Chapters they hold, when they read the Rule, let them also read these words. I strictly command all my cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or upon these words saying: ‘They should be understood in this way.’ But as the Lord has given me simply and purely to speak and write the Rule and these words, may you understand them simply and without gloss and observe them with a holy manner of working until the end.
Whoever observes these things, let him be blessed in heaven with the blessing of the Most High Father and on earth with the blessing of His Beloved Son with the Most Host Spirit the Paraclete and all the powers of heaven and all the saints. And, as far as I can, I, little brother Francis, your servant, confirm for you, both within and without, this most holy blessing.
An Exhortation of Our Father Saint Francis
O dearly beloved brothers and children ever-blessed,
Listen to me, listen to the voice of your Father:
Great things have we promised, greater things are promised to us.
Let us observe the former, and aspire to the latter.
Pleasure is brief, punishment is eternal.
Short the suffering, eternal the glory.
Many have been called, few have been chosen;
Everyone will be rewarded according to his merit. Amen.