Sacred Exchange between St. Francis & Lady Poverty - 524 

The same line of investigation must be followed in attempting to identify the author of the work. The principal manuscripts offer two different possibilities: Saint Anthony of Padua and Blessed John of Parma. The others, the majority, prefer to leave the author anonymous. After examining the manuscript evidence, most scholars, including Brufani, conclude that the identity of the author of the Sacred Exchange is as hidden as the date of its composition.7

Answers to these questions of the date of the work's composition as well as of its author, then, must be derived from the text itself. In his introduction to the work, Placid Hermann notes that "some authors have attempted to read between the lines of the work to see a certain bitterness that would be characteristic of the later Spirituals and hence would likely assign a date later than 1227 . . ."8 Following this line of reasoning, the Sacred Exchange emerges as a polemical work expressing the more reactionary ideals promoted by the more zealous friars. This would place the work sometime after the death of Saint Bonaventure (+1274) when division within the Order became more pronounced. Hermann rejects this position since he accepts 1227 as the date of composition. Consequently, he maintains that the Sacred Exchange has "no connection whatsoever with that sharp spirit of controversy that arose in the succeeding years over the matter of poverty."9 Hermann proposes that it was written by "a Franciscan whose identity is shrouded in mystery."

While not denying this intra-Franciscan interpretation, Brufani does not judge it "sufficient to explain the great, rich theological undertaking of the author."10 Instead, he suggests as the "soil in which the work was conceived" the controversy that raged at the University of Paris from the 1250s to the 1270s over the mendicant life of the Friars Preacher and the Friars Minor and, in particular, over their choice of poverty.11 Such a hypothesis enables the Italian scholar to see Bonaventure's Epistola de tribus quaestionibus and Questiones de perfectione evangelica as containing passages akin to those of the Sacred Exchange. Brufani also focuses on the polemical nature of the Sacred Exchange in the same vein as those authors highlighted by Hermann, but he places it in the larger context of the teaching friars and secular masters at the University of Paris. The Sacred Exchange lacks, however, the refined, subtle polemics of the late thirteenth century secular masters such as William of Saint-Amour. Although it suggests underlying challenges to its ideals, there is no easily identifiable protagonist at whom the allegory is directed, none, that is, beyond ordinary human nature.

Is the work a product of the controversies of the University of Paris as Brufani suggests? This seems possible. As Brufani suggests, the Sacred Exchange represents an attempt to develop "a theology and an ecclesiology on the foundation of poverty to legitimize the right of the mendicant friars to live in the Church."12 Not only do certain phrases of Bonaventure's defenses resonate with the Sacred Exchange, but its theological identification of the cloister with the world (cf. Sacred Exchange 30) is a refutation of religious life as separation from society and




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 524