10 Saint Bonaventure - A great Franciscan - John Francis Quinn

posted Jul 14, 2017, 12:10 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jul 14, 2017, 12:11 AM ]
St Bonaventure was born in Italy in 1217. He was the son of Giovanni of Fidanza, a physician, and Maria of Ritella. He fell ill while a boy, and according to his own words, was saved from death by the intercession of St Francis of Assisi. Entering the University of Paris in 1235, he received the Master of Arts degree in 1243, and then joined the Franciscan order, which named him Bonaventure in 1244. He studied theology in the Franciscan school at Paris from 1243 to 1248. His masters, especially Alexander of Hales, recognised in him a student with a keen memory and unusual intelligence.

By turning the pursuit of truth into a form of divine worship, he integrated his study of theology with the Franciscan mode of the mendicant life. In 1248, he began to teach the Bible; from 1251 to 1253, he lectured on the Sentences, a medieval theology textbook by Peter Lombard, an Italian theologian of the 12th century, and he became a master of theology in 1254, when he assumed control of the Franciscan school in Paris. He taught there until 1257, producing many commentaries on the Bible and works containing a summary of his theology. These works showed his deep understanding of Scripture and the Fathers of the early Church—principally St Augustine—and a wide knowledge of the philosophers, particularly Aristotle.

Bonaventure was particularly noted in his day as a man with the rare ability to reconcile diverse traditions in theology and philosophy. He united different doctrines in a synthesis containing his personal conception of truth as a road to the love of God.

Bonaventure's defence of the Franciscans and his personal probity as a member of his religious order led to his election as minister general of the Franciscans on February 2, 1257. Founded by St Francis according to strict views about poverty, the Franciscan order was at that time undergoing internal discord. One group, the Spirituals, disrupted the order by a rigorous view of poverty; another, the Relaxati, disturbed it by a laxity of life. Bonaventure used his authority so prudently that, placating the first group and reproving the second, he preserved the unity of the order and reformed it in the spirit of St Francis. The work of restoration and reconciliation owed its success to Bonaventure's tireless visits, despite delicate health, to each province of the order and to his own personal realisation of the Franciscan ideal

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