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PART (IV) CONSTITUTION OF THE FOURTH BRANCH OF THE ORDER OF SAINT CHARBEL

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 The Fourth Branch of the Order of Saint Charbel is similar to the old "Third Order" that has been in existence in the Catholic Church for centuries (e.g. Third Order of Saint Francis). However there is a major difference in that the Fourth Branch involves a real commitment in the form of a written promise.

1.2 The Promise, written and signed by the member, is to:

  • Observe the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience according to one's state in life, and to:
  • Undertake an agreed Apostolate for the Order entailing either active volunteer work in the Order or manual work at home for the benefit of the Order, or alternatively, for those who are unable to carry out physical work by reason of age or infirmity, a life dedicated to Intercessory Prayer for the intentions of the Order.
  • Follow the same daily prayer life as is required of Members of the Third Branch..
1.3 Membership of the Fourth Branch is a Consecrated Vocation. That is, it is a personal and free response to the Call of God. There are certain duties and responsibilities as well as rights and privileges that make this new form of consecrated life meritorious, and foster holiness in the likeness of Our Saviour Jesus Christ.

2. MEMBERSHIP

2.1 The Fourth Branch provides for those who live in the world, but wish to be united to the prayers and merits of all the members of the Order, and thus multiply their own merits and increase those of the Order. The whole Membership is thus united in, and through, prayer, and the whole Church benefits from the Graces obtained, which spread even further for the good of souls here on earth and in Purgatory.

2.2 The Catholic Church has always believed that the faithful gain many spiritual advantages by uniting in this way and encourages them to do so. As a matter of fact, the Graces obtained are more effective and the merits multiplied by those of all other members. In sickness and during trials, as well as at death, a whole Community keeps us in their prayers and allows us to share in their merits.

2.3 The Fourth Branch Members are affiliated to a particular Community of the Order, and become actively involved in the prayer and work of the Community, under the guidance of the Community Superior.

2.4 The Fourth Branch is open to any person over the age of eighteen (18) years and is primarily intended to foster the prayer life and apostolic works of the Order among the members of the laity who are unable to live within a Community for reasons of distance, finance, health, etc.

2.5 Fourth Branch Members, married or single, who wish to live in Community, but are not ready, or are unable, by reason of impediments, to take the Vowed Life of the Third Branch, may be permitted to stay or even to live for an extended period in a Community, provided they are prepared to live according to the daily rules of the Community.

2.6 Members of the Fourth Branch who are permitted to live in a Community must Promise to live according to the daily schedule of the Third Branch, endeavouring to embrace the life of prayer and works of the Third Branch. (Ref. Third Branch Constitution).

3. EVANGELICAL COUNSELS IN THE FOURTH BRANCH

3.1 For a Catholic, the mere observance of the Commandments is not a sufficient ideal, and a fervent Catholic, motivated by love for God, will always endeavour to live on a plane which is above that of grave necessity, with no specific obligation to do so. For the Vowed Religious, however, the plane above the lowest level of grave necessity becomes the practice of the `Vow', in which one chooses to bind oneself under pain of sin not to fall below this plane. For the Lay Catholic, living and working in the world, it is possible to also bind oneself (although not under pain of sin), by `Promise', to a fixed and definite commitment to seek perfection, even while retaining its unlimited character of love. It is this `Promise' to observe the Evangelical Counsels which distinguishes the Fourth Branch of the Order of Saint Charbel.

".....Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world; and the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the Will of God abides forever ......" (1 John 2:15-17).

THE PROMISE TO OBSERVE THE EVANGELICAL COUNSEL OF POVERTY:

3.2 For Fourth Branch Members, particularly for those who are married and have children, or who are preparing a home for the rearing of children, the Promise to observe the Evangelical Counsel of Poverty calls for detachment from material possessions, but not the renunciation of possessions. This means that in making the promise of Poverty, the person binds himself or herself (although not under pain of sin) to live above the strict obligations of the First, Seventh and Tenth Command-ments. The person seeks henceforth to live above this minimum level, on a plane where the will to love and serve God always takes precedence, where their possession and use of material goods is governed by a higher love, and they seek perfection in their detachment from the world. This means that:

(a) All members should try always to recall that they are merely pilgrims through life; that they are but stewards for all things given by God!

(b) All Members should regard the goods which they have acquired as primarily for sustaining a simple life, and to assist them to fulfil the Will of God.

(c) Members must be careful, in their diligence to observe their Promise of Poverty, not to deprive their family of the essentials needed for dignified family life.

(d) In the promise of Poverty, the member, when visiting or working in a Community will always seek to use appropriately and with care, material goods owned by the Order or other members.

(e) Members should dress simply and with dignity, when not required to wear the Scapular. They should not indulge in the excessive unnecessary use of cosmetics or make-up, nor should they resort to the vanity of self-adornment.

(f) Members, who are permitted to live in a Community, although free to dispose of their temporal goods as they choose, should not do so in an independent manner, without considering the possible impact on the Community.

(g) Members, who are permitted to live in a Community, although free to purchase non-essential temporal goods, should consider first whether the items may be a distraction or a hindrance to their Spiritual Development, and seek direction from their Spiritual Director.

THE PROMISE TO OBSERVE THE EVANGELICAL COUNSEL OF CHASTITY:

3.3 To preserve the Virtue of Chastity, we should seek the virtue of humility, which will help us to beware of flattery, and all affectation or vanity in dress and appearance, to be distrustful of self, and so through dependence on Grace gain the Divine assistance without which none can remain chaste. "....God resists the proud, but He gives His Grace to the humble .. and .. Love is the guardian of virginity, but love dwells in humility ..." (St. Augustine).

3.4 There are, in all, twelve principal means of preserving the Virtue of Chastity:

  • Guard the senses
  • Avoid idleness: rise early and start your day immediately with prayer;
  • Avoid occasions of sin: people, places, books TV or videos etc., which may stimulate unhealthy images, conversations, thoughts;
  • Temperance: particularly in drinking;
  • Prudence in all social contact;
  • Christian modesty in dress and deportment;
  • Physical exercise;
  • Frequent Confession: opening one's conscience frankly to our Confessor;
  • Frequent Holy Communion;
  • Humble devotion to and dependent trust in Our Lady, the Queen and Special Protectress of virgins.
  • Fidelity to the Rules of our Order;
  • Mortification and Prayer

CONJUGAL CHASTITY FOR MARRIED COUPLES:

3.5 For Fourth Branch Members, who are married, the `Promise' of Chastity relates to "Conjugal Chastity". This means that in making the Promise of Chastity, the married couple bind themselves although not under pain of sin), to live above the strict obligations of the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, which of course bind under pain of serious sin. In their promise, the couple seek henceforth to live above this minimum level, on a plane where their conjugal acts are governed by a higher love - to seek perfection in their conjugal union - to elevate their conjugal union to a deeply personal union of heart and soul in which they seek always to fulfil the Will of God. This implies the following.

(a) The couple will seek always to keep in mind that their enjoyment of each other - though primarily for the begetting of children - "two are joined to become one flesh" - is also for the strengthening of their bond of love.

(b) The couple will seek always to embrace the Will of God in trust, not confining their union to those times when conception is unlikely, but seeking always in their conjugal union to be open to procreation, and to accept with love any children which God's Holy Will may grant them. The couple should strive to reflect that God is intimately involved in their conjugal union, thus praying that God will Bless their love with the creation of another soul.

(c) The couple should seek to avoid all forms of arousal which might precipitate self-gratification as a motive for their conjugal union. The mutual desire for each other should arise from their love for each other, in which arousal is always born within a deep mutual respect for the dignity of the whole person, body and soul.

(d) If medical or other serious reason suggests that it would be prudent for a mother to have a rest from child bearing, the couple should seek to abstain from marital relations by mutual consent, for the time necessary, as a form of self-denial which expresses a deeper and more spiritual love for each other.

(e) The couple will strive to deport themselves always with dignity, dressing in modest and dignified clothing that reflects their deep respect and love for each other; to be edifying in conversation, upholding always the sanctity of Christian Marriage.

CELIBATE CHASTITY FOR SINGLES:

3.6 For Fourth Branch Members, who are unmarried, the `Promise' of Chastity relates to "Celibate Chastity". This means that in making the Promise of Chastity, the single person binds himself or herself although not under pain of sin), to live above the strict obligations of the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, which of course bind under pain of serious sin. In his/her Promise, the person seeks henceforth to live above this minimum level, on a plane where their celibacy is governed by a higher love - to seek perfection in the consecration of their celibacy to God in preparation for either a future Married Vocation or a Religious Vocation. This implies the following:

(a) The single person in his/her Promise of Chastity, will seeks always to remember that their Chastity, indeed their Virginity, is a treasure which they wish to bring untarnished to their future Spouse - (their earthly spouse in a Married Vocation or their Heavenly Spouse in the Religious Vocation).

(b) The single person will seek not only to preserve celibate chastity, which after all is mandated by the Commandments, but to cultivate purity of mind and heart by avoiding occasions and circumstances where offences against purity are treated as normal behaviour, even if this means not watching your favourite TV show, or not watching certain films, or attending some shows at the theatre, or not going swimming at the beach, or perhaps avoiding certain company.

(c) The single person will continually seek the Grace of God to overcome temptations against holy purity, rejecting an evil attraction, immediately, resolutely and, with anxiety, trusting in the help of Our Blessed Mother.

(d) In the Promise of celibate chastity, the single person will seek the virtue of humility, which will help them to beware of flattery, and all affectation or vanity in dress and appearance, to be distrustful of self, and so through dependence on Grace gains the Divine assistance without which none can remain chaste. "....God resists the proud, but he gives His Grace to the humble ... and ... Love is the guardian of virginity, but love dwells in humility ..." (St. Augustine)

(e) The Promise of celibate chastity, does not preclude courting, for those who intend to embrace the Married Vocation. However, prudence must be exercised when `keeping company' to avoid situations that may arouse and inflame mutual desire. Restraint needs to be exercised at all times for the sake of mutual respect and love, and in the much greater desire to always do the Will of God. A kiss, a hug, or a brief embrace are good healthy ways for a courting couple to show their love for each other, but it must be an expression of love, not a gratification of sexual desire. Kissing and cuddling, or fondling or any form of sexual arousal belong to marriage and should be avoided. Such behaviour would not only be a breach of the Promise, but might also be seriously sinful.

(f) At the time of Marriage the Promise of "celibate chastity" is dispensed and may be renewed as a Promise of "Conjugal Chastity".

THE PROMISE TO OBSERVE THE EVANGELICAL COUNSEL OF OBEDIENCE:

3.7 The practice of Obedience teaches us to be submissive to one another, to curb our own will - our own inherent assertiveness. It is in such submissiveness that the virtues of humility, meekness and charity are nurtured.

3.8 Obedience is really the first of the Virtues, because it is obedience which calls us to all the other virtues. Obedience really becomes one with Charity.

"....he that keepeth His Word, in him in very deed the charity of God is perfected; and by this we know that we are in Him ..." (1 John 2:5)

"....In a rational creature, obedience is, as it were, the mother and guardian of all the virtues..." (St. Augustine)

"....All acts of virtue come under obedience, inasmuch as they are contained in a precept ..." (St. Thomas Aquinas)

3.9 Obedience is the Virtue, which inclines the will to comply with the will of another who has the lawful right to command. The evangelical Counsel of Obedience, undertaken in the spirit of faith and love in following Christ, ...who was obedience even unto death ..." entails submission of one's will to lawful Superiors, who act in the place of God, when they give commands that are in accordance with the Rule and Constitution of the Order. (Canon 601) The extent of Obedience is as wide as the `authority' which commands it. Thus, obedience to God is without limit, while obedience to human beings is limited by higher laws that must not be transgressed, and by the competency of authority of the one who commands.

3.9(1) There are two aspects to obedience: there is the physical response - the execution of a command; then there is the motive for obeying. The motive may simply be because it is logical and reasonable, or because the consequences of refusal may be unpleasant. However, there can be a higher motive - the Supernatural motive - to obey without question, without counting the cost, even in things that entail hardship and go against one's preferences: - to do so cheerfully and without complaint, even with joy to be able to imitate more perfectly our Divine Model; to obey precisely because it is commanded by a lawful Superior, who acts in the place of God.

3.9(2) In making the Promise of Obedience, the member binds himself/herself (although not under pain of sin) to seek henceforth to live above the minimum level; to unite oneself to that humble submission of Jesus; to submit his/her will (as one would to God) to lawful Superiors, in all decisions made or commands given which are in accord with the Rule and Constitution of the Order, the Moral Law and the Teachings of Holy Church. This means that:

(a) The Member who resides in Community (either as a temporary visitors or living in a Community by permission) is not free to do as he/she pleases, but must endeavour to subordinate his/her will to life under the Rule and Constitution of the Order; to follow the particular requirements governing day to day life in the Third Branch.

(b) The Member, when residing in a Community, conforms himself /herself cheerfully to the demands of the daily prayer and work routine.

(c) All Members promise to obey the lawful instructions of Religious Superiors within the Order, on matters which concern their Spiritual Life.

(d) All Members, while visiting or residing in a Community, promise to obey the lawful directives of the Community Superior.

(e) Members are not bound to obedience by their Promise on matters which are outside the jurisdiction of the Rule and Constitutions of the Order. For example, the Fourth Branch Member, living in the world, although endeavouring not to be "of the world", has to meet business, work, family, schooling, and many other obligations which must, of necessity, take precedence over work and prayer life as members of the Order. in such matters, instructions or directives given by a Superior must be considered in the light of other obligations.

(f) A Member is not bound to obedience by his/her Promise, where the instruction or directive is:

  • Contrary to Faith and Morals;
  • In conflict with the Rule and Constitutions of the Order;
  • Likely to be injurious to one's health;
  • Likely to seriously compromise the discharge of one's Christian duty to one's spouse or family
The matter should not be left there, but should be discussed with the Community Superior, or the Spiritual Director, so that the issues are clarified, so that from a better understanding the instructions or directives may be readily complied with or, if found necessary, the instructions or directives modified.

(g) A Member should endeavour to comply with all commands of a Superior as long as he commands lawfully, (Refer to Appendix E, "Line of Grace" which deals with the question of "lawful" command) even if he knows the command may not achieve the result intended or that there is a better way to do it. "...Obedience lovingly undertakes to do all that is commanded it, with simplicity and without considering whether the command is good or bad, provided that the person who orders has authority to order, and that the command serves to unite our mind to God..." (St. Francis de Sales) In other words, the Superior may err in commanding but we make no mistake obeying!

(h) The Member will seek to be prompt in obedience; for love, which is the prime mover of perfect obedience, should make us obey with readiness.

(i) The Member will seek to obey without reservations, for to make a choice to obey in some things and disobey in other things is to forfeit the merit of obedience, to show that we submit in what pleases us, and therefore that our submission is not supernatural.

(j) The Member will seek to obey with perseverance, "....for to do a thing cheerfully which we are commanded to do only once, costs nothing; but when our Superior (or perhaps our Community Council) says to us: you will do that always, and all through your life, there lies the virtue and there also the difficulty..." (St. Francis de Sales)

(k) The Member will seek to obey with cheerfulness, "...for God loves a cheerful giver .." (2 Cor.9:7) "...In those things that entail hardship, obedience cannot be cheerful unless it is animated by love. Nothing is painful to him who loves, because he thinks not of the suffering undergone, but of the person for whose sake he suffers. Now, if we see Our Lord in the person of him who commands, how can we fail to offer with our whole heart the trifling sacrifice that He demands, who died a Victim of Obedience for our sake" Tanguerey - Obedience the Greatest Freedom)

4. OBLIGATIONS OF THE FOURTH BRANCH:

4.1 Endeavour to follow the daily prayer of the Third Branch, but principally:

  • the meditated 15-decade Rosary in its entirety.
  • Consecration to Jesus, through Mary, after the manner of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.
  • daily Mass (as often as possible)
4.2 Fourth Branch Members are required to wear the full length Scapular of the Order, when visiting or staying with a Community of the Order. Women are required to also wear the small white veil. Members are required to purchase this Scapular - price ($50.00) - payable to the Order of Saint Charbel. (See Appendix B)

4.3 Participate, if possible, in an annual retreat.

4.4 Confession at least once per month.

4.5 Members are to volunteer one day a week in the Order, or at least 2 or 3 days a month (if not too far away) or 1 to 2 weeks in a row per year (according to work conditions) or do manual work at home (sewing, drawing, etc.).If other arrangements must be made, it will be necessary to meet with the Superior of the Community to which the Member is affiliated, and prepare, in writing, an agreed alternative commitment.

4.6 As an alternative to 4.5, the Member may embrace an agreed apostolate such as promoting an evening of Marian prayer or the Rosary, or the publication put out by the Order, or in the case of an aged or inform member, an apostolate of prayer, or indeed any other form of apostolate to be defined, written up and confirmed with the Superiors of the Order.

4.7 The Dress code for the Fourth Branch Members is as follows:

FOR WOMEN:
  • you must dress with care (hair well combed; if long - tied back)
  • wear a veil in the Chapel of the Order.
  • no slacks, in general, except for special types of work.
  • always wear modest attire
FOR MEN:
  • short, clean hair.
  • clean clothing in the Chapel of the Order.
  • always dress with care and modesty.
 

The Scapular must be worn by Members as laid down in 4.2.

4.8 Members will be required to pay an annual fee of $50.00. This fee must be made payable to the Order of Saint Charbel. If possible, they should also contribute to good works as defined by the Order (missions, vocations, works of the Branch of your choice). If desired, contributions can be made in several installments.

4.9 The Member is to respond to the Superior of the Community with which he/she is affiliated, who will arrange for spiritual direction, if needed.

4.10 Members will be issued with a membership card, denoting their commitment to the Order. The card will carry the expiration date, and a new card will be issued each year on payment of the annual contribution.

4.11 Members may make no commitment in the name of the Order, unless duly commissioned to do so in writing by the Order. One can promote the Order, and its apostolic works, but one should never constrain other directly.

4.12 Each time the Member comes and spends time in the Order, he/she is committed, by virtue of his/her Membership of the Fourth Branch, to also make a contribution to cover his/her keep. Such a contribution will always be less than the fixed daily contribution requested of visitors, and may be adjusted according to the means of the member.

 


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