FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Did St. Francis invent the Brothers and Sisters of Penance or did they exist before Francis?
The Brothers and Sisters of Penance existed among the laity before St. Francis came along. He formalized a Rule for them, which is now the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis.
For whom did Francis write the Rule of 1221?
Francis had written letters of advice to the penitents, but he did not write the Rule of 1221. Cardinal Hugolino dei Conti dei Segni, the Protector of the friars and sisters, wrote the Rule of 1221 at the request of Francis and his lay followers. St. Francis established it as the First Rule of His Third Order, that for the laity.
Who can become a brother or sister of penance of St. Francis?
Any Catholic who adheres to all the teachings of the Catholic Church and who agrees with the Rule. Non Catholics may become Associate members of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance provided they understand that their formation will be Catholic in focus. Third Order members of other Church families are welcome to join the BSP, and can profess to the Rule of the BSP in one of two ways. First, by going through formation as do other members and then professing to the Rule of 1221, which is recommended. Otherwise, with the approval of their spiritual director they may profess in the BSP immediately. Pay heed that some Third Orders, and the Secular Franciscan Order is currently one of them, prohibit the profession of their members in other church families, Franciscan or otherwise. In this case the only way these members can join the BSP is if they leave their own Orders. The BSP does not have such restrictions on membership.
Does it hinder or enhance the living of the Rule if one is also a member of a Third Order or a Secular Order in the Church?
Being a member of a Third Order in the Church only enhances the living of this Rule. Some Third Orders do not allow an individual to simultaneously be in other church families. In such cases the individual must decide what they want to do.
What's wrong with the current Third Order Rules?
In most cases, nothing. In some cases they are becoming increasingly secular, and less focused on the charisms of their founders. The BSP Rule is the authentic Rule that St. Francis gave the laity in 1221.
Why become a brother or sister of penance?
Some people need the discipline provided in the Rule for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St.Francis. Maybe you are one of these people.
Has the Pope OK'd us living this Rule? Or has my bishop?
The Rule for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St.Francis has been presented to several Bishops, and they have encouraged and supported the Association. We are a Private Association in the Diocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Do I have to ask my bishop permission to live this Rule since I am in another diocese?
No. Once an Association is established in a diocese, all who belong to it are considered adjunct members of the group headquartered in that bishop's diocese. You may tell your bishop of your living this life, if you so wish, but it is not necessary.
What does a private Association of the Faithful mean? Is this a closed group?
The Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis is not a closed group. Anyone can live a life of penance and may become a member of the Association in some way.
Associations in the Church fall into two groups--private and public. Public associations are subject to a diocese in all regards. Private associations have greater freedom for self determination. We are a private Association at the recommendation of our local diocese at this time with its support. We are listed in the national Official Catholic Directory, under the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Why did the Rule of 1221 have to be updated with modern statutes for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis to live? Why couldn't we just have lived with the original Rule?
We have only updated the original Rule so that it can be lived today. The modern statutes to the Rule take the original provisions and adapt them so that penitents can live the Rule today in healthy, inconspicuous ways.
It seems like a lot of rules and regulations. How will all those help me?
The Rule for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis gives us specific ways to begin to break our own wills and to practice obedience to something (the Rule) outside our selves. We give up things we like in order to embrace something we want more, namely a deeper relationship with God. Through obedience to the Rule and through its prayer schedule, we become more attuned to the Holy Spirit, more spiritually pliable, more willing to follow God's lead.
Are there dues or fees to pay if I join?
No. The Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis is a national, non-profit, tax exempt Association and, as such, all donations to it are tax deductible. It requires no set fee to join but rather survives on freely given donations of its members. We would hope that you support the Association as you are able. You will be responsible for buying your breviary.
I can barely make it to confession two times a year. How can I go two times a month?
You should not enter a penitential life unless you are serious about surrendering your entire life to God. Making time for confession on a regular basis is part of this surrender. Some penitents go to confession weekly, others monthly. The spiritual director has the final say in how often a penitent is to confess. Many graces of inner healing are given through confession.
The fasting seems too severe for a lay person.
This is the fasting of the Rule of 1221 that St. Francis gave us. It is the Lord's will that we fast and pray in this way. He will give us the strength we need to do it. We must trust in Him.
I have so many health constraints. How can I follow the fast and abstinence requirements?
These are to be followed only if they do not adversely affect your health. When in doubt, consult your spiritual director, confessor, spouse or a physician and follow the advice given. Obedience is holy, too.
Who was St. Martin and why do penitents begin a pre-Christmas fast on the day after his feast (fast to begin on November 12)?
November 11 is the Feast of St. Martin. In Medieval times, this was a highly celebrated feast for a popular saint and was, in fact, one of the days mentioned in the Primitive Rule for the BSP as a day of no fasting or abstinence. To keep the spirit of the original Rule and to prepare spiritually for the Solemnity of Christmas, modern day penitents observe this pre-Christmas fast as did their medieval predecessors.
I have so many time constraints. What if I don't have enough time for all the prayers?
There are five prayer options in the Rule, although praying the Liturgy of the Hours is first choice among these as it is written in the Rule. The other options were set in the statutes to allow some flexibility to the penitent when their busy schedule prevents them from praying the Liturgy of the Hours. The option chosen for regular use should be one that works for the individual, and if possible be agreed upon by the penitent and their spiritual director, and acceptable to the family of the individual. On busy days, the penitent can switch freely between options. This is a lot of flexibility.
How do I find a spiritual director if I don't have one?
Spiritual directors can be priests, deacons, or male or female religious. They can be in your parish, your city, your town, or via mail. The Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis encourages everyone to have a Spiritual Director as they enter formation at or above the Novice 1 level. It is acceptable for anyone to use their personal confessor as their Spiritual Director if that works best, and this has the approval of our Visitor.
What is the purpose of wearing a cross or crucifix?
Penitents should give visible witness to their Catholic faith. The crucifix or cross chosen should be simple, not ostentatious.
What do the Brothers and Sisters consider a "just war?"
Whatever the Holy Father, the Pope, considers to be one. Penitents who face being sent to battle should discuss this with their spiritual directors.
It's a big commitment. I don't know if I can do it.
All you can do is try, for the Love of God and good of your soul. It is for you to work out the way for your salvation in Christ. Perhaps this is the way God will lead you down.
I don't want people to think I am nuts.
(Matt. 10:36)… and one's enemies will be those of his own household.'
Why is the formation period four years? I want to do it all now.
You are free to live the Rule entirely immediately if you wish to do so. Additionally, you may move through formation faster with the approval of your spiritual director. However, the four years of formation allow most people ample time to make the adjustments in their lives necessary to live the Rule.
What are chapters of the BSP?
Chapters are local groups of penitents consisting of at least two members. Our Lord said “Wherever two or more are gathered in my Name, there am I in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20). Members are encouraged to form chapters in their area to gain support in living the Rule, and to build up the kingdom of God on earth.
Can I stay in the inquiry period as long as I need to?
Yes, as long as you are still discerning whether or not to enter formation.
If I don't have a computer at home and don't live near a local group, can I still become a brother or sister of penance?
Absolutely. You can do everything by postal mail, telephone, or form a local chapter.
What are the membership levels of the Association?
The membership levels of the Association are:
Is this commitment for life?
It can be. The choice is up to you.
Who in the past history of the Church has been a Brother or Sister of Penance?
St. Margaret of Cortona, Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Elizabeth Queen of Hungary, Saint Louis King of France, Blessed Luchesio, Blessed Jacoba de Settisoli, Saint Ferdinand III King of Spain, Saint Elizabeth Queen of Portugal, Saint Rose of Viterbo, Blessed Jane of Signa, and about twenty other Brothers and Sisters of Penance have been declared venerable, blessed, or saints. There have been countless others whose names have not been recorded. Read their lives if you like to know more about them. Strive to join their number!
How to proceed?
If you wish to become a member of our Association to
enhance your spiritual life,
WELCOME TO THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS!
WELCOME TO THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS!