Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Bonaventure, a saint whose importance for our day is such that Benedict XVI dedicated three consecutive Wednesday audiences to Bonaventure and his work (on the 3rd, 10th, and 17th of March 2010). In the last of these audiences, Benedict XVI states that Bonaventure deserves a place besides Thomas Aquinas in studies of Christian thought, and lists a number of areas where their differences can complement each other and help to broaden Catholic perspectives on the world. We should give thanks for the witness and work of Bonaventure, a humble disciple of Saint Francis of Assisi, even in the greatness of his intellectual endeavors. By reading Bonaventure alongside other thinkers in the Christian tradition, we can come to better appreciate the goodness and glory of God (which Bonaventure so emphasizes) which the Holy Spirit manifests in various ways through different saints, charisms, and schools of thought.

Even as we draw fruit from one thinker or another, whether Bonaventure the Franciscan, Thomas Aquinas the Dominican, Bernard the Cistercian, or others, we should never forget that even as each of these thinkers points rightly and truly to the source of life, they are not themselves that source. “No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master” (Mt 10:24): these great and saintly thinkers would be among the first to affirm this! But, of course, what Jesus points to in saying this is not so much a body of doctrine, but his own life. The disciple cannot demand to be served, when the one that he claims to have as Teacher and Lord himself makes himself a servant. Sometimes, we may worry that the service that we are called to offer will leave us bereft of the essentials that we need for our own life in Christ. But if the one whom we serve is genuinely the gentle Master who always does the will of his Father, then we can trust that the Father himself will see to our needs, for he even cares for the sparrows that are sold two for a penny. “So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mt 10:31).

July 15th, 2017