by. St. Francis of Assisi
In the Name of the Most High Trinity and Holy Unity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
To all the friars, so reverend, so well-beloved; to the Minister General of the Order of Minors and to his successors; to all the ministers and custodes; to the ordinary priests of the Order, and to all the friars who are obedient and without pretensions, to first and last, Brother Francis, the least of your servants, worthless and sinful, sends greetings in him who redeemed and cleansed us in His precious Blood. At the sound of His Name you should fall to the ground and adore Him with fear and reverence; the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High, is His Name, and He is blessed for ever. Amen.
Listen, then, sons of God and my friars, and give ear to my words. Give hearing with all your hearts and obey the voice of the Son of God. Keep his commandments wholeheartedly and practice his counsels with all your minds. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good; extol Him in your works. This is the very reason He has sent you all over the world, so that by word and deed you might bear witness to His message and convince everyone that there is no other almighty God besides Him. Be well disciplined then and patient under holy obedience, keeping your promises to Him generously and unflinchingly. God deals with you as with sons.
. . .
And so I beseech the Minister General, my superior, to see that the Rule is observed inviolably by all, ...
Almighty, Eternal, Just and Merciful God, grant us in our misery that we may do for Thy sake alone what we know Thou wants us to do, and always want what pleases Thee; so that, cleansed and enlightened interiorly and fired with the ardor of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to follow in the footsteps of Thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and so make our way to Thee, Most High, by Thy grace alone, who lives and reigns in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, and are glorified, God Omnipotent, for ever and ever. Amen.
Taken from "The Writings of St. Francis," trans. by Benen Fahy, OFM, Burns & Oats, London, 1964, with some modification.
by St. Francis
This man ought to be of most grave life, of great discretion, of laudable report, without private affections, lest while he loves more dearly on one side, scandal may grow in the whole body. There should be in him friendly zeal for prayer, yet so that he distribute certain hours to his own soul, and certain hours to his flock. For early in the morning, before all things he should put the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and there, with long devotion, most earnestly commend himself and his flock to the Divine Protection. But after prayer he shall place himself in the midst of his brothers that he may be questioned by all, answer to all, to provide for all with charity and patience and gentleness.
For he should be no acceptor of persons, so that he should take no less heed of the simple and foolish than of the wise and learned. To whom if the gift of learning be granted, yet he should bear in his manner the stamp of piety and simplicity, of patience and humility, and let him cherish these virtues, in himself and in others, and continually exercise himself in preaching them, inciting others more by example than by speech. Let him be a hater of money, which is the chief corruption of our profession and perfection, and as the head and exemplar to be imitated by all, let him in no wise be burdened by much luggage.
Let a habit and a book be sufficient for himself, but for tohers his pencase with a reed and writing tablets, and a seal. Let him not be a collector of books nor much given to reading, lest perhaps what he has given to study be taken from the fulfilment of office.
Let him console piously the afflicted, since his is the last resort of those in tribulation, lest if the remedies of health be wanting with him, despair of disease should prevail in infirm. That he may bend the violent to gentleness, let him bear himself humbly, and relax something of his own rights that he may obtain the profit of their souls. To the runaways of the Order, as to sheep who have perished, let him extend the bowels of pity, and let him never deny mercy to them; knowing those temptations to be very great which could drive one to such a fall, which temptations if the Lord should permit to him, he himself might perhaps fall from a greater precipice.
I will that as a vicar of Christ he be honored by all with devotion and reverence and that he be provided for by all and in all things with all good-will, accoridng to his necessities and the lowliness of our condition. Yet it will behoove him not to smile on honors; nor to rejoicve more in favors than in injuries, so that his manners be not changed by honors except for the better. But if sometimes he may need pleasanter and better food, let him not take it privately but in a public place, that the shame may be taken from others of providing them in their infirmities and weaknesses.
It behoves him chiefly to distinguish hidden knowledge, and to search out the truth from secret veins. Let him hold all accusations suspect in the beginning, until the truth begin to appear by diligent examination. Let him not lend his ear to much speakers, and let him hold them especially suspect in accusations, nor lightly believe them. He should be such as would, for the desire of retaining vile honor, never injure nor relax the form of justice and equity. Yet so, that out of too much rigor the soul of none may be destroyed, and out of superfluous gentleness sloth be not generated, and out of lax indulgence the dissolution of discipline not arise: and thus may he be feared by all, and loved of those that fear him. Let him always think and feel the office of his prelacy rather a burden than his honor.
I wish also that he have for confrers men well spoken of for honesty, rigid against their own wills, strong in need, pious and compassionate to delinquents, having equal affection to all, receiving nothing of thier labor except the pure necessities of the body; and desire nothing except the praise of God, the welfare of the Order, the merit of their souls, and the perfect health of all the brethren; suitably affable to all, and receiving those comming to them with holy joy, and shoing the form and Observance of the Gospel, according to the profession of the Rule, in themselves purely and simply to all.
Behold, I say, such should be the Minister General of this Order, and such the confreres sould have.
The Mirror of Perfection: Section V, Chapter LXXVI
Blessed Francis, perfectly zealous and a lover of the Observance of the Holy Gospel, was most ardently zealous for the common profession of our Rule, which is none other than the perfect Observance of the Gospel; and he endowed those who are and shall be true enthusiasts for it with his singular benediction. For he used to say to his imitators that this our profession was the Book of Life, the Hope of Salvation, the Foretaste of Glory, the Marrow of the Gospel, the Way of the Cross, the State of Perfection, the Key to Paradise, and the Pact of the Eternal Covenant.
This he wished to be held and known of all, and he wished his brethren to confer concerning it very often in their conversation against weariness, and in memory of their first oath full often to talk of it with their inner man. He taught them also that is should always be carried before their eyes in commemoration and memory of leading the life, and of the due Observance of the Rule, and what is more, he wished and taught that the friars should died with it.
Taken from "The Mirror of Perfection," trans. by Robert Steele, E. P Dutton & Co., New York, 1951, with some modifications