THE BEGINNING OF THE RULE AND THE LIFE OF THE BROTHERS
AND SISTERS OF THE THIRD ORDER REGULAR OF ST. FRANCIS
WORDS OF ST. FRANCIS TO HIS FOLLOWERS
(Letter to the Faithful I, 1-19)
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and
mind, and with all their strength, (cf Mk 12:30) and love their
neighbors as themselves, (cf Mt 22:39) and who despise the tendency in
their humanity to sin, receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus
Christ and bring forth from within themselves fruits worthy of true
How happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things,
and persevere in doing them because "the Spirit of the Lord will rest
upon them" (cf Is 11:12) and the Lord will make His home and "dwelling
place with them" (cf Jn 14:23). They are the children of the Heavenly
Father (cf Mt 5:45) whose works they do. They are the spouses, brothers
and mothers of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (cf Mt 12:50).
We are his spouses when the faithful soul is united by the Holy Spirit
with Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are brothers when we do the "will of the
Father who is in Heaven" (cf Mt 12:50). We are mothers when we bear Him
in our hearts and bodies (cf 1 Co 6:20) with divine love and with pure
and sincere consciences; and we give birth to him through a holy life
which should enlighten others because of our example (Mt 5:16).
How glorious it is to have so holy and great a Father in Heaven; and to
have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete; and to
have a Brother and Son, so holy, beloved, blessed, humble, peaceful,
sweet, lovable, and desirable over all things: Our Lord Jesus Christ
who gave up his life for his sheep (cf Jn 10:15) and prayed to the
Father, saying: "Holy Father, keep in your name (Jn 17:11) those whom
You gave Me in the world; they are Yours and You gave them to Me" (Jn
17:6). And "the word which You gave Me I gave to them, and they
accepted it and truly believed that it came forth from You. And they
have accepted that You sent Me" (Jn 17:8). I pray for them and "not for
the world" (Jn 17:9). Bless them and "sanctify them" (Jn 17:17). 1
"sanctify Myself for their sakes" (Jn 17:19). "I do not pray only for
these but also for those who, through their word, will believe in Me"
(Jn 17:20), may they be holy "in oneness as We are" (Jn 17:11). Father,
I wish that "where I am they too may be and that they may see My glory
(Jn 17:24) in Your kingdom" (Mt 20:21).
IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!
HERE BEGINS THE RULE AND LIFE OF THE BROTHERS AND
SISTERS OF THE THIRD ORDER REGULAR OF ST. FRANCIS
Chapter I: Our Identity
1. The form of life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order
Regular of Saint Francis is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our
Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, in poverty and in chastity.
Following Jesus Christ after the example of St. Francis, let them
recognize that they are called to make greater efforts in their
observance of the precepts and counsels of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let
them deny themselves (cf Mt 16:24) as each has promised the Lord.
2. With all in the holy Catholic and apostolic Church who wish to serve
the Lord, the brothers and sisters of this order are to persevere in
true faith and penance. They wish to live this evangelical conversion
of life in a spirit of prayer, of poverty, and of humility. Therefore,
let them abstain from all evil and persevere to the end in doing good
because God the Son Himself will come again in glory and will say to all
who acknowledge, adore and serve Him in sincere repentance: "Come
blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you
from the beginning of the world" (Mt 25:34).
3. The sisters and brothers promise obedience and reverence to the Pope
and the Holy Catholic Church. In this same spirit they are to obey
those called to be ministers and servants of their own fraternity. And
wherever they are, or in whatever situation they are in, they should
diligently and fervently show reverence and honor to one another. They
should also foster unity and communion with all the members of the
Chapter II: Acceptance into this Life
4. Those who through the Lord's inspiration come to us desiring to
accept this way of life are to be received kindly. At the appropriate
time, they are to be presented to the ministers of the fraternity who
hold responsibility to admit them.
5. The ministers shall ascertain that the aspirants truly adhere to the
Catholic faith and the Church's sacramental life. If they are found to
have a vocation, they are to be initiated into the life of the
fraternity. Let everything pertaining to this gospel way of life be
explained to them, especially these words of the Lord: "If you wish to
be perfect (Mt 19:21), go and sell all your possessions (cf Lk 18:22)
and give to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come,
follow Me." And "if anyone wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mt 16:24).
6. Led by the Lord, let them begin a life of penance, conscious that all
of us must be continuously and totally converted to the Lord. As a sign
of their conversion and consecration to gospel life, they are to clothe
themselves plainly and to live in simplicity.
7. When their initial formation is completed, they are to be received
into obedience promising to observe this life and rule always. Let them
put aside all attachment as well as every care and worry. Let them only
be concerned to serve, love, adore, and honor the Lord God, as best they
can, with single heartedness and purity of intention.
8. Within themselves, let them always make a dwelling place and home for
the Lord God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that, with
undivided hearts, they may increase in universal love by continually
turning to God and to neighbor (Jn 14:23).
Chapter III: The Spirit of Prayer
9. Everywhere and in each place, and in every season and each day, the
brothers and sisters are to have a true and humble faith. From the
depths of their inner life let them love, honor, adore, serve, praise,
bless and glorify our most high and eternal God who is Father, Son and
Holy Spirit. With all that they are, let them adore Him "because we
should pray always and not lose heart" (Lk 18:1); this is what the
Father desires. In this same spirit let them also celebrate the Liturgy
of the Hours in union with the whole Church.
The sisters and brothers whom the Lord has called to the life of
contemplation (Mk 6:31), with a daily renewed joy, should manifest their
special dedication to God and celebrate the Father's love for the world.
It was He who created and redeemed us, and by His mercy alone shall save
10. The brothers and sisters are to praise the Lord, the King of heaven
and earth, (cf Mt 11:25) with all His creatures and to give Him thanks
because, by His own holy will and through His only Son with the Holy
Spirit, He has created all things spiritual and material and made us in
His own image and likeness.
11. Since the sisters and brothers are to be totally conformed to the
Gospel, they should reflect and keep in their hearts the words of Our
Lord Jesus Christ who is the word of the Father, as well as the words of
the Holy Spirit which "are spirit and life" (Jn 6:63).
12. Let them participate in the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ and
receive His Body and Blood with great humility and reverence remembering
the words of the Lord: "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has
eternal life" (Jn 6:54). Moreover, they are to show the greatest
possible reverence and honor for the most sacred name, written words and
most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ through whom all
things in heaven and on earth have been brought to peace and
reconciliation with Almighty God (Jn 6:63).
13. Whenever they commit sin the brothers and sisters, without delay,
are to do penance interiorly by sincere sorrow and exteriorly by
confessing their sins to a priest. They should also do worthy deeds
that manifest their repentance. They should fast and always strive to
be simple and humble, especially before God. They should desire nothing
else but our Savior, who offered Himself in His own Blood as a sacrifice
on the altar of the Cross for our sins, giving us example so that we
might follow in His footsteps.
Chapter IV: The Life of Chastity for the Sake of the Kingdom
14. Let the brothers and sisters keep in mind how great a dignity the
Lord God has given them "because He created them and formed them in the
image of His beloved Son according to the flesh and in His own likeness
according to the Spirit" (Col 1:16). Since they are created through
Christ and in Christ, they have chosen this form of life which is
founded on the words and deeds of our Redeemer.
15. Professing chastity "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt
19:12), they are to care for the things of the Lord and "they have
nothing else to do except to follow the will of the Lord and to please
Him" (1 Col 7:32). In all of their works the love of God and all people
should shine forth.
16. They are to remember that they have been called by a special gift
of grace to manifest in their lives that wonderful mystery by which the
Church is joined to Christ her spouse (cf Ep 5:23-26).
17. Let the brothers and sisters keep the example of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, the Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever before their
eyes. Let them do this according to the exhortation of St. Francis who
held Holy Mary, Lady and Queen, in highest veneration, since she is "the
virgin made church." Let them also remember that the Immaculate Virgin
Mary, whose example they are to follow, called herself "the handmaid of
the Lord" (Lk 1:38).
Chapter V: The Way to Serve and Work
18. As poor people, the brothers and sisters to whom the Lord has given
the grace of serving or working with their hands, should do so
faithfully and conscientiously. Let them avoid that idleness which is
the enemy of the soul. But they should not be so busy that the spirit
of holy prayer and devotion, which all earthly goods should foster, is
19. In exchange for their service or work, they may accept anything
necessary for their own temporal needs and for that of their sisters or
brothers. Let them accept it humbly as is expected of those who are
servants of God and seekers of most holy poverty. Whatever they may
have over and above their needs, they are to give to the poor. And let
them never want to be over others. Instead they should be servants and
subjects to every human creature for the Lord's sake (1 P 2:13).
20. Let the sisters and brothers be gentle, peaceful and unassuming,
mild and humble, speaking respectfully to all in accord with their
vocation. Wherever they are, or wherever they go throughout the world
they should not be quarrelsome, contentious, or judgmental towards
others. Rather, it should be obvious that they are "joyful,
good-humored," and happy "in the Lord" as they ought to be (cf Ph 4:4).
And in greeting others, let them say, "The Lord give you peace."
Chapter VI: The Life of Poverty
21. All the sisters and brothers zealously follow the poverty and
humility of Our Lord Jesus Christ. "Though rich" beyond measure (2 Co
8:9). He emptied Himself for our sake (Ph 2:7) and with the holy
virgin, His mother, Mary, He chose poverty in this world. Let them be
mindful that they should have only those goods of this world which, as
the apostle says, "having something to eat and something to wear, with
these we are content (1 Tim 6:8). Let them particularly beware of
money. And let them be happy to live among the outcast and despised,
among the poor, the weak, the sick, the unwanted, the oppressed, and the
22. The truly poor in spirit, following the example of the Lord, live
in this world as pilgrims and strangers (cf 1 P 2:1). They neither
appropriate nor defend anything as their own. So excellent is this most
high poverty that it makes us heirs and rulers of the kingdom of heaven.
It makes us materially poor, but rich in virtue (cf Jm 2:5). Let this
poverty alone be our portion because it leads to the land of the living
(Ps 141:6). Clinging completely to it let us, for the sake of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, never want anything else under heaven.
Chapter VII: Fraternal Love
23. Because God loves us, the brothers and sisters should love each
other, for the Lord says, "This is My commandment, that you love one
another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). Let them manifest their love
in deeds (cf 1 Jn 3:18). Also whenever they meet each other, they
should show that they are members of the same family. Let them make
known their needs to one another. Blessed are they who love another who
is sick and seemingly useless, as much as when that brother or sister is
well and of service to them. Whether in sickness or in health, they
should only want what God wishes for them. For all that happens to them
let them give thanks to our Creator.
24. If discord caused by word or deed should occur among them, they
should immediately (Mt 18:35) and humbly ask forgiveness of one another
even before offering their gift of prayer before the Lord (cf Mt 5:24).
And if anyone seriously neglects the form of life all profess, the
minister, or others who may know of it, are to admonish that person.
Those giving the admonition should neither embarrass nor speak evil of
the other, but show great kindness. Let all be careful of self
righteousness, which causes anger and annoyance because of another's
sin. These in oneself or in another hinder living lovingly.
Chapter VIII: The Obedience of Love
25. Following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ Who made His own
will one with the Father's, the sisters and brothers are to remember
that, for God, they should give up their own wills. Therefore, in every
kind of chapter they have let them "seek first the kingdom of God and
His justice," (Mt 6:33) and exhort one another to observe with greater
dedication the rule they have professed and to follow faithfully in the
footprints of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let them neither dominate nor seek
power over one another, but let them willingly serve and obey "one
another with that genuine love which comes from each one's heart" (cf Ga
5:13). This is the true and holy obedience of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
26. They are always to have one of their number as minister and servant
of the fraternity whom they are strictly obliged to obey in all that
they have promised the Lord to observe, and which is not contrary to
conscience or this rule.
27. Those who are ministers and servants of the others should visit,
admonish, and encourage them with humility and love. Should there be
brothers or sisters anywhere who know and acknowledge that they cannot
observe the rule according to its spirit, it is their right and duty to
have recourse to their ministers. The ministers are to receive them
with such love, kindness, and sympathy that the sisters or brothers can
speak and act toward them just as an employer would with a worker. This
is how it should be. The ministers are to be servants of all.
28. No one is to appropriate any office or ministry whatsoever as if it
were a personal right; rather each should willingly relinquish it when
the time comes.
Chapter IX: Apostolic Life
29. The brothers and sisters are to love the Lord "with their whole
heart, with their whole soul and mind, and with all their strength," and
to love their neighbor as themselves. Let them glorify the Lord in all
they do. For He has sent them into the world so that they might give
witness by word and work to His voice and to make known to all that the
Lord alone is God (cf Mk 12:30, Mt 22:30).
30. As they announce peace with their lips, let them be careful to have
it even more within their own hearts. No one should be roused to wrath
or insult on their account, rather all should be moved to peace,
goodwill and mercy because of their gentleness. The sisters and
brothers are called to heal the wounded, to bind up those who are
bruised, and to reclaim the erring. Wherever they are, they should
recall that they have given themselves up completely and handed
themselves over totally to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they
should be prepared to expose themselves to every enemy, visible and
invisible, for the love of Him because the Lord says: "Blessed are
they who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, theirs is the
kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:10).
31. In that love which is God (1 Jn 4:16) all the brothers and sisters,
whether they are engaged in prayer, or in announcing the word of God, or
in serving, or in doing manual labor, should strive to be humble in
everything. They should not seek glory, or be self-satisfied, or
interiorly proud because of a good work or word God does or speaks in or
through them. Rather in every place and circumstance, let them
acknowledge that all good belongs to the most high Lord and Ruler of all
things. Let them always give thanks to Him from Whom we receive all
Exhortation and Blessing
32. Let the sisters and brothers always be mindful that they should
desire one thing alone, namely, the Spirit of God at work within them.
Always obedient to the Church and firmly established in the Catholic
faith, let them live according to the poverty, the humility and the holy
Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ which they have solemnly promised to
"Whoever will observe these, things shall be filled with the blessings
of the Most High Father in Heaven, and on earth with the blessing of His
beloved Son, with the Holy Spirit, and with all virtues and with all the
And I, Brother Francis, your little one and servant, in so far as I am
able, confirm to you within and without this most Holy Blessing."
Sit in your cell as in paradise.
Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish,
The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.If you have just come to the monastery,
and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want,
take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart
and to understand them with your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up;
hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God's presence,
and stand there with the attitude of one who stands
before the emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting,
content with the grace of God,
like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing
but what his mother brings him.