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Feast of St. Bonaventure (July 15)   4 comments

Above:  St. Bonaventure

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT BONAVENTURE (1217-JULY 15, 1274)

Second Founder of the Order of Friars Minor

Born Giovanni di Fidanza

St. Bonaventure was one of the most influential Medieval Roman Catholic theologians.

The traditional birth year given for St. Bonaventure has been 1221.  However, Dr. Ewert Cousins, Professor of Theology at Fordham University, as well as translator and editor of the St. Bonaventure volume (1978) for the Paulist Press’s Classics of Western Spirituality series, cited scholars who insisted on 1217 instead.

Giovanni di Fidanza, a native of Bagnoregio (near Viterbo), Italy, was a son of Giovanni di Fidanza (Sr.), a wealthy physician, and Maria di Ritello.  Circa 1234 the 17-year old saint matriculated at the University of Paris, where he studied under the great Franciscan scholar Alexander of Hales.  Our saint joined the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) in 1243 and became Bonaventure.  His theological teachers until their deaths in 1245 were Alexander of Hales and John of La Rochelle.  Afterward St. Bonaventure’s theological teachers were Eudes Rigaud and William of Middleton.

St. Bonaventure embodied intellectual rigor, Roman Catholic piety, and Franciscan simplicity.  He, a Bachelor of Scripture in 1248 and a Master of Theology in 1253/1254, lectured on the Bible in 1248-1250 and led the Franciscan school in Paris from 1253/1254 to 1257.  Then our saint became the Minister General of the Order of Franciscans Minor, after Pope Alexander IV had ordered John of Parma, suspected of heterodoxy, to resign.  As the Minister General for 17 years St. Bonaventure became the “Second Founder” of the order, balancing foundational principles with the necessity of adaptation to changing circumstances.  Our saint never wanted to be a bishop, so he rejected offers until 1273, when Pope Gregory X ordered him to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Albano.  St. Bonaventure, a famously humble man, kept a papal representative bearing news of the appointment waiting; the Minister General was washing dishes.

St. Bonaventure also liked to think and write profoundly.  He wrote prolifically.  Works included biographies of St. Francis of Assisi, theological treatises. lectures, and Biblical commentaries.  Titles included The Soul’s Journey into God and The Tree of Life.  (Jesus was the Tree of Life.)  Elevation into the episcopate and the College of Cardinals greatly reduced the time St. Bonaventure had to write.

St. Bonaventure died on July 15, 1274, while attending the Second Council of Lyons, which dealt with the unification of the Eastern and Western Churches.  Prelates from across the Christian world mourned him.

The Roman Catholic Church has honored St. Bonaventure.  Pope Sixtus IV canonized him in 1482.  Pope Sixtus V declared our saint a Doctor of the Church in 1588.

The legacy of St. Bonaventure has continued to enrich the Church and the world.  One vehicle has been the Order of Friars Minor.  Furthermore, his writings have continued to be available, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Almighty God, you gave to hour servant Saint Bonaventure

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by this teaching we may know you,

the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 721

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