1. In the Name of the Lord begins the life of the Minor Brothers
The Rule and life of the Minor Brothers is this, namely, to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without property and in chastity. Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Honorius and to his successors canonically elected and to the Roman Church. And let the other brothers be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors.
2. Of those who wish to embrace this Life and how they ought to be received
If any wish to embrace this life and come to our brothers, let them send them to their provincial ministers, to whom alone and not to others is accorded the power of receiving brothers. But let the ministers diligently examine them regarding the Catholic faith and the Sacraments of the Church. And if they believe all these things, and if they will confess them faithfully and observe them firmly to the end, and if they have no wives, or, if they have and their wives have already entered a monastery, or have, with the authority of the diocesan bishop, given them permission after having made a vow of continence, and if the wives be of such an age that no suspicion may arise concerning them, let them [the ministers] say to them the word of the holy Gospel, that they go and sell all their goods and strive to distribute them to the poor. If they should not be able to do this, their good will suffices. And the brothers and their ministers must take care not to be solicitous about their temporal affairs, that they may freely do with their affairs whatsoever the Lord may inspire them. If, however, counsel should be required, the ministers shall have power of sending them to some God-fearing men by whose advice their goods may be distributed to the poor. Afterwards, let them give them clothes of probation, to wit, two tunics without a hood and a cord and breeches and a chaperon reaching to the cord, unless at some time the same ministers may decide otherwise according to God. The year of probation being finished, they shall be received to obedience, promising to observe always this life and rule. And according to the command of the Lord Pope in no wise shall it be allowed them to go out of this religion, because, according to the holy Gospel: “No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” And let those who have already promised obedience have one tunic with a hood, and if they wish it another without a hood. And those who are obliged by necessity may wear shoes. And let all the brothers be clothed in poor garments and they may patch them with pieces of sackcloth and other things, with the blessing of God. I admonish and exhort them not to despise or judge men whom they see clothed in fine and showy garments using dainty meats and drinks, but rather let each one judge and despise himself.
3. Of the Divine Office, and of Fasting; and how the Brothers must go through the world
Let the clerics perform the Divine Office according to the order of the holy Roman Church, with the exception of the Psalter; wherefore they may have breviaries. But let the laics say twenty-four Paternosters for Matins; five for Lauds; for Prime, Tierce, Sext and Nones,—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 the Nativity of the Lord. But the holy Lent which begins from Epiphany and continues for forty days, which the Lord has consecrated by His holy fast,—may those who keep it voluntarily be blessed by the Lord and those who do not wish may not be constrained. But they must fast during the other one until the Resurrection of the Lord. At other times, however, they shall not be obliged to fast, except on Fridays. But in time of manifest necessity the brothers shall not be bound to corporal fasting.
I indeed counsel, warn, and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ that when they go through the world they be not litigious nor contend in words, nor judge others; but that they be gentle, peaceful, and modest, meek and humble, speaking honestly to all as is fitting. And they must not ride on horseback unless compelled by manifest necessity or infirmity. Into whatsoever house they may enter let them first say: Peace be to this house! And, according to the holy Gospel, it is lawful to eat of all foods which are set before them.
4. That the Brothers must not receive money
I strictly enjoin on all the brothers that in no wise they receive coins or money, either themselves or through an interposed person. Nevertheless, for the necessities of the sick and for clothing the other brothers, let the ministers and custodes alone take watchful care through spiritual friends, according to places and times and cold climates, as they shall see expedient in the necessity, saving always that, as has been said, they shall not receive coins or money.
5. Of the manner of working
Let those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working labor faithfully and devoutly, so that in banishing idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, to which all temporal things must be subservient. They may, however, receive as the reward of their labor, the things needful for the body for themselves and their brothers, with the exception of coins or money, and that humbly, as befits the servants of God and the followers of most holy poverty
6. That the Brothers shall appropriate nothing to themselves: and of seeking Alms and of the Sick Brothers
The brothers shall appropriate nothing to themselves, neither a house nor place nor anything. And as pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go confidently in quest of alms, nor ought they to be ashamed, because the Lord made Himself poor for us in this world. This, my dearest brothers, is the height of the most sublime poverty which has made you heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven: poor in goods, but exalted in virtue. Let that be your portion, for it leads to the land of the living; cleaving to it unreservedly, my best beloved brothers, for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, never desire to possess anything else under heaven.
And wheresoever the brothers are and may find themselves, let them mutually show among themselves that they are of one household. And let one make known his needs with confidence to the other, for, if a mother nourishes and loves her carnal son, how much more earnestly ought one to love and nourish his spiritual brother! And if any of them should fall into illness, the other brothers must serve him as they would wish to be served themselves.
7. Of the Penance to be imposed on Brothers who sin
If any of the brothers, at the instigation of the enemy, sin mortally by those sins for which it has been ordained among the brothers that recourse should be had to the provincial ministers alone, the aforesaid brothers are bound to have recourse to them as soon as possible, without delay. But let the ministers themselves, if they are priests, impose penance on them with mercy; if however they are not priests, let them have it imposed by other priests of the Order, as it may seem to them most expedient, according to God. And they must beware lest they be angry or troubled on account of the sins of others, because anger and trouble impede charity’ in themselves and in others.
8. Of the Election of the Minister General of this Brotherhood, and of the Whitsun Chapter
All the brothers are bound always to have one of the brothers of this religion as minister general and servant of the whole brotherhood, and they are strictly bound to obey him. At his death the election of a successor must be made by the provincial ministers and custodes in the Whitsun Chapter, in which the provincial ministers are always bound to convene at the same time, wheresoever it may be appointed by the minister general, and that once in three years or at a longer or shorter interval as may be ordained by the said minister And if at any time it should be apparent to the whole of the provincial ministers that the aforesaid minister general is not sufficient for the service and the common welfare of the brothers, let the aforesaid ministers, to whom the election has been committed, be bound to elect for themselves another as custos in the name of the Lord. But after the Whitsun Chapter the ministers and custodes may each, if they wish and it seem expedient to them, convoke their brothers to a chapter in their custodies once in the same year.
9. Of Preachers
The brothers must not preach in the diocese of any bishop when their doing so may be opposed by him. And let no one of the brothers dare to preach in any way to the people, unless he has been examined and approved by the minister general of this brotherhood, and the office of preaching conceded to him by the latter. I also warn and exhort the same brothers that in the preaching they do their words be fire-tried and pure for the utility and edification of the people, announcing to them vices and virtues, punishment and glory, with brevity of speech because the Lord made His word short upon earth.
10. Of the Admonition and Correction of the Brothers
Those brothers who are ministers and servants of the other brothers, shall visit and admonish their brothers, and shall humbly and charitably correct them, not commanding them anything against their souls and our Rule. The brothers however who are subject must remember that, for God, they have renounced their own will. Wherefore I order them strictly to obey their ministers in all things which they have promised the Lord to observe and are not against their souls and our Rule. And wheresoever there are brothers who see and know that they are not able to observe the rule spiritually, they ought to and can recur to their ministers. And let the ministers receive them charitably and kindly and show so great familiarity toward them that they [the culprits] may speak and act with them as masters with their servants, for thus it ought to be, since the ministers are the servants of all the brothers.
I also warn and exhort the brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ that they beware of all pride, vainglory, envy, covetousness, the cares and solicitudes of this world, of detraction and murmuring. Let not those who are ignorant of letters care to learn letters, but let them consider that, beyond all, they should desire to possess the spirit of the Lord and His holy operation, to pray always to Him with a pure heart and to have humility, patience in persecution and in infirmity and to love those who persecute, reprove, and accuse us, because the Lord has said: “Love your enemies… and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you” “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.”
11. That the Brothers must not enter the Monasteries of Nuns
I strictly command all the brothers not to have suspicious intimacy, or conferences with women, and let none enter the monasteries of nuns except those to whom special permission has been granted by the Apostolic See. And let them not be godfathers of men or women, that scandal may not arise on this account among the brothers or concerning the brothers.
12. Of those who go among the Saracens and other Infidels
Let all of the brothers who by divine inspiration desire to go amongst the Saracens or other infidels, ask leave therefor from their provincial ministers. But the ministers must give permission to go to none except to those whom they see are fitted to be sent.
Moreover, I enjoin on the ministers, by obedience, that they ask of the Lord Pope one of the Cardinals of the holy Roman Church to be governor, protector, and corrector of this brotherhood, so that being always subject and submissive at the feet of the same holy Church, grounded in the Catholic faith, we may observe poverty and humility and the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we have firmly promised.
The Testament Of St. Francis
The Lord granted me, Brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way: While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I had mercy upon them. And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body; and afterward I lingered a little and left the world. And the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would simply pray and speak in this way: "We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the world, and we bless You, for through Your holy cross You have redeemed the world."
Afterward the Lord gave me and still gives me such faith in priests who live according to the manner of the holy Roman Church because of their order, that if they were to persecute me, I would still have recourse to them. And if I possessed as much wisdom as Solomon had and I came upon pitiful priests of this world, I would not preach contrary to thier will in the parishes in which they live.
And I desire to fear, love, and honor them and all others as my masters. And I do not wish to consider sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them and they are my masters. And I act in this way since I see nothing corporally of the Most High Son of God in this world except His Most holy Body and Blood which they receive and which they alone administer to others. And these most holy mysteries I wish to have honored above all things and to be reverenced and to have them reserved in precious places. Wherever I come upon His most holy written words in unbecoming places, I desire to gather them up and I ask that they be collected and placed in a suitable place. And we should honor and respect all theologians and those who minister the most holy divine words as those who minister spirit and life to us.
And after the Lord gave me brothers, no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel. And I had this written down simply and in a few words and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me. And those who came to receive life gave to the poor everything which they were capable of possessing and they were content with one tunic, patched inside and out, with a cord and short trousers. And we had no desire for anything more. We who were clerics used to say the Office as other clerics did; the lay brothers said the Our Father; and we quite willingly stayed in churches. And we were simple and subject to all.
And I used to work with my hands, and I still desire to work; and I firmly wish that all my brothers give themselves to honest work. Let those who do not know how to work learn, not from desire of receiving wages for their work but as an example and in order to avoid idleness. And when we are not paid for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, seeking alms from door to door. The Lord revealed to me a greeting, as we used to say: "May the Lord give you peace."
Let the brothers beware that they by no means receive churches or poor dwellings or anything which is built for them, unless it is in harmony with that holy poverty which we have promised in the Rule, and let them always be guests there as pilgrims and strangers. And I firmly command all of the brothers through obedience that, wherever they are, they should not be so bold as to seek any letter from the Roman Curia either personally or through an intermediary, neither for a church or for some other place or under the guise of preaching or even for the persecution of their bodies; but wherever they have not been received, let them flee into another country to do penance with the blessing of God.
And I firmly wish to obey the minister general of this fraternity and another guardian whom it might please him to give me. And I wish to be so captive in his hands that I cannot go anywhere or do anything beyond obedience and his will, for he is my master. And although I may be simple and infirm, I wish nonetheless always to have a cleric who will celebrate the Office for me as it is contained in the Rule. And all the other brothers are bound to obey their guardians and to celebrate the Office according to the Rule. And if any are found who do not celebrate the Office according to the Rule and who wish to alter it in any way or who are not Catholics, let all the brothers be obliged through obedience that wherever they come upon such a brother they must bring him to the custodian nearest to that place where they have found him. And the custodian is strictly bound through obedience to guard him strongly as a prisoner day and night, so that he cannot be snatched from his hands until he can personally deliver him into the hands of his minister. And the minister is strictly bound through obedience to send him with brothers who shall guard him as a prisoner day and night until they deliver him before the Lord of Ostia who is the master, protector, and corrector of the entire fraternity.
And let the brothers not say: This is another Rule; because this is a remembrance, an admonition, an exhortation, and my testament, which 1, little Brother Francis, prepare for all of you, my blessed brothers, so that we may observe in a more Catholic manner the Rule which we have promised to the Lord. And the minister general and all other ministers and custodians are bound through obedience not to add to or subtract from these words. And let them always have this writing with them along with the Rule. And in all the chapters which they hold, when they read the Rule, let them also read these words. And I through obedience strictly command all my brothers, cleric and lay, not to place glosses on the Rule or on these words, saying: They are to be understood in this way. But as the Lord has granted me to speak and to write the Rule and these words simply and purely, so shall you understand them simply and without gloss, and observe them with their holy manner of working until the end.
And whoever shall have observed these things, may he be filled in heaven with the blessing of the most high Father and on earth with the blessing of His beloved Son with the most Holy Spirit the Paraclete and with all the powers of heaven and all the saints. And I, little brother Francis, your servant, inasmuch as I can, confirm for you this most holy blessing both within and without.