Blessed John of Parma
The seventh general minister of the Franciscan Order, John was known for
his attempts to bring back the earlier spirit of the Order after the death of St. Francis of
He was born in Parma, Italy, in 1209. It was when he was a young philosophy professor known
for his piety and learning that God called him to bid good-bye to the world he was used to and enter
the new world of the Franciscan Order. After his profession John was sent to Paris to complete his
theological studies. Ordained to the priesthood, he was appointed to teach theology at Bologna, then
Naples and finally Rome.
In 1245, Pope Innocent IV called a general council in the city of Lyons, France. Crescentius,
the Franciscan minister general at the time, was ailing and unable to attend. In his place he sent
Father John, who made a deep impression on the Church leaders gathered there. Two years later, when
the same pope presided at the election of a minister general of the Franciscans, he remembered
Father John well and held him up as the man best qualified for the office.
And so, in 1247, John of
Parma was elected to be minister general. The surviving disciples of St. Francis rejoiced in his
election, expecting a return to the spirit of poverty and humility of the early days of the Order.
And they were not disappointed. As general of the Order John traveled on foot, accompanied by one or
two companions, to practically all of the Franciscan convents in existence. Sometimes he would
arrive and not be recognized, remaining there for a number of days to test the true spirit of the
The pope called on John to serve as legate to Constantinople, where he was most successful in
winning back the schismatic Greeks. Upon his return he asked that someone else take his place to
govern the Order. St. Bonaventure, at John's urging, was chosen to succeed him. John took up a life
of prayer in the hermitage at Greccio.
Many years later, John learned that the Greeks, who had been reconciled with
the Church for a time, had relapsed into schism. Though 80 years old by then, John received
permission from Pope Nicholas IV to return to the East in an effort to restore unity once again. On
his way, John fell sick and died.
He was beatified in 1781.
To read more about
other Saints of the day, CLICK HERE