Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274). Bishop And Confessor And Doctor Of The Church. Feast Day, Today, 14 July.

Text from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal,
unless stated otherwise.

Saint Bonaventure.
   Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of The Church.
   Feast Day 14 July.


White Vestments.

English: Saint Bonaventure.
Deutsch: Hl. Bonaventura,
Magyar: Szent Bonaventura angyallal,
Artist: Zurbarán, Francisco de (1598-1664)
Date: Circa 1640-1650.
Current location: Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany.
Source/Photographer: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.
DVD-ROM, 2002. 
ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Permission: [1]
(Wikimedia Commons)

Saint Bonaventure was born in Tuscany, Italy, in 1221. He entered The Franciscan Order, in consequence of a miraculous cure due to the Intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi.

His Master was Alexander of Hales who used to say of his Virginal Disciple that one would have thought him preserved from Original Sin.

He was a Doctor of The Church at thirty years of age (Collect) and taught at The University of Paris at the same time as Saint Thomas Aquinas, to whom he was closely united. He was awarded the Title of Seraphic Doctor.

Appointed General of his Order, and, later, a Cardinal of The Church (Communion, Alleluia), he died in 1274 during The General Council of Lyons, where Greeks and Latins vied in admiring his zeal and clear-mindedness, which made him The Light of Faith.

Mass: In médio.

Saint Bonaventure.
Date: Circa 1650-1660.
Author: François, Claude (dit Frère Luc).
(Wikimedia Commons)

The following Text is from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia.

Saint Bonaventure, O.F.M. (Italian: San Bonaventura; 1221 – 15 July 1274), born Giovanni di Fidanza, was an Italian Mediaeval Scholastic Theologian and Philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also a Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He was Canonised on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the Church in the year 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. He is known as the "Seraphic Doctor" (Latin: Doctor Seraphicus). Many writings, believed in the Middle Ages to be his, are now collected under the name Pseudo-Bonaventura.

He was born at Bagnoregio in Latium, Italy, not far from Viterbo, then part of the Papal States. Almost nothing is known of his childhood, other than the names of his parents, Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella.

He entered the Franciscan Order in 1243 and studied at the University of Paris, possibly under Alexander of Hales, and certainly under Alexander's successor, John of Rochelle. In 1253, he held the Franciscan Chair, at Paris. Unfortunately, for Bonaventure, a dispute between Seculars and Mendicants delayed his reception as Master until 1257, where his Degree was taken in company with Thomas Aquinas. Three years earlier his fame had earned him the position of Lecturer on the The Four Books of Sentences — a Book of Theology written by Peter Lombard in the 12th-Century — and in 1255 he received the Degree of Master, the Mediaeval equivalent of Doctor.

After having successfully defended his Order against the reproaches of the Anti-Mendicant Party, he was elected Minister General of the Franciscan Order. On 24 November 1265, he was selected for the Post of Archbishop of York; however, he was never Consecrated and resigned the Appointment in October 1266.

English: Church of San Bonaventura, Venice, Italy.
Français: Église San Bonaventura Venise, façade.
Italiano: Chiesa di San Bonaventura Venezia, facciata.
Photo: 15 May 2012.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)

During his tenure, the General Chapter of Narbonne, held in 1260, promulgated a Decree prohibiting the publication of any work, out of the Order, without permission from the higher Superiors. This prohibition has induced modern writers to pass severe judgment upon Roger Bacon's Superiors being envious of Bacon's abilities. However, the prohibition, enjoined on Bacon, was a general one, which extended to the whole Order.

Its promulgation was not directed against him, but rather against Gerard of Borgo San Donnino. Gerard had published, in 1254, without permission, a Heretical work, Introductorius in Evangelium æternum. Thereupon, the General Chapter of Narbonne promulgated the above-mentioned Decree, identical with the "constitutio gravis in contrarium" that Bacon speaks of. The above-mentioned prohibition was rescinded in Roger's favour, unexpectedly, in 1266.

Bonaventure was instrumental in procuring the Election of Pope Gregory X, who rewarded him with the Title of Cardinal Bishop of Albano, and insisted on his presence at the great Second Council of Lyon in 1274. There, after his significant contributions led to a union of the Greek and Latin Churches, Bonaventure died suddenly and in suspicious circumstances. The Catholic Encyclopedia has citations which suggest he was poisoned. The only extant Relic of the Saint is the arm and hand with which he wrote his Commentary on the Sentences, which is now conserved at Bagnoregio, Italy, in the Parish Church of Saint Nicholas.

He steered the Franciscans on a moderate and intellectual course, that made them the most prominent Order in the Catholic Church until the coming of the Jesuits. His Theology was marked by an attempt completely to integrate Faith and Reason. He thought of Christ as the “One True Master”, who offers humans knowledge that begins in Faith, is developed through rational understanding, and is perfected by mystical union with God.

English: Statue of Saint Bonaventure, Woerden, Netherlands.
Nederlands: Beeld Bonaventura, Bonaventurakerk, Woerden, Netherlands.
Source: Originally from nl.wikipedia; description page is/was here.
Author: Original uploader was P.H. Louw at nl.wikipedia
Permission: CC-BY-2.5-NL.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Bonaventure's Feast Day was included in the General Roman Calendar, immediately upon his Canonisation in 1482. It was at first celebrated on the second Sunday in July, but was moved, in 1568, to 14 July, since 15 July, the Anniversary of his death, was at that time taken up with the Feast of Saint Henry.

Bonaventure was formally Canonised, in 1484, by the Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV, and ranked along with Thomas Aquinas as the greatest of the Doctors of the Church by another Franciscan, Pope Sixtus V, in 1587. Bonaventure was regarded as one of the greatest Philosophers of the Middle Ages.

His works, as arranged in the most recent Critical Edition by the Quaracchi Fathers (Collegio S. Bonaventura), consist of a "Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard", in four volumes, and eight other volumes, among which are a "Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke" and a number of smaller works; the most famous of which are Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Breviloquium, De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, Soliloquium, and De septem itineribus aeternitatis, in which most of what is individual in his teaching is contained.

For Saint Isabelle of France, the sister of King Saint Louis IX of France, and her Monastery of Poor Clares, at Longchamps, France, Saint Bonaventure wrote the Treatise "Concerning the Perfection of Life".

English: The Stained-Glass Windows of the Cathedral Santa Ana, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. From left to right: Saint Martial of Limoges; Saint Peter of Verona, also known as Saint Peter Martyr; Mary with Jesus; Saint Anna and Mary; Saint Bonaventure.
Deutsch: Die figürlichen Fenster der Kathedrale Santa Ana, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Kanarische Inseln. Von links nach rechts: Heiliger Martial von Limoges; Heiliger 
von Verona, auch genannt Petrus Martyr; Maria mit Jesus; Heilige Anna und Maria;
Heiliger Bonaventura.
Français: Vitraux de la cathédrale de Santa Ana, à Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, dans
les Canaries. 
De gauche à droite : Saint Martial de Limoges, Saint Pierre de Vérone
(ou Saint Pierre le Martyr), Marie et Jésus, Marie et Saint Anne, Saint Bonaventure.
Photo: 5 October 2011.
Source: Own work.
Author: H. Zell.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The "Commentary on the Sentences" remains, without doubt, Bonaventure's greatest work; all his other writings are in some way subservient to it. It was written superiorum praecepto (at the command of his Superiors) when he was only twenty-seven and is a Theological achievement of the First Rank.

Bonaventure wrote on almost every subject treated by the Schoolmen, and his writings are very numerous. The greater number of them deal with Philosophy and Theology. No work of Bonaventure's is exclusively Philosophical and bears striking witness to the mutual interpenetration of Philosophy and Theology, which is a distinguishing mark of the Scholastic period.

Much of Saint Bonaventure’s Philosophical thought shows a considerable influence by Saint Augustine. So much so, that De Wulf considers him the best representative of Augustinianism. Saint Bonaventure adds Aristotelian principles to the Augustinian Doctrine, especially in connection with the illumination of the intellect, according to Gilson. Saint Augustine, who had imported into the West many of the Doctrines that would define scholastic Philosophy, was an incredibly important source of Bonaventure's Platonism. The Mystic, Dionysius the Areopagite, was another notable influence.

In Philosophy, Bonaventure presents a marked contrast to his contemporaries, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas. While these may be taken as representing, respectively, physical science yet in its infancy, and Aristotelian scholasticism in its most perfect form, he presents the mystical and Platonising mode of speculation, which had already, to some extent, found expression in Hugo and Richard of Saint Victor, and in Bernard of Clairvaux. To him, the purely intellectual element, though never absent, is of inferior interest, when compared with the living power of the affections or the heart.

Stained-Glass Windows, depicting Saint Bonaventure (Left) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (Right),
in the Apse of Saint Bonaventure Church, Raeville, Nebraska, United States of America.
Photo: 31 October 2010.
Source: Own work.
Author: Ammodramus.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Like Thomas Aquinas, with whom he shared numerous profound agreements in Matters Theological and Philosophical, he combated the Aristotelian notion of the eternity of the world, vigorously. Bonaventure accepts the Platonic Doctrine that ideas do not exist "in rerum natura", but as ideals exemplified by the Divine Being, according to which actual things were formed; and this conception has no slight influence upon his Philosophy.

Due to this Philosophy, Physicist and Philosopher Max Bernhard Weinstein contended that Bonaventure showed strong pandeistic inclinations. Like all the great scholastic Doctors, Bonaventura starts with the discussion of the relations between Reason and Faith. All the sciences are but the handmaids of Theology; Reason can discover some of the moral truths which form the groundwork of the Christian system, but others it can only receive and apprehend through Divine illumination.

To obtain this illumination, the Soul must employ the proper means, which are Prayer, the exercise of the Virtues, whereby it is rendered fit to accept the Divine Light, and Meditation, which may rise even to ecstatic union with God. The supreme end of life is such union, union in contemplation or intellect and in intense absorbing Love; but it cannot be entirely reached in this life, and remains as a Hope for the future.

A master of the memorable phrase, Bonaventure held that Philosophy opens the mind to at least three different routes that humans can take on their journey to God:

English: Saint Bonaventure receives the Envoys of
Deutsch: Der Hl. Bonaventura empfängt die Gesandten des Kaisers.
Artist: Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664).
Date: Circa 1640-1650.
Current location: Louvre Museum, Paris, France.
Source/Photographer: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.
DVD-ROM, 2002. 
ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Permission: [1]
(Wikimedia Commons)

Non-intellectual material creatures he conceived as shadows and vestiges (literally, footprints) of God, understood as the ultimate cause of a world that Philosophical Reason can prove was created at a first moment in time;

Intellectual creatures he conceived of as images and likenesses of God, the workings of the human mind and Will, leading us to God understood as Illuminator of Knowledge and Donor of Grace and Virtue;

The final route to God is the route of being, in which Bonaventure brought Saint Anselm's argument, together with Aristotelian and Neoplatonic metaphysics, to view God as the Absolutely Perfect Being, whose essence entails its existence, an Absolutely Simple Being that causes all other, composite beings to exist.

Bonaventure, however, is not merely a meditative thinker, whose works may form good manuals of devotion; he is a Dogmatic Theologian of High Rank, and, on all the disputed questions of scholastic thought, such as universals, matter, the principle of individualism, or the intellectus agens, he gives weighty and well-reasoned decisions.

English: The Church of Saint Bonaventure, Munich, Germany.
Deutsch: Starnberg, OT Percha, Harkirchener Straße 7. Altenheim St. Josef mit
der integrierten Kirche St. Bonaventura. Eine Münchnerin überlies 1895 
Dank für die
Pflege eines Angehörigen ihre beiden Landhäuser in Percha den Ursberger Pflegeanstalten.
Photo: 3 November 2012.
Source: Own work.
Author: I. Berger.
(Wikimedia Commons)

He agrees with Saint Albert the Great in regarding Theology as a practical science; its truths, according to his view, are peculiarly adapted to influence the affections. He discusses very carefully the nature and meaning of the Divine Attributes; considers universals to be the ideal forms pre-existing in the Divine Mind, according to which things were shaped; holds matter to be pure potentiality, which receives individual being and determinateness from the formative Power of God, acting according to the ideas; and, finally, maintains that the intellectus agens has no separate existence. On these, and on many other points of scholastic Philosophy, the "Seraphic Doctor" exhibits a combination of subtlety and moderation, which makes his works particularly valuable.

In form and intent, the work of Saint Bonaventure is always the work of a Theologian; he writes as one for whom the only angle of vision and the proximate criterion of Truth is the Christian Faith. This fact influences his importance for the history of Philosophy; when coupled with his style, it makes Bonaventure perhaps the least accessible of the major figures of the 13th-Century. This is true, not because he is a Theologian, but because Philosophy interests him largely as a praeparatio evangelica, as something to be interpreted as a foreshadow of, or deviation from, what God has revealed.

In a way that is not true of Aquinas or Albert or Scotus, Bonaventure does not survive well the transition from his time to ours. It is difficult to imagine a contemporary Philosopher, Christian or not, citing a passage from Bonaventure to make a specifically Philosophical point. One must know Philosophers to read Bonaventure, but the study of Bonaventure is seldom helpful for understanding Philosophers and their characteristic problems. Bonaventure, as a Theologian, is something else again, of course, as is Bonaventure the edifying author. It is in those areas, rather than in Philosophy proper, that his continuing importance must be sought.

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