July 2, 2011

Reading Old Constitutions

For reasons that will become clear in the coming weeks, or not, I've been reviewing some of the great legislative texts from the history of the Order. It's always amusing and comforting to read such things, because it helps you realize that things aren't much different from the way they have always been.

Today I'm reading the Constitutions of Narbonne, issued by the general chapter of the same name in 1260, and written by St. Bonaventure when he was general minister of the Order. Here are some favorite bits:

No animal for the use of any brother or place shall be kept by the Order or by any person in the name of the Order, except for cats and certain types of birds for the purposes of removing garbage.

In 1260 this was probably about income from livestock, but it remains a good rule. Somewhat ironically, pets tend to do poorly in friaries. They don't figure out why some love them and others don't, and become wrecks of anxiety.

They should not drink in any town or village where the brothers have a house.

So we should travel in order to go out drinking?

In their sermons the brother shall in no way ask that money be collected for themselves.

Should it happen that some troublesome or mischievous brother is transferred from one province in order to dwell in another, the minister whose province he is leaving is bound to inform the minister to whom he is being sent of his dangerous propensities, so that the latter may take appropriate measures. The general minister is likewise to inform him.

Let the ministers strive to restrain the loquaciousness of the brothers and in chapter to persuade them to keep silence at meals they take outside the refectory, since this is the desire of the general chapter.

Good luck with that.

No brother shall dare to assert or knowingly approve any theological opinion which has been commonly rejected by our masters, nor dare to defend any singular, suspect, or malicious opinion, especially one contrary to faith or morals.

Good luck with that one too.

In preparation for the provincial chapter, each guardian is to hold a chapter, where the faults and failings of the minister and custodian should be discussed, as well as any other matters which should be forwarded to the chapter for discussion. When it comes time to consider the faults of the guardian, another brother selected by him with the advice of some of the friary councilors shall preside over the chapter.


From Dominic Monti, OFM, ed. and trans. St. Bonaventure's Writings Concerning the Franciscan Order, Franciscan Institute, 1994.


Anonymous said...

Wow! What a preparation! Lets get a time machine...

Greg said...

Have been reading Bonaventure this weekend, so this was a timely post.

It reminds me of one of my favorite works of Francis — the Admonitions. Admonition 1 is marvelous, as Francis sets the Eucharist as the foundation of his management system. Wonder what would happen if Catholic businesses set up their company policies with the Eucharist as the cornerstone?

Anonymous said...

What, no more "Chapter of Faults"?

Anonymous said...

More evidence that the only good thing about the “good old days” is that they are old. No use in pinning for them because longing for the golden era that never was makes no sense.