The Capuchin life combines contemplation and action in a daily rhythm that wisely alternates time between contemplation and apostolic commitment. Thus their whole life is permeated with the apostolic spirit and all their apostolic action is shaped by the spirit of prayer. Mental prayer is the spiritual teacher of the Capuchins: in the tradition of the Order, prayer is affective and of the heart, lived as breathing of love that is born of the motion of the Holy Spirit, listening to the voice of God that speaks to the heart and leads to the intimate experience of the living God. In prayer, the Capuchin learns to come out of his own love in order to live in the love of Christ for the benefit of all people. Inflamed by the love of Christ, he contemplates him in the humility of the Incarnation and the Cross in order to follow in his footsteps in this world.
“Let us always make a permanent dwelling and habitation in him, who is the Lord God Almighty, Father and Son and Holy Spirit”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 61)
“Let us beware of the malice and craftiness of Satan, who desires that man should not have his mind and heart turned to the Lord God”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 59)
“The brothers should not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, to which all other temporal things must serve”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 88).
The Capuchins do not live as individuals but are united in brotherhood. As brothers given to each other by the Lord and endowed with different gifts, they welcome each other with gratitude. Therefore, wherever they live, united in the name of Jesus, they are one heart and one soul, constantly seeking greater perfection. They love one another with all their hearts, bearing one another’s faults and burdens, exercising themselves unceasingly in the love of God. As children of one Father, they feel that they are brothers to all men, without any discrimination. Meeting all creatures in a fraternal spirit, they continually offer God, the source of all good, the praise of creation. They promote authentic fraternal relations between men and peoples, so that the world may live as one family under the gaze of the Creator.
“And each one should love and nourish his brother, as a mother loves and nourishes her child, in those things in which God gives him grace”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 32)
“Let each one confidently manifest his needs to the other, for if a mother loves and nourishes her carnal son, how much more carefully should one love and nourish his spiritual brother?” ((The rule of St Francis, FF 91)
“Let all the brothers have no power or dominion, especially among themselves”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 19).
The Capuchins live soberly, free from the superfluous. Like Saint Francis, they are filled with wonder at the beauty of God, which is humility, patience and meekness, manifested in the humility of the Incarnation and in the charity of the Passion. In love with the poor and humble Christ, they make the choice of poverty their own, to follow the bare crucified Lord. The evangelical idea of poverty induced Francis to the humility of heart and radical dispossession of self, to compassion for the poor and the weak and to share their lives. In heartfelt adherence to the intuition of their founder, as pilgrims and strangers in this world, the Capuchins wish to follow the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ in the simplicity of life and joyful austerity, in diligent work, in trust in Providence and in charity towards people.
“The brothers should not appropriate anything, neither house nor place, nor anything else. And as pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, they should go for alms with confidence, and not be ashamed, because the Lord for our sake became poor in this world”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 90)
“Let us return all goods to the Lord God, most high and supreme, and acknowledge that all goods are his and give thanks to him for all, from whom all good proceeds. (The rule of St Francis, FF 49)
“Look, brothers, at the humility of God, and open your hearts before him; humble yourselves also, that you may be exalted by him. Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that he who offers himself entirely to you may receive all of you. (Saint Francis, Letter to the Entire Order, FF 221).
The Capuchins do not wish to be above others and to occupy high positions, but they want to be “lesser”, below any hierarchy of power, far from the logic of the world, of possession, power and self-assertion. The Son of God, their model and guide, came not to be served, but to serve and give his life for the salvation of all. His self-abasement is perpetuated in the sacrament of the Eucharist, where he humbles himself every day, coming to men in a humble appearance. This is why the Capuchins want to follow the humble path that Christ and his servant Francis showed them. They willingly live their fraternal life with great closeness to the people and especially to the poor, sharing with great love their hardships and their humble condition. While they go to the aid of their material and spiritual needs, they do their utmost by their lives, actions and words, for their human and Christian advancement.
“When I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers, and the Lord himself led me among them and I showed them mercy. And as I turned away from them, what seemed bitter to me was changed to the sweetness of mind and body. And afterwards, I stayed a little while and left the world”. (Saint Francis, Testament, FF 110)
“All the brothers should strive to follow the humility and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ… And they should rejoice when they live among people who are of little account and despised, among the poor and weak, the sick and lepers, and among beggars by the wayside”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 29)
“We must never desire to be above others, but rather we must be servants and subjects to every human creature for God’s sake”. (St Francis, Letter to the Faithful, FF 199).
The first mission of a Capuchin friar is not to carry out great, majestic and resounding works, but to live the gospel life in the world in truth, simplicity and joy. Capuchins treat everyone with esteem and respect, always offering to meet, listen and dialogue. They want the Word of God to be impressed in their hearts so that it is no longer they who live but Christ who lives in them and they are impelled to speak out of an abundance of love. Thus they preach Christ first of all by their lives and deeds and, when it pleases the Lord, also by their words. They are available for the mission, to bring the proclamation of the Gospel to all people near and far, so that every person may hear the good news of the Gospel, discover that he or she is infinitely loved by God and respond to God’s call by fully realising his or her vocation of love.
“Since I am the servant of all, I am bound to serve everyone and to administer the fragrant words of my Lord”. (Saint Francis, Letter to the Faithful, FF 180)
“Let all the brothers preach by their works”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 46)
“Let us defend ourselves from the wisdom of this world and the prudence of the flesh. The spirit of the flesh, in fact, wants and cares much about possessing words, but little about putting them into practice, and seeks not the interior religiosity of the spirit, but wants and desires a religiosity that appears outside to men”. (The rule of St Francis, FF 48)