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Posted by on Jul 15, 2008

Saint of the Day: St. Bonaventure – July 15

Saint of the Day: St. Bonaventure – July 15

Faith and reason are often seen as opposites in today’s controversies. Some people say that faith has to be subject to reason and others say that there can be no reason if one has faith. St. Bonaventure shows not only how faith and reason are reconciled but how they are fulfilled in each other and lead us to that transcendent mystical encounter beyond words and comprehension for which we were all created.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy clearly summarizes the life and teaching of St. Bonaventure:

Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (ca. 1217 to 15 July 1274), the religious name of Giovanni di Fidanza, was a Franciscan friar, Master of Theology at the University of Paris, Minister General of the Franciscan Order, and Cardinal of the Catholic Church. During his lifetime he rose to become one of the most prominent men in Latin Christianity. His academic career as a theologian was cut short when in 1257 he was put in charge of the Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.). 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.

St. Bonaventure was a man of passionate intensity. In the Prologue to his famous Itinerarium Mentis Ad Deum – The Mind’s Journey to GodDr. Ambrosio’s translation conveys the Saint’s great feeling and vision:

To begin with, the first principle from Whom all illumination descends as from the Father of Light, by Whom are given all the best and perfect gifts [James, 1,17], the eternal Father do I call upon through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that by the intercession of the most holy Virgin Mary, mother of God Himself and of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and of the blessed Francis, our father and leader, He may enlighten the eyes of our mind to guide our feet into the way of that peace “which surpasses all understanding, [Eph., 1,17; Luke, 1,79; Phil., 4,7], which peace our Lord Jesus Christ has announced and given to us; which lesson our father Francis always taught, in all of whose preaching was the annunciation of peace both in the beginning and in the end, wishing for peace in every greeting, yearning for ecstatic peace in every moment of contemplation, as a citizen of that Jerusalem of which that man of peace said, with those that hated peace he was peaceable [Ps., 119,7].  

Although the Itinerarium Mentis Ad Deum is a classic of Western philosophy, its brevity and poetic beauty sweeps the reader up into a vision and a search for the Divine while synthesizing major questions about the nature of God, the universe and our existence.

St. Bonaventure has always played a special role in my life, since I grew up in the parish of Mission San Buenaventura in Ventura, California. Mission San Buenaventura was the ninth and last mission founded by Blessed Junipero Serra, who taught philosophy in Majorca, Spain before coming to the new world. These are some pictures of the mission and its gardens.


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