July 14, 2016

Feast of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor

St. Leander (left} and St. Bonaventure
On July 15th, the Church commemorates the Feast of Saint Bonaventure. The Seraphic Doctor was born at Tuscany, Italy in 1221. At 22, he joined the Franciscan Order and went to Paris where he excelled in his theological studies. Fifteen years later, he was made General of his Order restoring calm at a time of enormous turmoil and internal dissent. Bonaventure is credited with the Franciscan's resurgence for his work consolidating an institution that was as yet ill defined in nature. Under his guidance, the Franciscans became the most prominent order in the Catholic Church until the coming of the Jesuits.

Bonaventure was renowned for the force of his preaching, writing and scholarship. His Life of St. Francis was one of the most popular works of the Middle Ages. He died at Lyons in 1274 while assisting at the Second Council of Lyons, to reunite the Eastern church with the West. Bonaventure was so revered that Dante had already included him among the inhabitants of his literary "Paradise" (The Divine Comedy). He was canonised on April 14, 1482 by the Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the Church by another Franciscan Pope Sixtus V, in the year 1588. He is among the Church's greatest scholastic theologians and philosophers.

The Life of St. Bonaventure

"In Bonaventure we meet a unique personality. He was unsurpassed in sanctity, wisdom, eloquence, and gifted with a remarkable skill of accomplishing things, a heart full of love, a winning disposition, benevolent, affable, pious, charitable, rich in virtue, beloved by God and man... The Lord endowed him with such a charming disposition that everyone who saw him was immediately attracted to him." In these words the historian of the Council of Lyons concludes his account on St. Bonaventure.

At an early age he was a celebrated teacher and a powerful preacher. At thirty-six he was called to the highest post among the Franciscans, the Order which honors him as a second founder. He was an important figure at the Council of Lyons. His virtue and wisdom, his versatility and mildness were major factors in attaining the happy result that the Greeks so easily returned to the unity of the Church.

Bonaventure was a subtle scholastic and a profound mystic. Because of the latter he is known as the "Seraphic Teacher." In philosophy he was the principal leader of the Platonic-Augustinian school of Franciscan thought; as such he stood opposed to the Aristotelianism that was making its way into the schools of the time (Thomas of Aquinas). Bonaventure's Life of St. Francis was a favorite book of the Middle Ages. When St. Thomas was told about Bonaventure's work, he said: "Let us allow one saint to labor for another." His contemporaries are said to have believed that no one was "more handsome, more holy, or more learned" than he.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Bowel disorders.

Symbols: Cardinal's hat; ciborium; communion.

Often portrayed as: Cardinal in Franciscan robes, usually reading or writing.

Collect Prayer

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, just as we celebrate the heavenly birthday of the Bishop Saint Bonaventure, we may benefit from his great learning and constantly imitate the ardor of his charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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