General Introduction - 22 

the Desire of a Soul, and The Treatise on the Miracles, with the refinements of Julian of Speyer's liturgical pieces and Life of Saint Francis.

While The Major Legend was read during the brothers' meals, a shorter text, The Minor Legend, was written at the same time. It was meant primarily for chapel and church choirs for liturgical celebrations, often in the company of the faithful. The Minor Legend offers a testimony to a life uniquely paradigmatic of the journey into God. Celebrative and spiritual in nature, The Minor Legend played a major role in diffusing this image and message of Francis as it became a salient element of the brothers' celebration of their founder.

In 1263 Bonaventure presented both of these completed works to the brothers at the General Chapter of Pisa. Three years later, the brothers gathered again at the General Chapter of Paris and, in the following words, established The Major and The Minor Legends as the definitive portraits of Francis:

The General Chapter likewise orders under obedience that all the legends of the Blessed Francis that have been made should be removed. Wherever they find these outside the Order, let the brothers strive to remove them. For this Legend made by the General Minister has been compiled as he received it from the mouth of those who were always with blessed Francis and had certain knowledge of everything, and proven facts have been diligently placed in it.51

Controversial as this degree may be, it suggests that the brothers recognized the genius of Bonaventure's theological approach, one that would guarantee a more universal acceptance of Francis of Assisi. At the same time, although the critics might argue about lacuna or emphasis, The Major Legend, in particular, clearly reveals the brilliant mind of a theologian profoundly aware of the spiritual traditions of the Middle Ages. As in his earlier Soul's Journey into God, in The Major Legend Bonaventure identifies Francis's unique place among those traditions.52 In both instances, he does so with his ministry of guiding his brothers, that is, of aiding them in discovering the wonder of their Founder and his vision of the world, themselves, and the God Who calls them.

As the last texts of Bonaventure in this second volume indicate, the sermons on Saint Francis that he later preached to his brothers suggest that he saw them as opportunities to explain and further many of the images in his portraits. In 1276, shortly after Bonaventure's death, the General Chapter of Padua initiated a search for new information pertaining to Francis's life, some of which later found its way into The Major Legend.53 The texts that appear in the third volume of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents attest to the fact that Bonaventure did not resolve fundamental questions about the spirit of the Founder. He did, however, place Francis of Assisi in the larger framework of history and, in doing so, provided future writers with the image of the prophet, one sent by God with a message to tell.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 22