General Introduction - 18 

Thomas presented his new, long and complicated text, completed at least two months earlier, to the General Chapter of Lyon in 1247.32

Convoked by Crescentius, the General Chapter began on July 13, 1247, without him. According to the Chronicon abbreviatum of Peregrinus of Bononia, Crescentius requested, "because of his inadequacies," that another be elected as General Minister. Thus his enduring legacy, the commission entrusted to Thomas of Celano, was approved without Crescentius's presence. The wish Thomas uttered at the end of his Prologue went sadly unheeded: "Thus things well said will be approved by your learned opinion, and like your name, Crescentius, they will build to a crescendo . . ."

The brothers then chose John of Parma to succeed Crescentius as General Minister, a ministry he bore for ten years, 1247-1257. Thomas of Eccleston describes him well:

One of the leading zealots of the Order, he was a lector and had read as a bachelor on the Sentences at Paris . . . At the University of Paris, he personally intervened to reconcile the brothers [to the faculty of theology], prevailing on them to revoke their appeal by reminding them of the simplicity of their profession. He made the ruling that the general chapter should be held alternately beyond the mountains and on this side of the mountains.33

Thomas of Eccleston provides this further insight into John's ministry to his brothers:

Now this same father declared that the edifice of the Order was built upon two walls, namely, holiness of life and learning; and that the brothers had raised the wall of learning beyond the heavens and heavenly things, in that they were posing the question of whether God existed; the wall of holiness of life, however, they permitted to remain so low that it was said with great praise of a brother, "He is an untroubled brother." They therefore seemed not to be building properly. Moreover, he wished that the brothers should protect themselves against prelates and princes by reverence for their profession and by their merits before the people rather than by any apostolic privileges, and that they should be truly "lesser" among all by their humility and meekness.34

John of Parma appears as an experienced realist. He was no outsider to the intimidating University of Paris; in fact, according to Thomas of Eccleston, he articulated what was to become the Order's approach to learning: pietas et doctrina [piety and learning]. "One of the leading zealots of the Order," John was equally at home among the brothers in the hermitages. A half century later, Angelo Clareno maintained that Francis's companions declared that "in him Saint Francis lived again in spirit." "Bene et opportune veniste, sed tarde veniste! " Angelo puts on the lips of Giles at the news of his election: "You have come well and appropriately, but you have come late!"35




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 18