Today, July 15, is the feast day of St. Bonaventure, bishop and doctor, who is known for his leadership of the Franciscans and his great intellectual contributions to theology and philosophy.
St. Bonaventure, known as “the seraphic doctor,” was born at Bagnorea, Italy in 1221. He received the name of Bonaventure as a result of an exclamation of St. Francis of Assisi, when, in response to the pleading of the child’s mother, the saint prayed for his recovery from a dangerous illness, and, foreseeing his future greatness, cried out “O Buona ventura”- O good fortune!
Because of the spirit that filled him and his writings, he was initially called the Devout Doctor; but in more recent centuries he has been known as the Seraphic Doctor after the “Seraphic Father” Francis because of the truly Franciscan spirit he possessed.
At the age of twenty-two, St. Bonaventure entered the Franciscan Order. After he made his vows, he was sent to Paris to complete his studies under the celebrated Alexander of Hales, an Englishman and a Franciscan. When Alexander died, Bonaventure continued his course under his successor, John of Rochelle. In Paris he became the intimate friend of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. He received the degree of Doctor, together with St. Thomas Aquinas. Like St. Thomas Aquinas, he enjoyed the friendship of the holy King, St. Louis.
Bonaventure was known as a brilliant teacher and a powerful preacher. At the age of thirty-five he was chosen General of his Order and became known as its second founder. He restored a perfect calm to the Order where peace had been disturbed by internal dissensions. He did much for his Order. He wrote 500 sermons and composed The Life of St. Francis. He also assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua. He was nominated Archbishop of York by Pope Clement IV, but he begged not to be forced to accept that dignity. Gregory X obliged him to take upon himself a greater one, that of Cardinal and Bishop of Albano. He died while he was assisting at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274. He was canonized in 1482 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588.
St. Bonaventure’s greatest work is his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, written when he was 27 years old. He is best known, however, for The Soul’s Journey into God.
“When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that proceeding from the mouth. “
“Suffering is like a kiss that Jesus hanging from the cross bestows on persons whom He loves in a special way. Because of this love He wants to associate them in the work of the redemption.”
“Meditation on Christ in His humanity is corporeal in deed, in fact, but spiritual in mind. . . . By adopting this habit, you will steady your mind, be trained to virtues, and receive strength of soul….Let meditation of Christ’s life be your one and only aim, your rest, your food, your desire, your study.”
~ St. Bonaventure