Eucharistic Crusade

Saints who loved the Blessed Sacrament

Saint Bonaventure {1221 - 1274}

Feast day December 1

Bonaventure was born to John and Maria Fidenza in 1221, in Bagnorea, Italy. He was baptized "John" but this name did not always remain. When John was four years old, he became very sick one day but the doctor was not able to cure him. Maria begged God to save her boy and suddenly remembered that Francis of Assisi, lived near by, O God, if my boy gets well, I promise to give him to You, so that he may serve You all the days of his life!"

Maria hurried to see good St. Francis, "O Father Francis!" she cried, "Please have pity on my sick boy and beg God to give him back his health!"

St. Francis took pity on the poor child and prayed. He blessed the little boy and suddenly, a miracle, the child is in perfect health! Then Francis had a vision of John's future. One day John would become a glorious light among the Friars Minor! Francis exclaimed, "O bouna ventura!" (O good fortune!) From then on, John was known as Bonaventure.

Maria raised her son in the fear and love of God, teaching him to avoid all sin. She would tell her little boy, "Despise the vanities of the world; know and love God." Everyone who met Bonaventure was impressed by his good and holy nature. Slowly he was becoming a saint.

John and Maria sent their boy to the Franciscan school. The monks continued to raise Bonaventure in the fear and love of God. The lad was an excellent student, and his teachers were surprised to see that he could easily understand and remember the lessons that were taught to him. He studied hard and never forgot to say his prayers.

In 1238, when Bonaventure was seventeen he decided to join the Friars Minor. "I will choose the way of life of Blessed Francis, because his Order is not the work of human wisdom, but the work of Christ, which cannot fail!"

As a novice, St. Bonaventure was very faithful follower of St. Francis. He was a bright, burning torch, spreading light and virtue to all around him. Before long, he took his Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and the vow to keep the Rule of the Friars Minor, all the days of his life.

Around 1240, the Superiors sent St. Bonaventure to the University of Paris. Here he studied Holy Scriptures, Theology, and other subjects. He was blessed with a great Franciscan teacher, Alexander of Hales, who was labelled, "The Best Cleric in the World." The lad prayed and studied and gave good advice to his friends, "Spiritual joy is a sign of the grace of God within us." He was a good friend of Alexander and St. Louis of France, but his dearest friend was St. Thomas Aquinas. They studied together whenever possible, and would often discuss difficult problems.

Even though St. Bonaventure used much of his time for study and prayer, he had great compassion on the sick. He spent long hours with them, washing their sores, consoling them, or feeding them. He looked after the worst cases and showed a special love and kindness towards lepers. He said, "Who will have a horror of lepers, who will avoid helping the sick, when he considers Jesus Christ in them, when he sees that in serving them he gains more merits and is more pleasing to God, than if he were to perform such services for Christ Himself? Let us fear to show ourselves so careless toward Jesus. We know where Jesus dwells. We know that among the sick and suffering He is to be found. All we have to do is offer our services to Jesus!"

St. Bonaventure graduated from the University of Paris, in 1245. After teaching for a few years in the private school of the friars, he received his degree in 1248, and later was made a "Doctor".

After the deaths of two teachers, St. Bonaventure was appointed to teach Theology, in the University of Paris. He used the textbook called the "Book of Sentences," and wrote more than 4000 pages explaining the book. This "Commentary on the Sentences," is St. Bonaventure's greatest work.

One day St. Thomas Aquinas begged St. Bonaventure, "I would like to see your library from which you obtain such great knowledge."

"All right, just follow me." He showed Thomas a few books in his room and St. Thomas begged to see his other books. St. Bonaventure pointed to the Crucifix hanging on the wall, "See Father, here are all my books, and this is the chief book from which I obtain all that I teach and write."

St. Bonaventure was also a very great preacher. He preached to the Dominicans, Benedictines, Carthusians, Poor Clares, French Kings, and three different Popes had him come to Rome to preach sermons to them. He explained, Preaching gives light to the soul by teaching it what it should do, and what it should not do, what it should love and what it should hate. Preaching inflames the will. The Divine Word of God in a truly wonderful way strengthens man in a good life."

On February 2, 1257, the Friars Minor held a General Chapter, or meeting. On the advice of Blessed John, all the Friars elected St. Bonaventure as their new Superior. When news of this election reached Bonaventure he was shocked, but he humbly accepted the position as the Will of God.

He had to reform the Franciscans because some of the Friars had become lazy in keeping the Rule. He visited the different areas to make sure that the Rule was put into practise.

St. Bonaventure was full of zeal, "I am ready to lay down my life or to be burned to ashes if necessary, in order to restore the holy fervour of the order that existed at the time of St. Francis."

St. Bonaventure was on fire with love for the Holy Eucharist and spent many hours in front of the tabernacle. He said, "O unheard of generosity and super-excelling love! Jesus has done for us everything that He could do. He gives us His Kingdom, He gives us Himself!

The Eucharist is the medicine of the sick. The daily Bread of travelers, the strength of the weak, the joy of the strong, and the health of the sick. By it man becomes more gentle under punishment, more patient in work, more earnest in love, more ready to obey, quicker to avoid danger, and more fervent in giving thanks to God."

St. Bonaventure had great devotion to the Heart of Jesus. He encouraged people to love the Heart of Jesus, "Oh how good and pleasant it is to dwell in this Heart. Thy Heart O most dear Jesus is the good treasure, the pearl of great price, which we find by digging in the field of Thy Body. For to this end was Thy side pierced, that an entry might be open to us. To this end was Thy Heart wounded, that we might be able to dwell secure from the alarms of the world.

In 1260, a General Chapter was held in Narbonne, France. Here St. Bonaventure explained the Rule, written by St. Francis for his followers. At this same meeting, the Friars asked the Superior to write an authentic life of St. Francis. Bonaventure only agreed to write because the Friars desired it, and because of his love for St. Francis. Later when St. Bonaventure was writing the life of St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas entered his room. Seeing Bonaventure in ecstasy, he exclaimed, "Let us leave a saint to write about a saint!" St. Bonaventure traveled through Italy visiting the houses of the Franciscan Order. In 1263, he went to Padua to lead the ceremony for the removal of the body of St. Anthony, to a new church for the saint. When the lid was removed from the coffin, St. Bonaventure stared in wonder! St. Anthony had turned to ashes, but his tongue, which had lain in the ground for more than thirty years, was fresh and red! St. Bonaventure took up the tongue in his hands exclaiming, "O Blessed Tongue which always blessed the Lord, and taught others to bless Him; now it appears how great is thy merit before God!"

In 1264, when Pope Urban IV decided to extend the Feast of Corpus Christi to the entire church, he asked St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure to write some new prayers and hymns for the feast. When they both appeared before the Pope with their finished manuscripts, St. Bonaventure urged St. Thomas to read his first. Both praised his masterpiece. Then St. Bonaventure said, "Holy Father, listing to Fr. Thomas, it seemed as if I heard the Holy Spirit speak, for only the Holy Spirit can inspire such beautiful thoughts It is out of place for me to compare my poor essay with such a perfect masterpiece; and this is all that remains of it!" He then showed his torn up manuscript to the Pope. In 1265, Pope Clement IV sent an official letter to Bonaventure. In this letter he praised the holy man and appointed him Bishop of York, England. St. Bonaventure hurried to see the Pope and begged him not to make him a Bishop. Clement IV admired Bonaventure's humility and withdrew the order!

During his life, St. Bonaventure encouraged devotion to Mary. In 1269, he ordered all Franciscans to sing a Mass every Saturday, in honour of Our Lady and advised the priests to preach the pious custom of reciting the Angelus. He set up a Confraternity for those who wanted to have special devotion to Mary. He preached about Mary, wrote an Office of prayers in honour of Our Lady, and even wrote a beautiful book about Mary called, "The Mirror of the Blessed Virgin."

In 1272, after the death of Pope Clement IV, the Cardinals could not agree on the choice of the next Pope. They presented six Cardinals to St. Bonaventure, and asked him to pick out which one should be the next Pope. He chose Theobald! Theobald was then elected, and became Pope Gregory X.

In 1273, when Pope Gregory made St. Bonaventure a Cardinal, the saint tried to refuse the honour. He hurried to France, but the Holy Father ordered him to return to Italy. When some officials presented Bonaventure with the Red Cardinal's Hat, he pointed to a tree, "Hang it over there on the tree until I finish doing the dishes!" Such was his humility! St. Bonaventure spent the last months of his life working with Pope Gregory, and preparing documents for the Council of Lyons. They hoped to reunite the schismatic Greek Catholics with the Roman Catholics, to free the Holy Land from the Mohammedans, and to restore Church discipline.

The Council started in May, 1274. On July 6, 1274, during the fourth session of the Council, the reunion of the Greek and Roman Church became official, and St. Bonaventure gave his last public sermon. The strain was too much for him and the next day he became very sick. Lying on his death bed, St. Bonaventure remained calm and cheerful. A few days later, the saint asked to receive Holy Communion, even though he could not keep any food in his stomach. A ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament was brought into the room. Suddenly, a miracle! The Host leaves the ciborium and glides through the air towards the saint. It rests on his heart and enters it in a miraculous manner! On the night of July 14, 1274, St. Bonaventure died. The Pope, members of the Council, and crowds of people flocked to his funeral. He was canonized in1482, and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588.

St. Bonaventure Pray for Us!

The End

 

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