General documents about the Order of Preachers

Book of Constitutions and Ordinations of the Friars of the Order of Preachers (LCO)

Dominican Central Documents

General Chapter of Providence (2001)

General Chapter of Cracow (2004)

General Chapter of Rome

Official Documents of the Order

The Rule of the Lay Chapters of St. Dominic


The Historical Development of The Rule

The Dominican Laity originated in its present form with the promulgation of the first Rule under Munio de Zamora, Master of the Order in 1285. The spiritual origin of the Laity was in the penitential movements centered around Saint Dominic, who gathered around himself groups of the Laity for the spiritual and material defense of the Church and for apostolic work. The Laity has existed, under various names, as long as the Dominican Order itself and has always performed specific functions and collaborated closely with the other branches of the Dominican Family. There have been five Rules for the Dominican Laity since the foundation of the Order. The first was that promulgated by Munio de Zamora in 1285, for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of Saint Dominic. The Rule of Munio, slightly amended, received papal approval in 1405. This Rule survived for centuries, serving the laity and being adopted for other branches of the Dominican Family.

The second Rule, adapted to the new Code of Canon Law in 1917, was approved in 1932 under Master Louis Theissling, with the title: Rule of the Secular Third Order of Saint Dominic. After Vatican II, the need was felt for a new Rule or an updating of the 1932 Rule; accordingly, the third Rule was approved in 1964. However, the General Chapter of River Forest in 1968 proposed a fourth Rule, which was promulgated by Master Aniceto Fernandez 1969 and approved on an experimental basis by the Sacred Congregation for Religious in 1972 under the title: Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic. With this title, reference to Third Order had disappeared, to be confirmed by legislation of the 1974 General Chapter at Madonna Dell ‘Arco, abolishing such terms as First, Second and Third Order.

Finally, after the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law and the Bologna Document on the Dominican Family, the General Chapter of Rome that same year, 1983, commissioned the Master of the Order to hold an International Congress of the Dominican Laity in order to renew and adapt its Rule. This, the fifth Rule, The Rule of the Lay Chapters of Saint Dominic, was approved by the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes in January 1987 and promulgated by Master Damien Byrne on January 28, 1987.

[Excerpted from The Dominican Laity Handbook, Province of the Assumption, Australia]

English Translation of The Rule

I. The Fundamental Constitution of the Dominican Laity

(Laity in the Church)
1. Among the Christian faithful, men and women living in the world by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, have been made partakers in the prophetic, priestly and royal mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are called to make the presence of Christ alive [Southern Province variation: to make Christ present] in the midst of the people so that the divine message of redemption may be heard and welcomed by all everywhere.

(Dominican Laity)
2. Some of these Christian faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit to live according to the spirit and charism of Saint Dominic, are incorporated into the Dominican Order through a special commitment according to their appropriate statutes.

(Dominican Family)
3. Gathered together in their communities, with the other groupings of the Order, they constitute one Dominican Family.

(Distinctive Character of Dominican Laity)
4. Within the Church they have a distinctive character in both their spirituality and service to God and neighbor. As members of the Order, they participate in its apostolic mission through prayer, study, and preaching according to the state of the laity.

(Apostolic Mission)
5. Supported by their mutual communion [Southern Province variation: fraternal union], in the example of Saint Dominic, Saint Catherine of Siena and our predecessors, who have enlightened the life of the Order and the Church, they witness their own Faith, attentive to the needs of people of their time and serving Truth.

6. Zealously attending to the particular goals of the contemporary Church, they strive in aspecial way to evidence authentic mercy toward all suffering, to defend freedom and to promote peace and justice.

7. Animated by the special charism of the Order, they are conscious that their apostolic activity has as its source an abundance of contemplation.

II. Life of the Chapters

(Life of the Chapters)

8. Let them strive, to the best of their ability, to live in authentic communion in accord with the spirit of the Beatitudes. This is done in all circumstances, performing works of mercy, sharing in good works with members of the Chapter, especially toward the poor and thesick, and praying for the dead. In this way they will be of one heart and one mind in the Lord.

9. Collaborating with all their sisters and brothers [Latin original: cum fratribus et sororibus] in the Order, the laity should participate actively in the life of the Church, ready always to work with other apostolic groups.

10. To advance in their vocation, a union of action and contemplation, the Dominican Laity have as their principal sources:

a. listening to the Word of God and reading the Sacred Scriptures, especially the

New Testament;

b. daily participation, if possible, in the celebration of the liturgy and the Eucharist;

c. frequent celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation;

d. celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours with all the Dominican Family and private

prayer, such as meditation and the Rosary;

e. conversion of heart through spirit and practice of evangelical asceticism

[Southern Province variation: penance][Latin original: paenitentiae];

f. assiduous study of revealed truth and reflection on contemporary problems, in the light of Faith;

g. devotion to the Virgin Mary, according to the tradition of the Order, to our Father Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena;

h. periodic spiritual retreats.

11. The object of Dominican formation is to form adults in the Faith, capable of accepting, celebrating, and proclaiming the Word of God. Each Province is to establish a program of:

a. formation in stages for new members;

b. ongoing formation for all, even for members without direct access to a Chapter

[Southern Province variation: even isolated members].

12. Every Dominican must be prepared to preach the Word of God. This preaching is the exercise of the prophetic mission of the baptized, strengthened by the Sacrament of

Confirmation. In the present world, the preaching of the Word of God involves the defense of the dignity of human life, the family and the person. The promotion of Christian unity and dialogue with non-Christians and non-believers are part of the Dominican vocation. [NB: Both the Eastern and Central Provinces omit reference to non-Christians, which is in the original Latin text].

13. The [Latin text: praecipui, i.e. principal] sources of Dominican formation are:

+ the Word of God and theological reflection,

+ liturgical prayer,

+ the history and tradition of the Order,

+ contemporary documents of the Church and Order,

+ awareness of the signs of our times.

14. To be incorporated into the Order, members must make profession which consists of a formal promise by which they propose to live according to the spirit of Saint Dominic and according to the way of life prescribed by The Rule.

This profession is either temporary or perpetual. The following or a substantially similar formula is to be used for making profession:

To the honor of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Dominic, I (name), before you (name), the Moderator of this Chapter and (name) the religious promoter, representing the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, promise to live according to The Rule of the Dominican Laity for (three years or my whole life).

III. On the Structure and Government of the Chapters

15. The Chapter is the appropriate means to nourish and develop each person in his or her own vocation. The schedule for meetings varies according to the different Chapters. The degree to which each member attends meetings is a sign of his or her own fidelity.

16. Observing the prescriptions of the Directory as to qualifications for persons and time of admission, the admission of candidates is committed to the responsible layperson. Once a decisive vote of the Council of the Chapter has been given, this layperson carries out the admission according to the rite determined in the Directory, with the religious promoter present.

17. After the period of probation determined by the Directory and with a favorable vote of the Council of the Chapter, the layperson responsible, together with the religious promoter, receives the profession, either temporary or perpetual [Southern and Eastern Provinces reverse these two] [Latin original: ad tempus vel perpetuam].

(Jurisdiction and Autonomy)
18. The Chapters of the Order are subject to the jurisdiction of the Order. They do, however, enjoy the autonomy proper to the Laity by [other Provinces use to] which they govern themselves.

(Jurisdiction in the Whole Order)
19. a. The Master of the Order as successor of Saint Dominic and head of the entire Dominican Family presides over all the Chapters in the world. It is his responsibility to preserve intact the spirit of the Order and to establish practical norms according to the demands of the circumstances of time and place and to promote the spiritual good and apostolic zeal of the members.

b. The Promoter General represents the Master of the Order to all Chapters and transmits their proposals to the Master of the Order or to the General Chapter.

(Jurisdiction in the Province)
20. a. The Provincial presides over the Chapters in the territory of his Province and, with the consent of the Local Ordinary, establishes new Chapters.

b. A Provincial Promoter, brother or sister, represents the Provincial and is an ex officio

member of the Provincial Council of the Dominican Laity. The Promoter is appointed by the Provincial Chapter or by the Provincial with his Council, after consultation with the Provincial Council of the Laity.

c. A Provincial Council of the Laity is to be established in the territory of the Province. Its members are elected by the Chapters, and it functions according to the norms of their Directory. This Council elects the Provincial Moderator [Latin text: Praesidem] of the Laity.

(Jurisdiction in Chapters)
21. a. A local Chapter is governed by a Moderator with a Council, who are fully responsible for its government and direction.

b. The Council is elected for a determined term and in the way established by the Directory. The Council elects a Moderator from among its members.

c. A religious brother or sister assists the members in doctrinal matters and the spiritual life. This religious promoter is appointed by the Provincial after consultation with the Provincial Promoter [Central Province variation: Representative] and the local Council of the Laity.

(National and International Councils)
22. a. Where there are several Provinces of the Order within the same country, a National Council may be established according to the norms formulated in the Particular Directories.

b. Likewise, if judged opportune, there may be an International Chapter. The Chapters of the whole Order are to be consulted on this matter.

23. Councils of Chapters may submit requests and petitions to the Provincial Chapter of the Friars; Provincial Councils and National Councils may submit them to a General Chapter. Members of the Laity Chapters should be invited to these Chapters to deal with matters that pertain to the Laity. [This paragraph is missing from the Central Province text, and thus the subsequent paragraph is numbered differently.]

(The Statutes of Chapters)
24. The statutes which govern the Dominican Laity are:

a. The Rule of the Dominican Laity (Fundamental Constitution, norms of life and

government of the Chapters);

b. General Declarations of the Master of the Order and General Chapters;

c. Particular Directories.

The Fundamental Constitution of the Order of Preachers

Here, in modern words, is expressed the basic ideals of the Dominican Order and the means of personal sanctification that energize Dominican life. Drawing from age old documents, the present Fundamental Constitution offers a vision of Dominican life that calls, challenges and confirms so many who follow it faithfully.

I. The purpose of the Order was expressed by Pope Honorius III writing to St Dominic and his brother in these words:

“He who ever makes His Church fruitful with new offspring”, (l) wanting to make these modern times measure up to former times and to propagate the Catholic faith, inspired you with a holy desire by which, having embraced poverty and made profession of regular life, you have given yourselves to the proclamation of the Word of God, preaching the name of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world.” (2)

II. For the Order of Friars Preachers founded by St. Dominic “is known from the beginning to have been instituted especially for preaching and the salvation of souls.” (3)

Our brethren, therefore, according to the command of the founder must conduct themselves honorably and religiously as men who want to obtain their salvation and the salvation of others, following in the footsteps of the Savior as evangelical men speaking among themselves or their neighbors either with God or about God.” (4)

III. In order that we may be perfected in the love of God and neighbor through this following of Christ we are incorporated into our Order by profession, consecrated totally to God, and in particular we are dedicated in a new way to the universal Church, “being appointed entirely for the complete evangelization of the Word of God.” (5)

IV. We also undertake as sharers of the apostolic mission the life of the Apostles in the form conceived by St. Dominic, living with one mind the common life faithful in the profession of the evangelical counsels fervent in the common celebration of the liturgy, especially of the Eucharist and the divine office as well as other prayer, assiduous in study, and persevering in regular observance. All these practices contribute not only to the glory of God and our sanctification, but serve directly the salvation of mankind, since they prepare harmoniously for preaching, furnish its incentive, form its character, and in turn are influenced by it. These elements are closely interconnected and carefully balanced, mutually enriching one another, so that in their synthesis the proper life of the Order is established: a life in the fullest sense apostolic, in which preaching and teaching must proceed from an abundance of contemplation.

V. Made cooperators of the episcopal order by priestly ordination, we have as our special function the prophetic office by which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed everywhere both by word and example, with due consideration for the conditions of persons, times, and places so that faith is awakened or penetrates more deeply all life in the building up of the body of Christ, which is perfected by the sacraments of faith.

VI. The structure of the Order as a religious society arises from its mission and fraternal communion. Since the ministry of the word and of the sacraments of faith is a priestly office, ours is a clerical Order, those mission the cooperator brothers, exercising in a special way the common priesthood, also share in many ways. Moreover, the total commission of the Preachers to the proclamation of the Gospel by word and work is revealed in the Fact that by solemn profession they are entirely and perpetually united with the life and mission of Christ.

Since our Order in union with the entire Church has been sent to all nations, it has a universal character. In order that its mission may be fulfilled more suitably, it enjoys exemption, and is strengthened a sound unity in its head, the Master of the Order, to Whom all the brethren are bound immediately by profession since study and evangelization require mobility of everyone.

From that same mission of the Order the personal responsibility and the gifts of the brethren are affirmed and promoted in a special way. On the completion of his formation every brother is regarded as a mature adult, since he can instruct others and undertake various works in the Order. For this reason the Order maintains that its own laws do not bind under sin, so that the brethren may wisely embrace them “not like slave under the law but like freemen established under grace.” (6)

Finally, by reason of the purpose of the Order, a superior has the faculty of dispensation “when it seems to him to be expedient, especially in those matters which seem to impede study, preaching, or the, good of souls. (7)

VII. The communion and universality of our religious life shape its government as well. Its government is noted for an organic and balanced participation of all its members for pursuing the special end of the Order. For the Order is not restricted to a conventual fraternity even though this is its fundamental unit, but extends to the communion of convents which constitutes a province, and to the communion of provinces which constitutes it as a whole. For this reason its authority which is universal in its head, namely a general chapter and the Master of the Order, is shared proportionately and with corresponding autonomy by the provinces and convents. Consequently our government is communitarian in a special way, for superiors ordinarily take office through election by the brethren and confirmation by a higher superior. Furthermore, through chapter and council, communities in many ways have a role in exercising their own government and in settling important matters.

This communitarian form of government is particularly suitable for the Order’s development and frequent renewal. Superiors and the brethren through their delegates with equal right and freedom in general chapters of provincials and of diffinitors, provide in common so that the Order’s mission may be advanced and the Order itself be suitably renewed. This continual revision of the Order is necessary, not only on account of a spirit of perennial Christian conversion, but also on account of the special vocation of the Order which impels it to accommodate its presence in the world for each generation.

VIII. The fundamental purpose of the Order and the form of life flowing from it retain their value in every age of the Church. Nevertheless in times of greater change and evolution, as we are taught by our tradition, understanding and evaluation of these matters become particularly urgent. In these circumstances. It is characteristic of the Order to renew itself courageously and to adjust itself to these circumstances by discerning and testing what is good and useful in mankind’s aspirations and by introducing the results into the unchangeable harmony of the fundamental elements of its life.

These elements, indeed, cannot be changed substantially among us, and they must continue to inspire forms of living and of preaching suited to the needs of the Church and of mankind.

IX. The Dominican family is composed of clerical and cooperator brothers, nuns, sisters, members of secular institutes, and fraternities of priests and laity. The Constitutions and Ordinations which follow concern only the brethren, unless it is expressly stated otherwise; by these regulations the necessary unity of the Order is protected without excluding a necessary diversity according to those same laws.

1 From the Good Friday prayer for catechumens.
2 Honorius III: Letter to St. Dominic and his companions, 18 January 1221 (MOPH XXV, p. 144).
3 Prologue of the Primitive Constitutions.
4 Primitive Const. Dist. II, c. 31.
5 Honorius III: Letter to all Prelates of the Church, 4 February 1221 (MOPH XXV, p. 145).
6 Rule of St. Augustine, final paragraph.
7 Primitive Constitutions, Prologue.

The General Chapter in the Order of Preachers

The General Chapter in the Order of Preachers

fr. A. D’Amato, o.p.

The General Chapter, which is the highest authority in the Dominican Order, is an assembly of friars representing the Provinces of the Order, coming together to discuss and define matters pertaining to the good of the entire Order. When necessary it elects the Master of the Order. From the very beginnings of the Dominican Order, one can distinguish two types of General Chapter: Chapters of Provincials and Chapters of Diffinitors. To these is added the General Chapter, comprised both of Provincials and Diffinitors.

The General Chapter is above all a legislative assembly. A proposal becomes law for the whole Order only after having had the favourable vote of the three successive Chapters. These three Chapters thus constitute, in a certain sense, a unity, since it is in this triad of Chapters that, according to the spirit of the Order, the entire legislative power resides. The mechanism of the three successive Chapters is provided for in Dominican legislation with an aim of: a) stopping a new law from taking effect by way of improvisation or as the expression of a tendency of only one assembly; b) providing time for reflection on the opportuneness of the new law; c) avoiding facile and frequent changes which might create “confusion and bring ridicule upon legislation” (Humbert of Romans).

The Chapters of Provincials and those of Diffinitors have equal power and equal rights. Each Chapter, independently, has faculties of proposing a law and for approving or not approving a law proposed by the preceding Chapter. The two types of assembly differ only in composition: one is formed of men of government (the Provincials) and the other of representatives from the grass roots (Diffinitors). The Dominican Order is the only one of all religious Orders that enjoys such a “bicameral” rule and the only one that has given full legislative power to an assembly formed entirely of representatives from the grass roots.

The institution of Chapters formed only of Diffinitors was suggested in order to avoid a situation where men busy with the government of Provinces (the Provincials) would have to undertake long journeys too often and consequently, be too long absent from their proper headquarters. The origins of this institution sprang from the communitarian and democratic spirit of the Order. The Chapter of Diffinitors allows the representatives from the grass roots to participate, in full freedom and autonomy, in the formation of laws of the Order and to bring to it that way of seeing things proper to those not in government. Superior see a norm in quite their own proper way, and people at grass roots level see things in quite their own proper way.

The democratic spirit present in all Dominican legislation regarding the General Chapters is also evident in the fact that in the Elective Chapter, for example, for each Provincial elector, there are two or three electors representing the grass roots of each Province. A democratic spirit so clear and advanced as that of the Dominican Order is unique in the history of religious legislation. Humbert of Romans, the fourth successor of St. Dominic in the government of the Order, attributed this to the fact that the Order is formed of educated people.

In addition to its primary legislative function, the General Chapter has also had, from the very beginning, a disciplinary function: it judges, punishes, deposes from office, etc. The Chapters, naturally, also treat of contemporary problem, but always with reference to the life and mission of the Order. They also are competent to give directives and orientations to the entire Order about the best way of living the charism proper to the Order and to reach the men and women of their own day in the most fruitful way. The General Chapter, which brings together the representatives responsible for the entire Order, is the best way to reflect in a community way in the apostolic ministry of the friar preacher in the social reality in which he lives.

Present day problems are discussed in the General Chapter, always in reference to its specific job: legislation. The General Chapter, for example, give orientations and suggestions and above all harmonises the norms of the entire Order so that all its members can live a religious life ever more faithful to the spirit of their Founder and can present to men and women of every era the message of the Gospel in a more appropriate and effective way.

(Text: Fr. A. D’Amato OP. This text was published on a special number of IDI, April-May 1983, and of May 1992, on the occasion of the Elective General Chapter of Rome and of Mexico)

The Libellus of Jordan of Saxony

The Lives of the Brethren (Vitae Fratrum) 1206-1259

The Primitive Constitutions of the Order of Preachers

The Rule of St. Augustine

Chapter I

Purpose and Basis of Common Life

Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbor, because these are the chief commandments given to us.

1. The following are the precepts we order you living in the monastery to observe.

2. The main purpose for you having come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.

3. Call nothing your own, but let everything be yours in common. Food and clothing shall be distributed to each of you by your superior, not equally to all, for all do not enjoy equal health, but rather according to each one’s need. For so you read in the Acts of the Apostles that they had all things in common and distribution was made to each one according to each one’s need (4:32,35).

4. Those who owned something in the world should be careful in wanting to share it in common once they have entered the monastery.

5. But they who owned nothing should not look for those things in the monastery that they were unable to have in the world. Nevertheless, they are to be given all that their health requires even if, during their time in the world, poverty made it impossible for them to find the very necessities of life. And those should not consider themselves fortunate because they have found the kind of food and clothing which they were unable to find in the world.

6. And let them not hold their heads high, because they associate with people whom they did not dare to approach in the world, but let them rather lift up their hearts and not seek after what is vain and earthly. Otherwise, monasteries will come to serve a useful purpose for the rich and not the poor, if the rich are made humble there and the poor are puffed up with pride.

7. The rich, for their part, who seemed important in the world, must not look down upon their brothers who have come into this holy brotherhood from a condition of poverty. They should seek to glory in the fellowship of poor brothers rather than in the reputation of rich relatives. They should neither be elated if they have contributed a part of their wealth to the common life, nor take more pride in sharing their riches with the monastery than if they were to enjoy them in the world. Indeed, every other kind of sin has to do with the commission of evil deeds, whereas pride lurks even in good works in order to destroy them.And what good is it to scatter one’s weath abroad by giving to the poor, even to become poor oneself, when the unhappy soul is thereby more given to pride in despising riches than it had been in possessing them?

8. Let all of you then live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honoring God in yourselves, whose temples you have become.

Chapter II


1. Be assiduous in prayer (Col 4:2), at the hours and times appointed.

2. In the Oratory no one should do anything other than that for which was intended and from which it also takes its name. Consequently, if there are some who might wish to pray there during their free time, even outside the hours appointed, they should not be hindered by those who think something else must be done there.

3. When you pray to God in Psalms and hymns, think over in your hearts the words that come from your lips.

4. Chant only what is prescribed for chant; moreover, let nothing be chanted unless it is so prescribed.

Chapter III

Moderation and Self-Denial

1. Subdue the flesh, so far as your health permits, by fasting and abstinence from food and drink. However, when someone is unable to fast, he should still take no food outside mealtimes unless he is ill.

2. When you come to table, listen until you leave to what is the custom to read, without disturbance or strife. Let not your mouths alone take nourishment but let your hearts too hunger for the words of God.

3. If those in more delicate health from their former way of life are treated differently in the matter of food, this should not be a source of annoyance to the others or appear unjust in the eyes of those who owe their stronger health to different habits of life. Nor should the healthier brothers deem them more fortunate for having food which they do not have, but rather consider themselves fortunate for having the good health which the others do not enjoy.

4. And if something in the way of food, clothing, and bedding is given to those coming to the monastery from a more genteel way of life, which is not given to those who are stronger, and therefore happier, then these latter ought to consider how far these others have come in passing from their life in the world down to this life of ours, though they have been unable to reach the level of frugality common to the stronger brothers. Nor should all want to receive what they see given in larger measure to the few, not as a token of honor, but as a help to support them in their weakness. This would give rise to a deplorable disorder – that in the monastery, where the rich are coming to bear as much hardship as they can, the poor are turning to a more genteel way of life.

5. And just as the sick must take less food to avoid discomfort, so too, after their illness, they are to receive the kind of treatment that will quickly restore their strength, even though they come from a life of extreme poverty. Their more recent illness has, as it were, afforded them what accrued to the rich as part of their former way of life. But when they have recovered their former strength, they should go back to their happier way of life which, because their needs are fewer, is all the more in keeping with God’s servants. Once in good health, they must not become slaves to the enjoyment of food which was necessary to sustain them in their illness. For it is better to suffer a little want than to have too much.

Chapter IV

Safeguarding Chastity, and Fraternal Correction

1. There should be nothing about your clothing to attract attention. Besides, you should not seek to please by your apparel, but by a good life.

2. Whenever you go out, walk together, and when you reach your destination, stay together.

3. In your walk, deportment, and in all actions, let nothing occur to give offense to anyone who sees you, but only what becomes your holy state of life.

4. Although your eyes may chance to rest upon some woman or other, you must not fix your gaze upon any woman. Seeing women when you go out is not forbidden, but it is sinful to desire them or to wish them to desire you, for it is not by tough or passionate feeling alone but by one’s gaze also that lustful desires mutually arise. And do not say that your hearts are pure if there is immodesty of the eye, because the unchaste eye carries the message of an impure heart. And when such hearts disclose their unchaste desires in a mutual gaze, even without saying a word, then it is that chastity suddenly goes out of their life, even though their bodies remain unsullied by unchaste acts.

5. And whoever fixes his gaze upon a woman and likes to have hers fixed upon him must not suppose that others do not see what he is doing. He is very much seen, even by those he thinks do not see him. But suppose all this escapes the notice of man – what will he do about God who sees from on high and from whom nothing is hidden? Or are we to imagine that he does not see because he sees with a patience as great as his wisdom? Let the religious man then have such fear of God that he will not want to be an occasion of sinful pleasure to a woman. Ever mindful that God sees all things, let him not desire to look at a woman lustfully. For it is on this point that fear of the Lord is recommended, where it is written: An abomination to the Lord is he who fixes his gaze (Prv. 27:20)

6. So when you are together in church and anywhere else where women are present, exercise a mutual care over purity of life. Thus, by mutual vigilance over one another will God, who dwells in you, grant you his protection.

7. If you notice in someone of your brothers this wantonness of the eye, of which I am speaking, admonish him at once so that the beginning of evil will not grow more serious but will be promptly corrected.

8. But if you see him doing the same thing again on some other day, even after your admonition, then whoever had occasion to discover this must report him as he would a wounded man in need of treatment. But let the offense first be pointed out to two or three so that he can be proven guilty on the testimony of these two or three and be punished with due severity. And do not charge yourselves with ill-will when you bring this offense to light. Indeed, yours in the greater blame if you allow your brothers to be lost through your silence when you are able to bring about their correction by your disclosure. If you brother, for example, were suffering a bodily wound that he wanted to hide for fear of undergoing treatment, would it not be cruel of you to remain silent and a mercy on your part to make this known? How much greater then is your obligation to make his condition known lest he continue to suffer a more deadly wound of the soul.

9. But if he fails to correct the fault despite this admonition, he should first be brought to the attention of the superior before the offense is made known to the others who will have to prove his guilt, in the event he denies the charge. Thus, corrected in private, his fault can perhaps be kept from the others. But should he feign ignorance, the others are to be summoned so that in the presence of all he can be proven guilty, rather than stand accused on the word of one alone. Once proven guilty, he must undergo salutary punishment according to the judgment of the superior or priest having the proper authority. If he refuses to submit to punishment, he shall be expelled from your brotherhood even if he does not withdraw of his own accord. For this too is not done out of cruelty, but from a sense of compassion so that many others may not be lost through his bad example.

10. And let everything I have said about not fixing one’s gaze be also observed carefully and faithfully with regard to other offenses: to find them out, to ward them off, to make them known, to prove and punish them – all out of love for man and a hatred of sin.

11. But if anyone should go so far in wrongdoing as to receive letters in secret from any woman, or small gifts of any kind, you ought to show mercy and pray for him if he confesses this of his own accord. But if the offense is detected and he is found guilty, he must be more severely chastised according to the judgment of the priest or superior.

Chapter V

The Care of Community Goods and Treatment of the Sick

1. Keep your clothing in one place in charge of one or two, or of as many as are needed to care for them and to prevent damage from moths. And just as you have your food from the one pantry, so, too, you are to receive your clothing from a single wardrobe. If possible, do not be concerned about what you are given to wear at the change of seasons, whether each of you gets back what he had put away or something different, providing no one is denied what he needs. If, however, disputes and murmuring arise on this account because someone complains that he received poorer clothing than he had before, and thinks it is beneath him to wear the kind of clothing worn by another, you may judge from this how lacking you are in that holy and inner garment of the heart when you quarrel over garments for the body. But if allowance is made for your weakness and you do receive the same clothing you had put away, you must still keep it in one place under the common charge.

2. In this way, no one shall perform any task for his own benefit but all your work shall be done for the common good, with greater zeal and more dispatch than if each one of you were to work for yourself alone. For charity, as it is written, is not self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5) meaning that it places the common good before its own, not its own before the common good. So whenever you show greater concern for the common good than for your own, you may know that you are growing in charity. Thus, let the abiding virtue of charity prevail in all things that minister to the fleeting necessities of life.

3. It follows, therefore, that if anyone brings something for their sons or other relatives living in the monastery, whether a garment or anything else they think is needed, this must not be accepted secretly as one’s own but must be placed at the disposal of the superior so that, as common property, it can be given to whoever needs it. But if someone secretly keeps something given to him, he shall be judged guilty of theft.

4. Your clothing should be cleaned either by yourselves or by those who perform this service, as the superior shall determine, so that too great a desire for clean clothing may not be the source of interior stains on the soul.

5. As for bodily cleanliness too, a brother must never deny himself the use of the bath when his health requires it. But this should be done on medical advice, without complaining, so that even though unwilling, he shall do what has to be done for his health when the superior orders it. However, if the brother wishes it, when it might not be good for him, you must not comply with his desire, for sometimes we think something is beneficial for the pleasure it gives, even though it may prove harmful.

6. Finally, if the cause of a brother’s bodily pain is not apparent, you make take the word of God’s servant when he indicates what is giving him pain. But if it remains uncertain whether the remedy he likes is good for him, a doctor should be consulted.

7. When there is need to frequent the public baths or any other place, no fewer than two or three should go together, and whoever has to go somewhere must not go with those of his own choice but with those designated by the superior.

8. The care of the sick, whether those in convalescence or others suffering from some indisposition, even though free of fever, shall be assigned to a brother who can personally obtain from the pantry whatever he sees is necessary for each one.

9. Those in charge of the pantry, or of clothing and books, should render cheerful service to their brothers.

10. Books are to be requested at a fixed hour each day, and anyone coming outside that hour is not to receive them.

11. But as for clothing and shoes, those in charge shall not delay the giving of them whenever they are required by those in need of them.

Chapter VI

Asking Pardon and Forgiving Offenses

1.Your should either avoid quarrels altogether or else put an end to them as quickly as possible; otherwise, anger may grow into hatred, making a plank out of a splinter, and turn the soul into a murderer. For so you read: Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 Jn 3:15).

2. Whoever has injured another by open insult, or by abusive or even incriminating language, must remember to repair the injury as quickly as possible by an apology, and he who suffered the injury must also forgive, without further wrangling. But if they have offended one another, they must forgive one another’s trespasses for the sake of your prayers which should be recited with greater sincerity each time you repeat them. Although a brother is often tempted to anger, yet prompt to ask pardon from one he admits to having offended, such a one is better than another who, though less given to anger, finds it too hard to ask forgiveness. But a brother who is never willing to ask pardon, or does not do so from his heart, has no reason to be in the monastery, even if he is not expelled. You must then avoid being too harsh in your words, and should they escape your lips, let those same lips not be ashamed to heal the wounds they have caused.

3. But whenever the good of discipline requires you to speak harshly in correcting your subjects, then, even if you think you have been unduly harsh in your language, you are not required to ask forgiveness lest, by practicing too great humility toward those who should be your subjects, the authority to rule is undermined. But you should still ask forgiveness from the Lord of all who knows with what deep affection you love even those whom you might happen to correct with undue severity. Besides, you are to love another with a spiritual rather than an earthly love.

Chapter VII

Governance and Obedience

1. The superior should be obeyed as a father with the respect due him so as not to offend God in his person, and, even more so, the priest who bears responsibility for you all.

2. But it shall pertain chiefly to the superior to see that these precepts are all observed and, if any point has been neglected, to take care that the transgression is not carelessly overlooked but is punished and corrected. In doing so, he must refer whatever exceeds the limit and power of his office, to the priest who enjoys greater authority among you.

3. The superior, for his part, must not think himself fortunate in his exercise of authority but in his role as one serving you in love. In your eyes he shall hold the first place among you by the dignity of his office, but in fear before God he shall be as the least among you. He must show himself as an example of good works toward all. Let him admonish the unruly, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, and be patient toward all (1 Thes 5:14). Let him uphold discipline while instilling fear. And though both are necessary, he should strive to be loved by you rather than feared, ever mindful that he must give an account of you to God.

4. It is by being more obedient, therefore, that you show mercy not only toward yourselves but also toward the superior whose higher rank among you exposes him all the more to greater peril.

Chapter VIII

Observance of the Rule

1. The Lord grant that you may observe all these precepts in a spirit of charity as lovers of spiritual beauty, giving forth the good odor of Christ in the holiness of your lives: not as slaves living under the law but as men living in freedom under grace.

2. And that you may see yourselves in this little book, as in a mirror, have it read to you once a week so as to neglect no point through forgetfulness. When you find that you are doing all that has been written, give thanks to the Lord, the Giver of every good. But when one of you finds that he has failed on any point, let him be sorry for the past, be on his guard for the future, praying that he will be forgiven his fault and not be led into temptation.

Treatise on Preaching by Humbert of Romans