St. Bonaventure

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | July 19, 2022

498-618  Feast: June 3

In the turbulent times in which we live, the example of St. Bonaventure offers us hope. He served as minister general of the Franciscan order in the 13th century.

Bonaventure was born in Viterbo, Italy, in 1221. Little is known about his childhood except his parents’ names — Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella — and that his father was a physician. 

He was also named after his father, Giovanni. How he got the name of Bonaventure is not clear, but he gained it when he entered the Franciscan community in 1243. (Some sources say he entered in 1238.) He studied at the University of Paris and, after earning his theology license, continued there as a lecturer.

In 1257, Bonaventure was elected minister general and left the university. At the time, there was conflict in the Franciscan order between two factions: the Spirituales and the Relaxati. One wanted to return to the original rule, especially as regards strict poverty, and the other wanted innovations to the order. Steering a path of reconciliation, Bonaventure was able to reunite the groups under a new constitution. For his work, he is sometimes called the “second founder of the Franciscan Order.”

Well-known as a preacher and a writer, Bonaventure’s zeal for God was so great that, after his death, he earned the title of “doctor of the church” in 1587. He is specifically known as the “Seraphic Doctor” because his zeal was like that of a fiery angel. Hundreds of his sermons remain today.

Bonaventure never lost his personal humility. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia,  when Pope Gregory X appointed him cardinal-bishop of Albano in 1273, the envoys found him washing dishes. (He had previously turned down another appointment as bishop of York in England.)

He participated in the Council of Lyon, in France, but died unexpectedly before it was finished, on July 15, 1275. He was buried in Lyon, at the local Franciscan church. Bonaventure was canonized by Pope Sixtus IV in 1482.

Sources: The Catholic Encyclopedia;; and

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