Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor
Today marks the feast day of Saint Bonaventure. As minister general of the Franciscans, he had a difficult tightrope to keep his balance on. During his generalate, two competing groups, the spirituales and relaxati (whose intentions can be accurately figured out from the Latin names) were trying to take the Franciscans in opposing directions. In the case of the spirituales, under the urging of Joachim of Fiore, they wanted to take the entire Church in their direction. But, as Chesterton notes in his biography of St. Francis: “the Church could include all that was good in the Franciscans and the Franciscans could not include all that was good in the Church.” Christ and the Church are far broader than any one movement or congregation.
St. Bonaventure recognized this, and when he further opposed Joachim’s idea of an age of the Holy Spirit following upon an age of Christ, he did so because he saw that Jesus was the end and summation of time, and not a way-point. St. Bonaventure’s ability to hold the Franciscans together flowed out of the fact that his focus was on Christ, which gave his vision an amazing breadth. Joachim and others focused on this or that point, which made their vision narrow. As we live our lives in the Church, our first concern should be how to best follow Jesus, and how to invite others to do so. Everything else is derivative.