"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with
your whole soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your
neighbor as yourself." (Jesus' words as recorded in Matthew
Saints and Blesseds Who Lived the Rule of 1221 as Lay
Saint Margaret of Cortona, a penitent who lived the Rule of 1221
the year 1221, Saint Francis of Assisi wrote a Rule of Life for his
friars. At Saint Francis’s request, Cardinal Hugolino de Conti de Segni,
the Cardinal Protector of Saint Francis’s Order, wrote a Rule of 1221
for lay people. Francis accepted this Rule which was based on how lay
penitents (also called converse or “converted ones”) were living at the
time of Saint Francis. These penitents embraced lives of fasting,
prayer, abstinence, community, and simplicity of possessions, dress, and
lifestyle, in reparation for their own sins and for those of others. The
Church considered them to be members of an Order of Penitents. The Rule
called them “the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.”
The Rule of 1221 was adopted by lay followers of Saint Francis and
others. In a short time, these followers became known as Tertiaries or
Third Order Members of Saint Francis’s Order. The Rule of 1221 thus
became the first Third Order Franciscan Rule. In time, some of those
living the Rule of 1221 took religious vows as consecrated virgins or as
part of a religious community. However, most who lived the Rule
continued to live it as laity.
Canonized and Beatified Religious
Shrine to Saint
Roch of Montpellier, a noble turned pilgrim who lived the Rule of 1221.
Many penitents who lived the Rule of 1221 have been beatified or
canonized. There are dozens of consecrated virgins, religious, and
priests who lived the Rule of 1221 and whose holiness has been
recognized formally by the Catholic Church. Some of these include:
St. Ivo of
Brittany (priest, 1253-1303).
Angeline of Marsciano (consecrated virgin, 1377-1435)
of Mariscotti (nun, 1585-1640)
Baptist (priest, martyr, died 1597)
Mary Ann of Jesus of Paredes (vowed religious, 1614-1645)
Frances of the Five Wounds (consecrated virgin, 1734-1791)
Benedict Cottolengo (priest, founder, 1786-1842)
Elisabetta Vendramini (nun, 1790-1860)
Cafasso (priest, 1811-1860)
Frances Schervier (nun, foundress, 1819-1876)
and Beatified Laity
canonized and beatified laity who
lived the Rule of 1221 include:
of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal,
a Queen who lived the Rule of 1221.
Luchesio of Poggibonzi (? – 1242)—First to live the Rule of 1221.
Merchant and husband. Exercised charity to the poor and the sick.
Man of prayer and austerities.
(1182-1242)—Prayerful anchorite (walled-in hermit) gifted with
de Settesoli (1190-1239)—Holy noblewoman, wife, mother. Support of
St. Francis of Assisi and his friars. Buried in the Basilica of St.
Francis in Assisi.
Ferdinand III of Spain (1199-1252)—Husband, father. Generous, just,
gentle king who drove from Spain the Muslims who were threatening to
exterminate Christianity. Insisted on discipline and Christian
conduct among his soldiers. Sponsored founding of University of
Salamanca. Rebuilt Cathedral of Burgos.
Novelon of Faenza (1200-1280)—Married, dissolute shoemaker who had a
conversion when he became deathly ill at the age of twenty-four.
Thereafter became generous almsgiver to the poor and sick, did many
penances, made several pilgrimages.
of Villamagna (c. 1200-1242)—Humble, holy hermit and pilgrim. Used
to visit three churches each week, praying for souls in Purgatory,
remission of his own sins, and conversion of unbelievers.
of Thuringia (?-c. 1264)—Noble mother who reared her children to be
good Christians. After being widowed, tended lepers, visited and
financially supported poor. Became a hermit who prayed for
conversion of the Prussians.
of Siena (early 1200’s-1289)—Prayerful, widowed comb maker.
Exercised works of charity. Accepted humiliations, contrary
customers, and toil as penances. Made pilgrimages. Went to daily
Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) –Daughter of the King of Hungary.
Wed to Louis of Thuringia. Widowed at an early age. Founded a
hospital. Known for her penances and her charity to the poor.
Sculpted head of
Saint King Louis
IX of France who lived the Rule of 1221.
Torello of Poppi (1208-1282)—Lived dissolute life as a young man.
Experienced conversion and became a hermit. Overcame spiritual
attacks. Worked miracles.
Saint Louis IX
of France (1215-1270)—King, husband, father, crusader. Founded
hospitals, built churches, promoted learning. Peacemaker. Guided and
taught his children. Ruled his kingdom with Christian values.
Saint Zita of
Lucca (1218-1278)—Pious, generous, dedicated, meek household
servant. Assisted poor, sick, and imprisoned.
Umiliana Cerchi (1219-1246) –Austere widow who lived as a hermit.
Begged for alms for the poor. Experienced ecstasies at prayer.
Saint Rose of
Viterbo (1234-1252)—Virgin preacher against the enemies of the Pope.
Pelingotto (1240-1304)—Merchant turned holy hermit.
Raymond Lull (1236-1314)—Learned teacher, preacher, author, founder
of a college, evangelizer of Muslims, martyr.
of Signa (1244-1307)—Devout shepherd who became anchorite (walled-in
hermit). Worked miracles.
of Cortona (1247-1297) – Flamboyant mistress of young nobleman. Bore
him a son. Experienced conversion when her lover was murdered.
Mystic. Formed community of women to care for ill. Founded hospital
and Confraternity of Our Lady. Subject of gossip but was cleared of
merchant who was the first penitent clothed by Saint Francis of Assisi
and who lived the Rule of 1221.
of Foligno (1248-1309) – Lived worldly life as wife before her
conversion. Mystic who started community of those living the Rule of
1221. Devoted to care of the needy.
Elizabeth (Isabella) of Portugal (1271-1336)—Holy, prayerful Queen
of Portugal, peacemaker.
Delphina (1283-1358)—Noble countess who lived in virginity with her
husband Elzear. Instructed her servants in love of God. Cared for
poor. After Elzear’s death, became mistress of royal household in
Sicily where she edified all the court by her virtue.
of Sabran (1286-1323)—Noble count who lived in virginity with his
wife, served the poor, nursed the sick, performed miracles.
of Piacenza (1290-1354)—Wealthy noble who converted after a fire he
lit while hunting destroyed a neighbor’s cornfield. Turned himself
in when an innocent peasant was condemned for starting the blaze.
Gave up his wealth and became a hermit while his wife became a Poor
Clare nun. Suffered many spiritual attacks.
Drawing of Saint
Zita, a servant who lived the Rule of 1221
Saint Roch of
Montpellier (c. 1295-1378)—Wealthy noble who devoted his life to
care of plague victims. Falsely imprisoned but made no defense of
of Foligno (1319-1377)—Holy hermit who became an anchorite
(walled-in hermit). Let his cell at Holy Spirit’s bidding and
preached penance to people of Tuscany. Miracle worker. Experienced
visions and ecstasies.
of Rome (1384-1440)—Mother, widow, mystic, prophet, benefactor of
sick and poor. Founded the Oblates of Mary. Had angel as companion
at the end of her life.
of Malatesta (1411-1432)—Devout, noble youth dedicated to prayer,
penance, and works of charity.
of Valois (1464-1503)—Queen of France, cofounder with Blessed
Gabriel Maria (friar) of the royal order of the Blessed Virgin.
Abused by her father, disdained by her husband who eventually
received an annulment of the marriage. Charitable to poor and sick.
Devoted to Passion of Christ.
Gambara (?-1505)—Holy wife devoted to service of the poor. Suffered
under dissolute, abusive husband who, through her prayers,
eventually experienced conversion. Widowed, devoted to prayer,
penance, works of charity
Albertoni (1474-1533)—Noble wife and mother who educated her three
daughters at home. Widowed at thirty-three years of age. Devoted to
prayer, penance, simplicity, care of poor especially destitute young
girls who needed work or a dowry.
More (1477-1535)—Lord chancellor of England, husband, father,
humanist, scholar, intellectual, author, martyred for treason
because he refused to support King Henry VIII in his divorce and
remarriage against Church law.
de San Jose de Betancur (1626-1667)—Opened hospital, shelter for the
homeless, school for the poor. Walked streets of Guatemala City,
of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a Queen who lived the Rule of 1221.
History of the Rule of 1221
1283, the Rule of 1221 was amended to require that the Visitor, the
priestly authority for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, be a
Franciscan priest. The Rule itself, however, was not changed. Over the
centuries, local statutes and constitutions were added in various
locales to make living the Rule applicable in specific circumstances.
The Rule of 1221 (in its 1283 form) remained in effect 1883 when Pope
Leo XIII abrogated it (that is, removed the requirement that it be lived
by those professing to follow Saint Francis of Assisi) and replaced it
with a new Rule which has been popularly termed the Leonine Rule. This
Rule was in effect until 1978 when, during the Pontificate of Pope Paul
VI, the Leonine Rule was abrogated and a new Rule, the Pauline Rule,
adopted. The Pauline Rule is the Rule which Secular Franciscans, one
group of lay followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, follow today. Other
Third Order Franciscan groups exist, which are following other Third
Living the Rule of 1221 Today
One group whose members follow the Rule of 1221 as lay people is the
Confraternity of Penitents, a private Roman Catholic lay association of
the faithful, whose Vision is:
“To give glory
to God and surrender to His Will through the living of a medieval,
penitential Rule of Life, the Rule of 1221. This Rule is lived as
closely as possible to its original intent, and in one's own home or
CFP community house, in peace with all others, and in obedience to the
Roman Catholic Church, its Pope, and its Magisterium.”
card of Saint Angela of Foligno, a widow and mystic who lived the Rule
The Prayer, Motto, Mission, and Action of Penitents complete the Vision
of the Confraternity:
PRAYER OF PENITENTS
"Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my mind, give me
right faith, a firm hope and perfect charity, so that I may always and
in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen." (Saint Francis's
prayer before the San Damiano Crucifix)
MOTTO OF PENITENTS
"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole
soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as
yourself." (Jesus's words as recorded in Matthew 22:37-38)
MISSION OF PENITENTS
"Go and repair My House which, as you can see, is falling into ruin."
(The message given to St. Francis in a voice from the San Damiano
ACTION OF PENITENTS
To pray for God's specific direction in one's life so that, through
humbly living our Rule of Life, each penitent may help to rebuild the
house of God by bringing love of God and neighbor to his or her own
corner of the world.
Painting of Saint
Thomas More, Chancellor of England and martyr, who lived the Rule of
of Penitents is open to all who wish to explore living the Rule of 1221.
The Rule, Constitutions, and other information about the Confraternity
can be found at
Please pray about what you find in those pages and contact the
Confraternity when you feel so led.
May all the penitents of all ages intercede for you as you discern
God’s perfect Will for your life!
May the Lord bless you and grant you the desires of your heart!