The present constitutions emerged from a long process and the hard work of commissions and General Chapters. We also had the advantage of the newly composed Constitutions of the OFMs and the scholarly work of the legendary Father Cajetan Esser, O.F.M. Each Chapter of the present Capuchin Constitutions adopted a format which takes the Revelation of the Church and then Francis’ genius and then our fraternity and then develops the topic of the Chapter. It is a wonderfully constructed ecclesial vision of religious life and Franciscan spirituality. It locates us in the context of the Church and not as a sideshow of charismatic wonder.
"Capitular fathers were grateful to the fine work of the Italian Friar Guiseppe Santorelli from the Province of Ancora who helped incorporate more of the original Capuchin constitutions into the new Constitutions. All in all the Chapters that worked on the Constitutions did a remarkable job. I was present for some of those Chapters as a lowly translator and witnessed firsthand the hard work of the Capitulars.
"The new Constitutions despite its many strengths does have some flaws in my opinion. It is my hope that the call to re-look at the Constitutions might address some of these concerns:
• The new Constitutions dropped too much of our life of penance and the contemplative side of our life.
• The new Constitutions fail to give a clear formula for living a life of poverty “with explanations.”
• The new Constitutions favor generalities to honor an ill-conceived notion of pluriformity that has robbed the Constitutions of its fire.
• The new Constitutions needed to say more about the friars’ love for the Church and the fidelity to her moral and dogmatic teaching. Francis was so devoted to the Church, despite all the defects and shortcomings of the clergy and leadership.
•Our Constitutions should not be a bland description of how we are living our vocation in the 3rd millennium, but rather a description of how we should be living our life in a concrete program of radical poverty, radical prayer, radical love. Constitutions should not be easily tempered with. Performance and stability are important to inspire people with a sense of awe and seriousness. In today’s world young people see how everything is expendable, “throw-away.” Technology has created a world where everything is experimental or obsolete.
"The Constitutions are our identity as Capuchins and need to be firmly grounded in our history. We do not need a document that is modern and trendy that will soon seem dated and passe.
"Capuchin Identity is safeguarded by the Constitutions only in as much as it inspires us to live the Rule and Testament in a radical way. Generalities will never do. The Gospel Life of the Capuchin Brotherhood is about radical love. It is a life that begins with contemplative prayer. This allows one to imitate the self-emptying of Christ’s kenosis and leads to a radical witness that invites people to renounce the extreme individualism and materialism of our age in order to follow Christ poor and crucified.
"Some people are advocating removing some of the concrete directives on prayer that are in the Constitutions and place them in the Ordinances. This would be a fatal mistake. The ordinances are unknown and irrelevant to most of the friars. The Rule and Constitutions will always be the documents that form us and teach us our identity. The Constitutions cannot be a weak exhortation to live a vague ideal of the most common denominator. Rather, the Constitutions should be a challenging document that incorporates concrete directives about the life of prayer, poverty, and austerity. We need more boldness in our Constitutions if we are going to inspire young men to join our ranks.
"If we embrace or institutionalize a comfortable, bourgeois life style, the Order will die out, no matter how much lip service we give to a liberal social agenda. Our way of life lived in all its radical renunciation is capable of producing men whose witness of prayer, poverty and love will help transform society by calling people back to God, calling them to come home to the Church, by helping people to have a sense of personal vocation and to be part of a communal mission.
"It is my conviction that the contemplative aspects of our life should be addressed first of all. The Capuchin charism begins with the eremitical emphasis of the first friars as reflected in the document of Albacena, the subsequent Constitutions elaborate more on ministry and mission. The point of departure however is the contemplative basis of our vocation. When the life of prayer is carefully delineated, then the other aspects of our life take shape. The centrality of the Eucharist and mental prayer needs to be very clear. Daily celebration of a communal Eucharist, two periods of meditation, and the communal praying of the entire liturgy of the hours needs to be enshrined in the Constitutions as a bare minimum. To leave that up to local communities to legislate is too risky. By leaving things out of the Constitutions we are sending a signal that they are not really important and we encourage a take it or leave it attitude.
"The subjective mood, weak exhortations and mild recommendations do not communicate the sense of urgency that Francis wants to communicate in the Rule. It is a matter of life and death. St. Paul says no one will follow an uncertain trumpet blast. Our legislation should not be an exercise in subtleties. The directives about prayer and poverty need to be concrete, airtight and unyielding."