Bonaventure, Franciscan, theologian, doctor of the Church, was both learned and holy. Because of the spirit that filled him and his writings, he was at first called the Devout Doctor; but in more recent centuries he has been known as the Seraphic Doctor after the “Seraphic Father” Francis because of the truly Franciscan spirit he possessed.
St. Bonaventure, known as “the seraphic doctor,” was born at Bagnorea in Tuscany, in 1221. He received the name of Bonaventure in consequence of an exclamation of St. Francis of Assisi, when, in response to the pleading of the child’s mother, the saint prayed for John’s recovery from a dangerous illness, and, foreseeing the future greatness of the little John, cried out “O Buona ventura”-O good fortune!
At the age of twenty-two St. Bonaventure entered the Franciscan Order. Having made his vows, he was sent to Paris to complete his studies under the celebrated doctor Alexander of Hales, an Englishman and a Franciscan. After the latter’s death he continued his course under his successor, John of Rochelle. In Paris he became the intimate friend of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. He received the degree of Doctor, together with St. Thomas Aquinas, ceding to his friend against the latter’s inclination, the honor of having it first conferred upon him. Like St. Thomas Aquinas, he enjoyed the friendship of the holy King, St. Louis.
At the age of thirty-five he was chosen General of his Order and restored a perfect calm where peace had been disturbed by internal dissensions. He did much for his Order and composed The Life of St. Francis . He also assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua. He was nominated Archbishop of York by Pope Clement IV, but he begged not to be forced to accept that dignity. Gregory X obliged him to take upon himself a greater one, that of Cardinal and Bishop of Albano, one of the six suffragan Sees of Rome. Before his death he abdicated his office of General of the Franciscan Order. He died while he was assisting at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274.
Born in Bagnoregio, a town in central Italy, he was cured of a serious illness as a boy through the prayers of Francis of Assisi. Later, he studied the liberal arts in Paris. Inspired by Francis and the example of the friars, especially of his master in theology, Alexander of Hales, he entered the Franciscan Order, and became in turn a teacher of theology in the university. Chosen as minister general of the Order in 1257, he was God’s instrument in bringing it back to a deeper love of the way of St. Francis, both through the life of Francis which he wrote at the behest of the brothers and through other works which defended the Order or explained its ideals and way of life.
The morning of the fifteenth of July, 1274, in the midst of the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory X and the Fathers of the Council were shocked to learn that toward dawn Brother Bonaventure, bishop of Albano, had sickened and died. An unknown chronicler provides his impression of the Franciscan cardinal: “A man of eminent learning and eloquence, and of outstanding holiness, he was known for his kindness, approachableness, gentleness and compassion. Full of virtue, he was beloved of God and man. At his funeral Mass that same day, many were in tears, for the Lord had granted him this grace, that whoever came to know him was forthwith drawn to a deep love of him.”