VI - Our Life in Fraternity

79. Contemplating the sublime poverty of Christ, the King of heaven and
earth, who at His birth could not even find a small space at the inn; who
during His lifetime lodged as a pilgrim in the houses of others, and who at His
death had nowhere to lay His head; and considering further that in all other
things He was most poor, our Seraphic Father Francis, wishing to imitate and
follow Him closely, forbade his brothers to have anything of their own, so that
unencumbered, like pilgrims on earth and citizens of heaven, they might run
with spiritual fervour on their journey to God. Therefore we, wishing to
follow such a worthy example of Christ our leader, and in reality to observe
the seraphic precept of celestial poverty, we declare and determine that we
have no jurisdiction, dominion, ownership, legal possession, usufruct or legal
use of anything at all, even of the things we use of necessity, or of the places
where we live, in such a way that the true, full owners can send us away
whenever they wish, and take back anything that belongs to them.

80. Therefore we order that when the brothers wish to establish a new
house, in addition to obtaining the consent of the Provincial Chapter and the
permission of our Father General, according to the teaching of St Francis they
shall first go to the Bishop, or to his Vicar, and ask permission to take that place
in his diocese. When the permission has been obtained, and with his blessing,
they shall go to the civil authorities or to the owner and ask for the loan of a
house or a piece of land to build on. Or else they should wait until the
authorities or the owner ask them to take a house in their territory.

81. They shall be careful not to accept any place except with the protest that
they must be able to leave the place whenever this is necessary for the pure
observance of the Rule we have promised. In this way, should they leave a
place no scandal will ensue.

82. To avoid all disturbance, we order that no place shall be accepted or
abandoned, built or destroyed without the consent of the provincial Chapter
and the permission of the Reverend Father General.

83. In order that lay people may avail of our spiritual services and assist us
in our temporal needs, we order that our friaries shall not be built too far from
cities, towns or villages, nor too close to them either, lest we suffer harm from too many visits. A distance of about a mile is sufficient, but following the
example of our holy fathers, and especially of St Francis, we should prefer to
go to solitary and deserted places, rather than to fine cities.

84. Since, following the example of the Patriarchs of old, we should live in
humble and poor places, we exhort the brothers to remember the words of our
Seraphic Father in his Testament, where he forbids them on any account to
accept churches or houses built for them, unless they are in keeping with the
highest poverty.

Still less, obviously, should the brothers themselves build sumptuous
buildings, or allow them to be built. Lesser brothers must not, in order to
please the world, displease God, abuse the Rule and scandalise their
neighbours by offending against the gospel poverty they have promised to
observe. There should be a big difference between the palatial residences of the
rich, and the small dwellings of poor mendicant pilgrims and penitents.
Therefore we order that no place shall be accepted or built, or allowed to be
built, whether by us or by others, if it is not in accordance with the most high
and holy poverty we have vowed in the Rule to observe.

85. Therefore, for this purpose a small model has been constructed, and all
the houses of the Order are to be built in accordance with it.

86. Our churches shall be small and poor, but devotional, simple and very
clean. We should not want to have big churches so as to be able to preach in
them, for as our Father used to say, we give better example by preaching in the
churches of others than in our own, especially if by having them we offend
against holy poverty

87. We also order that in our churches there shall be only one small bell,
weighing about one hundred and fifty pounds. The sacristy shall be poor, with
a strong key, which one of the professed brothers shall always carry with him.
The things needed for divine worship shall be kept in that chest or cupboard:
there shall generally be two small chalices with the cup in silver and their
patens well gilded. There must be no more chalices or vestments than are
required by the needs of the place. No gold, silver or silk or any other precious
or unusual materials are to be used. Everything shall be very clean and neat,
especially the priestly vestments. Corporals and purificators shall be fine and
spotless. The candlesticks must be made of simple turned wood, and our
missals and breviaries and other books simply bound without unusual
fastenings.

88. The brothers shall be careful to ensure that among the things pertaining
to divine worship, in the buildings and furnishings we use, nothing rare,
superfluous or precious is to be found, since we know that what God wants
from us most of all, more than any other sacrifice, is the purity of the obedience
we show to Him when we live the poverty we have promised. Indeed, as Pope
Clement says in his Declaration, God takes more delight in a pure heart and in
our holy way of life than in precious, well arranged material things.
Nevertheless, we must see to it that the sublime height of poverty shines forth in everything we use, making us yearn for the riches of heaven, where all our
treasure, our delight and our glory are stored.

89. Therefore we forbid the brothers to receive anything made of gold,
silver, velvet or silk, except for the chalice, the pyx for the Blessed Sacrament,
the tabernacle, and the tabernacle veil and chalice veil. And whenever the
Father Provincial Vicars find such things on the occasion of their visitations,
they shall impose a penance on those who received them, for being disobedient
and having no love for our simple lifestyle. They are to make sure that the
objects are returned to their owners, and if they are not known, the objects are
to be given to other poor churches.

90. The cells shall not exceed nine palms in length and width, and ten in
height. The doors shall be seven palms high, and two-an-a-half palms wide.
The windows shall be two-and-a-half palms high, and one-and-a-half palms
wide. The dormitory corridor shall be six palms in width, and the height of the
refectory from floor to ceiling, either in wood or brick, shall not exceed thirteen
palms. But where the air is very bad, it can be up to fourteen palms high.
Similarly, the other offices shall be small, poor, humble and low, so that
everything preaches humility, poverty and contempt for the world. And since
palms are not all of the same size, the measure of half a palm has been added
at the end of this book, and our buildings and clothing shall be measured in
accordance with it..

91. And in order to avoid mistakes in building, either in the choice of sites,
or by making the rooms larger than the model and measurements given above,
we order that when it comes to choosing a place, the Chapter shall elect four of
the best, most suitable and zealous brothers in the Province, who shall have the
task of going, together with the Father Vicar, to take possession of the site
where the foundation is to be made, and together to provide the plans, signed
by themselves, for the construction of the house. And they shall arrange
everything wisely, in such a way that nothing is later wasted. And if a
disagreement arises among them, either about choosing the site or about
making the plans, we wish a secret vote to be taken, and the majority shall
prevail. And the Provincial shall have only one vote, like any of the fabricists.

92. Again, in order to avoid whatever might obscure the splendour of
poverty, we order that the brothers who have been entrusted by the Chapter
or by their Provincial Vicar with responsibility for buildings, are to be diligent
and careful to enjoin and observe the poor form and measurements of the
prescribed model. Any significant and unnecessary excess will be a weight on
their conscience. Let them take as their models the small houses of the poor,
not the large palaces of the rich. And all the brothers shall strive to give
manual assistance, with all humility, peace and charity, whenever they are
ordered to do so. Otherwise we expressly forbid the brothers to interfere in
having money spent on those buildings. They should leave such concerns to
those in charge of the buildings, but pointing out to them humbly and
charitably any disorder or superfluous expense of which they may be aware.
93. We also determine that if possible our houses shall have a small room
with a fireplace so that, as charity demands, hospitality can be given to
pilgrims and travellers whenever the need arises and as far as our poverty
allows, especially to religious and people dedicated to the service of God.

94. Once the buildings are finished, no Guardian may build or pull down
anything except as commanded by his Provincial Vicar, who shall keep his
eyes open, and not grant permission unless he sees that there is evident need.
And whenever the Guardian wishes to do anything substantial, he must have
the permission of the above-mentioned fabricists.

95. In addition, if there are vines or superfluous trees in the places we have
accepted they shall not be cut down without permission of the Father
Provincial Vicar. If anyone contravenes this order, if he is a Guardian he shall
take the discipline in the refectory as many times as he has cut down trees, and
eat bread and water on the floor. If he is a subject he shall take the discipline
for the same number of times, and wear the caparone for a month.

96. In order to safeguard the pure observance of the Rule, ensure the
orderly conduct of divine services and at the same time observe the highest
poverty, we order that in our already established houses there shall not be
fewer than twelve brothers. United in the name of Jesus they shall be of one
mind and heart, ever striving for greater perfection. They shall show that they
are true disciples of Christ by loving one another from the heart, bearing with
one another's defects and constantly practising the love of God and brotherly
charity, striving to give one another good example at all times and edifying
everyone. Let them likewise do violence to their own corrupt passions, not
forgetting what our Saviour says : the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and
those who do violence to themselves take it by storm.

97. The Gospel teaches that Christians (and therefore much more so we
lesser brothers, who have specially embraced the life and following of Jesus
Christ our Sovereign Lord, the unblemished mirror of the highest poverty) are
bound to remember that their heavenly Father is able and willing to provide
for them and has them in His special care. Therefore, we should not be like
pagans, who do not believe in divine providence, anxiously procuring the
things of this world with excessive concern, when God's generous hand
provides them even to the animals. Rather, as true sons of the Eternal Father,
putting aside all unspiritual anxiety, we should depend totally on that divine
generosity and abandon ourselves to God's infinite goodness. We therefore
order that in our houses no provision shall be made of anything, even the
necessities of life such as those that can be obtained daily by begging, beyond
a few days’ supply according to the needs of times and places. Fruit shall not
be gathered and stored for a long period.

98. To preclude the storing of superfluous provisions we order that no
casks or barrels shall be kept in our house, but only a few small vessels or
flasks. Where, however, because of the number of brothers their needs cannot
be supplied with the said flasks and a few barrels are required, this may be
done with permission of the Reverend Father Provincial, who will have to judge whether the need is real or not. In winter, wood may be stored for up to
two or three months more or less, according to the judgement of the provincial
Chapter.

99. And in order that the brothers' mendicant state be truly such, and not
rich or delicate or in name alone, we order that , even in Carnival time, no
meat, eggs, cheese or fish or other precious foods unbecoming our poor state
be collected for the brothers who are healthy. However, should these things be
given to us without our requesting them we may accept them according to
need. Spices of any sort are not to be used, except when this is necessary for the
sick,

100. Should any surplus food be sent to the brothers, they should receive it
with humble thanks, or else distribute it to the poor, remembering that we are
like pilgrims at the inn, living off the sins of the people, and that we shall be
called to give a detailed account of everything.

Above all the brothers must take care , when alms abound through the
favour of the great, the faith of the people or the devotion of the world, that
they do not abandon Poverty, their most holy mother, and become illegitimate
sons of St Francis. Let them remember the beautiful words he used to say: I
thank God that through His goodness and favour I have always been faithful
to my beloved spouse, Poverty, nor was I ever a robber of alms, because I
always accepted less than I needed, so that other poor people would not be
deprived of their share. To have done otherwise would be theft in the sight of
God.

101. Since voluntary poverty possesses nothing yet is rich in all things, is
happy, has no fear, no desire and can lose nothing because its treasure is
placed in the safest keeping, in order to uproot, really and truly, all occasion of
proprietorship, we determine that no brother shall have the keys to cells,
chests, desks or any other thing, except the officials who have charge of such
things and dispense them on behalf of the community as is just and reasonable.

And if any brother is found to be the proprietor of anything, he is to be
deprived of all offices in the Order. And anyone to whom this punishment
does not apply shall wear the caparone for as long as the Father Provincial
Vicar sees fit. And if anyone is found in this state at the time of death (which
God forbid), he is to be deprived of ecclesiastical burial. The same penalties of
proprietorship shall apply to anyone who disposes of books or any other thing
whatsoever outside of our houses, without the permission of the Father
Provincial Vicar or of his Guardian, and without the knowledge of the brothers
who live with him in the religious community.

102. Since we possess nothing in this world, the brothers are not allowed to
give anything to seculars without permission of the Guardians, and even they
may not dispose of any but small and worthless things without the permission
of their Provincial Vicar.
103. To relieve the needs of the sick brothers, to whom all possible and due
charity is to be shown, as our Rule and fraternal charity requires, after the
example of our Seraphic Father, who for the sake of his sick brothers was not
ashamed to ask for food publicly, we order that when any brother falls sick,
the Guardian shall immediately appoint a suitable brother to serve him in all
his needs. And if he does not do so, or if he fails the poor sick brother in other
needs, he shall be severely punished by the Provincial Vicar.

Should a change of place be appropriate it shall be seen to at once, and each
brother should consider how he would wish to be treated himself in such a
case. Let him remember what our compassionate Father clearly says in the
Rule, no mother is so tender and loving towards her only son, as each of us
should be and show compassion to our spiritual brother.