The eighth centenary of the birth of St. Bonaventure is celebrated this year.

Bonaventure, a central figure in the Franciscan Family, was born around 1217 in Bagnoregio, close to Orvieto (Italy). He joined the Order in 1245, having already graduated with an Arts degree. In doing so he was influenced by Alexander of Hales who, because of his attraction to Franciscan spirituality, had previously made the transition from the world of academics to that of the cloister.

Bonaventure was a Master of Theology in Paris in 1255; in 1257 he was elected Minister General; and the year 1272 saw him as Cardinal Bishop of Albano with responsibility for the preparation of the Council of Lyon, during which he died on July 15th, 1274.

The Minister Generals of the Franciscan Orders have written a Letter to mark this special year honouring an extraordinary Friar Minor.

They write:

‘Bonaventure was above all a “man of God” who became a “spiritual guide” to men and women.

‘His many spiritual writings of both ascetical and devotional character attest to this. In the former, he attempts to describe a process by which we progressively approach God in our particular time and place, while in the devotional writing his goal is to arouse our love for God, directing our affections towards the life of Christ and contemplating his humanity.

‘In these, as in all his writings, the Seraphic Doctor is deeply rooted in the Word of God, which nourished him through his assiduous reading and meditation on the Scriptures.

‘Among the many worthy points he makes, one is particularly emphasized: in the spiritual life, love of God cannot be reduced to pure emotionalism and affective instincts. It needs models and well thought-out processes that dispose the soul to wonder.

‘Without an ordered ascetical process, the human soul will find it difficult to find the necessary quiet and tranquility that allows it to hear, see, taste, smell, and touch the mystery of God.

‘For Bonaventure, it is not a question of “conquering” God, but of “allowing oneself to be found” — by being open to the unimaginable surprise of an encounter with God.’

Full letter