Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

7/16/2014 (3 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Living faith, like the faith demonstrated in Francis and Bonaventure,mediates the mystery of God's loving plan ad points us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

On July 15th in the Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we commemorate the life, holiness, work and death of a great Bishop and Doctor named Bonaventure. He was born in 1218, became a Franciscan Friar in 1243, and died in 1274. A friend of Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure was a truly great teacher, philosopher and theologian in his own right. Yet, what is most striking is his humility and deference. He never pointed to himself but to his great friend and spiritual father, Francis of Assisi, and to the Lord Jesus whom Bonaventure was convinced Francis revealed in an extraordinary manner. Among his works was the "Major Legend". It opened up for all the extraordinary holiness of Francis and invites the reader into an encounter with the Lord Jesus. It is not a biography, at least in the strictest sense. It does not follow a chronological order of the life of Francis. St. Bonaventure writes of the little poor man of Assisi from firsthand experience.

Bonaventure was a friend and a disciple of Francis. When he looked at Francis he saw Jesus Christ. Bonaventure, like his friend Francis, was also a mystic. To him the Spirit of Francis is the Spirit of Jesus and 'witness to Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy'. (Revelations 19:10)

Bonaventure was a friend and a disciple of Francis. When he looked at Francis he saw Jesus Christ. Bonaventure, like his friend Francis, was also a mystic. To him the Spirit of Francis is the Spirit of Jesus and "witness to Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy". (Revelations 19:10)

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/16/2014 (3 months ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: St, Francis, St. Bonaventure, saints, holiness, communion of saints, spirituality, holiness, sanctity, new evangelization, stigmata, kenosis of Christ, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On July 15th in the Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we commemorate the life, holiness, work and death of a great Bishop and Doctor named Bonaventure. He was born in 1218, became a Franciscan Friar in 1243, and died in 1274.

A friend of Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure was a truly great teacher, philosopher and theologian in his own right. Yet, what is most striking is his humility and deference. He never pointed to himself but to his great friend and spiritual father, Francis of Assisi, and to the Lord Jesus whom Bonaventure was convinced Francis revealed in an extraordinary manner.

Among his works was the "Major Legend". It opened up for all the extraordinary holiness of Francis and invites the reader into an encounter with the Lord Jesus. It is not a biography, at least in the strictest sense. It does not follow a chronological order of the life of Francis. St. Bonaventure writes of the little poor man of Assisi from firsthand experience.

There is so much to write about in this marvelous account of the life of one of my own personal heroes, the saint whose witness led me back to the Church. However, I will focus on one aspect of Bonaventure's tribute to Francis. In the beginning of Chapter Eleven of his eyewitness account of his friend's life, he speaks of Francis' love for the Bible, the Sacred Scripture:

"Unflagging zeal for prayer with a continuing exercise of virtue had led the man of God to such serenity of mind that although he had no expertise in Sacred Scripture through learning, his intellect, nevertheless enlightened by the splendor of eternal light, probed the depths of scripture with remarkable incisiveness."

"For his genius, pure and unstained, penetrated hidden mysteries, and where the knowledge of teachers stands outside, the passion of the lover entered. Whenever he read the Sacred Books, and something struck his mind, he imprinted it tenaciously on his memory because he did not grasp in vain what his attentive mind heard for he would mull over it with affection and constant devotion."

Francis loved and lived the Sacred Scriptures. He was a man in a dynamic relationship with the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Through an intimate communion of prayer - and the continual prayerful reading of the Scriptures - Francis thus became a living letter of Christ for others. (2 Cor. 3: 1-3) He calls us to do the same.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that "Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, "not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures." (CCC# 108) This was the lived experience of Francis of Assisi and can become ours as well.

Bonaventure's account of his friend, mentor and spiritual father weaves a captivating picture of a poor, little man from Assisi who fully lived the life of grace and was completely conformed to Christ. It sets that life before the reader as an example to follow, imbibe and imitate - a life of penance, conversion, renunciation, self-emptying, transforming and redemptive love.

These themes are developed by Bonaventure, a theologian of the highest order, in beautifully inspiring writing which invites the reader into his or her own encounter with the source of Francis' profound spirituality, Jesus Christ.

Bonaventure presents a Francis conformed and configured to crucified love over time through an ever deepening, dynamic relationship of living faith which manifested the timeless kingdom in the heart of the world. This pattern of Francis' life is to be imitated, embraced and appropriated in every human life. The life of the little poor man is a light from heaven meant to illuminate our own lives and guide us into the fire of God's love.

Living faith, like the faith demonstrated in Francis and Bonaventure,mediates the mystery of God's loving plan ad points us to the Lord Jesus Christ. It can also open our spiritual eyes to behold God's design in the Book of Creation, the Book of Scripture. Bonaventure writes of Francis:

"Aroused by everything to divine love, he rejoiced in all the works of the Lord's hands and through their delightful display he rose into their life-giving reason and cause. In beautiful things he contuited Beauty itself and through the footprints impressed in things he followed his beloved everywhere, out of them all making a ladder through which he could climb up to lay hold of him who is utterly desirable"

Bonaventure offers a lesson book by telling the story of Francis in this way. It leads the reader to the One whom Francis loved, served, imitated and became. At the center of it all we find the Crucified Christ, the Word made flesh,

Love Incarnate, stretched out on the wooden altar, which is the ladder of ascent and descent. This crucified Christ is the Center of the Universe and brings about its recapitulation as He is poured out in kenosis, a Greek word which means being poured out, like a drink offering, in complete and total sacrifice.

Philippians 2: 1-12 records an early, perhaps even pre-Pauline hymn that is central to the entire framework of the Major Legend because it reveals the "kenosis", the self-emptying of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, and is the very core of the response Francis made to the continual invitation he received from Jesus:

"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."

"Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".


Jesus is the living Word sent from the Father with an ongoing mission to bring all men and women - and the entire cosmos - back to the Father. He is the One through whom the world was first created and in whom it is now being re-created. This pattern of emanation and return, this recapitulation of all things in Christ, is prominent in Patristic literature, the writing of the early fathers of the undivided Christian Church.

It is also foundational to the theology developed by Bonaventure in the Major Legend. Most importantly, it is embodied in the little Poor man who Bonaventure wants the world to see through reading the Major Legend. He compiled the Major Legend to show the world Francis, whose life is a path to follow to nuptial union with Jesus and the fullness of Trinitarian communion.

Francis teaches us, through the Book of his own life, that all men and women are called and capacitated by grace to return back to the Father through the Son, moving from image into likeness. In addition, that like him we bring the cosmos along as microcosm and mediator.

The Crucified Christ is embraced by Francis with a self emptying love so passionate and consuming that he becomes the One whom he desires. Through grace he also experiences transformed human desires and cultivates the spiritualized senses of the hierarchic man. As his response to God unfolds, Francis ultimately offered Himself with and in Christ for the world. This is the fullness of the meaning of crucified and cruciform love.

The Major Legend challenges the reader to view the life of Francis as the vocation of every man and every woman who responds to the invitation of Jesus. Using words as symbols, the Seraphic Doctor shows Francis, a word walking, as a model for all of us who bear the name Christian.

Francis thus becomes a word from The Word. Bonaventure was a friend and a disciple of Francis. When he looked at Francis he saw Jesus Christ. Bonaventure, like his friend Francis, was also a mystic. To him the Spirit of Francis is the Spirit of Jesus and "witness to Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy". (Revelations 19:10)

Reference to the imagery of the Book of Revelations is laced throughout the Major Legend. It was written in an age when that book and other biblical books of the apocalyptic genre were of great interest and were being used, in various ways, to interpret the times.

The full flourishing of the work of grace in Francis is the stigmata, a Divine seal imprinted in his body. The Cross revealed in the life and stigmata of Francis is the Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the ladder between heaven and earth and the altar of sacrifice upon which we are all invited to die. As the Seraphic Doctor, Bonaventure, wrote in the prologue of the Major Legend:

"The grace of God has appeared in these last days in his servant Francis to all who are truly humble and lovers of holy poverty, who, while venerating in him God's superabundant mercy, learn by his example to reject whole heartedly ungodliness and worldly passions, to live in conformity with Christ and to thirst after blessed hope with unflagging desire."

With these words, which incorporate St Paul's letter to Titus 2:11, Bonaventure begins the Major Legend and lays out the challenges to the reader to follow in the footsteps of the little poor man of Assisi by walking with him up the mountain of Calvary and finding the path to transfiguration.

The Major Legend was completed by Bonaventure after his own experience on the mountain of LaVerna, the place where Francis received the wounds of Christ, the stigmata. This is the place where Bonaventure writes, "that angelic man who descended from the mountain (LaVerna) carrying with him an image of the crucified not handmade on tablets of stone or wood, but inscribed in the members of his flesh by the finger of the Living God"

The full revelation of this kind of realized eschatology in Francis became most clear to Bonaventure on La Verna. This experience, where Francis was stigmatized, was the Mount of Transfiguration in the life and ministry of Francis. There he became joined to the Transfigured Christ, who was crucified in and for love.

LaVerna is what theologians call a hermeneutic, the lens through which Francis' life and meaning comes together for Bonaventure. The stigmata given on that Mountain is the seal confirming in the flesh of Francis the fullness of grace that was present in his life. Francis was a sign, a human sacramental of sorts, and the exemplar of evangelical perfection.

He was, by grace, transformed into Jesus the Word, thus becoming what I call a word walking. This transfiguration thus also becomes a lens through which the life, spiritual progression, holiness and ministry of Francis comes into sharp focus for Bonaventure. He has his own experience on that same mountain and is never the same.

This unique connection between the Mountain of Golgotha and the Mountain of Transfiguration is unique to Francis - and unique to the theology developed by Bonaventure. Certainly, the Mount of Transfiguration is the central place in Eastern Christian Theology with the Eastern emphasis on deification as a way to articulate the work of transforming grace. The Incarnation is viewed in the East as including the entire Christ event from conception to Ascension. 

Yet, there is little or no reference to a connection between these two mountains in Eastern Christian sources. Only in the Christological anthropology developed in the work of St. Nicholas Kavasalis, a fourteenth century Byzantine layman and mystic, could we even find a hint of this kind of connection:

"It was when he mounted the cross and died and rose again that human freedom was won, that human form and beauty were created." This is a place for further research on the synergies between Eastern and Western mystical and spiritual theology - and their meeting in Bonaventure's theology.

St. Bonaventure's Major Legend introduces us to Francis through the eyes of a friend and eye witness who saw, revealed in the little poor man of Assisi, the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, as replicated by love. In pointing us through Francis, to Jesus, Bonaventure invites us into the same encounter. That is what Saints are supposed to do.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Christian Saints & Heroes

Saint Teresa of Avila: Virgin and Doctor of Prayer Watch

Image of St. Teresa of Avila

By Deacon F.K. Bartels

St. Teresa's whole life is one of simple beauty and fervent purpose; it is a life contained in Christ. She shows us how to live the same way through Prayer.On reading from St. Teresa, a deep feeling of her love for His Majesty envelops us; we begin, in a very real, ... continue reading


Femine Genius, Holiness and St. Teresa of Avila Watch

Image of Teresa of Avila was a mystic as well as an active and effective disciple of Jesus Christ. She demonstrates that the two expressions of the one Christian Way of Life can and should work together in our own experience - no matter what out vocation or state in life. This insight lies at the heart of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council's on the Universal Call to Holiness.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his ... continue reading


From St Francis of Assisi to the Faithful: We Must be Simple Watch

Image of St. Francis of Assisi

By St. Francis of Assisi

We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all ... continue reading


St Therese of the Child Jesus: In the Heart of the Church I Will Be Love Watch

Image of Perhaps one of the most beloved saints of the Catholic Church,Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1873-1897) had wisdom beyond any formal learning which came from the depth of her interior life

By St Therese of Lisieux

O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its ... continue reading


The Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael: Archangels and Powerful Spiritual Allies Sent by Love and for Love Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us - The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (328). Charged by God to ... continue reading


Pope Cornelius and Bishop Cyprian are Examples for this Age of Martyrs Watch

Image of The blessed Cyprian suffered martyrdom on 14 September, under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, but in the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory for ever. Amen.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

God and his angels look down upon us; Christ, who looks on as we do battle in the contest of faith. What great dignity and glory are ours, what happiness to struggle in the presence of God and to be crowned by Christ our judge. Let us be armed with a great ... continue reading


Feast of St Augustine of Hippo: Defender of Truth Watch

Image of St. Augustine:

By F. K. Bartels

If there is any message which can be drawn from St. Augustine's life, and there are many, it is the message of repentance and conversion. This is a message the world desperately needs to hear today. It is one of heartfelt dedication to Christ as Master, Teacher and ... continue reading


Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Reminds Us that 'Love Is Sufficient of Itself' Watch

Image of Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

By Deacon F.K. Bartels

It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the ... continue reading


Saint Clare Shows Us How The Path of Simplicity Can Lead To A Greater Love for Christ

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

We learn from St. Clare both the importance of giving one's life to Christ as well as the sublime, eternal rewards of doing so. When we leave the fleeting, temporary created objects of the world behind, no longer placing our trust in them or seeing them as inordinately ... continue reading


Fr. Paul Schenck on Edith Stein: Daughter of Israel, Daughter of the Church Watch

Image of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz: Throughout her life, Edith never renounced or denounced her Jewish identity. Rather, as demonstrated in her memoir, her participation in Jewish customs at home, her letter to the Pope and in her correspondences, she spoke of her Jewish roots as intrinsic to her self-identification, to her views and even to aspects of her vocation

By Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck

August 9 is the Memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz. In this sketch, Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck, Jewish born priest and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center (Washington, DC), examines the ... continue reading


All Christian Saints & Heroes News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2014 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. Chrysanthus was an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter