Friday 15 July 2011

Today marks the end of the Solemn Vow retreat and the Solemnity of St. Bonaventure. What a notable day indeed! This month has been an interesting experience, spent in a part of the country in which I’ve not spent much time previously (I’ve been to the greater LA area three times before, but for much short stints).

Last night we celebrated the Eucharist in the chapel of the former minor seminary of St. Barbara Province, St. Anthony’s Seminary. It was an odd place in that it is well known in this area as “ground zero” of the clergy abuse crises nearly half-a-century ago. Yet, as we were setting up for our closing mass, the vigil for St. Bonaventure, a man showed up who was a high-school student there decades earlier who happened to be driving through. We invited him to stay and he did, praying during the intercession in thanksgiving for his four years as a student there because they were some of the best years of his life.

It was striking that such a place could both be incredibly significant, holy and meaningful for some and yet painfully associated with some of the most horrendous crimes of decades past. It was indeed a microcosm of our world: both a blessing and a place perpetually suffering from the imperfection and sin of human finitude.

Today my thoughts are with my friends, brothers and sisters at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, as well as with the thousands of alums that “bleed Brown and White” around the globe. Today is our Feast Day and I celebrate the legacy of such a fine institution of higher education in this country. Founded in 1858, years before the Civil War, St. Bonaventure University – small as it is – remains a place of peace and education. It has, as so many small private schools in the Northeast have in recent years, suffered the challenges of declining enrollment and financial struggles, but it moves forward, educating yet another generation in the Franciscan tradition.

My hope is that the current and future administrations will wisely recall the mission with which they have been entrusted, placing the university’s energy and effort into highlighting the Franciscan charism that remains at its institutional core. Now is not the time to acquiesce to the ages-past notion that a small Catholic school must distance itself from its Catholic and Franciscan identity to attract students. Instead, quite the opposite is needed. Today’s students are looking for those places that distinguish themselves among the overabundant and nondescript schools that blur together like milemarkers along a highway. The premiere Franciscan University in the Americas, the entire Western Hemisphere, is better than that.

Today my thoughts are with my brother and sister friars throughout the world. Those who struggle to carry on the tradition that Bonaventure himself was entrusted with safeguarding as Minister General. It is quite something to have spent the last month living with Br. John Vaughn, OFM, the former Minister General (successor of St. Francis) of the Order of Friars Minor. He is also an inheritor of the position of fraternal service once held by St. Bonaventure himself.

Today my thoughts are with my friends, some professed Franciscans of one of the three Orders, others joined in charismatic sympathy, who study the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure. I think of the hard work and dedicated scholarship that has resulted in the emergence of excellent research in recent years. I am deeply honored to call many of these Bonaventurean scholars my dear friends.

Today my thoughts are with St. Bonaventure. He is my brother and an inspiration. I recognize Bonaventure’s intercession and presence in my life. He managed to negotiate three very different, yet individually important and intertwined worlds: the Order of Friars Minor, the Academy and the Roman Catholic Church. As a Minister General, as a theologian and teacher, and finally as a Cardinal of the Church, Bonaventure is remembered for his pastoral sensibility and humility – oh, how so many friars, theologians and bishops could learn from his example!

St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, ora pro nobis! And “Go Bonas!”

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