Fr Billy Swan
St Bonaventure was a 13th century Franciscan Italian saint. He is best known for his insights into the goodness of God and the humility of God revealed in Christ crucified. Here is a selection of his best quotes that reveal the wisdom and mysticism of a spiritual Master.
On God’s goodness:
For Bonaventure, the good is defined as that which communicates itself and bestows itself. To describe this, he used a Latin phrase ‘bonum est diffusivum’ which describes goodness as always going beyond itself and spreading out. God is being itself but communicates itself and exudes itself in love.
On Christ’s Cross:
For Bonaventure, Christ crucified reveals God’s goodness but also his humility. For him, the cross reveals a new logic that bursts human expectations of what should be. He says: ‘this is our logic’, pointing to the cross, ‘through the visible wounds we see the wounds of invisible love’. Like St Francis, the image of Jesus crucified moved him emotionally but ultimately to faith For both Bonaventure and Francis, it was Jesus fastened on the cross that melted their soul so that ‘whenever Christ’s crucifixion came to his mind, he could scarcely contain his tears and sighs’ (The Life of Francis).
On the Mystery of God:
For Bonaventure, God is and always will be Trinity. For him ‘the Trinity is the foundation of the entire Christian faith’. Bonaventure’s mind and soul were centered on God as the source of love and ‘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).
Bonaventure understood that all of the created world reflected the Trinity and so deserved our contemplation. Contemplating the created world leads us to faith and worship: “when that book was open to man and our eyes had not yet become darkened’. He continues: ‘To read this book is the privilege of the highest contemplatives’.
Towards the end of his life, Bonaventure took it on himself to preserve the memory of St Francis and wrote his famous ‘Life of Francis’. In this biography, his friend pointed to Francis as an example of someone who contemplated God’s creation in a way that led him to praise the Creator Himself. He beautifully wrote: ‘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’.
As we celebrate his feast, may our contemplation of all God has made be like a ladder we climb to faith in God’s mercy, humility and goodness. St Bonaventure, pray for us!