samedi 14 juillet 2012

Saint BONAVENTURE (BONAVENTURA) de BAGNOREGIO, religieux franciscain, cardinal-évêque, confesseur et Docteur de l'Église



Saint Bonaventure

Evêque, Docteur de l'Église (+ 1274)

Avec le bienheureux Jean Duns Scot et saint Thomas d'Aquin, il est l'un des trois plus célèbres docteurs de la scolastique. Comme auteur spirituel, il est parmi les grands de tous les temps. Né à Bagno-Regio en Italie, fils de médecin, Jean Fisanza fut guéri d'une grave maladie quand sa mère fit un vœu à saint François qui venait d'être canonisé. On l'envoie étudier les lettres et les arts à l'Université de Paris. C'est là que, impressionné par l'exemple de l'un de ses maîtres, il entre chez les frères mineurs, à 22 ans, prenant le nom de Bonaventure. Il gravit sans peine le cursus des études théologiques et commence à enseigner de 1248 à 1257. En 1257, il est élu ministre général de l'Ordre et se met à parcourir l'Europe. Il a fort à faire pour maintenir l'unité de cet Ordre devenu si grand, car il n'est pas simple de faire suivre à 35.000 frères la règle de vie élaborée par saint François pour quelques disciples. Des aménagements s'imposent. Mais il sait allier la fermeté dans l'autorité et la compréhension à l'égard de tous ses frères, tout en demeurant d'une affectueuse humilité avec tous. En plus de sa charge, il mène de front une vie de prédicateur, d'enseignant et d'écrivain. Il se voit confier par le Pape des missions diplomatiques, en particulier pour le rapprochement avec l'Église grecque. En 1273, le pape Grégoire X le crée cardinal et le charge de préparer un second concile de Lyon. C'est dans cette ville que frère Bonaventure meurt en plein concile. Le Pape Sixte-Quint en a fait un docteur de l'Église en 1587.

Le 3 mars 2010, Benoît XVI a tracé un portrait de saint Bonaventure, un personnage a dit le Pape, "qui m'est particulièrement cher pour l'avoir étudié dans ma jeunesse". Né vers 1217 à Bagnoregio, au nord de Rome, et mort en 1274, cet "homme d'action et de contemplation, de grande piété et de prudence" fut un des principaux promoteurs de l'harmonie entre foi et culture au XIII siècle. Baptisé sous le nom de Jean, il faillit mourir jeune d'une grave maladie. Sa mère le recommanda à saint François à peine canonisé et il guérit, ce qui le marqua pour la vie. Pendant son séjour d'études théologie à Paris, il se fit franciscain et prit le nom de Bonaventure. Dès le début de sa vie religieuse il se distingua par sa connaissance de l'Écriture, de l’œuvre de Pierre Lombard et des principaux théologiens de son temps.

"La perfection évangélique fut sa réponse lors de sa dispute avec les maîtres séculiers de l'Université de Paris, qui mettaient en doute son droit à enseigner dans les universités"(*) Il démontra comment les franciscains vivaient selon les vœux, en pauvreté, chasteté et obéissance évangélique. "Au-delà de cet épisode historique, la vie, l'enseignement et l’œuvre de Bonaventure demeurent actuels. L'Église est rendue plus belle et lumineuse par la fidélité à leur vocation de ses filles et fils mettant en pratique les préceptes évangéliques, qui sont aussi appelés à témoigner par leur mode de vie que l'Évangile est source de joie et de perfection".

Lorsque Bonaventure fut élu en 1257 supérieur général, les franciscains étaient 30.000, principalement répartis en Europe, certains en Afrique du nord, au proche-orient et en Chine. "Il était nécessaire de consolider cette expansion et surtout lui assurer une unité d'action et d'esprit selon le charisme de saint François. Il existait alors plusieurs interprétations de son message, ce qui risquait de provoquer une fracture interne". Pour préserver l'esprit franciscain authentique, Bonaventure "rassembla de nombreux documents sur le Poverello d'Assise et entendit les témoignages de ceux qui l'avaient connu". Ainsi naquit la Legenda Major, qui est malgré son nom la biographie la plus précise de saint François. Bonaventure y présente le fondateur comme "un chercheur passionné du Christ. Dans un amour mû par l'imitation il s'est complètement conformé au Maître, un idéal que le théologien de Bagnoregio proposa de vivre à tous les disciples de François...un idéal valable pour tout chrétien, aujourd'hui aussi. Jean-Paul II l'a re-proposé pour le troisième millénaire".

Vers la fin de son existence, Bonaventure fut consacré évêque et élevé à la dignité cardinalice par Grégoire X, qui le chargea de préparer le concile de Lyon, convoqué pour mettre fin à la division entre Églises latine et grecque. Mais il ne vit pas la concrétisation de ses efforts et mourut durant le concile. Benoît XVI a conclu la biographie de ce Docteur de l'Église en invitant à recueillir l'héritage de saint Bonaventure, qui résumait le sens de sa vie ainsi: "Sur terre nous pouvons contempler l'immensité divine grâce au raisonnement et à l'admiration. A l'inverse, au ciel, lorsque nous serons devenus semblables à Dieu, par la vision et l'extase...nous entrerons dans la joie de Dieu". (source: VIS 100303-540) 
(*) note d'un internaute.

Mémoire de saint Bonaventure, évêque d'Albano et docteur de l'Église, célèbre par sa doctrine, sa sainteté et ses actions remarquables au service de l'Église. Ministre général de l'Ordre des Mineurs, il le dirigea avec prudence dans l'esprit de saint François. Dans ses nombreux écrits, il réunit la plus grande érudition et la piété la plus ardente. Alors qu'il travaillait avec une belle ardeur au déroulement du deuxième Concile Œcuménique de Lyon, en 1274, il mérita de parvenir à la vision bienheureuse de Dieu.

Martyrologe romain

"Pour la recherche spirituelle, la nature ne peut rien et la méthode peu de choses. Il faut accorder peu à la recherche et beaucoup à l'action. Peu à la langue et le plus possible à la joie intérieure. Peu aux discours et aux livres et tout au don de Dieu, c'est-à-dire au Saint-Esprit. Peu ou rien à la créature et tout à l'Etre créateur: Père, Fils et Saint-Esprit. "

Saint Bonaventure-Itinéraire de l'esprit vers Dieu.

SOURCE : https://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/1513/Saint-Bonaventure.html

Peter Paul Rubens  (1577–1640). Saint Bonaventure, circa 1620, 140 X 80, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille  



SAINT BONAVENTURE

Cardinal-Évêque, Docteur de l'Église

(1221-1274)

Saint Bonaventure, né en Toscane, reçut au baptême le nom de Jean. À l'âge de quatre ans, il fut attaqué d'une maladie si dangereuse, que les médecins désespérèrent de sa vie. Sa mère alla se jeter aux pieds de saint François d'Assise, le conjurant d'intercéder auprès de Dieu pour un enfant qui lui était si cher. Le Saint, touché de compassion, se mit en prière, et le malade se trouva parfaitement guéri. Par reconnaissance, Jean entra dans l'Ordre fondé par saint François, et en devint l'ornement et la gloire. Le saint patriarche, près de finir sa course mortelle, lui prédit toutes les grâces dont la miséricorde divine le comblerait, et s'écria tout à coup, dans un ravissement prophétique: "O buona ventura! O la bonne aventure!" De là vint le nom de Bonaventure qui fut donné à notre Saint.

Bonaventure fut envoyé à l'Université de Paris, où il devait lier avec saint Thomas une amitié qui sembla faire revivre celle de saint Grégoire de Nazianze et de saint Basile. Tous deux couraient plus qu'ils ne marchaient dans la carrière des sciences et de la vertu, et, d'étudiants de génie, ils parvinrent en peu de temps à la gloire des plus savants professeurs et des docteurs les plus illustres. Les études de Bonaventure n'étaient que la prolongation de sa fervente oraison.

Saint Thomas d'Aquin vint un jour le visiter et lui demanda dans quels livres il puisait cette profonde doctrine qu'on admirait en lui. Bonaventure lui montra quelques volumes: mais, son ami faisant l'incrédule, il finit par montrer un crucifix qui était sur sa table, et lui dit: "Voilà l'unique source de ma doctrine; c'est dans ces plaies sacrées que je puise mes lumières!"

Élu général de son Ordre malgré ses larmes, il continua ses travaux; mais, de tous, celui qui lui fut le plus cher fut la Vie de saint François d'Assise, qu'il écrivit avec une plume trempée dans l'amour divin, après avoir visité tous les lieux où avait passé son bienheureux père. Saint Thomas vint un jour lui rendre visite, et, à travers sa porte entrouverte, l'aperçut ravi, hors de lui-même et élevé de terre, pendant qu'il travaillait à la vie du saint fondateur; il se retira avec respect, en disant: "Laissons un Saint faire la vie d'un Saint."

Bonaventure n'avait que trente-cinq ans quand il fut élu général des Franciscains, et il avait à peu près cinquante-et-un ans quand le pape Grégoire X le nomma cardinal-évêque d'Albano. Les envoyés du Pape le trouvèrent, lui, général de l'Ordre, occupé, avec plusieurs frères, à laver la vaisselle. Ce grand Saint mourut deux ans après.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_bonaventure.html


Vittore Crivelli  (1440–1501). Saint Bonaventure et l'arbre de la Rédemption. Tempera sur panneau, c. 1490. 132 X 77. Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, France


BENOÎT XVI

AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

Mercredi 3 mars 2010

Saint Bonaventure

Chers frères et sœurs,

Aujourd'hui, je voudrais parler de saint Bonaventure de Bagnoregio. Je vous avoue qu'en vous proposant ce thème, je ressens une certaine nostalgie, car je repense aux recherches que, jeune chercheur, j'ai conduites précisément sur cet auteur, qui m'est particulièrement cher. Sa connaissance a beaucoup influencé ma formation. C'est avec une grande joie que je me suis rendu en pèlerinage, il y a quelques mois, sur son lieu de naissance, Bagnoregio, petite ville italienne dans le Latium, qui conserve avec vénération sa mémoire.

Né probablement aux alentours de 1217 et mort en 1274, il vécut au XIIIe siècle, à une époque où la foi chrétienne, profondément imprégnée dans la culture et dans la société de l'Europe, inspira des œuvres durables dans le domaine de la littérature, des arts visuels, de la philosophie et de la théologie. Parmi les grandes figures chrétiennes qui contribuèrent à la composition de cette harmonie entre foi et culture se distingue précisément Bonaventure, homme d'action et de contemplation, de profonde piété et de prudence dans le gouvernement.

Il s'appelait Jean de Fidanza. Comme il le raconte lui-même, un épisode qui eut lieu alors qu'il était encore jeune garçon, marqua profondément sa vie. Il avait été frappé d'une grave maladie, et pas même son père, qui était médecin, espérait désormais pouvoir le sauver de la mort. Alors, sa mère eut recours à l'intercession de saint François d'Assise, canonisé depuis peu. Et Jean guérit.

La figure du Poverello d'Assise lui devint encore plus familière quelques années plus tard, alors qu'il se trouvait à Paris, où il s'était rendu pour ses études. Il avait obtenu le diplôme de Maître d'art, que nous pourrions comparer à celui d'un prestigieux lycée de notre époque. A ce moment, comme tant de jeunes du passé et également d'aujourd'hui, Jean se posa une question cruciale: « Que dois-je faire de ma vie? ». Fasciné par le témoignage de ferveur et de radicalité évangélique des frères mineurs, qui étaient arrivés à Paris en 1219, Jean frappa aux portes du couvent franciscain de la ville et demanda à être accueilli dans la grande famille des disciples de saint François. De nombreuses années plus tard, il expliqua les raisons de son choix: chez saint François et dans le mouvement auquel il avait donné naissance, il reconnaissait l'action du Christ. Il écrivait ceci dans une lettre adressée à un autre frère: « Je confesse devant Dieu que la raison qui m'a fait aimer le plus la vie du bienheureux François est qu'elle ressemble aux débuts et à la croissance de l'Eglise. L'Eglise commença avec de simples pêcheurs, et s'enrichit par la suite de docteurs très illustres et sages; la religion du bienheureux François n'a pas été établie par la prudence des hommes mais par le Christ » (Epistula de tribus quaestionibus ad magistrum innominatum, in Œuvres de saint Bonaventure. Introduction générale, Rome 1990, p. 29).

C'est pourquoi, autour de l'an 1243, Jean revêtit l'habit franciscain et prit le nom de Bonaventure. Il fut immédiatement dirigé vers les études, et fréquenta la Faculté de théologie de l'université de Paris, suivant un ensemble de cours de très haut niveau. Il obtint les divers titres requis pour la carrière académique, ceux de « bachelier biblique » et de « bachelier sentencier ». Ainsi, Bonaventure étudia-t-il en profondeur l'Ecriture Sainte, les Sentences de Pierre Lombard, le manuel de théologie de l'époque, ainsi que les plus importants auteurs de théologie, et, au contact des maîtres et des étudiants qui affluaient à Paris de toute l'Europe, il mûrit sa propre réflexion personnelle et une sensibilité spirituelle de grande valeur qu'au cours des années suivantes, il sut transcrire dans ses œuvres et dans ses sermons, devenant ainsi l'un des théologiens les plus importants de l'histoire de l'Eglise. Il est significatif de rappeler le titre de la thèse qu'il défendit pour être habilité à l'enseignement de la théologie, la licentia ubique docendi, comme l'on disait alors. Sa dissertation avait pour titre Questions sur la connaissance du Christ. Cet argument montre le rôle central que le Christ joua toujours dans la vie et dans l'enseignement de Bonaventure. Nous pouvons dire sans aucun doute que toute sa pensée fut profondément christocentrique.

Dans ces années-là, à Paris, la ville d'adoption de Bonaventure, se répandait une violente polémique contre les frères mineurs de saint François d'Assise et les frères prédicateurs de saint Dominique de Guzman. On leur contestait le droit d'enseigner à l'Université, et l'on allait jusqu'à mettre en doute l'authenticité de leur vie consacrée. Assurément, les changements introduits par les ordres mendiants dans la manière d'envisager la vie religieuse, dont j'ai parlé dans les catéchèses précédentes, étaient tellement innovateurs que tous ne parvenaient pas à les comprendre. S'ajoutaient ensuite, comme cela arrive parfois même entre des personnes sincèrement religieuses, des motifs de faiblesse humaine, comme l'envie et la jalousie. Bonaventure, même s'il était encerclé par l'opposition des autres maîtres universitaires, avait déjà commencé à enseigner à la chaire de théologie des franciscains et, pour répondre à qui contestait les ordres mendiants, il composa un écrit intitulé La perfection évangélique. Dans cet écrit, il démontre comment les ordres mendiants, spécialement les frères mineurs, en pratiquant les vœux de chasteté et d'obéissance, suivaient les conseils de l'Evangile lui-même. Au-delà de ces circonstances historiques, l'enseignement fourni par Bonaventure dans son œuvre et dans sa vie demeure toujours actuel: l'Eglise est rendue plus lumineuse et belle par la fidélité à la vocation de ses fils et de ses filles qui non seulement mettent en pratique les préceptes évangéliques mais, par la grâce de Dieu, sont appelés à en observer les conseils et témoignent ainsi, à travers leur style de vie pauvre, chaste et obéissant, que l'Evangile est une source de joie et de perfection.

Le conflit retomba, au moins un certain temps, et, grâce à l'intervention personnelle du Pape Alexandre IV, en 1257, Bonaventure fut reconnu officiellement comme docteur et maître de l'université parisienne. Il dut toutefois renoncer à cette charge prestigieuse, parce que la même année, le Chapitre général de l'ordre l'élut ministre général.

Il exerça cette fonction pendant dix-sept ans avec sagesse et dévouement, visitant les provinces, écrivant aux frères, intervenant parfois avec une certaine sévérité pour éliminer les abus. Quand Bonaventure commença ce service, l'Ordre des frères mineurs s'était développé de manière prodigieuse: il y avait plus de 30.000 frères dispersés dans tout l'Occident avec des présences missionnaires en Afrique du Nord, au Moyen-Orient, et également à Pékin. Il fallait consolider cette expansion et surtout lui conférer, en pleine fidélité au charisme de François, une unité d'action et d'esprit. En effet, parmi les disciples du saint d'Assise, on enregistrait différentes façons d'interpréter le message et il existait réellement le risque d'une fracture interne. Pour éviter ce danger, le chapitre général de l'Ordre, qui eut lieu à Narbonne en 1260, accepta et ratifia un texte proposé par Bonaventure, dans lequel on recueillait et on unifiait les normes qui réglementaient la vie quotidienne des frères mineurs. Bonaventure avait toutefois l'intuition que les dispositions législatives, bien qu'elles fussent inspirées par la sagesse et la modération, n'étaient pas suffisantes à assurer la communion de l'esprit et des cœurs. Il fallait partager les mêmes idéaux et les mêmes motivations. C'est pour cette raison que Bonaventure voulut présenter le charisme authentique de François, sa vie et son enseignement. Il rassembla donc avec un grand zèle des documents concernant le Poverello et il écouta avec attention les souvenirs de ceux qui avaient directement connu François. Il en naquit une biographie, historiquement bien fondée, du saint d'Assise, intitulée Legenda Maior, rédigée également sous forme plus brève, et donc appelée Legenda Minor. Le mot latin, à la différence du mot italien, n'indique pas un fruit de l'imagination, mais, au contraire, « Legenda » signifie un texte faisant autorité, « à lire » de manière officielle. En effet, le chapitre des frères mineurs de 1263, qui s'était réuni à Pise, reconnut dans la biographie de saint Bonaventure le portrait le plus fidèle du fondateur et celle-ci devint, ainsi, la biographie officielle du saint.

Quelle est l'image de François qui ressort du cœur et de la plume de son pieux fils et successeur, saint Bonaventure? Le point essentiel: François est un alter Christus, un homme qui a cherché passionnément le Christ. Dans l'amour qui pousse à l'imitation, il s'est conformé entièrement à Lui. Bonaventure indiquait cet idéal vivant à tous les disciples de François. Cet idéal, valable pour chaque chrétien, hier, aujourd'hui et à jamais, a été indiqué comme programme également pour l'Eglise du Troisième millénaire par mon prédécesseur, le vénérable Jean-Paul II. Ce programme, écrivait-il dans la Lettre Novo millennio ineunte, est centré « sur le Christ lui-même, qu'il faut connaître, aimer, imiter, pour vivre en lui la vie trinitaire et pour transformer avec lui l'histoire jusqu'à son achèvement dans la Jérusalem céleste » (n. 29).

En 1273, la vie de saint Bonaventure connut un autre changement. Le Pape Grégoire X voulut le consacrer évêque et le nommer cardinal. Il lui demanda également de préparer un événement ecclésial très important: le IIe concile œcuménique de Lyon, qui avait pour but le rétablissement de la communion entre l'Eglise latine et l'Eglise grecque. Il se consacra à cette tâche avec diligence, mais il ne réussit pas à voir la conclusion de cette assise œcuménique, car il mourut pendant son déroulement. Un notaire pontifical anonyme composa un éloge de Bonaventure, qui nous offre un portrait conclusif de ce grand saint et excellent théologien: « Un homme bon, affable, pieux et miséricordieux, plein de vertus, aimé de Dieu et des hommes... En effet, Dieu lui avait donné une telle grâce, que tous ceux qui le voyaient étaient envahis par un amour que le cœur ne pouvait pas cacher » (cf. J.G. Bougerol, Bonaventura, in. A. Vauchez (sous la direction de), Storia dei santi e della santità cristiana. Vol. VI L'epoca del rinnovamento evangelico, Milan 1991, p. 91).

Recueillons l'héritage de ce grand Docteur de l'Eglise, qui nous rappelle le sens de notre vie avec les paroles suivantes: « Sur la terre... nous pouvons contempler l'immensité divine à travers le raisonnement et l'admiration; dans la patrie céleste, en revanche, à travers la vision, lorsque nous serons faits semblables à Dieu, et à travers l'extase... nous entrerons dans la joie de Dieu » (La conoscenza di Cristo, q. 6, conclusione, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici/1, Roma 1993, p. 187).

* * *

Je suis heureux de vous accueillir chers pèlerins de langue française, en particulier le groupe « Chrétiens en grandes écoles », de Paris et les servants d’autel, de Versailles. Que ce temps du Carême soit pour vous tous une occasion de rechercher le véritable visage du Christ, pour lui conformer votre existence! Que Dieu vous bénisse!

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100303_fr.html



BENOÎT XVI

AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

Mercredi 10 mars 2010

Salle Paul VI

Saint Bonaventure (2)


Chers frères et sœurs,

La semaine dernière, j'ai parlé de la vie et de la personnalité de saint Bonaventure de Bagnoregio. Ce matin, je voudrais poursuivre sa présentation, en m'arrêtant sur une partie de son œuvre littéraire et de sa doctrine.

Comme je le disais déjà, saint Bonaventure a eu, entre autres mérites, celui d'interpréter de façon authentique et fidèle la figure de saint François d'Assise, qu'il a vénéré et étudié avec un grand amour. De façon particulière, à l'époque de saint Bonaventure, un courant de Frères mineurs, dits "spirituels", soutenait qu'avec saint François avait été inaugurée une phase entièrement nouvelle de l'histoire, et que serait apparu l'"Evangile éternel", dont parle l'Apocalypse, qui remplaçait le Nouveau Testament. Ce groupe affirmait que l'Eglise avait désormais épuisé son rôle historique, et était remplacée par une communauté charismatique d'hommes libres, guidés intérieurement par l'Esprit, c'est-à-dire les "Franciscains spirituels". A la base des idées de ce groupe, il y avait les écrits d'un abbé cistercien, Joachim de Flore, mort en 1202. Dans ses œuvres, il affirmait l'existence d'un rythme trinitaire de l'histoire. Il considérait l'Ancien Testament comme l'ère du Père, suivie par le temps du Fils et le temps de l'Eglise. Il fallait encore attendre la troisième ère, celle de l'Esprit Saint. Toute cette histoire devait être interprétée comme une histoire de progrès: de la sévérité de l'Ancien Testament à la liberté relative du temps du Fils, dans l'Eglise, jusqu'à la pleine liberté des Fils de Dieu au cours du temps de l'Esprit Saint, qui devait être également, enfin, le temps de la paix entre les hommes, de la réconciliation des peuples et des religions. Joachim de Flore avait suscité l'espérance que le début du temps nouveau aurait dérivé d'un nouveau monachisme. Il est donc compréhensible qu'un groupe de franciscains pensait reconnaître chez saint François d'Assise l'initiateur du temps nouveau et dans son Ordre la communauté de la période nouvelle - la communauté du temps de l'Esprit Saint, qui laissait derrière elle l'Eglise hiérarchique, pour commencer la nouvelle Eglise de l'Esprit, qui n'était plus liée aux anciennes structures.

Il existait donc le risque d'un très grave malentendu sur le message de saint François, de son humble fidélité à l'Evangile et à l'Eglise, et cette équivoque comportait une vision erronée du christianisme dans son ensemble.

Saint Bonaventure, qui, en 1257, devint ministre général de l'Ordre franciscain, se trouva face à une grave tension au sein de son Ordre même, précisément en raison de ceux qui soutenaient le courant mentionné des "Franciscains spirituels", qui se référait à Joachim de Flore. Précisément pour répondre à ce groupe et pour redonner une unité à l'Ordre, saint Bonaventure étudia avec soin les écrits authentiques de Joachim de Flore et ceux qui lui étaient attribués et, tenant compte de la nécessité de présenter correctement la figure et le message de son bien-aimé saint François, voulut exposer une juste vision de la théologie de l'histoire. Saint Bonaventure affronta le problème précisément dans sa dernière œuvre, un recueil de conférences aux moines de l'étude parisienne, demeuré incomplet et qui nous est parvenu à travers les transcriptions des auditeurs, intitulée Hexaëmeron, c'est-à-dire une explication allégorique des six jours de la création. Les Pères de l'Eglise considéraient les six ou sept jours du récit sur la création comme une prophétie de l'histoire du monde, de l'humanité. Les sept jours représentaient pour eux sept périodes de l'histoire, interprétées plus tard également comme sept millénaires. Avec le Christ, nous devions entrer dans le dernier, c'est-à-dire dans la sixième période de l'histoire, à laquelle devrait succéder ensuite le grand sabbat de Dieu. Saint Bonaventure présuppose cette interprétation historique du rapport avec les jours de la création, mais d'une façon très libre et innovatrice. Pour lui, deux phénomènes de son époque rendent nécessaire une nouvelle interprétation du cours de l'histoire:

Le premier: la figure de saint François, l'homme entièrement uni au Christ jusqu'à la communion des stigmates, presque un alter Christus, et avec saint François, la nouvelle communauté qu'il avait créée, différente du monachisme connu jusqu'alors. Ce phénomène exigeait une nouvelle interprétation, comme nouveauté de Dieu apparue à ce moment.

Le deuxième: la position de Joachim de Flore, qui annonçait un nouveau monachisme et une période totalement nouvelle de l'histoire, en allant au-delà de la révélation du Nouveau Testament, exigeait une réponse.

En tant que ministre général de l'Ordre des franciscains, saint Bonaventure avait immédiatement vu qu'avec la conception spiritualiste, inspirée par Joachim de Flore, l'Ordre n'était pas gouvernable, mais allait logiquement vers l'anarchie. Deux conséquences en découlaient selon lui.

La première: la nécessité pratique de structures et d'insertion dans la réalité de l'Eglise hiérarchique, de l'Eglise réelle, avait besoin d'un fondement théologique, notamment parce que les autres, ceux qui suivaient la conception spiritualiste, manifestaient un fondement théologique apparent.

La seconde: tout en tenant compte du réalisme nécessaire, il ne fallait pas perdre la nouveauté de la figure de saint François.

Comment saint Bonaventure a-t-il répondu à l'exigence pratique et théorique? Je ne peux donner ici qu'un résumé très schématique et incomplet sur certains points de sa réponse:

1. Saint Bonaventure repousse l'idée du rythme trinitaire de l'histoire. Dieu est un pour toute l'histoire et il ne se divise pas en trois divinités. En conséquence, l'histoire est une, même si elle est un chemin et - selon saint Bonaventure - un chemin de progrès.

2. Jésus Christ est la dernière parole de Dieu - en Lui Dieu a tout dit, se donnant et se disant lui-même. Plus que lui-même, Dieu ne peut pas dire, ni donner. L'Esprit Saint est l'Esprit du Père et du Fils. Le Seigneur dit de l'Esprit Saint: "...il vous fera souvenir de tout ce que je vous ai dit" (Jn 14, 26); "il reprend ce qui vient de moi pour vous le faire connaître" (Jn 16, 15). Il n'y a donc pas un autre Evangile, il n'y a pas une autre Eglise à attendre. L'Ordre de saint François doit donc lui aussi s'insérer dans cette Eglise, dans sa foi, dans son organisation hiérarchique.

3. Cela ne signifie pas que l'Eglise soit immobile, fixée dans le passé et qu'il ne puisse pas y avoir de nouveauté dans celle-ci. "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt", les œuvres du Christ ne reculent pas, ne disparaissent pas, mais elles progressent", dit le saint dans la lettre De tribus quaestionibus. Ainsi, saint Bonaventure formule explicitement l'idée du progrès, et cela est une nouveauté par rapport aux Pères de l'Eglise et à une grande partie de ses contemporains. Pour saint Bonaventure, le Christ n'est plus, comme il l'avait été pour les Pères de l'Eglise, la fin, mais le centre de l'histoire; avec le Christ, l'histoire ne finit pas, mais une nouvelle période commence. Une autre conséquence est la suivante: jusqu'à ce moment dominait l'idée que les Pères de l'Eglise avaient été le sommet absolu de la théologie; toutes les générations suivantes ne pouvaient être que leurs disciples. Saint Bonaventure reconnaît lui aussi les Pères comme des maîtres pour toujours, mais le phénomène de saint François lui donne la certitude que la richesse de la parole du Christ est intarissable et que chez les nouvelles générations aussi peuvent apparaître de nouvelles lumières. Le caractère unique du Christ garantit également des nouveautés et un renouveau pour toutes les périodes de l'histoire.

Assurément, l'Ordre franciscain - souligne-t-il - appartient à l'Eglise de Jésus Christ, à l'Eglise apostolique et il ne peut pas se construire dans un spiritualisme utopique. Mais, dans le même temps, la nouveauté de cet Ordre par rapport au monachisme classique est valable, et saint Bonaventure - comme je l'ai dit dans la catéchèse précédente - a défendu cette nouveauté contre les attaques du clergé séculier de Paris: les franciscains n'ont pas de monastère fixe, ils peuvent être présents partout pour annoncer l'Evangile. C'est précisément la rupture avec la stabilité, caractéristique du monachisme, en faveur d'une nouvelle flexibilité, qui restitua à l'Eglise le dynamisme missionnaire.

A ce point, il est peut-être utile de dire qu'aujourd'hui aussi, il existe des points de vue selon lesquels toute l'histoire de l'Eglise au deuxième millénaire aurait été un déclin permanent; certains voient déjà le déclin immédiatement après le Nouveau Testament. En réalité, "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt", les œuvres du Christ ne reculent pas, mais elles progressent. Que serait l'Eglise sans la nouvelle spiritualité des cisterciens, des franciscains et des dominicains, la spiritualité de sainte Thérèse d'Avila et de saint Jean de la Croix, et ainsi de suite? Aujourd'hui aussi vaut l'affirmation suivante: "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt", elles vont de l'avant. Saint Bonaventure nous enseigne l'ensemble du discernement nécessaire, même sévère, du réalisme sobre et de l'ouverture à de nouveaux charismes donnés par le Christ, dans l'Esprit Saint, à son Eglise. Et alors que se répète cette idée du déclin, il y a également l'autre idée, cet "utopisme spiritualiste", qui se répète. Nous savons, en effet, qu'après le Concile Vatican II, certains étaient convaincus que tout était nouveau, qu'il y avait une autre Eglise, que l'Eglise pré-conciliaire était finie et que nous en aurions eu une autre, totalement "autre". Un utopisme anarchique! Et grâce à Dieu, les sages timoniers de la barque de Pierre, le Pape Paul vi et le Pape Jean-Paul ii, d'une part ont défendu la nouveauté du Concile et, de l'autre, dans le même temps, ils ont défendu l'unicité et la continuité de l'Eglise, qui est toujours une Eglise de pécheurs et toujours un lieu de Grâce.

4. Dans ce sens, saint Bonaventure, en tant que ministre général des franciscains, suivit une ligne de gouvernement dans laquelle il était bien clair que le nouvel Ordre ne pouvait pas, comme communauté, vivre à la même "hauteur eschatologique" que saint François, chez qui il voit anticipé le monde futur, mais - guidé, dans le même temps, par un sain réalisme et par le courage spirituel - il devait s'approcher le plus possible de la réalisation maximale du Sermon de la montagne, qui pour saint François fut la règle, tout en tenant compte des limites de l'homme, marqué par le péché originel.

Nous voyons ainsi que pour saint Bonaventure gouverner n'était pas simplement un acte, mais signifiait surtout penser et prier. A la base de son gouvernement nous trouvons toujours la prière et la pensée; toutes ses décisions résultent de la réflexion, de la pensée éclairée par la prière. Son contact intime avec le Christ a toujours accompagné son travail de ministre général et c'est pourquoi il a composé une série d'écrits théologico-mystiques, qui expriment l'âme de son gouvernement et manifestent l'intention de conduire intérieurement l'Ordre, c'est-à-dire de gouverner non seulement par les ordres et les structures, mais en guidant et en éclairant les âmes, en les orientant vers le Christ.

De ces écrits, qui sont l'âme de son gouvernement et qui montrent la route à parcourir tant à l'individu qu'à la communauté, je ne voudrais en mentionner qu'un seul, son chef-d'œuvre, l'Itinerarium mentis in Deum, qui est un "manuel" de contemplation mystique. Ce livre fut conçu en un lieu de profonde spiritualité: le mont de la Verne, où saint François avait reçu les stigmates. Dans l'introduction, l'auteur illustre les circonstances qui furent à l'origine de ce texte: "Tandis que je méditais sur les possibilités de l'âme d'accéder à Dieu, je me représentai, entre autres, cet événement merveilleux qui advint en ce lieu au bienheureux François, la vision du Séraphin ailé en forme de Crucifié. Et méditant sur cela, je me rendis compte immédiatement que cette vision m'offrait l'extase contemplative du père François et, dans le même temps, la voie qui y conduit" (Itinéraire de l'esprit en Dieu, Prologue, 2 in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome, 1993, p. 499).

Les six ailes du Séraphin deviennent ainsi le symbole des six étapes qui conduisent progressivement l'homme de la connaissance de Dieu, à travers l'observation du monde et des créatures et à travers l'exploration de l'âme elle-même avec ses facultés, jusqu'à l'union gratifiante avec la Trinité par l'intermédiaire du Christ, à l'imitation de saint François d'Assise. Les dernières paroles de l'Itinerarium de saint Bonaventure, qui répondent à la question sur la manière dont on peut atteindre cette communion mystique avec Dieu, devraient descendre profondément dans nos cœurs: "Si à présent tu soupires de savoir comment cela peut advenir (la communion mystique avec Dieu), interroge la grâce, non la doctrine; le désir, non l'intellect; le murmure de la prière, non l'étude des lettres; l'époux, non le maître; Dieu, non l'homme; le brouillard, non la clarté; non la lumière, mais le feu qui tout enflamme et transporte en Dieu avec les fortes onctions et les très ardentes affections... Entrons donc dans le brouillard, étouffons les angoisses, les passions et les fantômes; passons avec le Christ crucifié de ce monde au Père, afin qu'après l'avoir vu, nous disions avec Philippe: cela me suffit" (ibid., vii, 6).

Chers frères et sœurs, accueillons l'invitation qui nous est adressée par saint Bonaventure, le Docteur Séraphique, et mettons-nous à l'école du Maître divin: écoutons sa Parole de vie et de vérité, qui résonne dans l'intimité de notre âme. Purifions nos pensées et nos actions, afin qu'Il puisse habiter en nous et que nous puissions entendre sa Voix divine, qui nous attire vers le vrai bonheur.

* * *

Je suis heureux de vous accueillir chers pèlerins de langue française venant de France et du Canada. Je salue en particulier les professeurs et les élèves du collège Stanislas de Paris. Puissiez-vous maintenir ferme l’espérance chrétienne et en être les témoins quotidiens. N’hésitez pas à mettre le Christ au centre de votre vie. Que Dieu vous bénisse!

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100310_fr.html


BENOÎT XVI

AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

Place Saint-Pierre

Mercredi 17 mars 2010

Saint Bonaventure (3)


Chers frères et sœurs,

Ce matin, en poursuivant la réflexion de mercredi dernier, je voudrais approfondir avec vous d'autres aspects de la doctrine de saint Bonaventure de Bagnoregio. Il s'agit d'un éminent théologien, qui mérite d'être placé à côté d'un autre très grand penseur de son époque, saint Thomas d'Aquin. Tous deux ont scruté les mystères de la Révélation, en mettant en valeur les ressources de la raison humaine, dans ce dialogue fécond entre foi et raison qui caractérise le Moyen-âge chrétien, en en faisant une époque de très grand dynamisme intellectuel, ainsi que de foi et de renouveau ecclésial, rarement mis en évidence. D'autres similitudes les rapprochent: tant Bonaventure, franciscain, que Thomas, dominicain, appartenaient aux Ordres mendiants qui, par leur fraîcheur spirituelle, comme je l'ai rappelé lors de précédentes catéchèses, renouvelèrent, au xiii siècle, l'Eglise tout entière et attirèrent de nombreux fidèles. Tous deux servirent l'Eglise avec diligence, avec passion et avec amour, au point d'être envoyés pour participer au Concile œcuménique de Lyon en 1274, l'année même où ils moururent: Thomas tandis qu'il se rendait à Lyon, Bonaventure au cours du déroulement de ce même Concile. Sur la Place Saint-Pierre également, les statues des deux saints sont parallèles, et placées précisément au début de la Colonnade, en partant de la façade de la Basilique vaticane: l'une est située sur le bras gauche, et l'autre sur le bras droit. En dépit de tous ces aspects, nous pouvons saisir chez les deux grands saints deux approches différentes de la recherche philosophique et théologique, qui montrent l'originalité et la profondeur de pensée de l'un et de l'autre. Je voudrais évoquer certaines de ces différences.

Une première différence concerne le concept de théologie. Les deux docteurs se demandent si la théologie est une science pratique ou une science théorique, spéculative. Saint Thomas réfléchit sur deux possibles réponses opposées. La première dit: la théologie est une réflexion sur la foi et l'objectif de la foi est que l'homme devienne bon, et vive selon la volonté de Dieu. Le but de la théologie devrait donc être celui de guider sur la voie juste, bonne; par conséquent, celle-ci, au fond, est une science pratique. L'autre position dit: la théologie cherche à connaître Dieu. Nous sommes l'œuvre de Dieu; Dieu est au-dessus de nos actions. Dieu opère en nous la juste action. Il s'agit donc en substance non pas de notre action, mais de connaître Dieu, pas notre œuvre. La conclusion de saint Thomas est: la théologie implique les deux aspects: elle est théorique, elle cherche à connaître Dieu toujours plus, et elle est pratique: elle cherche à orienter notre vie vers le bien. Mais il existe un primat de la connaissance: nous devons avant tout connaître Dieu, puis suit l'action selon Dieu (Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 1, art. 4). Ce primat de la connaissance par rapport à la pratique est significatif pour l'orientation fondamentale de saint Thomas.

La réponse de saint Bonaventure est très semblable, mais les accents sont différents. Saint Bonaventure connaît les mêmes arguments dans l'une et dans l'autre direction, comme saint Thomas, mais pour répondre à la question de savoir si la théologie est une science pratique ou théorique, saint Bonaventure fait une triple distinction - il étend l'alternative entre théorique (primat de la connaissance) et pratique (primat de la pratique), en ajoutant une troisième attitude, qu'il appelle "sapientielle" et affirme que la sagesse embrasse les deux aspects. Il poursuit: la sagesse recherche la contemplation (comme la plus haute forme de la connaissance) et a pour intention "ut boni fiamus" - que nous devenions bons, surtout cela: devenir bons (cf. Breviloquium, Prologus, n. 5). Puis il ajoute: "La foi est dans l'esprit d'une façon telle qu'elle provoque l'affection. Par exemple: savoir que le Christ est mort "pour nous" ne demeure pas une connaissance, mais devient nécessairement affection, amour" (Proemium in i Sent., q. 3).

C'est dans la même optique que se situe sa défense de la théologie, c'est-à-dire de la réflexion rationnelle et méthodique de la foi. Saint Bonaventure dresse la liste de plusieurs arguments contre le fait de faire de la théologie, peut-être également répandus chez une partie des frères franciscains et présents aussi à notre époque: la raison viderait la foi, elle serait une attitude violente à l'égard de la Parole de Dieu, nous devons écouter et non analyser la Parole de Dieu (cf. Lettre de saint François d'Assise à saint Antoine de Padoue). A ces arguments contre la théologie, qui démontrent les dangers existant dans la théologie elle-même, le saint répond: il existe une manière arrogante de faire de la théologie, un orgueil de la raison, qui se place au-dessus de la Parole de Dieu. Mais la vraie théologie, le travail rationnel de la véritable et de la bonne théologie a une autre origine, non l'orgueil de la raison. Celui qui aime veut toujours connaître mieux et davantage l'aimé; la véritable théologie n'engage pas la raison et sa recherche motivée par l'orgueil, "sed propter amorem eius cui assentit" - "motivée par l'amour de Celui à qui elle a donné son assentiment" (Proemium in i Sent. 2, qu. 2) et veut mieux connaître l'aimé, telle est l'intention fondamentale de la théologie. Pour saint Bonaventure, le primat de l'amour est donc déterminant.

En conséquence, saint Thomas et saint Bonaventure définissent de manière différente la destination ultime de l'homme, son bonheur complet: pour saint Thomas, le but suprême, vers lequel se dirige notre désir est: voir Dieu. Dans ce simple acte de voir Dieu, tous les problèmes trouvent leur solution: nous sommes heureux, rien d'autre n'est nécessaire.

Pour saint Bonaventure, le destin ultime de l'homme est en revanche: aimer Dieu, la rencontre et l'union de son amour et du nôtre. Telle est pour lui la définition la plus adaptée de notre bonheur.

Dans cette optique, nous pourrions également dire que la catégorie la plus élevée pour saint Thomas est la vérité, alors que pour saint Bonaventure, c'est le bien. Il serait erroné de voir une contradiction dans ces deux réponses. Pour tous les deux, la vérité est également le bien, et le bien est également la vérité; voir Dieu est aimer et aimer est voir. Il s'agit d'aspects différents d'une vision fondamentalement commune. Ces deux aspects ont formé des traditions différentes et des spiritualités différentes et ils ont ainsi montré la fécondité de la foi, une, dans la diversité de ses expressions.

Revenons à saint Bonaventure. Il est évident que l'accent spécifique de sa théologie, dont je n'ai donné qu'un exemple, s'explique à partir du charisme franciscain: le Poverello d'Assise, au-delà des débats intellectuels de son époque, avait montré à travers toute sa vie le primat de l'amour; il était une icône vivante et aimante du Christ et, ainsi, il a rendu présente, à son époque, la figure du Seigneur - il a convaincu ses contemporains non par les mots, mais par sa vie. Dans toutes les œuvres de saint Bonaventure, précisément aussi dans les œuvres scientifiques, d'école, on voit et on trouve cette inspiration franciscaine; c'est-à-dire que l'on remarque qu'il pense en partant de la rencontre avec le Poverello d'Assise. Mais pour comprendre l'élaboration concrète du thème "primat de l'amour", nous devons encore garder à l'esprit une autre source: les écrits de celui qu'on appelle le Pseudo-Denys, un théologien syriaque du vi siècle, qui s'est caché sous le pseudonyme de Denys l'Aréopagite, en faisant allusion, avec ce nom, à une figure des Actes des Apôtres (cf. 17, 34). Ce théologien avait créé une théologie liturgique et une théologie mystique, et il avait longuement parlé des différents ordres des anges. Ses écrits furent traduits en latin au ix siècle; à l'époque de saint Bonaventure, nous sommes au xiii siècle, apparaissait une nouvelle tradition, qui suscita l'intérêt du saint et des autres théologiens de son siècle. Deux choses attiraient de manière particulière l'attention de saint Bonaventure.

1. Le Pseudo-Denys parle de neuf ordres des anges, dont il avait trouvé les noms dans l'Ecriture et qu'il avait ensuite classés à sa manière, des anges simples jusqu'aux séraphins. Saint Bonaventure interprète ces ordres des anges comme des degrés dans le rapprochement de la créature avec Dieu. Ils peuvent ainsi représenter le chemin humain, la montée vers la communion avec Dieu. Pour saint Bonaventure, il n'y a aucun doute: saint François d'Assise appartenait à l'ordre séraphique, au chœur des séraphins; c'est-à-dire qu'il était un pur feu d'amour. Et c'est ainsi qu'auraient dû être les franciscains. Mais saint Bonaventure savait bien que ce dernier degré de proximité avec Dieu ne peut pas être inséré dans un ordre juridique, mais que c'est toujours un don particulier de Dieu. C'est pourquoi la structure de l'ordre franciscain est plus modeste, plus réaliste, mais doit, toutefois, aider les membres à s'approcher toujours davantage d'une existence séraphique d'amour pur. J'ai parlé mercredi dernier de cette synthèse entre sobre réalisme et radicalité évangélique dans la pensée et dans l'action de saint Bonaventure.

2. Saint Bonaventure, toutefois, a trouvé dans les écrits du Pseudo-Denys un autre élément, encore plus important pour lui. Tandis que pour saint Augustin l'intellectus, le voir avec la raison et le cœur, est la dernière catégorie de la connaissance, le Pseudo-Denys va encore un peu plus loin: dans l'ascension vers Dieu, on peut arriver à un point où la raison ne voit plus. Mais dans la nuit de l'intellect, l'amour voit encore - il voit ce qui reste inaccessible pour la raison. L'amour s'étend au-delà de la raison, il voit davantage, il entre plus profondément dans le mystère de Dieu. Saint Bonaventure fut fasciné par cette vision, qui correspondait à sa spiritualité franciscaine. C'est précisément dans la nuit obscure de la Croix qu'apparaît toute la grandeur de l'amour divin; là où la raison ne voit plus, c'est l'amour qui voit. Les paroles de conclusion de l'"itinéraire de l'esprit en Dieu", lors d'une lecture superficielle, peuvent apparaître comme une expression exagérée d'une dévotion sans contenu; mais lues à la lumière de la théologie de la Croix de saint Bonaventure, elles sont une expression limpide et réaliste de la spiritualité franciscaine: "Si tu brûles de savoir comment cela advient (l'ascension vers Dieu), interroge la grâce, non la doctrine; le désir, non l'intellect; la plainte de la prière, non l'étude de la lettre;... non la lumière, mais le feu qui enflamme toute chose et transporte en Dieu" (VII, 6). Tout cela n'est pas anti-intellectuel et n'est pas anti-rationnel: cela suppose le chemin de la raison, mais le transcende dans l'amour du Christ crucifié. Avec cette transformation de la mystique du Pseudo-Denys, saint Bonaventure se place au commencement d'un grand courant mystique, qui a beaucoup élevé et purifié l'esprit humain: c'est un sommet dans l'histoire de l'esprit humain.

Cette théologie de la Croix, née de la rencontre entre la théologie du Pseudo-Denys et la spiritualité franciscaine, ne doit pas nous faire oublier que saint Bonaventure partagea avec saint François d'Assise également l'amour pour la création, la joie pour la beauté de la création de Dieu. Je cite sur ce point une phrase du premier chapitre de l'"Itinéraire": "Celui... qui ne voit pas les splendeurs innombrables des créatures, est aveugle; celui qui n'est pas réveillé par les si nombreuses voix, est sourd; celui qui, pour toutes ces merveilles, ne loue pas Dieu, est muet; celui qui devant tant de signes ne s'élève pas au premier principe, est stupide" (I, 15). Toute la création parle à voix haute de Dieu, du Dieu bon et beau; de son amour.

Toute notre vie est donc pour saint Bonaventure un "itinéraire", un pèlerinage - une ascension vers Dieu. Mais avec nos seules forces nous ne pouvons pas monter vers les hauteurs de Dieu. Dieu lui-même doit nous aider, doit "nous tirer" vers le haut. C'est pourquoi la prière est nécessaire. La prière - ainsi dit le saint - est la mère et l'origine de l'élévation - "sursum actio", une action qui nous élève, dit Bonaventure. Je conclus donc par la prière, avec laquelle commence son "Itinéraire": "Prions donc et disons au Seigneur notre Dieu: "Conduis-moi, Seigneur, sur ton chemin et je marcherai dans ta vérité. Que mon cœur se réjouisse dans la crainte de ton nom"" (I, 1).

* * *

Je suis heureux d’accueillir les pèlerins francophones, en particulier les jeunes du séminaire d’Ars et le groupe d’Évry, avec leurs Évêques. Que ce temps du carême soit pour vous tous un temps de conversion intérieure et de redécouverte de la Parole de Dieu! Avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique!

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Francisco de Zurbarán  (1598–1664). San Buenaventura recibiendo la visita de Santo Tomas de Aquino, 1629, 291 X 165, San Francisco el Grande Basilica  


15 juillet

Saint Bonaventure

Biographie

Jean de Fidanza et de Ritella naît en 1221, à Bagnorea (entre Viterbe et Orvieto), dans une noble et opulente famille. Enfant, à la prière de sa mère, il est guéri d’une grave maladie par l’intercession de saint François. Ayant commencé ses études au couvent de Bagnorea, il les contine à Paris où il entre au noviciat des Franciscains et prend le nom de Bonaventure. Il étudie la théologie, l’Ecriture sainte et la patristique latine. En 1248, il débute dans l’enseignement, à l’université de Paris, comme bachelier biblique et commence à écrire des commentaires des livres saints.

En 1253, il fait un commentaire du « Livre des Sentences » ; dans de doctes tournois contre les ennemis des ordres nouveaux, il rompt des lances pour l’honneur de Dame Humilité, reine de tous les religieux, de Dame Pauvreté, la reine des Mendiants, et de ses sœurs Chasteté et Obéissance. Au chapitre de Rome, il est élu ministre général des Mineurs (2 février 1257), charge qu’il occupe jusqu’au 20 mai 1273. Il est comme le second fondateur de l’ordre qu’il préserve des excès des relâchés comme de ceux qui visent à un idéal intenable. En 1260, au chapitre de Narbonne, il promulgue des Constitutions.

Après enquête, il rédige la « Vie » officielle de saint François où il voit une montée en six étapes marquées par six apparitions du crucifix et qui s’achève par les stigmates. « Alors est réalisée ta première vision annonçant que tu serais un chef dans la chevalerie du Christ, et que tu porterais des armes célestes marquées du signe de la Croix. Au début de ta conversion, la vision de Jésus crucifié avait transpercé ton âme d’un glaive de douloureuse compassion ; tu avais entendu une voix tombant de la croix, comme du trône sublime du Christ et d’un autel sacré ; tu l’avais affirmé de ta bouche sacrée, et c’est pour nous maintenant une vérité incontestable. Plus tard, quand tu progressais en sainteté, le F. Sylvestre vit une croix sortant miraculeusement de ta bouche et le saint F. Pacifique aperçut deux glaives croisés qui transperçaient ton corps. Alors que saint Antoine prêchait sur le titre de la croix, l’angélique Monaldus te vit élevê dans les airs, les bras en croix. Toutes ces merveilles n’étaient pas des effets de l’imagination, mais une révélation céleste ; telle est la vérité que nous croyons et affirmons. Enfin, cette vision qui te montra tout ensemble, vers la fin de ta vie, l’image d’un séraphin sublime et celle de l’humble Crucifié, qui embrasa ton âme d’amour, imprima les stigmates dans ton corps et fit de toi un autre ange montant de l’Orient et portant le signe du Dieu vivant (Apocalypse, VII 2 ), cette vision corrobore la vérité de celles qui l’ont précédée et reçoit d’elles un surcroît d’authenticité. Par sept fois, la croix du Christ apparut merveilleusement à tes yeux ou en ta personne aux diflérentes époques de ta vie. Les six prernières apparitions étaient comme autant de degrés pour arriver à cette septième où tu trouverais enfin le repos. En effet, la croix du Christ qui t’est apparue et que tu as embrassée au début de ta conversion, que tu as portée continuellement dans la suite en toi-même par une vie très parfaite et que tu as présentée comme un modèle aux autres, nous a appris, avec une évidence incontestable, que tu étais enfin parvenu au sommet de la perfection évangélique. Et cette manifestation de la sagesse chrétienne imprimée dans la poussière de ta chair, nul homme vraiment dévot ne la rejettera. »

Pour que prospèrent tous les bercails de l’ordre franciscain, il faut l’œil du maître. Bonaventure, qui n’est pas robuste, s’impose les fatigues d’inspections fréquentes et de prédications nombreuses. Il parle aux Mineurs - près de cent fois - il parle aux Prêcheurs, aux bénédictins de Cluny et de Saint-Denis, à des clarisses, à des moniales, à des béguines et au peuple fidèle. Il s’adresse parfois à la Curie romaine et au clergé des cathédrales. Des pubIications ascétiques et mystiques portent au loin la pensée du grand contemplatif : opuscules sur la légende et l’ascèse franciscaines, petits traités spirituels. Peu avant 1257, il donne le Breviloquium que Gerson regardera comme le joyau de la théologie médiévale. En 1259, paraît son livre médité longuement sur l’Alverne, la plus belle sans doute des œuvres mystiques du XIII° siècle, l’Itinerarium mentis in Deum qui achemine l’âme vers Dieu ; l’amour s’y appuie sur la philosophie et la théologie, il s’élève par six degrés des créatures au Créateur, partant humblement du monde des sens : « Pour ce passage des créatures à Dieu, la nature ne peut rien et la science très peu de chose; il faut donner peu au travail de l’intelligence et beaucoup à l’onction ; peu à la langue et beaucoup à la joie intérieure ; peu à la parole et aux livres et tout au don de Dieu, c’est-à-dire au Saint-Espnt ; peu ou rien à la créature et tout au Créateur, Père, Fils et Saint-Esprit. Interrogez la grâce et non la science ; le désir et non l’intelligence; les gémissements de la prière et non l’étude livresque ; l’époux et non le maître ; Dieu et non l’homme ; l’obscurité et non la clarté ; non la lumière qui brille, mais le feu qui embrase tout entier et transporte en Dieu. »

Le pape Clément IV veut le nommer archevêque d’York (24 novembre 1265) mais Bonaventure esquive cette gloire. En 1271, après une vacance de trois ans, à Viterbe, il réussit à faire élire pape Grégoire X qui le crée cardinal-évêque d’Albano. Il meurt à Lyon le 14 juillet 1274.

L’itinéraire de l’âme vers Dieu

Le Christ est le chemin et la porte, l'échelle et le véhicule ; il est le propitiatoire posé sur l'arche de Dieu et le mystère caché depuis le commencement.

Celui qui tourne résolument et pleinement ses yeux vers le Christ en le regardant suspendu à la croix, avec foi, espérance et charité, dévotion, admiration, exultation, reconnaissance, louange et jubilation, celui-là célèbre la Paque avec lui, c'est-à-dire qu’il se met en route pour traverser la mer Rouge grâce au bâton de la croix. Quittant l'Égypte, il entre au désert pour y goûter la manne cachée et reposer avec le Christ au tombeau, comme mort extérieurement mais expérimentant dans la mesure où le permet l'état de voyageur ce qui a été dit sur la croix au larron compagnon du Christ : « Aujourd'hui avec moi tu seras dans le paradis. »

En cette traversée, si l'on veut être parfait, il importe de laisser là toute spéculation intellectuelle. Toute la pointe du désir doit être transportée et transformée en Dieu. Voilà le secret des secrets, que « personne ne connaît sauf celui qui le reçoit », que nul ne reçoit sauf celui qui le désire, et que nul ne désire, sinon celui qui au plus profond est enflammé par l'Esprit Saint que le Christ a envoyé sur la terre. Et c'est pourquoi l'Apôtre dit que cette mystérieuse sagesse est révélée par l'Esprit Saint.

Si tu cherches comment cela se produit, interroge la grâce et non le savoir, ton aspiration profonde et non pas ton intellect, le gémissement de ta prière et non ta passion pour la lecture ; interroge l'Époux et non le professeur, Dieu et non l'homme, l'obscurité et non la clarté ; non point ce qui luit mais le feu qui embrase tout l'être et le transporte en Dieu avec une onction sublime et un élan plein d'ardeur. Ce feu est en réalité Dieu lui-même dont « la fournaise est à Jérusalem. » C'est le Christ qui l'a allumé dans la ferveur brûlante de sa Passion. Et seul peut le percevoir celui qui dit avec Job : « Mon âme a choisi le gibet, et mes os, la mort. » Celui qui aime cette mort de la croix peut voir Dieu ; car elle ne laisse aucun doute, cette parole de vérité : « L'homme ne peut me voir et vivre. »

Mourons donc, entrons dans l'obscurité, imposons silence à nos soucis, à nos convoitises et à notre imagination. Passons avec le Christ crucifié de ce monde au Père. Et quand le Père se sera manifesté, disons avec Philippe : « Cela nous suffit » ; écoutons avec Paul : « Ma grâce te suffit » ; exultons en disant avec David : « Ma chair et mon cœur peuvent défaillir : le roc de mon cœur et mon héritage, c’est Dieu pour toujours. Béni soit le Seigneur pour l’éternité, et que tout le peuple réponde : Amen, amen ! »

St Bonaventure

Prière

Transpercez mon âme, très doux Seigneur Jésus, dans tout ce qu'elle a de plus profond et de plus intime ; transpercez-la du dard tout suave et tout salutaire de votre amour, de ce dard de la véritable et pure charité, de cette charité très sainte qu'a eue votre apôtre saint Jean ; en sorte que mon âme languisse et se fonde sans cesse d'amour et de désir pour vous seul. Qu'elle soupire après vous et se sente défaillir à la pensée de vos tabernacles ; qu'elle n'aspire qu'à sa délivrance et à son union avec vous. Faites que mon âme ait faim de vous qui êtes le pain des anges, aliment des âmes saintes, notre pain quotidien supersubstantiel ayant en lui toute douceur et toute suavité délectable. O vous que le désir des anges est de contempler, puisse mon coeur être toujours affamé et toujours se nourrir de vous, mon âme être remplie jusque dans ses profondeurs de la suavité de vos délices. Que mon coeur ait toujours soif de vous, source de vie, source de sagesse et de science, source d'éternelle lumière, torrent de délices, abondance de la maison de Dieu. Qu'il n'aspire jamais qu'à vous, ne cherche et ne trouve que vous ; qu'il tende vers vous et parvienne jusqu'à vous ; qu'il ne pense qu'à vous, ne parle que de vous, et qu'il accomplisse toutes choses pour l'honneur et la gloire de votre nom, avec humilité et discernement, avec amour et plaisir, avec facilité et affection, avec persévérance jusqu'à la fin. Soyez toujours mon seul espoir et toute ma confiance, mes richesses et mes délices, mon plaisir et ma joie, mon repos et ma tranquillité, ma paix et ma suavité, mon parfum et ma douceur, ma nourriture et ma force, mon refuge et mon secours, ma sagesse et mon partage, mon bien et mon trésor. Qu'en vous seul, mon esprit et mon coeur soient à jamais fixés, affermis et inébranlablement enracinés. Amen.

Saint Bonaventure

Liber de ligno viate, XXX

Afin que l'Eglise fût formée du côté du Christ pendant son sommeil sur la Croix et afin que fût accomplie la parole de l'Ecriture : Ils regarderont vers celui qu'ils auront transpercé (Zacharie XII 10), Dieu a disposé qu'un soldat ouvrît ce côté sacré en le perçant de sa lance et que, dans cet écoulement de sang et d'eau, fût versé le prix de notre salut : en jaillissant des profondeurs de ce Coeur, il donnerait aux sacrements de l'Eglise la vertu de conférer la vie de la grâce et désormais ceux qui vivraient dans le Christ auraient là une source d'eau vive jaillissant pour la vie éternelle. Lève-toi donc, âme qui aime le Christ ; ne cesse pas de te tenir attentive ; applique là ta bouche ; tu y boiras aux sources du Sauveur.

Saint Bonaventure

SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/07/15.php


Jusepe de Ribera  (1591–1652). Sacra famiglia e Santi, 1629-1630, 393 X 262, Museo di Capodimonte, Napoli


L'Itinéraire de l’esprit jusqu’en Dieu de saint Bonaventure, fruit d'une extase mystique

Publié le : 4 Février 2021

Avec ce nouveau cycle du blog Ecrits mystiques, Martine Petrini-Poli nous invite à l'étude de la vie et de l'oeuvre de saint Bonaventure ( (1217 ou 1221 - 1274). Théologien et philosophe majeur du XIIIe siècle, contemporain de Thomas d’Aquin, il est devenu supérieur de l’ordre des Frères Mineurs (franciscains) et créé cardinal-évêque d’Albano à la fin de sa vie. Sa réflexion philosophique s'inscrit dans le courant de l'augustinisme. Nous abordons ici l'étude de l'Itinéraire de l'esprit jusqu’en Dieu, écrit en 1259 par saint Bonaventure après avoir expérimenté une extase mystique sur le mont Alverne, lieu de la vision séraphique de saint François d’Assise.

Itinéraire de l'esprit jusqu’en Dieu (Itinerarium mentis ad Deum) est un ouvrage de saint Bonaventure, composé en 1259, après une extase mystique lors d'une promenade sur le mont Alverne, lieu de la vision séraphique de saint François d’Assise, son maître spirituel, fondateur de l’ordre des frères mineurs. Rappelons la vision telle qu’elle est relatée, à la demande du pape Grégoire IX, par le frère mineur Thomas de Celano, qui composa en 1228, pour la canonisation de François, une première Vie du saint. Ce texte révèle que François vit dans une vision un homme, semblable à un séraphin doté de six ailes, qui se tenait au-dessus de lui, attaché à une croix, les bras étendus et les pieds joints. Deux ailes s'élevaient au-dessus de sa tête, deux autres restaient déployées pour le vol, les deux dernières lui voilaient tout le corps.

[…]

Récente édition de L’ITINÉRAIRE DE L’ESPRIT JUSQU’EN DIEU, de Saint BONAVENTURE (Édition Vrin, Coll. « Translatio/philosophies médiévales », Paris, 2019), Introduction de Laure Solignac (Institut Catholique, Paris) et traduction du texte latin par André Ménard, Capucin (Ecole Franciscaine, Paris).

Plan de l'ouvrage de Saint Bonaventure, qui sera surnommé Docteur séraphique

• Prologue : plan analytique de l'Itinéraire

À l'exemple de notre père saint François, j'étais tout haletant à la recherche de cette paix, moi pauvre pécheur, indigne successeur du bienheureux père, depuis sa mort septième ministre général de ses frères. C'est alors qu’une inspiration, vers le trente-troisième anniversaire de son trépas, me conduisit à l'écart sur le mont Alverne, comme en un lieu de repos, avec le désir d’y trouver la paix de l'esprit. Là, tandis que je méditais sur les élévations de l'âme vers Dieu, je me remémorai, entre autres choses, le miracle arrivé en ce lieu à saint François lui-même : la vision du séraphin ailé en forme de croix. Or il me sembla aussitôt que cette apparition représentait l’extase du bienheureux père et indiquait l'itinéraire à suivre pour y parvenir. Car par les six ailes du séraphin on peut entendre six élévations diverses où l'âme est illuminée successivement, et qui lui sont comme autant de degrés pour arriver, au milieu des ravissements enseignés par la sagesse chrétienne, à la possession de la paix.

Or, la voie qui y conduit n'est autre qu'un amour très-ardent pour Jésus crucifié ; c'est cet amour qui, après avoir ravi saint Paul jusqu'au troisième ciel, le transformera en son Sauveur, de telle sorte qu'il s'écriait : Je suis attaché à la croix avec Jésus-Christ. Je vis ; mais non, ce n'est plus moi qui vis, c'est Jésus-Christ qui vit en moi (1 Gal., 2). C'est cet amour qui absorba tellement l'âme de François que ses traces se manifestèrent en sa chair lorsque, pendant les deux dernières années de sa vie, il porta en son corps, les stigmates sacrés de la Passion.

Ces six ailes du séraphin sont donc six degrés successifs d'illumination, qui partent de la créature pour nous conduire jusqu'à Dieu, à qui l'on ne saurait arriver que par Jésus crucifié.

Les six ailes du séraphin sont refermées sur lui-même : chaque méditation permet d'en lever une (les six premiers chapitres) ; la dernière méditation est le repos de l'extase mystique.

Contemplation de Dieu à l'extérieur de nous (théologie symbolique) :

• Chapitre I : Degrés d'élévation à Dieu et contemplation de Dieu par ses vestiges dans l’univers

• Chapitre II : Contemplation de Dieu dans ses vestiges à travers le monde sensible

Contemplation de Dieu à l'intérieur de nous (théologie spéculative) :

• Chapitre III : Contemplation de Dieu par son image gravée dans nos facultés naturelles

• Chapitre IV : Contemplation de Dieu dans son image réformée par les dons de la grâce

Contemplation de Dieu au-dessus de nous (théologie mystique) :

• Chapitre V : Contemplation de l'unité divine par son premier nom : l’Être

• Chapitre VI : Contemplation de la bienheureuse Trinité dans son nom : le Bien

• Chapitre VII : De l’extase mystique où notre intelligence se tient en repos, tandis que notre ferveur passe tout entière en Dieu

Martine Petrini-Poli

SOURCE : https://www.narthex.fr/blogs/ecrits-mystiques/itineraire-de-l2019esprit-jusqu2019en-dieu-de-saint-bonaventure-1259

Jean Hey (style de) ; Jean Pichore (style de) ; Maître de la Chronique scandaleuse (style du). Saint Bonaventure. Miniature. Heures à l'usage de Rome (c. 1510). Tours - BM - ms. 2104 f. 172


Saint Bonaventure, évêque, confesseur et docteur
Déposition à Lyon en 1274. Canonisé en 1482, fête en 1483 (fixée au 2nd dimanche de juillet), Semidouble en 1568 fixé au 14 juillet. Docteur en 1588 et fête double la même année.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960.

Au deuxième nocturne.

Quatrième leçon. Bonaventure, né à Bagnorea, en Étrurie, fut arraché, dans son enfance à une maladie mortelle, par les prières du bienheureux François, à l’ordre duquel sa mère avait fait vœu de le consacrer s’il se rétablissait. Aussi, parvenu à l’adolescence, résolut-il d’entrer dans l’ordre des Frères Mineurs ; il y parvint, sous la direction d’Alexandre de Hales, à un tel degré de science que, sept ans plus tard, après avoir remporté à Paris les palmes de « Maître », il expliqua publiquement avec le plus grand succès les livres des Sentences, que, dans la suite, il illustra aussi de commentaires célèbres. Mais ce ne fut pas seulement par la profondeur de sa science, ce fut encore par la pureté de ses mœurs, l’innocence de sa vie, son humilité, sa douceur, son mépris des choses terrestres et son désir des biens célestes, qu’il excella merveilleusement : bien digne, en vérité, d’être considéré comme un modèle de perfection et d’être appelé saint par le bienheureux Thomas d’Aquin, son ami intime. En effet, celui-ci le trouvant à écrire la vie de saint François : « Laissons, dit-il, un saint travailler pour un saint. »

Cinquième leçon. Embrasé du feu de l’amour divin, il était porté par un sentiment tout particulier de piété à honorer la passion de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, qui faisait l’objet constant de sa méditation, et la Vierge Mère de Dieu, à laquelle il s’était consacré tout entier ; et cette même dévotion, il s’appliqua de toutes ses forces à l’exciter en d’autres par ses paroles et ses exemples, puis à la développer par des ouvrages et des opuscules. De sa piété provenaient la suavité de ses rapports avec le prochain, la grâce qui s’attachait à sa parole, et cette charité débordante par laquelle il s’attachait étroitement tous les cœurs. Ces vertus firent, qu’à peine âgé de trente-cinq ans, on l’élut à Rome, du commun consentement de tous, ministre général de l’Ordre, et pendant vingt-deux ans, Bonaventure s’acquitta de cette fonction avec une admirable prudence et une grande réputation de sainteté. Il prit plusieurs mesures utiles à la discipline régulière et au développement de son Ordre, qu’il défendit avec succès, en même temps que les autres Ordres mendiants, contre les calomnies de leurs détracteurs.

Sixième leçon. Mandé au concile de Lyon par le bienheureux Grégoire X, et créé cardinal-évêque d’Albano, le saint déploya, dans les affaires ardues du concile, une remarquable activité. Par ses soins, les discordes schismatiques furent apaisées et les dogmes de l’Église triomphèrent. C’est au milieu même de ces labeurs, la cinquante-troisième année de son âge, l’an du salut douze cent soixante-quatorze, que la mort l’atteignit, causant de profonds et unanimes regrets. La présence de tout le concile et celle du Pontife Romain lui-même, rehaussa ses funérailles. De nombreux et éclatants miracles l’ayant rendu célèbre, Bonaventure fut mis au nombre des saints par Sixte IV. Il a écrit beaucoup d’ouvrages, où son ardente piété, jointe à une érudition profonde, émeut le lecteur tout en l’instruisant. Aussi Sixte-Quint lui a-t-il décerné à bon droit le nom de Docteur Séraphique.

Au troisième nocturne.

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Matthieu. Cap. 5, 13-19.

En ce temps-là : Jésus dit à ses disciples : Vous êtes le sel de la terre. Mais si le sel s’affadit, avec quoi le salera-t-on ? Et le reste.

Homélie de saint Jean Chrysostome. Homil. 15 in Matth., sub med.

Septième leçon. Remarquez ce que dit Jésus-Christ : « Vous êtes le sel de la terre ». Il montre par là combien il est nécessaire qu’il donne ces préceptes à ses Apôtres. Car, ce n’est pas seulement, leur dit-il, de votre propre vie, mais de l’univers entier que vous aurez à rendre compte. Je ne vous envoie pas comme j’envoyais les Prophètes, à deux, à dix, ou à vingt villes ni à une seule nation, mais à toute la terre, à la mer, et au monde entier, à ce monde accablé sous le poids de crimes divers.

Huitième leçon. En disant : « Vous êtes le sel de la terre », il montre que l’universalité des hommes était comme affadie et corrompue par une masse de péchés ; et c’est pourquoi il demande d’eux les vertus qui sont surtout nécessaires et utiles pour procurer le salut d’un grand nombre. Celui qui est doux, modeste, miséricordieux et juste, ne peut justement se borner à renfermer ces vertus en son âme, mais il doit avoir soin que ces sources excellentes coulent aussi pour l’avantage des autres. Ainsi celui qui a le cœur pur, qui est pacifique et qui souffre persécution pour la vérité, dirige-sa vie d’une manière utile à tous.

Neuvième leçon. Ne croyez donc point, dit-il, que ce soit à de légers combats que vous serez conduits, et que ce soient des choses de peu d’importance dont il vous faudra prendre soin et rendre compte, « vous êtes le sel de la terre ». Quoi donc ? Est-ce que les Apôtres ont guéri ce qui était déjà entièrement gâté ? Non certes ; car il ne se peut faire que ce qui tombe déjà en putréfaction soit rétabli dans son premier état par l’application du sel. Ce n’est donc pas cela qu’ils ont fait, mais ce qui était auparavant renouvelé et à eux confié, ce qui était délivré déjà de cette pourriture, ils y répandaient le sel et le conservaient dans cet état de rénovation qui est une grâce reçue du Seigneur. Délivrer de la corruption du péché, c’est l’effet de la puissance du Christ ; empêcher que les hommes ne retournent au péché, voilà ce qui réclame les soins et les labeurs des Apôtres.



Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Quatre mois après l’Ange de l’École, voici qu’à son tour Bonaventure paraît au ciel [1] comme un astre éclatant réfléchissant les feux du Soleil de justice. Inséparables au pied du trône de Dieu comme ils le furent ici-bas dans la doctrine et l’amour, la terre les honore de litres glorieux empruntés au monde des célestes esprits. Écoutons le Docteur séraphique justifier à l’avance, pour son compagnon de gloire et pour lui, ces appellations de la reconnaissante admiration des peuples.

Aux trois célestes hiérarchies comprenant les neuf chœurs des Anges, correspondent sur la terre trois ordres d’élus. Les Séraphins, les Chérubins, les Trônes, qui se divisent la première hiérarchie, sont en ce monde ceux que rapproche dans la divine contemplation la meilleure part, et que distinguent entre eux plus spécialement l’intensité de l’amour, la plénitude de la science, la fermeté de la justice ; aux Dominations, Vertus et Puissances répondent les prélats et les princes, aux derniers chœurs enfin les divers rangs des sujets de la sainte Église adonnés à la vie active. C’est le triple partage indiqué parmi les hommes en saint Luc au dernier des jours : Deux seront dans le repos, deux au champ, deux à la meule [2] à savoir le repos des divines suavités, le champ du gouvernement, la meule du labeur de la vie Quant à l’association mutuelle ici marquée, on doit savoir en effet que les Séraphins eux-mêmes, unis à Dieu plus immédiatement que tous autres, s’acquittent à deux en Isaïe du ministère du sacrifice et de la louange [3] ; car pour l’ange aussi bien que pour l’homme, la plénitude de l’amour, part plus spéciale du Séraphin, ne saurait exister sans l’accomplissement du double précepte de la charité embrassant Dieu et son semblable. Aussi est-il observé du Seigneur qu’il envoie ses disciples deux à deux devant sa face [4], et voyons-nous également Dieu dans la Genèse envoyer deux anges là où un seul pouvait suffire [5]. Il vaut donc mieux être deux ensemble qu’un seul, dit l’Ecclésiaste ; car ils tirent avantage de leur société[Eccle. IV, 9.]].

Nous venons d’entendre l’enseignement de Bonaventure en son livre de la Hiérarchie [6] ; il nous donne le secret des procédés divins où l’éternelle Sagesse s’est complue souvent, dans la poursuite du salut du monde et de la sanctification des élus. Au XIIIe siècle en particulier, l’historien qui recherche les causes des événements déroulés sous ses yeux n’arrivera point à les connaître pleinement, s’il oublie la vision prophétique où Notre-Dame nous est montrée, au commencement de ce siècle, présentant à son Fils irrité ses deux serviteurs Dominique et François pour lui ramener par leur union puissante l’humanité dévoyée. Quel spectacle plus digne des Séraphins que la rencontre de ces deux anges de la terre, au lendemain de l’apparition mystérieuse ! « Tu es mon compagnon, tu courras avec moi d’un même pas, dit dans une étreinte du ciel le descendant des Guzman au pauvre d’Assise ; tenons-nous ensemble, et nul ne prévaudra contre nous ». Mais ne doit-ce pas être aussi la devise, n’est-ce pas, sur le terrain delà doctrine sacrée, l’histoire de leurs deux nobles fils Thomas et Bonaventure ? L’étoile qui brille au front de Dominique a dirigé vers Thomas ses rayons ; le Séraphin qui imprima sur la chair de François les stigmates divins touche de son aile de feu l’âme de Bonaventure ; mais, de même que leurs incomparables pères, tous deux n’ont qu’un but : amener les hommes par la science et l’amour à cette vie éternelle qui consiste à connaître le seul vrai Dieu et celui qu’il a envoyé, Jésus-Christ [7].

Lampes ardentes et luisantes [8] combinant leur flamme dans les cieux en des proportions que nul œil mortel ne saurait spécifier d’ici-bas, la Sagesse éternelle a voulu pourtant que l’Église de la terre empruntât plus particulièrement à Thomas sa lumière, et à Bonaventure ses feux. Que ne pouvons-nous ici montrer à l’œuvre en chacun d’eux cette Sagesse, unique lien dès ce monde de leur commune pensée, et dont il est écrit que, toujours immuable en son adorable unité, elle ne se répète jamais dans les âmes qu’elle choisit parmi les nations pour en faire les prophètes et les amis de Dieu [9] ! Mais nous ne devons parler aujourd’hui que de Bonaventure.

Voué tout enfant par sa pieuse mère à saint François qui l’avait sauvé d’une mort imminente, ce fut dès le berceau et sous les traits de la divine pauvreté, compagne aimée du patriarche séraphique, que l’éternelle Sagesse voulut prévenir notre saint et se montrer à lui la première [10]. Promis dès lors à l’Ordre des Frères Mineurs, c’était donc bien littéralement qu’au premier éveil de ses facultés, il la trouvait assise aux portes de son âme [11], attendant l’ouverture de ces portes qui sont, nous dit-il lui-même, l’intelligence et l’amour [12]. La très douce âme de l’enfant, prévenue de tous les dons de nature et de grâce [13], ne pouvait hésiter entre les tumultueuses vanités de ce monde [14] et l’auguste amie [15] qui s’offrait à lui dans le calme rayonnement de sa sublime noblesse et de ses charmes divins [16]. De ce premier instant, sans lutte aucune, elle fut sa lumière [17] ; aussi tranquillement que le rayon de soleil entrant par une fenêtre jusque-là close [18], la Sagesse remplit cette demeure devenue sienne, comme l’épouse au jour des noces prend possession de la maison de son époux et y apporte toute joie, en pleine communauté de biens et surtout d’amour [19].

Pour sa part de contribution à la table nuptiale, elle apportait les substantielles clartés des cieux ; Bonaventure lui servait en retour les lis de la pureté, qu’elle recherche, assure-t-il, pour premier aliment [20]. Le festin ne devait plus cesser dans cette âme [21] ; et la lumière et les parfums s’en échappant, allaient au loin tout attirer, éclairer et nourrir. Presque encore un enfant, lorsqu’au sortir des premières années de sa vie religieuse, il fut selon l’usage envoyé aux cours de la célèbre Université de Paris, tous les cœurs furent gagnés à cet ange de la terre dans lequel il semblait, disait-on, qu’Adam n’eût point péché : parole d’admiration que n’avait pu retenir, à la vue de tant de qualités rassemblées, le grand Alexandre de Halès. Comme ces montagnes dont la cime se perd au delà des nues, dont la base envoie au loin les eaux fécondantes, Frère Alexandre, selon l’expression du Pontife suprême, semblait alors contenir en soi la source vive du paradis, d’où le fleuve de la science du salut s’échappait à flots pressés sur la terre [22]. Bien peu de temps néanmoins allait s’écouler avant que celui qu’on nommait le Docteur irréfragable et le Docteur des docteurs, cédât la place au nouveau venu qui devait être sa plus pure gloire en l’appelant son Père et son Maître [23]. Si jeune encore investi d’un pareil héritage, Bonaventure cependant pouvait dire de la Sagesse divine plus justement que de l’illustre Maître qui n’avait eu qu’à assister au développement prodigieux de cette âme : « C’est elle qui m’a tout appris [24] ; elle m’a enseigné la science de Dieu et de ses ouvrages [25], et la justice et les vertus [26], et les subtilités du discours et le nœud des plus forts arguments » [27].

Tel est bien tout l’objet de ces Commentaires sur les quatre Livres des Sentences, qui nous ont conservé les leçons de Bonaventure en cette chaire de Paris où sa parole gracieuse, animée d’un souffle divin, tenait captives les plus nobles intelligences : inépuisable mine, que la famille franciscaine se doit à elle-même d’exploiter toujours plus comme son vrai trésor ; monument impérissable de la science de ce Docteur de vingt-sept ans, qui, distrait bientôt de l’enseignement par les soins du gouvernement d’un grand Ordre, n’en partagera pas moins toujours, à cause de cette exposition magistrale, l’honneur du principat de la Théologie sacrée avec son illustre ami Thomas d’Aquin, plus heureux et plus libre de poursuivre ses études saintes [28].

Mais combien déjà le jeune Maître répondait à son titre prédestiné de Docteur séraphique, en ne voyant dès ce temps dans la science qu’un moyen de l’amour, en répétant sans fin que la lumière qui illumine l’intelligence reste stérile et vaine si elle ne pénètre jusqu’au cœur, où seulement la Sagesse se repose et festoie [29] ! Aussi, nous dit saint Antonin, toute vérité perçue par l’intellect en lui passait par les affections, devenant ainsi prière et divine louange [30]. Son but était, dit un autre historien, d’arriver à l’incendie de l’amour, de s’embraser lui-même au divin foyer et d’enflammer ensuite les autres ; indifférent aux louanges comme à la renommée, uniquement soucieux de régler ses mœurs et sa vie, il entendait brûler d’abord et non seulement luire, être feu pour ainsi approcher de Dieu davantage étant plus conforme à celui qui est feu : toutefois, comme le feu ne va pas sans lumière, ainsi fut-il du même coup un luisant flambeau dans la maison de Dieu ; mais son titre spécial de louange, est que tout ce qu’il put rassembler de lumière il en fit l’aliment de sa flamme et de la divine charité [31].

On sut à quoi s’en tenir au sujet de cette direction unique de ses pensées, lorsqu’inaugurant son enseignement public, il dut prendre parti sur la question qui divisait l’École touchant la fin de la Théologie : science spéculative pour les uns, pratique au jugement des autres, selon que les uns et les autres étaient frappés davantage du caractère théorique ou moral des notions qu’elle a pour objet. Bonaventure, cherchant à unir les deux sentiments dans le principe qui était à ses yeux l’universelle et seule loi, concluait que « la Théologie est une science affective, dont la conte naissance procède par contemplation spéculative, mais tend principalement à nous rendre bons ». La Sagesse de la doctrine en effet, disait-il, doit être ce que l’indique son nom [32], savoureuse à l’âme ; et, ajoutait-il, non sans quelque pointe de suave ironie comme en connaissent les saints, il y a différence dans l’impression produite par cette proposition : Le Christ est mort pour nous, et semblables, ou cette autre, je suppose : La diagonale et le coté d’un carré sont incommensurables entre eux [33].

En même temps, de quelle ineffable modestie n’étaient pas relevés dans notre saint le charme du discours et la profondeur de la science ! « Soit dit sans préjudice du sentiment d’autrui [34], concluait-il dans les questions obscures. Si quelqu’un pense autrement ou mieux, ainsi qu’il est possible, sur ce point comme sur tous les autres, je n’en suis point envieux ; mais s’il se rencontre quelque chose digne d’approbation dans ce petit ouvrage, qu’on en rende grâces à Dieu auteur des bonnes choses : pour le faux, le douteux ou l’obscur qui peut s’y trouver en d’autres endroits, que la bienveillance du lecteur le pardonne à l’insuffisance de l’écrivain, auquel sa conscience rend témoignage à coup sûr d’avoir désiré ne rien dire que de vrai, de clair et de reçu communément » [35]. Dans une circonstance pourtant, l’inaltérable dévouement de Bonaventure à la Reine des vierges tempère l’expression de son humilité avec une grâce non moins remplie de force que de douceur : « Que si quelqu’un, dit-il, préfère s’exprimer autrement, pourvu que ce ne soit pas au détriment de la Vierge vénérée, je ne lutterai guère à l’encontre ; mais il faut éviter diligemment que l’honneur de Notre-Dame soit en rien diminué par personne, dût-il en coûter la tête » [36]. Enfin, terminant le troisième Livre de cette admirable exposition des Sentences : « Mieux vaut la charité que toute science, déclare-t-il. Il suffit dans le doute de savoir ce qu’ont pensé les sages ; la dispute sert de peu. Nombreuses sont nos paroles, et les mots nous trahissent et nous manquent. Grâces immenses à celui qui parfait tout discours, à notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ dont l’aide m’a donné de parvenir à l’achèvement de cette œuvre médiocre, ayant pris en pitié ma pauvreté de science et de génie ! Je lui demande qu’il en provienne pour moi le mérite de l’obéissance et profit pour mes Frères, double but dans la pensée duquel ce travail a été entrepris » [37]. Cependant le temps était venu où le mérite de l’obéissance allait faire place pour notre saint à un autre moins envié de lui, mais non moins profitable aux Frères. A trente-cinq ans il fut élu Ministre Général. Thomas d’Aquin, plus jeune de quelques années, montait comme un soleil puissant à l’horizon. Bonaventure, contraint d’abandonner le champ de l’enseignement scolastique, laissait à son ami le soin de le féconder plus complètement et plus longuement qu’il n’avait pu faire. L’Église ne devait donc rien perdre ; et, fortement et suavement comme toujours [38], l’éternelle Sagesse poursuivait en cela sa pensée : ainsi prétendait-elle obtenir que ces deux incomparables génies se complétassent ineffablement l’un par l’autre, en nous donnant, réunis, la plénitude de la vraie science qui non seulement révèle Dieu, mais conduit à lui.

Donnez au sage l’occasion, et la sagesse croîtra en lui [39]. Bonaventure devait justifier cette parole placée par lui en tête du traité des six ailes du Séraphin, où il expose les qualités requises dans l’homme appelé à porter la charge des âmes. L’espace nous manque, on le comprendra, pour suivre le détail infini et parfois les difficultés da ce gouvernement immense, que les missions franciscaines si répandues étendaient pour ainsi dire à l’Église entière. Le traité même que nous venons de citer, fruit de son expérience, et que le Père Claude Aquaviva tenait en si haute estime qu’il en avait fait comme un guide obligé des supérieurs de la Compagnie de Jésus, dit assez ce que fut notre saint dans cette dernière partie de son existence.

Son âme était arrivée à ce point qui n’est autre que le sommet de la vie spirituelle, où le plus vertigineux tourbillon du dehors ne trouble en rien le repos du dedans ; où l’union divine s’affirme dans la mystérieuse fécondité qui en résulte pour les saints, et qui se manifeste à la face du monde, quand il plaît à Dieu, par des œuvres parfaites dont la multiplicité reste inexplicable pour les profanes. Si nous voulons comprendre Bonaventure à cette heure de sa vie, méditons ce portrait tracé par lui-même : Les Séraphins influent sur ceux qui sont au-dessous d’eux pour les amener vers les hauteurs ; ainsi l’amour de l’homme spirituel se porte au prochain et à Dieu, à Dieu pour s’y reposer lui-même, au prochain pour l’y ramener avec lui. Non seulement donc ils embrasent ; ils donnent aussi la forme du parfait amour, chassant toutes ténèbres, montrant la manière de s’élever progressivement et d’aller à Dieu par les sommets [40].

Tel est le secret de la composition de toute cette série d’admirables opuscules où, n’ayant pour livre que son crucifix, comme il l’avouait à saint Thomas, sans plan préconçu, mais prenant occasion des demandes ou du besoin des frères et des sœurs de sa grande famille, d’autres fois ne voulant qu’épancher son âme, Bonaventure se trouve avoir traité tout ensemble et des premiers éléments de l’ascèse et des sujets les plus élevés de la vie mystique, avec une plénitude, une sûreté, une clarté, une force divine de persuasion, qui font dire au Souverain Pontife Sixte IV que l’Esprit-Saint lui-même semble parler en lui [41]. Écrit au sommet de l’Alverne, et comme sous l’influence plus immédiate des Séraphins du ciel, l’Itinéraire de l’âme à Dieu ravissait à tel point le chancelier Gerson, qu’il déclarait « cet opuscule, ou plutôt, disait-il, cette œuvre immense, au-dessus de la louange d’une bouche mortelle » [42] ; il eût voulu qu’en le joignant au Breviloquium, abrégé merveilleux de la science sacrée, on l’imposât comme manuel indispensable aux théologiens [43]. C’est qu’en effet, dit pour l’Ordre bénédictin le grand Abbé Trithème, par ses paroles de feu l’auteur de tous ces profonds et dévots opuscules n’embrase pas moins la volonté du lecteur qu’il n’éclaire son intelligence. Pour qui considère l’esprit de l’amour divin et de la dévotion chrétienne qui s’exprime en lui, il surpasse sans peine tous les docteurs de son temps quant à l’utilité de ses ouvrages. Beaucoup exposent la doctrine, beaucoup prêchent la dévotion, peu dans leurs livres enseignent les deux ; Bonaventure surpasse et ce grand et ce petit nombre, parce que chez lui la science forme à la dévotion, et la dévotion à la science. Si donc vous voulez être et savant et dévot, pratiquez ses œuvres [44].

Mais, mieux que personne, Bonaventure nous révélera dans quelles dispositions il convient de le lire pour le faire avec fruit. En tête de son Incendium amoris, où il enseigne le triple chemin qui conduit par la purification, l’illumination et l’union à la véritable sagesse : « J’offre, dit-il, ce livre, non aux philosophes, non aux sages du monde, non aux grands théologiens embarrassés de questions infinies, mais aux simples, aux ignorants qui s’efforcent plus d’aimer Dieu que de beaucoup savoir. Ce n’est point en discutant, mais en agissant qu’on apprend à aimer. Pour ces hommes pleins de questions, supérieurs en toute science, mais inférieurs dans l’amour du Christ, j’estime qu’ils ne sauraient comprendre le contenu de ce livre ; à moins que laissant de côté la vainc ostentation du savoir, ils ne s’appliquent, dans un très profond renoncement, dans la prière et la méditation, à faire jaillir en eux l’étincelle divine qui, échauffant leur cœur et dissipant toute obscurité, les guidera par delà les choses du temps jusqu’au trône de la paix. Car par cela même pourtant qu’ils savent plus, ils sont plus aptes, ou ils le seraient, à aimer, s’ils se méprisaient véritablement eux-mêmes et avaient joie d’être méprisés par autrui » [45].

Si longues que soient déjà ces pages, nous ne résistons pas au désir de citer les dernières paroles qu’on nous ait conservées de Bonaventure. De même que l’Ange de l’École allait bientôt, à Fosse-Neuve, terminer ses œuvres et sa vie par l’explication du divin Cantique, le Séraphin son émule et son frère exhalait avec ces mots de l’épithalame sacré la dernière note de ses chants : « Le roi Salomon s’est fait un trône en bois du Liban ; les colonnes en sont d’argent, le siège en est d’or, les degrés tout de pourpre [46]. Le siège d’or, ajoutait notre saint, est la sagesse contemplative : elle n’appartient qu’à quiconque possède aussi les colonnes d’argent, à savoir les vertus affermissant l’âme ; les degrés de pourpre sont la charité par où l’on monte vers les hauteurs et l’on descend dans les vallées » [47].

Conclusion digne de Bonaventure ; fin d’un ouvrage sublime et pourtant inachevé, que déjà il n’avait pu rédiger lui-même ! « Hélas ! hélas ! hélas ! s’écrie plein de larmes le pieux disciple à qui nous devons ce dernier trésor, une dignité plus haute, et bientôt le départ de cette vie de notre seigneur et Maître ont arrêté la continuation de cette œuvre ». Et nous révélant d’une façon touchante les précautions prises par les fils pour ne rien laisser perdre des conférences que faisait le père : « Ce que je donne ici, déclare-t-il, est ce que j’ai pu d’une plume rapide dérober tandis qu’il parlait. Deux autres avec moi pendant ce temps recueillaient des notes, mais leurs cahiers sont restés difficilement lisibles pour autrui ; au lieu que quelques-uns des auditeurs ont pu relire mon exemplaire, et que le Maître lui-même et beaucoup d’autres en ont fait usage, ce dont m’est due reconnaissance. Et maintenant, après bien des jours, la permission et le temps m’en étant accordés, j’ai revu ces notes, ayant toujours dans l’oreille et devant les yeux la voix et les gestes du Maître ; je les ai mises en ordre, sans rien ajouter toutefois qu’il n’eût dit, sauf l’indication de quelques autorités » [48].

La dignité rappelée par le fidèle secrétaire est celle de cardinal évoque d’Albano, que Grégoire X, élu pour succéder à Clément IV après trois ans qu’avait duré le veuvage de l’Église, imposa en vertu de l’obéissance à notre Saint dont le crédit près du sacré Collège avait obtenu cette élection. Chargé de préparer les travaux du concile indiqué à Lyon pour le printemps de l’année 1274, il eut la joie d’assister à la réunion des deux Églises latine et grecque que plus que personne il avait procurée. Mais Dieu voulut lui épargner l’amertume de constater combien peu devait durer un rapprochement qui eût été le salut de cet Orient qu’il aimait, et où le nom de Bonaventure, transformé en celui d’Eutychius, gardait encore son ascendant, deux siècles plus tard, au temps du concile de Florence. Le 15 juillet de cette année 1274, en plein concile et sous la présidence du Pontife suprême, eurent lieu les plus solennelles funérailles que la terre eût jamais contemplées : J’ai grande douleur à ton sujet, mon frère Jonathas [49], s’écriait, devant l’Occident et l’Orient rassemblés dans une commune lamentation, le cardinal Pierre de Tarentaise, de l’Ordre de saint Dominique. Le séraphin avait rejeté son manteau de chair, et déployant ses ailes, après cinquante-trois ans donnés au monde, il rejoignait Thomas d’Aquin qui venait à peine de le précéder dans les cieux.

Vous êtes entré dans la joie de votre Seigneur [50], ô Bonaventure ; quelles ne doivent pas être maintenant vos délices puisque, selon la règle que vous avez rappelée, « autant quelqu’un aime Dieu ici-bas, autant là-haut il se réjouit en lui [51] ! » Si le grand saint Anselme, auquel vous empruntiez cette parole, ajoutait que l’amour se mesure à la connaissance [52], ô vous qui fûtes l’un des princes de la science sacrée en même temps que le Docteur de l’amour, montrez-nous qu’en effet toute lumière, dans l’ordre de grâce et dans celui de nature, n’a pour but que d’amener à aimer. En toute chose se cache Dieu [53] ; et toutes les sciences ont son Christ pour centre [54] ; et Je fruit de chacune est d’édifier la foi, d’honorer Dieu, de régler les mœurs, de conduire à l’union divine par la charité sans laquelle toute notion reste vaine [55]. Car, disiez-vous [56], toutes ces sciences ont leurs règles certaines et infaillibles, qui descendent comme autant de rayons de la loi éternelle en notre âme ; et notre âme, entourée, pénétrée de tant de splendeurs, est par elle-même amenée, si elle n’est aveugle, à contempler cette lumière éternelle. Irradiation merveilleuse des montagnes de la patrie jusqu’aux plus lointaines vallées de l’exil [57] ! Noblesse véritable du monde aux yeux de François votre séraphique père, et qui lui faisait appeler du nom de frères et de sœurs, comme vous le racontez, les moindres créatures [58] ; dans toute beauté il découvrait la Beauté suprême, et aux traces laissées dans la création par son auteur il poursuivait partout le Bien-Aimé, se faisant de toute chose un échelon pour monter jusqu’à lui [59].

Ouvre donc toi aussi les yeux, ô mon âme ! Prête l’oreille, délie tes lèvres, dispose ton cœur, pour qu’en toute créature tu voies ton Dieu, tu l’entendes, tu le loues, tu l’aimes et l’honores, de peur que tout entier l’univers ne se lève contre toi [60] pour ne t’être point réjouie dans les œuvres de ses mains [61]. Du monde ensuite qui est au-dessous de toi, qui n’a de Dieu que des vestiges [62] et sa présence en tant qu’il est partout [63], passe en toi-même, son image de nature [64], réformée dans le Christ-Époux [65] ; puis de l’image monte à la vérité du premier principe dans l’unité de l’essence [66] et la trinité des personnes [67], pour arriver au repos de la nuit sacrée où s’oublient, dans l’amour absorbant tout, le vestige et l’image [68]. Mais tout d’abord sache bien que le miroir de ce monde extérieur te servira de peu, si le miroir intérieur de l’âme n’est purifié et brillant, si le désir ne s’aide en toi de la prière et de la contemplation pour aviver l’amour. Sache que ne suffisent point ici la lecture sans l’onction, la spéculation sans la dévotion, le travail sans la piété, la science sans la charité, l’intelligence sans l’humilité, l’étude sans la grâce [69] ; et lorsqu’enfin t’élevant graduellement par l’oraison, la sainteté de la vie, les spectacles de la vérité, tu seras parvenue à la montagne où se révèle le Dieu des dieux [70] : avertie par l’impuissance de ta vue d’ici-bas à porter des splendeurs dont la trop faible création n’a pu te révéler nulle trace, laisse assoupie ton intelligence aveuglée, passe par delà dans le Christ qui est la porte et la voie, interroge non plus le Maître mais l’Époux, non l’homme mais Dieu, non la lumière mais le feu totalement consumant. Passé de ce monde avec le Christ au Père qui te sera montré [71], dis alors comme Philippe : Il nous suffit [72].

Docteur séraphique, conduisez-nous par cette montée sublime dont chaque ligne de vos œuvres nous manifeste les secrets, les labeurs, les beautés, les périls. Dans la poursuite de cette divine Sagesse que, même en ses reflets les plus lointains, personne n’aperçoit sans extase, préservez-nous de la tromperie qui nous ferait prendre pour le but la satisfaction trouvée dans les rayons épars descendus vers nous pour nous ramener des confins du néant jusqu’à elle. Car ces rayons qui par eux-mêmes procèdent de l’éternelle beauté, séparés du foyer, détournés de leur fin, ne seraient plus qu’illusion, déception, occasion de vaine science ou de faux plaisirs. Plus élevée même est la science, plus elle se rapproche de Dieu en tant qu’objet de théorie spéculative, plus en un sens l’égarement reste à craindre ; si elle distrait l’homme dans ses ascensions vers la Sagesse possédée et goûtée pour elle seule, si elle l’arrête à ses propres charmes, vous ne craignez pas de la comparer à la vile séductrice qui supplanterait dans les affections d’un fils de roi la très noble fiancée qui l’attend [73]. Et certes un tel affront, qu’il provienne de la servante ou de la dame d’honneur, en est-il moins sanglant pour une auguste souveraine ? C’est pourquoi vous déclarez que « dangereux est le passage de la science à la Sagesse, si l’on ne place au milieu la sainteté » [74]. Aidez-nous à franchir le périlleux défilé ; faites que toute science ne soit jamais pour nous qu’un moyen de la sainteté pour parvenir à plus d’amour.

Telle est bien toujours votre pensée dans la lumière de Dieu, ô Bonaventure. S’il en était besoin, nous en aurions comme preuve vos séraphiques prédilections plus d’une fois manifestées dans nos temps pour les milieux où, en dépit de la fièvre qui précipite à l’action toutes les forces vives de ce siècle, la divine contemplation reste appréciée comme la meilleure part, comme le premier but et l’unique fin de toute connaissance. Daignez continuer à vos dévots et obligés clients une protection qu’ils estiment à son prix. Défendez comme autrefois, dans ses prérogatives et sa vie, tout l’Ordre religieux plus que jamais battu en brèche de nos jours. Que la famille franciscaine vous doive encore de croître en sainteté et en nombre ; bénissez les travaux entrepris dans son sein, aux applaudissements du monde, pour illustrer comme elles le méritent votre histoire et vos œuvres. Une troisième fois, et pour jamais s’il se peut enfin, ramenez l’Orient à l’unité et à la vie. Que toute l’Église s’échauffe à vos rayons ; que le feu divin si puissamment alimenté par vous embrase de nouveau la terre.
1] Apoc. XIV, 6.

[2] Luc. XVII, 34-35.

[3] Isai. VI, 3.

[4] Luc. X, 1.

[5] Gen. XIX, 1.

[6] De ecclesiast. hierarchia, pars I, cap. I, 11.

[7] Johan. XVII, 3.

[8] Ibid. V, 35.

[9] Sap. VII, 27.

[10] Sap. VI, 14.

[11] Ibid. 15.

[12] Bonav. Expositio in Lib. Sapientiœ, VI, 15.

[13] Sap. VIII, 19-20.

[14] Ibid. VII, 8-9.

[15] Prov. VII, 4.

[16] Sap. VIII, 2-3.

[17] Ibid. VII, 10.

[18] Exp. in Lib. Sap. VI, 15.

[19] Sap. VIII, 9.

[20] Expl in Lib. Sap. VIII, 9.

[21] Prov. XV, 15.

[22] Litt. Alexandri IV : De fontibus paradisi flumen egrediens.

[23] Bonav. in II Sent. dist. XXIII, art. 2, qu. 3. ad 7.

[24] Sap. VII, 21.

[25] Ibid. VIII, 4.

[26] Ibid. 7.

[27] Ibid. 8.

[28] Litt. Sixti IV : Superna coelestis patriae civitas ; Sixti V : Triumphantis Hierusalem ; Leonis XIII ; Aeterni Patris.

[29] Exp. In Lib. Sap. VIII, 9, 16.

[30] Antonini Chronic. p. III, tit. XXIV, cap. 8.

[31] H. Sedulius, Histor. seraph.

[32] Eccli. VI, 23.

[33] Bonav. Proœmium in I Sent. qu. 3.

[34] II Sent. dist. XXVIII, qu. 6, ad b.

[35] II Sent. dist. XLIV, qu. 2, ad 6.

[36] IV Sent. dist. XXVIII qu. 6, ad 5.

[37] III Sent. dist. XL, qu. 3, ad 6.

[38] Sap. VIII, 1.

[39] Prov. IX, 9.

[40] Bonav. de eccl. hier. p. II, s. n.

[41] Litt. Superna cœlestis.

[42] Gerson. Epist. cuid. Fratri Minori, Lugdun. an. 4126.

[43] Tract, de examinat, doctrinarum.

[44] Trithem. De scriptor. eccl.

[45] Incend. amoris, Prologus.

[46] Cant. III, 9-10.

[47] Illuminationes Ecclesiœ in Hexaemeron, sermo XXIII.

[48] Illuminationes Ecclesiae in Hexaemeron, Additiones.

[49] II Reg. I, 26.

[50] Matth. XXV, 21.

[51] Bonav. De perfectione vitae, ad Sorores, VIII.

[52] Anselm. Proslogion, XXVI.

[53] Bonav. De reductione artium ad theologiam.

[54] Illuminationes Eccl. I.

[55] De reduct. atrium ad theolog.

[56] Itinerarium mentis in Deum, III.

[57] Psalm. LXXV, 5.

[58] Legenda sancti Francisci, VIII.

[59] Ibid. IX.

[60] Sap. V, 21.

[61] Psalm. XCI, 5.

[62] Bonav. Itinerar. mentis in Deum, I.

[63] Ibid. 11.

[64] Ibid. III.

[65] Ibid. IV.

[66] Ibid. V.

[67] Ibid. VI.

[68] Ibid. VII.

[69] Ibid. Prologus.

[70] Bonav. Itiner. mentis in Deum, I.

[71] Johan. XIV, 6, 8.

[72] Bonav. Intiner. mentis in Deum, VII.

[73] Illuminationes Eccl. II.

[74] Ibid. XIX.

Francisco Herrera the Elder  (1576–1656). St Bonaventure Enters the Franciscan Order, 1628, 231 X 215, Museo del Prado  : La obra representa al místico italiano San Buenaventura (1218-1274), que llegó a ser obispo de Albano y cardenal de la Iglesia Católica, recibiendo el hábito de fraile de la Orden de San Francisco


Bhx cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

La place occupée par cet humble fils de saint François, parmi les docteurs de l’Église, est celle d’un astre lumineux de suprême grandeur. Tout l’édifice de la théologie scolastique atteint en effet son sommet en saint Thomas et en saint Bonaventure, après lesquels l’École ne fera guère autre chose que suivre, expliquer et défendre leurs positions. Après ce hardi mouvement ascensionnel sur les cimes les plus inaccessibles de la métaphysique chrétienne et de la théologie révélée, les disciples du Docteur angélique et du Docteur séraphique consacreront une bonne partie de leurs énergies à maintenir le dépôt sacré à eux confié.

Déjà les contemporains unirent Thomas et Bonaventure dans un même sentiment de vive admiration. Après leur mort, leur culte est encore également uni, et Dante, dans son Paradis, met ses plus beaux chants sur les lèvres de l’Aquinate et sur celles de Jean Fidanza de Bagnoreggio, appelé par la suite Bona Ventura.

Et pourtant, ces deux éminents docteurs, qui ont entre eux tant de points de contact, diffèrent profondément l’un de l’autre par ailleurs. Thomas demeura toute sa vie l’homme de l’enseignement scolastique et de la paisible spéculation ; tandis que Bonaventure accuse une force plus vive de sentiment, et se livre avec succès à l’action et au gouvernement des peuples.

Fidanza était encore jeune en effet, quand il fut élevé à la charge de Ministre général de son Ordre, déchiré alors par les discordes intérieures amenées par les Spirituels. Toutefois le Saint, avec cet esprit tempéré de discrète prudence qui, entre deux extrêmes, montre immédiatement le juste milieu à atteindre, sut en imposer aux relâchés et aux rigoristes, et sauva ainsi la famille Franciscaine d’un schisme qui l’aurait conduite à une ruine irréparable.

Saint Bonaventure qui, en 1273, avait été créé cardinal et évêque d’Albano par Grégoire X, mourut l’année suivante, le 15 juillet, à Lyon, tandis qu’on y célébrait le Concile œcuménique.

Ses funérailles furent un triomphe, et, avec le Pape, y prit part l’assemblée tout entière. L’oraison funèbre fut faite par le cardinal Pierre de Tarantaise, le futur Innocent V, qui commença par ces paroles de David : Doleo super te, frater mi, Ionatha [75].

La messe (In medio) est celle du commun des docteurs, avec des éléments empruntés à la deuxième messe d’un évêque Sacerdótes (Alléluia, Secrète, antienne d’offertoire et postcommunion).

Saint Bonaventure est le véritable représentant de l’école ascétique franciscaine, laquelle a popularisé chez les fidèles une touchante dévotion envers la sainte Humanité du Rédempteur. Quand saint Bonaventure écrit sur la Passion du Seigneur et sur les mérites de la bienheureuse Vierge, son style s’échauffe et sa plume répand une onction toute séraphique.

Sixte IV, canonisant saint Bonaventure en 1482, ordonna que sa fête, dans la basilique des Saints-Apôtres à Rome (desservie par les Franciscains conventuels), serait considérée comme une solennité du Sacré Palais Apostolique. Plus tard on dédia au Saint une église et un couvent sur le Palatin.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo  (1617–1682). Saints Bonaventura and Leander, between circa 1665 and circa 1666, 200 X 176, Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. La obra representa al místico franciscano San Buenaventura, que fue cardenal y obispo de Albano, junto al prelado San Leandro, que fue arzobispo de Sevilla.



Dom Pius Parsch, Le guide dans l’année liturgique

Le docteur séraphique nous enseigne la mystique du Christ.

1. Saint Bonaventure. — Jour de mort : 14 juillet 1274. Tombeau : à Lyon ; toutefois ses restes furent brûlés en 1562 par des Calvinistes fanatiques. Seule sa tête a été sauvée. Vie : « Saint Bonaventure est unique par sa sainteté, par l’éminence de son savoir et de son éloquence, par sa conduite tout à fait remarquable, par son cœur plein de charité, par l’attrait de son commerce : bienveillant, affable, pieux, charitable, riche en vertus, aimé de Dieu et des hommes... Le Seigneur l’avait comblé de mérites si aimables que quiconque le voyait se sentait aussitôt le cœur saisi d’amour ». C’est ainsi que termine son rapport sur lui l’auteur des actes du Concile de Lyon. Dès sa jeunesse, il était un maître renommé et un prédicateur entraînant. A trente-six ans, il fut appelé à diriger comme supérieur général l’ordre des Franciscains qui l’honore comme un second fondateur. Il prit une grande part au Concile de Lyon ; c’est à sa vertu et à son savoir, à son habileté et à sa douceur que l’on attribue cet heureux résultat que les Grecs se soient si rapidement décidés à rentrer dans l’unité de l’Église. Comme docteur de l’Église, il porte le titre de « Docteur séraphique » ; il fut à la fois un scolastique pénétrant et un profond mystique. Sa vie de saint François était un des livres les plus aimés au Moyen Age. Lorsque saint Thomas apprit que Bonaventure travaillait à une vie de saint François, il dit : « Laissons un saint travailler pour un autre saint ». Ses contemporains auraient dit qu’il n’y avait personne de plus beau, de plus saint et de plus savant que lui. — La messe (In medio) est celle du commun des docteurs, avec des éléments empruntés à la deuxième messe d’un évêque Sacerdótes (Alléluia, Secrète, antienne d’offertoire et postcommunion).

2. Le Docteur de l’Église. — Qu’est-ce qu’un Docteur de l’Église ? L’Église a donné ce titre de Docteur aux saints qui se sont distingués dans l’Église de Dieu par leur enseignement et par leurs écrits. Pour l’obtenir, il ne suffit pas que le personnage en question possède l’érudition théorique, mais il faut aussi qu’il enseigne la science pratique de la vie ; il doit être un « Doctor vitae = un docteur de la vie » (Or.). Jusqu’à ce jour vingt-trois saints ont reçu ce titre ; l’un des derniers est saint Pierre Canisius. L’Église pense aussi que les docteurs reçoivent au ciel, comme les vierges, une marque spéciale de gloire. Elle les honore à la messe par le Credo [76]. — Que nous apprend donc le Docteur ? Deux choses : à enseigner et à écouter. De même qu’il y a un sacerdoce général, de même l’on peut parler pour tous les fidèles de la mission d’enseigner. Sans doute les évêques seuls appartiennent à l’Église enseignante ; prêtres et laïcs font partie de l’Église enseignée. Cependant le laïc a souvent l’occasion et même le devoir d’enseigner : la mère est la catéchiste naturelle de ses enfants, et pourtant l’on voit rarement cette importante mission bien remplie par la mère. Il y a aussi un noble service à rendre à ses amis, qui consiste à les instruire par la parole ou par la plume. Aujourd’hui surtout beaucoup de laïcs doivent suppléer au manque de prêtres comme maîtres et comme guides dans les cercles et associations liturgiques. — D’autre part, au devoir d’enseigner chez le docteur de l’Église correspond chez le fidèle le devoir d’écouter avec docilité et bonne volonté. Voyons si nous avons à un degré suffisant le souci de faire progresser notre instruction religieuse. Allons-nous écouter les prédicateurs ? Lisons-nous des livres de spiritualité capables de nous instruire ? Connaissons-nous la Sainte Écriture ? Le chrétien cultivé devrait lire aussi quelques ouvrages des Pères et des Docteurs de l’Église.

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/14-07-St-Bonaventure-eveque

Chiesa di San Bonaventura al Palatino, statua del santo sulla facciata


Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio

Also known as

Seraphic Doctor of the Church

the Devout Doctor

Doctor Seraphicus

Memorial

15 July

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Healed from a childhood disease through the prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi. Bonaventure joined the Order of Friars Minor at age 22. Studied theology and philosophy in ParisFrance, and later taught there. Friend of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Doctor of Theology. Friend of King Saint Louis IX. General of the Franciscan Order at 35. Bishop of AlbanoItaly, chosen by Pope Gregory XCardinalWrote commentaries on the Scriptures, text-books in theology and philosophy, and a biography of Saint FrancisDoctor of the ChurchPope Clement IV chose him to be Archbishop of YorkEngland, but Bonaventure begged off, claiming to be inadequate to the office. Spoke at the Council of Lyons, but died before its close.

Born

1221 at Bagnoregio, TuscanyItaly

Died

15 July 1274 at Lyon, France of natural causes

Canonized

14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV

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Saint Bonaventure UniversityNew York

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cardinal in Franciscan robes, usually reading or writing

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Book of Saints, by Father Lawrence George Lovasik, S.V.D.

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Saints of the Day, by Katherine Rabenstein

Holiness of Life, by Saint Bonaventure

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Journey of the Mind into God, by Saint Bonaventure

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Life of Saint Francis, by Saint Bonaventure

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Psaltar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Saint Bonaventure

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Saint Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, by Father Laurence Costelloe

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Readings

A man of eminent learning and eloquence, and of outstanding holiness, he was known for his kindness, approachableness, gentleness and compassion. – Pope Gregory X on hearing of the death of Bonaventure

Mary seeks for those who approach her devoutly and with reverence, for such she loves, nourishes, and adopts as her children. – Saint Bonaventure

When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that proceeding from the mouth. – Saint Bonaventure

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the “throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant,” and “the mystery hidden from the ages.” A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope, and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a “pasch,” that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” – from Journey of the Mind to God by Saint Bonaventure

MLA Citation

“Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio“. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 December 2020. Web. 18 February 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-bonaventure-of-bagnoregio/>

SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/saint-bonaventure-of-bagnoregio/


Francisco Herrera the Elder  (1576–1656). La curación de San Buenaventura niño por San Francisco. 1628, 234 X 218, Louvre Museum



Bonaventure, OFM B Doctor (RM)

Born in Bagnorea near Viterbo, Italy, in 1221; died at Lyons, France, in 1274; canonized in 1482; declared a Doctor (the "Seraphic Doctor") of the Church in 1587 by Sixtus V; feast day formerly on July 14. 

"Look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love." 

-- Bonaventure.

"Thorns and cross and nails and lance,
Wounds, our rich inheritance . . .
May these all our spirits fill,
And with love's devotion thrill . . .
Christ, by coward hands betrayed,
Christ, for us a captive made,
Christ upon the bitter tree,
Slain for man--all praise to thee."
 

--Saint Bonaventure

"In beautiful things Saint Francis saw Beauty itself, and through His vestiges imprinted on creation he followed his Beloved everywhere, making from all things a ladder by which he could climb up and embrace Him who is utterly desirable." --Bonaventure

"Since happiness is nothing but the enjoyment of the Supreme Good, and since the Supreme Good is above us, we cannot be happy unless we rise beyond ourselves. Since we cannot reach above ourselves in our own strength, we must be helped by supernatural strength, lifted up by a higher power that stoops to raise us. However much we structure our inner lives and make progress, it does us no good unless our efforts are accompanied by help from on high. Divine aid is available for those who seek it with a devout and humble heart; this is done by fervent prayer. "Prayer is, therefore, the source and origin of every upward journey toward God. Let us each, then, turn to prayer and say to our Lord God: 'Lead me, O Lord, on your path, that I may walk in your truth.'"

"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."

"From contemplation of the Passion the soul will receive a new compassion, a new love, new consolations, and consequently, as it were, a new state of soul, which seems to be a presage and share of eternal glory." --Saint Bonaventure.

Born Giovanni (John) di Fidanza, an untrustworthy legend says that his name was changed to Bonaventure ("good fortune") by Saint Francis of Assisi, who miraculously cured him of a dangerous illness during his childhood and exclaimed: O buona ventura!

A contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Albert the Great, he went to the University of Paris when he was 14. There he studied theology under the English Franciscan, Alexander of Hales (the "Unanswerable Doctor"); and it was perhaps the influence of this teacher that induced him to enter the order when he was 20.

By 1248, he was a bachelor of Scripture; two years later he became a bachelor of theology; and three years after that he became a master of theology and was appointed to the professorial chair of the Friars Minor. He taught theology and Scripture, and preached in Paris for many years (1248-1255), concentrating on the elucidation of some of the problems that especially exercised men's minds in his day.

His teaching was curtailed by the opposition of secular professors, who were jealous of the new mendicants' success and were perhaps made uncomfortable by their austere lives when compared unfavorably with their own. Apparently, their disdain for the Franciscans, led the university to delay granting him a doctorate in theology, yet this did not embitter Bonaventure. With Aquinas he defended the mendicant friars against their opponents.

When the secular leader William of Saint-Armour wrote The perils of the last times, Bonaventure responded by publishing Concerning the poverty of Christ, a treatise on holy poverty. Pope Alexander IV denounced Saint-Armour, had his book burned, and ordered a halt to the attack on the mendicants. Thus, vindicated, the mendicant orders were re-established at Paris and Bonaventure and Aquina received their doctorates in theology in 1257.

That same year, when he was only 36, Bonaventure was elected minister general of the Franciscans. In this position he was faced with a difficult task, for though Saint Francis had established an incomparable spiritual ideal for his order, his organization was weak and since his death a number of different groups had arisen.

At the general chapter of Narbonne in 1260, Bonaventure designed a set of constitutions as a rule, which had a lasting effect on the order, and for which he is called the second founder of the Franciscans. It has, however, been claimed that he also weakened the spirit of Saint Francis; the Life that he wrote of him, in order to promote unity among the brothers, was accurate but incomplete, and he modified the rule that forbade the brothers to accept money or own property.

The severe-interpretation Spirituals valued poverty above all else, including learning. Bonaventure strongly supported the importance of study to the order and the need for the order to provide books and buildings. He confirmed the practice of monks teaching and studying at universities, believing that the Franciscans could better fulfill the need for preaching and spiritual guidance to compensate for other poorly educated clergy.

In addition to theological and philosophical works, Saint Bonaventure has left us sundry ascetical treatises, some of which have been translated into English including the Journey of the soul to God. The hymn In the Lord's atoning grief is a translation from Bonaventure. Among his works are Commentary on the sentences of Peter Lombard (which covers the whole field of scholastic theology), the mystical works Breviloquium, Itinerarium mentis ad Deum, De reductione artium ad theologium, Perfection of life (written for Blessed Isabella, sister of Saint Louis IX, and her convent of Poor Clares), Soliloquy, The three-fold way, biblical commentaries, and sermons.

Bonaventure was nominated as archbishop of York in 1265, but refused the honor. In 1273, much against his will, Bonaventure was made cardinal and bishop of Albano by Pope Gregory X. His personal simplicity is illustrated by the story that when his cardinal's hat was brought to him at the friary in Mugello (near Florence), he told the legates to hang it on a nearby tree, as he was washing the dishes and his hands were wet and greasy.

The following year, Pope Gregory called him to draw up the agenda for the 14th general council at Lyons to discuss the reunion of Rome with the churches of the East. Saint Thomas Aquinas died en route to the council. Bonaventure was the leading figure in the success of the council that effected the brief reunion, and led his last general chapter of the order between the third and fourth sessions. Bonaventure died while the Council of Lyons was still in session and was buried in Lyons.

Saint Bonaventure's reputation is based on his personal goodness and his skill as a theologian. "In him it seemed as though Adam had not sinned," wrote Alexander of Hales, and when he died the official record of the Council of Lyons stated: "In the morning died Brother Bonaventure of famous memory, a man outstanding in sanctity, kind, affable, pious and merciful, full of virtues, beloved of God and man. . . . God gave him the grace that whoever saw him conceived a great and heartfelt love for him."

The saint was known for his accessibility to any and all who wished to consult him, and once explained his urgency in making himself available to a simple lay brother by saying, "I am at the same time both prelate and master, and that poor brother is both my brother and my master."

Though Bonaventure and Aquinas were friends in their lifetime, the two men had strongly opposed each other on the question of the neo- Aristotelianism that was being introduced into theology, for Saint Bonaventure feared that as a result philosophy would be elevated above theology and that reason would be made more important than revelation.

Saint Bonaventure was a man of the highest intellectual attainments, but he would emphasize that a fool's love and knowledge of God may be greater than that of a humanly wise man. To reach God, he said, "little attention must be given to reason and great attention to grace, little to books and everything to the gift of God, which is the Holy Spirit." Above all he emphasized charity: "For in truth, a poor and unlearned old woman can love God better than a Doctor of Theology."

Bonaventure believed that the created world gave us a sign of God. But faith was needed, honed by reason, to lead to contemplation of the divine. When his friend Aquinas asked where Bonaventure gained his own great knowledge, Bonaventure pointed to a crucifix. "I study only the crucified one, Jesus Christ," he replied.

Philosophy in itself was only an instrument, and unless it was modified in the light of revelation would lead into error, or into an arid preoccupation with intellectual arguments for their own sake. In his opposition to Aristotelian philosophy, Saint Bonaventure no doubt went too far, and the synthesis achieved by Saint Thomas has had none of the disastrous effects that he feared. Yet in taking his stand on the primacy of theology, he was aligning himself with the greatest of all Christian thinkers, Saint Augustine, and in stressing the supremacy of grace, he was following in the footsteps of the founder of his order, Saint Francis (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Costelloe, Encyclopedia, Gilson, White).

Other documents on Saint Bonaventure:

Sixtus IV's Superna caelestis (1482) (On the Canonization of St. Bonaventure)

In art, Saint Bonaventure is a cardinal in a Franciscan habit reading or writing. At times he may be shown (1) with the Tree of Life (i.e., Christ crucified in a tree); (2) with a rod blossoming into a crucifix; (3) with a bishop's crozier and mitre as well as a cardinal's hat; (4) holding a pyx; (5) receiving the Eucharist from an angel; (6) with an angel near him listening to his prayers; (7) with a papal tiara on a table before him; (8) in a library with Saint Thomas Aquinas, to whom he points out the crucifix; (9) as a cardinal presiding at the Council of Lyons; or, as in this painting by Francisco de Zurbarán, (10) with the pope and emperor attending his funeral (Roeder).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0715.shtml


BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Saint Bonaventure


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to talk about St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. I confide to you that in broaching this subject I feel a certain nostalgia, for I am thinking back to my research as a young scholar on this author who was particularly dear to me. My knowledge of him had quite an impact on my formation. A few months ago, with great joy, I made a pilgrimage to the place of his birth, Bagnoregio, an Italian town in Lazio that venerates his memory.

St Bonaventure, in all likelihood born in 1217, died in 1274. Thus he lived in the 13th century, an epoch in which the Christian faith which had deeply penetrated the culture and society of Europe inspired imperishable works in the fields of literature, the visual arts, philosophy and theology. 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.

He was called Giovanni di Fidanza. An episode that occurred when he was still a boy deeply marked his life, as he himself recounts. He fell seriously ill and even his father, who was a doctor, gave up all hope of saving him from death. So his mother had recourse to the intercession of St Francis of Assisi, who had recently been canonized. And Giovanni recovered.

The figure of the Poverello of Assisi became even more familiar to him several years later when he was in Paris, where he had gone to pursue his studies. He had obtained a Master of Arts Diploma, which we could compare with that of a prestigious secondary school in our time. At that point, like so many young men in the past and also today, Giovanni asked himself a crucial question: "What should I do with my life?". Fascinated by the witness of fervour and evangelical radicalism of the Friars Minor who had arrived in Paris in 1219, Giovanni knocked at the door of the Franciscan convent in that city and asked to be admitted to the great family of St Francis' disciples. Many years later he explained the reasons for his decision: he recognized Christ's action in St Francis and in the movement he had founded. Thus he wrote in a letter addressed to another friar: "I confess before God that the reason which made me love the life of blessed Francis most is that it resembled the birth and early development of the Church. The Church began with simple fishermen, and was subsequently enriched by very distinguished and wise teachers; the religion of Blessed Francis was not established by the prudence of men but by Christ" (Epistula de tribus quaestionibus ad magistrum innominatum, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Introduzione generale, Rome 1990, p. 29).

So it was that in about the year 1243 Giovanni was clothed in the Franciscan habit and took the name "Bonaventure". He was immediately sent to study and attended the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris where he took a series of very demanding courses. He obtained the various qualifications required for an academic career earning a bachelor's degree in Scripture and in the Sentences. Thus Bonaventure studied profoundly Sacred Scripture, the Sentences of Peter Lombard the theology manual in that time and the most important theological authors. He was in contact with the teachers and students from across Europe who converged in Paris and he developed his own personal thinking and a spiritual sensitivity of great value with which, in the following years, he was able to infuse his works and his sermons, thus becoming one of the most important theologians in the history of the Church. It is important to remember the title of the thesis he defended in order to qualify to teach theology, the licentia ubique docendi, as it was then called. His dissertation was entitled Questions on the knowledge of Christ. This subject reveals the central role that Christ always played in Bonaventure's life and teaching. We may certainly say that the whole of his thinking was profoundly Christocentric.

In those years in Paris, Bonaventure's adopted city, a violent dispute was raging against the Friars Minor of St Francis Assisi and the Friars Preachers of St Dominic de Guzmán. Their right to teach at the university was contested and doubt was even being cast upon the authenticity of their consecrated life. Of course, the changes introduced by the Mendicant Orders in the way of understanding religious life, of which I have spoken in previous Catecheses, were so entirely new that not everyone managed to understand them. Then it should be added, just as sometimes happens even among sincerely religious people, that human weakness, such as envy and jealousy, came into play. Although Bonaventure was confronted by the opposition of the other university masters, he had already begun to teach at the Franciscans' Chair of theology and, to respond to those who were challenging the Mendicant Orders, he composed a text entitled Evangelical Perfection. In this work he shows how the Mendicant Orders, especially the Friars Minor, in practising the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, were following the recommendations of the Gospel itself. Over and above these historical circumstances the teaching that Bonaventure provides in this work of his and in his life remains every timely: the Church is made more luminous and beautiful by the fidelity to their vocation of those sons and daughters of hers who not only put the evangelical precepts into practice but, by the grace of God, are called to observe their counsels and thereby, with their poor, chaste and obedient way of life, to witness to the Gospel as a source of joy and perfection.

The storm blew over, at least for a while, and through the personal intervention of Pope Alexander IV in 1257, Bonaventure was officially recognized as a doctor and master of the University of Paris. However, he was obliged to relinquish this prestigious office because in that same year the General Chapter of the Order elected him Minister General.

He fulfilled this office for 17 years with wisdom and dedication, visiting the provinces, writing to his brethren, and at times intervening with some severity to eliminate abuses. When Bonaventure began this service, the Order of Friars Minor had experienced an extraordinary expansion: there were more than 30,000 Friars scattered throughout the West with missionaries in North Africa, the Middle East, and even in Peking. It was necessary to consolidate this expansion and especially, to give it unity of action and of spirit in full fidelity to Francis' charism. In fact different ways of interpreting the message of the Saint of Assisi arose among his followers and they ran a real risk of an internal split. To avoid this danger in 1260 the General Chapter of the Order in Narbonne accepted and ratified a text proposed by Bonaventure in which the norms regulating the daily life of the Friars Minor were collected and unified. Bonaventure, however, foresaw that regardless of the wisdom and moderation which inspired the legislative measures they would not suffice to guarantee communion of spirit and hearts. It was necessary to share the same ideals and the same motivations.

For this reason Bonaventure wished to present the authentic charism of Francis, his life and his teaching. Thus he zealously collected documents concerning the Poverello and listened attentively to the memories of those who had actually known Francis. This inspired a historically well founded biography of the Saint of Assisi, entitled Legenda Maior. It was redrafted more concisely, hence entitled Legenda minor. Unlike the Italian term the Latin word does not mean a product of the imagination but, on the contrary, "Legenda" means an authoritative text, "to be read" officially. Indeed, the General Chapter of the Friars Minor in 1263, meeting in Pisa, recognized St Bonaventure's biography as the most faithful portrait of their Founder and so it became the Saint's official biography.

What image of St Francis emerged from the heart and pen of his follower and successor, St Bonaventure? The key point: Francis is an alter Christus, a man who sought Christ passionately. In the love that impelled Francis to imitate Christ, he was entirely conformed to Christ. Bonaventure pointed out this living ideal to all Francis' followers. This ideal, valid for every Christian, yesterday, today and for ever, was also proposed as a programme for the Church in the Third Millennium by my Predecessor, Venerable John Paul II. This programme, he wrote in his Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, is centred "in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem" (n. 29).

In 1273, St Bonaventure experienced another great change in his life. Pope Gregory X wanted to consecrate him a Bishop and to appoint him a Cardinal. The Pope also asked him to prepare the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons, a most important ecclesial event, for the purpose of re-establishing communion between the Latin Church and the Greek Church. Boniface dedicated himself diligently to this task but was unable to see the conclusion of this ecumenical session because he died before it ended. An anonymous papal notary composed a eulogy to Bonaventure which gives us a conclusive portrait of this great Saint and excellent theologian. "A good, affable, devout and compassionate man, full of virtue, beloved of God and human beings alike.... God in fact had bestowed upon him such grace that all who saw him were pervaded by a love that their hearts could not conceal" (cf. J.G. Bougerol, Bonaventura, in A. Vauchez (edited by), Storia dei santi e della santità cristiana. Vol. VI. L'epoca del rinnovamento evangelico, Milan 191, p. 91).

Let us gather the heritage of this holy doctor of the Church who reminds us of the meaning of our life with the following words: "On earth... we may contemplate the divine immensity through reasoning and admiration; in the heavenly homeland, on the other hand, through the vision, when we are likened to God and through ecstasy... we shall enter into the joy of God" (La conoscenza di Cristo, q. 6, conclusione, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome 1993, p. 187).

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, including those from Nigeria, Japan and the United States. To the pilgrims from Sophia University in Tokyo I offer my prayerful good wishes that the coming centenary of your University will strengthen your service to the pursuit of truth and your witness to the harmony of faith and reason. Upon you and your families I invoke God's abundant Blessings!

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, prepare yourselves to face the important stages of life by founding every project of yours on fidelity to God and to your brothers and sisters. Dear sick people, offer your sufferings to the heavenly Father in union with those of Christ, to contribute to building the Kingdom of God. And you, dear newlyweds, may you be able to edify your family in listening to God in faithful and reciprocal love.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Domenico Vaccaro, Vision of St. Bonaventura, San Lorenzo Maggiore (museum), Napoli


BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Vatican Basilica

 

To participants in the Pilgrimage of the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am glad to receive you in this Basilica and to address my cordial welcome to each one of you. I greet the pilgrimage promoted by the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation after the recent beatification of this luminous figure of the Milanese clergy. Dear friends, I am well aware of the extraordinary activity you carry out in the vast area of health-care assistance for children in difficulty, for the disabled, for the elderly and for the terminally ill. Through your projects of solidarity you strive to perpetuate the praiseworthy work begun by Bl. Carlo Gnocchi, an apostle of modern times and a genius of Christian charity, who, in taking up the challenges of his time, devoted himself with  every  possible  care  to  little ones who were mutilated, victims of war in whom he discerned the Face of God. A dynamic and enthusiastic priest and a perceptive teacher, he lived the Gospel integrally in the different milieus in which he worked with unflagging zeal and indefatigable apostolic fervour. In this Year for Priests the Church once again looks to him as a model to imitate. May  his  shining  example sustain the work of all who are dedicated to the service of the weakest. May it also inspire in priests the keen desire to rediscover and reinvigorate awareness of the extraordinary gift of Grace that the ordained ministry represents for those who have received it, for the whole Church and for the world.

Let us conclude this short Meeting by singing the prayer of the Pater Noster.

Saint Bonaventure (2)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week I spoke of the life and personality of St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. This morning I would like to continue my presentation, reflecting on part of his literary opus and on his doctrine.

As I have already said, among St Bonaventure's various merits was the ability to interpret authentically and faithfully St Francis of Assisi, whom he venerated and studied with deep love.

In a special way, in St Bonaventure's day a trend among the Friars Minor known as the "Spirituals" held that St Francis had ushered in a totally new phase in history and that the "eternal Gospel", of which Revelation speaks, had come to replace the New Testament. This group declared that the Church had now fulfilled her role in history. They said that she had been replaced by a charismatic community of free men guided from within by the Spirit, namely the "Spiritual Franciscans". This group's ideas were based on the writings of a Cistercian Abbot, Joachim of Fiore, who died in 1202. In his works he affirmed a Trinitarian rhythm in history. He considered the Old Testament as the age of the Fathers, followed by the time of the Son, the time of the Church. The third age was to be awaited, that of the Holy Spirit. The whole of history was thus interpreted as a history of progress:  from the severity of the Old Testament to the relative freedom of the time of the Son, in the Church, to the full freedom of the Sons of God in the period of the Holy Spirit. This, finally, was also to be the period of peace among mankind, of the reconciliation of peoples and of religions. Joachim of Fiore had awakened the hope that the new age would stem from a new form of monasticism. Thus it is understandable that a group of Franciscans might have thought it recognized St Francis of Assisi as the initiator of the new epoch and his Order as the community of the new period the community of the Age of the Holy Spirit that left behind the hierarchical Church in order to begin the new Church of the Spirit, no longer linked to the old structures.

Hence they ran the risk of very seriously misunderstanding St Francis' message, of his humble fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. This error entailed an erroneous vision of Christianity as a whole.

St Bonaventure, who became Minister General of the Franciscan Order in 1257, had to confront grave tension in his Order precisely because of those who supported the above-mentioned trend of the "Franciscan Spirituals" who followed Joachim of Fiore. To respond to this group and to restore unity to the Order, St Bonaventure painstakingly studied the authentic writings of Joachim of Fiore, as well as those attributed to him and, bearing in mind the need to present the figure and message of his beloved St Francis correctly, he wanted to set down a correct view of the theology of history. St Bonaventure actually tackled the problem in his last work, a collection of conferences for the monks of the studium in Paris. He did not complete it and it has come down to us through the transcriptions of those who heard him. It is entitled Hexaëmeron, in other words an allegorical explanation of the six days of the Creation. The Fathers of the Church considered the six or seven days of the Creation narrative as a prophecy of the history of the world, of humanity. For them, the seven days represented seven periods of history, later also interpreted as seven millennia. With Christ we should have entered the last, that is, the sixth period of history that was to be followed by the great sabbath of God. St Bonaventure hypothesizes this historical interpretation of the account of the days of the Creation, but in a very free and innovative way. To his mind two phenomena of his time required a new interpretation of the course of history.

The first:  the figure of St Francis, the man totally united with Christ even to communion with the stigmata, almost an alter Christus, and, with St Francis, the new community he created, different from the monasticism known until then. This phenomenon called for a new interpretation, as an innovation of God which appeared at that moment.

The second:  the position of Joachim of Fiore who announced a new monasticism and a totally new period of history, going beyond the revelation of the New Testament, demanded a response. As Minister General of the Franciscan Order, St Bonaventure had immediately realized that with the spiritualistic conception inspired by Joachim of Fiore, the Order would become ungovernable and logically move towards anarchy. In his opinion this had two consequences: 

The first, the practical need for structures and for insertion into the reality of the hierarchical Church, of the real Church, required a theological foundation. This was partly because the others, those who followed the spiritualist concept, upheld what seemed to have a theological foundation.

The second, while taking into account the necessary realism, made it essential not to lose the newness of the figure of St Francis.

How did St Bonaventure respond to the practical and theoretical needs? Here I can only provide a very basic summary of his answer and it is in certain aspects incomplete: 

1. St Bonaventure rejected the idea of the Trinitarian rhythm of history. God is one for all history and is not tritheistic. Hence history is one, even if it is a journey and, according to St Bonaventure, a journey of progress.

2. Jesus Christ is God's last word in him God said all, giving and expressing himself. More than himself, God cannot express or give. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Christ himself says of the Holy Spirit:  "He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14: 26), and "he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16: 15). Thus there is no loftier Gospel, there is no other Church to await. Therefore the Order of St Francis too must fit into this Church, into her faith and into her hierarchical order.

3. This does not mean that the Church is stationary, fixed in the past, or that there can be no newness within her. "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards, they do not fail but progress, the Saint said in his letter De Tribus Quaestionibus. Thus St Bonaventure explicitly formulates the idea of progress and this is an innovation in comparison with the Fathers of the Church and the majority of his contemporaries. For St Bonaventure Christ was no longer the end of history, as he was for the Fathers of the Church, but rather its centre; history does not end with Christ but begins a new period. The following is another consequence:  until that moment the idea that the Fathers of the Church were the absolute summit of theology predominated, all successive generations could only be their disciples. St Bonaventure also recognized the Fathers as teachers for ever, but the phenomenon of St Francis assured him that the riches of Christ's word are inexhaustible and that new light could also appear to the new generations. The oneness of Christ also guarantees newness and renewal in all the periods of history.

The Franciscan Order of course as he emphasized belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the apostolic Church, and cannot be built on utopian spiritualism. Yet, at the same time, the newness of this Order in comparison with classical monasticism was valid and St Bonaventure as I said in my previous Catechesis defended this newness against the attacks of the secular clergy of Paris:  the Franciscans have no fixed monastery, they may go everywhere to proclaim the Gospel. It was precisely the break with stability, the characteristic of monasticism, for the sake of a new flexibility that restored to the Church her missionary dynamism.

At this point it might be useful to say that today too there are views that see the entire history of the Church in the second millennium as a gradual decline. Some see this decline as having already begun immediately after the New Testament. In fact, "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards but forwards. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and so forth? This affirmation applies today too: "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt", they move forward. St Bonaventure teaches us the need for overall, even strict discernment, sober realism and openness to the newness, which Christ gives his Church through the Holy Spirit. And while this idea of decline is repeated, another idea, this "spiritualistic utopianism" is also reiterated. Indeed, we know that after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was a different Church, that the pre-Conciliar Church was finished and that we had another, totally "other" Church an anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God the wise helmsmen of the Barque of St Peter, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on the one hand defended the newness of the Council, and on the other, defended the oneness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

4. In this regard, St Bonaventure, as Minister General of the Franciscans, took a line of government which showed clearly that the new Order could not, as a community, live at the same "eschatological height" as St Francis, in whom he saw the future world anticipated, but guided at the same time by healthy realism and by spiritual courage he had to come as close as possible to the maximum realization of the Sermon on the Mount, which for St Francis was the rule, but nevertheless bearing in mind the limitations of the human being who is marked by original sin.

Thus we see that for St Bonaventure governing was not merely action but above all was thinking and praying. At the root of his government we always find prayer and thought; all his decisions are the result of reflection, of thought illumined by prayer. His intimate contact with Christ always accompanied his work as Minister General and therefore he composed a series of theological and mystical writings that express the soul of his government. They also manifest his intention of guiding the Order inwardly, that is, of governing not only by means of commands and structures, but by guiding and illuminating souls, orienting them to Christ.

I would like to mention only one of these writings, which are the soul of his government and point out the way to follow, both for the individual and for the community:  the Itinerarium mentis in Deum, [The Mind's Road to God], which is a "manual" for mystical contemplation. This book was conceived in a deeply spiritual place:  Mount La Verna, where St Francis had received the stigmata. In the introduction the author describes the circumstances that gave rise to this writing:  "While I meditated on the possible ascent of the mind to God, amongst other things there occurred that miracle which happened in the same place to the blessed Francis himself, namely the vision of the winged Seraph in the form of a Crucifix. While meditating upon this vision, I immediately saw that it offered me the ecstatic contemplation of Fr Francis himself as well as the way that leads to it" (cf. The Mind's Road to God, Prologue, 2, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome 1993, p. 499).

The six wings of the Seraph thus became the symbol of the six stages that lead man progressively from the knowledge of God, through the observation of the world and creatures and through the exploration of the soul itself with its faculties, to the satisfying union with the Trinity through Christ, in imitation of St Francis of Assisi. The last words of St Bonaventure's Itinerarium, which respond to the question of how it is possible to reach this mystical communion with God, should be made to sink to the depths of the heart:  "If you should wish to know how these things come about, (the mystical communion with God) question grace, not instruction; desire, not intellect; the cry of prayer, not pursuit of study; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; not light, but the fire that inflames all and transports to God with fullest unction and burning affection.... Let us then... pass over into darkness; let us impose silence on cares, concupiscence, and phantasms; let us pass over with the Crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that when the Father is shown to us we may say with Philip, "It is enough for me'" (cf. ibid., VII 6).

Dear friends, let us accept the invitation addressed to us by St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, and learn at the school of the divine Teacher:  let us listen to his word of life and truth that resonates in the depths of our soul. Let us purify our thoughts and actions so that he may dwell within us and that we may understand his divine voice which draws us towards true happiness.

To special groups

I offer a warm welcome to the many school groups present, including the Bruderhof group from England and the students of St Michael's Holy Cross Secondary School in Dublin, Ireland. The developments taking place in Northern Ireland in these days are a promising sign of hope, and I pray that they will help to consolidate the future of peace desired by all. Upon the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I invoke God's abundant Blessings.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, may the Lenten journey we are taking be an opportunity for authentic conversion that leads you to a mature faith in Christ. Dear sick people, in taking part lovingly in the suffering of the incarnate Son of God, may you share from this moment in the glory and joy of his Resurrection. And may you, dear newlyweds, find in the covenant which, at the price of his Blood, Christ made with this Church, the support and model of your marriage contract and your mission at the service of the Gospel.

* * *

Appeal for aid to Turkey and peace in Nigeria

I am profoundly close to the people hit by the recent earthquake in Turkey and to their families. I assure each one of my prayers, while I ask the international community to contribute promptly and generously to the aid operations.

My heartfelt sympathy also goes to the victims of the atrocious violence that is staining Nigeria with blood and has not even spared defenceless children. Once again, I repeat with anguish that violence does not solve conflicts but only serves to increase their tragic consequences. I appeal to everyone in the country who has civil and religious responsibilities to do their utmost to bring security and peaceful coexistence to the entire population. Lastly, I express my closeness to the Nigerian Pastors and faithful and I pray that with strong, firm hope, they may be authentic witnesses of reconciliation.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100310.html


BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter's Square
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 

Saint Bonaventure (3)


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning, continuing last Wednesday's reflection, I would like to study with you some other aspects of the doctrine of St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. He is an eminent theologian who deserves to be set beside another great thinker, a contemporary of his, St Thomas Aquinas. Both scrutinized the mysteries of Revelation, making the most of the resources of human reason, in the fruitful dialogue between faith and reason that characterized the Christian Middle Ages, making it a time of great intellectual vigour, as well as of faith and ecclesial renewal, which is often not sufficiently emphasized. Other similarities link them: Both Bonaventure, a Franciscan, and Thomas, a Dominican, belonged to the Mendicant Orders which, with their spiritual freshness, as I mentioned in previous Catecheses, renewed the whole Church in the 13th century and attracted many followers. They both served the Church with diligence, passion and love, to the point that they were invited to take part in the Ecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274, the very same year in which they died; Thomas while he was on his way to Lyons, Bonaventure while the Council was taking place.

Even the statues of the two Saints in St Peter's Square are parallel. They stand right at the beginning of the colonnade, starting from the façade of the Vatican Basilica; one is on the left wing and the other on the right. Despite all these aspects, in these two great Saints we can discern two different approaches to philosophical and theological research which show the originality and depth of the thinking of each. I would like to point out some of their differences.

A first difference concerns the concept of theology. Both doctors wondered whether theology was a practical or a theoretical and speculative science. St Thomas reflects on two possible contrasting answers. The first says: theology is a reflection on faith and the purpose of faith is that the human being become good and live in accordance with God's will. Hence the aim of theology would be to guide people on the right, good road; thus it is basically a practical science. The other position says: theology seeks to know God. We are the work of God; God is above our action. God works right action in us; so it essentially concerns not our own doing but knowing God, not our own actions. St Thomas' conclusion is: theology entails both aspects: it is theoretical, it seeks to know God ever better, and it is practical: it seeks to orient our life to the good. But there is a primacy of knowledge: above all we must know God and then continue to act in accordance with God (Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 1, art. 4). This primacy of knowledge in comparison with practice is significant to St Thomas' fundamental orientation.

St Bonaventure's answer is very similar but the stress he gives is different. St Bonaventure knows the same arguments for both directions, as does St Thomas, but in answer to the question as to whether theology was a practical or a theoretical science, St Bonaventure makes a triple distinction he therefore extends the alternative between the theoretical (the primacy of knowledge) and the practical (the primacy of practice), adding a third attitude which he calls "sapiential" and affirming that wisdom embraces both aspects. And he continues: wisdom seeks contemplation (as the highest form of knowledge), and has as its intention "ut boni fiamus" that we become good, especially this: to become good (cf. Breviloquium, Prologus, 5). He then adds: "faith is in the intellect, in such a way that it provokes affection. For example: the knowledge that Christ died "for us' does not remain knowledge but necessarily becomes affection, love (Proemium in I Sent., q. 3).

His defence of theology is along the same lines, namely, of the rational and methodical reflection on faith. St Bonaventure lists several arguments against engaging in theology perhaps also widespread among a section of the Franciscan friars and also present in our time: that reason would empty faith, that it would be an aggressive attitude to the word of God, that we should listen and not analyze the word of God (cf. Letter of St Francis of Assisi to St Anthony of Padua). The Saint responds to these arguments against theology that demonstrate the perils that exist in theology itself saying: it is true that there is an arrogant manner of engaging in theology, a pride of reason that sets itself above the word of God. Yet real theology, the rational work of the true and good theology has another origin, not the pride of reason. One who loves wants to know his beloved better and better; true theology does not involve reason and its research prompted by pride, "sed propter amorem eius cui assentit [but is] motivated by love of the One who gave his consent" (Proemium in I Sent., q. 2) and wants to be better acquainted with the beloved: this is the fundamental intention of theology. Thus in the end, for St Bonaventure, the primacy of love is crucial.

Consequently St Thomas and St Bonaventure define the human being's final goal, his complete happiness in different ways. For St Thomas the supreme end, to which our desire is directed is: to see God. In this simple act of seeing God all problems are solved: we are happy, nothing else is necessary.

Instead, for St Bonaventure the ultimate destiny of the human being is to love God, to encounter him and to be united in his and our love. For him this is the most satisfactory definition of our happiness.

Along these lines we could also say that the loftiest category for St Thomas is the true, whereas for St Bonaventure it is the good. It would be mistaken to see a contradiction in these two answers. For both of them the true is also the good, and the good is also the true; to see God is to love and to love is to see. Hence it was a question of their different interpretation of a fundamentally shared vision. Both emphases have given shape to different traditions and different spiritualities and have thus shown the fruitfulness of the faith: one, in the diversity of its expressions.

Let us return to St Bonaventure. It is obvious that the specific emphasis he gave to his theology, of which I have given only one example, is explained on the basis of the Franciscan charism. The "Poverello" of Assisi, notwithstanding the intellectual debates of his time, had shown with his whole life the primacy of love. He was a living icon of Christ in love with Christ and thus he made the figure of the Lord present in his time he did not convince his contemporaries with his words but rather with his life. In all St Bonaventure's works, precisely also his scientific works, his scholarly works, one sees and finds this Franciscan inspiration; in other words one notices that his thought starts with his encounter with the "Poverello" of Assisi. However, in order to understand the practical elaboration of the topic "primacy of love" we must bear in mind yet another source: the writings of the so-called Pseudo-Dionysius, a Syrian theologian of the 6th century who concealed himself behind the pseudonym of Dionysius the Areopagite. In the choice of this name he was referring, to a figure in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 17: 34). This theologian had created a liturgical theology and a mystical theology, and had spoken extensively of the different orders of angels. His writings were translated into Latin in the ninth century. At the time of St Bonaventure we are in the 13th century a new tradition appeared that aroused the interest of the Saint and of other theologians of his century. Two things in particular attracted St Bonaventure's attention.

1. Pseudo-Dionysius speaks of nine orders of angels whose names he had found in Scripture and then organized in his own way, from the simple angels to the seraphim. St Bonaventure interprets these orders of angels as steps on the human creature's way to God. Thus they can represent the human journey, the ascent towards communion with God. For St Bonaventure there is no doubt: St Francis of Assisi belonged to the Seraphic Order, to the supreme Order, to the choir of seraphim, namely, he was a pure flame of love. And this is what Franciscans should have been. But St Bonaventure knew well that this final step in the approach to God could not be inserted into a juridical order but is always a special gift of God. For this reason the structure of the Franciscan Order is more modest, more realistic, but nevertheless must help its members to come ever closer to a seraphic existence of pure love. Last Wednesday I spoke of this synthesis between sober realism and evangelical radicalism in the thought and action of St Bonaventure.

2. St Bonaventure, however, found in the writings of Peusdo-Dionysius another element, an even more important one. Whereas for St Augustine the intellectus, the seeing with reason and the heart, is the ultimate category of knowledge, Pseudo-Dionysius takes a further step: in the ascent towards God one can reach a point in which reason no longer sees. But in the night of the intellect love still sees it sees what is inaccessible to reason. Love goes beyond reason, it sees further, it enters more profoundly into God's mystery. St Bonaventure was fascinated by this vision which converged with his own Franciscan spirituality. It is precisely in the dark night of the Cross that divine love appears in its full grandeur; where reason no longer sees, love sees. The final words of his "The Journey of the Mind into God", can seem to be a superficial interpretation an exaggerated expression of devotion devoid of content; instead, read in the light of St Bonaventure's theology of the Cross, they are a clear and realistic expression of Franciscan spirituality: "If you seek in what manner these things occur (that is, the ascent towards God) interrogate grace, not doctrine, desire, not understanding; the groan of praying, not the study of reading... not light, but the fire totally inflaming, transferring one into God" (VII 6). All this is neither anti-intellectual nor anti-rational: it implies the process of reason but transcends it in the love of the Crucified Christ. With this transformation of the mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius, St Bonaventure is placed at the source of a great mystical current which has greatly raised and purified the human mind: it is a lofty peak in the history of the human spirit.

This theology of the Cross, born of the encounter of Pseudo-Dionysius' theology and Franciscan spirituality, must not make us forget that St Bonaventure also shares with St Francis of Assisi his love for creation, his joy at the beauty of God's creation. On this point I cite a sentence from the first chapter of the "Journey": "He who is not brightened by such splendours of created things is blind; he who does not awake at such clamours is deaf; he who does not praise God on account of all these effects is mute; he who does not turn towards the First Principle on account of such indications is stupid" (I, 15).

The whole creation speaks loudly of God, of the good and beautiful God; of his love. Hence for St Bonaventure the whole of our life is a "journey", a pilgrimage, an ascent to God. But with our own strength alone we are incapable of climbing to the loftiness of God. God himself must help us, must "pull" us up. Thus prayer is necessary. Prayer, says the Saint, is the mother and the origin of the upward movement - "sursum actio", an action that lifts us up, Bonaventure says. Accordingly I conclude with the prayer with which he begins his "Journey": "Let us therefore say to the Lord Our God: "Lead me forth, Lord, in thy way, and let me step in thy truth; let my heart be glad, that it fears thy name' " (I, 1).

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today is the Feast of St Patrick, and in a special way I greet all the Irish faithful and pilgrims here present. As you know, in recent months the Church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis. As a sign of my deep concern I have written a Pastoral Letter dealing with this painful situation. I will sign it on the solemnity of St Joseph, the Guardian of the Holy Family and Patron of the universal Church, and send it soon after. I ask all of you to read it for yourselves with an open heart and in a spirit of faith. My hope is that it will help the process of repentance, healing and renewal.

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Indonesia and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke God's abundant Blessings.

And now my greeting goes to the young. Dear young people, meeting you is always a cause of comfort and hope because your age is the springtime of life. May you always be faithful to God's love for you. I now address an affectionate thought to you, dear sick people. When one is suffering the whole reality within us and around us seems to darken but, in the depths of our heart, this must not extinguish the consoling light of faith. Christ with his Cross sustains us in trial. And you, dear newlyweds, whom I greet warmly, may you be grateful to God for the gift of the family. Always counting on his help, make your life a mission of faithful and generous love.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100317.html




St. Bonaventure

Doctor of the Church, Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, Minister General of the Friars Minor, born at Bagnorea in the vicinity of Viterbo in 1221; died at Lyons, 15 July, 1274.

Nothing is known of Bonaventure's parents save their names: Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella. How hisbaptismal name of John came to be changed to that of Bonaventure is not clear. An attempt has been made to trace the latter name to the exclamation of St. Francis, O buona ventura, when Bonaventure was brought as an infant to him to be cured of a dangerous illness. This derivation is highly improbable; it seems based on a late fifteenth-century legend. Bonaventure himself tells us (Legenda S. Francisci Prolog.) that while yet a child he was preserved from death through the intercession of St. Francis, but there is no evidence that this cure took place during the lifetime of St. Francis or that the name Bonaventure originated in any prophetical words of St. Francis. It was certainly borne by others before the Seraphic Doctor. No details of Bonaventure's youth have been preserved. He entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1238 or 1243; the exact year is uncertain. Wadding and theBollandists bold for the later date, but the earlier one is supported by Sbaradea, Bonelli, Panfilo da Magliano, andJeiler, and appears more probable. It is certain that Bonaventure was sent from the Roman Province, to which he belonged, to complete his studies at the University of Paris under Alexander of Hales, the great founder of theFranciscan School. The latter died in 1246, according to the opinion generally received, though not yet definitely established, and Bonaventure seems to have become his pupil about 1242. Be this as it may, Bonaventurereceived in 1248 the "licentiate" which gave him the right to teach publicly as Magister regens, and he continued to lecture at the university with great success until 1256, when he was compelled to discontinue, owing to the then violent outburst of opposition to the Mendicant orders on the part of the secular professors at the university. The latter, jealous, as it seems, of the academic successes of the Dominicans and Franciscans, sought to exclude them from teaching publicly. The smouldering elements of discord had been fanned into a flame in 1256, whenGuillaume de Saint-Amour published a work entitled "The Perils of the Last Times", in which he attacked theFriars with great bitterness. It was in connexion with this dispute that Bonaventure wrote his treatise, "De paupertate Christi". It was not, however, Bonaventure, as some have erroneously stated, but Blessed John of Parma, who appeared before Alexander IV at Anagni to defend the Franciscans against their adversary. The Holy See having, as is well known, re-established the Mendicants in all their privileges, and Saint-Amour's book having been formally condemned, the degree of Doctor was solemnly bestowed on St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas at the university, 23 October, 1257.

In the meantime Bonaventure, though not yet thirty-six years old, had on 2 February, 1257, been electedMinister General of the Friars Minor — an office of peculiar difficulty, owing to the fact that the order wasdistracted by internal dissensions between the two factions among the Friars designated respectively theSpirituales and the Relaxati. The former insisted upon the literal observance of the original Rule, especially in regard to poverty, while the latter wished to introduce innovations and mitigations. This lamentable controversy had moreover been aggravated by the enthusiasm with which many of the "Spiritual" Friars had adopted thedoctrines connected with the name of Abbot Joachim of Floris and set forth in the so-called "Evangelium aeternum". The introduction to this pernicious book, which proclaimed the approaching dispensation of the Spiritthat was to replace the Law of Christ, was falsely attributed to Bl. John of Parma, who in 1267 had retired from the government of the order in favour of Bonaventure. The new general lost no time in striking vigorously at both extremes within the order. On the one hand, he proceeded against several of the Joachimite "Spirituals" asheretics before an ecclesiastical tribunal at Città della Pieve; two of their leaders were condemned to perpetualimprisonment, and John of Parma was only saved from a like fate through the personal intervention of Cardinal Ottoboni, afterwards Adrian V. On the other hand, Bonaventure had, in an encyclical letter issued immediately after his election, outlined a programme for the reformation of the Relaxati. These reforms he sought to enforce three years later at the General Chapter of Narbonne when the constitutions of the order which he had revised were promulgated anew. These so-called "Constitutiones Narbonenses" are distributed under twelve heads, corresponding to the twelve chapters of the Rule, of which they form an enlightened and prudent exposition, and are of capital importance in the history of Franciscan legislation. The chapter which issued this code of lawsrequested Bonaventure to write a "legend" or life of St. Francis which should supersede those then in circulation. This was in 1260. Three years later Bonaventure, having in the meantime visited a great part of the order, and having assisted at the dedication of the chapel on La Verna and at the translation of the remains of St. Clare and of St. Anthony, convoked a general chapter of the order of Pisa at which his newly composed life of St. Franciswas officially approved as the standard biography of the saint to the exclusion of all others. At this chapter of 1263, Bonaventure fixed the limits of the different provinces of the order and, among other ordinances, prescribed that at nightfall a bell should be rung in honour of the Annunciation, a pious practice from which theAngelus seems to have originated. There are no grounds, however, for the assertion that Bonaventure in thischapter prescribed the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the order. In 1264, at the earnest request of Cardinal Cajetan, Bonaventure consented to resume the direction of the Poor Clares which the Chapterof Pisa had entirely renounced the year before. He required the Clares, however, to acknowledge occasionally in writing that the favours tendered them by the Friars were voluntary acts of charity not arising from any obligationwhatsoever. It is said that Pope Urban IV acted at Bonaventure's suggestion in attempting to establish uniformity of observance throughout all the monasteries of Clares. About this time (1264) Bonaventure founded at Rome theSociety of the Gonfalone in honour of the Blessed Virgin which, if not the first confraternity instituted in theChurch, as some have claimed, was certainly one of the earliest. In 1265 Clement IV, by a Bull dated 23 November, nominated Bonaventure to the vacant Archbishopric of York, but the saint, in keeping with his singularhumility, steadfastly refused this honour and the pope yielded.

In 1266 Bonaventure convened a general chapter in Paris at which, besides other enactments, it was decreedthat all the "legends" of St. Francis written before that of Bonaventure should be forthwith destroyed, just as theChapter of Narbonne had in 1260 ordered the destruction of all constitutions before those then enacted. Thisdecree has excited much hostile criticism. Some would fain see in it a deliberate attempt on Bonaventure's part to close the primitive sources of Franciscan history, to suppress the real Francis, and substitute a counterfeit in his stead. Others, however, regard the decree in question as a purely liturgical ordinance intended to secure uniformity in the choir "legends". Between these two conflicting opinions the truth seems to be that this edict was nothing more than another heroic attempt to wipe out the old quarrels and start afresh. One cannot but regret the circumstances of this decree, but when it is recalled that the appeal of the contending parties was ever to the words and actions of St. Francis as recorded in the earlier "legends", it would be unjust to accuse the chapter of "literary vandalism" in seeking to proscribe the latter. We have no details of Bonaventure's life between 1266 and 1269. In the latter year he convoked his fourth general chapter at Assisi, in which it was enacted that a Mass be sung every Saturday throughout the order in honour of the Blessed Virgin, not, however, in honour of herImmaculate Conception as Wadding among others has erroneously stated. It was probably soon after this chapterthat Bonaventure composed his "Apologia pauperum", in which he silences Gerard of Abbeville who by means of an anonymous libel had revived the old university feud against the Friars. Two years later, Bonaventure was mainly instrumental in reconciling the differences among the cardinals assembled at Viterbo to elect a successorto Clement IV, who had died nearly three years before; it was on Bonaventure's advice that, 1 September, 1271, they unanimously chose Theobald Visconti of Piacenza who took the title of Gregory X. That the cardinalsseriously authorized Bonaventure to nominate himself, as some writers aver, is most improbable. Nor is there anytruth in the popular story that Bonaventure on arriving at Viterbo advised the citizens to lock up the cardinalswith a view to hastening the election. In 1272 Bonaventure for the second time convened a general chapter atPisa in which, apart from general enactments to further regular observances new decrees were issued respecting the direction of the Poor Clares, and a solemn anniversary was instituted on 25 August in memory of St. Louis. This was the first step towards the canonization of the holy king, who had been a special friend of Bonaventure, and at whose request Bonaventure composed his "Office of the Passion". On 23 June, 1273, Bonaventure, much against his will, was created Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, by Gregory X. It is said that the pope's envoys who brought him the cardinal's hat found the saint washing dishes outside a convent near Florence and were requested by him to hang it on a tree nearby until his hands were free to take it. Bonaventure continued to govern the Order of Friars Minor until 20 May, 1274, when at the General Chapter of Lyons, Jerome of Ascoli, afterwards Nicholas IV, was elected to succeed him. Meanwhile Bonaventure had been charged by Gregory X to prepare the questions to be discussed at the Fourteenth Oecumenical Council, which opened at Lyons 7 May, 1274.

The pope himself presided at the council, but he confided the direction of its deliberations to Bonaventure, especially charging him to confer with the Greeks on the points relating to the abjuration of their schism. It was largely due to Bonaventure's efforts and to those of the Friars whom he had sent to Constantinople, that theGreeks accepted the union effected 6 July, 1274. Bonaventure twice addressed the assembled Fathers, on 18 May, during a session of the Council, when he preached on Baruch 5:5, and on 29 June, during pontifical Masscelebrated by the pope. While the council was still in session, Bonaventure died, Sunday, 15 July, 1274. The exact cause of his death is unknown, but if we may credit the chronicle of Peregrinus of Bologna, Bonaventure'ssecretary, which has recently (1905) been recovered and edited, the saint was poisoned. He was buried on the evening following his death in the church of the Friars Minor at Lyons, being honoured with a splendid funeral which was attended by the pope, the King of Aragon, the cardinals, and the other members of the council. The funeral oration was delivered by Pietro di Tarantasia, O.P., Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, afterwards Innocent V, and on the following day during the fifth session of the council, Gregory X spoke of the irreparable loss the Churchhad sustained by the death of Bonaventure, and commanded all prelates and priests throughout the whole world to celebrate Mass for the repose of his soul.

Bonaventure enjoyed especial veneration even during his lifetime because of his stainless character and of themiracles attributed to him. It was Alexander of Hales who said that Bonaventure seemed to have escaped thecurse of Adam's sin. And the story of St. Thomas visiting Bonaventure's cell while the latter was writing the life ofSt. Francis and finding him in an ecstasy is well known. "Let us leave a saint to work for a saint", said the Angelic Doctor as he withdrew. When, in 1434, Bonaventure's remains were translated to the new church erected atLyons in honour of St. Francis, his head was found in a perfect state of preservation, the tongue being as red as in life. This miracle not only moved the people of Lyons to choose Bonaventure as their special patron, but also gave a great impetus to the process of his canonization. Dante, writing long before, had given expression to the popular mind by placing Bonaventure among the saints in his "Paradiso", and no canonization was ever more ardently or universally desired than that of Bonaventure. That its inception was so long delayed was mainly due to the deplorable dissensions within the order after Bonaventure's death. Finally on 14 April, 1482, Bonaventurewas enrolled in the catalogue of the saints by Sixtus IV. In 1562 Bonaventure's shrine was plundered by theHuguenots and the urn containing his body was burned in the public square. His head was preserved through the heroism of the superior, who hid it at the cost of his life but it disappeared during the French Revolution and every effort to discover it has been in vain. Bonaventure was inscribed among the principal Doctors of the Churchby Sixtus V, 14 March, 1557. His feast is celebrated 14 July.

Bonaventure, as Hefele remarks, united in himself the two elements whence proceed whatever was noble and sublime, great and beautiful, in the Middle Ages, viz., tender piety and profound learning. These two qualitiesshine forth conspicuously in his writings. 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 ofBonaventure's is exclusively philosophical, but in his "Commentary on the Sentences", his "Breviloquium", his "Itinerarium Mentis in Deum" and his "De reductione Artium ad Theologiam", he deals with the most important and difficult questions of philosophy in such a way that these four works taken together contain the elements of a complete system of philosophy, and at the same time bear striking witness to the mutual interpenetration ofphilosophy and theology which is a distinguishing mark of the Scholastic period. 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. It comprises more than four thousand pages in folio and treats extensively and profoundly of God and the Trinity, the Creation and Fall of Man, the Incarnationand Redemption, Grace, the Sacraments, and the Last Judgment, that is to say, traverses the entire field ofScholastic theology. Like the other medieval Summas, Bonaventure's "Commentary" is divided into four books. In the first, second, and fourth Bonaventure can compete favourably with the best commentaries on the Sentences, but it is admitted that in the third book he surpasses all others. The "Breviloquium", written before 1257, is, as its name implies, a shorter work. It is to some extent a summary of the "Commentary" containing as Scheeben says, the quintessence of the theology of the time, and is the most sublime compendium of dogma in our possession. It is perhaps the work which will best give a popular notion of Bonaventure's theology; in it his powers are seen at their best. Whilst the "Breviloquium" derives all things from God, the "Itinerarium Mentis in Deum" proceeds in the opposite direction, bringing all things back to their Supreme End. The latter work, which formed the delight ofGerson for more than thirty years, and from which Bl. Henry Suso drew so largely, was written on Mount la Vernain 1259. The relation of the finite and infinite, the natural and supernatural, is again dealt with by Bonaventure, in his "De reductione Artium ad Theologiam", a little work written to demonstrate the relation which philosophy and the arts bear to theology, and to prove that they are all absorbed in it as into a natural centre. It must not be inferred, however, that philosophy in Bonaventure's view does not possess an existence of its own. The passages in Bonaventure's works on which such an opinion might be founded only go to prove that he did not regardphilosophy as the chief or last end of scientific research and speculation. Moreover, it is only when compared withtheology that he considers philosophy of an inferior order. Considered in itself, philosophy is, according toBonaventure, a true science, prior in point of time to theology. Again, Bonaventure's pre-eminence as a mysticmust not he suffered to overshadow his labours in the domain of philosophy, for he was undoubtedly one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.

Bonaventure's philosophy, no less than his theology, manifests his profound respect for tradition. He regarded new opinions with disfavour and ever strove to follow those generally received in his time. Thus, between the two great influences which determined the trend of Scholasticism about the middle of the thirteenth century, there can be no doubt that Bonaventure ever remained a faithful disciple of Augustine and always defended theteaching of that Doctor; yet he by no means repudiated the teaching of Aristotle. While basing his doctrine on that of the old school, Bonaventure borrowed not a little from the new. Though he severely criticized the defects of Aristotle, he is said to have quoted more frequently from the latter than any former Scholastic had done. Perhaps he inclined more, on the whole, to some general views of Plato than to those of Aristotle, but he cannot therefore be called a Platonist. Although he adopted the hylomorphic theory of matter and form, Bonaventure, following Alexander of Hales, whose Summa he appears to have had before him in composing his own works, does not limit matter to corporeal beings, but holds that one and the same kind of matter is the substratum ofspiritual and corporeal beings alike. According to Bonaventure, materia prima is not a mere indeterminatum quid, but contains the rationes seminales infused by the Creator at the beginning, and tends towards the acquisition of those special forms which it ultimately assumes. The substantial form is not in Bonaventure's opinion, essentially, one, as St. Thomas taught. Another point in which Bonaventure, as representing the Franciscan school, is at variance with St. Thomas is that which concerns the possibility of creation from eternity. He declares that reasoncan demonstrate that the world was not created ab aeterno. In his system of ideology Bonaventure does not favour either the doctrine of Plato or that of the Ontologists. It is only by completely misunderstandingBonaventure's teaching that any ontologistic interpretation can be read into it. For he is most emphatic in rejecting any direct or immediate vision of God or of His Divine attributes in this life. For the rest, the psychologyof Bonaventure differs in no essential point from the common teaching of the Schoolmen. The same is true, as a whole, of his theology.

Bonaventure's theological writings may be classed under four heads: dogmatic, mystic, exegetical, and homiletic. His dogmatic teaching is found chiefly in his "Commentary on the Sentences" and in his "Breviloquium". Treatingof the Incarnation, Bonaventure does not differ substantially from St. Thomas. In answer to the question: "Would the Incarnation have taken place if Adam had not sinned?", he answers in the negative. Again, notwithstanding his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin, he favours the opinion which does not exempt her from original sin, quia magis consonat fidei pietati et sanctorum auctoritati. But Bonaventure's treatment of this question marked a distinct advance, and he did more perhaps than anyone before Scotus to clear the ground for its correct presentation. His treatise on the sacraments is largely practical and is characterized by a distinctly devotionalelement. This appears especially in his treatment of the Holy Eucharist. He rejects the doctrine of physical, and admits only a moral, efficacy in the sacraments. It is much to be regretted that Bonaventure's views on this and other controverted questions should be so often misrepresented, even by recent writers. For example, at, least three of the latest and best known manuals of dogma in treating of such questions as "De angelorum natura", "De scientia Christi", "De natura distinctionis inter caritatem et gratiam sanctificantem", "De causalitate sacramentorum", "De statu parvulorum sine baptismo morientium", gratuitously attribute opinions toBonaventure which are entirely at variance with his real teaching. To be sure Bonaventure, like all theScholastics, occasionally put forward opinions not strictly correct in regard to questions not yet defined or clearly settled, but even here his teaching represents the most profound and acceptable ideas of his age and marks a notable stage in the evolution of knowledge. Bonaventure's authority has always been very great in the Church. Apart from his personal influence at Lyons (1274), his writings carried great weight at the subsequent councils atVienna (1311), Constance (1417), Basle (1435), and Florence (1438). At Trent (1546) his writings, as Newmanremarks (Apologia, ch. v) had a critical effect on some of the definitions of dogma, and at the Vatican Council(1870), sentences from them were embodied in the decrees concerning papal supremacy and infallibility.

Only a small part of Bonaventure's writings is properly mystical. These are characterized by brevity and by a faithful adherence to the teaching of the Gospel. The perfecting of the soul by the uprooting of vice and the implanting of virtue is his chief concern. There is a degree of prayer in which ecstasy occurs. When it is attained,God is sincerely to be thanked. It must, however, be regarded only as incidental. It is by no means essential to the possession of perfection in the highest degree. Such is the general outline of Bonaventure's mysticism which is largely a continuation and development of what the St. Victors had already laid down. The shortest and most complete summary of it is found in his "De Triplici Via", often erroneously entitled the "Incendium Amoris", in which he distinguishes the different stages or degrees of perfect charity. What the "Breviloquium" is toScholasticism, the "De Triplici Via" is to mysticism: a perfect compendium of all that is best in it. Savonarolamade a pious and learned commentary upon it. Perhaps the best known of Bonaventure's other mystical andascetical writings are the "Soliloquium", a sort of dialogue containing a rich collection of passages from theFathers on spiritual questions; the "Lignum vitae", a series of forty-eight devout meditations on the life of Christ, the "De sex alis seraphim", a precious opuscule on the virtues of superiors, which Father Claudius Acquavivacaused to be printed separately and circulated throughout the Society of Jesus; the "Vitis mystica", a work on thePassion, which was for a long time erroneously ascribed to St. Bernard, and "De Perfectione vitae", a treatise which depicts the virtues that make for religious perfection, and which appears to have been written for the use of Blessed Isabella of France, who had founded a monastery of Poor Clares at Longchamps.

Bonaventure's exegetical works were highly esteemed in the Middle Ages and still remain a treasure house of thoughts and treatises. They include commentaries on the Books of Ecclesiastes and Wisdom and on the Gospelsof St. Luke and St. John. In addition to his commentary on the Fourth Gospel, Bonaventure composed "Collationes in Joannem", ninety-one conferences on subjects relating to it. His "Collationes in Hexameron" is a work of the same kind, but its title, which did not originate with Bonaventure, is somewhat misleading. It consists of an unfinished course of instructions delivered at Paris in 1273. Bonaventure did not intend in these twenty-one discourses to explain the work of the six days, but rather to draw some analogous instructions from the firstchapter of Genesis, as a warning to his auditors against some errors of the day. It is an exaggeration to say thatBonaventure had regard only to the mystical sense of Scripture. In such of his writings as are properly exegeticalhe follows the text, though he also develops the practical conclusions deduced from it, for in the composition of these works he had the advantage of the preacher mainly in view. Bonaventure had conceived the most sublimeidea of the ministry of preaching, and notwithstanding his manifold labours in other fields, this ministry ever held an especial place among his labours. He neglected no opportunity of preaching, whether to the clergy, the people, or his own Friars, and Bl. Francis of Fabriano (d. 1322), his contemporary and auditor, bears witness thatBonaventure's renown as a preacher almost surpassed his fame as a teacher. He preached before popes and kings, in Spain and Germany, as well as in France and Italy. Nearly five hundred authentic sermons ofBonaventure have come down to us; the greater part of them were delivered in Paris before the university whileBonaventure was professor there, or after he had become minister general. Most of them were taken down by some of his auditors and thus preserved to posterity. In his sermons he follows the Scholastic method of putting forth the divisions of his subject and then expounding each division according to the different senses.

Besides his philosophical and theological writings, Bonaventure left a number of works referring to the religious life, but more especially to the Franciscan Order. Among the latter is his well-known explanation of the Rule of the Friars Minor; in this work, written at a time when the dissensions within the order as to the observance of theRule were so painfully marked, he adopted a conciliatory attitude, approving neither the interpretation of theZelanti nor that of the Relaxati. His aim was to promote harmony in essentials. With this end in view, he had chosen a middle course at the outset and firmly adhered to it during the seventeen years of his generalship. If anyone could have succeeded in uniting the order, it would have been Bonaventure; but the via media provedimpracticable, and Bonaventure's personality only served to hold in check the elements of discord, subsequently represented by the Conventuals and the Fraticelli. Following upon his explanation of the Rule comesBonaventure's important treatise embodying the Constitutions of Narbonne already referred to. There is also an answer by Bonaventure to some questions concerning the Rule, a treatise on the guidance of novices, and an opuscule in which Bonaventure states why the Friars Minor preach and hear confessions, besides a number of letters which give us a special insight into the saint's character. These include official letters written byBonaventure as general to the superiors of the order, as well as personal letters addressed like that "Ad innominatum magistrum" to private individuals. Bonaventure's beautiful "Legend" or life of St. Francis completes the writings in which he strove to promote the spiritual welfare of his brethren. This well-known work is composed of two parts of very unequal value. In the first Bonaventure publishes the unedited facts that he had been able to gather at Assisi and elsewhere; in the other he merely abridges and repeats what others, and especially Celano, had already recorded. As a whole, it is essentially a legenda pacis, compiled mainly with a view to pacifying the unhappy discord still ravaging the order. St. Bonaventure's aim was to present a general portrait of the holy founder which, by the omission of certain points that had given rise to controversy, should be acceptable to all parties. This aim was surely legitimate even though from a critical standpoint the work may not be a perfect biography. Of this "Legenda Major", as it came to be called, Bonaventure made an abridgment arranged for use in choir and known as the "Legenda Minor".

Bonaventure was the true heir and follower of Alexander of Hales and the continuator of the old Franciscan schoolfounded by the Doctor Irrefragabilis, but he surpassed the latter in acumen, fertility of imagination, and originality of expression. His proper place is beside his friend St. Thomas, as they are the two greatesttheologians of Scholasticism. If it be true that the system of St. Thomas is more finished than that ofBonaventure, it should be borne in mind that, whereas Thomas was free to give himself to study to the end of his days, Bonaventure had not yet received the Doctor's degree when he was called to govern his order and overwhelmed with multifarious cares in consequence. The heavy responsibilities which he bore till within a few weeks of his death were almost incompatible with further study and even precluded his completing what he had begun before his thirty-sixth year. Again, in attempting to make a comparison between Bonaventure and St. Thomas, we should remember that the two saints were of a different bent of mind; each had qualities in which he excelled; one was in a sense the complement of the other; one supplied what the other lacked. Thus Thomas was analytical, Bonaventure synthetical; Thomas was the Christian Aristotle, Bonaventure the true disciple ofAugustine; Thomas was the teacher of the schools, Bonaventure of practical life; Thomas enlightened the mind,Bonaventure inflamed the heart; Thomas extended the Kingdom of God by the love of theology, Bonaventure by the theology of love. Even those who hold that Bonaventure does not reach the level of St. Thomas in the sphere of Scholastic speculation concede that as a mystic he far surpasses the Angelic Doctor. In this particular realm oftheology, Bonaventure equals, if he does not excel, St. Bernard himself. Leo XIII rightly calls Bonaventure thePrince of Mystics: "Having scaled the difficult heights of speculation in a most notable manner, he treated ofmystical theology with such perfection that in the common opinion of the learned he is facile princeps in that field." (Allocutio of 11 October, 1890.) It must not be concluded, however, that Bonaventure's mystical writings constitute his chief title to fame. This conclusion, in so far as it seems to imply a deprecation of his labours in the field of Scholasticism, is opposed to the explicit utterances of several pontiffs and eminent scholars, is incompatible with Bonaventure's acknowledged reputation in the Schools, and is excluded by an intelligentperusal of his works. As a matter of fact, the half of one volume of the ten comprising the Quaracchi edition suffices to contain Bonaventure's ascetic and mystic writings. Although Bonaventure's mystical works alone would suffice to place him in the foremost rank, yet he may justly be called a mystic rather than a Scholastic only in so far as every subject he treats of is made ultimately to converge upon God. This abiding sense of God's presencewhich pervades all the writings of Bonaventure is perhaps their fundamental attribute. To it we may trace that all-pervading unction which is their peculiar characteristic. As Sixtus V aptly expresses it: "In writing he united to the highest erudition an equal amount of the most ardent piety; so that whilst enlightening his readers he also touched their hearts penetrating to the inmost recesses of their souls" (Bull, Triumphantis Jerusalem). St. Antoninus, Denis the Carthusian, Louis of Granada, and Father Claude de la Colombière, among others, have also noted this feature of Bonaventure's writings. Invariably he aims at arousing devotion as well as imparting knowledge. He never divorces the one from the other, but treats learned subjects devoutly and devout subjects learnedly. Bonaventure, however, never sacrifices truth to devotion, but his tendency to prefer an opinion which arouses devotion to a dry and uncertain speculation may go far towards explaining not a little of the widespread popularity his writings enjoyed among his contemporaries and all succeeding ages. Again Bonaventure is distinguished from the other Scholastics not only by the greater warmth of his religious teaching, but also by its practical tendency as Trithemius notes (Scriptores Eccles.). Many purely speculative questions are passed over by Bonaventure; there is a directness about all he has written. No useful purpose, he declares, is achieved by mere controversy. He is ever tolerant and modest. Thus while he himself accepts the literal interpretations of the firstchapter of Genesis, Bonaventure acknowledges the admissibility of a different one and refers with admiration to the figurative explanation propounded by St. Augustine. He never condemns the opinions of others and emphatically disclaims anything like finality for his own views. Indeed he asserts the littleness of his authority, renounces all claims to originality and calls himself a "poor compiler". No doubt Bonaventure's works betray some of the defects of the learning of his day, but there is nothing in them that savours of useless subtlety. "One does not find in his pages", notes Gerson (De Examin. Doctrin.) "vain trifles or useless cavils, nor does he mix as do so many others, worldly digressions with serious theological discussions. "This", he adds, "is the reason why St. Bonaventure has been abandoned by those Scholastics who are devoid of piety, of whom the number is alas! but too large". It has been said that Bonaventure's mystical spirit unfitted him for subtle analysis. Be this as it may, one of the greatest charms of Bonaventure's writings is their simple clearness. Though he had necessarily to make use of the Scholastic method, he rose above dialectics, and though his argumentation may at times seem too cumbersome to find approval in our time, yet he writes with an ease and grace of style which one seeks in vain among the other Schoolmen. To the minds of his contemporaries impregnated with the mysticism of the Middle Ages, the spirit that breathed in Bonaventure's writings seemed to find its parallel only in the lives of those that stand nearest to the Throne, and the title of "Seraphic Doctor" bestowed upon Bonaventure is an undeniable tribute to his all-absorbing love for God. This title seems to have been first given to him in 1333 in the Prologueof the "Pantheologia" by Raynor of Pisa, O.P. He had already received while teaching in Paris the name of Doctor Devotus.

The Franciscan Order has ever regarded Bonaventure as one of the greatest Doctors and from the beginning his teaching found many distinguished expositors within the order, among the earliest being his own pupils, JohnPeckham later Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew of Aquasparta, and Alexander of Alexandria (d. 1314), both of whom became ministers general of the order. The last named wrote a "Summa quaestionum S. Bonaventura. Other well-known commentaries are by John of Erfurt (d. 1317), Verilongus (d. 1464), Brulifer (d. c. 1497), de Combes (d. 1570), Trigosus (d. 1616), Coriolano (d. 1625), Zamora (d. 1649), Bontemps (d. 1672), Hauzeur (d. 1676), Bonelli (d. 1773), etc. From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century the influence of Bonaventure was undoubtedly somewhat overshadowed by that of Duns Scotus, owing largely to the prominence of the latter as champion of the Immaculate Conception in the disputes between the Franciscans and Dominicans. Sixtus V, however, founded a special chair at Rome for the study of St. Bonaventure; such chairs also existed in severaluniversities, notably at Ingolstadt, Salzburg, Valencia, and Osuna. It is worthy of note that the Capuchins forbade their Friars to follow Scotus and ordered them to return to the study of Bonaventure. The centenary celebrations of 1874 appear to have revived interest in the life and work of St. Bonaventure. Certain it is that since then the study of his writings has steadily increased.

Unfortunately not all of Bonaventure's writings have come down to us. Some were lost before the invention of printing. On the other hand, several works have in the course of time been attributed to him which are not his. Such are the "Centiloquium", the "Speculum Disciplinæ", which is probably the work of Bernard of Besse,Bonaventure's secretary; the rhythmical "Philomela", which seems to be from the pen of John Peckham; the "Stimulus Amoris" and the "Speculum B.V.M.", written respectively by James of Milan and Conrad of Saxony; "The Legend of St. Clare", which is by Thomas of Celano; the "Meditationes vitae Christi" composed by a Friar Minor for a Poor Clare, and the "Biblia pauperum" of the Dominican Nicholas of Hanapis. Those familiar with the catalogues of European libraries are aware that no writer since the Middle Ages had been more widely read or copied than Bonaventure. The earliest catalogues of his works are those given by Salimbene (1282), Henry of Ghent (d. 1293), Ubertino of Casale (1305), Ptolemy of Lucca (1327) and the "Chronicle of the XXIV Generals" (1368). The fifteenth century saw no less than fifty editions of Bonaventure's works. More celebrated than any preceding edition was that published at Rome (1588-96) by order of Sixtus V (7 vols. in fol.). It was reprinted with but slight emendations at Metz in 1609 and at Lyons in 1678. A fourth edition appeared at Venice (13 vols. in 4to) 1751, and was reprinted at Paris in 1864. All these editions were very imperfect in so far as they include spurious works and omit genuine ones. They have been completely superseded by the celebrated critical edition published by the Friars Minor at Quaracchi, near Florence. Any scientific study of Bonaventure must be based upon this edition, upon which not only Leo XIII (13 December, 1885) and Pius X (11 April, 1904), but scholars of all creeds have lavished the highest encomiums. Nothing seems to have been omitted which could make this edition perfect and complete. In its preparation the editors visited over 400 libraries and examined nearly 52,000 manuscripts, while the first volume alone contains 20,000 variant readings. It was commenced by Father Fidelis aFanna (d. 1881) and completed by Father Ignatius Jeiler (d. 1904): "Doctoris Seraphici S. Bonaventuræ S. H. B. Episcopi Cardinalis Opera Omnia, — edita studio et cura P. P. Collegii S. Bonaventura in fol. ad Claras Aquas[Quaracchi] 1882-1902". In this edition the works of the saint are distributed through the ten volumes as follows: the first four contain his great "Commentaries on the Book of Sentences"; the fifth comprises eight smallerscholastic works such as the "Breviloquium" and "Itinerarium"; the sixth and seventh are devoted to hiscommentaries on Scripture; the eighth contains his mystical and ascetic writings and works having special reference to the order; the ninth his sermons; whilst the tenth is taken up with the index and a short sketch of the saint's life and writings by Father Ignatius Jeiler.

We do not possess any formal, contemporary biography of St. Bonaventure. That written by the Spanish Franciscan, Zamorra, who flourished before 1300, has not been preserved. The references to Bonaventure's life contained in the works of Salimbene (1282), Bernard of Besse (c. 1380), Bl. Francis of Fabriano (d. 1322), AngeloClareno (d. 1337), Ubertino of Casale (d. 1338), Bartholomew of Pisa (d. 1399) and the "Chronicle of the XXIV Generals" (c. 1368), are in vol. X of the Quaracchi Edition (pp. 39-72).

Robinson, Paschal. "St. Bonaventure." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 14 Jul. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02648c.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Kevin Cawley.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Attributed to Jesuíno do Monte Carmelo  (1764–1819). Saint Bonaventure, 172 X 135, São Paulo Museum of Sacred Art  


JULY I4.—ST. BONAVENTURE.

SANCTITY and learning raised Bonaventure to the Church's highest honors, and from a child he was the companion of Saints. Yet at heart he was ever the poor Franciscan friar, and practised and taught humility and mortification. St. Francis gave him his name; for, having miraculously cured him of a mortal sickness, he prophetically exclaimed of the child, "O bona ventura!"—good luck. He is known also as the "Seraphic Doctor," from the fervor of divine love which breathes in his writings. He was the friend of St. Thomas Aquinas, who asked him one day whence he drew his great learning. He replied by pointing to his crucifix. At another time, St. Thomas found him in ecstasy while writing the life of St. Francis, and exclaimed, "Let us leave a Saint to write of a Saint." They received the Doctor's cap together. He was the guest and adviser of St. Louis, and the director of St. Isabella, the king's sister. At the age of thirty-five, he was made general of his Order; and only escaped another dignity, the Archbishopric of York, by dint of tears and entreaties. Gregory X. appointed him Cardinal Bishop of Albano. When the Saint heard of the Pope's resolve to create him a Cardinal, he quietly made his escape from Italy. But Gregory sent him a summons to return to Rome. On his way, he stopped to rest himself at a convent of his Order near Florence; and there two Papal messengers, sent to meet him with the Cardinal's hat, found him washing the dishes. The Saint desired them to hang the hat on a bush that was near, and take a walk in the garden until he had finished what he was about. Then taking up the hat with unfeigned sorrow, he joined the messengers, and paid them the respect due to their character. He sat at the Pontiff's right hand, and spoke first at the Council of Lions. His piety and eloquence won over the Greeks to Catholic union, and then his strength failed. He died while the Council was sitting, and was buried by the assembled bishops, A.D. 1274.

REFLECTION.—"The fear of God," says St. Bonaventure, "forbids a man to give his heart to transitory things, which are the true seeds of sin."

SOURCE : http://jesus-passion.com/Saint_Bonaventure.htm

Claudio Ridolfi, Saint Bonaventure, Ursuline Church of Ljubljana


July 14

St. Bonaventure, Cardinal, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church

From his works, Wadding’s Annals of the Friar Minors, the discourse of Octavian de Marinis for his canonization, and from his Life, written by Peter Galesini, by order of Sixtus V. See also Boule, Raynaud, de Colonia, and the Bollandists

A.D. 1274.


ST. BONAVENTURE, the great light and ornament of the holy Order of St. Francis, for his extraordinary devotion, ardent charity, and eminent skill in sacred learning, is surnamed the Seraphic Doctor. He was born at Bagnarea in Tuscany, in the year 1221, of pious parents, named John of Fidenza and Mary Ritelli. He was christened by the name of John, but afterwards received that of Bonaventure, on the following occasion. In the fourth year of his age he fell so dangerously sick that his life was despaired of by the physicians. The mother in excessive grief had recourse to the Almighty physician by earnest prayer, and going into Umbria cast herself at the feet of St. Francis of Assisium, with many tears begging his intercession with God for the life of her son. Would Christians address themselves to God with an humble confidence in all their corporal necessities, their afflictions would never fail to be turned into divine blessings. But their neglect of this duty deserves to be chastised by spiritual misfortunes, and often also by temporal disappointments without comfort or remedy. St. Francis was moved to compassion by the tears of the mother, and at his prayer the child recovered so perfect a state of health that he was never known to be sick from that time till the illness of which he died. 1 The glorious saint, at whose petition God granted this favour, saw himself near the end of his mortal course, and foretelling the graces which the divine goodness prepared for this child, cried out in prophetic rapture; O buona ventura, that is, in Italian, Good luck. Whence the name of Bonaventura was given our saint. The devout mother in gratitude consecrated her son to God by a vow, and was careful to inspire into him from the cradle the most ardent sentiments of piety, and to inure him betimes to assiduous practices of self-denial, humility, obedience, and devotion. Bonaventure from his infancy entered upon a religious course, and appeared inflamed with the love of God as soon as he was capable of knowing him. His progress in his studies surprised his masters, but that which he made in the science of the saints, and in the practice of every virtue was far more extraordinary. It was his highest pleasure and joy to hear by how many titles he belonged to God, and he made it his most earnest study and endeavour to devote his heart with his whole strength to the divine service.

  In 1243, being twenty-two years of age, he entered into the Order of St. Francis, and received the habit in the province of Rome from the hands of Haymo, an Englishman, at that time general of the Order. 2 St. Bonaventure mentions in his prologue to the life St. Francis, that he entered this state, and made his vows with extraordinary sentiments of gratitude for the preservation of his life through the intercession of St. Francis, resolving with the greatest ardour to serve God with his whole heart. Shortly after, he was sent to Paris to complete his studies under the celebrated Alexander of Hales, surnamed the Irrefragable Doctor. 3 After his death in 1245, St. Bonaventure continued his course under his successor, John of Rochelle. His penetrating genius was poised by the most exquisite judgment, by which, while he easily dived to the bottom of every subtle inquiry, he cut off whatever was superfluous, dwelling only on that knowledge which is useful and solid, or at least was then necessary to unravel the false principles and artful sophistry of the adversaries of truth. Thus he became a masterly proficient in the scholastic philosophy, and in the most sublime parts of theology. Whilst he referred all his studies to the divine honour and his own sanctification he was most careful not to lose the end in the means, and suffer his application to degenerate into a dissipation of mind and a vicious idle curiosity. This opens an avenue into the heart for self-conceit, jealousy, envy, and a total extinction of the spirit of prayer, with a numberless train of other spiritual evils, which lay waste the affections of the soul, and banish thence the precious fruits of the Holy Ghost. To shun those rocks often fatal to piety, he seemed never to turn his attention from God, and by the earnest invocation of the divine light in the beginning of every action, and holy aspirations with which he accompanied all his studies, he may be said to have made them a continued prayer. When he turned his eyes to his book, they were swimming with tears of love and devotion excited by his assiduous meditation on the wounds of Christ, and his heart still continued to inflame its affections from that, its beloved object, which he seemed to read in every line. St. Thomas Aquinas coming one day to pay a visit to our saint, asked him in what books he had learned his sacred science. St. Bonaventure, pointing to his crucifix before him, said: “This is the source of all my knowledge. I study only Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Not content to make his studies in some sort a continuation of prayer, he devoted entirely to that heavenly exercise the greater part of his time, knowing this to be the key of divine graces and of spiritual life. For only the Spirit of God, as St. Paul teaches, can lead us into the secrets and designs of God, and engrave his holy maxims on our hearts. He alone can make himself known, as no other light can discover the sun to us but its own; and it is in prayer that God communicates himself to us. He here enlightens the souls of his servants, and is their interior instructor. But, as St. Austin says, honey cannot be poured into a vessel that is full of wormwood: neither can this excellent grace or gift of prayer find place in a soul which is not first prepared to receive the sensible presence of, the Holy Ghost by holy compunction, and by the practice of penance, humility, and self-denial. These virtues fitted the soul of our saint to be admitted to the chaste embraces of the heavenly bridegroom. Such was the innocence and purity in which he lived, and so perfect a mastery he had obtained over his passions, that Alexander of Hales used to say of him, that he seemed not to have sinned in Adam. An eminent spirit of penance was the principal guardian of this grace of innocence. The austerities of St. Bonaventure were excessive, yet amidst his penitential tears a remarkable cheerfulness appeared always in his countenance, which resulted from the inward peace of his soul. Himself lays down this maxim: 4 “A spiritual joy is the greatest sign of the divine grace dwelling in a soul.”

  To his mortifications he added the practice of the greatest humiliations. In attending the sick he was particularly ambitious to serve them in the lowest and most humbling offices. In this charitable duty he seemed prodigal in his own life and health, and chose always to be about those whose distempers were most loathsome or contagious and dangerous. He had no eyes to see anything in himself but faults and imperfections, and wonderful was the care with which he endeavoured to conceal from others his extraordinary practices of virtue. When their rays broke through the veil of his humility, and shone forth to others, the saint in order to cast a shade over them before men, or at least to strengthen his own heart against the danger, and to indulge his love of abjection, embraced the greatest humiliations. He always regarded himself as the most ungrateful and the basest of sinners, unworthy to walk upon the earth, or to breathe the air; and these humble sentiments were accompanied with the deepest compunction, and abundant tears. This humility sometimes withheld him from the holy table notwithstanding the burning desires of his soul to be united daily afresh to the object of his love, and to approach the fountain of grace. But God was pleased by a miracle to overcome his fears, and to recompense his humility. “Several days had passed,” say the acts of his canonization, “nor durst he yet presume to present himself at the heavenly banquet. But whilst he was hearing mass, and meditating on the passion of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, to crown his humility and love, put into his mouth, by the ministry of an angel, part of the consecrated host, taken from the hand of the priest.” By this precious favour his soul was drowned in a torrent of pure delights; and from that time he was encouraged to approach with an humble confidence to the bread of angels which gives life and strength.

From this time his communions were accompanied with overflowing sweetness and consolations, and with raptures of divine joy and love. If in our communions we seem to receive, instead of torrents, scarce a small portion of heavenly grace, the reason is because our hearts are too narrow. The vessel which we bring is too small. If we dilated our souls by humility, burning desires, and love, we should receive, like the saints, an abundant supply of these living waters. St. Bonaventure prepared himself to receive the holy order of priesthood by long fasts, humiliations, and fervent prayer, that he might obtain in it an abundant measure of graces proportioned to so high a function. He considered that sacred dignity with fear and trembling, and the higher and more incomprehensible it appeared to him, so much the more did he humble himself when he saw himself invested with it. As often as he approached the altar, the profound annihilation of himself, and the tender love with which he offered, beheld in his hands, and received into his breast, the Lamb without spot, appeared by his tears, and his whole exterior. A devout prayer which he composed for his own use after mass, beginning with these words, Transfige dulcissime domine, is recommended by the Church to all priests on that most solemn occasion.

  Bonaventure looked upon himself as called by the obligations of his priestly character to labour for the salvation of his neighbour, and to this he devoted himself with extraordinary zeal. He announced the word of God to the people with an energy and unction which kindled a flame in the hearts of those who heard him; everything was inflamed that came from his mouth. For an assistance to himself in this function he compiled his treatise called Pharetra, consisting of animated sentiments gathered from the writings of the fathers. In the mean time, he was employed in teaching privately in his own convent, till he succeeded his late master, John of Rochelle, in a public chair of the university. The age required by the statutes for this professorship was thirty-five, whereas the saint was only thirty-three years old; but his abilities amply supplied that defect, and on this literary theatre he soon displayed them to the admiration of the whole Church. He continued always to study at the foot of the crucifix. The disagreement between the university and the regulars being terminated by Pope Alexander IV. in 1256, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure were invited to take the doctor’s cap together. As others contend for precedence, the two saints had a vehement contest of humility, each endeavouring to yield the first place to the other. They knew no pretexts of the interest of their Orders, nor were they sensible of any prerogatives but those of humility. St. Bonaventure prayed and entreated him with so much earnestness, that at length St. Thomas acquiesced to receive the degree first, and our saint triumphed over both his friend and himself.

The holy king St. Lewis honoured St. Bonaventure with his particular esteem, invited him often to his own table, and consulted him in his most intricate concerns, placing an entire confidence in his advice. He engaged him to compile an office of the passion of Christ for his use. St. Bonaventure drew up a rule for St. Isabella, the king’s sister, and for her nunnery of mitigated Clares at Long-Champs. His book On the Government of the Soul, his Meditations for every day in the week, and most of his other lesser tracts were written to satisfy the requests of several devout persons of the court. The unction which every word breathes in the writings of this holy doctor pierces the heart, and his concise expression is an abyss, or rather a treasure of most profound sentiments of humility, compunction, love, and devotion, the riches of which a pious heart finds everywhere boundless. Especially his tender sentiments of the love of God, and on the sacred passion of Christ, exceedingly recommend to all devout persons his meditations on this latter subject, and express the burning affections with which his pure soul glowed towards that stupendous mystery of infinite love, goodness, and mercy, that perfect model of all virtue and sanctity, and source of all our good.

  The celebrated Gerson, the most learned and devout chancellor of Paris, writes of the works of St. Bonaventure: 5 “Among all the Catholic doctors, Eustachius (for so we may translate his name of Bonaventure) seems to me the most proper for conveying light to the understanding, and at the same time warming the heart. In particular his Brevioloquium, and Itinerarium are written with so much force, art, and conciseness, that nothing can be beyond them.” In another book he says; 6 “St. Bonaventure’s works seem to me the most proper for the instruction of the faithful. They are solid, safe, pious, and devout; and he keeps as far as he can from niceties; not meddling with logical or physical questions which are foreign to the matter in hand. Nor is there any doctrine more sublime, more divine, or more conducive to piety.” Trithemius recommends this doctor’s writings in the following words: “His expressions are full of fire, they no less warm with divine love the hearts of those who read them, than they fill their understanding with the most holy light. His works surpass those of all the doctors of his time, if we consider the spirit of divine love, and of Christian devotion that speaks in him. He is profound in few words, penetrating without curiosity, eloquent without vanity; his discourse is inflamed without being bloated.—Whoever would be both learned and devout, let him read the works of St. Bonaventure.” 7

  This is chiefly to be understood of his spiritual tracts. In these the author discovers every where a most profound spirit of humility and holy poverty, with a heart perfectly disengaged from all earthly things, and full of the most ardent love of God, and the most   tender devotion to the sacred passion of our Divine Redeemer. The eternal joys of heaven were the frequent entertainment of his pious soul, and he seems never to have interrupted his ardent sighs after them. He endeavoured by his writings to excite in all others the same fervent desires of our heavenly country. He writes 8 that “God himself, all the glorious spirits, and the whole family of the eternal King wait for us, and desire that we should be associated to them; and shall not we pant above all things to be admitted into their happy company? He would appear amongst them with great confusion, who had not in this valley of tears continually raised his soul above all things visible to become already, in ardent desire, an inhabitant of those blessed regions.” He clearly shows that he was not able to express the transports of holy joy that overflowed his soul, as often as he contemplated its future union with God in immortal bliss and uninterrupted love and praise. He revolved in mind the raptures of gratitude and joy in which the blessed spirits behold themselves in the state of security for ever, whilst they see so many souls on earth every day overthrown by their spiritual enemies, and so many others lost in hell. He was strongly affected with the thought of the glorious company of millions of angels and saints, all most holy, loving, and glorious, adorned each with their distinguishing trophies and graces; in which every one will possess in others every gift which he hath not, and all those gifts which himself hath, doubled so many times as he hath partners in bliss. For loving every companion as himself he will rejoice for the felicity of each no less than for his own. Whereupon, with St. Anselm, he often asked his own heart, here so poor, so weak, and overwhelmed with miseries, if then it would be able, without being strengthened and raised above itself by an extraordinary grace, to contain its joy for its own felicity; how it could be able to contain so many and such excess of joys? But this saint’s sublime sentiments of piety and devotion are best learned from his own works. His love of an interior life did not hinder his application to promote the divine honour in others by various exterior employments; but these he animated and sanctified by a constant spirit of recollection and prayer.

  Whilst he continued to teach at Paris he was chosen general of his Order in a chapter held in the convent called Ara-Cœli, at Rome, in 1256. The saint was only thirty-five years old. Nevertheless Pope Alexander IV. confirmed the election. St. Bonaventure was   thunderstruck at this news, and prostrating himself on the ground, he with many tears implored the divine light and direction. After which he set out immediately for Rome. The Franciscan Order was at that time divided by intestine dissensions, some of the friars being for an inflexible severity, others demanding certain mitigations of the letter of the rule. The young general no sooner appeared among them, but by the force of his exhortations which he tempered with mildness and charity, he restored a perfect calm; and all the brethren marched under this new Josue with one heart, in the same spirit, and in the same path. William of Saint-Amour, a member of the university of Paris, having published a bitter invective against the Mendicant Orders, entitled, “On the Dangers of the Latter Times,” St. Thomas answered it. St. Bonaventure also confuted it by a book, which he called, “On the Poverty of the Lord Jesus,” in which his mildness in handling the controversy against a most virulent adversary reflected a double advantage on his victory.

  Our saint in his return to the schools at Paris, visited several of his convents in the way, in which he showed everywhere that he was only become superior to be the most humble, the most charitable, and the most compassionate of all his brethren, and the servant of his whole Order. Notwithstanding his great employments, he never omitted his usual exercises of devotion, but laid out his time and regulated his functions with such wonderful prudence as to find leisure for every thing. He composed several works at Paris, but often retired to Mante for greater solitude. A stone, which he used for his pillow, is shown to this day in that convent. In 1260 the saint held a general chapter at Narbonne, and in concert with the definitors, gave a new form to the old Constitutions, added certain new rules, and reduced them all into twelve chapters. At the request of the friars assembled in this chapter, he undertook to write the life of St. Francis; but went first from Narbonne to Mount Alverno, and there assisted at the dedication of a great church. In a little oratory, built upon the very place where St. Francis had received the miraculous marks of the wounds of our Saviour, St. Bonaventure continued a long while abstracted, and in an ecstacy, in holy meditation. He there wrote his incomparable treatise, called Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, or the Way of the Soul to God, showing that all her comfort and riches are to be found in God alone, and tracing out the sure way that leads to him. Whilst he was in Italy he gathered the most authentic memoirs for the life of St. Francis, which he compiled with a spirit which shows him to have been filled with all the heroic virtues of his founder, whose life he wrote. St. Thomas Aquinas coming one day to pay him a visit whilst he was employed in this work, saw him through the door of his cell, raised in contemplation above the ground, and going away said: “Let us leave a saint to write for a saint.” In 1230 St. Bonaventure assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Antony, which was performed at Padua. From that city he went to hold a general chapter at Pisa, in which, by words and example, he exhorted his brethren to a great love of holy solitude. He gave on that and every other occasion proofs of his tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. When he was first made general he put his Order under her special patronage. He regulated many pious exercises of devotion to her, composed his Mirror of the Virgin, setting forth her graces, virtues, and prerogatives, with many prayers, which are tender and respectful effusions of the heart, to implore her intercession. He wrote a pathetic paraphrase in verse of the anthem Salve Regina. 9 He published the praises of the Mother out of devotion to the Son, and to extend His glory. To propagate his honour and saving faith he sent, by the pope’s authority, preachers into many barbarous nations, and lamented his situation that he could not go himself, and expose his life among the infidels.

  The venerable brother Giles, the third companion of St. Francis at Assisio, 10 said one day to St. Bonaventure: “Father, God has shown us great mercy and bestowed on us many graces. But we who are poor and ignorant idiots, what can we do to correspond to his immense goodness, and to be saved?” St. Bonaventure answered: “If God were to bestow on any one no other talents besides the grace of loving him, this alone suffices, and is every spiritual treasure.” B. Giles said: “Can a dull idiot love God as perfectly as a great scholar.” St. Bonaventure replied: “A poor old woman may love him more than the most learned master and doctor in theology.” At this brother Giles in a sudden fervour and jubilation of spirit went into a garden, and standing at a gate towards the city (of Rome) he looked that way, and cried out with a loud voice,—“Come, the poorest, most simple, and most illiterate old woman, love the Lord our God, and you may attain to a higher degree of eminence and happiness than brother Bonaventure with all his learning.” After this he fell into an ecstacy, in which he continued in sweet contemplation without motion for the space of three hours. 11

Pope Clement IV, in 1265, nominated St. Bonaventure archbishop of York, being assured how agreeable he would be to that church, to the king of England, and his whole kingdom. But St. Bonaventure having first by earnest prayer begged that God would preserve him from so great a danger, went and cast himself at the feet of his holiness, and by tears and entreaties extorted from him a discharge of that burden. He held a general chapter at Paris in 1266: and in the next, which he assembled at Assisium, he ordered the triple salutation of the Blessed Virgin, called the Angelas Domini, to be recited every evening at six o’clock, to honour the incomprehensible mystery of the Incarnation, which ought to be the object of our perpetual praises and thanksgiving.

  In 1272, Theobald, the holy archdeacon of Liege, a native of Placentia, then absent in the Holy Land, was chosen pope, and took the name of Gregory X. a person of such eminent sanctity that a process has been set on foot for his canonization; and Benedict XIV. in 1745, ordered his name to be inserted in the Roman Martyrology. He was a man of an extraordinary reputation throughout all his life, for prudence in the conduct of his affairs; for courage, greatness of mind, and contempt of money; for devotion, clemency, and charity to the poor. He died on the 10th of January, 1276, on his return from the council at Abruzzo in Tuscany, of which city he is the titular patron. Miracles have rendered his name illustrious. Bonaventure fearing this holy pope would compel him to accept of some ecclesiastical dignity, left Italy and went to Paris, where he wrote his Hexaëmeron or pious exposition of the creation, or work of six days. He had scarcely finished it, when at Whitsuntide he received from the pope a brief by which he was nominated cardinal, and bishop of Albano, one of the six suffragans of Rome. His holiness added a precept to him to accept that double charge without alleging any pretext against it, and immediately to repair to Rome. He sent two nuncios to meet him on the road with the hat and other ensigns of his dignities. They found the saint reposing on his journey in a convent of his Order at Migel, four leagues from Florence, and employed in   washing the dishes. He desired them to hang the cardinal’s hat on the bough of a tree, because he could not decently take it in his hands, and left them to walk in the garden till he had finished his work. Then taking up the hat he went to the nuncios, and paid them the respect due to their character. Gregory X. came from Orvietto to Florence, and there meeting Bonaventure ordained him bishop with his own hands; then ordered him to prepare himself to speak in the general council which he had called to meet at Lyons for the reunion of the Greeks.

The emperor Michael Palæologus had made proposals to pope Clement IV. for a union. Pope Gregory X. zealously pursued this affair. Joseph, patriarch of Constantinople, made a violent opposition, but was obliged by the emperor to retire into a monastery. To bring this affair to a happy conclusion, Gregory X. invited the Greeks to come to the general council which he assembled at Lyons for this very purpose, and also to concert measures for pushing on a war for the recovery of the Holy Land, which the pope promoted with all his might. This was the fourteenth general council, and the second of Lyons. At it were present five hundred bishops, seventy abbots, James, king of Arragon, and the ambassadors of the emperor Michael and of other Christian princes. St. Thomas of Aquin died on the road to this synod. St. Bonaventure accompanied the pope through Milan to it, and arrived at Lyons in November, though the council was only opened on the 7th of May, 1274. 12 Bonaventure sat on the pope’s right hand, and first harangued the assembly. Between the second and third sessions he held his last general chapter of his Order, in which he abdicated the office of general. He found leisure to preach, and he established at Lyons a pious confraternity called Del Gonfalone, which he had formerly instituted at Rome. In it pious persons associated themselves in certain daily devotions, under the patronage of the mother of God. The deputies of the Greeks being arrived at Lyons, St. Bonaventure was ordered by the pope to confer with them. They were charmed with his sweetness, and convinced by his reasoning, and they acquiesced in every point. In thanksgiving the pope sung mass on the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, and the gospel was sung first in Latin, then in Greek. After this St. Bonaventure preached on the unity of faith. Then the creed was sung first in Latin, then in Greek, and as a seal of the reunion of the two churches those words were thrice repeated: “Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son.” In memory of this solemn function two crosses are placed on the high altar of the metropolitan church of St. John at Lyons. 13 St. Bonaventure was taken ill after this session; nevertheless he assisted at the fourth, in which the Logothete or high chancellor of Constantinople abjured the schism. But the next day the saint’s strength began entirely to fail him, insomuch that he was no longer able to attend business. From that time he gave himself up entirely to his private devotions, and the constant amiable serenity of his countenance demonstrated the holy peace and joy of his soul in those most awful moments. The pope himself gave him extreme unction, as is attested by an inscription which hath been preserved in the same chamber in which he died, to our times. The saint kept his eyes constantly fixed on a crucifix, and expired in great tranquillity on the 14th of July, in the year 1274, of his age the fifty-third. The pope and the whole council solemnized his obsequies on the same day in the church of the Franciscans at Lyons. Peter of Tarrentaise, a Dominican friar, cardinal and bishop of Ostia, afterwards pope under the name of Innocent V., preached his funeral panegyric, in which he said,—“No one ever beheld him who did not conceive a great esteem and affection for him; and even strangers, by hearing him speak, were desirous to follow his counsel and advice; for he was gentle, affable, humble, pleasing to all, compassionate, prudent, chaste, and adorned with all virtues.”

The body of St. Bonaventure was translated into the new church of the Franciscans on the 14th of March, 1434. King Charles VIII. founded their new convent at Lyons at the foot of the castle of Pierre Incise in 1494, with a rich chapel in which the saint’s remains were enshrined, except a part of the lower jaw which that king caused to be conveyed to Fontainbleau, and it is now in the church of the Cordeliers in Paris; the bones of an arm are kept at Bagnarea, and a little bone at Venice. In 1562 the Calvinists plundered his shrine, burned his relics in the market-place, and scattered the ashes in the river Saone, as is related by the learned Jesuit Possevinus, who was then at Lyons. 14 They stabbed to death the guardian with a Catholic captain whom they had made prisoner; they burned the archives of the library and set fire to the convent. The saint’s head and some other relics escaped the fury of the rebels by having been concealed. St. Bonaventure was canonized by Sixtus IV. in 1482. Sixtus V. enrolled his name among the doctors of the Church, in the same manner as Pius V. had done that of St. Thomas Aquinas. The acts of his canonization record several approved miracles wrought by his intercession. The city of Lyons, in 1628, being grievously afflicted with the plague, the raging distemper began to cease from the time in which certain relics of our saint were devoutly carried in procession. That and other cities have experienced the divine mercy in like manner, in several other public calamities, by invoking St. Bonaventure’s intercession. Charles of Orleans, father of Lewis XII. king of France, was taken prisoner by the English in the battle of Agincourt, in 1425. During his captivity he fell ill of a fever, under which no human remedies gave him any relief. The more desperate his situation appeared, with the more earnestness he set himself to implore the patronage of St. Bonaventure, and a perfect recovery was the recompense of his devotion. In gratitude, as soon as he was set at liberty, he went to Lyons to offer up his thanksgivings and prayers at the tomb of the saint, on which he bestowed magnificent presents. 15

St. Bonaventure, this great master of a spiritual life, places not the perfection of Christian virtue so much in the more heroic exercises of a religious state as in the performing well our ordinary actions. “The best perfection of a religious man,” says he, “is to do common things in a perfect manner. 16 A constant fidelity in small things is a great and heroic virtue.” It is a continual crucifixion of self-love and all the passions; a complete sacrifice of all our actions, moments, and affections, and the entire reign of God’s grace throughout our whole lives. Quintilian lays it down for the great rule in forming an orator, that he accustom himself never to write or speak carelessly even on the most trifling subject or in common conversation, but that he study always to express himself in the most proper manner possible; with far greater diligence ought every one strive to perform all even the meanest of his actions in the most perfect manner, and to improve every grace, every moment of time to advance in virtue.

Note 1. Baillet in S. Bonav. Wadding, &c. 

Note 2. Haymo, who had taught divinity at Paris, and been sent by Gregory IX. nuncio to Constantinople, was employed by the same pope in revising the Roman breviary and its rubrics. He is not to be confounded with Haymo, the disciple of Rabanus Maurus, afterwards bishop of Halberstadt, in the ninth age, whose Homilies, Comments on the Scriptures, and Abridgment of Ecclesiastical History are extant. His works are chiefly Centos, compiled of scraps of fathers and other authors patched and joined together; a manner of writing used by many from the seventh to the twelfth age, but calculated to propagate stupidity and dulness, and to contract, not to enlarge or improve the genius, which is opened by invention, elegance, and imitation; but fettered by mechanical toils, as centos, acrostics, &c. 

Note 3. Alexander of Hales, a native of Hales in Gloucestershire, after having gone through the course of his studies in England, went to Paris, and there followed divinity and the canon law, and gained in them an extraordinary reputation. He entered into the Order of Friars Minors, and died at Paris in 1245. His works discover a most subtle penetrating genius; of which the principal is a Summ or Commentary upon the four Books of the Master of the Sentences, written by order of Innocent IV. and a Vumm of Virtues. 

Note 4. Specul. Discipl. p. 1, c. 3. 

Note 5. Gerson, Tr. De libris quos religiosi legere debent. 

Note 6. Gerson, l. de Examine Doctrinar. 

Note 7. See Du Pin, Biblioth. Cent. 13, p. 249, t. 14. 

Note 8. Soliloqu. Exercit. 4, c. 1, 2. 

Note 9. The psalter of the Blessed Virgin is falsely ascribed to St. Bonaventure, and unworthy to hear his name. (See Fabricius in Biblioth. med. ætat. Bellarmin and Labbe de Script. Eccl. Nat. Alexander, Hist. Eccl. Sæc. 13.) The Vatican edition of the works of St. Bonaventure, was begun by an order of Sixtus V. and completed in 1588. It consists of eight volumes in folio. The two first contain his commentaries on the holy scriptures: the third his sermons and panegyrics: the fourth and fifth his comments on the Master of the Sentences: the Sixth, seventh, and eighth, his lesser treatises, of which some are doctrinal, others regard the duties of a religious state, others general subjects of piety, especially the mysteries of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Most of these have run through several separate editions. All his works have been reprinted at Mentz and Lyons; and in 4to. in fourteen volumes at Venice, in 1751. 

Note 10. B. Giles was a native of Assisio, and became the third companion of St. Francis in 1209. He attended him in the Marche of Ancona, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, whither he was sent by St. Francis to preach to the Saracens; but upon their threats of raising a persecution he was sent back to Italy by the Christians of that country. He afterwards lived some time at Rome, some time at Reati, and some time at Fabriano; but the chief part of the remainder of his life he spent at Perugia, where he died in the night between the 22nd and 23rd of April, in the year 1272, not in 1262, as Papebroke proves against the erroneous computation of certain authors, (p. 220, t. 3, Apr.) Wadding and others relate many revelations, prophecies, and miracles of this eminent servant of God; his tomb has been had in public veneration at Perugia from the time of his death, and he was for some time solemnly honoured as a saint in the church of his order in that city as Papebroke shows; who regrets that this devotion has been for some time much abated, probably because not judged sufficiently authorized by the holy see. The public veneration at his tomb and the adjoining altar continues, and the mass is sung, on account of his ancient festival, with great solemnity, but of St. George, without any solemn commemoration of this servant of God. Nevertheless, from proofs of former solemn veneration, Papebroke honours him with the title of Blessed.

  None among the first disciples of St. Francis seems to have been more perfectly replenished with his spirit of perfect charity, humility, meekness, and simplicity, as appears from the golden maxims and lessons of piety, which he gave to others. Of these Papebroke has given us a large and excellent collection from manuscripts; some of which were before printed by Wadding and others. A few will suffice to show us his spirit.

  B. Giles always lived by the labour of his hands. When the cardinal bishop of Tusculum desired him always to receive his bread, as a poor man an alms, from his table; B. Giles excused himself, using the words of the psalmist: Blessed art thou, and it shall be well with thee, because thou shalt eat by the labour of thy hands. Ps. cxxvii. “So brother Francis taught his brethren to be faithful and diligent in labouring, and to take for their wages not money, but necessary subsistence.” (Papebroke, p. 224.) If any one discoursed with him on the glory of God, the sweetness of his love, or Paradise, he would be ravished in spirit, and remain so a great part of the day unmoved. Shepherds and children who had learned this from others, sometimes for diversion or out of curiosity, cried out after him, Paradise, Paradise; upon hearing which, he through joy fell into an ecstacy. His religious brethren in conversing with him took care never to name the word Paradise or Heaven for fear of losing his company by his being ravished out of himself, (ib. p. 226, and Wadding.)

  An extraordinary spiritual joy and cheerfulness appeared always painted on his countenance; and if any one spoke to him of God, he answered in great interior jubilation of soul. Once returning to his brethren out of close retirement he praised God with wonderful joy and fervour, and sung—“Neither tongue can utter, nor words express, nor mortal hearts conceive how great the good is which God hath prepared for those who desire to love him.”

  Pope Gregory IX. who kept his court at Perugia from 1234 to autumn in 1236, sent one day for the holy man, who, in answer to his holiness’s first question about his state of life, said—“I cheerfully take upon me the yoke of the commandments of the Lord.” The pope replied—“Your answer is just; but your yoke is sweet and your burthen light.” At these words B. Giles withdrew a little from him, and, being ravished in spirit, remained speechless and without motion till very late in the night, to the great astonishment of his holiness, who spoke of it to his cardinals and others with great surprise.

  This pope on a certain occasion pressed the holy man to say something to him on his own duty; Giles after having long endeavoured to excuse himself said: “You have two eyes, both a right and a left one, always open; with the right eye you must contemplate the things which are above you: and with the left eye you must administer and dispense things which are below.”

  On humility, the following maxims are recorded among his sayings: “No man can attain to the knowledge of God but by humility. The way to mount high is to descend; for all dangers and all great falls which ever happened in the world, were caused by pride, as is evident in the angel in heaven, in Adam in Paradise, in the Pharisee mentioned in the gospel: and all spiritual advantages arose from humility, as we see in the Blessed Virgin, the good thief, &c. Would to God some great weight laid upon us obliged us always to hold down our heads.” When a certain brother asked him: “How can we fly this cursed pride?” he answered: “If we consider the benefits of God, we must humble ourselves, and bow down our heads; and if we consider our sins we must likewise humble ourselves, and bow down our heads. Woe to him who seeks honour from his own confusion and sin. The degrees of humility in a man are, that he know that whatever is of his own growth is opposite to his good. A branch of this humility is, that he give to others what is theirs, and never appropriate to himself what belongs to another; that is, that he ascribe to God all his good and all advantages which he enjoys; and acknowledge that all his evil is of his own growth. Blessed is he who accounts himself as mean and base before men as he is before God. Blessed is he who walks faithfully in obedience to another. He who desires to enjoy inward peace, must look upon every man as his superior and as better and greater before God. Blessed is he who knows how to keep and conceal the favours of God. Humility knows not how to speak, and patience dares not speak, for fear of losing the crown of suffering by complaints, in a firm conviction that a person is always treated above his deserts. Humility dispels all evil, is an enemy to all sin, and makes a man nothing in his own eyes. By humility a man finds grace before God, and peace with men. God bestows the treasures of his grace on the humble, not on the proud. A man ought always to fear from pride, lest it cast him down headlong. Always fear and watch over yourself. A man who deserves death, and who is in prison, how comes it that he does not always tremble? A man is of himself poverty and indigence; rich only by the divine gifts; these then he must love, and despise himself. What is greater than for a man to be sensible what he owes to God, and to cover himself with confusion, self-reproach, and self-reprehension for his own evils? I wish we could have studied this lesson from the beginning of the world to the end. How much do we stand indebted to him who desires to deliver us from all evil, and to confer upon us all good?” Against vain-glory he used to say: “If a person was sunk in extreme poverty, covered all over with wounds, half clad in tattered rags, and without shoes; and men should come to him, and saluting him with honour say: ‘All admire you, my lord; you are wonderfully rich, handsome, and beautiful; and your clothes are splendid and handsome;’ must not he have lost his senses, who should be pleased with such a compliment, or think himself such, knowing that he is the very reverse?”

  The servant of God was remarkable for his meekness and charity, and he used to say, “We can appropriate to ourselves our neighbour’s good, and make it also our own; for the more a person rejoices at his neighbour’s good, the more does he share in it. If, therefore, you desire to share in the advantages of all others, rejoice more for them all; and grieve for every one’s misfortunes. This is the path of salvation, to rejoice in every advantage, and to grieve for every misfortune of your neighbour; to see and acknowledge your own evils and miseries, and to believe only good of others; to honour others, and to despise yourself. We pray, fast, and labour; yet lose all this if we do not bear injuries with charity and patience. If we take so much pains to attain to virtue, why do not we learn to do what is so easy? you must bear the burdens of all, because you have no just reason of complaint against any one, seeing you deserve to be chastised and treated ill by all creatures. You desire to escape reproaches and condemnation in the next world, yet would be honoured in this. You refuse to labour or bear anything here, yet desire to enjoy rest hereafter. Strive more earnestly to vanquish your passions, and bear tribulations and humiliations. It is necessary to overcome yourself, whatever you do. It avails your soul little to draw others to God unless you die to yourself.”

  On prayer, which this servant of God made his constant occupation and delight, he used to say,—“Prayer is the beginning and the consummation of all good. Every sinner must pray that God may make him know his miseries and sins, and the divine benefits. He who knows not how to pray, knows not God. All who are to be saved, if they have attained the use of reason, must set themselves to pray. Though a woman were ever so bashful and simple, if she saw her only son taken from her by the king’s orders for some crime, she would tear her breasts, and implore his mercy. Her love and her son’s extreme danger and miseries would make her never want words to entreat him.”

  The fruits and graces of perfect prayer he summed up as follows: “1. By it a man is enlightened in his understanding. 2. He is strengthened in faith and in the love of all good. 3. He learns to know and feel his own miseries. 4. He is penetrated with holy fear, is humble and contemptible in his own eyes. 5. His heart is pierced with compunction. 6. Sweet tears flow in abundance. 7. His heart is cleansed. 8. His conscience purged. 9. He learns obedience. 10. Attains to the perfect spirit of that virtue. 11. To spiritual science. 12. To spiritual understanding. 13. Invincible fortitude. 14. Patience. 15. Spiritual wisdom. 16. The knowledge of God, who manifests himself to those who adore him in spirit and truth. Hence love is kindled in the soul, she runs in the odour of his sweet perfumes, is drowned in the torrent of his sweetness, enjoys perfect interior peace, and is brought to immortal glory.” 

Note 11. Vita B. Ægidii apud Papebroke, t. 3. Aprilis ad diem 23, p. 236

Note 12. Conc. t. 11, p. 937. 

Note 13. The Emperor Michael dying in 1283, his son Andronicus renewed the schism, and restored the deposed patriarch Joseph. 

Note 14. Possevin. Apparatus sacer, t. 1, p. 245. 

Note 15. Gerson calls St. Bonaventure both a cherub and a seraph, because his writings both enlighten and inflame. His Order makes his doctrine the standard of their schools, according to a decree of Pope Pius V. To the works of St. Bonaventure these divines add the double comments of Scotus on Aristotle and the Master of the Sentences.

  Peter Lombard, a native of Novara in Lombardy, was recommended by St. Bernard (ep. 366,) to Gilduin, first abbot of the regular canons of St. Victor’s at Paris, performed there his studies, professed that Order, and was one of those who, by an order of Abbot Suger, King Lewis VII. and Pope Eugenius III. in 1147, were sent from St. Victor’s to St. Genevieve’s in place of the secular canons. Eudes or Odo, one of this number, was chosen first regular abbot of St. Genevieve’s, on whose eminent virtues see the pious F. Gourdan, in his MS. history of the eminent men of St. Victor’s, in 7 vols. folio, t. 2. p. 281. Peter Lombard taught theology at St. Genevieve’s, till in 1159 he was made bishop of Paris. Gourdan, ib. t. 2, pp. 79, 80. He died, bishop of that city, in 1164. He compiled a body of divinity, collected from the writings of the fathers, into four books, called Of the Sentences,   from which he was surnamed The Master of the Sentences. This work he is said by some to have copied chiefly from the writings of Blandinus his master, and others. (See James Thomasius De Plagio literario, from sect. 493 to 502.) Though it be not exempt from inaccuracies, the method appeared so well adapted to the purposes of the schoolmen that they followed the same and for their lectures gave comments on these four books of the Sentences. Among these, St. Thomas Aquinas stands foremost. The divines of the Franciscan Order take for their guides St. Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus. This latter was born in Northumberland, and entered young into the Order of St. Francis at Newcastle. He performed his studies, and afterwards taught divinity at Oxford, where he wrote his Commentaries on the Master of the Sentences, which were thence called his Oxonian Commentaries. He was called to Paris about the year 1304, and in 1307 was appointed by his Order, regent of their theological schools in that university, where he published his Reportata in Sententias, called his Paris Commentaries, which are called by Dr. Cave a rough or unfinished abstract of his Oxford Commentaries. For the subtlety and quickness of his understanding, and his penetrating genius, he was regarded as a prodigy. Being sent by his Order to Cologn in 1308, he was received by the whole city in procession, but died on the 8th of November the same year, of an apoplexy, being forty-three, or as others say, only thirty-four years old. The fable of his being buried alive is clearly confuted by Luke Wadding, the learned Irish Franciscan, who published his works, with notes, in twelve tomes, printed at Lyons in 1636. Natalis Alexander, a most impartial inquirer into this dispute, and others, have also demonstrated that story to have been a most groundless fiction. Wadding, Colgan, &c. say that Duns Scotus was an Irishman, and born at Down in Ulster. John Major, Dempster, and Trithemius say he was a Scotchman, born at Duns, eight miles from England. But Leland, Wharton, Cave, and Tanner prove that he was an Englishman, and a native of Dunstone, by contraction Duns, a village in Northumberland, in the parish of Emildun, then belonging to Merton-hall in Oxford, of which hall he was afterwards a member. This is attested in the end of several manuscript copies of his comments on the Sentences, written soon after the time when he lived, and still shown at Oxford in the colleges of Baliol and Merton. That he was a Scotchman or an Irishman, no author seems to have asserted before the sixteenth century, as Mr. Wharton observes. See Cave, t. 2, Append, p. 4. Wood, Athen. Oxon. Sir James Ware de Script. Hibern. c. 10, p. 64. Tanner de Script. Brit. V. Duns. Wadding in the life of Scotus, prefixed to his works.

  William Ockham, a native of Surrey, also a Grey-Friar, a scholar of Duns Scotus at Paris, disagreeing from his master in opinions, raised hot disputes in the schools, and became the head or leader of the Nominals, a sect among the schoolmen who in philosophy explain things chiefly by the properties of terms; and maintain that words, not things, are the object of dialectic, in opposition to the others called Realists. Ockham was provincial of his Order in England in 1322, and according to Wood (Hist. et Ant. l. 2, p. 87,) wrote a book On the Poverty of Christ, and other treatises against Pope John XXII. by whom he was excommunicated. He became a warm abettor of the schism of Lewis of Bavaria, and his antipope, Peter Corbarius, and died at Munich in 1347. He is said also to have favoured the heresy of the Fratricelli, introduced by certain Grey-Friars in the marquisate of Ancona, who made all perfection to consist in a seeming poverty, rebelled against the church, and railed at the pope and the other pastors. Flying into Germany, they were favoured by Lewis of Bavaria, and in return supported his schism. They at length rejected the sacraments as useless. Akin to these were the Beguards and Beguines, an heretical sect formed by several poor laymen and women, who, some by an ill-governed devotion and a love of a lazy life, others put of a spirit of libertinism, would needs imitate the poverty of the Friars Mendicants, without being tied to obedience, or living under superiors. They at length fell into many extravagant errors, and became a society of various notions and opinions, which had nothing in common but the hatred they bore to the pope and other prelates, and the affectation of a voluntary poverty, under which they covered an infinite number of disorders   and crimes. 
Such are the baneful fruits of self-conceit. 

Note 16. St. Bonav. Specul. Novit. p. 2, c. 2. 

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE http://www.bartleby.com/210/7/141.html


François Lombard. Le Miracle de saint Bonaventure
ex-voto peint par pour la famille d’Anterroches. 
Œuvre conservée à l'église Saint-Bonaventure de Lyon.

Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Cardinal

Article

The Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure, was born in 1221 at Balneoregio, in the State of Tuscany. His parents were very distinguished people, not only on account of their nobility and great riches, but still more for their piety and virtues. When scarcely four years old, Bonaventure became dangerously sick and the physicians despaired of his life. His mother appealed to Saint Francis of Assisi, who was still living at that period, begging him to obtain, by his prayers, her son’s life from God. She promised to bring him up to the honor of the Almighty, and in the course of time to consecrate him entirely to His divine service in the Order founded by Saint Francis. The latter prayed for the sick child and the malady was subdued. In regard to this miracle the holy man cried: “O Buona Ventura!” which means, “Oh happy event!” and from that time they called the child, so miraculously cured, Bonaventure, although at the baptismal font it had received the name of John.

Arrived at the period when reason awakens, Bonaventure heard of the promise his mother had made in regard to him and fulfilled it by entering joyfully into the Order of Saint Francis. After having finished his probation, he went to Paris to devote himself to study, and his progress in learning was as great as his advancement in virtue, especially in humility, constant self-denial, perfect obedience, great love of his crucified Lord, and ardent devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He meditated daily on the passion and death of Christ, and spent as much time as he could in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He seldom received Holy Communion, especially when he himself said Mass, without shedding many tears. His innocence he preserved inviolate. The celebrated Doctor Alexander of Hales, under whom Bonaventure studied, used to say, that it seemed to him that he had not committed any sin in Adam; so strictly did he control his inclinations, so great were his virtue and his piety. Before he was thirty years old, his superiors appointed him to teach theology in the University of Paris, which he did with immense success. There he and Saint Thomas of Aquin received the title of “Doctor,” the highest dignity conferred upon Theologians. At the age of 35 years, he was elected General of the whole Seraphic Order, and his election was confirmed by Pope Alexander, who had presided over the assembly. When once installed in his new functions, he was as zealous to preserve the rule of the holy Founder, as he had previously been earnest in declining the dignity. He made the most wholesome regulations, and led all those under him by word and example to great sanctity. During eighteen years he administered his office, with so much wisdom, mildness and strength of character, that he was loved and esteemed by all, and venerated as the second Founder of the Order.

Although occupied with such constant and important labors, he never neglected his devotional exercises or his studies. We possess this day a great many theological works of great learning written by this holy man. Among others, he wrote a book to refute those who slandered the Mendicant Orders, which he entitled: “A Defense of the Poor.” He proves in this book the temporal as well as spiritual benefits of such orders. He also wrote several most learned and eloquent books in praise of the Blessed Virgin, whose honor he desired to further to the best of his ability, and whom, from childhood, he had greatly venerated. There is also extant from his pen, the life of Saint Francis, Founder of the Seraphic Order. Whilst he was writing this work, Saint Thomas Aquinas came to pay him a visit. Hearing in what Bonaventure was occupied, he declined disturbing him, and left with the words: “Let us leave one Saint to work for another.” Saint Thomas so highly esteemed Bonaventure, that he did not hesitate to call him a Saint while he was still alive. This holy man was greatly astonished that Bonaventure, being so much occupied with his duties, yet found time to write so many books of such profound learning, and one day asked him where his library was. Bonaventure pointing to a crucifix, said: “This is the library, wherein I find all that I teach to others.” Before he began to study, or whenever a doubt or a difficulty during study embarrassed him, he fell down before the Crucifix and humbly prayed for Divine assistance. He said more than once, that by this means, he had obtained more knowledge and wisdom than by all his industry. Not content with all this, the holy man preached publicly in all the places which he visited in the exercise of his functions, exhorting sinners to repentance and the pious to be constant in good works; by which he converted, in a most remarkable manner, the most hardened sinners.

The fame of his great knowledge and holiness, which spread all over the country, was of great benefit to him in his missionary work; whence he received the title of Seraphic Doctor, by which he is still known in our days. Bishops and prelates of the Church honored the Saint still more than other people of a lower degree. Clement IV, desired to reward him for his many services to the Church with the Archbishopric of York; but the holy man throwing himself at his feet, begged so earnestly to be spared the burden of this honor, that the Holy Father acceded to his request. After the death of this Pope, the Cardinals, assembled at Viterbo, could not agree in the election of a new head of the Church, and they at last determined to leave the choice to Bonaventure, promising to accept as Pope, whomsoever he thought deserving to receive the highest of earthly dignities. This was surely the greatest sign of honor which they could confer upon the Saint. Bonaventure, after having prayed to God, said that, in his opinion, Theobald, archdeacon of Liege, who was not even present, was most worthy to be raised to the Pontifical Throne. The cardinals received his decision and Theobald became the head of Christ’s Church. This Pope, who took the name of Gregory X, sent afterwards the hat and insignia of a Cardinal to Bonaventure, nominating him Bishop of Albano, and commanding him at the same time, to obey without any opposition. The papal Nuncios who were to convey this news to the Saint, found him occupied in washing the dishes in the kitchen. He listened with unfeigned surprise to their message, and as he saw that, this time, there was no escape left, he obediently submitted, but nevertheless he finished his humble occupation. The Pope, calling him to Rome, took him to Lyons where a general Council was held, during which he gave new proofs of his great learning, and of his unwearied zeal in promoting the welfare of the holy Church. It pleased the Almighty, to call His faithful servant, in the midst of his pious labor, and after a short illness, to receive his eternal reward. He died in 1274, only fifty-three years of age. The Pope and all the bishops deeply lamented his early death, but God immediately honored him by many miracles. One hundred and sixty years later, when on account of the erection of a new Church, the relics of the Saint were exhumed, it was found that the flesh of the body was entirely consumed, the head excepted, of which the hair, teeth, tongue, eyes and ears, lips and cheeks, were as perfect as though he had still been living. The head, therefore, was preserved in a rich shrine, and the rest of the body laid into a coffin. After many years, when the Huguenots or Calvinists took possession of Lyons, they publicly burned the body of the Saint and threw the ashes into the river. The holy head, however, was saved from their rage by the care of a priest, who, though most cruelly tortured, to make him confess where the relic was kept, preferred to bear the suffering rather than reveal where the precious treasure was concealed.

Practical Considerations

1. The love and devotion of Saint Bonaventure to the passion and death of our Lord was great beyond description. He meditated upon them daily. The crucifix was continually before his eyes, and before it he said his prayers, either prostrate on the ground or on bended knees. I hope that you are not among those who are ashamed to keep an image of Christ in their room: as in that case I must remind you of the saying of our Lord, that, on the judgment-day He will be ashamed of those who on earth are ashamed of Him. I will suppose, therefore, that you have a crucifix in your room, but why do you so seldom prostrate yourself before it? Why do you so seldom meditate on the passion and death of the Saviour? Is this a sign of love and gratitude towards Him? If any human being had suffered, for love of you, only half what Christ the Lord suffered; or if he perhaps had died to save you from death, how would you feel towards him? And why have you not the same feelings towards your Redeemer? Endeavor, at least, to show greater love for Him in future. Let no day pass without praying before the crucifix; raise your eyes to it sometimes during the day, and manifest, by short prayers and pious ejaculations, your love and devotion towards your suffering Saviour; as for example: “With my whole heart I love Thee, O Jesus, and it is bitter grief to me that I have offended Thee, O merciful God!” Or “Cleanse my soul with Thy precious blood.” Or, “Jesus Christ, who didst die for me upon the cross, have mercy on me!” etc.

2. Saint Bonaventure very seldom received holy Communion or said Mass, without shedding tears. Love to the Saviour in the most holy sacrament thus moved his heart. How great is your devotion and love to the Blessed Sacrament, especially at the time when you receive it? How much time do you give to prayer before and after holy Communion? Do you purify your soul from every stain by a sincere confession? Do you adorn it with virtues, that it may be a worthy dwelling for so great a guest as the only Son of the Almighty? Do you appear with due reverence at the table of the Lord? How much time do you give to thanksgiving after your dear Saviour has come to you, and what is your devotion during the same? Examine yourself on these points, and correct yourself where you have been negligent. Before all things, however, take care that you never receive your Lord while in mortal sin, “For” says Saint James of Nisibis, “this is a crime that cannot be excused;” a crime, the wickedness of which is so great, that it deserves no pardon, when committed voluntarily, as it offends Christ our Lord above all others. You know, you believe that He whom you receive is not only your Saviour, but also your Judge, who has power to condemn you. Before Him you will soon appear to receive your sentence for all Eternity. How dare you, therefore, receive Him unworthily, when you know that you thus draw upon yourself the wrath of your Judge, and render yourself deserving of everlasting punishment? Is there any crime, any blasphemy, which can be compared with this? And does there exist a punishment great enough to atone for so horrible an offence towards our dear Lord? “Woe to him, eternal woe, who dares to go unworthily to the table of the Lord,” says the venerable Bede. “Judas, the traitor, was the first to go to Holy Communion in mortal sin. What happened to him is known to you. At the moment he committed the sacrilege, the devil took possession of him, and incited him to betray his Lord. Guard yourself that you may not imitate his wickedness; otherwise you will receive the same punishment “Let no one dare to approach the table of the Lord like Judas,” says Saint Chrysostom.

MLA Citation

Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Cardinal”. Lives of the Saints1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 March 2018. Web. 18 February 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/weningers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-bonaventure-bishop-and-cardinal/>

SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/weningers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-bonaventure-bishop-and-cardinal/

Moretto da Brescia  (1498–1554). Saint Bonaventure et Saint Antoine de Padua, vers 1525, 113 X 60, Louvre Museum  



San Bonaventura Vescovo e dottore della Chiesa


Bagnoregio, Viterbo, 1217/8 - Lione, Francia, 15 luglio 1274

Giovanni Fidanza nacque a Bagnoregio (Viterbo) nel 1218. Bambino fu guarito da san Francesco, che avrebbe esclamato: « Oh bona ventura ». Gli rimase per nome ed egli fu davvero una «buona ventura» per la Chiesa. Studiò a Parigi e durante il suo soggiorno in Francia, entrò nell'Ordine dei Frati Minori. Insegnò teologia all'università di Parigi e formò intorno a sé una reputatissima scuola. Nel 1257 venne eletto generale dell'Ordine francescano, carica che mantenne per diciassette anni con impegno al punto da essere definito secondo fondatore dell'Ordine. Scrisse numerose opere di carattere teologico e mistico ed importante fu la «Legenda maior», biografia ufficiale di San Francesco, a cui si ispirò Giotto per il ciclo delle Storie di San Francesco. Fu nominato vescovo di Albano e cardinale. Partecipò al II Concilio di Lione che, grazie anche al suo contributo, segnò un riavvicinamento fra Chiesa latina e Chiesa greca. Proprio durante il Concilio, morì a Lione, il 15 luglio 1274. (Avvenire)

Patronato: Fattorini

Etimologia: Bonaventura = fortunato, significato intuitivo

Emblema: Bastone pastorale, cappello da cardinale

Martirologio Romano: Memoria della deposizione di san Bonaventura, vescovo di Albano e dottore della Chiesa, che rifulse per dottrina, santità di vita e insigni opere al servizio della Chiesa. Resse con saggezza nello spirito di san Francesco l’Ordine dei Minori, di cui fu ministro generale. Nei suoi molti scritti unì una somma erudizione a una ardente pietà. Mentre si adoperava egregiamente per il II Concilio Ecumenico di Lione, meritò di giungere alla visione beata di Dio. 

Bonaventura da Bagnoregio visse a cavallo della metà del XIII secolo, in un’epoca in cui la fede cristiana, penetrata profondamente nella cultura e nella società dell’Europa, ispirò imperiture opere nel campo della letteratura, delle arti visive, della filosofia e della teologia. Tenendo presente velocemente le condizioni ambientali di quel torno di tempo, di rinnovamento e di crisi, colpisce la sicurezza con cui Bonaventura affronta le varie situazioni con grande carattere e sicura certezza, manifestando uno spirito perfettamente guidato da un fine ben determinato, ossia l’amore di Dio e le vie che a Dio conducono, specialmente con la scienza della teologia. 

Per realizzare tale fine, Bonaventura non esita ad accogliere sia dai pensatori precedenti sia dai contemporanei tutto ciò che gli permette di realizzare il suo disegno, permettendogli di formarsi un pensiero proprio e autonomo, il cui tono e carattere non è prescindibile dalla preoccupazione di guida intellettuale dell’Ordine francescano e del legame fideistico e mistico insieme. E questo spiega il motivo per cui la fede e la certezza assoluta del dato rivelato sono alla base della sua esperienza intellettuale e spirituale sempre finalizzata all’amore di Dio, la cui bontà e bellezza si manifestano nel grande libro del creato, le cui pagine sono penetrate di significati e di simboli della bontà di Chi l’ha “scritto”. Lettura già fatta poeticamente da Francesco d’Assisi nel suo Cantico delle creature.

LA VITA

Nato probabilmente a Bagnoregio (Viterbo) nel 1217 e morto nel 1274 a Lione in Francia. Il borgo natio sorge sulla cima di un colle vicino al lago di Bolsena, minacciato da continue frane, e per questo è detto “la città che muore”. Il suo nome di battesimo è Giovanni, come quello del padre, Giovanni di Fidanza, medico di professione. Solo quando entrò nell’Ordine minoritico, a Parigi nel 1243, prese il nome di Bonaventura. Sua madre, Maria di Ritello, era una donna semplice pia e devota di san Francesco d’Assisi. Non sembra verosimile che Bonaventura abbia conosciuto personalmente san Francesco. L’episodio della sua guarigione miracolosa per intercessione di San Francesco è posteriore alla morte dell’Assisiate.

La prima formazione culturale l’ha ricevuta nel suo paese nativo, presso il locale convento dei frati minori, secondo l’uso del tempo. A diciotto anni, verso il 1235, si recò a Parigi per frequentare la Facoltà delle Arti di quella Università, ritenuta la “culla degli studi”. A Parigi conobbe Alessandro di Hales: Maestro nella facoltà delle arti, prima del 1210; poi Maestro di teologia (negli anni 1229-31); entrato nell’Ordine francescano (1235-36) assicurò all’Ordine la prima cattedra nello studio parigino, (una seconda cattedra l’Ordine l’avrà poi con Giovanni de la Rochelle, nel 1238).

Probabilmente, l’esempio e l’influenza di Alessandro di Hales furono l’occasione per Giovanni di Fidanza di farsi francescano ed entrare nello studium (scuola interna) dei Minori di Parigi. Così, dopo il conseguimento del titolo di magister artium (1235-1243), entrò nell’Ordine nel 1243 e iniziò contemporaneamente gli studi di Teologia presso lo studium minoritico. Nel 1244, dopo il noviziato trascorso nel convento di Parigi, entrò definitivamente nell’Ordine, con il nome di frate Bonaventura, ascritto alla Provincia romana dalla quale proveniva per nascita.

Nel 1248, dopo i cinque anni di teologia, conseguì il titolo di baccalaureus biblicus, con i maestri francescani Alessandro di Hales e Giovanni de la Rochelle (che entrambi morirono nel 1245), e poi di Eudes Rigaud (che nominato arcivescovo nel 1247, lasciava l’insegnamento) e di Guglielmo di Melitone, sotto la cui guida fu incaricato della “lettura cursoria”, ossia in senso letterale della Bibbia. Dopo questo biennio di tirocinio, Bonaventura conseguì, nel 1250, il grado di baccalaureus sententiarius; e nei due anni successivi cominciò le sue lezioni sulle Sententiae di Pietro Lombardo. Il risultato di queste lezioni fu la stesura del Commentarius in quattuor libros Sententiarum, la più monumentale delle sue opere. 

Sembra abbastanza significativo ricordare che Alessandro di Hales sia stato il primo maestro ad adottare le Sententiae di Pier Lombardo come libro di testo nella facoltà di teologia, che, ben presto, divenne il testo ufficiale della stessa facoltà di teologia. Questa importante introduzione significò dare un’impostazione sistematica allo studio della teologia, e, di conseguenza, anche un carattere formale di scienza. Secondo lo schema già presente nel testo di Pier Lombardo, i quattro libri, di cui si compone l’opera, espongono gli argomenti nel seguente ordine: Dio (vol I: de Dei unitate et trinitate); Creazione e Uomo (vol II: de rerum creatione et formatione corporalium et spiritualium); Redenzione (vol III: de incarnatione et humani generis reparatione); e Sacramenti e Giudizio finale (vol IV: de sacramentis et novissimis). 

Il lavoro di Alessandro di Hales è storicamente di estrema importanza, perché ha dato un forte impulso al lavoro di riflessione e di approfondimento della Parola di Dio, allargando l’orizzonte alla dimostrazione teologica nella sua funzione di rendere più chiara e profonda la conoscenza degli articoli di fede.

È da notare che la divisione degli argomenti delle Sententiae non viene rispettata alla lettera da Bonaventura, perché, dopo aver commentato il I e il II libro, anticipò la lettura del IV a quella del libro III; ciò nonostante, la sua opera risulta straordinariamente unitaria.

Lotta contro gli ordini mendicanti

Alla fine dell’anno accademico 1252, Bonaventura avrebbe dovuto conseguire la licentia docendi in teologia. Ma proprio in quell’anno scoppiò la terribile lotta dei maestri secolari contro le scuole e i maestri degli ordini mendicanti; di conseguenza, per un certo periodo, i maestri “regolari” (o religiosi), non furono riconosciuti ufficialmente dall’Università.

Quale il motivo?

L’ostilità affonda le radici nel secolo XII, quando la concezione ecclesiale altomedievale si era espressa contro i movimenti religiosi popolari e pauperistici, condannandoli come eretici. La nuova politica di Innocenzo III, invece, li aveva inseriti nel corpo vivo della Chiesa, alle dirette dipendenze del papato. In seguito, le continue esenzioni e i privilegi accordati dai papi agli Ordini mendicanti non solo avevano intaccato il prestigio e il potere del clero diocesano, ma gli procurarono anche dei danni economici. E quando gli Ordini mendicanti penetrarono nell’Università e costituirono proprie scuole, l’ostilità del clero crebbe a dismisura, tanto che spesso scoppiavano delle crisi interne alla stessa Università. 

Diversi fattori fecero precipitare la situazione. Nel 1252, l’Università aveva deciso di ridurre il numero delle cattedre destinate ai maestri “regolari”, riconoscendone solo una per i due ordini mendicanti. L’anno successivo, a causa di una dura rappresaglia da parte della polizia parigina ai danni di alcuni studenti, l’Università proclamò uno sciopero, al quale però i maestri degli ordini mendicanti non aderirono per disposizione dei superiori, e la tensione aumentò. L’Università pretese che tutti i suoi membri si impegnassero per giuramento a osservare i suoi Statuti, e, poiché i maestri mendicanti rifiutarono di giurare, vennero esclusi dal Consiglio universitario. 

La tensione tra i maestri secolari e gli Ordini mendicanti si acuì maggiormente, nel 1254, quando il francescano Gerardo di Borgo San Donnino pubblicò la Concordia Novi et Veteris Testamenti di Gioacchino da Fiore, premettendo a essa un Liber introductorius in evangelium aeternum, in cui annunciava l’avvento di una “nuova età dello Spirito Santo” e di una “Chiesa cattolica puramente spirituale fondata sulla povertà”, profezia che si doveva realizzare - secondo Gioacchino da Fiore - attorno al 1260. 

I maestri secolari, oltre denunciare la pubblicazione di Gerardo al papa Innocenzo IV, chiesero anche la revoca di tutti i privilegi agli Ordini mendicanti. In conseguenza di questo, il Papa annullò i privilegi concessi agli Ordini mendicanti. E il nuovo papa Alessandro IV condannò il libro di Gerardo con la lettera Libellum quemdam del 23 ottobre 1255, prendendo tuttavia posizione a favore degli Ordini mendicanti e senza più porre limiti al numero delle cattedre che essi potevano ricoprire. I Maestri secolari rifiutarono queste decisioni, venendo così scomunicati, anche per il boicottaggio da loro operato ai danni dei corsi tenuti dai frati mendicanti.

Il francescano cardinale

A partire da 1257, come Ministro Generale, Bonaventura, preso da impegni del nuovo servizio, compì vari viaggi per l’Europa. Il suo obiettivo principale fu quello di conservare l’unità dei Minori, prendendo posizione sia contro la corrente spirituale (influenzata dalle idee di Gioacchino da Fiore e incline ad accentuare la povertà del francescanesimo primitivo), sia contro le tendenze mondane insorte in seno all’Ordine. Favorì l’inserimento dell’Ordine francescano nel ministero pastorale e nella struttura organizzativa della Chiesa; e nel Capitolo generale di Narbona del 1260, contribuì alla stesura delle prime norme applicative della Regola, dette appunto “Costituzioni Narbonensi”, che dovevano guidare la vita dell’Ordine. 

Nello stesso Capitolo del 1260, gli venne affidato l’incarico di redigere una nuova biografia di san Francesco d’Assisi che, puntualmente presentò al Capitolo generale di Pisa del 1263, con il nome di Legenda Maior, che diventerà la biografia ufficiale nell’Ordine; mentre il Capitolo del 1266, riunito a Parigi, giunse a decretare la distruzione di tutte le biografie precedenti alla Legenda Maior. Negli ultimi anni della sua vita, Bonaventura intervenne nelle lotte contro l’aristotelismo e nella rinata polemica fra maestri secolari e mendicanti. A Parigi, tra il 1267 e il 1269, tenne una serie di conferenze sulla necessità di subordinare e finalizzare la filosofia alla teologia. Nel 1270 lasciò Parigi per farvi però ritorno nel 1273 quando pronunciò altre conferenze nelle quali attacca coloro che a suo parere erano gli errori dell’aristotelismo. 

Il 13 giugno 1273, Papa Gregorio X consacrò Bonaventura Vescovo e    Cardinale, con il delicato incarico di preparare un importantissimo evento ecclesiale: il Concilio Ecumenico di Lione 1274, che aveva come scopo il ristabilimento della comunione tra la Chiesa Latina e la Chiesa Greca. Egli si dedicò a questo compito con molta diligenza, ma non riuscì a vedere la conclusione di quell’assise ecumenica, perché morì durante il suo svolgimento, forse, a causa di un avvelenamento, stando almeno a quanto affermò in seguito il suo segretario, Pellegrino da Bologna. 

Il futuro papa Innocenzo V celebrò le esequie del Cardinale Bonaventura, e venne inumato nella chiesa francescana di Lione. Nel 1434 la salma venne traslata in una nuova chiesa, dedicata a San Francesco d’Assisi; la tomba venne aperta e la sua testa venne trovata in perfetto stato di conservazione: questo fatto ne facilitò la canonizzazione, che avvenne ad opera del papa francescano Sisto IV, il 14 aprile 1482; mentre il 14 maggio 1588 venne insignito del titolo di dottore della Chiesa, da papa Sisto V. Il 14 marzo 1490, a seguito della ricognizione del corpo del santo a Lione, venne estratto il braccio destro, per donarlo alla sua città d’origine Bagnoregio, e nel 1491, fu collocata nella concattedrale di San Nicola. Oggi, pertanto, il santo braccio di san Bonaventura è l’unica reliquia al mondo, dopo la profanazione del suo sepolcro e la dispersione dei suoi resti eseguita dagli Ugonotti nel 1562.  

La festa liturgica si celebra il 15 luglio, giorno della sua morte.

LE OPERE

Bonaventura è considerato uno dei pensatori maggiori della tradizione francescana, che grazie a lui si avviò a diventare una vera e propria Scuola di pensiero, sia dal punto di vista teologico che da quello filosofico. La produzione scientifica di Bonaventura è vastissima: occupa dieci grossi volumi (in-folio) nella monumentale edizione critica dei Frati di Ad Aquas Claras (Quaracchi - FI), 1882-1902. Il collegio di Quaracchi   negli anni settanta del secolo scorso si è trasferito a Grottaferrata vicino Roma; e dal novembre 2008, nella nuova sede del convento Sant’Isidoro in Roma. 

Poiché la produzione scientifica di Bonaventura è molto vasta sia per quantità che per varietà d’argomenti, si offre soltanto qualche titolo in base al carattere del contenuto. Di quelle teologiche: Commento ai quattro libri delle Sentenze di Pietro Lombardo (1250-1252); La conoscenza di Cristo (1254); Il mistero della Trinità (1255); Breviloquio (1257); Itinerario della mente verso Dio (1259). Tra quelle spirituali: La triplice via (1259-1269); Soliloquio (1257). Di quelle a carattere francescano: La leggenda maggiore di san Francesco (1262); La leggenda minore di san Francesco (1262).

IL PENSATORE

Secondo la ratio studiorum dell’Università di Parigi, la culla della cultura, Bonaventura maturò una propria concezione dottrinale e una sensibilità spirituale di grande spessore, come si può evidenziare dalla ricca e abbondante produzione letteraria e scientifica, che, nella stessa dissertazione dottorale dal titolo Questioni sulla conoscenza di Cristo, trova una perfetta sintesi e sistematica esposizione.

Poiché sarebbe estremamente difficoltoso, per non dire inutile, tentare una sintesi del suo pensiero che possa essere proposta al lettore moderno, causa la diversità culturale dei rispettivi tempi storici, si preferisce proporre soltanto qualche concetto per dare una pallida idea della vitalità della sua dottrina. Tra questi concetti interessanti si possono indicare: l’antropologia, la formazione del termine cristocentrismo e l’itinerario di perfezione. Tre tematiche che hanno ancora oggi tutta la loro vitalità e attualità, purché si sappia tenere ben distinta la diversità culturale e metodologica.                         

Antropologia

L’idea fondamentale dell’antropologia di Bonaventura è la concezione dell’uomo come microcosmo: “l’uomo è un piccolo mondo” (Itinerarium, II, 3); posto al centro dell’universo tra Dio e tutte le altre creature a lui inferiori: “l’uomo è medium tra Dio e le altre creature” (Commento alle Sentenze, II, 5). Questa condizione di centralità gli viene riconosciuta in tre modi: è la “coscienza” dell’universo; è il “fine” al quale sono “ordinate” tutte le altre creature; è dotato di poteri e facoltà per dominare la natura. 

Tutto il pensiero di Bonaventura intorno alla natura e alla condizione dell’uomo si polarizza intorno alla dottrina del libero arbitrio, per il quale è “immagine” di Dio, che costituisce anche il fondamento alla “dignità” dell’uomo. La libertà, secondo Bonaventura, non significa tanto che la ragione può giudicare liberamente sulla base di alcuni criteri, ma piuttosto che la volontà autonomamente comanda regolando l’atto razionale, in modo da eleggere il bene o il male, cioè sceglie quello che vuole e come lo vuole. La libertà nell’uomo è un continuo divenire verso la perfezione, intesa come uno speciale itinerario o percorso esistenziale.

L’uomo, per Bonaventura, è il punto di incontro tra due mondi, quello dello spirito e quello della materia: è costituito dall’anima razionale (che è la più nobile delle forme) e dal corpo umano (che la realtà più nobile della natura). Per questa sua composizione, l’uomo viene a trovarsi a contatto con le creature inferiori sulle quali esercita un dominium nel suo “piccolo mondo”, come Dio lo esercita nel macrocosmo.

In rapporto al mondo, Bonaventura considera la caratteristica della “bellezza” (pulcrum) come una delle proprietà “trascendentali” dell’ente, ossia come una delle proprietà che tutti gli esseri hanno in comune, quali l’unum, il verum e il bonum. In particolare, il “bello” è un valore oggettivo e intrinseco alle cose, e non solo soggettivo, cioè in relazione a un sentimento o a uno stato d’animo del soggetto. Tale oggettività si manifesta nella “proporzione” e nella “luminosità”: l’una costituisce l’aspetto quantitativo e numerico (simmetria, ordinati rapporti di grandezze); l’altra, l’aspetto qualitativo (splendore della luce, varietà dei colori). “L’universo, scrive Bonaventura, è come una bellissima composizione artistica, che si svolge secondo ottime consonanze, in cui le parti si succedono l’una all’altra, sino a che ogni cosa si ordina perfettamente al fine” (Commento alla Sentenze, I, d. 44, a. 1, q. 3, arg. 2 et ad 2).

A fondamento di questa visione secondo rapporti matematici del cosmo, c’è sempre qualche riferimento biblico. Un versetto della Sapienza recita: “omnia in numero, pondere et mensura disposuisti” (11, 20: tutto hai disposto, o Signore, con misura calcolo e peso). Per quanto riguarda l’altro aspetto del mondo quello della “luminosità”, è da ricordare che la luce viene considerato principio della struttura matematica dell’universo, perché è stata la prima realtà creata da Dio, ed ha la capacità di diffondersi e moltiplicarsi in tutte le altre realtà esistenti nel cosmo. La luce è di per sé principio della bellezza (“lux per se pulcra est”) e rende ragione dell’intrinseca bellezza del creato.

Formazione del termine “cristocentrismo”

Da una attenta analisi di alcuni suoi scritti teologici e spirituali, si evince a tutto tondo, che la formazione del vocabolo “cristocentrismo” deriva dall’elaborazione, quasi sistematica, del termine medium fino alla sua identificazione con quello di centrum. Chiara è l’esposizione nel Commento alle Sentenze: “Cristo è medium tra la natura umana e la natura divina… tra Dio e gli uomini” (III, d. 19, a. 2, q. 2, Respondeo). Nelle “conferenze” sull’Hexaemeron, Bonaventura identifica il termine medium con quello di centrum, onde la formazione del termine cristocentrismo. In questo modo l’attenzione si sposta dalla partecipazione alla natura degli estremi al fatto di stare al centro: ogni posizione centrale, indipendentemente dalla partecipazione alle due nature, costituisce un medium e un centrum.

Con questo nuovo termine medio-centro, si precisa sempre di più la posizione di Bonaventura, che nella 1Conferenza sull’Hexaemeron, afferma che “Cristo è medio di tutte le scienze” (n. 11); affermazione che ha l’aria di una dichiarazione programmatica abbastanza esplicita. E nella stessa “conferenza”, viene formulato il secondo principio “idem est principium essendi et cognoscendi” (n. 1), “identico è il principio dell’essere e del conoscere”, che determina meglio il suo programma cristocentrico: Cristo non solo è il centro e il principio che dà senso e valore a ogni ordine di essere, ma anche il centro e il principio da cui partire per conoscere ogni ordine di essere.

Da queste esplicite premesse, si spetterebbe che Bonaventura trattasse la teologia in chiave cristocentrica, cosa che invece non avviene, in quanto nelle sue trattazioni teologiche ritorna alla dottrina comune del teocentrismo, senza ricordare esplicitamente i nessi che realmente esistono con Cristo. In questo modo, si può concludere che il “cristocentrismo” di Bonaventura è più di natura “spirituale” che teologico, perché considera Cristo come centro e modello di perfezione e non come anche chiave di lettura dell’intera storia della salvezza. Tuttavia è da riconoscere che le posizioni di Bonaventura hanno influito molto sull’Ordine, perché ha saputo fissare le esigenze di una nuova realtà storica e spirituale nella struttura giuridica della Chiesa.

Itinerarium mentis in Deum

Dopo aver composto, nel 1257, il gioiello filosofico-teologico del Breviloquium, a uso degli studenti di teologia, Bonaventura concepì anche l‘idea di comporre un “breviloquium” di dottrina spirituale a chi si sentiva chiamato alla contemplazione, cioè a chi voleva trascendere “ogni umana comprensione” (Itinerarium, prol., n.1). Insieme al Breviloquium, si può considerare il capolavoro di Bonaventura. Lo scrisse nel 1259 sulle vette boscose e verdeggianti del monte della Verna, dove Francesco d’Assisi era stato insignito delle sacre stigmate, o come dice Dante “da Cristo prese l’ultimo sigillo, che le sue membra due anni portarono” (Paradiso, XI, 107-108). È un opuscolo piccolo di mole, ma denso di contenuto.  Ha un carattere prevalentemente mistico e profondamente umano insieme. Rivela una suggestiva anima d’artista che anela all’unione con Dio. Anelito che costituisce anche la finalità dell’opuscolo: insegnare come ascendere a Dio, “che trascende ogni nostra comprensione” (Itinerarium, Prol., n. 1), come “contemplare Dio non solo fuori di noi e dentro di noi, ma anche al di sopra di noi” (Itinerarium, V, n. 1).

L’ascesa è scandita in tre tappe o vie: il mondo sensibile, l’anima umana e Cristo; ognuna delle quali abbraccia due momenti o capitoli; il settimo e ultimo capitolo rappresenta il raggiungimento del traguardo o “estasi” che esige l’abbandono di ogni attività intellettiva per sprofondare nel pelago dell’amore di Dio, che è tutta grazia dello Spirito Santo, di cui Cristo è pieno.  L’opuscolo, pertanto, si compone di un prologo e di sette capitoli.

La “prima tappa” descrive nelle linee generali l’itinerario che si propone di percorrere, attraverso due immagini quella della scala e quello dello specchio. L’intero creato si configura come una “scala formata di sei gradini”, nei quali sono adombrati i sei giorni biblici della creazione e le sei facoltà conoscitive umane; o come uno “specchio” che fa vedere le meravigliose bellezze operate da Dio attraverso tutte e singole le creature. Queste, considerate in sé stesse o nella loro struttura ontologica, rimandano a Dio come a loro Primo Principio; considerate, invece, nel loro dinamismo operativo, a Dio come loro fine Ultimo. Dall’insieme, si ricava anche la concezione che l’uomo è formato in modo da costituire la “coscienza” dell’universo e il pensiero vivente dell’essere. 

La “seconda tappa” conduce a scoprire Dio attraverso la sua immagine presente nell’uomo stesso e nelle sue facoltà spirituali, che permettono di vedere Dio come una “immagine riflessa in uno specchio…                              in cui brilla l’immagine della Trinità” (Itinerarium, III, n. 1). Onde l’invito a rientrare in sé stessi: “Entra in te stesso, o uomo, e vedi con quale ardore la mente tua ama sé stessa. Ora non potrebbe amarsi, se non si conoscesse; e non potrebbe conoscersi se non avesse il ricordo di sé stessa, dal momento che è impossibile per noi apprendere qualcosa con l’intelletto se prima non è presente nella memoria” (Ibidem). 

Con l’applicazione dei gradini delle tre facoltà spirituali, “l’anima è vicina a Dio: la memoria ti conduce a Dio come Realtà Eterna; l’intelletto ti conduce a Dio come Verità Suprema; e la volontà ti conduce a Dio come Sommo Bene” (Itinerarium, III, n. 4). Questi attributi di Dio vengono gradualmente scoperti e conquistati con l’esercizio delle rispettive facoltà e costituiscono l’oggetto delle tappe successive.

Così, nella “terza e quarta tappa” l’anima contempla l’immagine di Dio nell’anima rinnovata dai doni della grazia, fino alla soglia dell’estasi. Le facoltà dell’anima, infatti, nella terza tappa, conducono naturalmente quasi per mano alle realtà divine, come loro specifica conclusione scientifica. Nella quarta, invece, le stesse facoltà, riplasmate dai doni della grazia e arricchite dalle virtù teologali, conducono gradualmente l’anima a Dio, attraverso la triplice operazione di “purificazione, illuminazione e perfezionamento dell’anima… che si compie tutto per la sincerissima carità di Cristo” (Itinerarium, IV, nn. 7-8).

Nelle ultime due tappe, “quinta e sesta”, Bonaventura, dopo aver contemplato Dio “fuori di noi e dentro di noi” invita a contemplarlo “al di sopra di noi” (Itinerarium, V, n.1). La quinta tappa lo contempla attraverso il suo nome rivelato a Mosè: “Colui che è” (Es 3, 14), cioè attraverso l’esistenza di Dio e dei suoi attributi; la sesta tappa, invece, attraverso la nozione di “bene”, rivelata direttamente da Cristo: “Nessuno è buono se non Dio solo” (Lc 18,19). Il mistero della Trinità si contempla solo attraverso il suo nome, che è “Bontà”.  In breve: “come l’Essere è la sorgente di tutti gli attributi essenziali e il suo nome ci conduce alla loro conoscenza, così il Bene è il fondamento principalissimo sul quale noi dobbiamo appoggiarci per contemplare le emanazioni divine (delle tre Persone)” (Itinerarium, VI, n. 1).

 Con il settimo e ultimo capitolo, dedicato all’“estasi”, l’itinerario della mente a Dio si è compiuto, dopo aver percorso le sei tappe graduate di contemplazione: natura, uomo e Cristo. Il termine di questa ascesi è la dolcezza dell’estasi, ossia l’abbandono totale a Dio, nel suo “raggio soprannaturale delle tenebre divine”. Nell’estasi, “è necessario abbandonare tutte le operazioni intellettuali, trasportare e trasformare in Dio tutto l’affetto del cuore. Questo è un dono mistico e segretissimo che nessuno conosce se non chi lo riceve, che nessuno riceve se non chi lo desidera, e nessuno poi lo desidera se non è infiammato profondamente dal fuoco dello Spirito Santo, che Cristo Gesù mandò sulla terra” (Itinerarium, VII, n. 4). 

E poiché “ad ottenere questo dono, nulla può la natura e poco la scienza bisogna dare poca importanza all’indagine e molta all’unzione (spirituale); poco alla lingua e molta alla gioia interiore; poco alla parola e ai libri e tutta al dono di Dio, cioè allo Spirito Santo; poco o niente alla creatura e tutto al Creatore: al Padre, al Figlio e allo Spirito Santo” (Itinerarium, VII, n. 5).

Le parole conclusive dell’Itinerarium andrebbero scolpite nel profondo del cuore: “se brami di sapere come ciò avviene, interroga la grazia e non la scienza, il desiderio e non l’intelletto, il gemito della preghiera e non lo studio, lo sposo e non il maestro, Dio non l’uomo, l’oscurità non la chiarezza; non la luce che brilla, ma il fuoco che tutto infiamma e trasporta in Dio, con una unzione che rapisce e un affetto che divora. Questo fuoco è Dio… e Cristo l’accende col fervore della sua passione. Chi prova questo fuoco… desidera morire insieme a Cristo crocifisso e così passare dal mondo al Padre… e dire con Filippo: ‘Ciò mi basta’ (Gv 14, 8)… ed esultare con Davide: ‘O Dio del mio cuore, la mia carne e il mio cuore vengono meno; tu sei la mia porzione per l’eternità. Benedetto Dio, in eterno!” (Itinerarium, VII, n. 7).

L’inverare il pellegrinaggio mistico nell’amore del Cristo crocifisso pone Bonaventura tra i grandi mistici nella storia dello spirito umano. Il suo misticismo non è un distacco dal mondo, ma un rivelarlo nella sua bellezza e verità. Così scrive: “Colui… che non vede gli splendori innumerevoli delle creature, è cieco; colui che non si sveglia per le tante voci, è sordo; colui che per tutte queste meraviglie non loda Dio, è muto; colui che da tanti segni non si innalza al primo principio, è stolto” (Itinerarium, I, n. 15). 

Per Bonaventura, infatti, la creazione tutta parla ad alta voce di Dio buono e bello; e Cristo, da sempre Dio e per sempre uomo, conduce l’uomo verso Dio, attraverso l’itinerario dentro sé stesso, nel quale lo stesso Cristo si è degnato di prendere dimora. Questo cenno all’itinerario di Bonaventura si conclude com’era cominciato: “Conducimi, Signore, nella tua via e io camminerò nella tua verità. Si rallegri il mio cuore nel temere il tuo nome” (Itinerarium, I, n. 1). È un messaggio all’uomo a recuperare intera la sua autenticità e a raggiungere la sua pienezza.

Autore: 
P. Giovanni Lauriola ofm


Nicolò Grassi  (1682–1748). La comunione di san Bonaventura, San Francesco della Vigna, Venizia  


BENEDETTO XVI

UDIENZA GENERALE

Aula Paolo VI
Mercoledì, 3 marzo 2010  

San Bonaventura


Cari fratelli e sorelle,

quest’oggi vorrei parlare di san Bonaventura da Bagnoregio. Vi confido che, nel proporvi questo argomento, avverto una certa nostalgia, perché ripenso alle ricerche che, da giovane studioso, ho condotto proprio su questo autore, a me particolarmente caro. La sua conoscenza ha inciso non poco nella mia formazione. Con molta gioia qualche mese fa mi sono recato in pellegrinaggio al suo luogo natio, Bagnoregio, una cittadina italiana, nel Lazio, che ne custodisce con venerazione la memoria.

Nato probabilmente nel 1217 e morto nel 1274, egli visse nel XIII secolo, un’epoca in cui la fede cristiana, penetrata profondamente nella cultura e nella società dell’Europa, ispirò imperiture opere nel campo della letteratura, delle arti visive, della filosofia e della teologia. Tra le grandi figure cristiane che contribuirono alla composizione di questa armonia tra fede e cultura si staglia appunto Bonaventura, uomo di azione e di contemplazione, di profonda pietà e di prudenza nel governo.

Si chiamava Giovanni da Fidanza. Un episodio che accadde quando era ancora ragazzo segnò profondamente la sua vita, come egli stesso racconta. Era stato colpito da una grave malattia e neppure suo padre, che era medico, sperava ormai di salvarlo dalla morte. Sua madre, allora, ricorse all’intercessione di san Francesco d’Assisi, da poco canonizzato. E Giovanni guarì.

La figura del Poverello di Assisi gli divenne ancora più familiare qualche anno dopo, quando si trovava a Parigi, dove si era recato per i suoi studi. Aveva ottenuto il diploma di Maestro d’Arti, che potremmo paragonare a quello di un prestigioso Liceo dei nostri tempi. A quel punto, come tanti giovani del passato e anche di oggi, Giovanni si pose una domanda cruciale: “Che cosa devo fare della mia vita?”. Affascinato dalla testimonianza di fervore e radicalità evangelica dei Frati Minori, che erano giunti a Parigi nel 1219, Giovanni bussò alle porte del Convento francescano di quella città, e chiese di essere accolto nella grande famiglia dei discepoli di san Francesco. Molti anni dopo, egli spiegò le ragioni della sua scelta: in san Francesco e nel movimento da lui iniziato ravvisava l’azione di Cristo. Scriveva così in una lettera indirizzata ad un altro frate: “Confesso davanti a Dio che la ragione che mi ha fatto amare di più la vita del beato Francesco è che essa assomiglia agli inizi e alla crescita della Chiesa. La Chiesa cominciò con semplici pescatori, e si arricchì in seguito di dottori molto illustri e sapienti; la religione del beato Francesco non è stata stabilita dalla prudenza degli uomini, ma da Cristo” (Epistula de tribus quaestionibus ad magistrum innominatum, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Introduzione generale, Roma 1990, p. 29).

Pertanto, intorno all’anno 1243 Giovanni vestì il saio francescano e assunse il nome di Bonaventura. Venne subito indirizzato agli studi, e frequentò la Facoltà di Teologia dell’Università di Parigi, seguendo un insieme di corsi molto impegnativi. Conseguì i vari titoli richiesti dalla carriera accademica, quelli di “baccelliere biblico” e di “baccelliere sentenziario”. Così Bonaventura studiò a fondo la Sacra Scrittura, le Sentenze di Pietro Lombardo, il manuale di teologia di quel tempo, e i più importanti autori di teologia e, a contatto con i maestri e gli studenti che affluivano a Parigi da tutta l’Europa, maturò una propria riflessione personale e una sensibilità spirituale di grande valore che, nel corso degli anni successivi, seppe trasfondere nelle sue opere e nei suoi sermoni, diventando così uno dei teologi più importanti della storia della Chiesa. È significativo ricordare il titolo della tesi che egli difese per essere abilitato all’insegnamento della teologia, la licentia ubique docendi, come si diceva allora. La sua dissertazione aveva come titolo Questioni sulla conoscenza di Cristo. Questo argomento mostra il ruolo centrale che Cristo ebbe sempre nella vita e nell’insegnamento di Bonaventura. Possiamo dire senz’altro che tutto il suo pensiero fu profondamente cristocentrico.

In quegli anni a Parigi, la città di adozione di Bonaventura, divampava una violenta polemica contro i Frati Minori di san Francesco d’Assisi e i Frati Predicatori di san Domenico di Guzman. Si contestava il loro diritto di insegnare nell’Università, e si metteva in dubbio persino l’autenticità della loro vita consacrata. Certamente, i cambiamenti introdotti dagli Ordini Mendicanti nel modo di intendere la vita religiosa, di cui ho parlato nelle catechesi precedenti, erano talmente innovativi che non tutti riuscivano a comprenderli. Si aggiungevano poi, come qualche volta accade anche tra persone sinceramente religiose, motivi di debolezza umana, come l’invidia e la gelosia. Bonaventura, anche se circondato dall’opposizione degli altri maestri universitari, aveva già iniziato a insegnare presso la cattedra di teologia dei Francescani e, per rispondere a chi contestava gli Ordini Mendicanti, compose uno scritto intitolato La perfezione evangelica. In questo scritto dimostra come gli Ordini Mendicanti, in specie i Frati Minori, praticando i voti di povertà, di castità e di obbedienza, seguivano i consigli del Vangelo stesso. Al di là di queste circostanze storiche, l’insegnamento fornito da Bonaventura in questa sua opera e nella sua vita rimane sempre attuale: la Chiesa è resa più luminosa e bella dalla fedeltà alla vocazione di quei suoi figli e di quelle sue figlie che non solo mettono in pratica i precetti evangelici ma, per la grazia di Dio, sono chiamati ad osservarne i consigli e testimoniano così, con il loro stile di vita povero, casto e obbediente, che il Vangelo è sorgente di gioia e di perfezione.

Il conflitto fu acquietato, almeno per un certo tempo, e, per intervento personale del Papa Alessandro IV, nel 1257, Bonaventura fu riconosciuto ufficialmente come dottore e maestro dell’Università parigina. Tuttavia egli dovette rinunciare a questo prestigioso incarico, perché in quello stesso anno il Capitolo generale dell’Ordine lo elesse Ministro generale.

Svolse questo incarico per diciassette anni con saggezza e dedizione, visitando le province, scrivendo ai fratelli, intervenendo talvolta con una certa severità per eliminare abusi. Quando Bonaventura iniziò questo servizio, l’Ordine dei Frati Minori si era sviluppato in modo prodigioso: erano più di 30.000 i Frati sparsi in tutto l’Occidente con presenze missionarie nell’Africa del Nord, in Medio Oriente, e anche a Pechino. Occorreva consolidare questa espansione e soprattutto conferirle, in piena fedeltà al carisma di Francesco, unità di azione e di spirito. Infatti, tra i seguaci del santo di Assisi si registravano diversi modi di interpretarne il messaggio ed esisteva realmente il rischio di una frattura interna. Per evitare questo pericolo, il Capitolo generale dell’Ordine a Narbona, nel 1260, accettò e ratificò un testo proposto da Bonaventura, in cui si raccoglievano e si unificavano le norme che regolavano la vita quotidiana dei Frati minori. Bonaventura intuiva, tuttavia, che le disposizioni legislative, per quanto ispirate a saggezza e moderazione, non erano sufficienti ad assicurare la comunione dello spirito e dei cuori. Bisognava condividere gli stessi ideali e le stesse motivazioni. Per questo motivo, Bonaventura volle presentare l’autentico carisma di Francesco, la sua vita ed il suo insegnamento. Raccolse, perciò, con grande zelo documenti riguardanti il Poverello e ascoltò con attenzione i ricordi di coloro che avevano conosciuto direttamente Francesco. Ne nacque una biografia, storicamente ben fondata, del santo di Assisi, intitolata Legenda Maior, redatta anche in forma più succinta, e chiamata perciò Legenda minor. La parola latina, a differenza di quella italiana, non indica un frutto della fantasia, ma, al contrario, “Legenda” significa un testo autorevole, “da leggersi” ufficialmente. Infatti, il Capitolo generale dei Frati Minori del 1263, riunitosi a Pisa, riconobbe nella biografia di san Bonaventura il ritratto più fedele del Fondatore e questa divenne, così, la biografia ufficiale del Santo.

Qual è l’immagine di san Francesco che emerge dal cuore e dalla penna del suo figlio devoto e successore, san Bonaventura? Il punto essenziale: Francesco è un alter Christus, un uomo che ha cercato appassionatamente Cristo. Nell’amore che spinge all’imitazione, egli si è conformato interamente a Lui. Bonaventura additava questo ideale vivo a tutti i seguaci di Francesco. Questo ideale, valido per ogni cristiano, ieri, oggi, sempre, è stato indicato come programma anche per la Chiesa del Terzo Millennio dal mio Predecessore, il Venerabile Giovanni Paolo II. Tale programma, egli scriveva nella Lettera Novo Millennio ineunte, si incentra “in Cristo stesso, da conoscere, amare, imitare, per vivere in lui la vita trinitaria, e trasformare con lui la storia fino al suo compimento nella Gerusalemme celeste” (n. 29).

Nel 1273 la vita di san Bonaventura conobbe un altro cambiamento. Il Papa Gregorio X lo volle consacrare Vescovo e nominare Cardinale. Gli chiese anche di preparare un importantissimo evento ecclesiale: il II Concilio Ecumenico di Lione, che aveva come scopo il ristabilimento della comunione tra la Chiesa Latina e quella Greca. Egli si dedicò a questo compito con diligenza, ma non riuscì a vedere la conclusione di quell’assise ecumenica, perché morì durante il suo svolgimento. Un anonimo notaio pontificio compose un elogio di Bonaventura, che ci offre un ritratto conclusivo di questo grande santo ed eccellente teologo: “Uomo buono, affabile, pio e misericordioso, colmo di virtù, amato da Dio e dagli uomini... Dio infatti gli aveva donato una tale grazia, che tutti coloro che lo vedevano erano pervasi da un amore che il cuore non poteva celare” (cfr J.G. Bougerol, Bonaventura, in A. Vauchez (a cura), Storia dei santi e della santità cristiana. Vol. VI. L’epoca del rinnovamento evangelico, Milano 1991, p. 91).

Raccogliamo l’eredità di questo santo Dottore della Chiesa, che ci ricorda il senso della nostra vita con le seguenti parole: “Sulla terra… possiamo contemplare l’immensità divina mediante il ragionamento e l’ammirazione; nella patria celeste, invece, mediante la visione, quando saremo fatti simili a Dio, e mediante l’estasi ... entreremo nel gaudio di Dio” (La conoscenza di Cristo, q. 6, conclusione, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici /1, Roma 1993, p. 187).

Saluti:

Je suis heureux de vous accueillir chers pèlerins de langue française, en particulier le groupe ‘Chrétiens en grandes écoles’, de Paris et les servants d’autel, de Versailles. Que ce temps du Carême soit pour vous tous une occasion de rechercher le véritable visage du Christ, pour lui conformer votre existence! Que Dieu vous bénisse!

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from Nigeria, Japan and the United States. To the pilgrims from Sophia University in Tokyo I offer my prayerful good wishes that the coming centenary of your University will strengthen your service to the pursuit of truth and your witness to the harmony of faith and reason. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

Von Herzen grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Christus, das lernen wir von Bonaventura, gilt es immer mehr kennenzulernen, zu lieben und dann auch nachzuahmen. So finden wir die Mitte unseres Lebens und können der Geschichte in positiver Weise Gestalt geben. Dazu schenke uns allen Gott seine Gnade.

Saludo a los fieles de lengua española, en particular a las Religiosas Franciscanas de Madrid, a los jóvenes provenientes de Valencia, Granada y Madrid, a los miembros de la Asociación Católica de Propagandistas, así como a los grupos venidos de España y Latinoamérica. Recojamos la herencia de este Santo Doctor de la Iglesia, hombre de acción y contemplación, de profunda piedad y de gran prudencia en el gobierno, que con su ejemplo nos recuerda la centralidad del Evangelio en la vida del cristiano. Muchas gracias.

Acolho cordialmente todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa que vieram à Roma encontrar o Sucessor de Pedro: que a perseverança na prática das boas obras possa vos conduzir sempre mais à união com Jesus Cristo. Desça a Sua Bênção sobre cada um de vós e vossas famílias.

Saluto in lingua polacca:

Pozdrawiam serdecznie obecnych tu Polaków. Prezentując podczas audiencji sylwetki tych, którzy kształtowali ducha chrześcijańskiej Europy, na zasadzie wyjątku pragnę wspomnieć dzisiaj osobę bliższego nam czasowo Fryderyka Chopina. W tych dniach obchodzimy dwustulecie jego urodzin, trwa Rok Chopinowski. Niech muzyka tego najwybitniejszego polskiego kompozytora, który wniósł wielki wkład w kulturę Europy i świata, zbliża jej słuchaczy do Boga i pomaga w odkrywaniu głębi ludzkiego ducha. Wszystkim z serca błogosławię.

Traduzione italiana:

Saluto cordialmente tutti i polacchi giunti per quest’udienza. Mentre presento durante le udienze le figure di coloro che hanno formato lo spirito dell’Europa cristiana, facendo un’eccezione vorrei ricordare oggi la persona di Fryderyk Chopin che ha vissuto in tempi non molto lontani. In questi giorni viene celebrato il bicentenario della sua nascita, ed è in corso l’Anno di Chopin. La musica di questo famosissimo compositore polacco, che ha portato grande contributo alla cultura dell’Europa e del mondo, avvicini a Dio coloro che l’ascoltano e aiuti a scoprire la profondità dello spirito dell’uomo. Tutti benedico di cuore.

Saluto in lingua ungherese:

Isten hozta a magyar zarándokokat, különösen is azokat, akik Szombathelyről érkeztek. A nagyböjti időszak legyen a személyes megtérés és a lelki megújulás ideje, hogy örömmel követhessétek Krisztust mind szavaitokban, mind a jócselekedetekben. Ehhez kérem Számotokra a Mindenható Isten áldását. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Traduzione italiana:

Do il benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua ungherese, specialmente al gruppo di Szombathely. Il tempo quaresimale vi conduca alla conversione personale ed al rinnovo spirituale affinché possiate seguire con gioia Cristo con le parole e le opere di carità. Volentieri imploro la benedizione dell'Onnipotente su tutti voi. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua croata:

S velikom radošću pozdravljam i blagoslivljam sve hodočasnike iz Hrvatske, a na poseban način osobe s invaliditetom. Dragi prijatelji, promatrajući ovih dana Kristovo predanje u volju Očevu i žrtvu po kojoj smo spašeni, prepoznajmo kako nas je ljubio i zahvalimo mu živeći sveto. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Traduzione italiana:

Con grande gioia saluto e benedico i pellegrini provenienti dalla Croazia, e in modo particolare tutte le persone segnate da invalidità fisica. Cari amici, contemplando in questi giorni l’abbandono di Cristo alla volontà del Padre e il sacrificio per il quale siamo stati salvati, prendiamo coscienza di come  Egli ci ha amato e ringraziamoLo vivendo santamente. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Saluto in lingua ceca:

Srdečně vítám skupinu kněží a mladých ministrantů z Prahy a okolí, kteří konají pouť do Říma, aby zde prosili za nová kněžská povolání. Rád žehnám vám i vašim drahým!

Chvála Kristu!

Traduzione italiana:

Un cordiale benvenuto al gruppo di Sacerdoti e di giovani ministranti che sono venuti a Roma in pellegrinaggio con il proposito di pregare per le nuove vocazioni sacerdotali!

Volentieri benedico voi e i vostri cari!

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua slovacca:

Srdečne pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov, osobitne z Bratislavy, ako aj Bratislavský chlapčenský zbor.

Milí mladí, bratia a sestry, Pôstna doba nás pozýva na obrátenie cez počúvanie Božieho Slova, modlitbu a konanie skutkov milosrdenstva. Na také prežívanie Pôstu vám rád žehnám.

Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

Traduzione italiana:

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini slovacchi, particolarmente quelli provenienti da Bratislava, come pure il Coro dei ragazzi di Bratislava.

Cari giovani, fratelli e sorelle, il Tempo della Quaresima ci invita alla conversione per mezzo dell’ascolto della Parola di Dio, della preghiera e dell’esercizio delle opere di misericordia. Vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i partecipanti all’Incontro della Pastorale degli Zingari ed auspico che le Chiese locali sappiano operare insieme per un impegno sempre più efficace in favore degli Zingari. Saluto le Suore Missionarie dell’Apostolato Cattolico – Pallottine, che celebrano in questi giorni il loro Capitolo Generale ed assicuro la mia preghiera affinchè questo importante evento susciti nell’intero Istituto un rinnovato ardore apostolico. Saluto i pellegrini provenienti dal Santuario della Madonna dei Miracoli in Motta di Livenza e li incoraggio a coltivare una sempre più autentica devozione mariana. Saluto con particolare affetto i fedeli di Dugenta, Frasso Telesino, Limatola e Melizzano, terre dei Gambacorta, qui convenuti con i rispettivi Sindaci. Cari amici, vi ringrazio della vostra presenza ed auspico che la riscoperta delle comuni radici suscitino generose collaborazioni per la crescita del bene comune.

Saluto, infine i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Cari giovani, preparatevi ad affrontare le importanti tappe della vita, fondando ogni vostro progetto sulla fedeltà a Dio e ai fratelli. Cari malati, offrire le vostre sofferenze al Padre celeste in unione a quelle di Cristo, per contribuire alla costruzione del Regno di Dio. E voi, cari sposi novelli, sappiate quotidianamente edificare la vostra famiglia nell'ascolto di Dio, nel fedele e reciproco amore.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/it/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100303.html


BENEDETTO XVI

UDIENZA GENERALE

Mercoledì, 10 marzo 2010  

Basilica Vaticana
 

Ai partecipanti al Pellegrinaggio della Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi


Cari fratelli e sorelle!

Sono lieto di accogliervi in questa Basilica e di rivolgere a ciascuno il mio cordiale benvenuto. Saluto il pellegrinaggio promosso dalla Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi dopo la recente beatificazione di questa luminosa figura del clero milanese. Cari amici, ho ben presente la straordinaria attività che dispiegate in favore dei bambini in difficoltà, dei disabili, degli anziani, dei malati terminali e nel vasto ambito assistenziale e sanitario. Mediante i vostri progetti di solidarietà, vi sforzate di proseguire la benemerita opera iniziata dal beato Carlo Gnocchi, apostolo dei tempi moderni e genio della carità cristiana, che raccogliendo le sfide del suo tempo, si dedicò con ogni premura ai piccoli mutilati, vittime della guerra, nei quali scorgeva il volto di Dio. Sacerdote dinamico ed entusiasta e acuto educatore, visse integralmente il Vangelo nei differenti contesti di vita, nei quali operò con incessante zelo e con infaticabile ardore apostolico. In questo Anno sacerdotale, ancora una volta la Chiesa guarda a lui come a un modello da imitare. Il suo fulgido esempio sostenga l’impegno di quanti si dedicano al servizio dei più deboli e susciti nei sacerdoti il vivo desiderio di riscoprire e rinvigorire la consapevolezza dello straordinario dono di Grazia che il ministero ordinato rappresenta per chi lo ha ricevuto, per la Chiesa intera e per il mondo.

Concludiamo questo nostro incontro cantando la preghiera del Pater Noster.

Aula Paolo VI

San Bonaventura (2)


Cari fratelli e sorelle,

la scorsa settimana ho parlato della vita e della personalità di san Bonaventura da Bagnoregio. Questa mattina vorrei proseguirne la presentazione, soffermandomi su una parte della sua opera letteraria e della sua dottrina.

Come già dicevo, san Bonaventura, tra i vari meriti, ha avuto quello di interpretare autenticamente e fedelmente la figura di san Francesco d’Assisi, da lui venerato e studiato con grande amore. In particolar modo, ai tempi di san Bonaventura una corrente di Frati minori, detti “spirituali”, sosteneva che con san Francesco era stata inaugurata una fase totalmente nuova della storia, sarebbe apparso il “Vangelo eterno”, del quale parla l’Apocalisse, che sostituiva il Nuovo Testamento. Questo gruppo affermava che la Chiesa aveva ormai esaurito il proprio ruolo storico, e al suo posto subentrava una comunità carismatica di uomini liberi guidati interiormente dallo Spirito, cioè i “Francescani spirituali”. Alla base delle idee di tale gruppo vi erano gli scritti di un abate cistercense, Gioacchino da Fiore, morto nel 1202. Nelle sue opere, egli affermava un ritmo trinitario della storia. Considerava l’Antico Testamento come età del Padre, seguita dal tempo del Figlio, il tempo della Chiesa. Vi sarebbe stata ancora da aspettare la terza età, quella dello Spirito Santo. Tutta la storia andava così interpretata come una storia di progresso: dalla severità dell’Antico Testamento alla relativa libertà del tempo del Figlio, nella Chiesa, fino alla piena libertà dei Figli di Dio, nel periodo dello Spirito Santo, che sarebbe stato anche, finalmente, il periodo della pace tra gli uomini, della riconciliazione dei popoli e delle religioni. Gioacchino da Fiore aveva suscitato la speranza che l’inizio del nuovo tempo sarebbe venuto da un nuovo monachesimo. Così è comprensibile che un gruppo di Francescani pensasse di riconoscere in san Francesco d’Assisi l’iniziatore del tempo nuovo e nel suo Ordine la comunità del periodo nuovo – la comunità del tempo dello Spirito Santo, che lasciava dietro di sé la Chiesa gerarchica, per iniziare la nuova Chiesa dello Spirito, non più legata alle vecchie strutture.

Vi era dunque il rischio di un gravissimo fraintendimento del messaggio di san Francesco, della sua umile fedeltà al Vangelo e alla Chiesa, e tale equivoco comportava una visione erronea del Cristianesimo nel suo insieme.

San Bonaventura, che nel 1257 divenne Ministro Generale dell’Ordine Francescano, si trovò di fronte ad una grave tensione all’interno del suo stesso Ordine a causa appunto di chi sosteneva la menzionata corrente dei “Francescani spirituali”, che si rifaceva a Gioacchino da Fiore. Proprio per rispondere a questo gruppo e ridare unità all’Ordine, san Bonaventura studiò con cura gli scritti autentici di Gioacchino da Fiore e quelli a lui attribuiti e, tenendo conto della necessità di presentare correttamente la figura e il messaggio del suo amato san Francesco, volle esporre una giusta visione della teologia della storia. San Bonaventura affrontò il problema proprio nell’ultima sua opera, una raccolta di conferenze ai monaci dello studio parigino, rimasta incompiuta e giuntaci attraverso le trascrizioni degli uditori, intitolata Hexaëmeron, cioè una spiegazione allegorica dei sei giorni della creazione. I Padri della Chiesa consideravano i sei o sette giorni del racconto sulla creazione come profezia della storia del mondo, dell’umanità. I setti giorni rappresentavano per loro sette periodi della storia, più tardi interpretati anche come sette millenni. Con Cristo saremmo entrati nell’ultimo, cioè il sesto periodo della storia, al quale seguirebbe poi il grande sabato di Dio. San Bonaventura suppone questa interpretazione storica del rapporto dei giorni della creazione, ma in un modo molto libero ed innovativo. Per lui due fenomeni del suo tempo rendono necessaria una nuova interpretazione del corso della storia:

Il primo: la figura di san Francesco, l’uomo totalmente unito a Cristo fino alla comunione delle stimmate, quasi un alter Christus, e con san Francesco la nuova comunità da lui creata, diversa dal monachesimo finora conosciuto. Questo fenomeno esigeva una nuova interpretazione, come novità di Dio apparsa in quel momento.

Il secondo: la posizione di Gioacchino da Fiore, che annunziava un nuovo monachesimo ed un periodo totalmente nuovo della storia, andando oltre la rivelazione del Nuovo Testamento, esigeva una risposta.

Da Ministro Generale dell’Ordine dei Francescani, san Bonaventura aveva visto subito che con la concezione spiritualistica, ispirata da Gioacchino da Fiore, l’Ordine non era governabile, ma andava logicamente verso l’anarchia. Due erano per lui le conseguenze:

La prima: la necessità pratica di strutture e di inserimento nella realtà della Chiesa gerarchica, della Chiesa reale, aveva bisogno di un fondamento teologico, anche perché gli altri, quelli che seguivano la concezione spiritualista, mostravano un apparente fondamento teologico.

La seconda: pur tenendo conto del realismo necessario, non bisognava perdere la novità della figura di san Francesco.

Come ha risposto san Bonaventura all’esigenza pratica e teorica? Della sua risposta posso dare qui solo un riassunto molto schematico ed incompleto in alcuni punti:

San Bonaventura respinge l’idea del ritmo trinitario della storia. Dio è uno per tutta la storia e non si divide in tre divinità. Di conseguenza, la storia è una, anche se è un cammino e – secondo san Bonaventura – un cammino di progresso.

Gesù Cristo è l’ultima parola di Dio – in Lui Dio ha detto tutto, donando e dicendo se stesso. Più che se stesso, Dio non può dire, né dare. Lo Spirito Santo è Spirito del Padre e del Figlio. Cristo stesso dice dello Spirito Santo: “…vi ricorderà tutto ciò che io vi ho detto” (Gv 14, 26), “prenderà da quel che è mio e ve lo annuncerà” (Gv 16, 15). Quindi non c’è un altro Vangelo più alto, non c’è un'altra Chiesa da aspettare. Perciò anche l’Ordine di san Francesco deve inserirsi in questa Chiesa, nella sua fede, nel suo ordinamento gerarchico.

Questo non significa che la Chiesa sia immobile, fissa nel passato e non possa esserci novità in essa. “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”, le opere di Cristo non vanno indietro, non vengono meno, ma progrediscono, dice il Santo nella lettera De tribus quaestionibus. Così san Bonaventura formula esplicitamente l’idea del progresso, e questa è una novità in confronto ai Padri della Chiesa e a gran parte dei suoi contemporanei. Per san Bonaventura Cristo non è più, come era per i Padri della Chiesa, la fine, ma il centro della storia; con Cristo la storia non finisce, ma comincia un nuovo periodo. Un'altra conseguenza è la seguente: fino a quel momento dominava l’idea che i Padri della Chiesa fossero stati il vertice assoluto della teologia, tutte le generazioni seguenti potevano solo essere loro discepole. Anche san Bonaventura riconosce i Padri come maestri per sempre, ma il fenomeno di san Francesco gli dà la certezza che la ricchezza della parola di Cristo è inesauribile e che anche nelle nuove generazioni possono apparire nuove luci. L’unicità di Cristo garantisce anche novità e rinnovamento in tutti i periodi della storia.

Certo, l’Ordine Francescano - così sottolinea - appartiene alla Chiesa di Gesù Cristo, alla Chiesa apostolica e non può costruirsi in uno spiritualismo utopico. Ma, allo stesso tempo, è valida la novità di tale Ordine nei confronti del monachesimo classico, e san Bonaventura – come ho detto nella Catechesi precedente – ha difeso questa novità contro gli attacchi del Clero secolare di Parigi: i Francescani non hanno un monastero fisso, possono essere presenti dappertutto per annunziare il Vangelo. Proprio la rottura con la stabilità, caratteristica del monachesimo, a favore di una nuova flessibilità, restituì alla Chiesa il dinamismo missionario.

A questo punto forse è utile dire che anche oggi esistono visioni secondo le quali tutta la storia della Chiesa nel secondo millennio sarebbe stata un declino permanente; alcuni vedono il declino già subito dopo il Nuovo Testamento. In realtà, “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”, le opere di Cristo non vanno indietro, ma progrediscono. Che cosa sarebbe la Chiesa senza la nuova spiritualità dei Cistercensi, dei Francescani e Domenicani, della spiritualità di santa Teresa d’Avila e di san Giovanni della Croce, e così via? Anche oggi vale questa affermazione: “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”, vanno avanti. San Bonaventura ci insegna l’insieme del necessario discernimento, anche severo, del realismo sobrio e dell’apertura a nuovi carismi donati da Cristo, nello Spirito Santo, alla sua Chiesa. E mentre si ripete questa idea del declino, c’è anche l’altra idea, questo “utopismo spiritualistico”, che si ripete. Sappiamo, infatti, come dopo il Concilio Vaticano II alcuni erano convinti che tutto fosse nuovo, che ci fosse un’altra Chiesa, che la Chiesa pre-conciliare fosse finita e ne avremmo avuta un’altra, totalmente “altra”. Un utopismo anarchico! E grazie a Dio i timonieri saggi della barca di Pietro, Papa Paolo VI e Papa Giovanni Paolo II, da una parte hanno difeso la novità del Concilio e dall’altra, nello stesso tempo, hanno difeso l’unicità e la continuità della Chiesa, che è sempre Chiesa di peccatori e sempre luogo di Grazia.

In questo senso, san Bonaventura, come Ministro Generale dei Francescani, prese una linea di governo nella quale era ben chiaro che il nuovo Ordine non poteva, come comunità, vivere alla stessa “altezza escatologica” di san Francesco, nel quale egli vede anticipato il mondo futuro, ma – guidato, allo stesso tempo, da sano realismo e dal coraggio spirituale – doveva avvicinarsi il più possibile alla realizzazione massima del Sermone della montagna, che per san Francesco fu la regola, pur tenendo conto dei limiti dell’uomo, segnato dal peccato originale.

Vediamo così che per san Bonaventura governare non era semplicemente un fare, ma era soprattutto pensare e pregare. Alla base del suo governo troviamo sempre la preghiera e il pensiero; tutte le sue decisioni risultano dalla riflessione, dal pensiero illuminato dalla preghiera. Il suo contatto intimo con Cristo ha accompagnato sempre il suo lavoro di Ministro Generale e perciò ha composto una serie di scritti teologico-mistici, che esprimono l’animo del suo governo e manifestano l’intenzione di guidare interiormente l’Ordine, di governare, cioè, non solo mediante comandi e strutture, ma guidando e illuminando le anime, orientando a Cristo.

Di questi suoi scritti, che sono l’anima del suo governo e che mostrano la strada da percorrere sia al singolo che alla comunità, vorrei menzionarne solo uno, il suo capolavoro, l’Itinerarium mentis in Deum, che è un “manuale” di contemplazione mistica. Questo libro fu concepito in un luogo di profonda spiritualità: il monte della Verna, dove san Francesco aveva ricevuto le stigmate. Nell’introduzione l’autore illustra le circostanze che diedero origine a questo suo scritto: “Mentre meditavo sulle possibilità dell’anima di ascendere a Dio, mi si presentò, tra l’altro, quell’evento mirabile occorso in quel luogo al beato Francesco, cioè la visione del Serafino alato in forma di Crocifisso. E su ciò meditando, subito mi avvidi che tale visione mi offriva l’estasi contemplativa del medesimo padre Francesco e insieme la via che ad esso conduce” (Itinerario della mente in Dio, Prologo, 2, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici /1, Roma 1993, p. 499).

Le sei ali del Serafino diventano così il simbolo di sei tappe che conducono progressivamente l’uomo dalla conoscenza di Dio attraverso l’osservazione del mondo e delle creature e attraverso l’esplorazione dell’anima stessa con le sue facoltà, fino all’unione appagante con la Trinità per mezzo di Cristo, a imitazione di san Francesco d’Assisi. Le ultime parole dell’Itinerarium di san Bonaventura, che rispondono alla domanda su come si possa raggiungere questa comunione mistica con Dio, andrebbero fatte scendere nel profondo del cuore: “Se ora brami sapere come ciò avvenga, (la comunione mistica con Dio) interroga la grazia, non la dottrina; il desiderio, non l’intelletto; il gemito della preghiera, non lo studio della lettera; lo sposo, non il maestro; Dio, non l’uomo; la caligine, non la chiarezza; non la luce, ma il fuoco che tutto infiamma e trasporta in Dio con le forti unzioni e gli ardentissimi affetti ... Entriamo dunque nella caligine, tacitiamo gli affanni, le passioni e i fantasmi; passiamo con Cristo Crocifisso da questo mondo al Padre, affinché, dopo averlo visto, diciamo con Filippo: ciò mi basta” (ibid., VII, 6).

Cari amici, accogliamo l’invito rivoltoci da san Bonaventura, il Dottore Serafico, e mettiamoci alla scuola del Maestro divino: ascoltiamo la sua Parola di vita e di verità, che risuona nell’intimo della nostra anima. Purifichiamo i nostri pensieri e le nostre azioni, affinché Egli possa abitare in noi, e noi possiamo intendere la sua Voce divina, che ci attrae verso la vera felicità.

Saluti:

Je suis heureux de vous accueillir chers pèlerins de langue française venant de France et du Canada. Je salue en particulier les professeurs et les élèves du collège Stanislas de Paris. Puissiez-vous maintenir ferme l’espérance chrétienne et en être les témoins quotidiens. N’hésitez pas à mettre le Christ au centre de votre vie. Que Dieu vous bénisse!

I offer a warm welcome to the many school groups present, including the Bruderhof group from England and the students of Saint Michael’s Holy Cross Secondary School in Dublin, Ireland. The developments taking place in Northern Ireland in these days are a promising sign of hope, and I pray that they will help to consolidate the future of peace desired by all. Upon the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Gerne heiße ich alle Gäste deutscher Sprache willkommen. Besonders grüße ich heute die Priester aus der Diözese Linz mit ihrem Bischof Ludwig Schwarz sowie den Rektor, die Kollegsgemeinschaft und die Ehemaligen des Collegio Teutonico di Santa Maria in Camposanto. Wie der heilige Bonaventura wollen wir uns in die Schule des Göttlichen Meisters begeben, sein lebendiges Wort aufnehmen, damit er in uns wohne und uns zur wahren Freude führe. Von Herzen segne ich euch alle.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los fieles de la Parroquia de Santa María Magdalena, de Dos Hermanas, acompañados por el Cardenal Carlos Amigo Vallejo. Siguiendo la enseñanza de san Buenaventura, os invito a continuar el camino cuaresmal de preparación para la Pascua, mediante la escucha atenta de la Palabra divina, la práctica de la caridad y la purificación del corazón. Muchas gracias.

Saúdo, com fraterna amizade, os grupos vindos de São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Ribeirão Preto e demais peregrinos de língua portuguesa, desejando que esta visita aos lugares santificados pela pregação e martírio dos Apóstolos Pedro e Paulo possa confirmar a todos na fé, esperança e caridade. A Virgem Mãe vos acompanhe e proteja!

Saluto in lingua polacca:

Serdecznie witam pielgrzymów z Polski. Siostry i bracia, w tym czasie Wielkiego Postu przyjmijmy zaproszenie świętego Bonawentury, by słuchać Bożego Słowa życia i prawdy, które rozbrzmiewa w głębi naszej duszy. Oczyszczajmy nasze myśli i nasze działanie, aby Chrystus był obecny wśród nas, a my byśmy rozumieli Jego nauczanie, które wskazuje drogi ku prawdziwemu szczęściu. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Traduzione italiana:

Do un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Polonia. Sorelle e fratelli, in questo tempo quaresimale accogliamo l’invito di San Bonaventura ad ascoltare la Divina parola di vita e di verità che risuona nell’intimo della nostra anima. Purifichiamo i nostri pensieri e le nostre azioni, affinché Cristo sia presente tra di noi, e noi possiamo accogliere il suo insegnamento che ci indica le vie verso la vera felicità. Dio vi benedica.

Saluto in lingua ungherese:

Nagy szeretettel köszöntöm a magyar zarándokokat, elsősorban azokat, akik Munkácsról  érkeztek. A nagyböjti időszak különösképpen is a személyes megtérésre, az irgalmasság cselekedeteinek gyakorlására és Isten Igéjének meghallgatására hív bennünket. Ehhez kérem Számotokra a Mindenható Isten áldását.

Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Traduzione italiana:

Do il benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua ungherese, specialmente al gruppo di Mukachevo. La Quaresima ci invita con più decisione alla conversione per mezzo della preghiera, dell’esercizio delle opere di misericordia e dell’ascolto della Parola di Dio. Volentieri imparto la mia Benedizione su tutti voi. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua croata:

Od srca pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a na poseban način vjernike iz župe Svetog Antuna Padovanskog iz Sesvetskih Sela. Ovo korizmeno vrijeme priprave za Uskrs neka učvrsti vašu vjeru u pobjedu našega Gospodina nad smrću. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Traduzione italiana:

Di cuore saluto tutti i pellegrini Croati, e in modo particolare i fedeli della parrocchia di San Antonio di Padova di Sesvetska Sela. Questo tempo quaresimale di preparazione alla Pasqua rafforzi la vostra fede nella vittoria di nostro Signore sulla morte. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Saluto in lingua ceca:

Srdečně zdravím skupinu zaměstnanců železnic z Brna!

Drazí, v duchovním usebrání postní doby prosme Pána o pravé a hluboké obrácení.

K tomu ze srdce žehnám vám i vašim drahým!

Chvála Kristu!

Traduzione italiana:

Un cordiale benvenuto al gruppo dei dipendenti delle ferrovie, di Brno!

Carissimi, in questo clima spirituale della Quaresima chiediamo al Signore una vera e profonda conversione.

Con questi voti benedico di cuore voi e i vostri cari!

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Appello

Sono profondamente vicino alle persone colpite dal recente sisma in Turchia ed alle loro famiglie. A ciascuno assicuro la mia preghiera, mentre chiedo alla comunità internazionale di contribuire con prontezza e generosità ai soccorsi.

Il mio sentito cordoglio va anche alle vittime dell’atroce violenza, che insanguina la Nigeria e che non ha risparmiato nemmeno i bambini indifesi. Ancora una volta ripeto con animo accorato che la violenza non risolve i conflitti, ma soltanto ne accresce le tragiche conseguenze. Faccio appello a quanti nel Paese hanno responsabilità civili e religiose, affinché si adoperino per la sicurezza e la pacifica convivenza di tutta la popolazione. Esprimo, infine, la mia vicinanza ai Pastori e ai fedeli nigeriani e prego perché, forti e saldi nella speranza, siano autentici testimoni di riconciliazione.

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i Diaconi dell’Arcidiocesi di Milano ed invoco su ognuno di essi una copiosa effusione di doni celesti, a conferma dei loro generosi propositi di fedeltà a Cristo. Saluto i soci dell’Università della Terza Età, di Nardò, che nel contesto della loro attività hanno voluto partecipare a questo incontro. Li incoraggio a proseguire le loro iniziative culturali che rendono la Terza età un tempo propizio per la riflessione e il sapere. Saluto i fedeli che portano la Fiaccola Benedettina della pace, proveniente quest’anno da Colonia, dove è stata accesa dal Cardinale Joachim Meisner. Come simbolo di profondi valori umani e cristiani, essa sosta oggi presso le tombe degli Apostoli per proseguire per Montecassino e Cassino. Cari amici, faccio voti che tale manifestazione susciti in tutti un generoso impegno di solidarietà e di pace.

Saluto, infine, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Cari giovani, il cammino quaresimale che stiamo percorrendo sia occasione di autentica conversione che vi conduca alla maturità della fede in Cristo. Cari ammalati, partecipando con amore alla sofferenza del Figlio di Dio incarnato, possiate condividere fin d'ora la gloria e la gioia della sua risurrezione. E voi, cari sposi novelli, trovate nell'alleanza che, a prezzo del suo sangue, Cristo ha stretto con la sua Chiesa, il sostegno e il modello del vostro patto coniugale e della vostra missione al servizio del Vangelo.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/it/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100310.html

Francisco de Zurbarán  (1598–1664). The Lying-in-State of St Bonaventura, 1629, 250 X 225, Louvre Museum


BENEDETTO XVI

UDIENZA GENERALE

Piazza San Pietro
Mercoledì, 17 marzo 2010  

San Bonaventura (3)


Cari fratelli e sorelle,

questa mattina, continuando la riflessione di mercoledì scorso, vorrei approfondire con voi altri aspetti della dottrina di san Bonaventura da Bagnoregio. Egli è un eminente teologo, che merita di essere messo accanto ad un altro grandissimo pensatore, suo contemporaneo, san Tommaso d’Aquino. Entrambi hanno scrutato i misteri della Rivelazione, valorizzando le risorse della ragione umana, in quel fecondo dialogo tra fede e ragione che caratterizza il Medioevo cristiano, facendone un’epoca di grande vivacità intellettuale, oltre che di fede e di rinnovamento ecclesiale, spesso non sufficientemente evidenziata. Altre analogie li accomunano: sia Bonaventura, francescano, sia Tommaso, domenicano, appartenevano agli Ordini Mendicanti che, con la loro freschezza spirituale, come ho ricordato in precedenti catechesi, rinnovarono, nel secolo XIII, la Chiesa intera e attirarono tanti seguaci. Tutti e due servirono la Chiesa con diligenza, con passione e con amore, al punto che furono invitati a partecipare al Concilio Ecumenico di Lione nel 1274, lo stesso anno in cui morirono: Tommaso mentre si recava a Lione, Bonaventura durante lo svolgimento del medesimo Concilio. Anche in Piazza San Pietro le statue dei due Santi sono parallele, collocate proprio all’inizio del Colonnato partendo dalla facciata della Basilica Vaticana: una nel Braccio di sinistra e l’altra nel Braccio di destra. Nonostante tutti questi aspetti, possiamo cogliere nei due grandi Santi due diversi approcci alla ricerca filosofica e teologica, che mostrano l’originalità e la profondità di pensiero dell’uno e dell’altro. Vorrei accennare ad alcune di queste differenze.

Una prima differenza concerne il concetto di teologia. Ambedue i dottori si chiedono se la teologia sia una scienza pratica o una scienza teorica, speculativa. San Tommaso riflette su due possibili risposte contrastanti. La prima dice: la teologia è riflessione sulla fede e scopo della fede è che l’uomo diventi buono, viva secondo la volontà di Dio. Quindi, lo scopo della teologia dovrebbe essere quello di guidare sulla via giusta, buona; di conseguenza essa, in fondo, è una scienza pratica. L’altra posizione dice: la teologia cerca di conoscere Dio. Noi siamo opera di Dio; Dio sta al di sopra del nostro fare. Dio opera in noi l’agire giusto. Quindi si tratta sostanzialmente non del nostro fare, ma del conoscere Dio, non del nostro operare. La conclusione di san Tommaso è: la teologia implica ambedue gli aspetti: è teorica, cerca di conoscere Dio sempre di più, ed è pratica: cerca di orientare la nostra vita al bene. Ma c’è un primato della conoscenza: dobbiamo soprattutto conoscere Dio, poi segue l’agire secondo Dio (Summa Theologiae Ia, q. 1, art. 4). Questo primato della conoscenza in confronto con la prassi è significativo per l’orientamento fondamentale di san Tommaso.

La risposta di san Bonaventura è molto simile, ma gli accenti sono diversi. San Bonaventura conosce gli stessi argomenti nell’una e nell’altra direzione, come san Tommaso, ma per rispondere alla domanda se la teologia sia una scienza pratica o teorica, san Bonaventura fa una triplice distinzione – allarga, quindi, l’alternativa tra teorico (primato della conoscenza) e pratico (primato della prassi), aggiungendo un terzo atteggiamento, che chiama “sapienziale” e affermando  che la sapienza abbraccia ambedue gli aspetti. E poi continua: la sapienza cerca la contemplazione (come la più alta forma della conoscenza) e ha come intenzione “ut boni fiamus” - che diventiamo buoni, soprattutto questo: divenire buoni (cfr Breviloquium, Prologus, 5). Poi aggiunge: “La fede è nell’intelletto, in modo tale che provoca l’affetto. Ad esempio: conoscere che Cristo è morto “per noi” non rimane conoscenza, ma diventa necessariamente affetto, amore” (Proemium in I Sent., q. 3).

Nella stessa linea si muove la sua difesa della teologia, cioè della riflessione razionale e metodica della fede. San Bonaventura elenca alcuni argomenti contro il fare teologia, forse diffusi anche in una parte dei frati francescani e presenti anche nel nostro tempo: la ragione svuoterebbe la fede, sarebbe un atteggiamento violento nei confronti della parola di Dio, dobbiamo ascoltare e non analizzare la parola di Dio (cfr Lettera di san Francesco d’Assisi a sant’Antonio di Padova). A questi argomenti contro la teologia, che dimostrano i pericoli esistenti nella teologia stessa, il Santo risponde: è vero che c’è un modo arrogante di fare teologia, una superbia della ragione, che si pone al di sopra della parola di Dio. Ma la vera teologia, il lavoro razionale della vera e della buona teologia ha un’altra origine, non la superbia della ragione. Chi ama vuol conoscere sempre meglio e sempre più l’amato; la vera teologia non impegna la ragione e la sua ricerca motivata dalla superbia, “sed propter amorem eius cui assentit” – “motivata dall’amore di Colui, al quale ha dato il suo consenso” (Proemium in I Sent., q. 2), e vuol meglio conoscere l’amato: questa è l’intenzione fondamentale della teologia. Per san Bonaventura è quindi determinante alla fine il primato dell’amore.

Di conseguenza, san Tommaso e san Bonaventura definiscono in modo diverso la destinazione ultima dell’uomo, la sua piena felicità: per san Tommaso il fine supremo, al quale si dirige il nostro desiderio è: vedere Dio. In questo semplice atto del vedere Dio trovano soluzione tutti i problemi: siamo felici, nient’altro è necessario.

Per san Bonaventura il destino ultimo dell’uomo è invece: amare Dio, l’incontrarsi ed unirsi del suo e del nostro amore. Questa è per lui la definizione più adeguata della nostra felicità.

In tale linea, potremmo anche dire che la categoria più alta per san Tommaso è il vero, mentre per san Bonaventura è il bene. Sarebbe sbagliato vedere in queste due risposte una contraddizione. Per ambedue il vero è anche il bene, ed il bene è anche il vero; vedere Dio è amare ed amare è vedere. Si tratta quindi di accenti diversi di una visione fondamentalmente comune. Ambedue gli accenti hanno formato tradizioni diverse e spiritualità diverse e così hanno mostrato la fecondità della fede, una nella diversità delle sue espressioni.

Ritorniamo a san Bonaventura. E’ evidente che l’accento specifico della sua teologia, del quale ho dato solo un esempio, si spiega a partire dal carisma francescano: il Poverello di Assisi, al di là dei dibattiti intellettuali del suo tempo, aveva mostrato con tutta la sua vita il primato dell’amore; era un’icona vivente e innamorata di Cristo e così ha reso presente, nel suo tempo, la figura del Signore – ha convinto i suoi contemporanei non con le parole, ma con la sua vita. In tutte le opere di san Bonaventura, proprio anche le opere scientifiche, di scuola, si vede e si trova questa ispirazione francescana; si nota, cioè, che egli pensa partendo dall’incontro col Poverello d’Assisi. Ma per capire l’elaborazione concreta del tema “primato dell’amore”, dobbiamo tenere presente ancora un’altra fonte: gli scritti del cosiddetto Pseudo-Dionigi, un teologo siriaco del VI secolo, che si è nascosto sotto lo pseudonimo di Dionigi l’Areopagita, accennando, con questo nome, ad una figura degli Atti degli Apostoli (cfr 17,34). Questo teologo aveva creato una teologia liturgica e una teologia mistica, ed aveva ampiamente parlato dei diversi ordini degli angeli. I suoi scritti furono tradotti in latino nel IX secolo; al tempo di san Bonaventura – siamo nel XIII secolo – appariva una nuova tradizione, che provocò l’interesse del Santo e degli altri teologi del suo secolo. Due cose attiravano in modo particolare l’attenzione di san Bonaventura:

1. Lo Pseudo-Dionigi parla di nove ordini degli angeli, i cui nomi aveva trovato nella Scrittura e poi aveva sistemato a suo modo, dagli angeli semplici fino ai serafini. San Bonaventura interpreta questi ordini degli angeli come gradini nell’avvicinamento della creatura a Dio. Così essi possono rappresentare il cammino umano, la salita verso la comunione con Dio. Per san Bonaventura non c’è alcun dubbio: san Francesco d’Assisi apparteneva all’ordine serafico, al supremo ordine, al coro dei serafini, cioè: era puro fuoco di amore. E così avrebbero dovuto essere i francescani. Ma san Bonaventura sapeva bene che questo ultimo grado di avvicinamento a Dio non può essere inserito in un ordinamento giuridico, ma è sempre un dono particolare di Dio. Per questo la struttura dell’Ordine francescano è più modesta, più realista, ma deve, però, aiutare i membri ad avvicinarsi sempre più ad un’esistenza serafica di puro amore. Mercoledì scorso ho parlato su questa sintesi tra realismo sobrio e radicalità evangelica nel pensiero e nell’agire di san Bonaventura.

2. San Bonaventura, però, ha trovato negli scritti dello Preuso-Dionigi un altro elemento, per lui ancora più importante. Mentre per sant’Agostino l’intellectus, il vedere con la ragione ed il cuore, è l’ultima categoria della conoscenza, lo Pseudo-Dionigi fa ancora un altro passo: nella salita verso Dio si può arrivare ad un punto in cui la ragione non vede più. Ma nella notte dell’intelletto l’amore vede ancora – vede quanto rimane inaccessibile per la ragione. L’amore si estende oltre la ragione, vede di più, entra più profondamente nel mistero di Dio. San Bonaventura fu affascinato da questa visione, che s’incontrava con la sua spiritualità francescana. Proprio nella notte oscura della Croce appare tutta la grandezza dell’amore divino; dove la ragione non vede più, vede l’amore. Le parole conclusive del suo “Itinerario della mente in Dio”, ad una lettura superficiale, possono apparire come espressione esagerata di una devozione senza contenuto; lette, invece, alla luce della teologia della Croce di san Bonaventura, esse sono un’espressione limpida e realistica della spiritualità francescana: “Se ora brami sapere come ciò avvenga (cioè la salita verso Dio), interroga la grazia, non la dottrina; il desiderio, non l’intelletto; il gemito della preghiera, non lo studio della lettera; … non la luce, ma il fuoco che tutto infiamma e trasporta in Dio” (VII, 6). Tutto questo non è anti-intellettuale e non è anti-razionale: suppone il cammino della ragione, ma lo trascende nell’amore del Cristo crocifisso. Con questa trasformazione della mistica dello Pseudo-Dionigi, san Bonaventura si pone agli inizi di una grande corrente mistica, che ha molto elevato e purificato la mente umana: è un vertice nella storia dello spirito umano.

Questa teologia della Croce, nata dall’incontro tra la teologia dello Pseudo-Dionigi e la spiritualità francescana, non ci deve far dimenticare che san Bonaventura condivide con san Francesco d’Assisi anche l’amore per il creato, la gioia per la bellezza della creazione di Dio. Cito su questo punto una frase del primo capitolo dell’”Itinerario”: “Colui… che non vede gli splendori innumerevoli delle creature, è cieco; colui che non si sveglia per le tante voci, è sordo; colui che per tutte queste meraviglie non loda Dio, è muto; colui che da tanti segni non si innalza al primo principio, è stolto” (I, 15). Tutta la creazione parla ad alta voce di Dio, del Dio buono e bello; del suo amore.

Tutta la nostra vita è quindi per san Bonaventura un “itinerario”, un pellegrinaggio – una salita verso Dio. Ma con le nostre sole forze non possiamo salire verso l’altezza di Dio. Dio stesso deve aiutarci, deve “tirarci” in alto. Perciò è necessaria la preghiera. La preghiera - così dice il Santo - è la madre e l’origine della elevazione - “sursum actio”, azione che ci porta in alto - dice Bonaventura. Concludo perciò con la preghiera, con la quale comincia il suo “Itinerario”: “Preghiamo dunque e diciamo al Signore Dio nostro: ‘Conducimi, Signore, nella tua via e io camminerò nella tua verità. Si rallegri il mio cuore nel temere il tuo nome’ ” (I, 1).

Saluti:

Je suis heureux d’accueillir les pèlerins francophones, en particulier les jeunes du séminaire d’Ars et le groupe d’Évry, avec leurs Évêques. Que ce temps du carême soit pour vous tous un temps de conversion intérieure et de redécouverte de la Parole de Dieu! Avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique!

Today is the feast of Saint Patrick, and in a special way I greet all the Irish faithful and pilgrims here present. As you know, in recent months the Church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis. As a sign of my deep concern I have written a Pastoral Letter dealing with this painful situation. I will sign it on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the Guardian of the Holy Family and Patron of the Universal Church, and send it soon after. I ask all of you to read it for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith. My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal.
I welcome all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Indonesia and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Ganz herzlich begrüße ich die Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache und heiße besonders die Studierenden und Dozenten des Kirchenrechts aus Wien sowie die Schulgemeinschaft der Marienhausschule in Meppen willkommen. Die Fastenzeit ist für uns alle ein innerer Weg zum Ostergeheimnis. Gerade in der Dunkelheit des Kreuzestodes können wir, so lehrt uns der heilige Bonaventura, die übergroße Liebe Gottes erkennen. Und je tiefer wir erkennen, daß Christus für uns gestorben ist, desto mehr wird in uns die Liebe zu ihm entbrennen. Dazu erbitte ich euch allen Gottes reichen Segen!

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, venidos de España, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Que el ejemplo y el mensaje de San Buenaventura ayude a todos a seguir con esperanza en el camino hacia el misterio de la Pascua del Señor. Muchas gracias.

Saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, desejando que esta visita aos lugares santificados pela pregação e martírio dos Apóstolos Pedro e Paulo vos ajude a reafirmar sempre mais a fé que opera pela caridade. Que Deus abençoe a vós e às vossas famílias.

Saluto in lingua polacca:

Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów polskich. Przykład świętego Bonawentury, który z zapałem zgłębiał nauki kościelne, zachęca nas, by pogłębiać swoją wiedzę religijną poprzez studium naukowe, czytanie książek i prasy katolickiej oraz przez korzystanie z programów religijnych emitowanych w środkach przekazu. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

Traduzione italiana: 

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini polacchi. L’esempio di San Bonaventura, il quale con passione approfondiva la dottrina della Chiesa, incoraggi ad approfondire la propria cultura religiosa attraverso lo studio scientifico, attraverso la lettura dei libri e la stampa cattolica e anche attraverso i programmi religiosi, che i mass media offrono. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Saluto in lingua ungherese:

Isten hozta a magyar híveket! Első helyen szeretettel köszöntöm azokat, akik Budapestről, Pócspetriből, Mérkről és Vállajról érkeztek.

Szent József közbenjárását kérve szívesen adom rátok apostoli áldásomat. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Traduzione italiana:

Saluto cordialmente i fedeli di lingua ungherese, specialmente quelli che sono arrivati da Budapest, da Pócspetri, Mérk e Vállaj. Chiedendo la intercessione di San Giuseppe, volentieri imparto su di voi la Benedizione Apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua croata:

S radošću pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a na poseban način delegaciju Ministarstva turizma, župane, slikare te turističke djelatnike zajedno s varaždinskim biskupom monsinjorom Josipom Mrzljakom. Korizmeni hod prema muci, smrti i slavnom Kristovom uskrsnuću neka vas učvrsti u vjeri, nadi i ljubavi. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Traduzione italiana:

Con gioia saluto tutti i pellegrini Croati, e in modo particolare la delegazione del Ministero del turismo, i governatori, i pittori ed i lavoratori turistici insieme con il Vescovo di Varazdin, S.E. Mons. Josip Mrzljak. Il cammino quaresimale verso la passione, la morte e la gloriosa Risurrezione di Cristo, vi rafforzi nella fede, speranza e carità. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Saluto in lingua slovacca:

Srdečne pozdravujem pútnikov zo Slovenska, osobitne študentov a pedagógov Právnickej fakulty Univerzity Mateja Bela z Banskej Bystrice.

Drahí bratia a sestry, Pôstna doba nás pobáda, aby sme uznali v Ježišovi Kristovi našu najväčšiu nádej. Pozývam vás, aby ste boli vo svete vernými svedkami jeho Radostnej zvesti o vykúpení.

Ochotne žehnám vás i vaše rodiny.

Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

Traduzione italiana: 

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini provenienti dalla Slovacchia, particolarmente gli studenti e i docenti della Facoltà di Diritto dell’Università Matej Bel di Banská Bystrica.

Cari fratelli e sorelle, il Tempo della Quaresima ci esorta a riconoscere Gesù Cristo come nostra suprema speranza. Vi invito ad essere nel mondo testimoni fedeli della Buona Novella della redenzione.
Volentieri benedico voi e le vostre famiglie.
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli della Diocesi di Ivrea con il loro Pastore Mons. Arrigo Miglio, qui convenuti per ricambiare la visita, che ho avuto la gioia di compiere nella loro terra nello scorso mese di luglio. Cari amici, ancora una volta vi ringrazio per l’affetto con cui mi avete accolto, ed auspico che da quel nostro incontro scaturisca per la vostra Comunità diocesana una rinnovata, fedele e generosa adesione a Cristo e alla sua Chiesa. Saluto Mons. Renato Boccardo, Arcivescovo di Norcia-Spoleto, con la delegazione reduce dalla diocesi americana di Trenton ove è stata accesa la "Fiaccola Benedettina per la pace”. Possa tale impresa contribuire alla formazione di una coscienza attenta alla solidarietà ed alla cultura della pace, seguendo l'esempio di San Benedetto, apostolo infaticabile tra i popoli dell'Europa. Saluto le rappresentati dell’Associazione Donneuropee-Federcasalinghe e quelle della Fondazione Hruby, nel ringraziarvi per la vostra presenza, auspico che il tempo quaresimale, che stiamo vivendo, confermi la vostra fede e il vostro impegno di testimonianza evangelica.

Ed ora il mio saluto va ai giovani. Cari giovani, incontrarvi è sempre per me motivo di consolazione e di speranza, perché la vostra età è la primavera della vita. Siate sempre fedeli all'amore che Dio ha per voi. Rivolgo ora un pensiero affettuoso a voi, cari ammalati. Quando si soffre, tutta la realtà in noi e attorno a noi sembra rabbuiarsi, ma, nell'intimo del nostro cuore, questo non deve spegnere la luce consolante della fede. Cristo con la sua croce ci sostiene nella prova. E voi, cari sposi novelli, che saluto cordialmente, siate grati a Dio per il dono della famiglia. Contando sempre sul suo aiuto, fate della vostra esistenza una missione di amore fedele e generoso.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/it/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100317.html

Socha sv. Bonaventury na Rooseveltově mostě přes Mži, Plzeň.

Statue de St. Bonaventure sur le pont Roosevelt sur la Mže, Pilsen.

cultural monument of the Czech Republic


Œuvres spirituelles de S. Bonaventure, traduites par l'abbé Berthaumier, Paris, Louis Vivès, 1854 : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/saints/bonaventure/index.htm

Andrea Lilli, San Francesco d'Assisi, San Bonaventura, Sant'Antonio da Padova e il Beato Leone, Galleria nazionale delle Marche

Voir aussi : http://jesus-passion.com/Saint_Bonaventura.htm

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bonaventure/