The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano - 172 

vivid and dramatic narration of the canonization event in Book Three of The Life of Saint Francis suggests an eyewitness account.8

Shortly before the July 1228, canonization and shortly after Pope Gregory
IX’s decree, Recolentes qualiter, of April 29, 1228, calling for a burial church to be built for Francis in Assisi, Gregory IX conferred upon Thomas the distinguished task of writing a life of the new saint.9 Thomas, it would seem, was to complement the architectural celebration of Francis with the composition of a new literary monument. Both contributions, requested by Gregory IX within months of each other, were to help preserve the memory of the life and example of the Poverello.

Unlike the new burial church, The Life of Saint Francis was quickly completed, within six to eight months. On February 25, 1229, Gregory IX had already approved, confirmed and declared it official. By the next year, 1230, Thomas finished his second work on the life of Saint Francis, The Legend for Use in the Choir.10 This second work was for use within the celebration of the Divine Office. It was written at the request of Brother Benedict of Arezzo, Minister of Romania and Greece.11 In composing The Legend for Use in the Choir Thomas selected material from The Life of Saint Francis and divided it into nine lessons or selections so that it could be included among the readings of the breviary.12 It is a shortened and concise version of The Life of Saint Francis, condensing certain sections for the readings on the feast of Saint Francis and during the octave, the eight days following the feast.

Fourteen years later, at the Chapter of Genoa in 1244, Thomas was again called. This time, it was not the pope but the brothers who sought his assistance. The General Minister, Crescentius of Jesi (1244-1247), acting on the direction of the General Chapter, called for a collection of the stories circulating about Francis and commissioned Thomas to capture those memories in his classical style of writing. Thomas dedicated his collection, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, to Crescentius.13

Crescentius’s successor, Brother John of Parma, further commissioned Thomas to write his fourth and final work on Francis, The Treatise on the Miracles. Although Thomas had reported on miracles in his earlier writings on Francis, he was asked to produce a systematic collection of all accounts of these extraordinary events during and after Francis’s life that were circulating. Evidently, Thomas did not respond quickly to the request. According to the Chronicle of the Twenty-Four Generals, John had to make several requests.14 The Treatise on the Miracles was finally confirmed by John of Parma at the General Chapter of Metz on May 31, 1254, twenty-five years after Gregory IX had confirmed and approved The Life of Saint Francis.15

It is not certain where Thomas was residing during these years. His literary activity provides clues. During the writing of The Life of Saint Francis and The




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 172