A Book of the Praises of Saint Francis (1277-1283) - 25 


In 1276, less than two years after the death of Bonaventure, the Lesser Brothers gathered in Padua for a General Chapter. Although the General Minister, Jerome of Ascoli, was absent because of a papal commission sending him to Constantinople, he wrote a letter to the capitulars that eventually entered into the Chapter's record:

All [provincial ministers] are hereby charged to carry out diligently the provisions of the letter sent to the ministers assembled in chapter at Padua by the Reverend Father General Minister, entitled "To the venerable brothers, beloved in Christ, etc." The intent of this letter is to have them conduct an investigation into any additional information worthy of remembrance concerning the deeds of the blessed Francis and of other holy brothers, which may have occurred in their provinces. Such instances are to be reported to the general minister in exact language and under the oath of witnesses.1

The first known result of that initiative may well be A Book of the Praises of Blessed Francis by Bernard of Besse.

Little is known of Bernard. The date of his birth is unknown; that of his death is generally accepted as 1283, but, curiously, it is uncertain. In his Chronicle of the Twenty-Four Generals, written between 1369 and 1374, Arnald of Sarrant indicates that Bernard belonged to the Province of Aquitaine, France.2 In the sixteenth century, Luke Wadding refined Arnald's information by stating that Bernard was a member of the Custody of Cahors that was part of the Province of Aquitaine.3 In his study of the friary of Lomousin, France, Ferdinand Delorme discovered a document of January 3, 1250, concerning the nearby friary of Allois, written by a certain Brother Bernard.4 Delorme suggested that this was Bernard, a native of the now defunct town of Besse in the southwestern region of France. At the time, according to Delorme, he lived in Lomousin, had signed the 1250 document, and was, therefore, a member of the Province of Aquitaine by that date.5 That Bernard was a writer is confirmed by Arnald's Chronicle:

He also published some devotional books. One was about the purpose of the Rule. This was written to silence the envious, and to instruct the brothers to live according to the Rule at the time when Brother Bonaventure was General Minister. Another of




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 25