Sacred Texts  Christianity  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, tr. by Paschal Robinson, [1905], at

p. 75



Of the "many writings" 1 left by St. Francis to the Poor Ladies at St. Damian's, only two fragments are known to exist, and these have been preserved to us through St. Clare herself, in so far as she incorporated them in the sixth chapter of her Rule. We have it on the authority of Pope Gregory IX that St. Francis wrote for St. Clare and her first companions a formula vitae, or "little rule," at the beginning of their religious life. 2 But it was this same Pope Gregory IX, then known as Cardinal Ugolino, who about 1219 composed a Rule for the Poor Ladies, which was accepted by St. Francis and confirmed by Honorius III. 3 This Rule, as the Pontiff himself declares, was solemnly professed by Clare and her Sisters and observed by them for many years in a praiseworthy manner. 4 Pope Innocent IV bears witness to the same effect. Writing to Blessed Agnes, Princess of Bohemia (who had founded a house of the Second Order at Prague), of this Rule, written by Cardinal

p. 76

[paragraph continues] Ugolino, he says: The Sisters of the Monastery of St. Damian and all others of your Order have laudably observed it from the time of its profession until now." 1 These words were written on November 13, 1243.

In view of such testimony it is obviously a mistake to assert, as Wadding and some other writers do, that St. Clare abandoned this Rule in 1224, and professed another one written by St. Francis. It is also erroneous to suppose that St. Francis ever wrote a Rule for the Poor Ladies. 2 The one written about 1219, by Cardinal Ugolino, was recast by St. Clare herself toward the close of her life, and made to conform as far as possible to the Second Rule written by St. Francis for the Friars Minor. The Rule of the Poor Ladies, thus recast by St. Clare in a new form, was confirmed by Innocent IV, August 9, 1253, just two days before the death of the holy abbess. 3

In the sixth chapter of this Rule, St. Clare describes the circumstances under which the two fragments of St. Francis’ writings here given were composed. "After the Most High Heavenly Father deigned by His grace to enlighten my heart," St. Clare tells us, "to do penance after the example and teaching of our most blessed father, St. Francis, a little while after his own conversion, I, together with

p. 77

my sisters, voluntarily promised him obedience. But, seeing that we feared no poverty, toil, sorrow, abasement and contempt of the world, nay rather that we held them in great delight, the blessed father, moved by compassion, wrote us a rule of life 1 in this form . . . ." Then follows the first of the two fragments given below. Further on in the same chapter of her Rule, the holy abbess adds: "To the end that we and also those who might come after us should never fall away from the most holy poverty which we had undertaken, he again wrote to us shortly before his death 2 his last wish, saying . . . ." 3 Then follows the second of the two fragments here given.

Both these pieces, which Wadding took for letters 4 addressed to St. Clare, are here translated according to the text of the Rule contained in the original bull of Innocent IV. 5 They are as follows:


Since, by divine inspiration, you have made yourselves daughters and handmaids of the Most

p. 78

[paragraph continues] High Sovereign King, the Heavenly Father, and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Ghost, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I will, and I promise to have always, by myself and my brothers, a diligent care and special solicitude for you, as for them. 1


I, little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of Jesus Christ our Most High Lord and of His Most Holy Mother and to persevere therein until the end. And I beseech you all, my ladies, and counsel you, to live always in this most holy life and poverty. And watch yourselves well that you in no wise depart from it through the teaching or advice of any one.


75:1 "Plura scripta tradidit nobis," Test. B Clarae. See Seraphicae Legislationis textus originales, p. 276.

75:2 "When Clare," he says, "and some other devout women in the Lord chose to serve under the same observance of religion, Blessed Francis gave them a little rule of life" (formulam vitae tradidit). See the bull Angelis gaudium of May 11, 1238 (Bullar. Franc., t. I, p. 242).

75:3 See Bullar., I, 11 and 13: the letters Prudentibus Virginibus: Ann. Min. I, 312: Gubernatis, Orb. Seraph. II, 603: also Bullar. I, 4, n. (a). The Rule may he found in the bull Cum omnis vera of Gregory IX, of May 24, 1239. See Bullar., t. I, p. 263.

75:4 See Bullar., t. I, p. 242.

76:1 See Bullar., t. I, p. 315.

76:2 On the origin of the Second Order and the early Rule, see Lemmens: "Die Anfänge des Clarissenordens" in the Römische Quartalschrift, t. XVI, 1902, pp. 93-124, which is in the nature of a rejoinder to Dr. Lempp's article with the same title, published in Brieger's Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, XIII, 181-245.

76:3 This Rule is contained in the bull Solet annuere, of Innocent IV. See Seraphicae Legislationis textus originales, page 49 seq. See also Bullar., I, 167; Ann. Min., III, 287.

77:1 Forma vivendi. See Seraph. Legislat., p. 62.

77:2 The biographers place the writing of this fragment in the autumn of 1220, after St. Francis returned from the East.

77:3 See Seraph. Legislat., p. 63.

77:4 They are numbered IV and V among the Episiolae in his edition of the Opuscula.

77:5 This bull, which had been lost for several centuries, was brought to light early in 1893, after a protracted search in different countries; it was found wrapped within an old mantle of Saint Clare, preserved in the Monastery of Santa Chiara, at Assisi. See Seraph. Legislat., pp. 2, seq. See also G. Cozza-Luzi: Un autografo di Innocenzo IV e Memorie di S. Chiara, ed. 2da., Rome, 1895.

77:6 Some critics regard this fragment as a promise or engagement accompanying the formula vitae or as the beginning of p. 78 the formula itself, and believe that the text of the latter, now lost, was also inserted originally in the sixth chapter of St. Clare's Rule. Be this as it may, it is certain that this chapter has been completely changed in several editions. In the vernacular versions of it, based on Wadding, the two fragments here given do not appear at all. See Fr. Van Ortroy, S.J., in Anal. Boll., t. xxiv, fasc. iii, p. 412.

78:1 See 2 Cel. 3, 132.

Next: VI. Testament of the Holy Father St. Francis