XII - Spreading and Fostering the Faith

128. Our Seraphic Father had the conversion of unbelievers very much at
heart. Therefore for the glory of God and their salvation and in accordance
with the Rule, we order that if any mature brothers, inflamed with love for the blessed Christ and zeal for the Catholic faith, wish through divine inspiration
to go among them to preach the faith, they shall have recourse to their
Provincial Ministers, or to the Father General. And if the latter judge them
suitable, they may undertake such an arduous mission with their permission
and blessing. But the subjects shall not presume to judge themselves suitable
for such a difficult and dangerous undertaking, but with all fear and humility
let them submit their wish to their Prelates. It will be well to draw a
distinction between unbelievers who are meek and easily led to the Christian
faith, such as those recently found by the Spanish and Portuguese in the Indies,
and the Turks and Hagarenes, who only defend their erroneous and pernicious
beliefs by force of arms and by torture. The Prelates should not hesitate to send
them on account of the fewness of the brothers; rather, casting all their care
upon Him who takes unceasing care of us, let them in everything be guided by
the Spirit of God and do everything with charity, which does all things well.

129. And lest in seeking to convert others to obedience to the Apostolic See,
we forget ourselves, we wish to follow in this the holy intentions of our
Father, wholly Catholic as he was, who knew how important it is for everyone,
especially for Religious, to be always subject to the Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of
Christ on earth, and to the Apostolic See. In the first chapter of his Rule, in
addition to promising obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Honorius and
his canonically elected successors, and to the Roman Church, he also wanted
us to have one of the Cardinals as Lord, and in the last chapter commanded all
the Ministers under obedience to request one. We therefore enjoin that, when
the need arises, the Reverend Father Procurator of the Order, in the name of
the Most Reverend Father General and all the other Ministers, shall go before
His Holiness and humbly ask for one of the Cardinals of the Holy Roman
Church as Protector.

130. And since we, the Lesser Brothers of St Francis, must always have entire
and uncorrupted faith in conformity with the Gospel, and with the Roman
Church, and hold that faith firmly and preach it sincerely, and for the defence
of that faith, be ready to shed our blood even unto death: we order that, if any
brother were to be found (which God forbid) stained through diabolical
temptation by any error against the Catholic Faith, then the brothers are to
observe the command written by our Father Francis in his Testament, and
present that brother into the hands of his Provincial Vicar, who must put him
in prison if this is necessary (bearing in mind the Constitution of Pius V,
beginning with the words Pastoris Aeterni Vices) and inform the Holy Office
and the Most Illustrious Cardinal Protector.

131. Since it is impossible to lay down laws and statutes for every individual
case that may arise, their number being indefinite, we exhort all brothers that
in everything they do they keep before their eyes the holy Gospel, the Rule
they have promised to God to observe, and the holy and praiseworthy
customs and examples of the saints, directing their every thought, word and
action to the honour and glory of God and the salvation of their neighbour. In
this way the Holy Spirit will be their teacher in everything.

132. Since our Saviour first began to do and then to teach others, so shall our Prelates be the first to comply with these Constitutions, and then with holy and
efficacious zeal induce their subjects to observe them unfailingly. And if certain
things appear somewhat difficult at first, habit will make them easy and
pleasant. So that they are more firmly impressed upon the minds of the
brothers, and more faithfully observed, all the Guardians are to have them
read at table at least once every two months. And although we do not intend
by these Constitutions to bind the brothers under pain of any sin, except in so
far as we are already bound by God, the Rule and the Church, yet it is our wish
and command that transgressors against them be severely punished. And if
the Guardians are remiss in observing the Constitutions, or in causing them to
be observed, or in punishing transgressors, they shall be still more severely
punished by the Provincial Vicars, and the latter by the Most Reverend Father
General.

133. Since the present Constitutions were drawn up with the greatest care,
and again revised and corrected with no less diligence with the consent of the
entire General Chapter meeting in Rome, they shall not be changed without
the consent of the General Chapter. We also exhort all our fathers and brothers
present and to come not to change these Constitutions again in the Chapters,
for experience has shown that great injury has been done to religious Orders
by so many changes in Constitutions. Nor shall provincial Constitutions be
drawn up, but if other particular cases arise the General Chapters shall make
appropriate provision. The present Constitutions shall be left intact, and our
entire Order shall live and be governed in accordance with them in holy
uniformity.

134. Our Seraphic Father on his death-bed bequeathed the generous blessing
of the Holy Trinity to those who would be zealous for the true observance of
the Rule, and also added his own fatherly blessing. Therefore, leaving aside all
negligence, let us diligently intend, and lovingly and effectively observe, the
perfection demonstrated to us in the Rule and taught by our Order.

135. Therefore the brothers must take great care not to transgress against
these Constitutions, even though they do not oblige under pain of sin. Rather,
knowing in what spirit they have been made, made, let them observe
inviolably the laws, ordinances and statutes of religion, thus adding new
graces upon their heads. Through such holy service they will deserve the
divine mercy and become more like the Son of God, who, while not being
obliged by His own laws, wished to observe them for the salvation of all. Let
us therefore with all our strength maintain the sublimity of our religious state,
so that we may be the occasion of much benefit to others. Certainly, servants
who are good and loved not only carry out what has been imposed on them
with threats, but strive to please their masters in many other things.

136. Let us often recall, dearest Fathers and Brothers, that sacred and
memorable subject on which our Seraphic Father preached a fervent sermon
to that large multitude of good brothers. He said: "Brothers, we have promised
great things to God, but He has made even greater promises to us. Here
below, let us not fail to observe these Constitutions what we have promised,
and then yearn for the blessings promised to us. We know that worldly pleasures are very short, but the punishment for sin is endless. The sufferings
we endure and the penance we do for love of Christ will last but a short time,
but infinite will be the glory we shall receive from God in return. Many are
called to the Kingdom of eternal life, but few are chosen, for rare indeed are
those who follow Christ in sincerity of heart. But at the end God will reward
all according to their deeds, glory for the good, and damnation and eternal fire
for the wicked".

137. For this reason, while strenuously complying with what has been
imposed on us, let us look to our Redeemer, that we may know His will and
do what is pleasing to Him - not merely by not despising these Constitutions -
for to despise them would be a grave sin - but rather out of love for Him,
avoiding all negligence in their observance. This observance will without a
doubt be a help to us to be faithful not only to the Rule but to the divine law
and the evangelical counsels. The grace of God, through Jesus Christ, will free
us from all dangers, and as our labours abound, so also will our consolations in
Christ. We can do all things in Him who gives us strength, that is, in Christ
Jesus almighty. In every doubt He will give us true understanding, since He
alone is the Wisdom of God, our perfect Saviour, who gives Himself
abundantly to all who ask Him in truth and does not reprove them.

138. Christ, then, who is Light, the Expectation of the Nations, the Purpose
of the Law, the Father of the World to come, who is Word, and Virtue, who
sustains all things and is our final hope; in whom all things are possible, sweet
and light, who knows our natural frailty and will not only give us the strength
and power to obey his commandments and counsels, but in addition will rain
down his heavenly gifts on us in such abundance, that laying aside every
impediment we will be able to follow Him and imitate Him with great joy and
simplicity of heart, utterly despising visible and temporal things and always
yearning after those which are heavenly and eternal.

139. In Christ, then, who is God and Man, true Light, the brightness of glory
and of Eternal Light; in the spotless mirror and image of God’s Goodness; in
Christ, appointed by the Eternal Father to be the Judge, Lawgiver and Saviour
of mankind; in Christ, to whom the Father and the Holy Spirit bore witness; in
Christ, in whom also are found every merit, example, help, grace and reward
of ours - in Christ, whom God has made our wisdom, justice, sanctification and
redemption, be all our thought, meditation and imitation.