CHAPTER TEN – OUR LIFE IN OBEDIENCE

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LIFE IN OBEDIENCE

By virtue of our commitment to live in obedience, without regard to distinction of office, let us strive for the last place in the community of Christ’s disciples, serving one another in a spirit of charity and remaining subject to every human creature for God’s sake.
This is true obedience, as manifested in the life of Jesus Christ in the form of a servant.
Docile to the Holy Spirit [and] in a fraternal sharing of life, let us search for and fulfill God’s will in every event and action.
Thus it will come about that the ministers or superiors, who spend themselves in the service of the brothers entrusted to them, and the other brothers, who are subject to them in faith, will always do what is pleasing to God.

ARTICLE I: THE PASTORAL SERVICE OF THE MINISTERS
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Christ did not come to be served but to serve. To show this he washed the feet of the apostles and recommended that they do the same.
Therefore the ministers, the servants of the others, should not exercise authority as masters, but serve the other brothers, giving them spirit and life by example and word.

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Since they must render God an accounting of the brothers entrusted to them, let the ministers preside over their fraternities in charity, becoming an example to them from the heart.
Therefore they should exercise the office entrusted to them with wisdom, be sollicitous for the brothers, and take care of all things, especially the spiritual.
With intense prayer and prudent discernment, let [the ministers] seek together with them the will of God.
In a gospel spirit let them willingly initiate dialogue with the brothers, whether communally or individually, and accept their advice. All should remember, however, that it is the responsibility of the ministers, in virtue of their office, to make the final decision.
Let the ministers strive to lead the brothers to observe our life faithfully and to foster the good of the Church everywhere.
For the good of the whole fraternity, let them promote the harmonious activity of all, especially of those who have specific responsibilities in the house.

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All the ministers are responsible for ministering the word of God to the brothers and for carefully providing for their appropriate instruction and religious formation.
In each province this may be done in a variety of ways according to circumstances of time and place, as decided by the provincial minister with the consent of the definitory, as, for example, through a spiritual discussion, whether with individuals or in the local chapter, by homilies to the brothers during the celebration of the Eucharist or of the Word of God, by the circular letters of the major superiors, or by workshops concerning religious and franciscan themes.

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Desiring that each brother be conformed to the design of the Father Who calls him out of love, the ministers should urge [all the brothers] to seek out and fulfill the divine will actively and responsibly.
Let them guide the brothers entrusted to them as sons of God [and] with respect for the human person so that they may offer obedience voluntarily.
They should not impose commands by virtue of the vow of obedience unless charity and necessity demand it and [it is done] with great prudence in writing or before two witnesses.

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They should exercise the office that belongs to them by virtue of the Rule of admonishing, encouraging and, when necessary, correcting the brothers, with firmness and, at the same time, kindness and charity.
Let them make an effort to correct the failings of individual brothers privately through a fraternal discussion, keeping in mind the person and the circumstances.
Let the brothers, however, willingly accept the correction of superiors for the betterment of their soul.
Superiors should discuss the failings or omissions of the fraternity with the brothers themselves, especially on the occasion of a local chapter. Let all of them together seek and apply effective remedies.

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The pastoral visitation of major superiors prescribed by the Rule and universal law contributes much to the vivacity of our life and to the renewal and unity of the brothers.
During his term of office, the general minister should visit all the brothers either personally or through others, principally through the general definitors.
The other major superiors should make such a visitation to all the fraternities in their own territories at least twice in a three-year term.
The vice-provinces and custodies, in addition to a visitation of the vice provincial or the superior regular, should be visited by the provincial minister during each three-year term.
Moreover, when the opportunity arises, let the general minister visit the brothers in different countries and occasionally be present at meetings of the Conferences of Major Superiors.
Let the other major superiors as well, in their concern for individuals and their work, willingly take advantage of opportunities of meeting with the brothers.

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The visitators should initiate a sincere discussion with the brothers, whether individually or gathered together for communal dialogue, about everything that supports and fosters the life of the brothers, whether spiritual or temporal. Let them not neglect the visitation of the houses.
Let them act with a thorough understanding and with anadaptability to the times and conditions of different regions. In this way the brothers may express their judgement freely and sincerely and work together for whatever leads to the perennial renewal of our life and growth of our activity.

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Once the visitation is completed, the delegated visitator should send a complete report to his respective superior.
Within the time set by the visitator, let the superiors, whether major or local, inform their own immediate superior concerning what they have put into practice after the visitation as well as how the requirements of the Constitutions, the provincial chapters and the superiors have been implemented.
Once during a three-year term let the major superiors send a report concerning the state of their own jurisdiction to their respective superior.

ARTICLE II: THE LOVING OBEDIENCE
OF THE BROTHERS
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lifewFollowing the footprints of the Lord lesus Who was subject throughout his entire life to the will of His Fatner, the brothers, by the professlon of obedience, offer their will as a sacrifice of themselves to God, conform themselves continually to the salvific will of God, Whom they love above all else, and bind themselves to the service of the Church.
Moreover, by living in obedience, they discover, together with the fraternity, the will of God more securely and strengthen fraternal union itself.
In the spirit in which they have freely promised the gospel counsels, let them manifest an active and responsible obedience to superiors with faith and love for God’s will.
They may rest assured that a freely made offering of their own will to God greatly fosters their personal perfection and becomes a witness of the Kingdom of God for others.

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While showing themselves ready to obey their superiors in a spirit of faith, the brothers should present their own judgements and initiatives to them for the common good. It is the responsibility of the superiors to decide and direct what must be done, after willingly considering everything with the brothers.
Whatever good a brother may do with a right intention and by his own choice is also true obedience, when he knows that [what he does] is not contrary to the will of the superior or detrimental to fraternal unity.
If, after fraternal dialogue, a brother sees something better and more useful than what a minister commands, let him sacrifice his judgement willingly and strive to follow that of the superior. In fact, this is the true and loving obedience that satisfies God and neighbor.

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Those who, because of personal reasons or extemal circumstances, cannot observe the Rule spiritually may, and should, have recourse to the minister confidently asking advice, encouragement, and remedies.
The minister should welcome and help them with fraternal charity and concern.

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Let all of us, the ministers and the other brothers alike, walking in truth and sincerity of heart, have a sense of familiarity among ourselves and serve and obey one another willingly through charity of spirit.
Let us foster mutual respect in such a way that, when a brother is absent, we would never say anything that, in charity, we would not dare to say were he present.
By acting in this way, in a world that is meant to be consecrated to God, we will be a sign of that perfect love which flourishes in the Kingdom of heaven.
Should we sometimes suffer want, persecution and tribulation because of our witness to the gospel life, let us place all our hope in God, Whom we love above all else.
Moved and sustained by the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity, as poor men and men of peace, let us courageously undertake great initiatives and, if we persevere until the end, enjoy God’s reward.