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History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
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§ 109. Bonaventura.


Literature: Works. —edd. Strassburg, 1482; Nürnberg 1499, 4 vols.; Rome, 1588–1596, 8 vols. Lyons, 1668, 7 vols. Venice, 1751, 13 vols.; Paris, A. C. Peltier, ed., 1864–1871, 15 vols., and Quaracchi, 1882–1902, prepared by the Franciscans. —B. Bonelli: Prodromus ad omnia opp. S. Bon., Bassani, 1767. —W. A. Hollenberg: Studien zum Bon., Berlin, 1862.—A. M. da Vicenza: D. heil. Bon., Germ. trans. from the Italian, Paderborn, 1874.—J. Richard: Etude sur le mysticisme speculatif de S. Bon., Heidelberg, 1869.—A trans. of the Meditations of Bon. on the Life of Christ by W. H. Hutchings, London, 1881.—A. Margerie: Essai sur la Phil. de S. Bon., Paris, 1855.—J. Krause: Lehre d. heil. Bon. über die Natur der geistl. und körperl. Wesen, Paderborn, 1888.—L. de Chérancé: S. Bonaventure, Paris, 1899.—Stöckl, II. 880–915.—The Doctrinal Histories of Schwane, etc.—Preger: Deutsche Mystik, I. 51–43. For other Lit. see Potthast, II. 1216.


Contemporary with Thomas Aquinas, even to dying the same year, was John Bonaventura. Thomas we think of only as theologian. Bonaventura was both a theologian and a distinguished administrator of the affairs of his order, the Franciscans. The one we think of as precise in his statements, the other as poetical in his imagery. Bonaventura 1221–1274, called the Seraphic doctor,—doctor seraphicus,—was born in Tuscany. The change from his original name, John Fidanza, was due to his recovery from a sickness at the age of four, in answer to the intercession of Francis d’Assisi. When the child began to show signs of recovery, his mother exclaimed, O buon ventura, good fortune! This is the saint’s own story.15491549    Prologue to his Life of St. Francis.

The boy entered the Franciscan order, 1238. After having spent three years in Paris under Alexander of Hales, the teacher is reported to have said, "in brother Bonaventura Adam seems not to have sinned." He taught in Paris, following John of Parma, on John’s promotion to the office of general of the order of the Franciscans, 1247. He lived through the conflict between the university and the mendicant orders, and in answer to William de St. Amour’s tract, de periculis novissimorum temporum, attacking the principle of mendicancy, Bonaventura wrote his tract on the Poverty of Christ.15501550    De paupertate Christi. Peltier’s ed., XIV. 364-409. A few years later he presented the subject more at length in his Apologia pauperum. Peltier’s ed., XIV. 410-520.

In 1257, he was chosen head of the Franciscan order in succession to John of Parma. He took a middle position between the two parties which were contending in the Franciscan body and has been called the second founder of the order. By the instruction of the first Franciscan general council at Narbonne, 1260, he wrote the Legenda S. Francisi, the authoritative Franciscan Life of the saint.15511551    Sabatier, Vie de S. François, lxxi.-lxxxviii., compares Bonaventura’s life to the figures of saints exposed for sale on a dealer’s shelves, all having a downcast, pious, but unreal look. The biography is given by Peltier, XIV. 293-363.caped being closely identified with English Church history, by declining the see of York, 1265. In 1273 he was made cardinal-bishop of Albano. To him was committed a share in the preparations for the council of Lyons, but he died soon after the opening of the council, July 14, 1274. The sacrament of extreme unction was administered by the pope and the funeral took place in the presence of the solemn assembly of dignitaries gathered from all parts of Christendom. He was buried at Lyons.15521552    His body, it seems, was burnt by the Calvinists in 1562. Only the head was saved. The right arm had before been removed to Bonaventura’s birthplace. See Hergenröther. Kirchengesch., II. 529; Wetzer-Welte, II. 1022. in 1482 and declared a "doctor of the church," 1587.

Gerson wrote a special panegyric of Bonaventura and said that he was the most profitable of the doctors, safe and reliable in teaching, pious and devout. He did not minister to curiosity nor mix up secular dialectics and physics with theological discussion.15531553    Quae veritatis sunt credenda de necessitate salutis. Du Pin’s ed. of Gerson’s Works, 1728, I. 21. See also Gerson’s Epistola in lauden S. Bonaventurae Du Pin’s ed., I. 117.


"who with pure interest

Preferred each heavenly to each earthly aim."15541554    Paradiso XII. 127.


These two distinguished men will always be brought into companionship.15551555    Sixtus V. in his encyclical admitting Bonaventura into the company of the Doctors of the Church places them side by side and brings out their distinguishing characteristics. He calls them potissimum gloriosi doctores —"those most illustrious teachers. Stöckl, the historian of mediaeval theology, calls them the illuminating stars on the horizon of the thirteenth century.15561556    Sie sind die beiden leuchtenden Sterne am Horizont des 13ten Jahrhunderts. Stöckl, II. 882.e and are the most illustrious names of their respective orders, after Francis and Dominic themselves. Thomas had the keener mind, excelling in power of analysis. Bonaventura indulged the habit of elaboration. The ethical element was conspicuous in Thomas, the mystical in Bonaventura. Thomas was the more authoritative teacher, Bonaventura the more versatile writer. Both were equally champions of the theology and organization of the mediaeval Church.

Bonaventura enjoyed a wide fame as a preacher.15571557    Peltier gives his sermons in vol. XIII. For his works on Mary, see section 130. also a poet, and has left the most glowing panegyric of Mary in the form of psalms as well as in prose.

Of his theological writings the most notable is his Commentary on the Sentences of the Lombard.15581558    A number of the works once ascribed to Bonaventura are regarded as ungenuine, e.g. de six alis cherubim, de septem itineribus aeternitatis, etc. The Venetian ed. of 1751 and Bonelli discuss the authorship of the many writings associated with Bonaventura’s name.ance. The Breviloquium,15591559    Peltier’s ed., VII. 240-343. Funk, Kirchengesch., p. 364. An ed. was published by Hefele, 3d ed., Tübingen, 1861, and also Vicenza, 2d ed. Freiburg, 1881. Sixtus V. said of Bonaventura’s theology that "nothing more fruitful for the Church of God" had appeared, Encyclical in Peltier’s ed., I p. viii.es a panegyric of the Scriptures and states the author’s views of Scriptural interpretation. Like all the Schoolmen, Bonaventura had a wide acquaintance with Scripture and shows an equipoise of judgment which usually keeps him from extravagance in doctrinal statement. However, he did not rise above his age and he revelled in interrogations about the angels, good and evil, which seem to us to be utterly trivial and have no bearing on practical religion. He set himself to answer more than one hundred of these, and in Peltier’s edition, his angelology and demonology occupy more than two hundred pages of two columns each.15601560    II. 296-520.n several places at the same time? can several angels be at the same time in the same place?15611561    Peltier’s ed., II. 298sqq. The arguments given for an affirmative answer to this question are that the angels are in a place not after a "bodily but spiritual fashion." Theyarespiritual lights, as the Areopagite said, and consequently are independent of space, etc. Bonaventura, however, answers the question in the negative.reknowledge of contingent events?15621562    Peltier’s ed., II. 415 sqq. Bonaventura answers that foreknowledge belongs to God alone, but that by reason of their intellectual acuteness and long experience the demons are sometimes able to accurately predict contingent events. or the woman.

Bonaventura differs from Thomas in giving proof that the world is not eternal. The mark of a foot, which represents created matter, is not of the same duration as the foot itself, for the mark was made at some time by the foot. And, following Plato as against Aristotle, he declared that matter not only in its present form but also in its essence is not eternal. The world is not thinkable without man, for it has all the marks of a habitation fitted up for a human being. Christ would not have become incarnate without sin.

In the doctrine of the immaculate conception, Bonaventura agreed with Thomas in denying to Mary freedom from original sin and disagreed with his fellow Franciscan, Duns Scotus, whose teaching has become dogma in the Roman Catholic communion.

It is as a mystic and as the author of the life of St. Francis, rather than as a dogmatician that Bonaventura has a characteristic place among the Schoolmen.15631563    Stöckl, II. 880, says, Bonav. ist vorzugsweise Mystiker, and expresses the opinion that the mysticism of the Middle Ages reached its highest point in him.15641564    e.g. Cogitatio, meditatio, contemplatio, ascendere, etc.d did not advance beyond them. His mysticism has its finest statement in his Journey of the Mind to God.15651565    Itinerarium mentis in Deum. Peltier’s ed., XII. 1-22. His Meditations on the Life of Jesus, his commentaries on Ecclesiastes, the Book of Wisdom, and John and Luke belong to this class. The mystical element is also strong in the Breviloquium and the Centiloquium. Other mystical writings ascribed to Bonaventura, such as Incendium amoris, de septem verbis domini, etc., are disputed.ut earnest prayer, pure meditation, and a holy life. Devout prayer is the mother and beginning of the upward movement towards God. Contemplation leads us first outside ourselves to behold the works of God in the visible world. It then brings us back to consider God’s image in ourselves arid at last we rise above ourselves to behold the divine being as He is in Himself.15661566    These three activities constitute the theologia symbolical theol. propria, and theol. mystica.he Trinity and God’s absolute goodness.

Beyond these six steps is the state of rapture, the ecstatic vision, as the Sabbath day of rest followed the six days of labor. The doorway to this mystical life is Christ. The experience, which the soul shall have hereafter, is an ocean of beatific ecstasy. No one can know it but the one who receives it; he only receive it who desires it; be only desire it who is inflamed by the baptizing fire of the Holy Spirit. It is a grace not a doctrine, a desire not a concept, a habit of prayer not a studious task, a bride not a teacher. It is of God not of man, a flame of ardent love, transferring us into the presence and being of God.15671567    Itin., 7.nd expression in devout hymns.



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