Exhortation of Pope John Paul II
On June 19th 1986, Pope John Paul II addressed the Secular Franciscan Order in these terms: 'love, study, live your rule for the values within it are highly evangelical. Live these values in the fraternity and live them in the outside world...Live these evangelical values within your families...'
The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Chapter I : THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER
The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God--laity, religious, and priests-- who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present today the true charism of Saint Francis of Assisi in the life and mission of the Church.
The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this family circle. It is an organized community of all the fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to all Christians. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of St. Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.
The present rule, succeeding Memoriale Propositi (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.
The interpretation of this Rule comes from the Holy See and its practical application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.
Chapter II : WAY OF LIFE
The Rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: TO OBSERVE THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.
Christ, the gift of the Father's love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.
Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from the gospel to life and life to the gospel.
Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in the liturgy. The faith of Saint Francis, who wrote: 'I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except his most holy Body and Blood', should be the inspiration and pattern for their Eucharistic life.
Dead and resurrected with Christ in the baptism which makes them LIVING MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, they are more profoundly united to it through their commitment. Thus they will strive to be active witnesses of its mission among all people, proclaiming Christ through their life and words.
Inspired by Saint Francis and called with him to rebuild the Church, let them devote themselves to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.
United by their vocation as 'brothers and sisters of penance', and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls 'conversion'. Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.
On this road to inner renewal, the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father's mercy and source of graces.
As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.
Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.
The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to his every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and through earnest and confident prayer.
In communion with the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed his will into the Father's hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances in life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, bearing witness to Him even in difficulties and persecution.
Trusting in the Father, Christ chose for himself and his mother a poor and humble life, even though he valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of DETACHMENT FROM TEMPORAL GOODS by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God's children.
Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, "pilgrims and foreigners" on their way to the home of the Father should strive to purify their hearts from EVERY TENDENCY AND YEARNING FOR POSSESSION AND POWER.
Witnesses of the world to come and faithful to their vocation, they will try hard to acquire purity of heart, so as to be freer to love God and their brothers.
As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A SENSE OF COMMUNITY will prepare them to consider with joy as their equals all people, especially the lowliest, for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.
Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called TO BUILD A MORE FRATERNAL AND EVANGELICAL WORLD so that the kingdom of God comes about. Mindful that 'anyone who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more perfect man himself', let them exercise their responsibilities competently in a Christian spirit of service.
Through the testimony of their own lives and courageous initiatives, both individual and collective, that they may be in the forefront in promoting justice, particularly in public life and that they not hesitate to commit to this through options that are concrete and in harmony with their faith.
Let them esteem work as both a gift and a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.
In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.
By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular will bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for his Church. Through a Christian education, simple and open, attentive to the vocation of each child, they will joyfully accompany their children in their human and spiritual journey.
That they respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, for 'they bear the imprint of the Most High'; that they strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of kinship spread throughout the entire universe.
Mindful that they are BEARERS OF PEACE who know they must build unceasingly, they will seek out the ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and foregiveness.
Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they will actively strive to bring joy and hope to others.
Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.
Chapter III : LIFE IN BROTHERHOOD
Structures of the community
The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels--local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own legal personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the standards of this Rule and of the constitutions.
On various levels, each fraternity is led and guided by a Council and Chairman who are elected by the members according to the Constitutions.
Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.
Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.
The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for its members to develop a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening their apostolic mission in the world
Admission into the Order
Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.
Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a training period of at least one year, and profession of the rule. It is moreover a journey of growth which must also leave its mark on the way of life of the entire community. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan membership sign are regulated by the statutes.
Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.
Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with their local council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.
Meetings: places of communion
To foster communion among members, the council will organize periodic meetings and frequent visits, not only between members of the community but also
with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. This communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.
Through prayer this fellowship will extend to deceased brothers and sisters.
Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.
As a concrete sign of communion and coresponsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well-prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.
To promote fidelity to the franciscan charisma and to its Rule, and to receive greater support in the life of the Brotherhood, the person in charge will make sure in due course to ask competent superiors for a Religious to review the life - a pastoral visit - and to ask competent laity in positions of responsibility, the fraternal visit, in agreement with the council and in accordance with the Constitutions.