Thomas of Celano
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Celano, L'Aquila, Italy
|Died||4 October 1260 (aged 75)|
Val de'Varri, Rieti, Italy
|Resting place||San Francesco di Tagliacozzo|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
Thomas of Celano (Italian: Tommaso da Celano; c. 1185 – 4 October 1265) was an Italian friar of the Franciscans (Order of Friars Minor) as well as a poet and the author of three hagiographies about Saint Francis of Assisi.
Works and Franciscan life
The first of his works on Francis was Vita Beati Francisci ("The Life of Blessed Francis"; often called the "First Life"), a work on the saint's early life that was commissioned by Pope Gregory IX in 1228 at the time Francis's canonization. The second work, Memoriale Desiderio Animae de Gestis et Verbis Sanctissimi Patris Nostri Francisci ("The Memorial of the Desire of a Soul Concerning the Deeds and Words of Our Most Holy Father Francis" often just called the "Second Life") was commissioned by Crescentius of Jessi, the Minister General of the Franciscan Order sometime between 1244 and 1247, and reflects changing official perspectives on Francis in the decades after his death. The third is a treatise on the saint's miracles, written sometime between around 1254 and 1257 at the bidding of Blessed John of Parma, who succeeded Crescentius as Minister General.
Thomas's authorship of the three works on Francis of Assisi is well-established. Thomas also wrote Fregit victor virtualis and Sanctitatis nova signa in honor of Francis. Life of St. Clare of Assisi, on the early life of Saint Clare of Assisi and the hymn "Dies Irae" are also traditionally attributed to him, but the authorship of both works is in fact uncertain.
Thomas was not among the earliest disciples of Francis, but he joined the Franciscans around 1215, during the saint's lifetime, and evidently knew him personally. In 1221, Thomas was sent to Germany with Caesarius of Speyer to promote the new order there, and in 1223 was named "sole guardian" (custos unicus) of the order's Rhineland province, which included convents at Cologne, Mainz, Worms, and Speyer. Within a few years he was back in Italy, where he seems to have remained for the rest of his life, with some possible short-term missions to Germany.
Death and burial
In 1260 he settled down to his last post, as spiritual director to a convent of Clarisses in Tagliacozzo, where he died some time between 1260 and 1270.
He was at first buried in the church of S. Giovanni Val dei Varri, attached to his monastery, but his body is now reburied in the church of S. Francesco at Tagliacozzo.
The process for beatification was initiated in Avezzano; the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared the process valid and allowed for the opening of the so-called "Roman Phase" on 27 November 1991. The initiation of the process prior to this date granted him the title Servant of God.
- The Eloquence of Sanctity: Rhetoric in Thomas of Celano's 'Vita Prima Sancti Francisci', by John Bequette, Franciscan Institute Publications, 2003. ISBN 978-0-8199-1006-6
- Saint Francis of Assisi, by Thomas of Celano and translated by Placid Hermann, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8199-0554-3
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