The Rule of the Ten Virtues of the Most B.V.M., or the Rule of the Ten Pleasures of the Most B.V.M. (Regula Decem Beneplacitorum Beatissimae Virginis Mariae), is one of the few religious rules approved in spite of the decree issued by the IV Lateran Council in 1215. This decree forbade the approval of the newly founded religious orders on any other than one of the previously approved rules.
The Rule was composed by a Franciscan, Fr. Gilbert Nicolas, better known as Gabriel Maria, the name he received from Pope Leo X by his brief (breve) of June 11, 1517. By this act, the Pope wished to emphasize the special devotion that Fr. Gilbert had for the mystery of the Annunciation of the B.V.M. Gilbert Nicolas, who also appears in history under the name of Johanes Molezius, was born around 1460 in Riom in the Province of Auvergne, France. Influenced as a 16-year old youth by a sermon by a certain Franciscan preacher on the topic of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M., he discerned his vocation to the religious life. In 1475, in Lafond, near La Rochelle, he joined the Franciscans of the Strict Observance. After completing his novitiate and pronouncing his religious vows, he was sent to the monastery in Amboise in order to continue his education that concluded at his priestly ordination and taking the post of a lector of theology. Father Gilbert fulfilled various functions in the Franciscan Order: he was the guardian of the Amboise monastery (1498-1502), the superior of the Province in Aquitaine, and thrice the general commissary of the Order. According to his biographers, Fr. Gilbert was distinguished for his great knowledge, however, out of humility, he never wanted to accept the Doctoral degree and rejected frequent proposals of being nominated a bishop. Within his Order he was known for his great holiness of life and fostering Franciscan poverty in a special way in the Order’s legislation and life. He was also noted for his particular devotion to the Eucharist and the Passion of the Lord. Both the Franciscan and Annunciade traditions gave him the title of the Blessed. He died on August 27, 1532, at the convent of the Annunciade Sisters in Rodez (no longer existing) and he is buried there.
Joan de Valois and the Order of the Annunciades
After the annulment of marriage and the loss of queenship in 1498, Joan’s former husband granted her the title of the Duchess of Berry. She never held any grudge against him, but instead she prayed for him until the end of her life. Free from her spousal duties, she gave herself to prayer and works of mercy. In her childhood Joan had a vision, in which the Blessed Mother allegedly announced to her that she would found a religious community in her honor. With the help from her spiritual director, Blessed Gabriel Maria, the Duchess of Berry and 11 other women started a contemplative order of the Virgin Mary. It was also known as the Order of the Ten Virtues or Ten Pleasures of the Mother of God, the Order of Annunciation of the B.V.M. or the Annunciade. The Blessed Virgin Mary was to be the model for the nuns and the virtues that she practiced, that are mentioned in the Gospels, became their rule of life. Thus The Rule of the Ten Virtues came into being, because the Scriptures directly speak of those virtues. Each of the ten chapters of the Rule refers to a concrete virtue of the Blessed Mother noted by the Gospels. Under Joan’s direction Fr. Gabirel Maria prepared in 1501 the text of the Rule. Along with professing poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Annunciades also vowed to remain cloistered.
On February 12, 1502, Pope Alexander VI ratified the new Rule and the new order. After giving the approval, the Pope nominated Fr. Gabriel Maria the General Visitator of the new community. On the Feast of Pentecost in 1504, Mother Joan made her profession upon the Rule of her Order. First novices of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary made their vows on November 9th of the same year. The Order of the Annunciade was ratified shortly before the death of its Foundress, which occurred on February 4, 1505. Death interrupted her efforts of founding a male branch of her Order. Although she made her religious vows, the Duchess of Berry resided in her castle at Bourges until her death. She was buried in a religious habit and a ducal crown on her head. Even though Joan was accorded a cult of reverence right after her death and was considered a saint, yet it was only in 1742 that Pope Benedict XIV celebrated her formal beatification, and she was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Joan’s earthly remains were desecrated and burned by Protestants on May 22, 1562.
Pope Julius II, and also popes Innocent XII and Innocent XIII, confirmed The Rule of the Ten Virtues of the Most B.V.M. Along with giving a certification to the Rule, Julius II, and the above-said Leo X, granted indulgences to the Chaplet of the Ten Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, contained in that Rule. The Chaplet which was composed by St. Joan is an obligatory spiritual exercise for those who retain the Rule. In following of the instruction from the Apostolic See, The Rule of the Ten Virtues of the Most B.V.M. was adopted for a male order, which was in agreement with the wish of the Foundress, as mentioned before. Throughout the centuries, the popes granted numerous spiritual graces, privileges, and indulgences to the Order of the Annunciade.
Andrew R. Mączyński, MIC
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