Tag Archives: St Bonaventure

Saint Bonaventure…a self-possessed saint

San Bonaventure2 jpg“As for yourself, be self-possessed in all circumstances…. I am already being poured out like a libation.” –From the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy, and from the Gospel of Matthew.

When the papal legates came to the Franciscan convent, bearing the cardinal’s red hat of the see of Albano, they found Brother Bonaventure doing the dishes outside. In dishwater up to his elbows, the story goes, he pointed to the branch of a nearby tree and said, “Hang it there.” Self-possession is all right up to a point. Myself, I’d have poured out that magic detergent as a libation, and have made a dive for the “merited crown reserved for me.”

Saint Bonaventure had reason to be self-possessed. He was the general of the Franciscans at thirty-nine and curial cardinal a year before he died at fifty-nine. Just a year or so before this, his friend Aquinas had refused the archbishopric of Naples. And Saint Albert the Great, Aquinas’ teacher in Cologne, died as the Archbishop of Regensberg.

All three men I’ve named were later designated doctors of the Church and all three were mendicant friars. Is there any realtion between their state in life and the theological eminence –or even their office as teachers of the least of the commandments? The answer, I think, is yes and no. The first concern of the early friars was not intellectual. It was to break out of the mold of static institutions which were impeding the spread of the Gospel. Monasticism meant hugh landholding –a princedom for the abbot– as witness Monte Cassino where Saint Thomas did his grammar and high school. The parish clergy were illiterate. The monks who could read and preach were immobile. Francis, Dominic, the varying reform-fashioners of the Augustinians, the Carmelites, the Gilbertines, all decided to “get the Church moving.” They brought the monastery into the marketplace; they preached sermons in the streets to octogenarians who had never heard a sermon before. They even invaded the new universities –already the preserve of the secular clergy. They were poor men, and let the light of their goodness and dedication shine. They became students perforce because the great charity which men of that time needed to have shown them was broken bread of God’s word in all its purity and strength,

What the worker priests, the little brothers and sisters of Charles de Foucauld, lay missionaries and secular institutes are in our day, mendicant friars were in theirs. All human institutions, groupings excluding the family, tend to outlive their usefulness and die. That could include today’s relgious orders as we know them. New needs arise. But some things are constant: charity, stability, chastity, wisdom, obedience, utter fidelity to the Master’s message.

Gerard Sloyan
Homily, NOYP, 197-99

Saint Bonavenure

San jpgThe feast of the great theologian and Doctor of the Church, Saint Bonaventure, is observed today. A theologian points us toward what is revealed by God, and so a thought of his helpful for us today.

We have been brought to life through Christ. The apostle makes this known in [the] passage when he says: “He has brought us to life together with Christ.” The apostle says this because God brings is to life in Christ, with Christ, through Christ, and according to Christ.

In the first place, God has brought us to life in Christ, because he has shared our mortality of life in his person, according to that passage in John: “As the Father has life in himself, even so he has given to the Son as life in himself” (5:26). Therefore, if the Son has life in himself, while he has taken to himself our mortality, he has joined us to the true and immortal life, and through this he has brought us to life in himself.

He has brought us to life with Christ, while Christ himself, who was life, lived among mortal men… So while he was seen on earth and lived among men (Bar 3:28), God brought us to life with Christ, when he made us live with him.

 He also brought us to life through Christ, when he snatched us from death through his death, according to that passage of the First Epistle of Peter: “Christ also died once for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us back to God. Put to death indeed in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit” (3:18). When Christ laid down his life for us, God brought the dead human race to life through him.

Finally, he brought us to life according to Christ when he guided us through the path of life according to his example, according to that passage of the psalmist: “You have known to me the paths of life when he gave us faith, hope, charity, and the gifts of grace. To these he added the commands according to which Christ himself walked and in which the path of life consists. It is according to these that Christ has taught us to walk. God has brought us to life according to Christ because he guides his imitators to life.

Saint Bonaventure (+1274)

Wayne Hellman & the Pope

WHellmann & Pope Benedict.jpgIn the mid-1990s when I was in formation at Bellarmine House and a student in St Louis, Missouri, I made the acquaintance of Conventual Franciscan Father Wayne Hellman. Father Wayne was a professor of Theology at Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO. I think he was also the Friar Guardian of the local Conventual Franciscan House (St Bonaventure’s Friary) and one of the nation’s experts in Saint Bonaventure’s theology. 

Wayne was frequently perceived as a zaney Franciscan professor but an incredibly bright and sensitive man, one that you can easily approach. I enjoyed his company. Until reading about his encounter with the young Joseph Ratzinger, didn’t I realize the  interest and scope of theological formation and how he started off. The pedigree of theologians is always of interest to me because I am interested in history and trajectory.
My friend David Miros sent me and a few others a striking story published in the Saint Louis University News of Father Wayne’s recent encounter with the Holy Father. Why is this striking to me and why should you read the story? Because it is a realization how the Holy Spirit works at the lowest and yet the most human of levels: the heart.

Saint Bonaventure

St Bonaventure enters OFM FHerrera the elder.jpg

O God, Who did give Thy people blessed Bonaventure as a minister of eternal salvation, we beseech Thee; grant that we may deserve to have him as an intercessor in heaven, whom we had as a teacher of life on earth.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint
. Born and baptized in 1221 as John in Bagnoregio, Tuscany, he had an encounter with Saint Francis of Assisi. John was a very sick child is said to have been brought to Saint Francis who prayed over him and brought him back to health. The pious legend has it that Saint Francis exclaimed “O buona ventura.”The healing wasn’t enough for John to enter the Franciscan order. A man of considerable talent and brilliance, the desire to study led him to the University of Paris where as a layman he completed his Master of Arts by the age of 22. He was regarded as an expert and a popular lecturer in logic and rhetoric. The Franciscans indicate that he enter the fraternity in either 1238 or 1243.By 1256 Bonaventure’s university life was anxiety provoking when lay professors started violently opposing their religious counterparts. In 1257 and not yet 36 years old, Bonaventure was elected minister general of the Franciscans. He was known to keep the unity and direction for the friars at a time that the order was experiencing unrest. Both Saints Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas were given their doctoral degrees from the University of Paris on 23 October 1257.The saint served the Church as bishop of Albano and as a cardinal.

Bonaventure died in 1274 while participating in the Council of Lyon; he was invited to the council by Pope Gregory X.

As a scholar and thinker with a sterling character, Saint Bonaventure was known to intercede for others before God and richly blessed by God leading others to say that he had escaped original sin. He left the Church a rich written legacy intellectual works and an incredible constellation of high profile students. His The Life of Saint FrancisCommentary on the Sentences of LombardCommentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke, and Itinerarium Mentis ad DeumBreviloquium are his significant works.

Bonaventure was canonized by Pope Sixtus IV and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Sixtus V.

Saint Thomas Aquinas asked Saint Bonaventure about the source of his teaching; Bonaventure responded, “I study only the crucified one, Jesus Christ.” And so should we.

In your spare time why not read Joseph Ratzinger’s book, Theology of History in St. Bonaventure?

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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