The Treatise on the Miracles of Saint Francis - 397 


In The Life of Saint Francis, The Legend for Use in the Choir based on it, and The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, Thomas of Celano wrote of the miracles of Francis of Assisi. In each of these works, Thomas saw these miracles as signs through which God had authenticated the holiness of his subject and, at the same time, as extraordinary deeds attesting to God's power working through him.1 When John of Parma, the newly elected General Minister, approached the now aging writer to treat of them in one collection, he was implicitly asking for the completion of a trilogy in which each work had its own unique focus and its own contribution to the entire portrait.

Written between 1250 and 1252, The Treatise on the Miracles of Saint Francis is made up of 198 paragraphs. Fifty-four of these are taken from The Life of Saint Francis, one from The Legend for Use in the Choir, and nine from The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul. In other words, for one third of his work, Thomas relies on his earlier portraits of Francis. The remaining paragraphs come from different sources. The Assisi Compilation is easily identifiable and suggests that "we who were with him," as Francis's companions write of themselves, contributed to Thomas's awareness of the miracles. Other paragraphs come from an unknown source, prompting speculation about the existence of a "process of canonization" in which an official or notary would have written down the testimonies of witnesses to these miracles. Throughout, however, the hand of Thomas is obvious as he orders, sculpts and refines the material given to him into the portrait of Francis the Thaumaturgist, the Miracle Worker.

Thomas divided his work into nineteen chapters. One manner of approaching these chapters is to see them simply in terms of those miracles performed while Francis lived, that is, the first six chapters, and those performed, through his intercession, after his death, that is, the final thirteen. However, the first six chapters deal with miracles that touch more on the inner dynamic of Francis himself or on that of his brothers: the founding and growth of the fraternity, the stigmata, the miraculous power he had over creatures, and the arrival of Lady Jacoba at his death. These far more reflective and theological chapters reveal Thomas at his inspirational best, never hesitating to add his own interpretation of an incident or to draw a moral from it. The remaining chapters, with the exception of the conclusion, i.e., chapter nineteen, are far more historical and ordered giving the impression that Thomas was following a predetermined order. From considerations of Francis's miraculous raising of the dead to his healing of broken bones, Thomas presents one hundred and fifty-seven miracles. In doing so, he deftly paints a portrait of this "new man," Francis, through whom the Creator makes all things new (3C 1).




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 397