The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano - 176 

he had access to important textual sources within the Order: the Earlier Rule, the Later Rule, the Testament, the Admonitions, and The Canticle of Creatures.

The official canonical purposes and hagiographical elements Thomas utilized to construct his text do not lessen the value of The Life of Saint Francis as a primary source for historical elements of Francis’s life and of the early life of the new fraternity. Thomas still presents a Francis situated in real places and connected to his concrete historical contemporaries, including early followers and many friends among ecclesiastical and lay persons with authority and influence. However, narrating historical events about Francis and the early brothers is not his primary purpose. The canonized Francis is no longer a simple companion to his brothers. Now Francis is for the Church. For his sources, therefore, Thomas went beyond the brothers to Pope Gregory IX, to Bishop Guido II of Assisi, and certainly also to Clare. Although there is no process of canonization extant, Thomas had access to the catalogue of miracles which were read aloud at Francis’s canonization, and these probably make up a good portion of Book Three.

The Life of Saint Francis is a grand tapestry of “trustworthy witnesses,” varying literary and liturgical sources, multiple hagiographical traditions and several ecclesial purposes. Although Thomas included historical data, he intended primarily to announce Francis to the world. In the development of his text, he presents Francis as a model of conversion in order to express the unique gospel message of Francis’s life. Finally he captures the moment of Francis’s reception of the stigmata on La Verna. Thomas wrote to increase the joy among the Christians of his day over Francis’s canonization. Likewise, it seems he hoped to solidify the spiritual identity and mission of the Order in service of the life of the universal Church.

The Life of Saint Francis: A Mirror of Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection

The Life of Saint Francis can be read from any of the perspectives mentioned above: historical, canonical or official, hagiographical, as well as formational or pastoral. Structurally, it is divided into three books. Traditionally, this three-fold division is accented as chronological: 1) from his youth to Christmas of 1223; 2) the last two years of his life from early 1224 to his death on October 4, 1226; 3) the canonization and the catalogue of miracles read at the canonization on July16, 1228.

The first two books differ in tone and purpose, but they are complementary treatises. Between the first two books there is a close thematic relationship. The third and last book, which narrates the celebration of Francis’s 1228 canonization, appears to be an eyewitness account. This third book has a function different from that of the first two books. It is written in a different literary genre, that




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 176