William Short, OFM. Phoenix, AZ: Tau Publishing, 152pp.
work by Bill Short provides us with a compact survey of the history of the
entire Franciscan Order. It is a summary
down through the
centuries that provides a good introduction to those reading this history
for the first time. It whets the appetite to pursue this history further,
perhaps by reading a work like Duncan Nimmo's REFORM AND DIVISION IN THE
MEDIEVAL FRANCISCAN ORDER, (Rome: Capuchin Historical Institute, 1987).
Bill's chapter on "The Franciscan Spirit" is a gem in its description of
"the spiritual environment in which it (the Franciscan family) lives and
grows, and the climate it creates around itself." Bill concludes: "In these
pages I have assembled a series of snapshots, pieces of a family portrait,
that of the Franciscans." He has indeed succeeded in doing just that.
Recommended for course work for Secular Franciscan fraternities as well as
for friary libraries.
SAINT FRANCIS AND THE THIRD ORDER: THE FRANCISCAN AND PRE-FRANCISCAN
Raffaele Pazzelli, TOR. Franciscan Herald Press. Chicago, Il. 1989. 235pp.
book would be a sine qua non for the summary it gives of the biblical and
Franciscan understanding of penance, the origins of the penitents from the
third century up to the time of Francis. Besides his development on how
Francis himself became a penitent, Pazzelli has an excellent treatment on
the First Letter to All the Faithful (Recensio Prior--the Volterra text) as
well as the later or second version of the Letter to All the Faithful. "The
Letter to all the Faithful could have undergone a development similar to
that of the RNB (also known as the Earlier Rule) of 1221. As we know, the
RNB is the result of that Protoregula of 1209 (1210). . . .In the same way,
Francis could have added to and modified this Volterra text until he had the
long or final edition, the Letter to All the Faithful." Anyone who works
with TOR communities or SFO fraternities will appreciate his work on these
two texts. Pazzelli's writing on both is solid research presented clearly
and succinctly. Definitely recommended for SFO spiritual assistants, friary,
convent and SFO libraries.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FRANCISCAN FAMILY.
Damien Vorreau, OFM and Aaron Pembleton, OFM. Franciscan Herald Press.
Chicago, Il. 1989. 110pp.
words of the authors, this is a "rapid overview of the history of the Order.
For the most part, we have stressed people and institutions. . . ." As a
survey of Franciscan history, the authors go through every century down to
the twentieth, presenting primarily a survey history of the first order with
glimpses into the other branches. It is recommended for SFO and friary and
FRANCIS OF ASSISI AND THE FRANCISCAN MOVEMENT.
David Flood, OFM. The Franciscan Institute of Asia. Quezon City,
Philippines. 1989. 173pp.
who has ever read David Flood's writings or heard him speak will know that
David approaches early Franciscan history almost exclusively from the
writings of Francis. David, a former student and later colleague of Kajetan
Esser, OFM, says: "The study of
Franciscan history begins with an analysis of the basic document (the Early
Rule). For the text manifests the intelligence in which Francis and his
brothers fashioned the action called the Franciscan movement. That action
differed sharply and consciously from the action prescribed by Assisi for
its citizens. . . .The Early Rule throws open the door on the early
Franciscan years. In the phrases of its development, in the variety of its
themes, it offers itself to us as an oracle ready to answer all our
questions. We have but to put the questions well. It is better than an
oracle. It abhors ambiguity." In
four chapters David formulates fascinating questions and the Early Rule has
equally fascinating responses. The book has a unique approach to our early
history. It is highly recommended for serious study or course work, for
reflection, and for all SFO and friary or convent libraries. It can be
ordered from The Franciscan Institute of Asia, P.O. Box AC 570 Cubao, Quezon
FROM INTUITION TO INSTITUTION: THE FRANCISCANS,
Theophile Desbonnets, OFM. Franciscan Herald Press, 1988, 165pp., with an
appendix on Franciscan Sources.
day, the foolhardy desire of a man, or perhaps the desire of a group of men,
encounters a marvelously expressive gospel text. Joy quickly emanates from
the encounter: 'Here indeed is what we have been seeking!' In their desire,
their encounter, their joy--in all three elements gushing forth from the
same pure mountain spring--with the striking clarity of a starlit sky, they
discover the Franciscan Intuition: to follow in the footsteps of Jesus
Desbonnets, [RIP 8 July 1988] has a finely researched
work that traces this intuition from its inception to its
institutionalization. His analysis of the texts is critical and clear. His
deduced insights are both new and refreshing.
Some chapters along the way are: The Early Plan; Francis'
Resignation; Brotherhood; Clericalization. I found his insights on
brotherhood/fraternity particularly enlightening.
Desbonnets comments on
Solet annuere, the papal bull approving the Rule of 1223, asking: "What
could possibly have been the intention with an approval granted by means of
the banal formula, Solet annuere?"
Desbonnets says "this administrative formula was routine and involved
no solemnity." There were 135 Solet annuere bulls issued by Innocent III and
Honorius III. His insights on this and other questions are fascinating and
provocative. It is recommended for any Franciscan's reading and a
good addition to any library, especially houses of formation.
OLIVI AND FRANCISCAN POVERTY: THE ORIGINS OF THE 'USUS PAUPER'
David Burr. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1989, 211pp.
John Olivi, contrary to the Italian-sounding name he bears, was born in
1247/48 in southern France and died in 1298 and was buried at Narbonne. "He
had entered the Franciscan order in 1259 or 1260 at the age of 12. He was a
student in Paris by the later 1260s, but probably never taught there"[p.38].
He was the writer around when much of the Usus Pauper controversy
surfaced. Burr writes:
Neither side of the Usus
Pauper controversy can be can be
identified precisely with the views of Saint
Francis; yet in one sense Olivi catches the spirit of
early Franciscanism as his opponents do not. His
approach is more faithful to the spirit of adventure
found in Franciscan legend. When a young Franciscan
vows the rule, he embarks on a spiritual quest. The
vow points him toward a goal and encourages him to travel in that
direction. It does not offer a cook- book religion in which all the
necessary ingredients are measured out to the nearest quarter-teaspoon.
The boundary between...bending the vow and breaking it, remains
unmapped. Nor can it ever be charted.
It is beyond the simplistic human measurement. The Franciscan life is
thus challenging and exciting, but
these qualities are purchased at the cost of some uncertainty and
thus some anxiety.
In stark contrast the life offered by Olivi's
opponents seems less susceptible to uncertainty and anxiety, but it is as
adventurous as lunch at a modern fast-food restaurant. The cost is reduced
to a set price, and it is a price anyone feels he can afford; yet the value
received is scaled down
accordingly. The result is
predictable but not very
exciting. [Olivi] was by no means the sort of person who clings to old
formulations through a need for familiar, clear answers. On the contrary, he
was probably more comfortable with uncertainty
than were most theologians of his time, more willing to live with
open questions, and more adventurous.
He displayed a noteworthy independence in deciding
what should be accepted or rejected.[pp145-46]
Duncan Nimmo writes
in his book
Reform And Division In The Medieval
Franciscan Order, that with the rise of the Spirituals, Olivi stands
out as "a speculative thinker of considerable stature," a scholar and writer
par excellence. Olivi's impact
on the Italian spirituals dates at
least from 1287, when Ubertino [da Casale] came to
know him at Florence. Perhaps it dates from 1279.
Of course, as we see from Ubertino and Angelo [Clarinus], the Italian
spirituals made odd use of Olivi; yet, however much they may have distorted
him. . . , any Franciscan leader who took the trouble to read his work could
see that he resembled the rebels in his insistence that defying authority on
the matter of usus pauper was not simply a right but a sacred duty when the
purity of the rule was at stake.
Nimmo holds that Ubertino and Angelo took Olivi's scholarly
writing and popularized it in their own works for their followers. Burr
gives another view of Olivi when he compares him to Bonaventure. He writes:
His stance was in some ways similar to
that adopted by Bonaventure in his declining years. Both saw slippage in
their own day but at least acted as if they thought it could be arrested or
even reversed. The amount of
decay seen by each was limited by the fact that both saw the development
from Francis' time to their own
not as a fall from original innocence but as a progression. The order had
changed remarkably during those decades, accumulating a
large membership, new responsibilities, and a great deal of power.
Instead of bewailing these alterations, Bonaventure and Olivi both accepted
them as positive accomplishments. Thus they sought not a return to the
original standards of Rivo Torto and the Porziuncola, but a maintenance of a
modest yet salubrious existence within a well-administered community,
allowing the brothers to fulfill their responsibilities in the world while
edifying it with their behavior [pp.179-80].
Burr has produced a scholarly work on Olivi and the Usus Pauper controversy.
It shows us more of this friar than historical works sometimes protray in
summary fashion. Burr has written
articles on other aspects of Olivi's writings. This text makes for serious
reading. It should be on the shelves of our study/formation libraries.
THE FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALS AND THE CAPUCHIN REFORM
by Thaddeus MacVicar, ofm cap, edited by Charles McCarron, ofm cap, The
Franciscan Institute, St.Bonaventure, New York, 1986. 173 pp.
was preparing a few classes on the Capuchin Reform for our novices, I
received a copy of this book. Finished in 1963 as a doctoral dissertation at
the Gregorianum University of Rome, the present edition includes the entire
original dissertation along with an updated though select bibliography.
The author basically establishes who the Spirituals were in our Order's
history with a good summary in chapter III on the doctrine of the
Spirituals. MacVicar writes:
The master idea of
the early Capuchin legislation is the perfect imitation of St.Francis and
complete fidelity to his every intention and wish. The opening chapter of
the Constitutions of 1536 lays down the fundamental principles by which the
Reform hopes to accomplish its perfect renewal of primitive Franciscan life.
1. The friars shall observe the Holy Gospel in the manner prescribed
by St.Francis. When they speak of the Gospel life, they understand its
obligations for the Order according to the papal declarations.
2. They shall observe the Rule to the letter, and without gloss.
3. They shall observe the Testament of St.Francis.
4. Over and above the Rule and Testament, they shall
model themselves on all his words and works.
5. The general chapter renounces in the name of the Order all
privileges and exemptions which tend to relax the Rule [pp.57-58].
already shown earlier in the text that the "doctrine and mentality (of the
Spirituals) were full of exaggerations"[p.60], nevertheless, "purified of
the exaggerations their principles were basically sound and seemingly the
only workable plan for renewing the primitive observance" [ibid.]. "We
merely wish to show that the early Capuchins received from the Spirituals,
though not from them exclusively, the fundamental principles of their
reform"[p.61]. This last statement seems to be in opposition to the author's
In the principles enunciated above, it would seem that there could be a
discrepancy between numbers one and two. The Spirituals, according to Duncan
Nimmo [Cf. REFORM AND DIVISION IN THE MEDIEVAL FRANCISCAN ORDER] basically
strove for literal observance of the Rule, Testament, and the entire Gospel.
For them, papal declarations would be considered a "gloss," the first in a
long line of which would be the papal bull Quo Elongati of Gregory IX. It
stated that the Testament was not binding for the friars, only the Rule was.
Moreover, they were bound by obligation only to observe those passages of
the Gospel contained in the Rule, not to the entire Gospel.
The author is
concerned mainly with comparing the early Capuchins with the Spirituals to
discover if they were "mentally and historically the inheritors of the
He writes in his final chapter: "As a final
conclusion to our entire study, we can say that in the origin and
development of the Capuchin Reform, Spiritual influence properly so-called
was limited to an overemphasis in the initial years on the eremitical life,
a cult of prophecies (Joachimistic), and a certain opposition to
studies...Outside the infiltration of Spiritual doctrine just mentioned, we
must deny Spiritual influence as a whole" [p 103].
This work would be valuable in the libraries of our formation houses.
ANTHONY OF PADUA: PROCLAIMER OF THE GOSPEL,
by Lothar Hardick, OFM; translated by Zachary Hayes, OFM and Jason M.
Miskuly, OFM; edited by Cassian A. Miles, OFM, and Janet Gianopoulos;
published by Editions Du Signe, B.P.94 m, F67038
Strasbourg Cedex 2, France, 48pp.
volume published during this centenary year of St. Anthony’s birth is most
welcome. Its format is
handsomely presented with each of its sections accompanied by reproductions
of artistic works of St. Anthony.
And the biographical research of Lothar Hardick, OFM is refreshing.
Hardick, in a brief biographical sketch, treats of Anthony’s family
background and youth, his becoming a Franciscan, his work in northern Italy,
southern France, his leadership of the Romagna Province, his last years in
Padua, the return of the saint to God, St. Anthony today, and a brief
The value of this solid but short biography is in its
excellent research. And it is
brief enough for readers to acquaint themselves with this very popular
saint. The biography gives a
good sense of who Anthony was, and as such it gives the reader a good handle
on the facts as opposed to the many legends and devotions that have sprung
up around Anthony.
It would make an attractive addition to any Franciscan
library. More importantly, this
work would be most helpful to those whose ministry involves devotion to St.
Anthony, whether it is used for basic background information for preaching
or presentations, or whether it is made available to devotees of St.