Bonaventure on St. Francis’s Humility
This morning I read a selection of St. Bonaventure’s sermon on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, delivered in Paris on October 4, 1267. Like all of Bonaventure’s writings and sermons, there is so much insight to glean and wisdom upon which to reflect. One interesting thing about Bonaventure’s portrayal of Francis in this sermon is his comparison of the poverello with Job from the Hebrew Scriptures. Bonaventure said:
I admire the humility of St. Francis more than all his other virtues. He was a humble servant of God in the reverence he had toward him. For this reason what the Lord says in the Book of Job may be applied to St. Francis: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
God calls Job his servant on account of his humility. He was committed to God’s service and reckoned a servant of outstanding reverence for God because he was blameless in his motives, upright in what he chose, God-fearing in his feelings, and turned away from evil in his actions. In all that he did and suffered he praised God.
That Bonaventure admires the “humility of St. Francis more than all his other virtues” should lay before us a model of Christian living and a mode of Franciscan presence in the world. Humility is not easy, because, like all virtues, it stands between two “vices.” The self-important pride on one hand, and the self-effacing false humility on the other. Striking the right balance, having confidence in one’s abilities and mission while bearing perspective and appreciation for God’s role in our work, is the task of those who follow in the example of St. Francis (and, really, the task of all Christians).
May we strive to follow Bonaventure’s insight, recognizing the humility of Francis as a model for our own action and presence in this world.