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St. Bonaventure

St Bonaventure (1221 – 1274), was born Giovanni di Fidanza in Bagnoregio, Italy. He was an Italian medieval scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also a Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He was canonized in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. He is the patron saint for intestinal disorders.

He is known as the "Seraphic Doctor" (Latin: Doctor Seraphicus). Many writings believed in the Middle Ages to be his are now collected under the name Pseudo-Bonaventura.

Life

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

He entered the Franciscan Order in 1243 and studied at the University of Paris, possibly under Alexander of Hales, and certainly under Alexander's successor, John of Rochelle. In 1253 he held the Franciscan chair at Paris. Unfortunately for Bonaventure, a dispute between seculars and mendicants delayed his reception as Master until 1257, where his degree was taken in company with Thomas Aquinas. Three years earlier his fame had earned him the position of lecturer on the The Four Books of Sentences—a book of theology written by Peter Lombard in the twelfth century—and in 1255 he received the degree of master, the medieval equivalent of doctor.

After having successfully defended his order against the reproaches of the anti-mendicant party, he was elected Minister General of the Franciscan Order. On 24 November 1265, he was selected for the post of Archbishop of York; however, he was never consecrated and resigned the appointment in October 1266. It was by his order that Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar himself, was interdicted from lecturing at Oxford and compelled to put himself under the surveillance of the Order at Paris.

Bonaventure was instrumental in procuring the election of Pope Gregory X, who rewarded him with the title of Cardinal Bishop of Albano, and insisted on his presence at the great Council of Lyon in 1274. There, after his significant contributions led to a union of the Greek and Latin churches, Bonaventure died suddenly and in suspicious circumstances. The Catholic Encyclopedia has citations which suggest he was poisoned. The only extant relic of the saint is the arm and hand with which he wrote his Commentary on the Sentences, which is now conserved at Bagnoregio, in the parish church of St. Nicholas.

He steered the Franciscans on a moderate and intellectual course that made them the most prominent order in the Catholic Church until the coming of the Jesuits. His theology was marked by an attempt completely to integrate faith and reason. He thought of Christ as the "one true master" who offers humans knowledge that begins in faith, is developed through rational understanding, and is perfected by mystical union with God.

 

Feast day

Bonaventure's feast day was included in the General Roman Calendar immediately upon his canonization in 1482. It was at first celebrated on the second Sunday in July, but was moved in 1568 to 14 July, since 15 July, the anniversary of his death, was at that time taken up with the feast of Saint Henry. It remained on that date, with the rank of "double", until 1960, when it was reclassified as a feast of the third class. In 1969 it was classified as an obligatory memorial and assigned to the date of his death, 15 July.

Theology and works

Writings

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

His works, as arranged in the most recent Critical Edition by the Quaracchi Fathers (Collegio S. Bonaventura), consist of a Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard, in four volumes, and eight other volumes, among which are a Commentary on the Gospel of St Luke and a number of smaller works; the most famous of which are Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Breviloquium, De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, Soliloquium, and De septem itineribus aeternitatis, in which most of what is individual in his teaching is contained. German philosopher Dieter Hattrup denies that De reductione artium ad theologiam might be written by Bonaventure, claiming that the style of thinking does not match Bonaventure's original style. His position is, however, no longer tenable given the research by Benson, Hammond, Hughes and Johnson in vol. 67 of Franciscan Studies (2009).

For St. Isabelle of France, the sister of King St. Louis IX of France, and her monastery of Poor Clares at Longchamps, St.Bonaventure wrote the treatise, Concerning the Perfection of Life.

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.

Philosophy

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

Much of St. Bonaventure's philosophical thought shows a considerable influence by St. Augustine. So much so that De Wulf considers him the best representative of Augustinianism. St. Bonaventure adds Aristotelian principles to the Augustinian doctrine especially in connection with the illumination of the intellect according to Gilson. Augustine, who had imported into the west many of the doctrines that would define scholastic philosophy, was an incredibly important source of Bonaventure's Platonism. Another prominent influence was that of a mystic by the name of Dionysius the Areopagite.

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

Like Thomas Aquinas, with whom he shared numerous profound agreements in matters theological and philosophical, he combated the Aristotelian notion of the eternity of the world vigorously. Bonaventure accepts the Platonic doctrine that ideas do not exist in rerum natura, but as ideals exemplified by the Divine Being, according to which actual things were formed; and this conception has no slight influence upon his philosophy. Like all the great scholastic doctors he starts with the discussion of the relations between reason and faith. All the sciences are but the handmaids of theology; reason can discover some of the moral truths which form the groundwork of the Christian system, but others it can only receive and apprehend through divine illumination. In order to obtain this illumination, the soul must employ the proper means, which are prayer, the exercise of the virtues, whereby it is rendered fit to accept the divine light, and meditation which may rise even to ecstatic union with God. The supreme end of life is such union, union in contemplation or intellect and in intense absorbing love; but it cannot be entirely reached in this life, and remains as a hope for the future.

A master of the memorable phrase, Bonaventure held that philosophy opens the mind to at least three different routes humans can take on their journey to God. Non-intellectual material creatures he conceived as shadows and vestiges (literally, footprints) of God, understood as the ultimate cause of a world philosophical reason can prove was created at a first moment in time. Intellectual creatures he conceived of as images and likenesses of God, the workings of the human mind and will leading us to God understood as illuminator of knowledge and donor of grace and virtue. The final route to God is the route of being, in which Bonaventure brought Anselm's argument together with Aristotelian and Neoplatonic metaphysics to view God as the absolutely perfect being whose essence entails its existence, an absolutely simple being that causes all other, composite beings to exist.

Bonaventure, however, is not merely a meditative thinker, whose works may form good manuals of devotion; he is a dogmatic theologian of high rank, and on all the disputed questions of scholastic thought, such as universals, matter, the principle of individualism, or the intellectus agens, he gives weighty and well-reasoned decisions. He agrees with Saint Albert the Great in regarding theology as a practical science; its truths, according to his view, are peculiarly adapted to influence the affections. He discusses very carefully the nature and meaning of the divine attributes; considers universals to be the ideal forms pre-existing in the divine mind according to which things were shaped; holds matter to be pure potentiality which receives individual being and determinateness from the formative power of God, acting according to the ideas; and finally maintains that the intellectus agens has no separate existence. On these and on many other points of scholastic philosophy the "Seraphic Doctor" exhibits a combination of subtlety and moderation, which makes his works particularly valuable.

In form and intent the work of St. Bonaventure is always the work of a theologian; he writes as one for whom the only angle of vision and the proximate criterion of truth is the Christian faith. This fact influences his importance for the history of philosophy; when coupled with his style, it makes Bonaventure perhaps the least accessible of the major figures of the thirteenth century. This is true, not because he is a theologian, but because philosophy interests him largely as a praeparatio evangelica, as something to be interpreted as a foreshadow of or deviation from what God has revealed. In a way that is not true of Aquinas or Albert or Scotus, Bonaventure does not survive well the transition from his time to ours. It is difficult to imagine a contemporary philosopher, Christian or not, citing a passage from Bonaventure to make a specifically philosophical point. One must know philosophers in order to read Bonaventure, but the study of Bonaventure is seldom helpful for understanding philosophers and their characteristic problems. Bonaventure as a theologian is something else again, of course, as is Bonaventure the edifying author. It is in those areas, rather than in philosophy proper, that his continuing importance must be sought.

Places, churches, and schools named in his honor

  The town of Bonaventure, Quebec, Canada

  Bonaventure Highway in Quebec

  Place Bonaventure and the adjacent Bonaventure Metro Station in Montreal, Quebec

  Bonaventure Island and the Bonaventure River in the Gaspe Peninsula Region of Quebec

  St. Bonaventure's College, a private Roman Catholic school, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

  St Bonaventure's Catholic Comprehensive School, in Forest Gate, London, England

  Mission San Buenaventura and the City of Ventura, California, officially named San Buenaventura, United States

  St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan university, in Allegany, New York

  The Municipality of Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast of Colombia

  The cities of San Benaventura in Chihuahua and San Buenaventura, Coahuila in Mexico and State of San Benaventura

  Barangay San Buenaventura, a village in San Pablo City, Laguna, Philippines. Three small chapels can be found within the village in honor of Saint Bonaventura

  St. Bonaventure's High School, a school in Hyderabad, Pakistan

  St. Bonaventure's Church, a 16th century Portuguese church is situated on the beach in Erangal near Mumbai. The annual Erangal Feast held on second Sunday of January, celebrating the Feast day of St. Bonaventure, attracts thousands of people of all faiths to this scenic spot. The Birthday Of St. Bonaventure is celebrated on the 15th of July every year.

  St. Bonaventure Parish, Balangkayan Eastern Samar, Philippines

  Bonaventure Hall, in Sacred Heart Parish Catholic School, in Patterson, California, U.S.A.

Works

  Life of St Francis of Assisi, TAN Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-89555-151-1

  On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam), Franciscan Institute Publications, 1996. ISBN 978-1-57659-043-0

  Itinerarium Mentis in Deum (Journey of the Soul Into God), (†)Philotheus Boehner, OFM, Franciscan Institute Publications, 2002. ISBN 978-1-57659-044-7

  Saint Bonaventure's Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1979. ISBN 978-1-57659-045-4.

  Bonaventure. Ewert Cousins, translator (The Classics of Western Spirituality ed.). Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press. 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2121-2..

References

  ^ a b M. Walsh, ed. (1991). Butler's Lives of the Saints. New York: HarperCollins. p. 216.

  ^ Knowles, David (1988). The Evolution of Medieval Thought (2nd ed.). Edinburgh Gate: Longman Group. ISBN 0-582-4946-5.

  ^ Fryde, E. B.; D.E. Greenway, S. Porter and I. Roy (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 282. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.

  ^ a b Noone, Tim and Houser, R. E., "Saint Bonaventure", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

  ^ Calendarium Romanum. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1969. pp. 97, 130.

  ^ a b c Robinson, Paschal. "St. Bonaventure." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 5 Jan. 2013

  ^ Hattrup, Dieter (1993) (in German). Ekstatik der Geschichte. Die Entwicklung der christologischen Erkenntnistheorie Bonaventuras. Paderborn: Schoningh. ISBN 3-506-76273-7.

  ^ Brother John Raymond, "The Theory of Illumination in St. Bonaventure"

  ^ McInery, Ralph, A History of Western Philosophy, Vol.II, Chap.5, "St. Bonaventure: the Man and His Work", Jacques Maritain Center, Notre Dame Univ.

   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

  George Henry Tavard, From Bonaventure to the Reformers (Marquette University Press, 2005) (Marquette Studies in Theology), ISBN 0-87462-695-1 ISBN 9780874626957.

  Gregory F. LaNave, "Bonaventure," in Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley (eds), The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity (Cambridge, University of Cambridge, 2011), 159-173.

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