The Rule of St. John of Matha approved by Pope Innocent III

Innocent, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God, to our beloved son, John, Minister, and the Brothers of the Holy Trinity, our greetings and apostolic blessing.

Placed, as We are, at the summit of the Apostolic See by the efficacious mercy of God, it is our duty to lend our support to upright desires, and make them effective when they stem from the root of charity, especially in the case where what is sought are the interests of Jesus Christ and the common good is preferred to personal gain.

When you, beloved son in Christ, Brother John, Minister, had formerly approached our presence and had taken care to indicate humbly to Us your project, which is believed to have come from divine inspiration, petitioning that your intent be strengthened by apostolic protection, We naturally – in order that We might better know that your desire is founded in Christ, without whom no stable foundation can be laid – judged opportune to send you back, with our letters, to our venerable brother…, the Bishop of Paris, and our beloved son…, the Parisian Abbot of St. Victor, so that, through them, inasmuch as they are thoroughly acquainted with your desire, We could be instructed about your intent and its benefit, about the foundation of your Order and its way of life, and thus give you our assent more assuredly and more effectively.

Since, as We have learned from their letters, it is clear that you seem to seek the interest of Christ rather than your own, and since We wish that apostolic protection assist you, We grant to you and to your successors, by the authority of this document, the Rule according to which you are to live. My son and Minister, the aforementioned Bishop and Abbot have sent to Us, along with their letters, the body of the Rule augmented with those points which We ordered to be added, according to our own judgment and at your request. We mandate that this charter of concession remain inviolate forever. We have also disposed for the sake of evidence and clarity, that the Rule’s text be reported in this document.

In the name of holy and undivided Trinity.

            1. The Brothers of the House of the Holy Trinity are to live in obedience to the prelate of their house – who shall be called Minister – in chastity and without personal possessions.

            2. All things, from whatsoever lawful source they may come, the Brothers are to divide into three equal parts. Insofar as two parts will be sufficient, they are to provide for carrying on the works of mercy, as well as provide for a moderate sustenance for themselves and the required domestics. The third part is to be reserved for the ransom of captives who are incarcerated for the faith of Christ by pagans: with a reasonable prince paid either for their ransom or for the ransom of pagan captives, so that afterwards by a reasonable exchange and in good faith a Christian may be ransomed for a pagan according to the merits and status of the persons.

However, when money is donated or anything else, though it be given specially for some particular purpose, the third part is to be set aside, always with the consent of the giver; otherwise, it is not to be received. Exception is to be made for land, meadows, vineyards, forests, buildings, livestock and things of this kind. The profits derived from these after the expenses have been deducted – that is, after subtracting one-half for expenses – will be divided into three equal parts. Those profits, however, which entail few or no expenses, are all to be divided. When they get or are given clothing, shoes or similar small items which are necessary for their use and which would not prove profitable to sell or set aside, such things are not to be divided, unless it should seem expedient to the Minister of the house and to the brothers. Concerning these matters, there is to be a discussion every Sunday, if possible, in the chapter. Should the aforementioned items – such as clothing, land, livestock or small items – be sold, the resulting profit is to be divided into three parts, as indicated above.

            3. All the churches of this Order are to be named in honor of the Holy Trinity and they are to be of simple construction.

            4. In each residence there can be three cleric-brothers and three lay-brothers and, in addition, one brother who is the procurator, but who is to be called Minister, not Procurator. Thus, for instance, Brother… is Minister of the House of the Holy Trinity. The brothers are bound to promise and render him obedience.

            5. The Minister is to administer faithfully to all his brothers as to himself.

            6. Their garments are to be woolen and white. They may each have one fur-lined garment as well as breeches, which they are not to take off while reposing.

            7. There are to repose in wool, so that they have absolutely no featherbeds or mattresses in their houses, except for those suffering from illness. They are permitted, however, to have a pillow for the support of the head.

            8. The emblem is to be placed on the capes of the brothers.

            9. They are not to mount horses nor even possess them. They are only permitted to mount asses which are given or lent to them or taken from their own livestock.

            10. The wine to be drunk by the brothers is to be so tempered that it can be taken sobriety.

            11. They are fast from the 13th day of  September until Easter, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, unless a solemn feast intervenes. Moreover, from Advent until Christmas and from Quinquagesima Sunday until Easter, they are to fast on Lenten foods except on Sunday. They are likewise to keep the other fasts which the Church is accustomed to observe. Nevertheless, at times and with discretion, the Minister can relax the fast on account of age, traveling or other sufficient reason, or even increase the fast, considering the opportunity of doing so.

            12. They are permitted to eat meat given by outsiders or taken from their own livestock only on Sundays from Easter to Advent and from Christmas to Septuagesima Sunday, and on Assumption and Purification of Blessed Mary, and on the feast of All Saints.

            13. They are to buy nothing for their sustenance, except bread and sauce ingredients – namely, beans, peas and vegetables of this kind – and greens, oil, eggs, milk, cheese and fruit. Neither meat nor fish nor wine are they permitted to buy, except for the needs of the infirm or the weak or the poor or on great solemnities. Still, they are permitted to buy livestock and to raise them.

However, when they are on a journey or pilgrimage, they are permitted to buy, though sparingly, wine and fish during Lent, if necessary; if something is given to them, they should live on that and divide the remainder into three parts. Still, if they have set out on the way to ransom captives, whatever is given to them they must set aside totally for the ransom of captives, except expenses.

            14. In cities, towns or villages where they have their own houses, they are to eat or to drink nothing at all outside those houses, even though they be invited by someone, except perhaps in a religious house or to take water in respectable houses. They are not to presume to pass the night outside such houses. They are never to dwell, eat or drink in taverns or in similarly disrespectable places. Whoever presumes to do this is to undergo grave punishment according to the judgment of the Minister.

            15. Such is to be the charity between cleric-brothers and lay-brothers that they shall eat the same food and use the same clothing, dormitory, refectory and the same table.

            16. The infirm are to eat and sleep apart. One of the brothers, either lay or cleric, is to be assigned to their care. He is to inquire as to what may be necessary and then administer it as it should administered. The infirm are to be advised not to ask for rich or very sumptuous foods, but to be content with suitable and healthful moderation.

            17. The care of guests and of the poor and of those who come and go is to be entrusted to one of the more discreet and kinder brothers. He is to hear them and, as it seems expedient, administer the comfort of charity; however, he is to ask of those whom he believers should be admitted if they will be content with what is served to the brothers. In fact, it is not proper for anyone to be served rich and sumptuous foods. Whatever is to be offered should be offered in a cheerful manner, and to no one should be rendered evil for evil. If anyone, especially kindly and he is to be ministered to charitably, according to the ability of the house.

However, no oats or anything in its place are to be supplied to guest if they should be in a city, town or place where fodder can be found for sale, unless perhaps the guests be religious or such persons who have nothing at hand and cannot buy it. If the guests should not find it for sale and it found in the house where they have been received, then it is to be furnished to them in a suitable way.

            18. No brother, lay or cleric, is to be without his own duty, if possible. Should anyone be able but unwilling to work, he is to be compelled to leave the place, for the Apostle says: “he who does not work should not eat”.

            19. They are to observe silence always in their church, always in the refectory, always in the dormitory. Still, they are permitted to speak about necessary matters in other places, at the proper times and in a subdued voice humbly and respectfully. Outside the aforementioned places, their conversation is to be respectful and without scandal at all times. Likewise, their comportment, gestures, behavior and all else is to be found as respectful in them.

            20. In every house, the Minister is to hold a chapter with his brothers, every Sunday, if possible. The brothers are to render a faithful account to the Minister and the Minister to the brothers of the business of  the house and of the things given to the house or the brothers, so that the third part may be set aside for the ransom of captives.

            21. Every Sunday, if possible, an exhortation is to be given not only to the brothers, but also to the domestics, according to their capacity; they are to be told simply about what they must believe and do.

            22. In the chapter the brothers are to be judged with regard to all matters and complaints.

            23. None of the brothers is to accuse his brother in public, unless he is well able to prove the accusation. He who does this is to undergo the punishment which the accused might have undergone had he been found guilty, unless the Minister should wish to dispense from this for same reason. If anyone should cause a scandal or something of that nature or, God forbid, if they should strike one another, they are to undergo a greater or lesser punishment, according to the judgment of the Minister.

If anyone should commit an offense against his brother, with only him who has suffered the injury knowing of it, he is to bear it patiently, even though he be innocent. When the emotions have quieted, the one offended is to correct the offender kindly and fraternally between themselves as many as three times, and admonish him to do penance for the offense and to refrain from such in the future. If the offender does not listen, the one offended is to tell the Minister, who is to correct the offender privately, in a manner that seems expedient for his good.

If one, however, has caused scandal and he should of himself wish to make amends, he is to prostrate himself fully at the feet of the person scandalized, begging his forgiveness; if once is not enough, he is to repeat this as many as three times. If the scandal should be public, whatever may follow, his first penance is to be this, namely, the full-length prostration at the feet of the Minister, begging all the while forgiveness. Later on the Minister will correct the offender according to his judgment.

            24. The general chapter is to be held once a year, during the octave of Pentecost.

            25. If a debt must be contracted for some necessity of the house, it is first to be proposed to the brothers in chapter and done with their advice and consent, so that both suspicions and grumblings be avoided.

            26. If anyone does damage to the goods of the house and is necessary that he be taken to court, this is not to be done before he is warned charitably, first by the brothers and later, in like manner, by other neighbors 

            27. The election of the Minister is to be done through the common deliberation of the brothers. He is not to be elected according to dignity of birth, but according to the merit of his life, his wisdom and learning. The elected is to be a priest or a cleric suitable for Orders. The Minister, hence, whether Major or Minor, is to be a priest.

            28. The Major Minister can hear the confessions of the brothers in all the communities of the Order. The Minor Minister may hear the confessions of all the brothers of his house, provided that the embarrassment for same repeated excesses presents no cause for conferring to their prelates more tardily and less completely than is proper.

            29. The Minister is to take solicitous care that he adheres to the precepts of the Rule in all matters, just as the other brothers must do.

            30. After the Minister has been elected, if for some crime he should deserve to be deposed, he is to be deposes by the Major Minister, and three or four Minor Minister who have been summoned for the case; another who is worthy is to be substituted in his place. However, if the Major Minister is not able to do this because of the remoteness of the place or some other reasonable cause, he is entrust this task to some of the more religious Minor Ministers. Whatever they do, it shall be considered as ratified by the Major Minister’s authority.

But if the Major Minister should have to be corrected or deposed for misconduct, this is to be done by four or five of the more religious Ministers of the same Order who, moreover, must be chosen for this task by general chapter.

            31. If anyone wishes to be a brother of this Order, he is first to serve God in the Order for a year et his own expense, except for food, retaining his clothing and all his belongings. After a year, if it seems good and fitting to the Minister of the house, to the brothers and to himself, and if there is a place for him, he is to be received. Nothing, however, is to be demanded for his admission. If he gives anything freely, it is to be accepted, provided that no litigation is forseen to threaten the Church. If there should be some doubt his conduct, an extension of his probation is to be made. If anyone, should have behaved unruly before his admission, and he is impatient of the discipline, and the Minister judges him unwilling to correct his ways, he should discretly be allowed to leave with all the things which he brought. No one to be received into the Order until he has completed his twentieth year. Profession, moreover, is left to judgment of the Minister.

            32. They are not to accept sureties from the hands of the laity, unless they are tithes, with are taken with the permission of their Bishop.

            33. They are not to take oaths, except in great necessity, for a really just cause, with the permission of the Minister or when ordered to do so by their Bishop or by someone representing the Apostolic See.

            34. If there is any known defect in something to be sold, it is to be indicated to the buyer.

            35. They are not permitted to accept a deposit of bold or silver or money.

            36. On the same day on which an infirm person arrives or is brought in, he is to confess his sins and to receive Communion.

            37. Every Monday, except during the octaves of Easter, Pentecost, the Nativity of the Lord, the Circumcision and the Epiphany and, moreover, on the feasts of obligation, the absolution for the faithful departed is to be done in the cemetery, after the Mass of the faithful.

            38. Every night, at least in the hospice in the presence of the poor, common prayer is to be held for the state and peace of the holy Roman Church, for the entire Christendom, for benefactors and for those for whom the Universal Church is accustomed to pray.

            39. In the recitation of the canonical hours, they are to observe the usage of Blessed Victor, unless perhaps the pauses or the other prolixities and vigils ought to be omitted, on the advice of pious and religious men, because of their small number, they will not be obliged to make so many pauses during the psalms or to rise so early.

            40. As regards the tonsure, the cleric-brothers are, likewise, to follow the ordinance of St. Victor. The lay-brothers are not to shave their beards, but are to permit them to grow moderately.

In conclusion, no one at all is to violate this charter of our concession and disposition or rashly dare to oppose it. Should anyone dare to do so, let him realize that he will incur the wrath of God Omnipotent and of his blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

Issued at the Lateran, on December 17, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord one thousand one hundred ninety-eight, in the first of our pontificate.