John Buralli, the seventh minister general of the Franciscans, was born at Parma in the year 1209, and he was already teaching logic there when at the age of twenty-five, he joined the Franciscans. He was sent to Paris to study and, after he had been ordained, to teach and preach in Bologna, Naples and Rome. He preached so well that crowds of people came to hear his sermons, even very important persons flocked to hear him. In the year 1247, John was chosen Minister General of the Order of Franciscans. He had a very difficult task because the members of his community were not living up to their duties, due to the poor leadership of Brother Elias. Brother Salimbene, a fellow townsman who worked closely with John, kept an accurate record of Johns activities. From this record, we learn that John was strong and robust, so that he was always kind and pleasant no matter how tired he was. He was the first among the Ministers General to visit the whole Order, and he traveled always on foot. He was so humble that when he visited the different houses of the Order, he would often help the Brother wash vegetables in the kitchen. He loved silence so that he could think of God and he never spoke an idle word. When he began visiting the various houses of his Order, he went to England first. When King Henry III heard that John came to see him, the King went out to meet him and embraced the humble Friar. When John was in France, he was visited by St. Louis IX who, on the eve of his departure for the Crusades, came to ask John's prayers and blessing on his journey. The next place John visited was Burgundy and Provence. At Arles, a friar from Parma, John of Ollis, came to ask a favor. He asked John if he and Brother Salimbene could be allowed to preach. John, however, did not want to make favorites of his Brothers. He said, "even if you were my blood brothers, I would not give you that permission without an examination." John of Ollis then said, "Then if we must be examined, will you call on Brother Hugh to examine us?" Hugh, the former provincial was in the house, but since he was a friend of John of Ollis and Salimbene, he would not allow it. Instead, he called the lecturer and tutor of the house. Brother Salimbene passed the test, but John of Ollis was sent back to take more studies. Trouble broke out in Paris where John had sent St. Bonaventure who was one of the greatest scholars of the Friars Minor. Blessed John went to Paris and was so humble and persuasive that the University Doctor who had caused the trouble, could only reply, "Blessed are you, and blessed are your words". Then John went back to his work at restoring discipline to his Order. Measures were taken to make sure the Friars obeyed the Rules of the Order. In spite of all his efforts, Blessed John was bitterly opposed. He became convinced that he was not capable of carrying out the reforms that he felt was necessary. So he resigned his office and nominated St. Bonaventure as his successor. John retired to the hermitage of Greccio, the place where St. Francis had prepared the first Christmas crib. He spent the last thirty years of his life there in retirement. He died on March 19, 1289 and many miracles were soon reported at his tomb. His feast day is March 20th.
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By Justin Soutar
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