Papal Documents - The Prophet - 743 

and specification. For subsequently the Rule goes into great detail on the latter three points [obedience, poverty, and chastity], whether in terms of precept or prohibition, or in terms of advice, warning, admonition, or similar expressions which are reducible to one or the other of two modalities [precept or prohibition].

Thus it is quite evident that the seemingly absolute statement in the profession formula, "promising always to observe this rule and life," and the one in the concluding sentence "that we may observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we have firmly promised," must be understood as the Rule intends, that is, in the qualified, restricted, and specified sense of its opening verse. Thus, following what we said above, the phrase "observing the Gospel" is qualified, restricted, and specified by the Rule itself to mean only the three Gospel counsels.

For it is not likely that the Saint would, without a clear-cut reason, want a statement initially made by him with a certain qualification, restriction, and specification, to lack in its later repetitions; however tersely he might have made them, the same qualification, restriction, and specification he attached to the earlier statement. The procedure of both courts of law likewise bears out that quite frequently initial material also refers to intermediate and concluding material, intermediate material to initial and concluding, and concluding material to one or to both of the other portions.

3 For if it be granted that the declaration: "I promise to observe the Holy Gospel," is to be understood absolutely, then a person making such a profession would be intending to obligate himself to the observance of all the evangelical counsels. But such an obligation would imperil the salvation of his soul, for he could hardly or never observe all of these counsels literally. And even if a person had such an intention, it is evident that making a profession in that form, i.e., "I promise to observe the Holy Gospel," would not have to be stretched any further in its meaning than that one should observe the Gospel in the manner it was handed down by Christ. So the person making much a profession would be promising to observe the [Gospel] precepts as precepts, and the counsels as counsels.

The blessed Francis himself plainly indicates in his own words that this was his intent by the very way he develops the Rule. For he enjoins certain Gospel counsels simply as counsels, using words of admonition, exhortation and advice; whereas he enjoins other counsels using words of prohibition or command. It is clear, therefore, that it was not the author's intention that by professing this Rule the brothers would be bound to all the counsels in the Gospel as well as




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 743