The feast day of St Bonaventure (1218-1274) falls next Wednesday 15th July.
Bonaventure was born at Bagnoregio in Tuscany, Italy about 1218. He became a Franciscan in 1243 and studied philosophy and theology at the University of Paris. He became a famous teacher and philosopher, part of the extraordinary intellectual flowering of the 13th century. He was a friend and colleague of St Thomas Aquinas.
At this time the friars were still a new and revolutionary force in the Church, and their radical embracing of poverty and rejection of institutional structures raised suspicion and opposition from many quarters. Bonaventure defended the Franciscan Order and, after he was elected general of the order in 1255, he ruled it with wisdom and prudence. He is regarded as the second founder of the Order.
He declined the archbishopric of York in 1265 but was made cardinal bishop of Albano in 1273, dying a year later in 1274 at the Council of Lyons, at which the Greek and Latin churches were (briefly) reconciled.
Bonaventure wrote extensively on philosophy and theology, making a permanent mark on intellectual history; but he always insisted that the simple and uneducated could have a clearer knowledge of God than the wise.
He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V.
Here are some of the best known quotes from this great saint.
"Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he shares existence, with the plants he shares life, with the animals he shares sensation, and with the angels he shares intelligence. Thus all things are transformed in Christ since in the fullness of his nature he embraces some part of every creature."
For Bonaventure, ‘The good is defined as that which communicates itself and bestows itself (bonum est diffusivum)
For Bonaventure, ‘Through the visible wounds (of Christ) we see the wounds of invisible love’.
For Bonaventure, the task of theology is to read the book of creation: ‘To read this book is the privilege of the highest contemplatives, not of natural philosophers, for the former alone knows the essence of things and do not consider them only as traces’.
‘Aroused by all things to the love of God, Francis rejoiced in all the works of the Lord’s hands. As a manifestation of God, creation brought Francis great joy, and took him to its life-giving principle and cause. In beautiful things Francis saw and fell in love with God who is Beauty itself and through the signs of God’s presence imprinted on creation Francis followed his beloved everywhere. For Francis all things were a ladder by which he could climb up and embrace him who alone could satisfy his heart’.
“This is our logic”, says Saint Bonaventure, pointing to the cross.
“From this source flows the river which makes glad the city of God, so that with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving we sing to you our hymns of praise, and by experience prove that with you is the fountain of life; and in your light we shall see light.” St Bonaventure on Feast of the Sacred Heart
For St Francis, it was Jesus fastened on the cross that melted his soul so that ‘whenever Christ’s crucifixion came to his mind, he could scarcely contain his tears and sighs’ (St Bonaventure, The Life of St Francis, 1, 5). This was the prelude to his weeping for love of the poor and his desire to serve them.
"Every creature is a divine word because it proclaims God"
“If you do not know your own dignity and condition, you cannot value anything at its proper worth.” – Saint Bonaventure, Holiness of Life.
Below is a homily given on the feast day of St Bonaventure by a Franciscan friar.