Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio was born Giovanni Fidanza, at Civita di Bagnoregio on the northern confines of the Papal States around 1217 A.D., just as decade or so after Saint Francis of Assisi had founded his order of Friars Minor. Raised by his father, the town doctor, with the finest education money could buy locally, he was sent by his father to the University of Paris to study medicine. There, he studied logic and philosophy under the greatest Scholastic masters of the day, and followed them into the Order of Saint Francis, when they took the habit in admiration of the evangelical perfection of the Saint. He thereupon took the name given to him by his mother, as a child, when having fallen into a grave fever, she asked Saint Francis to cure her son, and upon the miracle, exclaimed: Che bonaventura! that is, what a good outcome!
Marvelous for both his erudition and personal sanctity, Friar Bonaventure studied under the renowned medieval philosopher Alexander of Hales, was ordained a priest and after Alexander’s untimely death, went on to study for a doctorate in theology, which in those days, was called a Master of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, the name of the text book used in theology at the University of Paris since the 1220’s.
While St. Bonaventure is well-known for his philosophy and theology, he is also known as a great reconciler. He frequently was called upon to mediate disputes and is single-handedly responsible for saving the Franciscan Order from being pulled asunder by two groups who were in an intense disagreement regarding the observance of St. Francis’ rule. Because of his abilities at reconciliation, he was elected General Minister of the Order, a position he held until it was necessary for him to resign when the Pope appointed him a cardinal. He then accompanied the Pope to the Council of Lyon where he died quite suddenly. The members of the Council were universal in their praise of his defense of the faith.
As we give praise to God for this great saint today, let us call upon him as a great reconciler. Our society is in need of God’s help to bring all men and women into the peace and harmony of people who realize they are all children of God.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administration