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Appendix First Order Franciscans, such as the Order of Friars Minor to which I belong, have found it difficult to consider their Rule historically. By Rule here, I mean the text sanctioned as the order’s rule in 1223. Whereas the Early Rule had been the instrument of church approval until the third day prior to the Kalends of December (November 29), 1223, on that day the Rule (of 1223) took over the role. The text took form through human action and it shifted into its role by the action of Pope Honorius III. People put it together and Pope Honorius III approved it, as had Pope Innocent III. It has a history. The study that follows was first published in Verba Domini Mei (Rome: Edizioni Antonianum, 2003), the volume with the papers presented at a conference in Rome (April, 2002). A. Cacciotti, who so competently put the conference together and saw to the publication of the results, has graciously, and as a good friend, allowed us to offer it here, as appendix to the preceding pages. I wrote it and think it deserves discussion. (I have erased a few sentences from the original text.) David Flood David Flood 112 Regulam melius observare K. Esser often returned in his studies to the rule approved by Pope Honorius III in 1223. In early 1965 he did it with a new twist, following on an extended consideration of the Early Rule in 1964. He had seen how the Early Rule (Regula non bullata) hung together and wondered whether something similar could be done with the text approved by Pope Honorius III. He presented the results at a gathering of Dutch, French, and German Franciscans in Nordwijkerhout, The Netherlands, in the late summer of 1965. At the end of that large meeting, the seventeen ministers provincial present appointed a commission to draw up a document on the spirit that should animate the order. In 1968 K. Esser and E. Grau published the material generated by the commission’s labors. They led off with Esser’s study on the rule. By then Esser had given his study its final form.115 Esser hoped through historical study to help inspire and renew Franciscan life. Consequently he never forgot about the rule.116 Formally the rule was the essential statement 115 “Die endgültige Regel der Minderbrüder im Lichte der neuesten Forschung” in K. Esser and E. Grau, eds., Franziskanisches Leben. Gesammelte Dokumente (Werl/Westf.: Dietrich-Coelde-Verlag, 1968). Hereafter “Die endgültige Regel.” – My thanks to Michael Cusato (The Franciscan Institute) for his useful criticism of an early version of this text. 116 Although K. Esser published his study on the Testament of Francis in 1949 (Das Testament des heiligen Franziskus von Assisi), which established his method of historical work and spiritual application, and brought out in pamphlet form his Franciscan program in 1952 (Der Orden des hl. Franziskus), he appeared most forcefully and practically as scholar and educator in the book on the rule published in 1955 with the collaboration of others: Werkbuch zur Regel des heiligen Franziskus, Coelde-Verlag, 1955. It contains his first reading of the Rule of 1223 in the light of the other early Franciscan writings: “Melius catholice observemus,” 127-258. Appendix 113 about Franciscan life. It was, as well, a key piece in the argument of those who assailed the papal church for absorbing the Franciscan organization into its own purposes.117 In his reading of the rule, Esser claimed the text as an outstanding argument for his view on early Franciscan history. Esser introduced his 1965 examination of the rule as an historical study. First of all he got rid of those encumbrances that hinder us from reading the text itself. Legend, asceticism , and legalism, he contended, hid its meanings. He set aside these later stories and practices and turned to the rule itself. He wanted to see how the text came about.118 After going through the text line for line, Esser summarized the results. He offered the rule as a genuine writing of Francis ; it contained the emphases that Esser had pointed out in the opuscula as a whole. The rule confirmed the general message of the writings. Esser’s study on the rule readily takes its slender but determinative place on the bookshelf alongside his monograph on the origin and development of the order.119 Although T. Desbonnets and R. Manselli approached the rule differently, substantially they agreed with Esser. Desbonnets began by introducing...


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