Cardinal, Bishop of Alban, and Doctor of the Church. Franciscan
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint St. Bonaventure, cardinal, bishop of Alban and doctor of the church. “When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than the proceedings from the mouth.”
Born north of Rome in the year 1217 in the town of Bagnoregio, Saint Bonaventure was baptized, Giovanni de Fidanza. Giovanni received the name Bonaventure. When as a child, he was cured of a life-threatening illness through the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi. Bonaventure went to the University of Paris to study around 1235, where he encountered the Franciscans who had a House of Study in the Latin Quarter. Bonaventure entered the Franciscan Order in 1243. He studied theology with the renowned Franciscan master Alessander of Hales. He taught at the University of Paris, where he wrote numerous commentaries on the Scriptures, especially on the Gospels of Luke and John which are now in an English translation published by the Franciscan Institute.
He taught in Paris until 1257, the year in which at the request of his students, he wrote the Breviloquium as a compendium of his theology. Bonaventure’s academic tenure was brief, for, in 1257, he was elected Minister General of the Franciscan Order. Even in this position, he was able to write his mystical masterpiece, The Soul’s Journey into God, and two versions of The Life of Francis: Legenda Major and Legenda Minor, which became the official biographies of the Franciscan Order. These texts present Francis as a model of the spiritual journey that takes the follower of Christ through the stages of purgation, illumination, and union with God.
Bonaventure, like St. Francis, had a love of nature and went on to say that all created reality is stamped with God’s presence, and it is through created things that God speaks to us and gives us a glimpse of himself.
Bonaventure was canonized a saint in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV, who wrote, “Bonaventure was great in learning, but no less great in humility and holiness. His innocence and dove-like simplicity were such that Alexander of Hales, the renowned doctor whose disciple Saint Bonaventure became, used to say that it seemed as though Adam had never sinned in him.” In 1588, Bonaventure was declared a Doctor of the Universal Church with the title “Doctor Seraphicus” or “Angelic Teacher.” It is supposed that he was given this title because of his great depth of insight into spiritual things, which he left as his legacy.
Today Saint Bonaventure is depicted in statues and drawings with a Cardinal’s hat and the bishop’s crosier, and sometimes a crucifix. He was made a bishop and cardinal one year before his death in 1274, though he is best remembered as a spiritual teacher.
Today let’s remember Saint Bonaventure in one of his beautiful sayings “Since happiness is nothing other than the enjoyment of the highest good and since the highest good is above, no one can be happy unless he rises above himself, not by an ascent of the body, but of the heart”.
Heaven is our goal.