Today, July 15th is the solemnity of St. Bonaventure, the 13th Century Franciscan friar, theologian, bishop, saint and doctor of the church! Unfortunately, this year’s celebration of this important figure in the history of the church also falls on a Sunday, which means that the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time trumps the feast (or for Franciscans, the solemnity) of this day. Although this weekend I have been and will continue to celebrate the mass for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary time and preach on the readings (although I have managed to sneak a Bonaventure theological reference into the homily), I still pause to think about and celebrate both my brother in Franciscan life and the patron of my alma mater, St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. To all my fellow Bonnies out there — Happy Feast Day!
I think it’s rather fitting to share with you a little snippet of Bonaventure’s wisdom. In this sermon, he speaks about what it means to be a friar minor and goes on to say that although not everyone is called to be a Franciscan friar as such, every Christian is called to live the Franciscan ideas in some form. This is in line with St. Francis’s vision, because the Saint from Assisi centered his entire life on the living of the Gospel. All Christians, then, are necessarily followers of the Gospel too. Here’s what Bonaventure says:
To be meek is to be a brother to everybody; to be humble is to be less than everybody. Therefore, to be meek and humble of heart is to be a true friar minor…Although it is not for everyone to take the habit and profess the Rule of the Friars Minor, it is necessary for everyone who wants to be saved to be a friar minor in the sense of being meek and humble. (Sermon V)
One way in which the friars can understand their relationship as “lesser brothers” in the world, the way in which Bonaventure expresses this reality, is to recognize that we are all equal in Christ as baptized members of His Body. No Franciscan should be over and against another person, but instead strive to recognize his shared dignity in Christian life with all others.
If you’re interested in reading some more about Bonaventure and examining a good selection of his writings, check out the new edition of Bonaventure: Mystical Writings (Tau Publishing) by Zachary Hayes — it’s a very accessible and helpful book.
For those who have just heard of St. Bonaventure today and for those who have been inspired by his life and thought for a long time, happy feast day to you all!