THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER
- All the faithful are called to holiness and have a right to
follow their own spiritual way in communion with the Church.*)
- *) See Code of Canon Law (hereafter cited as
CCL) 210, 214, and Lumen Gentium 40.
- (Rule 1)
There are many spiritual families in the Church with different
charisms. Among these families, the Franciscan Family, which in
its various branches recognizes St. Francis of Assisi as its
father, inspiration, and model, must be included.
- (Rule 2)
From the beginning, the Secular Franciscan Order has had its
own proper place in the Franciscan Family.*) It is formed by the
organic union of all the Catholic fraternities whose members,
moved by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves through profession to
live the Gospel in the manner of St. Francis, in their secular
state, following the Rule approved by the Church.
- *) It is also called "Secular Franciscan Fraternity", or
Franciscan Third Order" (TOF). See Rule 1, footnote.
Canon 303 of the CCL defines third orders: "Associations whose members live
in the world, but share in the spirit of some religious institute, under
the overall direction of the same institute, and who lead an apostolic
life and strive for Christian perfection, are known as third orders, or are
called by some other suitable title."
- The Holy See has entrusted the pastoral care and spiritual
assistance of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO), because it
belongs to the same spiritual family, to the Franciscan First
Order and Third Order Regular (TOR). These are the "Institutes"
to whom the altius moderamen, referred to by canon 303
of the Code of Canon Law (CCL), belongs.*)
- *) See General Constitutions SFO, 85,2
(hereafter cited as Const.). When the Constitutions are cited
without any other specification, the reference is to the present
- The Secular Franciscan Order is a public association in the
Church.*) It is divided into fraternities at various levels:
local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its
own juridical personality within the Church.
- *) See CCL 116; 301,3; 312; 313.
- The vocation to the SFO is a specific vocation that gives
form to the life and apostolic activity of its members.
Therefore, those who are bound by profession to another religious
family are not accepted.
- The SFO is open to the faithful of every state of life. The
following may belong to it:
-- the laity (men and women);
-- the secular clergy (deacons, priests, bishops).
- The secular state characterizes the spirituality and the
apostolic life of those belonging to the SFO.
- Their secularity, with respect to vocation and to apostolic
life, expresses itself according to the respective state, that
-- for the laity, contributing to building up the Kingdom of God
by their presence in their life- situations and in their temporal
-- for the secular clergy, by offering to the people of God
the service which is properly theirs, in communion with the
bishop and the presbytery.*)
- *) See CCL 225, and the Discourse of Pope
John Paul II to the SFO, September 27, 1982 in L'Osservatore
Romano, September 28, 1982.
Both are inspired by the gospel options of Francis of Assisi,
committing themselves to continue their mission with the other
components of the Franciscan Family.
- *) See CCL 275 ff, Presbyterorum
ordinis 12; 14; 15 ff.
- The vocation to the SFO is a vocation to live the Gospel in
fraternal communion. For this purpose, the members of the SFO
gather in ecclesial communities which are called
- The SFO is governed by the universal law of the Church, and
by its own: the Rule, the Constitutions, the Ritual, and the
- The Rule establishes the nature, purpose, and spirit of the
- (Rule 3)
The Constitutions have as their purpose:
-- to apply the Rule;
-- to indicate concretely the conditions for belonging to the
SFO, its government, the organization of life in fraternity, and
- *) See CCL 304.
- (Rule 3)
The authentic interpretation of the Rule and of the
Constitutions belongs to the Holy See.
- The practical interpretation of the Constitutions, with the
purpose of harmonizing its application in different areas and at
the various levels of the Order, belongs to the General Chapter
of the SFO.
- The clarification of specific points which require a timely
decision is the competence of the Presidency of the International
Council of the SFO
(See Art. 72).
- The International Council of the SFO has its own proper
statutes approved by the General Chapter of the SFO and confirmed
by the Union of the Franciscan Ministers General.
- National fraternities have their own statutes approved by the
Presidency of the International Council of the SFO.
- The regional and the local fraternities may have their own
statutes approved by the council of the higher level.
All regulations not in accordance with the present
Constitutions are abrogated.
FORM OF LIFE AND APOSTOLIC ACTIVITY
THE FORM OF LIFE
- The Secular Franciscans commit themselves by their profession
to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their
- They seek to deepen, in the light of faith, the values and
choices of the evangelical life according to the Rule of the
--- in a continually renewed journey of conversion and of
(Rule 4, par. 3)
-- open to the opportunities that come from society and
from the Church's life situation, "going from Gospel to life and
from life to Gospel";
-- in the personal and communal dimensions of this journey.
- (Rule 5)
The spirituality of the Secular Franciscan is a plan of life
centered on the person and on the following of Christ,*) rather
than a detailed program to be put into practice.
- *) See Rule of 1221, Chapt. 22; Second Letter
to All the Faithful, 51.
- (Rule 4 par. 3)
The Secular Franciscan, committed to following the example and
the teachings of Christ, must personally and assiduously study
the Gospel and Sacred Scripture. The fraternity and its leaders
should foster love for the word of the Gospel and help the
brothers and sisters to know and understand it as it is
proclaimed by the Church with the assistance of the Spirit.*)
- *) See Dei verbum 10.
"Christ, poor and crucified", victor over death and risen, the
greatest manifestation of the love of God for humanity, is the
"book" in which the brothers and sisters, in imitation of St.
Francis, learn the purpose and the way of living, loving, and
suffering. They discover in Him the value of contradictions for
the sake of justice and the meaning of the difficulties and the
crosses of daily life. With Him they can accept the will of the
Father even under the most difficult circumstances and live the
Franciscan spirit of peace, rejecting every doctrine contrary to
Mindful that the Holy Spirit is the source of their vocation
and the animator of fraternal life and mission, Secular
Franciscans should seek to imitate the faithfulness of St.
Francis to his inspiration. They should listen to the exhortation
of the Saint to desire above all things "the Spirit of God at
work within them".*)
- *) Rule of 1223, Chapt. 10.
- Gaining inspiration from the example and the writings of St.
Francis and, above all, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit,
each day the brothers and sisters faithfully live the great gift
which Christ has given: the revelation of the Father. They should
bear witness to this faith before all:
-- in their family life;
-- in their work;
-- in their joys and sufferings;
-- in their associations with all men and women, brothers and
sisters of the same Father;
-- in their presence and participation in the life of
-- in their fraternal relationships with all creatures.
- (Rule 10)
With Jesus, obedient even to death, they should seek to know and
do the will of the Father. They should give thanks to God for the
gift of freedom and for the revelation of the law of love. In
order to carry out the will of the Father, they should accept the
help which is offered to them through the mediation of the Church
by those who are constituted as authority in her and by their
confreres. They should take on the risk of courageous choices in
their life in society with decisiveness and serenity.
- (Rule 8)
The brothers and sisters should love meeting God as His children
and they should "let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all
they are and do." They should seek to discover the presence of
the Father in their own heart, in nature, and in the history of
humanity. In each of these, His salvific plan is fulfilled. The
contemplation of this mystery will dispose them to collaborate in
this loving plan.
- (Rule 7)
Secular Franciscans, called in earlier times "the brothers and
sisters of penance", propose to live in the spirit of continual
conversion. Some means to cultivate this characteristic of the
Franciscan vocation, individually and in fraternity, are:
listening to and celebrating the Word of God; review of life;
spiritual retreats; the help of a spiritual adviser, and
penitential celebrations. They should approach the Sacrament of
Reconciliation frequently and participate in the communal
celebration of it, whether in the fraternity, or with the whole
people of God.*)
- *) Ordo Poenitentiae. Praenotanda 22
- In this spirit of conversion, they should live out their love
for the renewal of the Church, which should be accompanied by
personal and communal renewal. The fruits of conversion, which is
a response to the love of God, are the works of charity in the
interactions with the brothers and sisters.*)
- *) See Second Letter to All the Faithful 25
- Traditional among Franciscan penitents, penitential practices
such as fasting and abstinence should be known, appreciated, and
lived out according to the general guidelines of the Church.
- Aware that God wanted to make of us all a single people and
that he made his Church the universal sacrament of salvation, the
brothers and sisters should commit themselves to a faith-inspired
reflection on the Church, its mission in today's world and the
role of the Franciscan laity within it. They should take up the
challenges and accept the responsibilities that this reflection
will lead them to discover.
- (Rule 8)
The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church. Christ
unites us to himself and to one another as a single body in it.
Therefore, the Eucharist should be the center of the life of the
Fraternity. The brothers and sisters should participate in the
Eucharist as frequently as possible, being mindful of the respect
and love shown by St. Francis, who, in the Eucharist, lived all
the mysteries of the life of Christ.
- They should participate in the sacraments of the Church,
attentive not only to personal sanctification, but also to
fostering the growth of the Church and the spreading of the
Kingdom. They should collaborate in achieving living and
conscious celebrations in their own parishes, particularly in the
celebrations of baptism, confirmation, marriage, and the
anointing of the sick.
- The brothers and sisters as well as the fraternities should
adhere to the indications of the Ritual with respect to the
different forms of participating in the liturgical prayer of the
Church, giving priority to the celebration of the Liturgy of the
- *) Ritual SFO, Appendix 26, 27. "According to
the Rule (Art. 8), the Secular Franciscans are to join in
liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church,
reliving the mysteries of Christ.
These prayers may be:
- Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy
of the Hours, either in common or in private. These celebrations
are to be preferred at the Fraternity meetings;
- Short and appropriate forms of the Liturgy of
the Hours of the local church.
- The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- The Office of the Passion by St. Francis of Assisi.
- The recitation of the Office of the Twelve
Our Fathers, enriched with short biblical passages and adapted to
the Liturgy of the Hours, especially since it still thrives in
many parts of the world and is a useful form of prayer in certain
- In all places and at all times, it is possible for true
worshipers of the Father to give him adoration and to pray to
him. Nevertheless, the brothers and sisters should try to find
times of silence and recollection dedicated exclusively to
- (Rule 11)
Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to live the spirit
of the Beatitudes and, in a special way, the spirit of poverty.
Evangelical poverty demonstrates confidence in the Father,
affects interior freedom, and disposes them to promote a more
just distribution of wealth.
- Secular Franciscans, who must provide for their own families
and serve society by means of their work and material goods, have
a particular manner of living evangelical poverty. To understand
and achieve it requires a strong personal commitment and the
stimulation of the fraternity in prayer and dialogue, communal
review of life, and attentiveness to the instructions of the
Church, and the demands of society.
- Secular Franciscans should pledge themselves to reduce their
own personal needs so as to be better able to share spiritual and
material goods with their brothers and sisters, especially those
most in need. They should give thanks to God for the goods they
have received, using them as good stewards and not as owners.
They should take a firm position against consumerism and against
ideologies and practices which prefer riches over human and
religious values and which permit the exploitation of the human
- They should love and practice purity of heart, the source of
- (Rule 9)
Mary, Mother of Jesus, is the model of listening to the Word and
of faithfulness to vocation; we, like Francis, see all the gospel
virtues realized in her.*)
The brothers and sisters should cultivate intense love for the
most holy virgin, imitation, prayer, and filial abandonment. They
should manifest their own devotion with expressions of genuine
faith, in forms accepted by the Church.
- *) Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- Mary is the model of fruitful and faithful love for the
entire ecclesial community. Secular Franciscans and their
fraternities should seek to live the experience of Francis, who
made the Virgin the guide of his activity. With her, like the
disciples at Pentecost, they should welcome the Spirit to create
a community of love.*)
- *) See 2 Celano, 198.
ACTIVE PRESENCE IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD
- (Rule 6)
Called to work together in building up the Church as the
sacrament of salvation for all and, through their baptism and
profession, made "witnesses and instruments of her mission",
Secular Franciscans proclaim Christ by their life and words.
Their preferred apostolate is personal witness in the
environment in which they live and service for building up the
Kingdom of God within the situations of this world.*)
- *) See First Rule 17,3; Legend of the
Three Companions , 36; Letter to All the Faithful, 53.
- The preparation of the brothers and sisters for spreading the
Gospel message "in the ordinary circumstances of the world"*) and
for collaborating in the catechesis within the ecclesial
communities should be promoted in the Fraternities.
- *) Lumen Gentium 35.
- Those who are called to carry out the mission of catechists,
presiders of ecclesial communities, or other ministries, as well
as the sacred ministers, should make the love of St. Francis for
the word of God their own, as well as his faith in those who
announce it, and the great fervor with which he received the
mission of preaching penance from the Pope.
- Participation in the service of sanctification, which the
Church exercises through the liturgy, prayer, and works of
penance and charity, is put into practice by the brothers and
sisters above all in their own family, then in the fraternity and
finally through their active presence in the local Church and in
For a Just and Fraternal Society
- Secular Franciscans are called to make their own
contribution, inspired by the person and message of Francis of
Assisi, towards a civilization in which the dignity of the human
person, shared responsibility, and love may be living
- *) See Gaudium et Spes 31
- (Rule 13)
They should deepen the true foundations of universal fraternity
and create a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fraternity
everywhere. They should firmly commit themselves to oppose every
form of exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion and against
every attitude of indifference in relation to others.
- They should work together with movements which promote the
building of fraternity among peoples: they should be committed to
"create worthy conditions of life" for all and to work for the
freedom of all people.
- Following the example of St. Francis, Patron of Ecology, they
should collaborate with efforts to fight pollution and to
conserve all that is valuable in nature.
- (Rule 14)
Secular Franciscans should always act as a leaven in the
environment in which they live through the witness of their
fraternal love and clear Christian motivations.
- In the spirit of minority, they should opt for relationships
which give preference to the poor and to those on the fringe of
society, whether these be individuals or categories of persons or
an entire people; they should collaborate in overcoming the
exclusions of others and those forms of poverty that are the
fruit of inefficiency and injustice.
- (Rule 14)
Secular Franciscans, committed by their vocation to build the
Kingdom of God in temporal situations and activities, live their
membership both in the Church and in society as an inseparable
- As the primary and fundamental contribution to building a
more just and fraternal world, they should commit themselves both
to the generous fulfillment of the duties proper to their
occupation and to the professional training that pertains to it.
With the same spirit of service, they should assume their social
and civil responsibilities.
- (Rule 16)
For St. Francis, work is a gift and to work is a grace. Daily
work is not only the means of livelihood, but the opportunity to
serve God and neighbor as well as a way to develop one's own
personality. In the conviction that work is a right and a duty
and that every form of occupation deserves respect, the brothers
and sisters should commit themselves to collaborate so that all
persons may have the possibility to work and so that working
conditions may always be more humane.
- Leisure and recreation have their own value and are necessary
for personal development. Secular Franciscans should maintain a
balance between work and rest and should strive to make
meaningful use of their leisure time.*)
- *) See Gaudium et Spes 67;
Laborem exercens 16 ff.
- (Rule 15)
Secular Franciscans should "be in the forefront ... in the field
of public life." They should collaborate as much as possible for
the passage of just laws and ordinances.
- The fraternities should engage themselves through "courageous
initiatives", consistent with their Franciscan vocation and with
the directives of the Church, in the field of human development
and justice. They should take clear positions whenever human
dignity is attacked by any form of oppression or indifference.
They should offer their fraternal service to the victims of
- The renunciation of the use of violence, characteristic of
the followers of Francis, does not mean the renunciation of
action. However, the brothers and sisters should take care that
their interventions are always inspired by Christian love.
- (Rule 19)
Peace is the work of justice and the fruit of reconciliation and
of fraternal love.*) Secular Franciscans are called to be bearers
of peace in their families and in society:
-- they should see to the proposal and spreading of peaceful
ideas and attitudes;
- *) See Gaudium et Spes
-- they should develop their own initiatives and should
collaborate, individually and as a fraternity, with initiatives
of the Pope, the local Churches, and the Franciscan Family;
-- they should collaborate with those movements and institutions
which promote peace while respecting its authentic
- While acknowledging both the personal and national right to
self-defence, they should respect the choice of those who,
because of conscientious objection, refuse to bear arms.
- To preserve peace in the family, the brothers and sisters
should, in due time, make a last will and testament for the
disposition of their goods.
In the Family
- (Rule 17)
Secular Franciscans should consider their own family to be the
first place in which to live their Christian commitment and
Franciscan vocation. They should make space within it for prayer,
for the Word of God, and for Christian catechesis. They should
concern themselves with respect for all life in every situation
from conception till death.
Married couples find in the Rule of the SFO an effective aid in
their own journey of Christian life, aware that in the sacrament
of matrimony their love shares in the love that Christ has for
his Church. The beauty and the strength of the human love of the
spouses is a profound witness for their own family, the Church,
and the world.
- In the fraternity:
-- the spirituality of the family and of marriage and the
Christian attitude towards family problems should be a theme for
dialogue and for the sharing of experiences;
-- they should share the important moments of the family life of
their Franciscan brothers and sisters and they should give
fraternal attention to those who live in loneliness and in other
conditions of suffering;
-- they should create conditions suitable for dialogue between
-- the formation of groups of married couples and of family
groups should be fostered.
- The brothers and sisters should collaborate with the efforts
undertaken in the Church and in society to affirm both the value
of fidelity and respect for life and to provide answers to the
social problems of the family.
Out of the conviction of the need to educate children to take
an interest in community, "bringing them the awareness of being
living, active members of the People of God"*) and because of the
fascination which St. Francis can exercise on them, the formation
of groups of children should be encouraged. With the help of a
pedagogy and an organization suitable to their age, these
children should be initiated into a knowledge and love of the
Franciscan life. National statutes will give an appropriate
orientation for the organization of these groups and their
relationship to the fraternity and to the groups of Franciscan youth.
- *) Apostolicam actuositatem
Messengers of Joy and Hope
- Even in suffering, Francis experienced confidence and joy
-- the experience of the fatherhood of God;
-- the invincible faith of rising with Christ to eternal
-- the experience of being able to meet and praise the Creator
in the universal Fraternity of all creatures.*)
- *) See 2 Celano , 125; Legend of
Perugia, 43; Major Life, 9.
Therefore, Secular Franciscans are called to create conditions
of life and of environment that would not be a threat to any
person, but would lead to the discovery of the mind and will of
- (Rule 19)
In conformity with the Gospel, they affirm their hope and their
joy in living. They make a contribution to counter widespread
distress and pessimism, thus preparing a better future.
In the fraternity, the brothers and sisters should promote
mutual understanding and they should see to it that the
atmosphere of their meetings is welcoming and that it reflects
joy. They should encourage one another for the good.
- (Rule 19)
The brothers and sisters, progressing in age, should learn to
accept illness and increasing difficulties and to give a deeper
sense to their life. This should be undertaken with increasing
detachment as they set out for the promised Land. They should be
firmly convinced that the community of those who believe in
Christ and who love one another in him will go forward into
eternal life as the "communion of saints".
- Secular Franciscans should commit themselves to create in
their environment and, above all, in their fraternities, a
climate of faith and hope so that "Sister Death" may be regarded
as a passage to the Father, and all may prepare themselves with
LIFE IN FRATERNITY
- The Fraternity of the SFO finds its origin in the inspiration
of Francis of Assisi to whom the Most High revealed the essential
gospel quality of life in fraternal communion.*)
- *) See Constitutions 3,3; Testament 14.
- (Rule 20)
"The SFO is divided into Fraternities of various levels", with
the purpose of promoting, in an orderly form, the union and
mutual collaboration among the brothers and sisters and their
active and communal presence both in the local and in the
- The brothers and sisters gather in local fraternities
established in connection with a church or a religious house, or
in personal fraternities, constituted for specific and valid
reasons recognized in the decree of establishment.*)
- *) See CCL 518.
- Local fraternities are grouped into fraternities at various
levels: regional, national and international according to
criteria that are ecclesial, territorial, or of another nature.
They are coordinated and connected according to the norm of the
- (Rule 20)
These fraternities, that each have their own juridical
personality in the Church, should acquire, if possible, a civil
juridical personality for the better fulfillment of their
mission. It pertains to the national councils to give guidelines
concerning the motivations and the procedures to be followed.
- National statutes should indicate the criteria for the
organization of the SFO in the nation. The application of these
criteria is left to the prudent judgment of the leaders of the
fraternities concerned and of the national council.
- The brothers and sisters are co-responsible for the life of
the fraternity to which they belong and for the SFO as the
organic union of all fraternities throughout the world.
- The sense of co-responsibility of the members requires
personal presence, witness, prayer, and active collaboration, in
accordance with each one's means and possible obligations for the
animation of the fraternity.*)
- *) The applications deriving from these
principles will be noted in Chapter III, Title III of the present
Constitutions devoted to the fraternities at various
- (Rule 25)
In a family spirit, each brother and sister should make a
contribution to the fraternity fund, according to each one's
means, to provide the financial means needed for the life of the
fraternity and for its religious, apostolic, and charitable
works. The fraternity should make its financial contribution for
the operation of the fraternities at higher levels.
- (Rule 21)
The fraternities at different levels are animated and guided by
the minister or president, with the council, in accordance with
the Rule, the Constitutions, and their own Statutes. These
offices are conferred through elections.
- The office of minister or councilor is a fraternal service, a
commitment to hold oneself available and responsible in relation
to each brother and sister of the fraternity so that each one
will realize his or her own vocation and each fraternity will be
a true community, ecclesial and Franciscan, actively present in
the Church and in society.
- The leaders of the SFO at every level should be perpetually
professed, convinced of the validity of the Franciscan
evangelical way of life, attentive to a broad and encompassing
vision of the life of the Church and of society, open to
dialogue, and ready to give and receive help and
- The leaders should see to the spiritual and technical
preparation and animation of the meetings both of the
fraternities and of the councils. They should seek to inspire
life and soul into the fraternities by their own witness,
suggesting appropriate means for the development of the life of
the fraternity and of apostolic activities in the light of the
fundamental Franciscan options. They should see to it that the
decisions made are carried out and they should promote
collaboration among the brothers and sisters.
- The minister and the council should live and foster the
spirit and reality of communion among the brothers and sisters,
among the various fraternities, and between them and the
Franciscan Family. They should, above all, cherish peace and
reconciliation in and around the fraternity.
- The minister's and councilors' duty to lead is temporary. The
brothers and sisters, rejecting all ambition, should show love
for the fraternity with a spirit of service, prepared both to
accept and to relinquish the office.
"The various fraternities are coordinated and united
according the norm of the Rule and of the Constitutions."*)
- *) This is a requirement of the communion
among the fraternities, of the orderly collaboration among them,
and of the unity of the SFO.
- In the guidance and coordination of the fraternities and of
the Order, the personality and capacity of the individual
brothers and sisters and of the individual fraternities should be
promoted. The plurality of expressions of the Franciscan ideal
and cultural variety must be respected.
- The councils of higher levels should not do what can be
adequately carried out either by the local fraternities or by a
council of a lower level. They should respect and promote their
vitality so that they fulfill their duties properly. The local
fraternities and councils concerned should commit themselves to
carry out the decisions of the International Council and of the
other councils of higher levels, and to implement their programs,
adapting them when necessary to their own situation.
Where the situation and the needs of the members require it,
sections or groups which gather members sharing particular needs,
common interests, or the same choices, may be established within
the fraternity under the guidance of the one council. Such groups
will be able to give themselves specific norms relative to their
meetings and activities, firmly remaining faithful, however, to
the needs which arise from membership in the one fraternity.
National statutes may establish criteria suitable for the
formation and functioning of sections or groups.
- Priests who recognize that they are called by the Spirit to
participate in the charism of St. Francis within the secular
fraternity should find in it a specific provision in conformity
with their mission among the People of God.
- Secular Franciscan priests, who may develop a valid service
as assistants of fraternities, may also gather in fraternities of
priests in order to pursue the ascetical and pastoral incentives
which the life and doctrine of St. Francis and the Rule of the
SFO offer them to live their vocation in the Church better. It is
proper that the fraternities of priests have their own statutes
which anticipate concrete forms for fraternal meetings and for
spiritual formation as well as for making their communion with
the whole Order living and functional.
The brothers and sisters who commit themselves with private
vows to live in the spirit of the beatitudes and to make
themselves more disposed to contemplation and to the service of
the fraternities, can be a great help in the spiritual and
apostolic development of the SFO. These brothers and sisters may
gather in groups according to statutes approved by the national
council, and when these groups spread beyond the borders of a
nation, by the International Council of the SFO. Such statutes
should be in harmony with the present Constitutions.
ENTRANCE INTO THE ORDER AND FORMATION
- (Rule 23)
Membership in the Order is attained through a time of
initiation, a time of formation, and the Profession of the
- The journey of formation, which should develop throughout
life, begins with entrance into the fraternity. Mindful that the
Holy Spirit is the principal agent of formation and always
attentive to collaboration with Him, those responsible for
formation are: the candidate, the entire fraternity, the minister
with the council, the master of formation, and the assistant as
- The brothers and sisters are responsible for their own
formation developing in an ever more perfect way the vocation
received from the Lord. The fraternity is called to help the
brothers and sisters in this journey by means of a warm welcome,
prayer, and example.
- The elaboration and adoption of means of formation, adapted
to the local situations and offered as a help to those
responsible for formation in the individual fraternities, belong
to the national and regional councils in common agreement.
The Time of Initiation
- (Rule 23)
The period of initiation*) is a phase preparatory to the true
and proper time of formation and is intended for the discernment
of the vocation and for the reciprocal acquaintance between the
fraternity and the aspiring member. It should guarantee the
freedom and the seriousness of entrance into the SFO.
- *) Traditionally called
- The duration of the period of initiation and the forms
employed in its development are established by the national
- It is the duty of the fraternity council to decide possible
exemptions to this period of initiation, keeping in mind the
guidelines of the national council.
Admission to the Order
- (Rule 23)
The request for admission to the Order is presented by the
candidate to the minister of a local or personal fraternity by a
formal act, in writing if possible.
- Conditions for admission are: to profess the Catholic faith,
to live in communion with the Church, to be of good moral
standing, and to show clear signs of a vocation.*)
- *) See CCL 316.
- The minister decides collegially with the council of the
fraternity on the request, gives a formal answer to the
candidate, and communicates this to the fraternity.
- The act of admission is to be registered and preserved in the
records of the fraternity.
The Time of Formation
- (Rule 23)
The time of formation*), which begins with the rite of admission
performed according to the Ritual, lasts at least one year.
The purpose of this period is the maturation of the vocation,
the experience of the evangelical life in fraternity, and a
better knowledge of the Order. This formation should be carried
out with frequent meetings for study and prayer and with concrete
experiences of service and of apostolate. These meetings should
be held, as far as possible and opportune, in common with the
candidates of other fraternities.
- *) Traditionally called
- The candidates are guided to read and meditate on Sacred
Scripture, to come to know the person and writings of St. Francis
and of Franciscan spirituality, and to study the Rule and
Constitutions. They are trained in a love for the Church and
acceptance of her teaching. The laity practice living their
Secular commitment in the world in an evangelical way.
- Participation in the meetings of the local fraternity is
indispensable presupposition for initiation into community prayer
and into fraternity life.
- A pedagogy in the Franciscan style and corresponding to the
mentality of the place should be adopted according to the
suggestions which will be formulated by the persons at the
national level responsible for formation.
The Profession or Promise of Evangelical
- (Rule 23)
Having completed the period of initial formation, the candidate
submits to the minister of the local fraternity a request to make
his or her profession. Having heard the person responsible for
formation and the assistant, the fraternity council decides by
secret ballot on the admission to profession, gives its reply to
the candidate, and informs the fraternity.
- The conditions for the Profession or Promise of evangelical
-- attainment of the age established by the national
-- active participation in the period of formation for at least
-- the consent of the council of the local fraternity.
- Where it is held to be opportune to lengthen the period of
formation, it must not be extended to more than a year beyond the
time established by the statutes.
- Profession is the solemn ecclesial act by which the
candidate, remembering the call received from Christ, renews the
baptismal promises and publicly affirms his or her personal
commitment to live the Gospel in the world according to the
example of St. Francis and following the Rule of the SFO.
- (Rule 23, par. 3)
Profession incorporates the candidate into the Order and is by
its nature a perpetual commitment. It may be preceded by a
temporary Profession, renewable annually for no more than three
- *) See Ritual SFO, n.18.
- Profession is accepted by the minister of the local
fraternity or by his or her delegate in the name of the Church
and of the SFO. The rite is carried out according to the norms of
- *) See Ritual SFO, Preface n.12 ff and Part
I, Chapter II. Profession, a public and ecclesial act, is
received by the minister. If possible, it is done during the
Eucharistic Celebration. The priest spiritual assistant is the
witness of the Church and of the religious Franciscan Order to
which the spiritual care of the fraternity belongs.
- Profession does not only commit those professed to the
fraternity, but also in the same way it commits the fraternity to
be concerned with their human and religious well-being.
- The act of Profession is registered and preserved in the
records of the fraternity.
(Rule 23 par. 3)
The national statutes establish:
-- the minimum age for Profession which, however, may not be
less than eighteen years completed;
-- the distinctive sign of membership in the Order (the "Tau" or
other Franciscan symbol).
- Begun by the preceding stages, the formation of the brothers
and sisters takes place in a permanent and continuous way. It
should be understood as an aid in the conversion of each*) and
everyone and in the fulfillment of their proper mission in the
Church and in society.
- *) See Const. Art. 8, and 1 Celano
- The fraternity has the duty to help its own members with
programs of continuing formation:
(Rule 4, par. 3)
-- to listen to and meditate on the Word of God, "going from
Gospel to life and from life to Gospel";
-- to reflect on events in the Church and in society in the
light of faith and with the help of the documents of the teaching
Church, consequently taking consistent positions;
-- to realize and deepen the Franciscan vocation.
- The programs of continuing formation should help the brothers
and sisters to develop their vocation in fraternity and to follow
the life of the Church by means of courses, meetings, and
Promotion of vocations
- The promotion of vocations to the Order is a duty of all the
brothers and sisters and is a sign of the vitality of the
fraternities themselves. The brothers and sisters, convinced of
the validity of the Franciscan way of life, should pray that God
may give the grace of the Franciscan vocation to new members.
- Although nothing can substitute for the witness of each
member and of the fraternity, the councils must adopt appropriate
means to promote the Secular Franciscan vocation.
THE FRATERNITY AT THE VARIOUS LEVELS
The Local Fraternity
- (Rule 22)
The canonical establishment of the local fraternity is the duty
of the competent religious major superior at the request of the
brothers and sisters concerned and with the prior consultation
and collaboration of the council of the higher level to which the
new fraternity will be related according to the national
The written consent of the bishop is necessary for the canonical
establishment of a fraternity outside the houses or churches of
the Franciscan religious of the First Order or the TOR.*)
- *) See CCL 312.
- For the valid establishment of a local fraternity, at least
five professed members are required. The admission and profession
of these first brothers and sisters will be received by the
council of another local fraternity or by the council of a higher
level which will have provided for their formation in appropriate
ways. The acts of admission and profession and the decree of
establishment are preserved in the records of the fraternity.
Copies are sent to the council of the higher level.
- If there is not yet a fraternity of the SFO in a nation, it
is the duty of the Presidency of the International Council of the
SFO to make provision in this regard.
- (Rule 22)
Each local fraternity, the primary cell of the one SFO, is
entrusted to the pastoral care of the religious Franciscan Family
that canonically established it.
- A local fraternity may pass to the pastoral care of another
religious Franciscan Obedience in the ways provided by the
- *) See Const. 76 ff.
- In the case of cessation of a fraternity, the patrimonial
goods of the same, the library and the records are acquired by
the fraternity of the immediately higher level.
- In the case of revival according to the canonical laws, the
fraternity will repossess any remaining goods, its own library,
The Fraternity Council
- The local fraternity is animated and guided by a minister and
a council elected by the professed members of the fraternity.
Only by way of exception in the first phase of their
establishment may fraternities exist without a regular council.
The council of a higher level will provide for this lack only for
the time strictly needed to insure the beginning of the new
fraternity, the formation of its animators and the carrying out
of its elections.
- The council of the local fraternity is composed of the
following offices: minister, vice-minister, secretary, treasurer,
and the person responsible for formation. Other offices may be
added according to the needs of each fraternity. The spiritual
assistant of the fraternity forms part of the council by
- The fraternity, meeting in an elective assembly or chapter,
elects the minister and the other leaders in the way provided by
the national statutes.*)
- *) See Const. 76 ff.
It is the duty of the council of the local fraternity:
-- to promote the initiatives necessary for fostering fraternal
life, for improving the human, Christ- ian, and Franciscan
formation of its members and for sustaining their witness and
commitment in the world;
-- to make concrete and courageous choices, appropriate for the
situation of the fraternity, from among the numerous activities
possible in the field of the apostolate.
The duties of the council are also:
- to decide on the acceptance and admission to Profession of
new brothers and sisters;*)
- *) See Const. 39, 3 and 41,1.
- to establish a fraternal dialogue with members in particular
difficulties and to adopt consequent measures;
- to receive the request for withdrawal and to decide on the
suspension of a member from the fraternity;
- to decide on the establishment of sections or groups in
conformity with the Constitutions and the statutes;
- to decide on the destination of available funds and, in
general, to deliberate on matters concerning the financial
conduct and economic affairs of the fraternity;
- to assign duties to the councilors and to the other professed
- to request from the competent superiors of the First Order
and the TOR suitable and prepared religious as assistants;
- to perform such other duties as are required by these
Constitutions or which are necessary to carry out its proper
The Offices in the Fraternity
- While firmly preserving the coresponsibility of the council
for the animation and guidance of the fraternity, it is the duty
of the minister, who is the person primarily responsible in the
fraternity, to ensure that the directions and decisions of the
fraternity and of the council are put into practice. He or she
will keep the council informed concerning his or her
The minister also has the following duties:
- to call, to preside at, and to direct the meetings of the
fraternity and council; to convoke every three years the elective
chapter of the fraternity;
- to prepare the annual report to be sent to the council of the
higher level after it has been approved by the council of the
- to request, with the consent of the council, the pastoral and
fraternal visits, at least once every three years.
- to put into effect those acts which the Constitutions refer
to his or her competence.
- The minister represents the fraternity in all its relations
with ecclesiastical and civil authorities. In addition, when the
fraternity acquires a juridical personality in the civil order,
the minister becomes, when possible, its legal
- The vice-minister has the following duties:
- to collaborate with the minister in a fraternal spirit and to
support him in carrying out the duties proper to him;
- to exercise those functions which are entrusted to him by the
council and/or by the assembly or chapter;
- to take the place of the minister in both his competencies
and responsibilities in case of absence or temporary
- to assume the functions of the minister when the office
- *) See Const. 81.1.
- The secretary has the following duties:
- to compile the official acts of the fraternity and of the
council and to assure that they are sent to their respective
- to see to the updating and preservation of the records and
the registers, noting admissions, professions, deaths,
withdrawals, and transfers from the fraternity;*)
- *) Each local fraternity is to have at least
a register of enrollments (admissions, professions, transfers,
deaths, and every other important annotation relative to the
individual members), the register of minutes of the council and
the register of administration.
- to provide for the communication of the more important facts
to the various levels and, if appropriate, to provide for their
dissemination through the mass media.
- The master, or the person responsible for formation, has the
- to coordinate the formative activities according to Arts. 40
ff of these Constitutions;
- to instruct and animate the brothers and sisters in the
period of formation;*)
- *) See Const. 39 ff. Concerning the
participation of the spiritual assistant in formation, see Art.
89,4 of the Constitutions.
- to inform the council of the fraternity concerning the
suitability of the candidate, prior to admission and
- *) See Const. 41.
- The treasurer, or bursar, has the following duties:
- to guard diligently the contributions received, recording
each receipt in the appropriate register, with the date on which
it was given, the name of the contributor, or the one from whom
it was collected;
- to record in the same register the items of expense,
specifying the date and the purpose, in conformity with the
directions of the fraternity council.
- to render an account of his or her administration to the
assembly and to the council of the fraternity according to the
norms of the national statutes.
- The provisions regarding the vice-minister, the secretary and
the treasurer apply, with the appropriate adaptations, to all
Participation in the Life of the
- (Rule 24)
The fraternity must offer to its members opportunities for
coming together and collaborating through meetings to be held
with as great a frequency as allowed by the situation and, with
the involvement of all its members.
- (Rule 6, Rule 7, Rule 8)
The fraternity should come together periodically as an ecclesial
community to celebrate the Eucharist in a climate which
strengthens the fraternal bond and characterizes the identity of
the Franciscan Family. Where, for whatever reason, this
particular celebration may not be possible, they should
participate in the celebration of the larger ecclesial
- Appropriate initiatives should be adopted according to the
directives of the national statutes, to keep those brothers and
sisters united to the fraternity who, for valid reasons of
health, family, work, or distance, cannot actively participate in
- In cases where the fraternity of whatever level has property
or real estate at its disposal, the procedures necessary for that
fraternity to acquire a civil, juridical personality must be
followed in conformity with the national statutes.
- Based on the respective civil legislation, the national
statutes must establish precise criteria for the civil juridical
person, for the administration of the material goods and relevant
internal controls. They must also contain instructions so that
the establishing document may provide for the disposal of its
property in case the juridical person ceases to exist.
TRANSFER TO ANOTHER FRATERNITY
WITHDRAWAL, SUSPENSION, AND DISMISSAL FROM THE FRATERNITY
AND FROM THE ORDER
If a brother or sister, for any reasonable cause, desires
transfer to another fraternity, he or she first informs the
council of the fraternity to which he or she belongs and then
makes the request, including the reasons for the transfer, to the
minister of the fraternity to which he or she wishes to belong.
The council makes its decision after having received the
necessary information in writing from the fraternity of origin.
- (Rule 23 par. 4)
Members who find themselves in difficulty may ask, with a formal
act, temporary withdrawal from the fraternity. The council will
evaluate the request with love and prudence, after a fraternal
dialogue between the minister and the person concerned. If the
reasons appear to be well founded, after the brother or sister in
difficulty has been given time to reconsider, the council agrees
to the request.
- The repeated and prolonged default in the obligations of the
life of the fraternity and other conduct in serious opposition to
the Rule ought to be discussed by the council in dialogue with
the person at fault. Only in the case of obstinacy or habitual
default may the council decide, with a secret vote, to suspend
someone. It communicates its decision in writing to the person
- Voluntary withdrawal or the provision for suspension must be
noted in the registers of the fraternity. It involves exclusion
from the meetings and activities of the fraternity, including the
right of active and passive voice, but membership in the Order
itself is not affected.
- In the case of voluntary withdrawal or of suspension from the
fraternity, the Secular Franciscan may ask to be readmitted by
addressing an appropriate written request to the minister.
- After examining the reasons offered by the person involved,
the council evaluates whether the causes which led to the
withdrawal or suspension can be considered as overcome. If the
conclusion is affirmative, it readmits him or her and the
decision is recorded in the proceedings of the fraternity.
- For definitive, voluntary withdrawal from the Order, the
person concerned presents the request to the minister of the
fraternity who, after a fraternal dialogue, refers it to the
council. The latter makes a decision and communicates it in
writing to the person concerned. The definitive withdrawal is
recorded in the register of the fraternity and communicated to
the council of the higher level.
- The brother or sister who has publicly rejected the faith, or
has defected from ecclesiastical communion, or upon whom an
excommunication has been imposed or declared, is dismissed from
the Order by the council of the higher level after having been
- *) See CCL 316; 1733 ff.
- For other causes, provided that they are grave, external,
imputable, and juridically proved, the council of the higher
level has the competence to declare dismissal from the Order at
the request of the council of the local fraternity of the person
concerned. The request must be accompanied by all the
documentation relative to the case.
The council of the higher level will issue the decree of
dismissal after having collegially examined the request with the
relative documentation and having verified observance of the
directives of the Law and of the Constitutions.*)
- *) The preceding Constitutions of 1957, in
Art. 147, recommended: "The visitators...and the ministers shall
strive to lead the erring members to a better way of life. But,
bearing in mind the words and example of our holy Father Francis,
they shall always act with charity and with prudence, and never
use harsh words or be too strict." This spirit should animate the
"observance of the directives of the Law".
- The decree of dismissal, in order to become effective, must
be confirmed by the national council to whom all the
documentation will be sent.
Anyone who considers himself aggrieved by a measure adopted
against him may appeal within three months to the council of the
level above the one that adopted the decision and, in successive
instances, to further levels up to the Presidency of the
International Council of the SFO, and, as the last instance, to
the Holy See.*)
- *) See CCL 1732 - 1739. The rights of the
person are guaranteed at all levels by the universal law of the
Church and by these Constitutions.
What is said in these Constitutions with respect to the local
fraternities is valid, to the extent that it is applicable, for
the personal fraternities also.
The Regional Fraternity
- The regional fraternity is the organic union of all the local
fraternities existing in a territory or which can be integrated
into a natural unity, either by geographic proximity, or by
common problems and pastoral realities. While respecting the
unity of the SFO and with the collegial integration of the
various Franciscan Obediences which may provide spiritual
assistance within the area, it assures the link between the local
fraternities and the national fraternity.
- It is for the national council to compose the regional
fraternity according to the Constitutions and to the national
statutes. The competent religious superiors, from whom spiritual
assistance must be sought, should be informed of it.
- The regional fraternity has its own seat and is animated and
guided by a minister, or president, and by a council who are duly
elected. The national statutes define its structure and
The regional council has the following duties:
- to prepare the celebration of the elective chapter;
- to promote, animate, and coordinate the life and activities
of the SFO and its insertion into the local Church within the
- to elaborate the program of the SFO within the region and to
publicize it among the local fraternities, according to the
directives of the national council and in collaboration with
- to communicate the directives of the national council and of
the local Church to the local fraternities;
- to provide for the formation of those responsible for
- to offer to local fraternities activities which support all
their formative and operative needs;
- to discuss and approve the annual report to the national
- to make decisions concerning the fraternal visitation of the
local fraternities when the circumstances recommend it, even when
- to make decisions regarding the disbursement of available
funds and, in general, to deliberate on matters regarding the
financial conduct and the economic affairs of the regional
- to perform such other duties as are indicated by the
Constitutions or necessary to achieve its own aims.
- While firmly preserving the co-responsibility of the council
for the animation and guidance of the regional fraternity it is
the duty of the minister, who has the primary responsibility, to
see that the directions and decisions of the council are put into
practice. He or she will keep the council informed concerning his
or her activities.
- In addition, the regional minister has the duty:
- to convoke and preside at the meetings of the regional
council; to convoke the regional elective chapter every three
- to preside at and to confirm the elections of the local
fraternities, personally or through a delegate who is a member of
the regional council;
- to make fraternal visitations of the local fraternities,
personally or through a proper delegate who is a member of the
- to participate in the meetings called by the national
- to represent the fraternity in the civil order whenever it
has acquired a juridical personality;
- to prepare the annual report to the national council;
- to request the pastoral visitation and the fraternal
visitation with the consent of the council, at least once every
The regional chapter is the representative organ of all the
fraternities existing in a region, with elective and deliberative
The national statutes provide for the formalities of
convocation, composition, frequency and competencies.
The National Fraternity
- The national fraternity is the organic union of the local
fraternities existing within the territory of states or of
national entities which are joined and coordinated among
themselves through regional fraternities, wherever they
- It is the duty of the Presidency of the International Council
to provide for the establishment of new national units upon
request and in dialogue with the councils of the fraternities
concerned. The competent religious superiors of the nation, of
whom spiritual assistance will be requested, should be
- The national fraternity:
-- is governed by its own statutes;
-- has its own seat;
-- is animated and guided by a minister or president and by a
council who are duly elected.
The national council has the duty:
- to prepare the celebration of the national elective chapter,
according to its own statutes;
- to make known and to promote the Secular Franciscan
spirituality in its own nation;
- to decide upon programs of annual activities of a national
- to seek, indicate, publish, and distribute the necessary
instruments for the formation of the Secular Franciscans;
- to animate and coordinate the activities of the regional
- to maintain the connection with the Presidency of the
International Council SFO;
- to elect the national representative to the International
Council and to assume the responsibility for the expenses which
he or she must bear to carry out this commission;
- to discuss and approve the annual report to the International
- to see to the presence of the SFO in the ecclesial bodies at
the national level;
- to make decisions concerning the fraternal visitation to the
councils of the regional and local fraternities when the
circumstances require it, even if not requested;
- to make decisions regarding the disbursement of the available
funds and, in general, regarding the economic affairs of the
- to perform such other duties as are indicated by the
Constitutions or necessary to achieve its own aims.
- While firmly preserving the co-responsibility of the council
in the animation and guidance of the national fraternity, it
belongs to the minister, who has the primary responsibility, to
see that the directions and decisions of the council are put into
practice and to inform the council concerning his or her
- The national minister has the duty:
- to convoke and preside at the meetings of the national
council; to convoke the national elective chapter every three
years, according to the national statutes;
- to direct and coordinate with the national leaders the
activities at the national level;
- to give a report to the national council and chapter on the
life and activity of the SFO in his own country;
- to represent the national fraternity in contacts with
ecclesiastical and civil authorities. When the national
fraternity has a civil juridical personality, its legal
representation belongs to the minister;
- to preside at and to confirm the regional elections,
personally or through a delegate who is a member of the national
- to make fraternal visitations of the regional councils,
personally or through a proper delegate who is a member of the
- to request the pastoral visitation and the fraternal
visitation with the consent of the council, at least once every
- The national chapter is the representative organ of the
fraternities existing within the confines of a state or nation.
It has legislative, deliberative, and elective powers.
In conformity with the Rule and the Constitutions, it may make
legislative decisions and produce norms valid within its national
confines. The national statutes determine the composition, the
frequency, the competencies, and the method of convoking the
- The national statutes may envisage other forms of meetings
and assemblies to promote the life and apostolate at the national
The International Fraternity
- The International Fraternity is constituted by the organic
union of all the Catholic Secular Franciscan fraternities in the
world. It is identical to the SFO. It has its own juridical
personality within the Church. It is organized and it functions
in conformity with the Constitutions and its own Statutes.
- The International Fraternity is guided and animated by the
Minister or President with the International Council (CIOFS),
that has its seat in Rome, Italy.
- The International Council is composed of the following
members, elected according to the norms of the Constitutions and
its own Statutes:
-- professed brothers and sisters of the SFO;
-- Franciscan religious of the First Order and the TOR who are
spiritual assistants of the SFO;
-- Representatives of the Franciscan Youth.*)
In addition, the four General Assistants to the SFO form part
of the International Council.
- *) See Const. 97,2.
- The Presidency of the International Council SFO is
constituted within the International Council of which it forms an
- The International Council meets in the SFO General Chapter
with legislative, deliberative, and elective powers.
- The general elective chapter is celebrated every six years
according to the norms established by the Constitutions and by
its own Statutes.
The purposes and duties of the International Council SFO
- to promote and sustain the evangelical life according to the
spirit of St. Francis of Assisi within the secular condition of
the faithful living throughout the world;
- to strengthen the bond of communion, collaboration, and
sharing among the national fraternities; to make the
interdependence and reciprocity of the SFO a reality at the
various levels of fraternity; to increase the sense of unity of
the SFO with respect to the pluralism of the persons and groups,
and to increase the sense of awareness of a particular
responsibility with respect to that unity;
- to harmonize the sound traditions, according to the original
nature of the SFO, with advances in theological, pastoral, and
legislative fields, with a view to a specific evangelical
- to contribute, in line with the tradition of the SFO, to the
spreading of the ideas and initiatives which are valuable for
promoting the availability of Secular Franciscans in the life of
the Church and of society;
- to participate in providing fraternal aid in the
clarification and resolution of grave and urgent problems of the
SFO, in a spirit of service, through its own presidency,
according to the circumstances and its own prudent
- to strengthen reciprocal relationships of collaboration
between the SFO and the other components of the Franciscan Family
at the world level;
- to collaborate with the organizations and associations which
defend the same values.
- The Presidency of the International Council SFO is composed
-- the Minister General;
-- the Vice-Minister;
-- the International Councilors elected to represent the
linguistic areas according to the norms of the Statutes of the
International Council SFO;
-- a member of the Franciscan Youth;
-- the General Assistants of the SFO.
The duties and tasks of the Presidency, as the executive organ
of the International Council, are:
- to coordinate, animate, and guide the SFO at the
- to see that the decisions of the General Chapter are carried
- to attend to the resolution of urgent problems that arise
relative to the greater good of the SFO and not foreseen by the
Constitutions and the Statutes of the International Council SFO.
It informs the national council concerned and the next General
Chapter of its action.
- While firmly preserving the co-responsibility of the
Presidency in the guidance and animation of the International
Council, it belongs to the Minister General, who has the primary
responsibility, to see that the directions and decisions of the
International Council and of the Presidency are put into practice
and to inform them concerning his or her activities.
- In addition, the Minister General has the duty:
- to convoke and preside at the meetings of the Presidency
according to its own Statutes;
- to convoke the meetings of the General Chapter with the
consent of the Presidency, and to preside at them.
- to be a visible and effective sign of the communion and
life-giving reciprocity between the SFO and the Ministers General
of the Franciscan First Order and the TOR, among whom he or she
represents the SFO, and to preserve the bond with the Conference
of General Assistants;
- to represent the SFO at the world level before ecclesiastical
and civil authorities;
- to make the fraternal visitation to the national councils,
personally or through a delegate who is a member of the
International Council SFO;
- to preside at the elections of the National Councils,
personally or through a delegate who is a member of the
International Council SFO.
- to request, with the consent of the Presidency, the pastoral
visitation by the Union of the Ministers General of the First
Order and the TOR;
- to intervene in urgent cases, informing the Presidency of
- to sign the official documents of the SFO;
- to exercise the civil rights of the International Council,
with the consent of the Presidency, and jointly with another
councilor of the Presidency designated by the same.
The specific duties of the International councilors are
determined by the Statutes of the International Council SFO.
ELECTION TO AND TERMINATION OF OFFICES
- The elections at the various levels will take place according
to the norms of the law of the Church*) and of the Constitutions.
The convocation should be carried out at least one month in
advance, indicating the place, the day, and the time of the
- *) See CCL 164 ff.
- The elective assembly, or chapter, will be presided over by
the minister of the council of the immediately higher level, or
by his or her delegate, who confirms the election.
In the local and regional fraternities, the president or the
delegate to preside is not to be a member of the fraternity in
which the elections take place.
The spiritual assistant of the immediately higher level or his
delegate is to be present as a witness of the communion with the
First Order and the TOR.
A representative of the Union of the Ministers General of the
First Order and the TOR presides at and confirms the elections of
the International Presidency.
- The president of the chapter and the assistant of the higher
level do not have the right to vote.
- For every elective assembly a secretary and two scrutineers
are to be designated.*)
- *) See CCL 173.
- In the local fraternity the perpetually professed of the same
fraternity have active and passive voice. The temporarily
professed and the spiritual assistant have only active voice.
- At the other levels, the following have active voice: the
members of the outgoing council, the representatives of the
immediately lower level, of the Franciscan Youth, if professed,
and of the spiritual assistants. It is the competence of the
particular statutes to establish more concrete norms for the
application of the preceding norm, taking care to assure the
broadest elective base. The perpetually professed Secular
Franciscans of the corresponding area have passive voice.
- An absolute majority of the votes of those present, cast in
secret, is required for the elections of the minister. After two
inconclusive ballots, the voting continues between the two
candidates who have obtained the largest number of votes or, in
case there are more than two, between the two candidates who are
oldest by profession. If there is still a tie after the third
ballot, the older by profession will be considered elected.
- The election of the vice-minister proceeds in the same
- For the election of the councilors, after a first ballot
without an absolute majority, a relative majority of the votes of
those present, cast in secret, is sufficient, unless the
particular statutes require a greater majority.
- The secretary announces the result of the elections; the
president confirms the election according to the Ritual*) if all
has been carried out properly and those elected have accepted
- *) See Ritual SFO, Part II, Chapt.
- The ministers may be elected for two consecutive terms of
three years each. When exceptional circumstances require it, for
a third and final successive election to the office of minister,
a majority of two-thirds of the votes of those present, which
must be obtained on the first ballot, will be necessary, as well
as the confirmation by the president of the elective
- The same norms are valid for the election of the Minister
General of the SFO, whose term is six years.*)
- *) See Const. 70,4.
- The councilors may be elected for additional successive terms
of three years. Beginning with the third successive election, a
majority of two-thirds of the votes of those present will be
This should be carried out in such a way that after two terms of
three years, at least one third of the council is replaced.
- The same norms are valid for the election of the councilors
of the Presidency of the International Council SFO, whose term is
- The council of the higher level has the right and duty to
invalidate the elections and to call them anew in all cases of
inobservance of the prescribed norms.
The particular statutes may include further directives
concerning elections, as long as they are not contrary to the
PROVISIONS FOR VACANCY, RESIGNATION,
- When the office of minister remains vacant as a result of
death, accepted resignation, removal, absence, or other
impediment of a definitive character, the vice-minister assumes
the functions until the end of the term for which he or she was
elected, if two years have passed since the election; at the
international level, four years must have passed. Otherwise, the
vice-minister assumes the functions of the minister until the
elective chapter which he or she must convoke with the consent of
the council within six months of the date on which the office
One of the councilors is elected to the office of vice-minister
by the council of the fraternity for the same period.
- When the office of councilor becomes vacant, the council will
proceed to substitute for him or her in conformity with the
proper statutes. The substitution is valid until the elective
The following are incompatible:
- the office of minister at two different levels;
- the offices of minister, vice-minister, secretary and
treasurer at the same level.
Resignation of Office
- The resignation in chapter of the minister of whatever level
must be accepted by the same chapter.
The resignation of the minister, outside of the chapter, must be
presented to the proper council. If the resignation is accepted,
it must be confirmed by the minister of the higher level*) and,
for the Minister General, by the Union of the Ministers General
of the First Order and the TOR.
- *) See Const. 76; 78. The minister of the
higher level presides at and confirms the elections.
- The resignation of other offices is presented to the minister
and to his or her council, who are competent to accept the
- In the case in which the minister does not fulfill his or her
duties, the council concerned should inform the minister and the
council of the higher level whose competence it is to examine the
case and, if required, to authorize the election of a new
- For a serious, public, and proved reason, the minister of a
higher level, with the consent of his council, manifested by a
secret vote, may order the removal of a minister of a lower
- The removal from the other offices of the council, when there
is a serious reason, belongs to the minister of the council to
which they belong, with the consent of that council expressed by
a secret ballot.
- A suspending recourse may be interposed against the removal,
within an effective period of thirty days, before the council of
the level immediately higher to that which imposed the sanction;
then, in succession, of the other levels of the Order.
- The case in which the Minister General is to be removed is in
the competence of the Union of the Ministers General of the First
Order and the TOR.
SPIRITUAL AND PASTORAL ASSISTANCE OF THE SFO
- As an integral part of the Franciscan Family and called to
live the charism of Francis within the secular dimension, the SFO
has particular and close relations to the First Order and the
- *) From Franciscan history and from the
Constitutions of the First Order and the TOR, it is clearly
evident that these Orders recognize that they are committed to
the spiritual and pastoral assistance of the SFO in virtue of
their common origin and charism and by the will of the Church.
See Constitutions OFM, 60; Constitutions OFM Conv., 116;
Constitutions OFM Cap., 95; Constitutions TOR, 157; Rule of the
Third Order of Pope Leo XIII, 3,3; Rule approved by Paul VI,
- The spiritual and pastoral care of the SFO, entrusted by the
Church to the Franciscan First Order and the TOR, is the duty
above all of their Ministers General and Provincial. The
altius moderamen, of which canon 3O3 speaks, belongs to
them. The purpose of the altius moderamen is to
guarantee the fidelity of the SFO to the Franciscan charism,
communion with the Church and union with the Franciscan Family,
values which represent a vital commitment for the Secular
- *) See Rule SFO, Art. 6; Ritual of the SFO,
II, 29 ff.
- The Ministers General and Provincials exercise their office
with respect to the SFO through:
-- the establishment of fraternities;
-- the pastoral visits;
-- the spiritual assistance to the fraternities at the various
They may exercise this office personally or through their own
- This service of the religious ministers is a valid help, but
does not substitute for the secular minsters and councilors to
whom belong the guidance, coordination, and animation of the
frater-nities at the various levels.
- For all that concerns the SFO as a whole, the altius
moderamen must be exercised by the Ministers General
- It belongs to the Union of the Ministers General of the First
Order and the TOR:
-- to care for the relations with the Holy See concerning the
approval of the legislative or liturgical documents, which
approval is the competence of the Holy See;
-- to visit the International Council of the SFO and its Council
of the Presidency.*)
-- to confirm the election of the Minister General of the SFO;
- *) See Const. 94, 2-3.
-- to confirm the Statutes of the International Council of the SFO.*)
- *) See Const. 6,1.
- Each Minister General, within the area of his own competence,
sees to the interest of the religious for the SFO and to their
preparation for service to it according to the respective
Constitutions and the Constitutions of the SFO.
In the exercise of their office, the religious ministers
provincial take into account the organization of the SFO.
The ministers provincial of the different Obediences with
jurisdiction in the same territory shall seek collegially the
most suitable method of developing their own mission in relation
to the SFO.
- By virtue of the vital reciprocity between religious and
seculars of the Franciscan Family and by virtue of the
responsibilities of the major superiors, spiritual assistance, as
a fundamental element of communion, must be assured to all the
fraternities of the SFO. This service is provided by spiritual
assistants, appointed according to the norms of the present
Constitutions and the statutes for the spiritual assistance to
- It is the right and duty of the council of the fraternity at
each level to request suitable and prepared assistants.
The council of the fraternity at each level requests suitable
and prepared assistants from the competent superiors of the First
Order and the TOR, who have the competency to appoint, having
heard the council of the fraternity concerned.*)
- *) See Const. 91.
- The spiritual assistant, who is normally a Franciscan
religious, ought to be a witness of Franciscan spirituality and
of the fraternal affection of the religious towards the Secular
Franciscans. He ought also to be a bond of communion between his
Order and the SFO.
- The spiritual assistant is a member of the council of the
fraternity to which he gives assistance and collaborates with it
in all its activities. It is the particular task of the assistant
to cooperate in the initial and continuing formation of the
brothers and sisters.
- The spiritual assistant does not exercise the right to vote
in financial questions.
- The General Assistants are appointed by the respective
Ministers General after consultation with the Presidency Council
of the International Council SFO. The General Assistants give
their service to the International Council and to its Presidency
and they collegially see to the spiritual assistance to the SFO
as a whole.
- At the national level, norms for spiritual assistance should
be established, which are agreed upon by the interobediential
union of the ministers provincial with the national council of
the SFO. The national assistants are appointed by the respective
Conferences of Superiors (or by the Superior, if there is only
one within the nation), having heard the national council. The
national assistants act collegially in their service to the
national council and in the coordination of the regional
assistants at the national level.
- The spiritual assistance to the national fraternity is guided
and coordinated by the college of the National Assistants (or by
the National Assistant) according to the Constitutions and its
- The spiritual assistance to the regional fraternity is guided
and coordinated by the college of the regional assistants (or by
the regional assistant) according to the Constitutions and its
- In the fraternities established in Franciscan churches or in
Franciscan houses, fraternal unity should be promoted between the
two communities, the religious and the secular.
- The spiritual assistant is to be a religious Franciscan
priest, belonging to the First Order or the TOR.
- Priests belonging to other Franciscan Institutes or diocesan
priests belonging to the SFO may be delegated to assist the
fraternities, given the authorization of the respective Superior
or of the diocesan Ordinary.
- To promote the life of the fraternities and in particular
when it is not possible to give a spiritual assistant to the
fraternity, or when one assistant must attend to many
fraternities, the Franciscan major superior, having heard the
council of the fraternity concerned, may request the
collaboration of suitable and prepared animators, men and women,
religious and lay, giving priority to the witness of life and to
the capacity to communicate Franciscan spirituality. The
Superior, or the provincial assistant, remains responsible for
the spiritual assistance as well as for the pastoral and
sacramental service to the fraternity.
- Exceptionally, and so that the fraternity has adequate
pastoral care, the Franciscan major superior may delegate the
spiritual assistance of the local fraternity to a diocesan priest
or to a religious priest who is not a Franciscan, given the
authorization of the respective Superior in all cases.
THE FRATERNAL VISIT AND THE PASTORAL VISIT
- (Rule 26)
The purpose of both the pastoral and fraternal visits is to
revive the evangelical Franciscan spirit, to assure fidelity to
the charism and to the Rule, to offer help to fraternity life, to
reinforce the bond of the unity of the Order, and to promote its
most effective insertion into the Franciscan Family and the
- In the visits to the local fraternities and to the councils
at the various levels, the visitor will verify the evangelical
and apostolic vitality, the observance of the Rule and
Constitutions, and the insertion of the fraternities into the
Order and into the Church.
- In the visits to the local fraternities and to the councils
at the various levels, the visitor will communicate the object
and the program of the visit to the interested council in ample
time. He or she will examine the registers and the acts,
including those relative to the election of the council and to
the administration of goods. He will draw up a report of the
visit carried out, appending it to the acts in the appropriate
register of the fraternity visited, and will inform the council
by whom the visit was requested.
- In the visit to the local fraternity, the visitor will meet
with the entire fraternity and with the groups and sections into
which it is divided. He or she will give special attention to the
brothers and sisters in the period of formation and to those
brothers and sisters who may request a personal meeting. Where
required, he or she will proceed to the fraternal correction of
the shortcomings which they had to confront.
- If it is useful for the service of the fraternity, the two
visitors, religious and secular, may make the visit at the same
time, agreeing beforehand on the program, in a way most consonant
with the mission of each of them.
- The pastoral and fraternal visits, carried out by the
immediately higher level, do not hinder the visited fraternity in
maintaining the right to appeal to the council or to the
religious superior of a higher level, informing the religious or
lay leader who carried out the preceding visit.
The Fraternal Visit
- The fraternal visit is a moment of communion, an expression
of the service and concrete interest of the lay leaders at the
various levels, so that the fraternity may grow and be faithful
to its vocation.*)
- *) See Const. 51, 1c; 63, 2g; 67, 2g.
- The minister of the fraternity of whatever level, with the
consent of the council, should request a fraternal visit from the
minister of the immediately higher level at least every three
- *) When the visit is not requested as it
should be, see Const. 62 h; 66 j.
- In this spirit, the visitor will promote dialogue and
collaboration among the brothers and sisters and will provide
stimulation towards the concrete realization of the Franciscan
options, of which the Secular Franciscans ought to be witnesses
and promoters within society.
- Among the different initiatives to achieve the purpose of the
visit, the visitor will give special attention:
-- to the validity of the formation, both initial and
-- to the relations entertained with other fraternities at the
various levels, with the Franciscan Youth, and with the entire
-- to the observance of the directives and of the guidelines of
the International Council SFO and of the other councils;
-- to the presence in the local Church.
- The visitor will check the register of the accounts and every
document pertaining to the property of the fraternity and, if
applicable, the condition of the juridical personality in the
civil order, including the fiscal aspects.
Wherever he or she deems it opportune, the visitor will obtain
the assistance of a competent person in these aspects.
- The visitor will check the records of the election of the
council. He or she will evaluate the quality of the service
offered to the fraternity by the minister and by the other
leaders, and will study with them the solution to problems which
If, for whatever reason, he or she should find that their
service is not sufficiently developed to meet the needs of the
fraternity, the visitor will promote appropriate initiatives,
having taken into account the provisions concerning resignation
and removal from office*), given special circumstances.
- *) See Const. 83; 84.
- The visitor may not carry out the visit of his or her own
fraternity, nor of the council of another level of which he or
she is a member.
The Pastoral Visit
- The pastoral visit is an expression of the altius
moderamen and of the pastoral care of the SFO entrusted by
the Church to the First Order and the TOR. It is carried out in
the name of the Church and serves to guarantee and promote the
observance of the Rule and the Constitutions and fidelity to the
- The Minister General of the SFO with the consent of the
Presidency Council requests the visit from the Union of the
Ministers General at least every six years.
- The national minister with the consent of the council
requests the visit from the Conference of General Assistants at
least every three years.
- The ministers of the regional and local fraternities, with
the consent of the respective councils, request the visit from
the religious superiors according to their own statutes at least
every three years.
- For urgent and serious reasons or in case of failure on the
part of the minister or the council to request it, the pastoral
visit may be carried out upon the initiative of the competent
- The visitor will carry out his task with respect to the
organization and the law proper to the SFO.
- Having verified the canonical establishment of the
fraternity, he will concern himself with the relations between
the fraternity and its spiritual assistant and the local Church.
He will meet the pastors (bishop or parish priest) when this is
opportune for fostering communion and service for building up the
- He will promote collaboration and a sense of
co-responsibility among the secular leaders and the religious
assistants. He is to examine the quality of the spiritual
assistance given to the visited fraternity, encourage the
spiritual assistants in their service and promote their
continuing spiritual and pastoral formation.
- He will give special attention to programs, methods and
experiences of formation, to the liturgical and prayer life, and
to the apostolic activities of the fraternity.
THE FRANCISCAN YOUTH
- The SFO, by virtue of its very vocation, ought to be ready to
share its experience of evangelical life with the youth who feel
attracted to St. Francis of Assisi and to seek the means of
adequately presenting it to them.
- The Franciscan Youth, as understood by these Constitutions
and in so far as the SFO considers itself to be particularly
responsible for it, is formed by those young people who feel
called by the Holy Spirit to share the experience of the
Christian life in fraternity, in the light of the message of St.
Francis of Assisi, deepening their own vocation within the
context of the Secular Franciscan Order.
- The members of the Franciscan Youth consider the Rule of the
SFO as an inspirational document for the growth of their own
Christian and Franciscan vocation either individually or in a
group. After a suitable period of formation, of at least one
year, they confirm this option with a personal pledge before God
and in the presence of the brothers and sisters.
- The members of the Franciscan Youth who wish to make
profession in the SFO should satisfy the requirements of the
Rule, the Constitutions, and the Ritual of the SFO.
- The Franciscan Youth has a specific organization, methods of
formation, and teaching methods adequate for the needs of the
world of youth, according to the existing realities in the
various countries. Wherever the Franciscan Youth of a particular
country intends to give itself its own statutes, these should be
presented by the national council of the SFO to the Presidency of
the International Council SFO, for approval.
- The Franciscan Youth, as a component of the Franciscan
Family, requests spiritual, pastoral, and fraternal assistance
from the religious superiors and from the competent secular
- The SFO will seek the most appropriate means to promote the
vitality and the spreading of the Franciscan Youth. It will stand
by the youth to encourage them and to procure the means which can
help them to progress in their journey of human and spiritual
- To promote a close communion with the SFO, the leaders of the
Franciscan Youth at the international and national levels and at
the level immediately below are to be professed Secular
- A representative of the Franciscan Youth, who must be a
professed Secular Franciscan, is to be designated to form part of
the SFO councils at the various levels; analogously, a
representative of the SFO, designated by the respective council,
is to form part of the council of the Franciscan Youth at the
In addition, where a Franciscan Youth group exists whose members
are not professed Secular Franciscans, the council of the local
fraternity should invite the respective representative to
participate in the activity of the council, without the right to
IN COMMUNION WITH THE FRANCISCAN FAMILY AND THE CHURCH
- (Rule 1)
Secular Franciscans should seek to live in life-giving
reciprocal communion with all the members of the Franciscan
Family. They should be ready to promote common initiatives or
participate in them with the religious of the First, Second and
Third Orders, with Secular Institutes, and with other lay
ecclesial groups that recognize St. Francis as a model and
inspiration in order to collaborate in spreading the Gospel,
removing the causes of marginalization, and serving the cause of
- They must cultivate a special affection, which expresses
itself in concrete initiatives of fraternal communion, towards
the sisters of the contemplative life who, like St. Clare of
Assisi, bear witness in the Church and in the world and by whose
mediation they await the abundance of grace for the fraternity
and for the works of the apostolate.
- (Rule 6)
As a living part of the people of God and conforming themselves
to the Seraphic Father, the Secular Franciscans, "living in full
communion with the Pope and the bishops", should seek to know and
deepen the doctrine proposed by the teaching Church through its
more important documents and they should be attentive to the
presence of the Holy Spirit who vivifies the faith and charity of
the people of God.*) They should collaborate in the initiatives
promoted by the Holy See, in a particular way in those areas in
which they are called to work by virtue of their Secular
- *) Lumen Gentium 12.
- The SFO, as an international public association, is connected
by a special bond to the Roman Pontiff from whom it has received
the approval of its Rule and the confirmation of its mission in
the Church and in the world.
- The vocation to "rebuild" the Church ought to induce the
brothers and sisters sincerely to love and to live the union with
the local Church in which they develop their own vocation and
realize their apostolic commitment, aware that in the diocese the
Church of Christ is truly functioning.*)
- *) Christus Dominus 11; CCL 396; See
2 Celano 10, and 1 Celano 18.
- The Secular Franciscans should fulfill with dedication the
duties with which they are occupied in their relations to the
local Church. They should lend their help to activities of the
apostolate as well as to the social activities existing in the
diocese.*) In the spirit of service, they should make themselves
present, as the fraternity of the SFO, within the life of the
diocese. They should be ready to collaborate with other ecclesial
groups and to participate in pastoral councils.
- *) See CCL 311.
- Fidelity to their own charism, Franciscan and secular, and
the witness of building fraternity sincerely and openly are their
principal services to the Church, which is the community of love.
They should be recognized in it by their "being", from which
their mission springs.
- The Secular Franciscans should collaborate with the bishops
and follow their directions in so far as they are the moderators
of the ministry of the Word and of the Liturgy and the
coordinators of the various forms of apostolate in the local
- *) See CCL 394; 756; 775.
- The fraternities are subject to the vigilance of the Ordinary
in so far as they perform their activities within the local
- *) See CCL 305; 392.
- The fraternities established in a parish church should seek
to cooperate in the animation of the parochial community, in the
liturgy and in fraternal relations. They should integrate
themselves into the pastoral apostolate as a whole, with
preference for those activities more congenial to the secular
Franciscan tradition and spirituality.
- In the parishes entrusted to Franciscan religious, the
fraternities constitute the mediation and the secular witness of
the Franciscan charism in the parochial community through their
exercise of the fruitful life-giving reciprocity. Therefore,
united with the religious, they see to the spreading of the
gospel message and of the Franciscan lifestyle.
Remaining faithful to their own identity, the fraternities
will take care to make the most of each occasion for prayer,
formation, and active collaboration with other ecclesial groups.
They should welcome with pleasure those who, without belonging to
the SFO, wish to share its experiences and activities.