Bonaventure

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This article is about the Italian medieval theologian. For other uses, see Bonaventure (disambiguation).
Saint Bonaventure, O.F.M.
Francisco de Zurbarán 036.jpg
Friar, Bishop, Doctor of the Church
Born c. 1221
Bagnoregio, Province of Viterbo, Latium, Papal States
Died July 15, 1274 (aged 52–53)
Lyon, Lyonnais, Kingdom of Arles
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Canonized April 14, 1482, Rome by Pope Sixtus IV
Feast 15 July
2nd Sunday in July (1482–1568)
14 July (1568–1969)
Attributes Cardinal's hat on a bush; ciborium; Holy Communion; cardinal in Franciscan robes, usually reading or writing
Bonaventure
François, Claude (dit Frère Luc) - Saint Bonaventure.jpg
Born 1221
Bagnoregio, Province of Viterbo, Latium Papal States (now Italy)
Died 15 July 1274
Other names "Giovanni di Fidanza" ("John of Fidanza"), "Doctorus Seraphicus" ("Seraphic Doctor")
Era Medieval philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Scholasticism
Influences
Influenced

Saint Bonaventure, O.F.M. (Italian: San Bonaventura; 1221 – 15 July 1274),[1] born Giovanni di Fidanza, 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 canonised on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the Church in the year 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. 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[edit]

He was born at Bagnorea in Tuscany, 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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[3]

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.[5]

During his tenure, the General Chapter of Narbonne, held in 1260, promulgated a decree prohibiting the publication of any work out of the order without permission from the higher superiors. This prohibition has induced modern writers to pass severe judgment upon Roger Bacon's superiors being envious of Bacon's abilities. However, the prohibition enjoined on Bacon was a general one, which extended to the whole order. Its promulgation was not directed against him, but rather against Gerard of Borgo San Donnino. Gerard had published in 1254 without permission a heretical work, Introductorius in Evangelium æternum Thereupon the General Chapter of Narbonne promulgated the above-mentioned decree, identical with the "constitutio gravis in contrarium" Bacon speaks of. The above-mentioned prohibition was rescinded in Roger's favour unexpectedly in 1266.[6]

Bonaventure's Coat of arms of Cardinal Bishop of Albano

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 Second Council of Lyon in 1274.[3] 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. [7]

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.[8]

Feast day[edit]

Bonaventure's feast day was included in the General Roman Calendar immediately upon his canonisation 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.[9]

Theology and works[edit]

Writings[edit]

Bonaventure was formally canonised 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[1]

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.[10]

Philosophy[edit]

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.[10]

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.[12] 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. The mystic Dionysius the Areopagite was another notable influence.

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.[3]

St. Bonaventure receives the envoys of the Byzantine Emperor at the Second Council of Lyon.

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.[3] Due to this philosophy, physicist and philosopher Max Bernhard Weinstein contended that Bonaventure showed strong pandeistic inclinations.[13] Like all the great scholastic doctors, Bonaventura 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. 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.[3]

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.[8]

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.[3]

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 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.[14]

Places, churches, and schools named in his honour[edit]

Works[edit]

  • Bonaventure Texts in Translation Series, St. Bonaventure, NY, Franciscan Institute Publications (15 volumes):
    • On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology, Translation, Introduction and Commentary by Zachary Hayes, OFM, vol. 1, 1996.
    • Journey of the Soul into God - Itinerarium Mentis in Deum translation and Introduction by Zachary Hayes, OFM, and Philotheus Boehner, OFM, vol. 2, 2002. ISBN 978-1-57659-044-7
    • Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, translated by Zachary Hayes, vol. 3, 1979. ISBN 978-1-57659-045-4.
    • Disputed Questions on the Knowledge of Christ, translated by Zachary Hayes, vol. 4, 1992.
    • Writings Concerning the Franciscan Order, translated by Dominic V. Monti, OFM, vol. 5, 1994.
    • Collations on the Ten Commandments, translated by Paul Spaeth, vol. 6, 1995.
    • Commentary on Ecclesiastes, translated by Campion Murray and Robert J. Karris, vol. 7, 2005.
    • Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, translated by Robert J. Karris, (3 vols), vol. 8, 2001-4.
    • Breviloquium, translated by Dominic V. Monti, OFM, vol. 9, 2005.
    • Writings on the Spiritual Life, [includes translations of The Threefold Way, On the Perfection of Life, On Governing the Soul, and The Soliloquium: A Dialogue on the Four Spiritual Exercises, the prologue to the Commentary on Book II of the Sentences of Peter Lombard and three short sermons: On the Way of Life, On Holy Saturday, and On the Monday after Palm Sunday, vol. 10, 2006.
    • Commentary on the Gospel of John, translated by Robert J. Karris, vol. 11, 2007.
    • The Sunday sermons of St. Bonaventure, edited and translated by Timothy J. Johnson, vol. 12, 2008.
    • Disputed questions on evangelical perfection, edited and translated by Thomas Reist and Robert J. Karris, vol. 13, 2008.
    • Collations on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, introduced and translated by Zachary Hayes, vol. 14, 2008.
    • Defense of the mendicants, translated by Jose de Vinck and Robert J. Karris, vol. 15, 2010.
  • The Journey of the Mind into God (Itinerarium mentis in Deum), Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993. ISBN 978-0-8722-0200-9
  • On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam), translated by Zachary Hayes, (Saint Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 1996. ISBN 978-1-57659-043-0
  • Bringing forth Christ: five feasts of the child Jesus, translated by Eric Doyle, Oxford: SLG Press, 1984.
  • The soul's journey into God; The tree of life; The life of St. Francis. Ewert Cousins, translator (The Classics of Western Spirituality ed.). Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press. 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2121-2. 
  • The Mystical Vine: a Treatise on the Passion of Our Lord, translated by a friar of SSF, London: Mowbray, 1955.
  • Life of St Francis of Assisi, TAN Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-89555-151-1

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b M. Walsh, ed. (1991). Butler's Lives of the Saints. New York: HarperCollins. p. 216. 
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "St. Bonaventure". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bonaventura, Saint". Encyclopædia Britannica 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 197–198. 
  4. ^ Knowles, David (1988). The Evolution of Medieval Thought (2nd ed.). Edinburgh Gate: Longman Group. ISBN 978-0-394-70246-9. 
  5. ^ Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 282. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  6. ^ Witzel, Theophilus. "Roger Bacon." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 12 Feb. 2014
  7. ^ St. Bonaventure.
  8. ^ a b Noone, Tim and Houser, R. E., "Saint Bonaventure", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  9. ^ Calendarium Romanum. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1969. pp. 97, 130. 
  10. ^ a b c Robinson, Paschal. "St. Bonaventure." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 5 Jan. 2013
  11. ^ Hattrup, Dieter (1993). Ekstatik der Geschichte. Die Entwicklung der christologischen Erkenntnistheorie Bonaventuras (in German). Paderborn: Schöningh. ISBN 3-506-76273-7. 
  12. ^ Brother John Raymond, "The Theory of Illumination in St. Bonaventure"
  13. ^ Max Bernhard Weinsten, Welt- und Lebensanschauungen, Hervorgegangen aus Religion, Philosophie und Naturerkenntnis ("World and Life Views, Emerging From Religion, Philosophy and Nature") (1910), page 303: "Andere Ganz- oder Halbmystiker, wie den Alanus (gegen 1200), seinerzeit ein großes Kirchenlicht und für die unseligen Waldenser von verhängnisvoller Bedeutung, den Bonaventura (1221 im Kirchenstaate geboren), der eine Reise des Geistes zu Gott geschrieben hat und stark pandeistische Neigungen zeigt, den Franzosen Johann Gersan (zu Gersan bei Rheims 1363 geboren) usf., übergehen wir, es kommt Neues nicht zum Vorschein."
  14. ^ McInerny, Ralph, A History of Western Philosophy, Vol.II, Chap.5, "St. Bonaventure: the Man and His Work", Jacques Maritain Center, Notre Dame Univ.

Further reading[edit]

  • LaNave, Gregory F. "Bonaventure," in Paul L. Gavrilyuk and Sarah Coakley (eds.), The Spiritual Senses: Perceiving God in Western Christianity, Cambridge: Cambridge, University of Cambridge, 2011, 159-173.
  • Quinn, John Francis. The Historical Constitution of St. Bonaventure's Philosophy, Toronto: Pontificial Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973.
  • Tavard, George Henry. From Bonaventure to the Reformers, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2005 (Marquette Studies in Theology). ISBN 0-87462-695-1 ISBN 9780874626957.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John of Parma
Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor
1257–1274
Succeeded by
Jerome of Ascoli
Preceded by
William Langton
Archbishop of York
1265–1266
Succeeded by
Walter Giffard