Collection of Letters: Detail
- Innocent IV
To the most reverend daughter in Christ, sister Agnes of the monastery of St. Francis of Prague of the order of St. Damian, greetings and apostolic blessing.
In fear of the divine name, and solicitous with love, you are often trembling; and nothing could be done by you or the sisters of your monastery, that might displease the divine will. That is, with all the sisters of your order, as we understand, it is enjoined by the apostolic see that in the virtue of obedience, they strive to observe inviolably the formula given them for life according to the rule; and that is inviolably observed in your monastery. And you, on what is said in the preface of that formula with apostolic letters: "We give you the rule of St. Benedict to be observed," along with your sisters are in fear and weighed down by anxiety, especially since you believe you have committed a mortal sin if something should occur against the precept; and it is considered inappropriate and impossible that two Rules should be observed in your order. For which reason you asked with humble supplication that the two words which are said about the virtue of obedience and the rule of St. Benedict be removed from that Formula; and that we would have newly written into it what was specially indulged to said monastery by our predecessor of pious memory, pope Gregory. We indeed, recurring to the counsel of reason do not see that it is useful to do that.
First, since the aforesaid formula was composed with vigilant zeal and confirmed by the apostolic see, to our beloved daughter in Christ the abbess, and the sisters of the monastery of St. Damian of Assisi and all the others of your order solemnly professed them. Second, that they have laudably observed it from the time of their profession to now. Third, that since it was established that it would be uniformly observed everywhere by all those professing, grave and insupportable scandal might arise from the presumption of opposition; especially since other sisters of the said order, if they saw the series of the Rule of violated or altered, might, God forbid, falter in its observance with disturbed minds.
We ask the fullness of your devotion with paternal affection, enjoining you in the remission of sins, that trusting in the sweetness and benevolence of our saviour, to whom nothing is more pleasing than a humble mind, nothing more acceptable can be offered than the will, that you hold the aforesaid Formula/Rule as the book of life; and observe it reverently and diligently and see that it is observed by your sisters with the tempering of that rigor which our predecessor and we provided in the articles of that rule from the fullness of apostolic power. Let neither you nor your sisters be afraid that "the virtue of obedience," and the observance of the "Rule of St. Benedict" is contained in that rule, since the precept of obedience is placed in it so that the universe of sisters may restrain their affections from what is illicit and be bound more strongly by zeal for religious life. And the "Rule of St. Benedict" is added so that through the excellence of its approved rules, your religion may be rendered authentic.
Yet this does not impose a necessity that you be held to observe it, as was clearly shown by what our mentioned predecessor declared in the presence and hearing of our venerable brother ...[Raynald] the bishop of Ostia, that that Rule did not bind the sisters of the order to anything but obedience, renunciation of property, and perpetual chastity, which are part of whatever religious order; and in which the merit of accomplishing perpetual felicity consists. And you, pacific dove, you, virtuous daughter, be comforted and end your mental storms, so you do not again ask for similar things, since for the rewards of perpetual life to you and those sisters, it is sufficient that you observe only said Rule with the remedies of apostolic dispensation to the glory of God with pure hearts. You will be supplied with help of humble confession if something is done by any of yours through a defect of human weakness which is contained in that Rule or the provisions made for you by the apostolic See.
Dated at the Lateran, Ides of November, first year of our pontificate.
Reverendissimae in Christo filiae Agneti Sorori Monasterii Sancti Francisci Pragensis Ordinis S.Damiani Salutem, & Apostolicam Benedictionem.
In Divini timore nominis, & amore sollicita saepe tremula redderis; ne a te, vel Monasterii tui Sororibus aliquid contingat fieri, quod Divinae displiceat voluntati .Hinc est, quod cum universis Ordinis tui Sororibus, sicut accepimus, in virtute obedientae a Sede Apostolica sit injunctum, ut traditam eis regularis vitae formulam inviolabiliter observare studeant; & ipsa in, Monasterio tuo inviolabiliter observetur; tu super eo, quod in proaemio ipsius formulae Apostolicis litteris insertae dicitur: Regulam Beati Benedicti vobis tradimus observandam: una, cum Sororibus tuis in timore poneris, & anxietate gravaris; praesertim cum mortale credis committi peccatum, si contra praeceptum hujusmodi aliquando veniatur; & impertinens, ac impossibile reputetur, quod in Ordine tuo duae Regulae b debeant observari. Quare supplicatione humili petivisti, ut duo verba praemissa, quae de virtute obedientiae, & Regula Beati Benedicti dicuntur, amoveri de ipsa Formula; & quaedam de novo, ac illa etiam faceremus in ipsa conscribi, quae dicto Monasterio a piae memoriae Gregorio Papa Praedecessore nostro specialiter sunt indulta. Nos quidem ad rationis consilium recurrentes ex diversis causis expedire non vidimus, quod id facere, deberemus. Primo, quia praedictam Formulam studio compositam vigilanti, & per Sedem Apostolicam confirmatam dilectae in Christo filiae Abbatissae, & Sorores Monasterii Sancti Damiani de Assisio, ac omnes aliae tui Ordinis solemniter funt professae. Secundo, quia ipsae illam a professionis suae tempore usque nunc laudabiliter observaverint. Tertio, quia cum sit ipsa statutum, ut ubique ab omnibus eamdem profitentibus uniformiter observetur; eae praesumptione contrarii grave
posset, ac importabile scandalum exoriri; praescertim quia ceterae Sorores praefati Ordinis, dum Regulae seriem sic violatam, vel alteratam attenderent, turbatis mentibus in ipsius observantia, quod avertat Dominus, titubarent. Tuae itaquae devotionis plenitudinem affectione paterna rogamus in remissionem tibi peccatorum injungentes, quatenus de Salvatoris nostri dulcedine, ac benignitate confidens, cui nihil gratius mente humili, nihil acceptius voluntate potest offerri, praesatam Formulam pro libro vitae habeas; & ipsam reverenter, ac diligenter observes, eamque a tuis Sororibus observari procures cum illius tamen temperamento rigoris, de quo idem Praedecessor noster, & Nos super quibusdam ipsius formulae articulis ex Apostolicae providimus plenitudine potestatis: nec te, ac Sorores easdem illud exterreat, quod de, virtute obedientiae; ac observantia Beati Benedicti Regula in eadem formula continetur; cum pro eo, quod Sororum universitas suos ab illicitis restringat affectus, & religiosae vitae studio fortius astringatur, praeceptum obedientiae in illa positum fuerit; & adjectum de Beati Benedicti Rcgula, ut per ipsam quasi praecipuam de Regulis approbatis, vestra Religio authentica redderetur. Nulla tamen propter hoc necessitate inducta, ut ipsam teneamini observare: sicut ex eo clare probatur, quod memoratus Praedecessor noster praesente, & audiente Venerabili Fratre nostro Ostiensi Episcopo declaravit, quod Regula ipsa Sorores sui Ordinis non, ligat ad aliud, nisi ad obedientiam, abdicationem proprii, ac perpetuam castitatem, quae sub alia cujuslibet Religionis existunt; & in quibus consistit meritum consequendi perpetuae felicitatis effectum. Tu itaque, Columba
pacifica, tu filia virtuosa quiescas; & da finem mentis tuae fluctibus; ut ne, fimilia postulandi de cetero resumas affectum; cum tibi, ac eisdem Sororibus ad merendum praemia perennis vitae suscipiat, quod solam saepe dictam Formulam cum Apostolicae dispensationis remediis ad Dei gloria, nundis cordibus observetis; provisurae vobis per humilis confessionis auxilium, si quando aliud ex fragilitatis humanae defectu ab aliqua vestrum agitur, quam in eadem Formula, vel factis circa, vos Apostolicae Sedis provisionibus habeatur.
Datum Laterani Idibus Novembris Pontificatus Nostri Anno Primo.
The pope writes in response to Agnes's anguish about discrepancies between the Rule of St. Benedict and the principles of Francis and his followers. The pope argues the problems and dangers of having different houses in the same order following different rules.
Bullarium Franciscanum Romanorum Pontificum, ed. J. H. Sbaralea, 1 (Rome: Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1759, repr. Santa Maria degli Angeli: Proziuncola, 1983), 315-17, ep.17.