Bonaventure, 1217-1274. Seraphic Doctor, Feast July 15th.
some, it is not easy to be one's true self. We would like to be our true
self. However, many of us, and we won't admit it, wear a mask and
act contrary to the way God would have us act due to weakness and
sin. At this time, we probably don't even perceive it. Acting sincerely requires moral strength. We do not act
sincerely when we are impatient. To act patiently, one must suffer
lovingly. That's why we must stay focused regularly on the crucified Lord as Bonaventure recommends.
We have such 'short fuses'. We 'blow up' easily. We
lose our tempers. 'We fly off the handle' when rubbed the wrong way.
We sincerely think it is right to get angry. We say Jesus got
angry and therefore we justify it. Jesus' anger was the justice of
God at work. Our anger is often our human nature without the justice
of God involved. Oh, yes, we are nice and cordial to our love ones
but when a hostile person irritates us we can get cross, mean and
vindictive. We treat others the way we are treated. That is
To act warm, compassionate and
kind continually to hostile people makes no sense and we do not want
to act foolish. However, at times, Christ became a fool for us to
teach us wisdom. If we are to gain wisdom through the example of
Christ, we must at times, allow ourselves to be treated like Jesus-a
fool. This requires heroic virtue and strength. It also requires
struggle and practice. We are encumbered with much "baggage". Our
human nature is at times a contradiction and we are riddled with
misleading or puzzling situations and ideas and ideals. We are short on wisdom.
We lack the gifts and fruits of the Spirit that teaches us the
wisdom of God. We do not mean to show off, but we are prone to our
natural way of thinking or addicted to our hidden, tiny vices. We
are arbitrary and we think we have to be at times.
Each of us has to
be what we are. Isn't that life? We don't enjoy being a phony or a
fake. However, who we are and what we are requires growth and
development. No matter how old or young we are, we are often lacking
in maturity or perfection. Only the fruits and gifts of God can
empower us to reach completeness. Being warm with others, acting
cordial, showing genuine sympathy at times and trying to act with
more empathy requires virtue and grace from God. Many of us have had
horrible experiences and it isn't easy to respect, let alone be kind,
people, who have inflicted hurt or harm on us.
Bonaventure is the seraphic doctor who has the
prescription to help us if we ask him and implore his warmth and
tender charm. Our personalities, dispositions and attitudes can be
transformed with his intercession. Everyone loves a cheerful giver
and Bonaventure is irresistible. One does not become kind,
compassionate and sensitive unless one is totally unselfish, pure
and docile to the Holy Spirit and divine operations.
illustrious founder of the Franciscan Friars, St Francis, cured
Bonaventure of a serious illness as a boy in central Italy through
his prayers, faith and God's favor. Later, he felt called by God to
join the same religious order that he obviously knew. He devoted
himself, as all can, according to God's will, to earnest study and
prayer. God filled others with the fruits of his learning through
his example, teaching and writings. The Order of Friar Minor (OFM),
and the world, through Bonaventure, was renewed through his
leadership and God's graces.
Our Italian Franciscan was a
close friend of St Thomas Aquinas and received his doctorate with
him as a Doctor of Theology in Paris. Thomas once asked him where he
acquired his learning and Bonaventure pointed to his crucifix.
Reflect and dwell on these spirited filled words of his: "whoever
gazes upon Christ crucified with faith, hope and love will celebrate
the Passover with Him". This master of theology and philosophy
illuminates us, in this one sentence, with the secret and
fulfillment of life, love and infinite happiness.
the leading role of his religious order and later was appointed a
cardinal-bishop of Albano. He actually had declined an archbishopric
position at Lyons. When the Pope offered Bonaventure one position,
he humbly declined. Then the pope would offer him another. He got
the message and Bonaventure humbly accepted.
Another reason he is
referred to as the seraphic doctor is because of the warmth found in
his writings and teaching. Both were always filled and inspired with
God's burning charity. In biblical literature, a seraph is one of
the six-winged angels of the highest rank believed in ancient
Judaism to guard God's throne with sacred ardor. We can say that
every creature of God, and not only the angels, who guard themselves
from evil thoughts or actions, acts in a seraphic manner. We are
temples of the Most High. We contain the throne of God within us.
God has given us a guardian angel to protect, rule, guide and grace
us. However, we have to be on our guard to acknowledge God's love
responsibly. We need to show and demonstrate acts of kindness and
goodness as Bonaventure even to unkind or mean people. This requires
strength and virtue. When we do this, and we can only do it with
God's grace, we, too, will reveal the fervor of God's fire as
What are these God-given gifts and graces
that the Almighty bestows? We can only conjecture but they would
include the spirit of kindness, passion, peace, enthusiasm, zeal and
gentleness toward others as our Franciscan friend displayed. Whether
they are only the six mentioned or six thousand we can be sure that
the infinite One possesses attributes that are endless for us to
receive if we supplicate the generous One. Giving is God's exclusive
style, and this marks the difference from the gift and the Giver. Most are indistinguishably one and
in perfect union with its Giver. God has nothing else to do but bestow blessings. Scripture
shouts that the favors of God are not exhausted and that his mercies
are not spent. They are renewed each morning. So great is God's
Each day, crazy as it may sound, God is
preparing and panting for the union of our soul with its Author,
Creator and Lover. God doesn't need time to bring us to maturity and
perfection. The timeless fruits and gifts of God's graces enable us
to share and experience eternal life now in a marvelous and
Perhaps the best way to compare and
savor God's abundant favor and mercies is to imagine that tomorrow
you are going to fall in love all over again, get married and go on
a honeymoon with a person that you are absolutely 'mad' over. This
can be called or equivalent to, the spiritual marriage and life of
union with God. It is impossible to describe because it is so
personal, secret, subtle, silent and sonorous to express. However, it is real,
beween two lovers. You and God. God eagerly, yet orderly, wants us to taste and
see the sweetness of the Lord. We need this sweetness because we
know that honeymoons do not last. However, the strength that we gain
from genuine love hopefully empowers us to be fortified for the many
difficulties and hardships on life's journey. Incidentally, the name
Bonaventure means "good journey".
Our journey to God is
brief, often unknown and full of surprises. It can be compared with
a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs, its thrills and scary
moments, its slowness and fastness at times, its twisting curves,
bumps, and sudden jerks. At times, during this journey, we want to
cry, laugh, shout and scream. The best preparation for life is to
know that we have a wonderful traveling companion. We have Someone
who has showed us the way and claimed he is the Way. He said that he
is the Truth too. We know that Pilate, like many of us, have asked the
rhetorical question: what is truth? Our life can only be found
enjoyable and understood if we follow that Person who also claimed
that he is the Life. The way, truth and life are three large
categories. It seems that Jesus has surrounded us with every
possible means to find him daily. The saints are models and teach us
Jesus. The doctors are a unique set of saints that the church
proclaims rarely but boldly.
Our doctor first taught at the
University of Paris for about ten years. His teaching enkindled
God's love in his subjects. His types of questions, his
explanations, his answers - all, had divine warmth to them. He was a
catalyst to anyone seeking the love and knowledge of God. Both in
his Scripture and Theology courses, he made known to all that God
was an exuberant Lover who cared and was solicitous for all
Many attacks were lodged against the Franciscan
mendicants (beg for a living and take a vow of poverty) at this time largely because of jealousy and the success
of their pastoral and academic endeavors. Bonaventure attempted to
defend the friars by his good example and writings, some of which
included: Concerning Perfection of Life, Soliloquy and Concerning
the Threefold Way.
St Bonaventure's bent was to the ascetical
rather than the philosophical approach. Ten thick volumes of
writings testify to his inspired zeal. He is described as a
"spiritual writer of great power and authority."
Franciscan doctor encouraged others in his lifetime and encourages
us today to have a sincere spirit of humility, devotion and
repentance. We need to practice these God-given qualities. Humility
is a part of truth. Sound devotion is the earnest searching after
God. Contrition, conversion and repentance means sorrow for past
sins. We have committed egregious wrongs and have need of God's
mercy. We are incapable and inadequate to have friendship with God
without God's help and compassion. Our inadequacies are apparent in
nearly all that we do despite our best intentions.
listen to the following quote of St Bonaventure highlighting the
futile effort of only human effort and not God's graces and support.
Nothing can be gained supernaturally unless humility, devotion and
repentance are practiced. Pray attentively as you think about
Bonaventure's quote about our inadequacies:
knowledge without devotion,
research without the
impulse of wonder,
prudence without the ability to surrender to
action divorced from religion,
learning sundered from
intelligence without humility,
study unsustained by
thought without the wisdom inspired of
We often do all of the above in a natural manner when
we could sanctify them with God's help and grace. We need grace! We
can not follow our natural bent and inclination. That will not do
it. Even if we achieved phenomenal results, is it pleasing to God?
God does not measure the amount that we do but the quality of our
love that we give. Bonaventure gave until it hurt and without
complaining. He probably sensed that he was very ill and questioned
to himself if he should have gone to the council at Rome. However,
he was not thinking about himself but the church and her needs.
Obedience and goodwill urged him onward.
During this period
there were many reforms and renewals being encouraged by the church
and Bonaventure attempted to pacify both the right and the left. He
governed his Order for seventeen years and has been justly called
its second founder. He also wrote about his Seraphic Founder's life,
St Francis of Assisi.
This cordial and warm gentleman
attended significant church councils, preached at sessions and gave
his all to the church whenever the Holy Father requested his
assistance. In fact, he died attending one of these
He attempted to unite holiness and theological
knowledge. And he did just that! He was a very active preacher,
writer and loved by all. It has been said that to know him was to
love him. To read him is still for all, especially Franciscans
today, to meet a true peacemaker and a gentleman. Many tears where
shed by his sudden death just as he must have caused tears of
conversion when he spoke about the joy of his life: Jesus Christ,
the crucified Master. He was a person of eminent learning and
eloquence and of outstanding holiness known for his kindness,
approachableness, gentleness, compassion and virtue. What greater
tribute could one possibly say than to be described as a very warm
and charming saint, doctor, teacher, reformer and
From one of his discourses: "The outcome or the
fruit of reading holy scripture is by no means negligible: it is the
fullness of eternal happiness. For these are the books which tell us
of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe
but also that we might have everlasting life. When we do live that
life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and our
desires will be totally satisfied. Then, with all our needs
fulfilled we shall truly know the love that surpasses all
understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God. The purpose
of scriptures, which comes to us from God, is to lead us to this
fullness according to the truths contained in those sayings of the
apostles to which I have referred. In order to achieve this, we must
study holy scripture carefully, teach it and listen to it in the
He explained Mary along a Franciscan theme of
poverty and giving to the poor. He cited an unknown Franciscan who
claims that Mary refused to accept the gifts given to Jesus by the
Magi. She distributed them to the poor.
that Mary is fittingly compared to the Aurora. All astronomers, or
those who views the stars at night, know that these are the most
luminous arches of lights in the highest sky (Arctic regions). It is
a phenomenon like no others. Mary is that incomparable light that
God has created for Himself and us to guide and enlighten. He
describes Mary as the Mirror of God through which we see Jesus. He
wrote a magnificent 69 pages treatise on Mary. In one chapter, he
writes about this "lovely light" of God and how it is compared with the Aurora.
One shines in the highest heavens and the other Aurora, shines in
the earthly heavens. There are other chapters listed about Mary by
Bonaventure who quotes from many other doctors:
writings about Mary, theology and philosophy did much to illuminate
our minds and set our hearts aglow with God's splendid charity and
beauty. His "seraphic", keen insight, allows us to see God as much
as it is humanly possible according to the degree that we are
capable. We know from Sacred Scripture that God is a devouring Fire.
The Deity allows sparks of that Furnace to inflame us as the highest
ranks of Angels, Seraphim and Cherubim, are consumed with the divine
Praying with the Franciscan's spirit and practicing
the art of detachment, one will become filled with the warmth of
God. Then, the consolation of sharing one's goods and the fire of
God will shine and motivate your life. In this manner, we have a
resplendent model in Bonaventure, the seraphic doctor.
only need to slow down, accept and surrender to God our life if we
ever expect to find the best life that God intended for us. All of us
with Bonaventure must travel this journey. It is true that we did
not ask to be born. Thank God, the Creator didn't ask our
permission. However, if it is true that we are born without choice,
it is likewise true that we will not be reborn or saved except by
choice. St Alphonsus said salvation is possible only by God's mercy
and our turning to God in prayer. It is, indeed, exactly that-God's
greatest gift for the asking and praying. The Son has come that we
may have life and have it to the fullness. Oh, Bonaventure, help us
in our journey home!
Many excellent books and programs are
offered to Christians to reach our ultimate destiny. We need to
invest our resources, time and energies to explore and discover how
to travel lightly and enjoy the ride home. St Bonaventure is an
excellent guide if we but petition him to assist us as we journey
day by day.
Through his marvelous leadership he fed others
through the example and fruits of his study, teaching and prayers.
He will do the same for us when we earnestly implore his heavenly
assistance and intercession.
The Franciscans have an
extensive website that is both scholarly and enjoyable on
Bonaventure and others.
One prayer alone, that Bonaventure
composed and recited after holy communion, will convince you why he
is named the seraphic doctor. The reason that no other doctor
surpassed being called the Seraphic Doctor as Bonaventure is because
no other doctor spoke more effusively about divine love.
his holy communion prayer, he pleads to be pierced profoundly and
wounded infinitely in order to languish and melt with divine love in
a longing manner. He ardently seeks a joyous and apostolic charity
that is calm and healthful. He yearns for companionship and union
with the celestial court and to be totally immersed with God's fire.
His hunger and thirst for God are insatiable. His prayer reminds one
that he is totally beside himself in expressing his complete
yearning to love and share God with all humanity in heaven and
earth. All his actions and good deeds noticed by others reflect this
divine warmth and kindness.
Bonaventure completes this holy
communion prayer by petitioning God to be plunged in divine
awareness and fully possessed of God.
He called holy
communion the supersubstantial bread because it is so sweet, savory
and exceeds all possible pleasure and delight whether it be imagined
For details on his unsurpassed, ardent praying:
http://www.franciscan-archive.org/bonaventura/index.html This prayer will be found near the end of this website.
Clares are cloistered sisters living in community, striving to
reflect to the world the love of God and the light of St Clare of
Assisi while dedicating their lives to prayer, poverty and work for
the needs of the world. Information (513) 825-7177 Monastery of St
Clare 1505 Miles Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45231-2427. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org. Fax:(513)825-4071. Taken from Vision publication.
are priests and brothers following the life and ideals of Francis of
Assisi and Bonaventure, living the Gospels through a communal life
of poverty, chasity and obedience, caring for those in need and
dedicating their lives to diverse worldwide ministries. Info:
Vocation office: 5000 Colerain Avenue Cincinnati.
OH 45223. Email:
other exciting Franciscan spirituality in the secular realm and a
The below link contains St Francis' life, many Franciscan links and resources, poetry, information on the blessing of the animals and much more-very exciting
The Theory of Illumination in St. Bonaventure by Brother John Raymond: http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/bonavent.htm
A linkof Saint Bonaventure on the web site from the ministry of Dr Marcellino D'Ambrosio is listed below.
The below web site contains comprehensive resources on our church, faith, the bible, saints, writings, apologetics, evangelization, family issues, links, and many pertinent services. This superior and highly organized web site (see Table of Content) is a most fascinating site with beautiful prayers, devotions, and really too much to enumerate. A truly universal catholic site.