Bonaventure Seen as One of History's Most Important

Benedict XVI Reflects on Biographer of St. Francis

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2010 ( Benedict XVI says the saint who was the subject of his second postdoctoral dissertation is one of the most important theologians of the history of the Church.

The Pope affirmed this today when he dedicated the general audience address to St. Bonaventure, a key figure particularly in the history of the Franciscans.

Called John of Fidanza until he took the name Bonaventure in religious life, this saint is “[s]triking among the great Christian figures who contributed to the composition of this harmony between faith and culture” of the 13th century, the Holy Father said.

Bonaventure became a Franciscan around the year 1243, being “immediately directed to studies” and “following a program of very difficult courses.”

It was in Paris, the Pope noted, that Bonaventure had to defend the Franciscans and Dominicans against those who did not understand the changes introduced by the mendicant orders.

“Beyond these historical circumstances,” he said, “the teaching offered by Bonaventure […] is always timely: The Church becomes luminous and beautiful by fidelity to the vocation of those sons and daughters of hers who not only put into practice the evangelical precepts, but who, by the grace of God, are called to observe their advice and thus give witness, with their poor, chaste and obedient lifestyle, that the Gospel is source of joy and perfection.”

Presenting the charism

Shortly after the conflict regarding the mendicants, Bonaventure was given a new issue: He was elected the superior-general of the Franciscans.

During 17 years, the saint carried out this task “with wisdom and dedication, visiting the provinces, writing to brothers, intervening at times with a certain severity to eliminate abuses,” the Pope said.

Bonaventure set about to consolidate and unite the Franciscan spirituality, and to do this, he tried to present the personality of the founder.

“He gathered with great zeal documents related to the Poverello and listened attentively to the memories of those who had known Francis directly,” the Pontiff recounted. “From this was born a biography, historically well founded, of the Saint of Assisi.”

Another change

In 1273, Benedict XVI said, St. Bonaventure’s life met with another change, when Pope Gregory X wished to consecrate him bishop and name him cardinal. 

He was also asked to prepare the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyon, which was to re-establish communion between the Latin and the Greek Churches. “He dedicated himself to this task with diligence,” the Pope said, “but was unable to see the conclusion of that ecumenical summit, as he died while it was being held.”

The Holy Father recommended taking up the legacy of this saint “who reminds us of the meaning of our life with these words: ‘On earth … we can contemplate the divine immensity through reasoning and admiration; in the heavenly homeland, instead, through vision, when we will be made like to God, and through ecstasy — we will enter into the joy of God.'”

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