The Society of Saint Francis - The First Order
The First Order constitutes the Brothers (SSF) and the Sisters (CSF).
In 2002, the European Province of the Society published a brochure called A Franciscan Way, which gives an idea of life in the First Order, men and women who are walking the Way with the Lord Jesus to the Kingdom of God, and walking with those who particularly inspire them, namely Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
The defining document of the First Order is The Principles of the First Order, a text which came to SSF in the 1930s via an Anglican Franciscan community, the Christa Prima Seva Sangha.
The First Order holds three executive documents of governance: The Constitution of the Society of Saint Francis, which hold together all the constituent parts of the Society in its three Orders and is therefore common to all three Orders; The Constitution of the First Order of the Society of Saint Francis, which governs the whole First Order; and The Provincial Statutes, which are local to each Province of the First Order. The First Order observes a Rule of Life which is common to all Provinces.
The First Rule of Saint Francis, of 1210, no longer exists. Any such text therefore is a conjectural reconstruction. Of various suggestions, the text of Bishop John Moorman is probably the one most authenticated and the Rule has been included in The Manual of the First Order of SSF for more than fifty years and, as such, has had a profound influence upon the Society's understanding of the authentic vision and witness of Saint Francis.
Saint Francis also wrote a longer rule in 1221, which survived but was never accepted or used by the Order.
The Rule of 1223 remains from that day to this the Rule of the Friars' Minor. Whereas SSF did not use this Rule but rather the reconstruction of 1210, the Order of Saint Francis, from its foundation in 1919 until 1967, when it became the American Province of the First Order of the Society of Saint Francis, used the 1223 Rule with a text minimally modified to reflect the different context of Church order, and accompanied by a commentary. This text, therefore, reminds us of our links with the unbroken tradition of the Franciscan Order since 1223.
The Testament of Francis is also included in the Manual of the Society of St Francis.
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