Introduction to Legends and Sermons - 496 

der into the curriculum of the Parisian brothers. Four years later, the General Minister, John of Parma (+1272), granted him the license to teach theology. He immediately became engrossed in a dispute with William of Saint-Amour (+ 1272) of the University of Paris over the principles governing the Lesser Brothers and the Friars Preacher. The dispute brought such notoriety to Bonaventure and his Dominican colleague, Thomas of Aquino (+ 1274), that Pope Alexander IV urged the Parisian masters to incorporate both men into their ranks. This incorporation was achieved in August, 1257, six months after the brothers had elected Bonaventure their General Minister.

The Chapter of Ara Coeli, Rome lasted one day, February 2, 1257. Pope Alexander IV, the former Cardinal Rainaldo, the Cardinal Protector of the Order, had asked for and obtained the resignation of the General Minister, John of Parma. In his place, the brothers turned to Bonaventure. Their choice was understandable for the saintly John of Parma had been accused of being sympathetic to and of promoting certain tenets of Joachim of Fiore (+ 1202). Joachim, a Cistercian abbot, had proposed a theology in which an understanding of the Trinity, revelation and history were all entwined. His followers, including one of the Lesser Brothers, Gerardo of Borgo San Donnino, promoted his millenarian vision and his references to the coming age of the Holy Spirit heralded by the Angel of the Sixth Seal. In 1254 William of Saint-Amour and other Parisian masters condemned Gerardo, proposing him as another example of the distorted understanding of evangelical life expounded by the brothers. Alexander IV condemned Gerardo's Introductorius in Evangelium Eternum in 1255. The following year he condemned William of Saint-Amour's Tractatus de periculis novissimorum temporum, and, to cleanse the Lesser Brothers of any suggestion of Joachimite influences, urged John of Parma to resign.

Understandably the quickly developing Order, now grown to thirty thousand brothers spread throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, was in need of direction. The brothers were becoming gradually more divided in their interpretations of the Founder's ideals and their day-to-day expression.6 Since the death of Francis, the brothers had seen a succession of General Ministers: Elias (1226-1227), John Parenti (1227-1232), Elias again (1232-1239), Albert of Pisa (1239), Haymo of Faversham (1239-1244), Crescentius of Iesi (1244-1247), and John of Parma (1247-1257).

No stranger to controversy, Bonaventure guided the brothers from February 2, 1257 until May 20, 1273 when Pope Gregory X made him Cardinal Bishop of Albano. While Bonaventure's earlier writings reveal his respect for tradition and suggest that he was conservative by temperament, they also indicate his perceptive mind as well as his ability to confront the issues threatening the Order. Above all, these early writings clearly show Bonaventure's profound grasp of the mystical tradition and his sensitivity to the unique place of Francis's vision within it.7 Within the Order, therefore, Bonaventure strove to address various crises confronting the Order, to articulate the unique character of its Gospel ideals, and to re-enkindle it among the brothers. His first two letters, written ten years apart, show the intensity of his efforts, the




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 496