Our Patron Saint
Born north of Rome in the year 1217 in the town of Bagnoregio, Saint Bonaventure was baptized, Giovanni de Fidanza. Giovanni received the name Bonaventure (bona - "good," venture - "event") when as a child, he was cured of a life-threatening illness through the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi. Bonaventure went to the University of Paris to study around 1235, where he encountered the Franciscans who had a House of Study in the Latin Quarter. Bonaventure entered the Franciscan Order in 1243. He studied theology (especially with the renowned Franciscan master Alessander of Hales). He taught at the University of Paris, where he wrote numerous commentaries on the Scriptures, especially on the Gospels of Luke and John (which are now in an English translation published by the Franciscan Institute).
He taught in Paris until 1257, the year in which at the request of his students, he wrote the Breviloquium as a compendium of his theology. Bonaventure's academic tenure was brief, for, in 1257, he was elected Minister General of the Franciscan Order. Even in this position, he was able to write his mystical masterpiece, The Soul's Journey into God, and two versions of The Life of Francis (Legenda Major and Legenda Minor), which became the official biographies of the Franciscan Order. These texts present Francis as a model of the spiritual journey that takes the follower of Christ through the stages of purgation, illumination, and union with God.
Bonaventure, like St. Francis, had a love of nature and went on to say that all created reality is stamped with God's presence (a vestige), and it is through created things that God speaks to us and gives us a glimpse of himself. Bonaventure writes:
"Just as you see that a ray of light entering through a stained-glass window is colored in different ways according to the different colors of the various parts, so the divine rays shine forth in every creature in different ways and in different properties."
"Creatures are shadows, echoes, and pictures of that first most perfect Principle... They are vestiges, representations, spectacles proposed to us, and signs divinely given so that we can see God."
Bonaventure's world is a world infused with the presence of God. Bonaventure's world is also infused with the presence of Christ, in whom we see most clearly our God present in the world. Bonaventure wrote The Tree of Life as an effective tool for his readers to enter fully (emotionally, mentally, and spiritually) into Jesus' life of compassion and mercy.
Bonaventure was canonized a saint in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV, who wrote, "Bonaventure was great in learning, but no less great in humility and holiness. His innocence and dove-like simplicity were such that Alexander of Hales, the renowned doctor whose disciple Saint Bonaventure became, used to say that it seemed as though Adam had never sinned in him." In 1588, Bonaventure was declared a Doctor of the Universal Church with the title "Doctor Seraphicus" or "Angelic Teacher." It is supposed that he was given this title because of his great depth of insight into spiritual things, which he left as his legacy.
Today Saint Bonaventure is depicted in statues and drawings with a Cardinal's hat and the bishop's crosier (shepherd's staff), and sometimes a crucifix. He was made a bishop and cardinal one year before his death in 1274, though he is best remembered as a spiritual teacher. His feast day is July 15.
Prayer of Saint Bonaventure after Communion
Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for thee, may yearn for thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with thee. Grant that my soul may hunger after thee, the bread of angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste. May me heart ever hunger after and feed upon thee, whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of thy savor; may it ever thirst for thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass thee, seek thee, find thee, run to thee, come up to thee, meditate on thee, speak of thee and do all for the praise and glory of they name, with humility and discretion with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen