INTRODUCTION TO THE EARLIER AND LATER RULE OF ST FRANCIS

During the year 1220 and 1221, Francis set about drawing up a revision of the original Rule and bringing it into harmony with the needs of the day. When he had finished the revision, he gave it to Brother Caesar of Speyer to check it over and to embellish it with quotations from the Scripture. Brother Caesar did this and the result was what we call the Earlier Rule of 1221. It was not, however, presented to the Holy See for approbation because it was in essence the original Rule, approved orally in 1209. This Rule does have an importance and real value, although, of course, it has no legal standing today.

The Earlier Rule of 1221 did not meet the expectations of the friars, especially the ministers and the more learned brothers. For the most part, because it was not presented in sufficiently legal terminology, and because its regulations were not sufficiently precise. These brought Francis to rewrite the official Rule.

The Speculum Perfectionis records that Francis employed the services of his close friend Brother Leo as companion and secretary in the work and Brother Bonizo of Bologna, a canon lawyer, to assure the legal aspects of the work. Pope honourius III approved the Later Rule in the Bull Solet annuere, November 29, 1223.

Comparison and Contrast of the Rules

The Rule of 1223 is much shorter, with only twelve chapters, a far more concise document, much more relevant, much more a legal act. The passionate appeals, the admonitions, which break through the Earlier Rule, the biblical quotations, the prayers and the individuality, are gone. The changes are subtler, but important: procedure for the election of the minister general is laid down; and where, before, the brothers could observe the Rule literally, even against the minister general's interpretation, now his consent to their reading of it becomes necessary; the brothers are forbidden to enter 'the convents of nuns' was not a term ever used by Francis of his Poor Ladies. There is no word of 'guardians', but, under the provincial minister, there is a new officer, the custodian - a different sounding word. Before, there had been the words of the Gospel for the sending out of the disciples, the very crux of the whole Franciscan message. Now, there is only a pathetic appeal from their founder that >they should not quarrel, nor contend with words upon the way, nor judge one another, but they should be peaceful. And that they ought not to ride, unless by manifest necessity.' But the omissions Francis regretted above all others were those clauses that had dealt with the Blessed Sacrament. He would indeed have added new ones, wishing his friars to teach a special reverence for it, and to see that it was kept with all seemliness, carrying with them 'fair and clean pyxes,' and even 'wafer irons for making fair and clean hosts.' Now there was no mention of the sacrament: it was thought such propaganda might cause trouble with parochial priests: it was not considered very necessary or relevant.

We also know that Francis had additional help in constructing the Rule as evident from its style, for the style has an elegance and fluency that are not found in the other writings of Francis. (e.g. read the Latin passage in praise of poverty that occurs in Chapter 6 to appreciate the artistry of the style.)

The Earlier Rule is thoroughly biblical in its inspiration and composition with some twenty-four chapters See note 1. It confronts us with a high idealism See note 2, while expressing at the same times the difficulties of living amid the harsh realities of the world. The Later Rule, on the other hand, reveals a more legal mind eager to define the limits to which we might go. It does not sacrifice the gospel ideals, but to grasp it fully we must be able to break through the medieval idiom in which many of those ideals are encased.

In Rule 1223, we will see that the most important chapters are the first and the last chapters. The first chapter set forth in brief fashion what is explained in detail in the chapters that follows:

Chapter 1, Later Rule

The Rule and Life of the Friars Minors is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property and in chastity.

We immediately notice that all the scriptural quotations have been removed when compared with the Earlier Rule. The final chapter sums up the whole in one sentence: "And so, firmly established in the Catholic faith, we may live always according to the poverty and the humility and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as we have solemnly promised."

Looking at the second chapter of each document, we see the differences in the two documents, differences that suggest that the fraternity was becoming increasingly structured. In the Earlier Rule, Francis directs the brothers to receive with kindness someone who desired to "receive life" from them. The Later Rule omits the warmth of the Earlier Rule See note 3, and envisions a more conditioned acceptance in which the provincial minister must examine the candidate on his knowledge of the faith and the sacraments. The term, "provincial minister", appears in the Later Rule and not in the Earlier Rule, as the Order had been divided into provinces in 1217. Moreover, a canonical requirement is added, concerning those who are married, as well as a warning that neither the minister nor the brothers should become involved in the candidate's temporal affairs. We can easily see that experience had taught the brothers to be more circumspect in their reception of those who desired to join them.

 

Chapter 2, Earlier Rule

If anyone, wishing by divine inspiration to accept this life, comes to our brothers, let him be received by them with kindness. If he is determined to accept our life, let the brothers be very careful not to become involved in his temporal affairs, but let them present him to their minister as quickly as possible.

On his part, let the minister receive him with kindness, encourage him and diligently explain the tenor of our life to him.

 

 

 

 

 

After this has been done, let the above mentioned person - if he wishes and is capable of ding so spiritually without any difficulty - sell all his belongings and be diligent in giving everything to the poor (cf. Mt 19.21).

 

Let the brothers and the minister of the brothers be careful not to interfere in any way in his temporal affairs; let them not accept money either by themselves or through an intermediary. Nevertheless, if they are in need, the brothers, like other poor people, can accept, instead of money, whatever is needed for the body.

Chapter 2, Later Rule

If any would desire to adopt this life and would come to our brothers, let them send them to their Ministers provincial, to whom alone, and not to others, is the permission to receive friars conceded.

 

 

Let the ministers indeed examine them diligently concerning the Catholic Faith and the sacraments of the Church. And if they believe these things and want to observe them faithfully and firmly unto the end, and they have no wives or, if they do, their wives have already entered a monastery, or having taken a vow of continence, permission [to enter one] has been granted to them by authority of the bishop of the diocese, and the wives are of such an age that suspicion cannot arise concerning them, let them say unto these the word of the Holy Gospel (cf. Mt 19:21), that they should go and sell all that is their own and strive to give it to the poor. But if they cannot do this, a good will suffices for them.

 

And let the friars and their ministers beware, lest they be solicitous concerning their temporal things, so that they may freely do with their own things, whatever the Lord will have inspired them. If however counsel is required, let the ministers have permission to send them to other God fearing men, by whose counsel their goods may be spent on the poor.

There is also an almost defensive tone to the Earlier Rule's teaching about wearing poor clothes, a teaching reinforced by two quotations, Lk 7:25 and Matt 11:8. The Later Rule, however, suggest that the poor clothes or tunic had become not only acceptable but also a sign of respectability. It suggests that the brothers were no longer inviting ridicule and criticism; they were now in social positions from which they could ridicule or criticise others.

When we look at many of those clarifying passages of the Earlier Rule See note 4, we quickly sense that activities or ministries conditioned their expressions of poverty and simplicity. The Later Rule, then, is quite straightforward in expressing the gospel way of life that Francis envisioned and does so with an economy of words.

 

Chapter 2 Earlier Rule

When he has returned, the minister may give him the clothes of probation for a year, that is, two tunics without a hood, a cord, trousers, and a small cape reaching to the cord. When the year and term of probation has ended, let him be received into obedience.

 

After this it will be unlawful for him to join another Order or to wander outside obedience according to the decree of the Lord Pope and the Gospel, for no one putting his hand to the plough and looking to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62).

If anyone comes, however, who cannot give away his belongings without difficulty and has the spiritual will to do so, let him leave them behind, and it will suffice for him.

Let no one be received contrary to the rite and practice of the Holy Church.

Let all the other brothers who have already promised obedience have one tunic with a hood and, if it is necessary, another without a hood and a cord and trousers.

 

Let all the brothers wear poor clothes and, with the blessing of God, they can patch them with sackcloth and other pieces, for the Lord says in the Gospel: Those who wear expensive clothing and live in luxury (Lk 7:25) and who dress in fine garments are in the houses of kings (Mt 11:8).

Although they may be called hypocrites, let them nevertheless not cease from doing good and let them not seek expensive clothing in this world that they might have a garment in the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 22:11)

Chapter 2 Later Rule

Afterwards let them grant them the clothes of probation, that is, two tunics without a capuche, a cord , breeches, and a caparone [extending] to the cord, unless it seems to the same ministers [that it should be] otherwise according to God. Having truly finished the year of probation, let them be received to obedience, promising to observe always this life and Rule.

And in no manner will it be licit for them to go forth from this religious institute, according to the command of the Lord Pope, because according to the Holy Gospel "No one putting hand to the plough and turning back is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Lk 9:62)

 

 

 

 

 

 

And let those who have already promised obedience have a tunic with a capuche, and if they wish to have it, another without a capuche.

And let those who are driven by necessity be able to wear footwear.

And let all the friars wear cheap clothing and be able to patch these with sackcloth and other pieces with the blessing of God.

 

 

I warn and exhort them, not to despise nor judge men, whom they see clothed with soft and coloured clothes, using dainty food and drink, but rather let each one judge and despise his very self.

Chapter 3, Later Rule

Clerics are to perform the divine office according to the Ordo of the Roman Church, except for the psalter, for which they can have breviaries.

Let the laymen indeed say twenty-four "Our Fathers" for matins; for lauds five ; for prime, terce, sext and none, for each of these seven, for vespers, however, twelve; for compline seven; and let them pray for the dead.

And let them fast from the Feast of All saints until Christmas. Indeed may those who voluntarily fast the holy lent, which begins at Epiphany and for the forty days that follow, which the Lord consecrated with His own holy fast, be blessed by the Lord, and let those who do not wish [to do so] not be constrained. But let them fast the other [lent] until the [day of the] Resurrection of the Lord.

At other times however they are not bound to fast, except on Fridays. Indeed in time of manifest necessity the friars are not bound to the corporal fast.

Indeed, I counsel, warn and exhort my friars in the Lord Jesus Christ, that when they go about through the world, they are not to quarrel nor contend in words (cf 2 Tim 2:14), nor are they to judge others, but they are to be meek, peaceable and modest, meek and humble, speaking uprightly to all, as is fitting. And they should not ride horseback, unless they are driven [to do so] by manifest necessity or infirmity.

Into whatever house they may enter, first let them say: "Peace to this house." (cf Lk 10:5) And according to the Holy Gospel it is lawful to eat of any of the foods, which are placed before them. (cf Lk 10:8)

Chapter 3 shows how the primitive fraternity had changed and needed more structure, and how the liturgical practices of the post-conciliar Church influenced the daily life of both the clerical and lay brothers. The prescriptions of Rule 1223 are very precise; clerics are to say the Divine Office; laics the Our Fathers. The Divine Office was to be said according to the order of the Holy Roman Church, that is, according to the use of the papal court, developed especially under the direction of Pope Innocent III.

We find a much simpler directive concerning the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours that reflects the changes that were taking place in the church after the Fourth Lateran Council. Yet what is more significant about this chapter is how clearly Francis calls us to live in the world See note 5, though this is implied in the Earlier Rule.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6, however, indicate some of the important shifts that took place in the pursuit of gospel fraternity, especially in the practice of poverty.

Chapter 4 Later Rule

I firmly command all the friars, that in no manner are they to receive coins or money through themselves or through an interposed person. However for the necessities of the infirm and for the clothing of the other friars, only the ministers and the custodes are to conduct a solicitous care, by means of spiritual friends, according to places and seasons and cold regions, as they see expedites necessity; with this always preserved, that, as has been said, they do not receive coins nor money.

Chapter 5 Later Rule

Let those friars, to whom the Lord gives the grace to work, work faithfully and devotedly, in such a way that, having excluded idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, which all other temporal things should serve zealously. Indeed concerning the wages of labour, let them receive for themselves and for their friars what is for the necessity of the body, except coins or money, and this [they should do] humbly, as befits the servants of God and the followers of most holy poverty.

Chapter 6 Later Rule

Let the Friars appropriate nothing for themselves, neither house nor place, nor any thing. And as pilgrims and exiles (cf 1 Pt 2:11) in this age let them go about for alms confidently, as ones serving the Lord in poverty and humility, nor is it proper that they be ashamed [to do so], since the Lord made Himself poor in this world (cf 2 Cor 8:9) for us. This is that loftiness of most high poverty, which has established you, my most dear Friars, as heirs and kings of the Kingdom of Heaven, making you poor in things, it has raised you high in virtues (cf Jam 2:5). Let this be your "portion", which leads you "into the land of the living" (cf. Ps 141,6). Cleaving totally to this, most beloved Friars, may you want to have nothing other under heaven in perpetuity, for the sake of the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

And, wherever the friars are and find themselves, let them mutually show themselves to be among their family members. And let them without fear manifest to one another their own need, since, if a mother nourishes and loves her own son (cf 1 Th 2:7) according to the flesh, how much more diligently should he love and nourish his own spiritual brother?

And, if any of them should fall into infirmity, the other friars should care for him, as they would want to be cared for themselves.

Francis now speaks to us in much stronger language, especially in the prohibition against money See note 6; here he makes no exceptions to that prohibition as we find in the Earlier Rule. (We do not find "I strictly command.")

In the Earlier Rule, Francis and his first followers begin with a consideration of work and continue with a prohibition against receiving money as payment. But the prohibition against receiving money takes first place in the Later Rule, while consideration follows after it. Moreover, the Earlier Rule spoke of those "who know how to work": advising them to do so "provided it is not contrary to the good of their souls and can be performed honestly." The Later Rule omits all such language and, instead, speaks of "grace of working," urging us to "work faithfully and devotedly" and places its advice in the context of asceticism and of prayer. Work, in other words, does not define our identity. It is grace, as is every aspect of our calling. What are most important are that it remains submissive or subservient to the primary dimension of our life, intensifying our loving relationship with God. From this perspective, we are in a better position to read the first half of chapter 6, in which we find a clear, rich statement of Francis's vision of poverty.

We may have observed this in chapter 9 of the Earlier Rule and see its implication in its following chapters, especially in the directives for the caring for the sick. But here we have a clear, articulate joining of two ideas, as if Francis wanted us to be sure of his vision that the foundation of a fraternal life is the pursuit of a most penetrating poverty see note 7.

 

Chapter 9, Earlier Rule

Let each one confidently make known his need to another that the other might discover what is needed and minister to him.

Let each one love and care for his brother as a mother loves and cares for her son in those matters in which God has given him the grace (cf. 1 Thess 2:7)

Chapter 6, Later Rule

And, wherever the friars are and find themselves, let them mutually show themselves to be among their family members. And let them without fear manifest to one another their own need, since, if a mother nourishes and loves her own son (cf 1 Th 2:7) according to the flesh, how much more diligently should he love and nourish his own spiritual brother?

Not only is the later text more polished and grammatically correct. It is also more expressive of Francis's understanding that the glue of fraternal life is nothing other than the Spirit. From this vantage-point, we can easily understand chapter 7, which touches on those who are spiritually sick, that is, sinners. Chapter 8 describes building the fraternity through chapters and choosing those whom we would have as "ministers and servants". Chapter 9 extends the role of a chapter by entrusting some with the ministry of preaching. The first part of chapter 10 portrays the unique bond of a loving obedience existing between one trusted with the responsibility of serving the other and the other charged with responding to his initiatives.

Chapter 7 Later Rule

If any of the friars, at the instigation of the enemy, should sin mortally, for those sins, concerning which it has be ordained among the friars, that one have recourse to the Ministers provincial alone, the aforesaid friars are bound to have recourse to them as soon as they can, without delay. Indeed let the Ministers themselves, if they are priests, with mercy enjoin upon them a penance; if indeed they are not priests, let them have it enjoined by other priests of the order, as it will seem to them to better expedite [the matter] according to God. And they should beware, not to grow angry and be distressed on account of the sin of another, since anger and distress impede charity in themselves and in others.

Chapter 8 Later Rule

All the friars are bound to have always one of the friars of this very same religion as Minister general and servant of the whole fraternity and they are bound firmly to obey him. When he dies, let an election of a successor be made by the Ministers provincials and the custodes in the Pentecost Chapter, in which the ministers provincial are bound to convene at once wherever it will have been determined by the minister general; and this once every three years or at another interval greater or less, as it will have been ordained by the aforesaid minister.

And if at any time it may appear to all the Ministers provincial and to the custodes, that the aforesaid minister is not sufficient for the service and common utility of the friars, the aforesaid friars, to whom the electing has been given, are bound in the Name of the Lord to choose another as their guard. Indeed, after the Pentecost Chapter, let the ministers and custodes each be able, if they want and if it will seem to be expedient for them, once in the same year to call their friars together in chapter in their own custodies.

Chapter 9 Later Rule

Let the friars not preach in the diocese of any bishop, when he has spoken against their preaching. And let no friar at all dare preach to the people, unless he will have been examined by the minister general of this fraternity and approved, and there be conceded to him by the same the office of preaching.

I also warn and exhort these same friars, that in preaching, that they do, their expressions be considered and chaste (cf Ps 11:7; 17:21), for [sake of] the utility and edification of the people, by announcing to them vices and virtues, punishment and glory with brevity of speech; since a brief word did the Lord speak upon the earth. (cf Rom 9:28)

In the second half of chapter 10, we can perceive how the simplicity of the Later Rule belies such hidden layers of meaning and how easily we can pass over the full extent of Francis's thought.

 

Chapter 10, Earlier Rule

Because the spirit of the flesh very much wants and strives to have the words but cares little for the activity, it does not seek a religion and holiness in an interior spirit, but wants and desires to have a religion and a holiness outwardly apparent to people. They are the ones of whom the Lord says: Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward (Mt 6:2).

The Spirit of the Lord, however, wants the flesh to be mortified and looked down upon, considered of little worth and rejected. It strives for humility and patience, the pure, simple and true peace of the spirit. Above all, it desires the divine fear, the divine wisdom and the divine love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Chapter 10, Later Rule

Indeed I warn and exhort the friars in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they beware of all pride, vain glory, envy, avarice (cf Lk 12:15), care and solicitude for this age, detraction and murmuring, and that those who are ignorant of letters not care to learn letters; but let them strive, so that above all things they should desire to have the Spirit of the Lord and His holy operation, to pray always to Him with a pure heart and to have humility, [and] patience in persecution and in infirmity, and to love those who persecute and correct and accuse us, because the Lord says, (Mt. 5:44). (Mt. 5:10)."He who has persevered until the end, however, will be saved" (Mt. 10:22).

In the Earlier Rule, Francis describes activities in pharisaic ways (seeking a religion and holiness outwardly apparent to people) and in those that are self-aggrandising (seeking to be glib or articulate so as to please others). In his Later Rule, he expresses these characteristics in far more pointed but nonetheless self-centred ways: pride, vainglory, envy, avarice, and activities that are destructive of the fraternity. While the Earlier Rule envisions these characteristics as being mortified, looked down upon, and rejected, the Later Rule accentuates humility, patience, love and, in the very first place, unceasing prayer with a pure heart.

Chapter 11 Later Rule

I firmly command all the brothers not to have suspicious company or conversation with women, and not to enter the monasteries of nuns, except those [friars] to whom special permission has been conceded by the Apostolic See; neither are they to be godfathers of men or women [so that] scandal may not arise on this account among the friars nor concerning them.

Chapter 12 Later Rule

Let whoever of the friars who by divine inspiration wants to go among the Saracens and other infidels seek permission for that reason from their minister provincial. Indeed the ministers are to grant permission to go to none, except those whom seems to be fit to be sent.

For which sake I enjoin the ministers by obedience, to seek from the Lord Pope one of the cardinals of the Roman Church, who is to be the governor, protector, and corrector of this fraternity, so that always subject and prostrate at the feet of this same Holy Church, stable in the Catholic Faith (cf Col 1:23) we may observe, what we have firmly promised: the poverty and humility and the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Although much of this final section of the Later Rule is taken up with a description of the cardinal called to be a liaison between the pope and Francis's followers, it confronts us with a call to live simply and poorly within the Church.

Conclusion

The original Rule of 1209, the Earlier Rule of 1221, and the Later Rule of 1223 were but stages in the development of the one Rule of the Friars Minor and for eight centuries the Later Rule has been the foundation of Franciscan life.

Notes

1.Contents of the Earlier Rule:

The first seventeen chapters are revised in the later rule, and reduced to a more logical pattern.

Chapters 18 to 21 resemble appendices to certain earlier chapters.

Chapter 18 completes Chapter 4.

Chapter 19 emphasizes orthodoxy in the faith.

Chapter 20 completes Chapter 3.

Chapter 21 completes Chapter 17.

Chapter 22 and 23 could exist as separate works. They contain a summary of the whole Franciscans ideal of life and an expression of the Spirit that should motivate the friars.

Chapter 24 (last paragraph of Chapter 23) is a final exhortation to be true to the Rule. It brings the text to a natural conclusion.

2. High idealism while expressing... E.g., Chapter 11 ER: - The brothers should not revile or detract but love one another. Chap 12 ER: - Impure glances and frequent association with women.

3. Sharp contrast with the Rule of Benedict, 58, which states "Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, but as the Apostle says, test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 Jn 4:1)."

4. Concern for the inevitable conflict between the ideals of Francisís vision and the reality that daily confronted those attempting to live them. Many clarifying passages of the Earlier Rule e.g., "If anyone comes, however, who cannot give away..." , in Chapter 2.

5. Challenge us to live the Gospel not simply in our homes, religious houses, etc, but wherever we may be. This may be written as a reaction to those friars who are satisfied with the rules of Benedict or Augustine, which envision a spiritual life lived in a monastery or specific community. Francis highlighted in a wonderfully simple way those values he would have us live intensely in the world, avoidance of arrogance and self-righteousness, the practice of meekness, modesty, humility and courtesy, living poorly in the midst of others, being messengers of peace and enjoyed the freedom of those who thoroughly cast their care upon the Lord. Those are the values of the Franciscans "civilization of love".

6. If money was looked upon as security rather than a medium of exchange, then Francis is calling us to live paradoxically in a state of economic insecurity, confident that our future rests in the hands of God. It is a challenge, touching on the strength of our faith. Are we willing to cast our care on the Lord, to turn to the table of the Lord, assured that God will take care of us?

7. Francis clearly links the practice of poverty and the pursuit of brotherhood. It is the Holy Spirit bringing us together as a fraternity. Three reasons for Francisís vision of poverty:

i) Through it, we can identify with Christ, who made himself poor in the world.

ii) It can help us to reflect our inheritance and our actual sharing in the kingdom of heaven.

iii) Finally, it is an ascetical means of giving ourselves more completely to Christ.

References:

1 T.S.R. Boase, St Francis of Assisi. Thames and Hudson.

2 The Writings of St Francis of Assisi, Benen Fahy OFM and Placid Hermann OFM.

3 St Francis of Assisi, Writing for a Gospel Life. Regis Armstrong OFM Cap.

4 The Marrow of the Gospel, Ignatius Brady. Ed.