Collection of Letters: Detail
- Gregory IX
To his beloved daughter Agnes, handmaid of Christ and glorious virgin blessed among women, greetings and apostolic blessing.
Joy of devotion we believe was increased to angels and to those who have turned to the lord that rejecting regular clothing, you assumed the habit of poverty, that you might perceive the rewards of the highest following the offered traces of the eternal king. Truly, so that your intention may be directed to this and completed, with God as author, you must be sollicitiously vigilant; that although your heart is enflamed to the observance of virtues, with the Lord inspiring, you may always be held prompt to the practice of obedience and ready for the glory of him who was made obedient to the father even to death on the cross.
Since therefore we, though unworthy, are constituted fathers of the universality of the faithful, cherishing this with the heart, especially that with God propitious, through the office of our service, the salvation of souls can occur, you should receive our admonitions with devout mind and carry them out with the zeal of efficacious diligence; especially in those things in which this only is done which is considered pleasing to the creator of all. Certainly, daughter of blessing and grace, with us established up to now in minor office, beloved daughter in Christ, Clara, abbess of the monastery of St. Damian of Assisi, and certain other women devoted to the Lord, having put aside the vanity of the world, chose to serve under the observance of that religion/order; to them St. Francis gave, as to those born now, not solid food but what seemed adequate, a drink of milk, a formula/rule for life; which, long ago asking us with humble supplication in a certain document through our beloved son the prior of the hospital of St. Francis of Prague, a man everywhere discreet and prudent, that we would take care to confirm by apostolic authority the model presented to us through him under your seal and fashioned from the aforsaid formula/rule and with certain chapters which are contained in the Rule of the order of St. Damian.
We indeed, taking recourse to the advice of reason, for different reasons did not consider that we should bring it to conclusion. First, that because the sisters solemnly professed the aforesaid Rule composed with vigilant zeal and accepted by the aforesaid saint, also afterwards confirmed by Honorious the pope our predecessor of happy memory to said Clara, with the privilege of exemption conceded to them by him with us interceding. Second, that they, have observed that Rule from the time of profession until now laudably, having put aside the aforesaid formula. Third, that since it is so fixed that everywhere by all profession it is uniformly observed, serious and unsupportable scandal can arise from presumption of opposition. Especially since other sisters of the said order, when they see the integrity of the Rule so violated, may, God forbid, falter with disturbed minds in its observance. So we ask your devotion and obedience in the lord Jesus Christ, enjoining in remission of your sins, that considering these points with diligent meditation, and prudently heeding them, whatever might be suggested to you by someone who perhaps has zeal but not knowledge, what should be held in your affections most powerful is what is pleasing to God and acceptable to us, that should be salutary for you and those nearest you, and with the mercy of the Redeemer approving, having put aside said Rule on all accounts, you diligently observe and have your sisters observe what is proposed for you with ineffable hope that it produce for your soul with divine mercy that it deserve to be adorned with jewels by which the threshold of the heavenly hall is known to be marked.
And do not let fear arise from this that although ignorant of those things which we said about the granting of the mentioned Rule, you are obliged to observance of the aforesaid Rule; for in no way are you bound to that when it was not approved by the apostolic see and is not observed by the oftmentioned Clara and her sisters and others. What further? since one is not considered to violate a vow who changes it for something better, we want you and your sisters, absolved from the observance of the aforesaid formal by the plenitude of power granted us by the Lord, and we order that you receive that Rule transmitted to you under our papal seal, with filial reverence, to be observed in your monastery in all future times with those articles which, conquered by that charity which led the king of heaven to have sympathy for the weaknesses of human frailty, we suspended. With respect to the requests you made from your sincerity, you will perceive in apostolic letters addressed to you through the mentioned prior that as much as could be done in the lord with the salvation of your soul, are favorably carried out; you may have firm faith in us that if we should be asked by you at some time, or the sisters of said monastery about tempering the rigor of that Rule in any way, or other matters, we shall agree to your and their wishes over this according to God with paternal affections.
Dated at the Latern, on the 5th ides of May, in the 12th year of our pontificate.
Dilectae filiae Agneti ancillae Christi, & gloriosae Virgini in Mulieribus benedictae Salutem, & Apostolicam Benedictionem.
Angelis gaudium, & conversis ad Dominum super eo devotionis augmentum advenisse credimus, quod regularem apparatum abjiciens asumpsisti paupertatis habitum, ut vestigia Regis aeterni sequentibus promissa percipere valeas praemia Supernorum. Verum, ut in hac parte, auctore Domino, dirigi tua possit intentio, & compleri, est tibi sollicite vigilandum; ut quantumcumque cor tuum, inspirante Domino, ad virtutum observantiam instammetur; ad cultum obedientiae prompta semper, & facilis pro illius gloria, qui usque ad mortem crucis est Patri factus obediens, habearis. Cum igitur Nos, licet immeriti, universitatis Fidelium Patres simus a Domino constituti, hoc gerentes corde, praecipuum quod, propitiante Deo, per nostrae servitutis officium salus provenire valeat animarum, monita nostra debes & devota mente suscipere, & efficacis diligentiae studiis adimplere: praesertim super iis, in quibus hoc solum agitur, quod gratum Conditori omnium habeatur. Sane filia benedictionis, & gratiae, cum Nobis adhuc in minori constitutis officio, dilecta in Christo filia Clara Abbatissa Monasterii Sancti Damiani de Assisio, & quaedam
aliae devotae in Domino Mulieres, postposita vanitate seculi, elegissent eidem sub Religionis observantia famulari; ipsis Beatus Franciscus, quibus tamquam modo genitis non cibum solidum sed qui videbat competere, potum lactis formularum vitae tradidit; quam, pridem Nobis in quadam schedula per dilectum filium Priorem Hospitalis Sancti Francisci Pragensis virum ubique, discretum, & providum destinati humili supplicatione deposcens, ut praesentatam Nobis per eumdem sub figillo tuo formam confectam ex praedicta, formula, & quibusdam Capitulis, quae in Ordinis Beati Damiani Regula continentur, confirmari auctoritate Apostolica curaremus. Nos quidem ad rationis consilium recurrentes ex diversis causis expedire non vidimus, quod id ad complementi gratiam duceremus. Primo, quia praedictam Regulam studio compositam vigilanti, & acceptatam a praedicto Sancto, nec non per felicis recordationis Honorium Papam Praedecessorem nostrum postmodum confirmatam dictae Clara, & Sorores, concesso ipsis ab eodem intercedentibus Nobis exemptionis privilegio, solemniter sunt professae. Secundo, quia ipsae, formula praedicta postposita, eamdem Regulam a Professionis tempore usque nunc laudabiliter observarunt. Tertio, quia, cum sit ita statutum, ut ubique ab omnibus eamdem profitentibus uniformiter observetur, ex praesumptione contrarii grave posset, ac importabile scandalum exoriri. Praesertim quia ceterae Sorores praesati Ordinis, dum integritatem Regulae sic violatam attendent, turbatis mentibus in ipsius observantia, quod avertat Dominus, titubarent. Rogamus itaque devotionem tuam, & obedientiam in Domino Jesu Christo, in remissionem tuorum peccatorum injungentes, quatenus praemissa solerti meditatione considerans, & prudenter advertens, quod quidquid tibi suggeratur ab aliquo forte zellum , sed secundum scientiam non habente, id in tuis affectibus debeat haberi potissimum, quod Deo placitum, & acceptum Nobis, salutare tibi, & proximis esse valeat, annuente clementia Redemptoris, praedictam Regulam omni occasione postposita, diligenter observes, & a tuis Sororibus observari procures, ineffabili spe tibi proposita, quod per hoc animae tuae de misericordia Divina proveniat, ut mereatur gemmis adornari, quibus coelestis aulaesolium noscitur infigniri. Nec super hoc tibi obsistat trepidatio ex eo consurgens, quod tamquam eorum ignara, quae de concessione Regulae memoratae praedicimus, te ad supradictae Regulae observantiam obligasti; nam nullo modo teneris ad illam, cum per Sedem Apostolicam approbata non fuerit; & a saepedicta Clara, ejusque Sororibus, ac aliis non servetur. Quid, ulterius ? quia non videtur votum infringere, qui commutat ipsum in melius; Te, ac Sorores tuas ab observantia praedictae formulae de indultae Nobis a Domino potestatis plenitudine absolventes volumus, & mandamus, quatenus eamdem Regulum tibi sub Bulla nostra transmissam reverentia filiali suscipias, in Monasterio tuo perpetuis futuris temporibus cum illis articulis observandam, super quibus ea charitate devicti, quae Coeli Regem ad compatiendum languoribus humanae fragilitatis induxit, duximus dispensandum; prout in litteris Apostolicis directis tibi per memoratum Priorem super petitionibus ex parte tuae sinceritatis oblatis, quantum in Domino fieri cum salute anime tuae potuit, favorabiliter expeditum perspicies contineri: firmam de Nobis habitura fiduciam, quod si a te aliquando, vel Sororibus jam dicti Monasterii de ipsius Regulae in aliquibus temperando rigore, aut super aliis requisiti fuerimus, super hoc tuis, & ipsarum votis secundum Deum paternis affectibus annuemus.
Datum Laterani v. Idus Maii Pontificatus Nostri Anno Duodecimo.
The pope tries to dissuade Agnes from her desire to follow Francis's rule more strictly and urges her to accept his directions for more moderation, encouraging her to move even further in that direction.
Bullarium Franciscanum Romanorum Pontificum, ed. J. H. Sbaralea, 1 (Rome: Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1759, repr. Santa Maria degli Angeli: Proziuncola, 1983), 242-44, ep.264.