General Introduction - 19 

One of John's first tasks was to lead the brothers of the Chapter of Lyon in approving Thomas of Celano's Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul. According to the Chronicle of the Twenty-four Generals, John asked Thomas to write an orderly account of Francis's miracles; according to Thomas, however, the initiative was that of the brothers in general expressed at the chapter. "We did not set out to write these things to satisfy our vanity," Thomas writes at the conclusion of The Treatise on the Miracles of Saint Francis. "Nor have we plunged into this set of such differing reports of our own will. The insistence of our brothers' requests extorted it, and the authority of our prelates ordered it."36 Thomas completed the work in 1252. Most probably it was approved by the brothers at the Chapter of Metz in 1254.37  

John of Parma, Joachimism, and Bonaventure of Bagnoregio

While John of Parma was restoring some tranquility to the Order, new questions began to arise. In the first place both within and outside the Order, hesitancy, expressions of unbelief, or hostility toward the miracle of Francis's stigmata become pronounced.38 As early as 1237, by order of Pope Gregory IX and Brother Elias, a list of eyewitnesses to the stigmata was drawn up. Two statements of Pope Alexander IV (1254-1261), Benigna operatio (October 29, 1255) and Grande et singulare (July 10, 1256), indicate that the doubts remained. Thomas of Eccleston tells of John of Parma's response: "Brother John of Parma, the general minister, in the general chapter at Genoa, ordered Brother Bonizo, who had been a companion of Saint Francis, to speak to the brothers concerning the truth of the stigmata, because many people throughout the world were doubting them. And he replied with tears: 'These sinful eyes have seen them; and these sinful hands touched them.'"39

Two documents, one authentic, the other questionable, suggest the need to re-enforce a consciousness of the importance of the stigmata. The first, An Umbrian Choir Legend, based on Thomas of Celano's The Life of Saint Francis, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul and The Treatise on the Miracles of Saint Francis, emerged at this time. Most striking is the emphasis placed on the description of the stigmata and, despite Francis's attempts to keep them hidden, the identification of those who actually saw them or who even touched the wound in his side, Elias and Rufino. One curiosity of the text is its recognition of Elias who is never mentioned by name in any of the accounts of Francis's companions or the later writings of Thomas of Celano. Elias's death on April 23, 1253, may well have prompted the anonymous author of this work to correct the silence in an attempt to restore his name.40 It may also account for the emergence of the second document whose authenticity is still discussed: a letter of Elias announcing the death of Francis and, quite dramatically, his stigmata, "a sign that has never been heard of from the dawn of time."41 Since the list of witnesses compiled in 1237 includes Elias himself, the letter may well have been drawn up to support the veracity of the stigmata. Its presence in the hagiographic tradition still provokes discussion.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 19