VII - The Brothers' Life in Penance

104. In order to avoid danger from Prelates and subjects, and to banish all
occasion of distraction, so that being composed and recollected in Christ we
may run the race to our heavenly Fatherland unhindered and in greater
security, we order that our Congregation shall at no time accept to hear the
confessions of seculars of whatever sex, rank, state or condition, as is
customary in our Order. However, the pontifical decrees shall be observed.

105. But for our brothers, at least two or three confessors shall be appointed
in each place, or more according to the number of brothers in the community.
They must be learned, prudent and charitable. All the brothers shall confess at
least twice a week, each one freely choosing one of the appointed confessors,
and once chosen he may not be changed without the permission of the Father
Guardian or another Superior of the place. They shall receive communion each
Sunday throughout the year, or more often if they wish, and if their Superior
considers it a good thing he shall give permission. They must take care to
examine themselves carefully beforehand, as the Apostle reminds us, reflecting
on their own nothingness and unworthiness and on this noble gift of God
given to us with so much love. In this way it will not bring them condemnation
but rather growth in light, grace and virtue. And this most sublime, Divine
Sacrament, in which our sweet Saviour so lovingly condescends to dwell, shall
be kept in all our churches in a spotless place and treated by all with the
utmost reverence, the brothers remaining before it in prayer as if in the
company of the holy angels in our heavenly fatherland.

106. And if any of the brothers, at the instigation of the Enemy, sins mortally
by committing any sin concerning which the brothers are ordered to have
recourse to the Provincials alone, let him have recourse to those same
Provincials, as quickly as he conveniently can, with all humility and
repentance, trusting in them as much as they can and should. And if the
Prelates see that the brothers are truly contrite and humbled, firmly resolved to
mend their ways, and prepared to perform an appropriate penance, they
should receive them gently, after the example of Christ our true Father and
Shepherd, in the same way that the Prodigal Son was welcomed by his most merciful Father, and together with Christ they should joyfully carry the lost
sheep on their shoulders, back to the evangelical sheepfold.

107. Let them recall what our Father used to say: Anyone who wants to raise
up one who has fallen to the ground must first bend down to give him a hand,
as Christ our most merciful Saviour did when the adulteress was brought
before Him, not showing a rigid justice and severity. We should rather
remember that Christ Jesus, the gentle Son of God, came down to earth from
heaven to save us and did not hesitate to die on a cross, and He always
showed all possible tenderness to sinners who were truly contrite. Then, when
Christ left St Peter as the world's universal Pastor, He told him to forgive the
sinner seventy times seven times. And our Seraphic Father said in one of his
letters that, however greatly a brother may have sinned, he wished that
brother to look into his Minister’s eyes and not go away without finding mercy
if he humbly requested it, and that even if he did not request it, he wished the
Minister to offer him mercy, and should he appear before him a thousand
times, he was not to be indignant and remember the brother’s sin, but rather,
in order to draw him to Christ our most merciful Lord, he should truly love
him from the heart.

108. Therefore, according to our Rule, penance is to be imposed with mercy,
and when they do impose it, the Prelates should remember that if God were to
judge us according to strict justice, few of us, or none at all, would survive.
They should always be looking to save, and not to lose, the souls of their poor
brothers.