Francis and the Leper: the Order changes

As noted two weeks ago the accounts of Francis and the leper were beginning to “evolve” from the first story that appeared in Thomas of Celano’s first book. Some 20 years later, there are additions being made to the story that seem to be less about Francis per se, and more about Francis’ legacy that should be central to the identity of the Order. Thomas of Celano’s second book was written at the behest of the then Minister General, Crescentius. This leader inherited the results of the leadership of the two previous ministers: Elias of Cortona and Haymo of Haversham. This week we will consider Haymo,  the Minister General of the Franciscan Order who succeeded Elias. He was elected with a “mandate” to fix what Elias was thought to have “broken.”

Haymo was already ordained, a recognized scholar and liturgist, when he joined the Franciscan Order in 1226 or 1228. From the first he was an influential figure; he held office as custos of Paris and as lector at Bologna, Padua, and Tours, and was a member of a papal mission to the Eastern Church in 1233–34. He became the ringleader of the group of Paris masters who, from 1236, organized opposition to Elias of Cortona, and he was their spokesman in the chapter in which Elias was deposed in 1232.

That chapter elected Albert of Pisa as Minister General. Albert, the Provincial Minister of England, was succeeded in that post by Haymo. While Minister Provincial for England, he reversed the work of the earlier ministers who had kept the order humbly equipped and situated. Instead, he began to enlarge the Order’s lands—particularly around Oxford’s College of the Franciscans outside the old wall’s Watergate—so that the friars would be able to work for their own sustenance instead of depending on charity. It was a harbinger of things to come.

Albert died within the year, leading to the election of Haymo as Minister General in 1240. From the beginning Haymo, ever the scholar, was committed to a program of reform that put in place a new constitution that gave the general chapter a clearer control over the minister general. But at the same time, it fundamentally altered the composition of the Order by disqualifying lay brothers from holding office and virtually ending their recruitment. Haymo is remembered for the “clericalization” of the Order.

Haymo at once set about rectifying the disorders caused among the friars by Elias. The latter had increased the number of provinces in the order to seventy-two, “after the manner of the seventy-two disciples”, says Eccleston, and because he wished to rival the Dominicans, who had divided their order into twelve provinces in honor of the twelve Apostles. Haymo reduced the number of provinces. As Elias had found his chief supporters amongst the lay brothers, whom he had attached to his person by promoting them to high places, Haymo’s constitutional change ended the appointment of lay superiors except when there were no priests to fill the office. He also defined the rights of superiors, and set their jurisdiction within definite bounds. Although very zealous for the poverty of the rule, he yet was aware of the disadvantages of depending too much on alms, preferring that the friars live by their own labors. The practice of his leadership in England was to acquire lands and properties so that friars could cultivate land,  supply themselves with food, and not have to beg. Haymo was also known for his promotion of the ordained life and the pursuit of scholarly endeavors.

As easily imagined, Haymo alienated the “Spirituals” (zealots) who were especially prominent in the area of Italy known as the Marches of Ancona. When Haymo died in 1244 after only four years in office, the ordained brothers were well in charge. They elected Crescentius, the Provincial Minister of the Marches.

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