A Beardless Capuchin!
For many modern clean-shaven Capuchins, the 2010 Beatification of Brother Joseph of Igualada may have come as somewhat of a a relief. They now have their own heavenly model confrere in the person of their beardless confrere, Joseph of Igualada, a. k. a. Blessed Joseph Tous i Soler. While the present-day Capuchin Constitutions declare that growing one’s beard is optional, up until 1967, the ancient and universal custom of growing the beard was legislatively enforced in the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor since its earliest days. The 1528 Papal Bull, “Religionis Zelus”, which sanctioned the Capuchin Reform, speaks of the beard as a Camaldolese ‘privilege’ bestowed on the Capuchin Brothers. The Albacina Statutes of 1529 forbade even the trimming of beards, while, in the Order’s first Constitutions of 1536, the following spiritual reasons are given for enforcing this prohibition. “After the example of Christ most holy and all our early saints, let the beard be worn because it is something manly and natural, rough, worthless and austere.” Subsequent Capuchin legislation, right up until the revision of the Constitutions following the Second Vatican Council, retained this shaving ban. But contemporary photographs of the newly beatified Catalan Capuchin show him clean-shaven and beardless! This distinguishing feature of Brother Joseph, as well as his dress and the widespread use of his secular name, Joseph Tous i Soler, points to the fact that for most of his Capuchin life in anti-clerical 19th century Spain he was prevented from living a as a normal Capuchin but forced to minister as a secular priest in Barcelona’s diocesan parishes that were short of pastors at the time. Yet despite being forced to live outside the Order’s institutions, Brother Joseph of Igualada never neglected to live out the Capuchin charism and, according to witnesses, he lived poorly and austerely, while cultivating humility, a love for silence and faithfulness to a life of prayer and at the same time devoting himself to the relief of the material and spiritual needs of all whom he met.