Saint Bonaventure, whom we celebrate today, the day of his death in 1274 – a few months after his contemporary, Saint Thomas Aquinas. Both have been proclaimed Doctors of the Church – an elite company, with but 36 members – and both wrote ‘Summas’, or compendia, of theology, even if, for various reasons, it was Thomas’ – the Common Doctor – that the Church officially adopted in her teaching. But Bonaventure, the ‘Seraphic Doctor’, has much to teach us also, in his doctrine on God, His providence, the salvific purpose of all history and creation.
Bonaventure also wrote the first definitive biography of the founder of his Order, Saint Francis of Assisi, and helped to consolidate – even write – the definitive Rule of the Order. He lived the joyful Franciscan charism well, in humility and charity, right up to the end, when he was appointed a Cardinal and deputed to attend the Second Council of Lyons. A visitor to his monastery had trouble finding his Eminence, who was in the back washing dishes with his brethren. Bonaventure died while attending the Council, as his friend Thomas died on the way.
There is much more to say, and for those who would like Pope Benedict’s three addresses on Bonaventure, on whom he completed his doctorate, may find the first of them here.
I will leave you for now with a brief comment from a papal notary who knew Bonaventure, which sums up our saint well: A good, affable, devout and compassionate man, full of virtue, beloved of God and human beings alike…. God in fact had bestowed upon him such grace that all who saw him were pervaded by a love that their hearts could not conceal
as the Pope Emeritus, who completed his doctorate on Bonaventure, writes so eloquently here.