The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul - 233 


The Chronicles of Salimbene degli Adami, written between 1283 and 1288, notes that Crescentius ordered Thomas of Celano to undertake the task of re-presenting the remembrances sent to him.1 Thomas himself indicates that the choice of his role was that of the chapter itself: “The holy gathering of the last general chapter and you, most reverend father, chose to charge us, insignificant as we are, to write down the deeds as well as the words of our glorious father Francis, for the consolation of our contemporaries and the remembrance of future generations.”2 The result of Thomas's endeavor was a new, long and complicated text, completed shortly before the General Chapter of Lyons in July of 1247. Thomas entitled his third composition, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul.

The task, then, given to Thomas was formidable. In addition to receiving this commission from the General Minister, not the Pope, Thomas was now fifteen years older and had seen the fraternity change. The tumultuous years of Elias's term as General Minister (1232-1239), the sudden death of his successor, Albert of Pisa (1239), the sweeping changes of Haymo of Faversham (1239-1244), and his sudden death all had left their impressions. The interventions of Pope Gregory, moreover, especially that of Quo elongati,3 had debilitating effects. Thomas's purposes, therefore, were quite different. The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul is neither a continuation nor a complement to his earlier work, The Life of Saint Francis. The questions underlying the composition of The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul were not so much about the life of Francis but about the way of life he founded.


“This work,” Thomas states, “contains some marvelous details about the conversion of Saint Francis not included in earlier legends written about him because they were never brought to the author's attention.” Besides traces from The Life of Saint Francis, in Book One Thomas takes advantage of material from The Anonymous of Perugia and The Legend of the Three Companions.4 In these he was confronted with new information not only about Francis's youth and conversion, but also the beginnings of the primitive fraternity. This can be seen, for example, in the accentuation of Francis's Baptismal name, John, in the experience of the Crucified in San Damiano, and in his dealings with both Popes Innocent III and Honorius III. He incorporates the information offered in The Anonymous of Perugia and The Legend of the Three Companions, as well as presenting a new chronological order.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 233