THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER AND DEVOTION
(Cf. Rb 5,2)
The life of prayer
§1 Faithful to their profession, the friars, when they pray, follow Christ who gives thanks most profoundly to the Father and “is living to intercede for us”.1
§2 Following in the steps of Saint Francis, who “did not just pray but became totally a prayer”,2 removing every impediment and setting aside every care and anxiety, the friars are to serve, love, honour and adore the Lord God with a clean heart and a pure mind”, since they must pray continually and never lose heart”,3 for “that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants”.4
§1 Mindful that they have been created in the image of the beloved Son of God,5 the friars are to praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit along with all their creatures;6 they are to restore all good things to the Lord God Most High and give him thanks for everything.7
§2 They are to exalt and celebrate with renewed joy each day the love which the Father, “who created us and redeemed us and will save us by his mercy alone”, has for the world and for us.8
§1 Following the example and teaching of St. Francis, the friars are to have “all possible reverence and honour”9 for the Sacrament of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, because in it is contained the entire spiritual good of the Church.10 The friars are to foster in themselves by suitable means the love and diligent care for this great Mystery.11
§2 All friars who live in the same place or who happen to be there are to make every effort to celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist in common every day, purely and with reverence, so that it may be truly the centre and source of the whole fraternal fellowship.12
§3 Right up to his death Saint Francis wanted “these most holy mysteries to be honoured above all things and to be reverenced and to have them reserved in precious places”.13 Following his example, the friars are to have at least an oratory in every house wherein to reserve the Most Holy Eucharist so that fraternal fellowship and devotion towards so great a mystery may be fostered.
§1 Since the life and Rule of the Friars Minor is the observance of the Holy Gospel,14 the friars are to apply themselves to the reading and meditation of the Holy Gospel and the other Scriptures,15 so that by increasing their understanding of the Word of God, they may attain to the perfection of their state more fully.
§2 As followers of Saint Francis, the friars are to have the greatest veneration for “the most holy names and words” of the Lord and they are to preserve them with reverence”;16 they are to conduct sacred celebrations of the Word of God in common and with the people of God.
§1 The friars are to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours as the Rule prescribes17 so that the whole course of the day and night may be consecrated by the praise of God.18
§2 Wherever friars live or come together, the Liturgy of the Hours is to be their common prayer and as a rule it is to be celebrated in common, without prejudice to the friars’ freedom to recite the Office of the “Our Father” according to the Rule.19
§3 The common celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours pertains not to a specific place but to the fraternity. However, a church or oratory is to be preferred, because it is a holy place and because the people of God can take part in the prayer of the friars more easily there.
Solicitous for the spirit of prayer and devotion, all the friars are to devote time each day to mental prayer, either by themselves or in common.20
The Statutes are to determine the time and other circumstances of common celebrations and common prayer, such as the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Word of God, or mental prayer.
§1 The friars are to attach great importance to pious exercises, sanctioned by the tradition of the Order, which are centred on the mysteries of Christ’s life and which foster union with him.
§2 The friars are to have a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, for she is “the Virgin made Church”.21 They are to make known and foster Franciscan forms of the cult of Mary, and are to imitate the Patroness of the Order, who called herself “the handmaid of the Lord”.22
§3 Moreover, the friars are to have devotion to the Seraphic Father Francis and are always to follow his life and teaching since he is “the model of the minors”.
§4 All pious exercises are to be firmly rooted in Sacred Scripture and theological doctrine, and they are to be adapted to the liturgical norms of the Church.23
§1 Remaining faithful to their resolve to live among simple people, the friars are to promote sound forms of popular piety by which they can nourish the Christian life of the faithful as well as their own.
§2 The friars are to strive to pray with the people, taking on the reality of their lives and sharing sincerely in their hope and faith.
§1 Keeping in mind that all temporal things must be subordinate to the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, the friars are to take care that this spirit suffers no harm from an excess of activity.24
§2 In order to keep in their hearts the good things that the Lord reveals to them,25 the friars are to exercise a necessary discretion in the use of the communications media.26
The contemplative dimension of our Franciscan vocation is to be encouraged even by new forms of prayer; these should respond to the sensitivity of today’s world so that the willingness to pray might be increased as well as projects for community and individual prayer.27
§1 To strengthen their spirit of prayer and devotion, the friars are to observe faithfully a period of recollection at the appointed time as well as the retreat each year.28
§2 The duration of recollection and the retreat, as well as other new forms and circumstances which help cultivate the spirit of prayer, are to be determined in the Statutes.
§1 Each and every friar must desire that hermitages or places of retreat and solitude should be set up as a witness to the contemplative life that flourishes in our Order.
§2 When friars who are called to this life for a shorter or longer period make a reasonable request, their Ministers are to grant them permission with the Lord’s blessing.
§3 The life of the friars in these places can be governed by that simple rule which the Seraphic Father himself composed for hermitages, adapted to the particular conditions, or by norms enacted in accordance with the Statutes.
Life of penance
§1 The Lord has kindly given the Friars Minor the gift “to begin to do penance”.29 Always heeding the words of Jesus Christ, “Repent and believe the Good News”,30 the friars are to renew without ceasing their spirit of conversion.
§2 The friars are to remember that on leaving the world31 they renounced the spirit of the flesh as contrary to all that is good;32 therefore, they are to seek to bear fruit worthy of penance through a constant conversion of their heart, mindful of the words of St. Francis: “they must desire above all things to have the Spirit of the Lord and his holy manner of working (within them)”.33
§3 Just as Saint Francis began a life of penance by serving lepers and saw Jesus Christ in them, so the friars are to seek to serve the least of humanity in penance, recognising in them the Son of God.34
§1 The Father, who is rich in mercy, has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given to all men and women the ministry of reconciliation. The friars, therefore, are to be reconciled to the Lord God, to themselves, to the fraternity and to all of humanity. They are to exercise this ministry in their words and deeds, acting as ambassadors of Christ.35
§2 Remaining steadfast under the correction of God’s mercy, the friars “are to examine themselves most diligently daily”36 so that they may observe more sincerely the Rule that they have accepted.37 They are to approach the sacrament of reconciliation frequently38 and they are always to begin to serve the Lord God.39
§3 Mindful that penance or conversion has a social aspect, the friars are to seek to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in common among themselves, and with the people of God, in accordance with universal law.
§1 In a spirit of conversion, the friars are to accept gladly the sufferings of this present time40 and have patience in tribulation, so that, while sharing in Christ’s suffering, they may be filled with perfect joy.41
§2 Fasting and other works of penance, according to the needs of places and times, are to be practised in common, in accordance with the Statutes, as a sign of the Order’s sharing in the mystery of the Passion of Jesus Christ and in order to bring relief to his members who are suffering from hunger, poverty, sorrow and hardship.
§3 The friars are to consider the period from the feast of All Saints to Christmas, the season of Lent and every Friday as times of penance.42
§1 When any friar falls ill, he is to bear his infirmity with patience and in peace, and is to give thanks to his Creator, knowing that every day he is carrying the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.43
§2 The friars who are ill or who are advanced in years are to be comforted by a community celebration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and by the Mystery of the Body of Christ.44
§1 When our sister bodily death approaches, the friars are to be refreshed by Holy Communion as viaticum.45 As far as possible, this viaticum is to be a community celebration.
§2 All the friars, following the example of St. Francis, are to remember that death is the passage from mortal life to the glory of the Lord and a final offering of life by which profession is brought to perfection.46
The friars are to pray for the deceased friars,47 for their parents and for the benefactors of the Order, in accordance with the Statutes.