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St. Bonaventure

Today, July 15, marks the feast day of St. Bonaventure, who is called “The Seraphic Doctor� of the Church. St. Bonaventure is known for his leadership of the Franciscans and his great intellectual contributions to theology and philosophy.St. Bonaventure was born in Bagnorea in Tuscany, Italy. He is widely believed to have been born in the year 1221, although some accounts say 1217.Sources recount that in his youth, St. Bonaventure was cured of a dangerous illness by the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi. He went on to join the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor in 1243. After making his vows, he was sent to complete his studies in Paris. He was taught first by Alexander of Hales, an English doctor and Franciscan, and later by John of Rochelle. While in Paris, he became good friends with St. Thomas Aquinas, with whom he received the degree of Doctor. He also developed a friendship with St. Louis, King of France.In 1257, St. Bonaventure was chosen to serve as the superior of the Friars Minor. In this position, which he filled for 17 years, he brought peace and order. His impact was so great that today he is sometimes referred to as the second founder of the Franciscans.Taking on the position after a period of extraordinary expansion for the order, St. Bonaventure worked to preserve a spirit of unity. He calmed the threat of internal dissension that arose over differences in interpreting the message of St. Francis of Assisi. Central to this work was his understanding that the study of philosophy and theology did not oppose the call to poverty that was so central to Franciscan spirituality.St. Bonaventure proposed a unified and collected text regulating the daily life of the Friars Minor. The text was accepted and ratified in 1260 by the General Chapter of the Order in Narbonne.Wishing to present an authentic image of the life and teaching of their founder, he zealously collected documents about St. Francis of Assisi and heard testimonies of those who had actually known him. From this information, he compiled a biography of the saint that was adopted as his official biography by the General Chapter of the Friars Minor in 1263.St. Bonaventure also wrote numerous mystical and ascetical treatises, most famously, “The Soul's Journey into God.�In 1273, he was appointed by Pope Gregory X as Cardinal and Bishop of Albano. The Pope also asked him to help prepare the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons, an ecclesial event aimed at re-establishing communion between the Latin and Greek Churches. St. Bonaventure worked to prepare the Ecumenical Council, but never saw its completion. He died on July 15, 1274, while the council was still in session. He was canonized in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV.In his General Audience on March 3, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the life of St. Bonaventure. He called to mind the great works of literature, art, philosophy and theology that were inspired by the Christian faith during the time period in which the saint lived. “Among the great Christian figures who contributed to the composition of this harmony between faith and culture Bonaventure stands out, a man of action and contemplation, of profound piety and prudent government,� Pope Benedict said.The Pope called on the faithful to take note of “the central role that Christ always played in Bonaventure's life and teaching,� and to imitate the way in which “the whole of his thinking was profoundly Christocentric.� "Meditation on Christ in His humanity is corporeal in deed, in fact, but spiritual in mind. . . . By adopting this habit, you will steady your mind, be trained to virtues, and receive strength of soul....Let meditation of Christ's life be your one and only aim, your rest, your food, your desire, your study."  -  St. Bonaventure

Saint Bonaventure

<em>The Prayer of St. Bonaventura about the Selection of the New Pope</em> | Francisco de Zurbarán
Image: The Prayer of St. Bonaventura about the Selection of the New Pope | Francisco de Zurbarán

Saint Bonaventure

Saint of the Day for July 15

(1221July 15, 1274)


Saint Bonaventure’s Story

Perhaps not a household name for most people, Saint Bonaventure, nevertheless, played an important role in both the medieval Church and the history of the Franciscan Order. A senior faculty member at the University of Paris, Saint Bonaventure certainly captured the hearts of his students through his academic skills and insights. But more importantly, he captured their hearts through his Franciscan love for Jesus and the Church. Like his model, Saint Francis, Jesus was the center of everything—his teaching, his administration, his writing, and his life. So much so, that he was given the title “Seraphic Doctor.”

Born in Bagnorea in 1221, Saint Bonaventure was baptized John, but received the name Bonaventure when he became a Franciscan at the age of 22. Little is known about his childhood, but we do know that his parents were Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritell. It seems that his father was a physician and a man of means. While Saint Francis died about five years after the saint’s birth, he is credited with healing Bonaventure as a boy of a serious illness.

Saint Bonaventure’s teaching career came to a halt when the Friars elected him to serve as their General Minister. His 17 years of service were not easy as the Order was embroiled in conflicts over the interpretation of poverty. Some friars even ended up in heresy saying that Saint Francis and his community were inaugurating the era of the Holy Spirit which was to replace Jesus, the Church, and Scripture. But because he was a man of prayer and a good administrator, Saint Bonaventure managed to structure the Order through effective legislation. But more importantly, he offered the Friars an organized spirituality based on the vision and insights of Saint Francis. Always a Franciscan at heart and a mystical writer, Bonaventure managed to unite the pastoral, practical aspects of life with the doctrines of the Church. Thus, there is a noticeable warmth to his teachings and writings that make him very appealing.

Shortly before he ended his service as General Minister, Pope Gregory X created him a Cardinal and appointed him bishop of Albano. But a little over a year later, while participating in the Second Council of Lyon, Saint Bonaventure suddenly died on July 15, 1274. There is a theory that he was poisoned.

Saint Bonaventure left behind a structured and renewed Franciscan Order and a body of work all of which glorifies his major love—Jesus.


Bonaventure so united holiness and theological knowledge that he rose to the heights of mysticism while remaining a very active preacher and teacher, one beloved by all who met him. To know him was to love him; to read him is still for us today to meet a true Franciscan and a gentleman.

Click here for Fr. Don’s thoughts on Saint Bonaventure!

Oblates USA SOD Saint Page July 12-18

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What Does God Expect from Us?

The desire we must possess, according to Bonaventure, is essentially the desire of the heart for the good. What would Bonaventure say to a contemporary world that upholds money, wealth, power, and prestige as the principal desires? His answer would probably be that given to the Poor Clare Nun: desire God alone. Pure desire is what Bonaventure teaches and his advice on how to strive for this is simple: one must turn one’s entire heart, mind, and soul to God. Since that which brings happiness and peace rests in God, only the desire for God can lead to happiness and peace. In the incarnation, God has turned his entire being, all that he has and all that he is, to us. Should God expect any less of us than what God has given and continues to give to us?

—from the book Crucified Love: Bonaventure's Mysticism of the Crucified Christ by Ilia Delio, OSF

St. Kateri: Pray for Us!

May your powerful journey of faith inspire us all. In the host of saints of the Catholic Church, there has never been one so connected to the earth, yet so joined to the Spirit. The rhythm of the seasons, the cycles of the moon, the bounty of the harvests, and the elements of wind and fire surrounded her each day. And from this organic simplicity, a huge capacity for spiritual communion with Christ was nurtured and matured like a mighty tree, the symbol of the Iroquois. Yet St. Kateri Tekakwitha remained a gentle lily. A Native American from the Iroquois League, St. Kateri has aptly come to be known as Lily of the Mohawks. Her purity of soul resonates with anyone who learns about her life of hardship during a period of history like no other. Though her life was simple, her depth and spirituality show just why this woman has become a beloved saint.  At her core was an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ—an active faith that enveloped her from the moment she first heard the Gospel until the day of her death; a lively faith, demonstrated through many acts of devotion to Christ and a kindness toward others.

—from the book Lily of the Mohawks: The Story of St. Kateri by Emily Cavins

St. Kateri: Patroness of the Environment

St. Kateri is considered patroness of the environment, based totally upon her Native American upbringing. Being one of the first Native American saints puts her in the position unlike any saint from the Old World: She has ties to the earth in a way that non-Natives can admire yet never completely grasp. She was part of a culture in which everything that was hunted or harvested for food, clothing, or shelter was received with a prayer of thanks for the offering that the animal or plant was making. Exploitation of the earth’s resources was foreign to Native Americans like Kateri. Once fresh and pristine, the lakes and rivers of North America are now polluted with industrial waste, chemical runoff, and toxic materials. Yet the deep respect for the earth and an understanding of the sacredness of creation is innate within the spirituality of the Iroquois. One hopes St. Kateri can help North America to discover how to use only the natural resources it needs and to be grateful for those it has. At her canonization, two images on bronze medallions placed in a glass box alongside a relic of her depict her deep in prayer on her knees in the woods. The image of the natural setting of the forest was a connection between her faith and her environment.

—from the book Lily of the Mohawks: The Story of St. Kateri by Emily Cavins

We Can Become God's Children—Now!

Once we allow the love of God into our hearts, we are able to live no longer for ourselves but for him, with heartfelt charity and in genuine solidarity with other men and women. The better able we are to renounce ourselves, the better able we are to follow the Spirit. When our identity is fixed firmly on the solid foundation of Christ, we begin to experience our humanity in all its richness. We are able to see in Christ the image of the invisible God, and we become aware of our own exalted vocation to be sons and daughters of the Father. The Spirit is willingly sent by the Father and the Son in order to unite us with Christ and allow us to see ourselves as the Father knows us in the eternity of his mind. We can become God’s children—now. We are adopted as sons and daughters of God. The Spirit imparts the graces we need in order to follow the example of Christ, to act rightly and do good deeds.

—from the book Inspired: The Powerful Presence of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Gary Caster

God Is Always Waiting for Us

God was, and is, always waiting. There is never a time when he is not longing for us to come to him. The invitation is ever-present. The human heart was made for God and will only be fully satisfied when in union with him. How correct Saint Augustine was when he said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. If we are quiet and still, we can feel his tugging; we can detect his summons. He is always calling us to more and wanting to draw us to himself. Our very life is a pilgrimage, always being enticed further, being brought closer to Christ. At times our lives are too chaotic for us to hear God’s invitation, but if you are able to get away from the madness and be still, you can hear it; you can sense it. It is in the quiet that we understand why we are walking. It is in the stillness that we more fully understand what or whom we are walking toward.

−from Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus

Are We Afraid of Weakness?

If the God who became one of us saw the necessity of accepting weakness and suffering in order to be fully human, doesn’t that tell us something about what we’re meant to do? It’s easy to accept this intellectually, but hard to live it. We’d much rather find a way to live the spiritual life while keeping the scary parts of our past locked away. For many of us, acknowledging and accepting all of our past may be one of the hardest things we ever do, especially if we have things buried so deep that they are not immediately within reach. But the insights of psychology, the experience of Jesus and the saints, and the stories of the Bible seem to suggest that this is a necessary step. Indeed, I don’t believe that it’s possible to advance in the spiritual life without it. If we truly desire to know what the God who loves us desires for our lives, we not only need to pray, but we also need to be able to look at the entire story of our lives.

—from the book Already There: Letting God Find You, by Mark Mossa, SJ

What Does This Moment Ask of Us?

Some of us may find we have both Martha and Mary tendencies within us. While basking in Scripture and contemplating the eternal are unquestionably rewarding, they are not passports to procrastination or inertia. There are tasks that need to be done in the real world. On the other hand, the times we feel most driven are the times we most need—and are least-inclined—to pause and breathe in the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we are tired or frantic it’s hard to see clearly what really needs to be done now and what can be postponed until tomorrow—or even indefinitely.

—from the book Fools, Liars, Cheats, and Other Bible Heroes  by Barbara Hosbach

Prayer Takes Us Outside Ourselves

Prayer begins through our recognition of ourselves as creatures, finite and yet aware of something greater. It is an impulse that takes us outside of ourselves, inspired by the expectation of some deeper meaning or the longing for an infinite existence. Prayer doesn’t issue from a sense of resignation about our condition but rather from a sense of hope: There must be something more. Through the act of prayer, a person attempts to reach beyond the boundaries of space and time and touch something transcendent, some ultimate Other who is responsible for everything that exists. Prayer expresses an all-pervasive longing for happiness, not in terms of emotional satisfaction but in terms of personal fulfillment. The impulse that grounds the act of prayer is an unconditional and sensitive openness to that which transcends all the ins and outs of everyday life. Prayer addresses the basic questions of human existence.

—from the book Inspired: The Powerful Presence of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Gary Caster