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Title: Saint Bonaventure - The Seraphic Doctor Minister-General of the Franciscan Order
Author: Costelloe, Laurence
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Saint Bonaventure - The Seraphic Doctor Minister-General of the Franciscan Order" ***

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[Transcriber's Notes]
  This text is derived from a copy in the Ave Maria University
  library, catalog number "B 765 .B74 C678 1911"

  Footnotes have been renumbered to avoid ambiguity.
[End Transcriber's Notes]


_Editors for the Franciscan Lives_

The Very Rev. Fr. OSMUND. O.F.M., Provincial, and C. M. ANTONY

_Editors for the Dominican Lives_

The Rev. Fr. BEDE JARRETT. O.P., and C. M. ANTONY


Nihil Obstat:
            _Censor Deputatus_

            _Vicarius Generalis_

   _die 30 Martii, 1911._


  _From an engraving by Eitel after the painting by
  Cavazzola (P. Morando)_]











The first two volumes of the "Friar Saints" Series now published will
be followed at short intervals by four more "Lives," two at a time,
Dominican and Franciscan together. Should the first six "Lives" prove
successful they will be followed by a second set of six. The order of
publication will probably be as follows:--


 (1) St. Thomas Aquinas.

 (2) St. Vincent Ferrer.

 (3) St. Pius V.
     By C. M. ANTONY.

 (4) St. Antoninus of Florence.
     By Fr. BEDE JARRETT, O.P.

 (5) St. Raymond of Pennafort.

 (6) St. Louis Bertrand.
     By the Rev. Mother MARY REGINALD,


 (1) St. Bonaventure.

 (2) St. Antony of Padua.
     By C. M. ANTONY.

 (3) St. John Capistran.

 (4) St. Bernardine of Siena.
     By Miss M. WARD.

 (5) St. Leonard of Port-Maurice.

 (6) St. Peter of Alcantara.
     By Fr. EOBERT CARROL, O.F.M. O.S.D.


The "Friar Saints" Series, which has received the warm approval of the
authorities of both Orders in England, Ireland, and America, is
earnestly recommended to Tertiaries, and to the Catholic public

The Master-General of the Dominicans at Rome, sending his blessing to
the writers and readers of the "Friar Saints" Series, says: "The Lives
should teach their readers not only to know the Saints, but also to
imitate them ".

The Minister-General of the Franciscans, Fr. Denis Schuler, sends his
blessing and best wishes for the success of the "Lives of the Friar

   C. M. ANTONY,



The life of Saint Bonaventure, the "Seraphic Doctor," is now
appropriately presented to the public as the first of the Franciscan
lives in this "Series of the Lives of the Friar Saints". Till the days
of this "Second Founder of the Franciscan Order," the simplicity of
our Holy Father St. Francis had been the salient feature of his
institute: no successful effort had hitherto been made to organize the
growing Order unto the full measure of its efficiency. Speaking
generally, everything so far had been left to individual initiative,
and the keynote of those early days is struck in the liberty enjoyed
by the individual--a liberty which, though charming to contemplate and
of irresistible appeal to a democratic age, is yet incompatible with
the distinctive work a corporate body must perforce fulfil if its
deeds are to justify its {viii} existence. To effect this purpose a
certain amount of that rigid uniformity attendant on all organization
was imperatively demanded.

Under the influence of St. Bonaventure this was successfully
accomplished. Among the many elements that entered into this process
of development we must, perhaps, assign the most conspicuous place to
the systematic pursuit of learning which our Saint engrafted on St.
Francis' ideal of contemplation and zeal, and which, under the
guidance of God's Providence, has been destined to render the
Franciscan Order an effective force in dealing with the world's most
vital problems. Together with this pursuit of learning came the
introduction into the Order of a uniform exterior observance; an
observance inculcated and fostered by a systematized code of
Constitutions and ordinances which remain substantially the same
to-day as when first framed centuries ago.

The life of St. Bonaventure may, accordingly, be considered as the
ideal to which the modern Franciscan tends: an ideal in which the
simplicity of St. Francis is blended with a thorough grasp of the
latest developments in scientific thought: in which personal holiness,
because cognizant of self-weakness, is {ix} large-hearted and generous
in its sympathy with others: in which the multitudinous details of
active and administrative life are raised by a strong interior spirit
from what might be a fertile source of distraction into a means of
closer union with God.

We have now but to add that the following pages on the life-work of
St. Bonaventure, written by the late Fr. Laurence Costelloe, O.F.M.,
are based on the critical life of the Seraphic Doctor contained in the
tenth volume of his works (Quaracchi, 1902). At the request of his
superiors he intended to revise and publish his work, but sudden death
frustrated his design. This revision has now been undertaken by the
Rev. Fr. Leo, O.F.M., who has verified the sources, and introduced
such changes as were demanded by the prescribed length of this work.


   _Feast of the Annunciation, 1911_





  I.    CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH                    1
  II.   SANCTITY AND LEARNING                  8
  V.    MINISTER-GENERAL                      30
  VIII. ST. FRANCIS' BIOGRAPHER               56
  IX.   INTERIOR SPIRIT                       64
  X.    LOVE OF GOD                           72
  XI.   THE ARCHBISHOPRIC OF YORK             82
  XIII. THE CARDINALATE                       97
  XIV.  DEATH                                104
  XV.   CANONIZATION                         115



  ST. BONAVENTURE                                  _Frontispiece_
    _From an Engraving by Eitel,
    after the painting
    by Cavazzola (P. Morando)_.

  THE CORONATION OF OUR LADY To face               _To face p. 36_
    _From a Photograph by Alinari of the picture
    by Pinturichio in the Vatican, Rome._

    _From a Fresco by Giacomelli in the
    Franciscan Church at Cimiex_                   _To face p. 62_


    _From Raphael's Disputa in the Vatican_.       _Page 105_

  ST. BONAVENTURE. _Church of S. Maria
    degli Angeli, Dintorni
    (Tiberio d' Assisi)
    From a Photograph by Alinari_.                 _To face p. 114_




It is refreshing to turn from the depressing materialism of the
present time to the inspiring faith of the Middle Ages. The change of
outlook is invigorating; it has on the soul the effect which a bracing
atmosphere has on the body.

The temper of modern times tends to enfeeble our sense of the
supernatural. If we would maintain undiminished our spiritual vigour
we must withdraw occasionally from its influence and endeavour to
dwell for a time in a more healthy religious atmosphere.

This is why I would take my readers back to the thirteenth century--a
period glowing with the faith and fervour of the great spiritual
revival effected by St. Francis and St. Dominic. I do not intend to
treat of that epoch and its characteristics generally; a field so wide
could be but very imperfectly surveyed in these pages. I think we
shall receive a clearer and more forcible impression of it if we study
it as exemplified in the life of one {2} of those great saints who
personified its spirit in themselves. Of course we should find this in
all its fulness in St. Francis, but there are so many works treating
of the Seraphic Patriarch that only the discovery of some entirely new
aspect of his marvellous life would fully justify another. I do not
pretend to this; but I consider that we shall achieve our purpose by
studying the life of one of Francis' most remarkable sons, viz. the
Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure. This great man presents to us an
aspect of the Franciscan spirit which those who study the life of St.
Francis in all its literal simplicity may fail to discover. For actual
pre-eminence in learning and the establishment of means to secure its
continuance amongst his followers do not at first sight appear to
receive either approval or support from the life of St. Francis.
Learning and the honour naturally attaching to it seem to savour of
temporal greatness, but direct and absolute opposition to this was the
dominant note in Francis' life. He would have his brethren called
"Friars Minor," or lesser brethren, and he directly says in his Rule:
"Let those who are unlearned not seek to learn". Yet we find St.
Bonaventure--deeply imbued with the spirit of St. Francis, and seventh
General of his Order--bearing the high dignity of Master of Theology
and Arts, and as Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, occupying one of
the most exalted stations in Christendom.


In the course of our survey we shall discover the secret of this
apparent anomaly. No one appears to have been more fully alive to its
existence than St. Bonaventure himself, as frequent references to it
in his writings testify. It is from these references and the
explanations they contain that we receive the truest insight into the
development of the spirit of learning in the Franciscan Order.

St. Bonaventure was born in the year 1221, at Balneumregis, the modern
Bagnorea, in the vicinity of Viterbo. His parents were John and
Ritella Fidanza. Their station in life is a matter of conjecture. One
historian asserts that John Fidanza was descended from the noble house
of Fidanza of Castello, and was a Master of Medicine. We are in no way
concerned to prove the nobility of Bonaventure's ancestors. His
personal eminence in learning and holiness, with which alone we are
concerned, was not the inheritance of rank or station. It may have
been otherwise with those instincts of piety and virtue that developed
in his soul even as a child. To the fostering care of a devout mother
the presence of these may justly be attributed. Experience teaches us
that the mother's influence, if it be good, and well and prudently
directed, is paramount in the life of the child for all time,
determining it for good according to the degree of its own excellence.

Of the early years of our Saint only one striking episode is preserved
to us, which is thus recorded {4} by himself in his introduction
[Footnote 1] to the Life of St. Francis. Lamenting his "inability and
unworthiness to relate that life most worthy of all imitation," he
feels himself bound, "through the love he is compelled to feel for our
Holy Father," to undertake the task which the General Chapter so
urgently laid on him. "For," he continues, "through his invocation and
merits I was snatched from the jaws of death while yet a child--as I
remember with fresh and vivid memory. Were I then to refrain from
publishing his praises I should fear to incur the crime of
ingratitude." In his smaller life of St. Francis,[Footnote 2] he again
refers to this incident, but adds a further detail. "God does not
cease," are his words, "to glorify his servant by numberless miracles
wrought in various parts of the world, as I myself can vouch from
personal experience. For as I lay dangerously ill as a child, I was
snatched from the very jaws of death and restored to healthy life
owing to a vow my mother made to the Blessed Father Francis."

[Footnote 1: "Legenda Major Sti Francisci," Prolog. No.3.]

[Footnote 2: "Legenda Minor Sti Francisci," Lectio Octava.]

Around this incident, thus simply recorded, the legend has grown up
that our Saint owes his name to a prophecy uttered by St. Francis on
the occasion of his cure. We are told that the sick child was
presented to Francis by the anxious mother who with tears besought his
intercession. The Saint took the child in his arms and, raising his
eyes to {5} Heaven, prayed earnestly for its restoration. Assured that
his petition was granted, he restored it to its mother, and regarding
it with prophetic gaze, exclaimed, _O buona ventura--_"Oh good luck!"
We cannot vouch for the authenticity of this narrative, but it has the
support of a fairly reliable tradition. One thing is certain, that
prior to the time of our Saint, the name Bonaventure was in existence.
From his father he appears to have received the name of John, and in
many MSS. he is frequently referred to under that name. He has also
been referred to as Eustachius, Jacobus, Eutychius. This must be
attributed partly to errors in transcription and partly to the Saint's
intercourse with Greek theologians who adapted the Greek form of his
name. Bonaventure, however, is the name by which he was commonly known
to his contemporaries, and it is the one under which his fame has come
down to us.

As has been said, the story of his boyhood is lost to us. We might
sketch a fanciful portrait of it, to harmonize with the holiness and
learning of his subsequent life, but conjecture is not history. In the
absence of recorded facts we are condemned to silence. The biographers
to whom we might look for enlightenment on this matter are silent.
They seem so intent on proclaiming the world-wide fame of his mature
years and recording his great achievements on behalf of the Church and
the Franciscan Order, that they have overlooked the {6} comparatively
obscure period of his youth. This was no uncommon fault with the
chroniclers of that period. We have another very striking example of
it in the insoluble obscurity in which the biographers of the renowned
Duns Scotus have left the question of his birthplace and nationality.
We do not know where Bonaventure acquired the rudiments of learning;
we do not know with anything like certainty the name of the convent in
which he made his novitiate. Our certain knowledge of him dates from
his appearance in Paris in the year 1242.

Certain of our Saint's words, however, lift the veil, though somewhat
slightly, from the shadows that obscure his early years. Writing in
after years against a detractor of the Rule he professed, Bonaventure
thus gave expression [Footnote 3] to the trend of his earlier
thoughts: "Do not take offence," he wrote, "that in the beginning, the
brethren were simple and unlettered. This ought rather to raise the
Order in your esteem. For my part I acknowledge as before God that
what chiefly drew me to love the life-work of Blessed Francis was that
it bore so close a resemblance to the beginning and growth of the
Church. As the Church began with simple fishermen and afterwards
numbered renowned and skilled doctors, so too did it happen in the
Order of the Blessed Francis. In this way God makes it {7} evident
that the Institute was founded not by the prudence of men but by

[Footnote 3: "Epistola de tribus Quaestionibus,"
Tom. VIII, p. 336. No. 13.]

With his mind penetrated with that miracle of his early years we can
readily conceive how the spiritual awakening started by the Franciscan
movement seized on Bonaventure's thoughts. His mother's vow,
harmonizing with his youthful desires, would clothe those impulses
with the glamour of the virtue of religion. It is certain that our
Saint entered the Franciscan Order as a youth; all the ancient
chroniclers testify to this. The precise year of his reception,
however, is a debatable question. To the learned editors of our
Saint's works [Footnote 4] it seems almost established that he entered
the Order in the year 1238. We know authoritatively that it was in the
novitiate of the Roman Province St. Bonaventure received the habit,
but the name of the friary has not come down to us. The three years
following on his profession in 1239 were spent in the study of
philosophy at some quiet house of the Roman Province which tradition
tells us was Orvieto. Wherever these three years were passed, our
Saint's lectors could not but notice his opening powers, and plans
were formed for developing those conspicuous abilities which would
reflect, they were sure--and time has ratified their conviction--such
glory on the Order. Accordingly in 1242 Bonaventure proceeded to the
University of Paris.

[Footnote 4: "Opera Omnia" (Quaracchi, 1902),
Tom. X, pp. 42, 43, 44.]




When St. Bonaventure arrived at Paris he was twenty-one years of age
and had spent three years in the Order. In those days Paris was the
great centre of philosophical and theological learning. Universities
devoted to the study of those branches did not exist in Italy until
fully a century later, hence all who were desirous of acquiring
proficiency in these sciences had to journey to France. The
Franciscans founded a monastery at Paris about the year 1216.
[Footnote 5] Only about twenty years later were they thoroughly
established there. By the munificent benefactions of St. Louis and his
saintly mother, Blanche of Castille, they succeeded in erecting a
large church and monastery. The latter was to be the chief house of
studies not only for France but for all the Provinces of the Order.

[Footnote 5: "Wadding," Tom. I, Anno 1219. No. 43.]

A very detailed account of this convent, and of the nature of the
studies, and the manner in which they were pursued, is given by
Wadding. [Footnote 6] There was accommodation for 240 Friars,
including professors. The school comprised four departments, one for
Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic respectively, and one for Theology and
Philosophy. The study {9} rooms and public lecture halls were the
largest and best appointed in the city. They were four in number, each
measuring seventy-six feet by forty-six. Unlike similar structures of
that period, they were built without pillars and were lighted by
eleven large windows. At the end of the Theological hall stood a large
rostrum composed of two stages or compartments, from the higher of
which the Licentiates and Doctors lectured, whilst the lower served
for the Bachelors who under the guidance of the former were sometimes
allowed to lecture on Physics and Theology. Each morning there were
two lectures on Theology, and in the evening two on Scripture. An hour
was devoted every day to the discussion by students and professors of
the matter treated of in class. Once a week the public defence of some
thesis was undertaken. Like the other students of the University the
Friars, when necessary, attended lectures outside their own convent.
They underwent examinations and took their degrees publicly. As early
as the year 1234, we find special ordinations, issuing from the
Minister-General of the Order, determining the number of Friars to be
sent to Paris from each Province and regulating the manner in which
they were to be presented for degrees. Two Fathers from each Province
were generally chosen every year for the degree of Doctor. Having
successfully complied with all the tests, public and private, imposed
by the University, they were {10} formally proclaimed Doctors in the
court of the Archbishop of Paris.

[Footnote 6: Tom. II, Anno 1234. Nos. 17-36.]

To this world-famous centre of theological learning Bonaventure came
in 1242, and for three years followed the ordinary University course
which was based mainly on Scriptural Exegesis and on the Exposition of
the "Book of Sentences". This oft-referred-to work was a compendium of
Dogmatic Theology written about the year 1140 by Peter Lombard. It
takes its name from the fact that its doctrine is based upon the
"Sentences," i.e. the views or opinions of the Fathers of the Church.
Divided into four books, it treats respectively of God and the
Trinity; of Creation and the Fall; of the Incarnation; and finally of
the Sacramental system. For years it constituted the recognized
text-book among scholastic theologians whose labours and lectures upon
it are embodied in the immense commentaries bequeathed to us.

At this time the great Franciscan doctor Alexander of Hales occupied
the chair of Theology at Paris. Born in Gloucestershire, he derived
his name from the monastery in that county at which he was educated.
Before his entrance into the Order (1222) he had studied at Paris and
was already one of the most renowned professors of that University. He
was subsequently styled and is now known as "The Irrefragable Doctor,"
and "The Monarch of Theologians": There is, perhaps, no greater
blessing for a rich and growing {11} mind than to come early and to
remain long under the influence of another mind which, while equally
rich, is yet more highly educated and matured with a wider experience
than itself. During the three years our Saint was following Alexander
through his expositions of Scripture and of "The Sentences of
Lombard"--studying his points of view, his workable materials and his
constructive methods--the magnificence of his master's genius allured
him as with magnetic force; and Bonaventure's emulous efforts to be
worthy of his master's care could not but lead him to undreamt of
heights of knowledge.

We catch a glimpse of their mutually cordial attitude from a few of
their casual expressions. Whereas St. Bonaventure refers to Alexander
as "his master", and "his father" and in his choice of a decision is
drawn almost unconsciously to "that Father's" opinion, Alexander
anticipated in the case of his pupil the verdict of Sixtus IV. That
part of the Bull of canonization serves as so apt a commentary on
Alexander's words that we quote it in full. "Bonaventure was great in
learning, but not less great in humility and holiness. The innocence
and dove-like simplicity of his life were such that the renowned
Doctor Alexander of Hales used to say of him, 'It seemed as though
Adam had never sinned in him'."

In 1245, when twenty-four years of age, Bonaventure received his
degree of Bachelor. Following {12} this came the necessary letters
from the Minister-General, our Saint then fulfilling the office of
Professor to his own brethren and at times teaching publicly in the
University under the guidance of a fully-qualified lector. That same
year Alexander died, and the chair thus vacated was filled by John of
La Rochelle. Three years later, however, he resigned, and then at the
command of the Minister-General, John of Parma, and at the earnest
entreaty of the authorities of the University, Bonaventure succeeded
to the post. This took place in 1248. Bonaventure was now a
Licentiate, i.e. he was "licensed" or allowed to lecture publicly in
view of his qualifications being recognized. It was no doubt a trial
to his humility to follow so eminent a light as the "Monarch of
Theologians," but fortunately personal distrust yielded to obedience.
One of the ancient chroniclers, referring to this event, shows us
Bonaventure as his contemporaries saw him. "This Brother Bonaventure,"
writes Blessed Francis of Fabriano, "was a most eloquent man,
wonderful in his understanding of the Sacred Page and of the whole of
Theology. He was also an excellent lecturer, a very fine preacher and
in his presence every tongue was hushed."

Bonaventure occupied this post from 1245 to 1257, and during that time
acquired those stores of knowledge which he at first communicated to
his pupils in the form of lectures, and then, with after-thoughts,
corrections and additions bequeathed to {13} the world in the four
folio volumes known as "The Commentary on the Sentences of the
Lombard". His love of God growing in proportion, Bonaventure
ultimately reached those sublime heights of contemplation which earned
for him the title of Seraphic Doctor. To the Saint his youthful age
seemed unequal to the fulfilment of such a task. His superiors,
however, in laying on him the burden of obedience, felt assured that
he would more than justify the wisdom of their appointment. And indeed
so exceptional were the natural and supernatural gifts of this
Seraphic Doctor that Sixtus IV. could say of him in his Bull of
Canonization: "Such things he uttered on sacred science that the Holy
Ghost would seem to have spoken through his mouth." And again,
"Enlightened by Him Who is the Light, the Way, the Truth and the Life,
in the space of a few years he attained to incredible knowledge".

The timidity with which his humility undertook the work contrasts
strangely with the universal appreciation it has received at the hands
of others. Thus at the end of the third volume, he writes: "I render
thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, that taking pity on the poverty of my
knowledge and ability, He has enabled me to come to the end of this
work. I beseech Him to aid me to go forward in my work unto the merit
of obedience and the welfare of my brethren--for which two motives
alone this task was undertaken." And again in the {14} Introduction to
the second volume, "By the help of God's grace I have ended the
Commentary on the first book, and at the instance of the Brethren must
needs begin the second. . . . I do not intend to propound new opinions
but to reproduce those that are generally admitted. Nor should anyone
think that I wish to be the author of a new book; I am sincerely
conscious and acknowledge that I am but a poor and faulty compiler."

This is the language of profound humility which is all the more
striking in view of posterity's verdict on our Saint, and his
writings. Salimbene, [Footnote 7] a contemporary chronicler, writes as
follows of Bonaventure: "He then lectured on the whole Gospel of St.
Luke--a beautiful and excellent treatise: and he wrote four books on
the Sentences which even to this day remain useful and esteemed. It
was then the year 1248 but now the year 1284." Gerson, the learned
chancellor of Paris University, is more unstinting in his praise.
"Were I to be asked," he writes, "who is the most eminent amongst all
the doctors, I should answer, without prejudice, 'Bonaventure'. I know
not that Paris ever possessed another such Doctor." And again, "In
Theology there is nothing more sublime, more divine, more salutary,
nor more sweet than Bonaventure's writings". The following striking
testimony of Pope Sixtus V in the Bull _Triumphantis
Jerusalem_--conferring on St. Bonaventure the title {15} of
"Doctor"--adumbrates his two salient characteristics as embodied in
his title "The Seraphic Doctor". "In his writings," the Pope's words
run, "Bonaventure united to the deepest erudition an equal amount of
the most ardent piety, so that whilst enlightening his readers, he
also moved their hearts, penetrating to the inmost recesses of their

[Footnote 7: "Chronica," p. 129.]

Numberless other proofs might be adduced of the high esteem in which
Bonaventure's works have always been held, but these will suffice. As
an instance, however, of the widespread popularity they enjoyed it is
curious to note that amongst the depredations of his book-borrowing
friends which Charles Lamb, the genial author of the "Essays of Elia,"
deplores, [Footnote 8] is the abstraction of his "Opera Bonaventurae".
"That foul gap in the bottom of the shelf facing you, like a great
eye-tooth knocked out, with the huge Switzer-like tomes on each side
(like the Guildhall giants in their reformed posture, guardant of
nothing) once held the tallest of my folios, 'Opera Bonaventurae,'
choice and massy divinity, to which its two supporters (school
divinity also, but of a lesser calibre--Bellarmine and Holy Thomas),
showed but as dwarfs--itself an Ascapart!"

[Footnote 8: "The Two Races of Men".]

The fundamental characteristic underlying the fervour and the love of
the Seraphic Doctor's writings, is his ever-conscious realization of
God's {16} presence. This with Bonaventure was not a feature of
passing or variable devotion; it rested upon the basis of
philosophical conviction, and of vivid childlike faith. To
Bonaventure, in his system of thought as in his spiritual ideals, God
is constantly and emphatically the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and
the End, the Source and Centre, by Whom and in Whom and from Whom all
things are. Throughout the whole of his writings God is ever the
central idea round which all converges. As in his writings so in his
life. In this continual and abiding presence of God--the very spirit
as it is also the ideal of monastic solitude--his soul, his entire
being, grew and blossomed, turning ever to the light and warmth of the
Divine Beauty as the sunflower to the sun.

Not only was this the source of his light and unction, it was also the
guiding principle of his spiritual and mental life. Hence sprang that
moderation of tone--the calm balancing of evidence as in the presence
of an impartial Judge. Hence that humility--his simultaneous knowledge
of God and himself--to which all arrogance and pretension are so
alien. Hence, too, that directness of aim--fastening on the essence
of facts, rather than on their accidental surroundings--which ensured
at once a love of truth for truth's sake, and limpid, simple utterance
as its worthiest channel. In God's sight all men are brothers, so it
became our Saint to communicate his lights in the spirit of deference
{17} and self-effacement. Hence, finally, came that unflinching
loyalty to His Lord's revelations which implies aversion to curious
searchings, singular views, and novel innovations--which, when not the
result, are often the occasion of heretical betrayal of the trust
committed to our care.



From 1248 to 1255 Bonaventure taught publicly at Paris with great
distinction. About this time, however, owing to a violent outburst of
opposition to the Mendicant Friars on the part of the secular
professors of the University, he was compelled to suspend his
lectures. This occurrence affords us a valuable insight into the
condition of the Friars at that epoch. It shows us how they were
regarded by their friends and by their enemies, and it enables us to
form a better estimate of their merits. Their lives and actions were
openly and unsparingly impeached. They were put on their trial before
the entire Church, and their very existence depended on the issue.
Every weak spot in their constitution was laid bare--their faults and
failings were proclaimed with emphasis: Their adversaries were men of
repute and learning--doctors and professors of the most renowned
Theological School of Christendom. Thoroughly versed in all the {18}
wiles of controversy, and apparently animated by religious zeal, they
were unscrupulous in their methods, and frequently had recourse to
slander and falsehood. The conflict was thorough and decisive. Issuing
triumphant from such an ordeal the Mendicant Orders proved once and
for all that their position in the Church of Christ is impregnable. So
important an incident ought not to be lightly dismissed.

Various causes tended to create a spirit of opposition to the Friars.
Jealousy at their success, and a spirit of worldliness to which their
lives was a constant reproach, appear to be the chief. The Friars
succeeded in attracting universal admiration. Their professors were
the most brilliant in the University; their lecture halls the best
appointed; their audience the most enthusiastic. They enjoyed the
favour of the Pope and of the King, both of whom conferred many
privileges on them. They possessed neither money nor lands, yet they
stood in need of nothing. They had renounced the pomp and glory of the
world, but the world ran eagerly after them. Their preaching attracted
immense crowds and their confessionals were thronged. They were the
least by profession but the greatest by repute. To some extent they
supplanted the secular clergy. The bishops and the Faithful found
themselves less dependent upon the latter, for the Friars formed
willing and efficient substitutes for them in almost every capacity.
The spirit of {19} the secular clergy of Paris at that period was not
such as to enable them to view this new development without hostility.
An indevout and worldly spirit reigned amongst them, and they were
profoundly indifferent to the highest maxims of the Gospel. This we
learn from the strain in which Pope Alexander [Footnote 9] writes to the
Bishop of Paris in the year 1256: "Concerning certain masters and
scholars of Paris it is notorious that they glory not in being
considered the children of peace but rather in being the authors of
scandal; they glory not in being called the sons of God, but of Satan.
So great is their disorder that they hinder piety not only in
themselves but also in others, and impede the salvation of souls which
we so greatly desire."

[Footnote 9: Cf. "Wadding," Tom. IV, Anno 1256. No. 23.]

The smouldering elements of discord were fanned into flame in the year
1254, and the secular and regular professors came to an open rupture.
The matter arose thus. A noisy brawl occurred amongst the students.
The civil guard intervened; a riot ensued, and one student was killed
and several were wounded. Such encounters were not infrequent, and
they resulted in creating a bad spirit between the magistrates and the
authorities of the University. The latter sought to exempt the
students from civil jurisdiction, whilst the former, in the interests
of public order, insisted on subjecting them to it. The occurrence
just recorded brought matters to a {20} climax. The University
demanded the punishment of the civil guard, the magistrates refused
compliance. Thereupon the entire staff of secular professors suspended
their lectures and withdrew from the city. The Regulars kept their
halls open and continued to teach. This gave great offence to the
secular professors, and when the difference between them and the
municipal authorities was eventually settled, and they had once more
resumed their duties, they did not forget it. Determined to prevent
its recurrence, they framed a statute binding the Regulars to act in
accordance with the majority of the professors. To this they refused
to submit, and in consequence they were forced to abandon their
Chairs. They appealed to the Pope who eventually reinstated them and
revoked the obnoxious statute.

Meantime the agitation against them was vigorously carried on. Its
leading spirit was William of St. Amour, a doctor and professor of the
University. Prominently associated with him were Odo of Douay,
Christian, Canon of Beauvais, John Belin and John of Gectville, an
Englishman and Rector of the University--all men of consequence and
possessing considerable influence. William of St. Amour was a type of
the worldly-wise Christian, and he represented a large and powerful
element at Paris. He was a man of undoubted ability and learning, but
wanting in moderation and soundness of judgment. Possibly he may have
meant well, {21} but blinded by prejudice he did not see the injustice
of his conduct, nor the falseness of his views. He aimed at expelling
the Regulars from the University and eventually obtaining their
suppression. He wrote and preached, against them. His book on the
"Perils of the Last Times," his sermon on the "Publican and the
Pharisee," his pamphlet on the "Robust Beggar," were violent
onslaughts upon them. They were based on false principles and teemed
with slander and invective. William endeavoured to show that the
mendicant form of life was unchristian and pernicious, and that those
who professed it were outside the pale of salvation. Mendicancy,
preaching, hearing confessions, and teaching publicly were the capital
sins that consigned the Friars to reprobation.

He speaks thus of mendicancy: "There is a great danger attendant upon
begging. Those who live by it become flatterers, liars, detractors,
thieves and unjust. To leave all things for Christ and to follow
Christ begging is not an act of perfection. Regulars may not beg even
though the Church permits it. Whoever begs whilst in good health sins
grievously. Hence, whoever places himself in the necessity of doing so
is not within the pale of salvation."

To preach and hear confessions was also on the part of the Friars
wrong and unjustifiable: "All though authorized by the Pope or the
bishop they may not preach unless invited by the parish priest. {22}
They may not live by the Gospel. Those who preach to the Faithful who
have their own pastors, viz. bishops and priests, are not true but
false Apostles. It is greatly to be feared that such as these will
grievously injure the Church unless they are expelled from it.
Confession to Mendicants, approved of by the Pope, does not satisfy
the Easter Precept."

To become professors and teach publicly was another grievous
transgression: "The office of master is an honour, and Religious
should not aspire to honours. Seeing that they belong to a state of
perfection, they should observe the Gospel Counsels, one of which is:
'Wish not to be called master'. Aspiring to the dignity of master they
transgress this counsel and thereby sin publicly, scandalize the
Faithful and deserve to be shunned."

Such were the opinions proclaimed by William, and the effect they
produced was deplorable. A species of universal boycott was instituted
against the Mendicants. Students were dissuaded from attending their
lectures; they were excluded from the University, and the people were
exhorted to refuse them alms. Matters reached such a crisis that the
Dominicans were way-laid and beaten in the streets so that they were
afraid to leave their convent. The opposition to the latter seems to
have been much keener than to the Franciscans, and it would appear
that they were forced to quit the University earlier. It is certain
that {23} St. Bonaventure lectured publicly on the question in
dispute. His treatise on "Evangelical Perfection" is a reply to the
utterances of William of St. Amour. It is recorded that the latter,
hearing of the Saint's action, sent one of his adherents to report the
substance of his lectures--to which he wrote a rejoinder. As we intend
to treat in detail of Bonaventure's apology for the Franciscan Order,
we shall make no further reference to it here. Lest, however, a false
impression concerning the merits of this controversy should remain on
the minds of my readers, I consider it expedient to point out, in the
next chapter, how it was regarded by the Holy See.



The commotion caused by William of St. Amour's book extended to the
Court, and the pious King Louis, desirous of removing the scandal,
formally referred the matter to the Holy See. Two doctors of the Paris
University were appointed to take the book to the Papal Court and
present it for examination to the Pope. This project having become
public, William and his chief adherents determined to defend their
views and set out for Anagni. The Pope received the King's envoys and
regarded the matter as of very grave importance. He appointed a
Commission of Cardinals carefully to examine the {24} book and to
judge between the Mendicants and their opponents.

A public discussion was instituted at which were present
representatives of both parties. On the side of the Mendicants were
the Ministers General of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders--Humbert
of Rome and John of Parma--Albert the Great, St. Thomas of Aquin,
O.P., Bertrand of Bajona, O.F.M., and, according to some authors, St.
Bonaventure. We cannot say with certainty who the defenders of St.
Amour's book were. It is doubtful if he himself had arrived at Anagni
before the work was condemned. Albert the Great and St. Thomas
powerfully vindicated the cause of the Mendicants. The treatise
composed by the latter, "_Contra impugnantes Dei cultum_," is a
masterly defence of the principles attacked by St. Amour. St.
Bonaventure's work on "Evangelical Perfection" is no less solid and
convincing. It was written in connection with this dispute and was
very probably submitted to the Commission. This may account for the
assertion put forward by some writers that Bonaventure was present at
Anagni and took part in the discussion--an assertion which more
accurate investigation has almost entirely discredited. On the arrival
of William and his followers a strenuous effort was made to avert the
impending condemnation, and even to effect its revocation, but to no

After an examination extending over several {25} weeks the Cardinals
gave their decision. It was an unconditional condemnation of Amour's
book, which was ordered to be publicly burned both at the Papal Court
and at the University of Paris. The sentence was proclaimed by the
Pope in the Bull _Romanus Pontifex_ issued on 5 October, 1256.
Referring to William and his supporters the Pontiff says:--[Footnote 10]

[Footnote 10: Cf. Wadding, Tom. IV, Anno 1256. No. 31.]

"They heaped calumny on the Brethren and placed a stumbling-block in
the way of the chosen children of the Church. Nay, more, in the excess
of their bitterness they burst forth into malicious invectives, and
composed a certain book which is most pernicious and detestable--a
book not only not according to reason but utterly opposed to it; not
true but false; not edifying but scandalous; not enlightening but
misleading. This book having been brought to Our knowledge, We
entrusted it for examination to certain Cardinals that they might
discover and diligently consider all that it contained. Which having
carefully and with due deliberation performed, they report to Us that
the said book contains many things false and pernicious concerning the
Pope and the bishops, also concerning those who, overcoming the world
and its works, live by alms in strict poverty. It also assails those
who, burning with zeal for souls and devoted to sacred science,
greatly further the spiritual welfare of God's Church. It condemns the
state of life of {26} poor Religious, such as the Friars Preachers and
Friars Minor, who by the power of the Spirit, having abandoned earthly
things, aspire with all their force to the heavenly reward. The book
is a veritable hot-bed of scandal and disorder, and greatly injures
souls by withdrawing them from devotion, the giving of alms, and
entrance into holy Religion. This same book which bears the title
'Perils of the Last Times,' with the advice of Our Brethren and by Our
Apostolic authority We reject and condemn for ever as wicked,
iniquitous and execrable, and containing bad, false and nefarious
sentiments. We strictly command all its possessors to burn it and
procure its destruction within eight days from the issue of this Our
condemnation. Against those who despise Our command We pronounce
sentence of excommunication."

This condemnation does not appear to have produced the desired effect.
The agitation against the Friars still continued. It was found
necessary to counteract the pernicious influence of Amour's teaching
by some more direct and forcible method, and to this end the Pope
addressed [Footnote 11] the following letter 19 October, 1256, to King
Louis and the French bishops:--

[Footnote 11: Ibid. No. 33.]

"Not without much bitterness of heart and trouble of mind, We have
learnt that certain Masters and Doctors and others, 'sharpening their
tongues like swords,' and 'bearing the poison of {27} asps in their
lips,' for the defamation, vexation and destruction of the innocent,
have wickedly poured it out in slander and injuries on our beloved
sons, the Brothers of the Order of Preachers and Friars Minor. By
lecturing and preaching and otherwise, they have dared to say that
they were not in the way of salvation; that their Mendicancy was
neither salutary or meritorious, since health permitting, and other
reasonable hindrances ceasing, they should work with their hands and
not depend for necessary help upon others. Furthermore, they have
asserted that they may not preach nor hear confessions, even when
authorized by the Pope or the bishop, lest they encroach upon the
rights of the parish priests, and many other things false and
reprehensible have they uttered against them. Now these same Orders
for some time back have been approved by the Holy See as holy,
renowned and illustrious. And some of the Brothers thereof, having
reached their heavenly country, are inscribed in the catalogue of the
Saints and shine like suns in the Church of God, whilst by their
Brethren the light of holy doctrine is shed over the whole world, the
Gospel of Christ is earnestly and efficaciously preached, and right
and sound counsel and salutary example prevail. Furthermore, as the
aforesaid Brothers are assiduously and continually engaged in the
study of the Holy Scriptures and the Word of God, in saying the Divine
Office and in prayer, they are by no means indulging in idleness, but
exercising {28} themselves in the best and highest pursuit, for wisdom
is the noblest attainment; nor do they do more who devote themselves
to external labours, than those who are engaged in the study of divine
things. Hence, the Lord, whilst Martha was busy working and
ministering, commended principally the docility and devout attention
of Mary to His word. From this it appears clearly that the Brothers
are not bound to work with their hands. Nay more, were they to neglect
spiritual things for manual labour they would be abandoning, not
without detriment to their souls, the greater for the lesser, the
necessary for the unnecessary. Moreover, these Brothers, having left
all things for God, when they beg the bare necessaries of life,
imitate the poor Christ and practise Evangelical Perfection. Hence, it
clearly follows that they are in the way of salvation, and by the
observance of their Rule merit eternal life. Furthermore, by
commission or command of the Roman Pontiff or the Bishop of the
Dioceses they may lawfully preach and hear confessions. Therefore, We
strictly command all the Doctors or Masters who have dared to deny
these things, publicly to retract and renounce the same and hold and
proclaim the contrary. Should they refuse to do this they must be
proceeded against by suspension, excommunication, and the perpetual
deprivation of their benefices. Lay people transgressing in this
matter are to be seriously reprimanded."


Some of the prominent adherents of William of St. Amour accepted the
Papal condemnation in a submissive spirit and publicly retracted their
false opinions, and promised on oath never more to maintain them.
Amongst these were Christian of Beauvais and Odo of Douay. William
himself was not so tractable. He had recourse to evasions and
explanations, and endeavoured to show that his views were not really
condemned. He continued to foster a spirit of hostility to the
Mendicants amongst his partisans at Paris, and eventually he drew upon
himself the sentence of perpetual banishment from France. Under pain
of excommunication and forfeiture of all his benefices he was
forbidden ever to return, and under like penalties he was prohibited
to preach or teach. His friends at Paris did all in their power to
procure his recall, but they were strenuously opposed by the
Mendicants. Thus, the ill-feeling between the two parties was
maintained, and it was only by the renewed intervention of the Pope
and the employment by him of stringent measures against the secular
professors that order was established and the Mendicants treated with
justice and tolerance.

After ten years' exile Pope Clement permitted William to return to
Paris. He had not abandoned his old opinions, and it needed a severe
reprimand on the part of the Pope accompanied by a threat of further
banishment to restrain him from again assailing the Mendicants. After
his death, some {30} years later, the agitation against the Friars
gradually died out, and they regained the esteem and confidence in
which they had formerly been held.



Bonaventure was elected Minister-General of the Franciscan Order in
the year 1257. At that time the Order was passing through a serious
crisis in its history. Internal difficulties had arisen concerning the
observance of certain points of the Rule. Some of the Brethren
advocated the rigorous and literal acceptation of all its
prescriptions: others contended for a more mild and liberal
interpretation. Amongst the advocates of both views were extremists
who sought to introduce excessive rigour or undue laxity: the main
body on either side were men of moderation. These eventually prevailed
and preserved to the world the Order of St. Francis in the only
feasible way in which it could continue to exist. Those who aimed at
too great laxity, which would deprive the Order of its distinctive
features, and those who would accentuate those features until they
became impracticable or grotesque, were gradually eliminated.

The process by which this was effected was slow {31} and fraught with
the gravest danger to the Order. It could be accomplished successfully
only under the prudent guidance of a wise Superior. Bonaventure was
eminently such a man. His predecessor, John of Parma, could not cope
with the difficulties of the situation. He was possessed of great
ability, and his heroic sanctity has raised him to our altars, but he
seems to have lacked that enlightened judgment and liberal sympathy
which smooths away opposition and brings conflicting views into
harmony. Where the motive of subjection is the love of God and the
desire of perfection, the exercise of authority must be tempered with
infinite tact and kindness. The inflexible rigour of the stern
Superior is so wholly opposed to the spirit of Christ, to whom the
Religious ever looks, that instead of securing obedience it excites
resentment, and if it does not culminate in apostasy begets an abiding
spirit of bitterness and discontent. With one section of the Order the
latter appears to have been the effect of John of Parma's rule. Some
writers [Footnote 12] affirm that he was released from his office at
the express wish of the Sovereign Pontiff.

[Footnote 12: Cf. Wadding, Tom. IV, Anno 1256. Nos. 2 and 3.]

In view of his failure, Bonaventure's success is all the more
conspicuous. In order to appreciate this success at its proper value
we must consider briefly the difficulties that troubled the peace of
the Order. What precisely they were it is somewhat {32} difficult to
determine. They must be traced back to the influence of Brother Elias.
For a period, even during the lifetime of St. Francis, this man seems
to have exerted an influence in the Order second only to that of the
Saint himself. He was truly a remarkable man and the story of his life
is strange and sad.

An intimate friend and devoted disciple of St. Francis, he had been
deemed worthy by the latter to rule the Order during his absence in
Palestine. Though full of admiration for the Seraphic Father and
professing intense reverence for his saintly life and Christ-like
spirit, he appears never to have quite accepted his views concerning
the absolute poverty and rigorous mode of life he wished to impose
upon his followers. He seems to have considered that such austerity
would render impossible its uniform and continued observance by any
considerable body of men. Whilst a few chosen souls such as Francis
himself could live up to it, the heterogeneous multitude who were
flocking to the Order could not prudently be expected to do so. Hence
he advocated certain mitigations in the matter of poverty. What these
were we cannot definitely affirm. His views and actions are presented
to us from a thoroughly hostile standpoint. His biographers, generally
speaking, were his avowed opponents, and although they were men of
remarkable virtue and integrity of life, we can hardly believe that
they were free from the {33} influence of bias and party spirit. In
their eyes Elias was a wrecker--the enemy of their Order and the
destroyer of its high ideals. Hence their accounts of him must be
cautiously received and allowance made for the exaggerations of pious

We are told that Elias sought to introduce the use of money; that in
visiting the Order he rode on horseback; that he wore a somewhat
elegant habit; that there was a general tendency to relaxation
discernible in his life. No doubt he was guilty of these things, but
in view of subsequent developments it is not easy to determine how far
they were incompatible with the spirit of the Rule. We are told that
he was a man of remarkable foresight and a born ruler. Perhaps he
wished to establish from the beginning what the natural evolution of
circumstances was eventually to achieve. He may have foreseen that
certain prescriptions theoretically feasible for all, and practically
so for a few, would actually become impracticable for the general body
of the Order. Thus by the very force of circumstances it soon became
necessary for the Friars to use money at least indirectly. Be the
country where they reside Catholic or Protestant, friendly or hostile,
there are instances where to live means to use money. Nor does the
Minister-General of the Order now visit the Order on foot, nor is the
Franciscan habit of the present day such perhaps as would meet with
entire approval from those {34} early rigorists. But there has been no
substantial defection from the primitive spirit of the Rule; these
modifications have arisen as the necessary result of changed
conditions. Nor is this to be wondered at. Christianity itself began
even as the Franciscan Order. Like to that Order it increased and
developed. In course of time, whilst theoretically maintaining its
highest ideals, it practically ceased to make them the guiding
principles of its general conduct. Thus, community of goods, prevalent
in the time of the Apostles, gradually ceased. Again, the successors
of the Apostles who were counselled to possess neither gold nor silver
nor scrip eventually appear as temporal rulers; and the Saviour's
doctrine of submission to evil gave way, when circumstances demanded,
to armed resistance. The highest ideals of Christianity were
practically abandoned by the multitude, and maintained only by the
few. Indeed, it is very questionable from an historical point of view,
whether the absolute perfection of the Gospel outlined in the counsels
of our Lord could ever be more than the ideal of the very
few--something to which one or other favoured soul might actually
attain but which was never intended to be the practical aim of society
in general. This must be borne in mind when studying the history of
the Franciscan movement, which was an attempt to restore literally and
rigidly the highest Christian ideals. Broadly speaking it succeeded
and continues to succeed. The Order {35} can never revert to the
attitude of the world towards the Evangelical Counsels although time
and circumstances may modify its interpretation of them.

The Friars have absolute community of goods; they are bound to the
poor use of the necessities of life. Whilst some interpret their
obligations in this and all other matters most rigidly, and emulate
St. Francis in every respect, others, although fully observing the
substance of the Rule, quite justifiably regard its precepts in a
milder light. They are none the less true Franciscans. Of late years
there has arisen a class of writers whom we may describe as the
academic critics of the Rule and Spirit of St. Francis. Regarding the
Franciscan movement from an extrinsic and speculative point of view,
they are particularly attracted by its more rigorous features. But
they look upon them as things of the past and discuss them with
melancholy interest. They seem to think that the Franciscan ideal has
vanished from the world, and that the modern Friar is scarcely a
representative of his prototype. Whoever is not a Francis, or a Giles,
or a Juniper, is not worthy of consideration. To the professor of the
Rule of St. Francis there is something particularly irritating in the
attitude of these writers. He knows that he is observing the Rule in
its simple literalness--that there is no precept of it which he does
not fulfil; yet because he does not realize the romantic ideal
conceived by these shallow critics he {36} receives at most only
tolerant pity or condescending regard.

But to return to Elias and the dissensions his influence created in
the Order. He seems to have gained over to his side the majority of
the Provincial Ministers, so that he was twice elected General. On
both occasions, strange to say, his administration ended in his
deposition. Still, many of his supporters adhered to him and he was
proposed a third time for the office of General. On this occasion
Elias was ignominiously rejected by the Pope, who also deprived him of
some privileges he enjoyed. Thereupon, overcome by pride and
indignation, he set the Pontiff at defiance, and sought the protection
of his declared enemy, the Emperor Frederic. He thus absolutely
abandoned the Order, but there remained behind him some who advocated
his views. We are even told that the succeeding General, Crescentius,
was one of his followers and pursued a similar policy. Certain it is
the dissensions increased during his time of office.

_Photo. A liuari  Pinturichio, pinx_.


_From the picture in the Vatican, Rome._

_(St. Bonaventure is the figure to the left of the group of Saints)_.]


We have seen how John of Parma, his successor, failed to grapple with
the difficulties of the situation. Wadding [Footnote 13] represents
him as stern and uncompromising in his views, and as equally rigorous
in forcing those views on others. When at length he saw that many
Religious, who would conscientiously carry out a less lofty ideal,
were being simply forced by reason of his well-meant yet none the less
stringent insistence to a revolt against the very principle of
obedience, John summoned a General Chapter at Rome and resigned his
office. According to certain writers, [Footnote 14] Alexander IV., the
Cardinals and the Brethren assembled sought to persuade him to
continue in office. John, however, was resolute in his refusal. For a
whole day the business of the Chapter was suspended; still the
Minister-General stood firm. Then the Vocals [Footnote 15] "in view
of his determined attitude said to him: 'Father, you who have invited
the whole Order and know the merits of all the Brethren, tell us who
is the best suited to succeed you?' There and then John replied
'Brother Bonaventure of Bagnorea; no one is more worthy than he'.
Thereupon he was unanimously elected."

[Footnote 13: Tom. IV, Anno 1256. NO.2.]

[Footnote 14: Author of the Chronicles of the XXIV Generals.
"Analecta Franciscana," Tom. III, pp. 286, 287. Also Bernard of Besse.
Ibid. p. 698.]

[Footnote 15: Salimbene, p. 137.]



Bonaventure was teaching at Paris when he was elected
Minister-General. However reluctant he may have been to accept the
responsibility, he did not think of shirking it. He was a young man--
only thirty-seven years of age--and fully conscious {38} of his
deficiencies and of the arduous task before him. That he undertook it
calmly and confidently shows that he possessed the virtue of fortitude
in no slight degree. He was well aware of the dissensions within the
Order and of the relaxation of discipline that prevailed amongst some
of the Brethren. To remedy these was his first concern.

Shortly after his election he wrote [Footnote 16] a remarkable letter
to the Provincials of the Order. He began by acknowledging his
unfitness for the high and important office to which he had been
called, alleging the weakness of his body, the imperfection of his
mind, the inexperience of his life and the repugnance of his will.
Still, he did not dare to resist the voice of obedience, and to make
up for his shortcomings he counts upon the worthy cooperation of the
Provincial Ministers. He then refers to the irregularities existing in
the Order which had begun to endanger its success and bring it into
disrepute amongst the Faithful. Remembering that the Order was then in
existence barely fifty years it is interesting to consider what these
were. Ten causes of relaxation are enumerated by Bonaventure:--

1. Too great multiplication of temporal affairs for which money is
eagerly sought, carelessly received, and recklessly handled.

2. The idleness of some of the Brethren.

3. Useless travelling from place to place, to the {39} scandal rather
than to the edification of the people.

4. Importunate begging, whereby the Brethren are feared as highwaymen.

5. The construction of costly and pretentious buildings, which
disturbs the peace of the Order and exposes the Brethren to the
attacks of their enemies.

6. The increase of dangerous friendships from which arose suspicions,
calumnies and scandals.

7. The imprudent bestowal of offices on those who were incapable of
discharging them.

8. The eager reception of legacies and officious interference with
obsequies, to the great offence of the secular clergy.

9. Frequent and expensive change of residence, to the disturbance of
the locality and the prejudice of poverty.

10. Finally, expensive living, by which the Brethren became a burden
to the people.

[Footnote 16: Cf. "Opera Omnia" (Quaracchi), Tom. VIII, p. 468.]

Whilst many, he remarks, are blameless in these matters, still, the
evil redounds upon all, and must not be overlooked nor tolerated on
any account. He then points out the remedy and insists on its
application. He concludes his letter with the following remarkable
utterance: "Should I learn from the Visitors whom I desire to pay
special attention to these matters, that my directions have been
obeyed, I shall give thanks to God and to you; but if it should be
otherwise (which God {40} forbid), you may rest assured that my
conscience will not permit me to allow the matter to pass unnoticed.
Although it is not my intention to forge new chains for you, yet must
I in compliance with the dictates of conscience aim at the extirpation
of abuses."

From this we can gather the nature of the policy adopted by the Saint.
It was clearly one of firmness and moderation. Perceiving that they
arose from minor causes, such as the particular views of individuals,
he makes no reference to the internal dissensions of the Order. He
aimed at uniformity on general lines, convinced that if this were
accomplished lesser differences would gradually disappear, or, at
least, lose their power of seriously disturbing the peace of the
Order. The Rule was to be observed; no abuse was to be tolerated. But
whilst strongly condemning the excesses of those who aimed at
relaxation, he was not less determined in restraining the zeal of
those who sought excessive rigour. This provoked the displeasure of
the latter. In view of the Saint's words quoted above and of the
Constitutions enforced by him at the Chapter of Narbonne, their
failure to agree with his policy demonstrates how extreme were the
views they entertained. And it is apparent that those who regard such
men as representing the true spirit of the Order are seriously
mistaken. Excessive rigour is as foreign to the latter as excessive
mildness. True virtue avoids {41} both extremes, and Bonaventure's
wisdom enabled him to aim at the golden mean.

In 1260 our Saint celebrated the General Chapter of Narbonne. Here the
various Constitutions hitherto established in the Order were revised
and promulgated anew. These Constitutions differ but slightly from
those that prevail at the present day. The vicissitudes of six hundred
years have necessitated certain additions and modifications, but they
have remained substantially the same and constitute an enduring
monument to the wisdom and foresight of Bonaventure. Wadding [Footnote
17] says of them: "The Statutes of Bonaventure are weighty--the
outcome of mature deliberation and discussion--and they are redolent
of a truly religious spirit. In them is enjoined whatever is of
primary importance and necessity. They ought never to be abrogated,
but whatever modifications changes of time and place may call for
should be added to them, for of all they are the most excellent." The
Annalist is unsparing in his condemnation of the attempts made at
various times to change them. "One cannot but be displeased," he
writes, deploring a state of things which now happily no longer
exists, "at the facility with which some make laws at General
Chapters. It would seem as though one could not consider himself a
renowned ruler unless he posed as a legislator and drew up new laws to
mark his term of office. Hence, we have daily {42} fresh and
bewildering laws, and such a multitude of crude and undigested
statutes, that the poor subject does not know to-day what he may have
to observe to-morrow."

[Footnote 17: Tom. IV, Anno 1260. No. II.]

The Constitutions of Narbonne were distributed under twelve heads and
formed an enlightened and prudent interpretation of the twelve
chapters of the Rule. Writing [Footnote 18] to the Provincials six
years after their promulgation, Bonaventure attributes the existence
of certain irregularities to their non-observance. His appeal to the
prelates of the Order on this occasion reveals the burning zeal of the
Saint: "Lest the 'blood of souls'--not only of those committed to our
care but of all who esteem the religious life--should be 'demanded at
our hands' .... I adjure you by the shedding of Christ's Most Precious
Blood and by the Wounds of His Passion, which appeared with
unmistakable clearness on the body of our Holy Father, St. Francis,
that like prudent and faithful servants of Christ you apply yourselves
diligently to the rooting out of pestiferous abuses, and that you show
yourselves attentive to discipline and examples of religious fervour.
In the first place, excite the Brethren to a love of prayer, and at
the same time entreat and even compel them to observe the Rule
faithfully--'fearing the countenance of none; rooting up and pulling
down; wasting and destroying'; committing the disaffected and
insubordinate to prison, {43} or expelling them from the Order, as the
laws or justice and piety may demand, lest, whilst with cruel mercy
you spare a diseased member, the corruption extend itself to the
entire body."

[Footnote 18: "Opera Omnia," Tom. VIII, p. 470.]

No reasonable man reading these words of Bonaventure could doubt his
earnestness in procuring regular observance, or think of accusing him
of remissness or laxity. It only shows how extreme were the views of a
certain section of the Order when we find them attempting to do so.
Peter John Olivi, the leader of the rigorists, replying to some who
sought to justify their relaxations by saying that Bonaventure and
others lived very laxly, says: [Footnote 19] "Hitherto, it was the
custom to adduce worthy men as examples of perfection; now, alas! they
are brought forward to justify relaxation and inobservance .... Let me
say what I think of Bonaventure. He was a most excellent and pious
man, and in his teaching he insisted on the perfection of poverty. But
he was of a somewhat delicate constitution and therefore, perhaps,
inclined to be somewhat indulgent to himself, as I have often heard
him humbly admit. For he was not greater than the Apostle who said 'We
all offend in many things'. Still, the prevailing relaxation affected
him so much that I heard him declare at the Chapter of Paris that from
the day he was made General there never was a moment when he was not
prepared to be ground to dust so that the Order might retain the
purity and {44} strictness intended by St. Francis and his companions,
and attain the end they aimed at. On this account the holy man may be
excused somewhat, though not entirely. He was not one of those who
sought to justify relaxation or assail the purity of the Rule, making
such conduct the rule of their lives. If he was in any way found
wanting he regarded the matter with grief and sorrow." In conclusion,
Peter John Olivi makes the astounding assertion that he does not
consider Bonaventure's attitude to have been mortally sinful. "I do
not think," he says, "that such men are to be judged guilty of mortal
sin unless, taking everything into account, this kind of excess should
in their case be considered enormous."

[Footnote 19: Cf. "Opera Omnia," Tom. X, p. 50.]

Assuredly, Bonaventure is deserving of our sympathy. On the one hand
we find him grief-stricken at the relaxations in the Order and doing
everything in his power to remedy them; on the other hand we find him
assailed as conniving at them and in some degree responsible for them.
The rigorists could not distinguish between what was strictly
commanded and what was a matter of perfection. This latter could be
recommended but not enforced, and because our Saint's wisdom would not
allow him to attempt its enforcement they accused him of laxity.

It has been said in a previous chapter that the observance of St.
Francis was something peculiar to the Saint himself and could not
become a matter {45} of obligation for all. Strict observance admits
of many degrees of perfection. This Bonaventure perceived, and whilst
sincerely desiring that which was most perfect he felt that it was
unattainable. Hence, he chose a middle course and steadfastly adhered
to it. By this means unity and peace were on the whole well maintained
in the Order during his Generalship. Still the elements of discord
were not destroyed. They were only held in check by the powerful
personality of the Saint. They continued to operate slowly and
imperceptibly, giving rise in time to the fanatical sect known as the
Fraticelli. We are justified in thinking that the maintenance of the
body of the Order in its substantial purity was due to the wise
administration of Bonaventure. A more rigorous General or a less
observant one might have led the Order to some extreme which would
have wrought its ruin. From this point of view our Saint deserves the
title which has widely been bestowed upon him of Second Founder of the
Franciscan Order.



Bonaventure's life, for the ensuing years, is a record of
fast-succeeding events centring mainly round the work of his personal
sanctification and his exertions for the welfare of the Order. On {46}
23 October, 1257, our Saint received the degree of Doctor of Theology.
The differences between the University and the Mendicant Friars had
gradually passed away and a better spirit, prevailed. Still, the
favour bestowed upon our Saint is to be attributed principally to the
letter of the Sovereign Pontiff commanding the University to extend,
all its privileges to the Friars Thomas of Aquin and Bonaventure.

During the Pentecost of 1281 [Footnote 20] we find him assisting at
the foundation of a hospital at Pisa. In the official record of this
institution we read how "Friar Bonaventure, the Minister-General of
the whole Order of Friars Minor, was, at the command of Pope
Alexander, present at the afore-mentioned foundation; at the command
of the same Holy Father he made each and every benefactor of the
hospital a sharer in the prayers said and good works performed by all
the members of the Order".

[Footnote 20: Cf. "Opera Omnia," Tom. X, p. 52.]

Bonaventure celebrated five General Chapters--that of Narbonne in
1260; of Pisa in 1263; of Paris in 1266; of Assisi in 1269; of Lyons
in 1274. These Chapters are the most convincing proofs of his
indefatigable activity. In each of them, apart from the general
efforts made to further regular observance, some special ordination of
a remarkable kind was enacted. Thus, in the Chapter of Pisa, the
suffrages for the dead were regulated, and amongst the Masses and
prayers appointed to {47} be said for deceased benefactors we find the
Solemn Requiem for the parents of the Brethren. In the Chapter of
Assisi in 1269 the recital of the Angelus and the celebration of a
Mass every Saturday in honour of our Lady were prescribed. In the
Chapter of Paris, by the tact and prudence of Bonaventure, a somewhat
serious difference which had arisen between the Franciscans and
Dominicans was amicably settled. The disagreement arose concerning the
respective spheres of the Inquisitors of the two Orders. The office of
Inquisitor, already held by the Dominicans, was assigned to the
Franciscans by Innocent IV. in the year 1254. The settlement of this
dispute became the occasion of the consolidation of that spirit of
fraternity and friendship that has ever since existed between the two
Orders, and which, as is commonly known, originated in the reciprocal
brotherly love of Francis and Dominic.

It is asserted that it was at the Chapter of Narbonne that the
Franciscan habit received its present shape. Up to that time it
appears to have been more or less identical with the dress worn by the
Umbrian shepherds--a simple tunic with a girdle, and a hood to protect
the head. It is not, however, easy to determine the precise nature of
the alteration effected.

There is one incident of Bonaventure's administration which calls for
special attention; an incident which has deeply influenced the
historical estimate formed of him by certain writers. This is his
action {48} with regard to John of Parma--his predecessor in the
Generalship of the Order. The upholders of the rigorous observance of
the Rule pretend to see in it evidence of harshness, injustice, nay,
even of duplicity. This assumption, needless to say, is utterly devoid
of solid foundation.

Owing to the peculiar temperament of the times and some untoward
circumstances, John of Parma fell under the suspicion of heresy, and
at the request of the Sovereign Pontiff it became necessary for
Bonaventure to investigate the charge. The biographers of our Saint
are at variance in determining the year in which this trial was held.
Wadding [Footnote 21] and the editors of our Saint's works [Footnote
22] place it under the year 1257, but as Father Livarius Oliger,
O.F.M., points out in a review [Footnote 23] of Father Lemmens' recent
"Life of St. Bonaventure," the investigation is known to have been
proceeded with before Cardinal John Cajetan, who at the time was the
Protector of the Order. Cardinal Cajetan, however, was nominated
Protector of the Order "shortly after the assumption of Pope Urban,"
who was elected Pope, 29 August, 1261. This is a typical instance of
the chronological difficulties and uncertainties which are associated
with the life of our Saint.

[Footnote 21: Tom. IV, Anno 1256. Nos. 5 and 6.]

[Footnote 22: II Tom. X, p. 48. No.4.]

[Footnote 23: "Archivium Franciscanum Historicum," Annus III,
Fasc. II, p. 346.]


How a man so remarkable for learning and virtue as the ex-General
should have provoked such an accusation demands some further

In the first place, it must be borne in mind that this was the period
when the Inquisition reigned in all the fervent zeal of its recent
institution. Whatever savoured in the least of heterodoxy, either in
theory or in practice, aroused its vigilance. It was closely
investigated and its author, no matter what admirable qualities he
might otherwise display, was regarded with suspicion and distrust.
This attitude of the ecclesiastical authorities was fully justified by
the prevalence of false mysticism, under the guise of which the
Waldenses and Albigenses were just then putting forth the most
pernicious and subversive doctrines.

True mysticism is the perfection of Christianity. Its essence is union
with God. The more perfectly it accomplishes this union, the more
thoroughly it achieves its end. It is the noblest and most exalted
aspect of religion, but, at the same time, it is attended by very
grave dangers. The mystic sees only God and his own soul--or rather he
has no direct consciousness of anything but God alone. He converses
with God and is guided directly by him--anything else is to a large
extent ignored.

The danger of this state is apparent. The mystic is at the mercy of
his imagination and of a thousand natural influences which he is
liable to {50} mistake for the voice of God. And when he thinks that
God speaks, no matter to what folly or extravagance the imagined voice
may urge him, nor how clearly it may oppose the dictates of obedience,
he considers himself bound to obey it; for is he not sure, even as St.
Peter, that he "must obey God rather than man!" Unless he possess a
sound judgment and a thorough grasp of Catholic doctrine, or, failing
these, unless he be humbly submissive to the teaching of some
competent spiritual guide, he needs must go astray. This danger,
Francis, who was a mystic in the truest sense of the word, avoided
perfectly, but as much cannot be said of some of his earlier
followers. For notwithstanding Pontifical utterances and the
enactments of General Chapters, they persisted in maintaining that
their particular views concerning the observance of the Rule were the
only permissible ones. A mild form of fanaticism seems to have laid
hold of them. Their immoderate regard for the Rule and its observance
led them to extremes. They were convinced that it was inspired by our
Lord Himself and they attributed to it an authority equal to that of
the Gospels. Contending that it was perfectly clear and intelligible,
they denied that any authority on earth had the power to explain or
interpret it. In these ideas they were strengthened by the writings of
Joachim, Abbot of Flora.

This remarkable man flourished about the latter {51} portion of the
twelfth century. He was deeply imbued with the spirit of mysticism,
and its dangers were only too fully realized in his case. In treating
of the Blessed Trinity he erred seriously, and his doctrine was
condemned by the Fourth Lateran Council. He seems to have considered
himself inspired, and he gave utterance to a long series of prophecies
concerning the Church's future. He declaimed vehemently against all
ranks of the clergy--denouncing Popes, Cardinals and Bishops for their
indifference and corruption, and predicting for them the most terrible
punishments. Turning to the relations between mankind and God he
proceeded to divide Revelation into three epochs: that of the Father,
or the Old Testament; that of the Son, or the New Testament; and that
of the Holy Ghost--a period which was to come and which would be much
more perfect than the preceding two. It was to be characterized by the
most powerful and universal sway of Divine Love, a clear vision of the
eternal truths, and the rise of a contemplative monachism.

Notwithstanding these peculiar tenets, Joachim was a man of rare
virtue and piety and he died in full union with the Church. He was
regarded by many as a saint and a prophet, and his writings were
thought to be divinely inspired. John of Parma, indeed, held him in
high esteem, but some of the Brethren with whom he was intimately
associated, and to some extent identified, exceeded {52} the bounds of
all moderation in their ardent advocacy of him. Inflamed as they were
with intense religious fervour and deeply penetrated with a spirit of
penance and self-sacrifice, the teaching of Joachim appealed most
forcibly to them. His denunciation of the worldliness of the age, his
contempt for all things temporal, his love of contemplation, and above
all, his vivid prophecy about the institution of a new Religious Order
in which the light and love of God would govern all, filled them with
unbounded admiration. They pretended to see in Joachim the precursor
of St. Francis and the realization of his prophecy in the Order he
established. Amongst the most extreme partisans of Joachim were two
intimate friends of John of Parma--Friars Gerard and Leonard. Upon
these principally rested the suspicion of heresy. They were tried,
found guilty, and condemned to perpetual confinement.

The trial of Blessed John of Parma then came on. He was accused of
leaning to the views of Abbot Joachim and of wavering in his belief in
the Trinity. The ex-General, perhaps, inclined somewhat to certain of
the Abbot's views; in any case the suspicion that such was the fact
had subjected him to many and great persecutions. The public character
of John, the immense influence he wielded over a great part of the
Order, rendered it imperative that the case should be thoroughly
investigated and a definite issue come to at a public trial. Were {53}
John guilty of heresy--the stern measure would be more than justified;
were he innocent--his name would gain lustre from the ordeal, and
malicious tongues be silenced.

The details of the trial have not come down to us. Wadding [Footnote
24] merely gives us the result, stating "that iniquity was not found
in him ". He admits, however, that John was too favourably inclined to
the mysticism of Joachim, and that he submissively retracted in the
presence of the Cardinal and assembled Fathers. A few details we have,
but it is impossible to determine how far they are coloured with
partisan prejudice. One historian states that the suavity of John's
answers so wrought on his opponents that they openly declared that as
a heretic he should be sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. To be
stigmatized as a heretic was more than John could bear in patience.
Drawing himself to his full height and looking up to heaven he
professed clearly and with ardent zeal his adherence to all the
articles contained in the Apostles' Creed. "He assumed the role of an
innocent follower of Christ," writes Angelo Clarenus, "and averred
that he did believe as he ever had believed on that question as on all
other questions what the Church holds and the Saints teach." This
further incensed his accusers; and they determined to imprison for
life their late Minister-General. That he was finally {54} acquitted
must be attributed to the intervention of Cardinal Otto Boni--then one
of the most influential members of the Sacred College and afterwards
Pope Adrian V. He dispatched two letters, one to the Cardinal
President, the other to Bonaventure, in which, among other things, he
wrote: "It is with the deepest regret I have learned of the process
instituted against John of Parma, and that party strife has led to his
arraignment on a charge of heresy. For many years--even before my
elevation to the Cardinalate--I have had personal warrant both as to
the orthodoxy of his doctrine and the holiness of his life; nor have I
yet found anyone more loyal to his creed or more faithful to his
ideals. So firmly am I persuaded of this, that I have no hesitation in
saying that his faith is my faith. Let me then most earnestly beseech
you that this trial be not conducted recklessly nor with partisan
bias. He and I are one: injustice towards him will redound on me; the
verdict you pass on him you pass also on me; his sentence, too, is
mine--and my sincerest wish is to be fully associated with him."

[Footnote 24: Tom. IV, Anno 1256. No.6.]

These letters produced the desired effect. John left the Assembly
fully acquitted, and availing himself of the choice of residence that
Bonaventure courteously extended to him, withdrew to the friary at
Greccio. There he spent many years in the practice of every virtue and
finally expired in the odour of sanctity.


Angelo Clarenus, [Footnote 25] condemns the part played by Bonaventure
in this inquiry. "Bonaventure," he states, "on the testimony of John
of Parma himself, acted wrongly in no slight degree; for whilst
discussing the question in dispute privately with John of Parma in his
cell he agreed with him, affirming that he thought as he did, but
publicly in presence of the Brethren he showed that he held the
contrary." And again he says: "Brother John enters; as one suspect of
heresy he is forced to take an oath; a wise man is cross-examined by
those less wise, an aged man by youths; one full of the Holy Ghost is
searched into by the indevout, and by those who follow the desires of
their heart. Then the wisdom and holiness of Bonaventure were obscured
and vanished, and his mildness by the agitation of his soul was
changed into violent anger. To such an extent was he carried away that
he exclaimed: 'If it were not for the honour of the Order I should
have him publicly punished as a heretic'."

[Footnote 25: Cf. "Opera Omnia," Tom. X, p. 49.]

To preside at this trial was one of the painful duties which his
position placed upon Bonaventure. At the instance of the Brethren and
the Sovereign Pontiff he was bound to undertake it. John of Parma had
acquired a great reputation for holiness, and his indefatigable
labours on behalf of the Order and of the Church had made his name
famous throughout Europe. Furthermore, he was a {56} personal friend
of Bonaventure, for was it not he who recommended him for the office
of General! In the face of these considerations it is incredible that
he should have been guilty of injustice or duplicity towards him. It
is much easier to believe that Angelo Clarenus, carried away by party
spirit, gave ready credence to the exaggerated reports circulated by
the admirers of John of Parma, who were bitterly, though unreasonably,
indignant that Bonaventure should have listened to the accusation of
heresy and lent his authority to the investigation that followed.



At the General Chapter of Narbonne, in 1260, Bonaventure was requested
to write the life of St. Francis. Owing to the circumstances that
surround it, considerable importance attaches to this incident. There
already existed several legends of the Saint. Thomas of Celano had
written one in 1229. His work received the approval of Gregory IX.,
who had officially recommended it to the Brethren. In the year 1246,
at the request of the Minister-General, Crescentius, appeared the
"Legend of the Three Companions," written by Brothers Angelo, Rufinus
and Leo. A second life was written by Thomas of Celano in 1247 or

A few years ago the well-known French writer, {57} M. Paul Sabatier,
edited a work [Footnote 26] which he contended was anterior to any of
these. He maintained it was nothing less than a complete life of St.
Francis written by Brother Leo in the year 1227--within a year of the
Saint's death. This remarkable work had been already well known, but
according to M. Sabatier its authorship and the date of its
_compilation_ had been misconceived. Although the learned writer
supports his contention with weighty arguments he cannot be said to
have rendered it certain. He is enamoured of the tone and spirit of
the book. If it be an original work and the production of Brother Leo,
it is, to the modern critic, an ideal biography. It reveals simply and
forcibly the human side of Francis. The personal traits of the Saint
are brought prominently before us in all their unique individuality.
We have the real, living man--not the stereotyped example of every
virtue which the earlier hagiographers delighted in. Still it must be
admitted that the book is characterized by the prejudices of its
author. Certain sayings and doings of Francis which appealed to his
prepossessions are insisted upon with evident emphasis. Indeed, to
such an extent is this apparent that the work cannot be regarded as
purely historical. It is largely polemical and would seem to have been
designed to refute the ideas of the moderate party concerning certain
points of observance.

[Footnote 26: "The Mirror of Perfection," by Brother Leo, Paris, 1898.]

Before quitting this subject it may be said that {58} the ardour and
enthusiasm with which the greatest literary critics of the day,
Catholic and non-Catholic, devote themselves to the investigation of
the sources of St. Francis' biography, is one of the most remarkable
phenomena which our times witness. We hear of the formation of
societies composed of the ablest scholars of Europe for the study of
early documents relating to Francis and his Order. How the words of
Christ are herein verified: "He that humbleth himself shall be
exalted!" I doubt if there is a personality in history, exclusive of
the Divine Founder of Christianity, whose words and actions are so
closely studied in a spirit of loving admiration as are those of St.

To return to Bonaventure and the task imposed upon him by the General
Chapter, the importance of the latter becomes apparent when we reflect
that as far as the Order could effect it, the legend he was about to
compose was to be the sole record of the life of Francis which should
come down to posterity. This purpose evidently underlay the demand for
its composition, for when the work was finished and submitted to the
General Chapter of Pisa three years later it was officially approved
of and all the other legends were formally proscribed. More stringent
measures still for the suppression of the older legends were adopted
at the Chapter of Paris in 1266. Therein was framed the following
Constitution: [Footnote 27] "The General Chapter commands {59} under
obedience that all the legends of St. Francis hitherto composed be
destroyed, and that where they can be found outside the Order the
Brethren shall strive to remove them, for the legend composed by the
General was written according as he had it from the mouth of those
who, as it were, had been always with Blessed Francis and knew
everything with certainty, and those things which are proven are
therein diligently set down."

[Footnote 27: "Rinaldi," p. 11. Cf. "Opera Omnia," Tom. X, p. 58.]

On the part of modern historiographers this ordination has excited
much criticism, and even the warmest admirers and staunchest advocates
of the Order must confess their inability to account for it
adequately. At first sight it appears to be a very high-handed and
obscurantist procedure, little in keeping with the ingenuous
simplicity of the Franciscan spirit. It looks like an attempt to put
out the light--to abolish the true ideal and substitute a counterfeit
in its stead. But in reality it was nothing of the sort. At the
present day it is impossible to determine the precise motives that
actuated the authors of that statute, but no one who is even slightly
acquainted with the condition of the Order at the period can fail to
conjecture what most likely was the prevailing influence.

The Chapter aimed at introducing peace and harmony amongst the
Brethren and producing uniformity of thought and action in their
common life. We have seen that these most desirable elements were
wanting--that there were dissensions {60} and differences concerning
the nature of the observance to be pursued. The appeal of the
contending parties was ever to the words and actions of St. Francis,
which, according to their respective views, they strained and
exaggerated and, unconsciously perhaps, even falsified. We cannot but
conclude that such a state of affairs affected very prejudicially the
biographers of the Saint and tended to depreciate the historical value
of their labours. For these, too, took sides, and, as it is easy to
see, they made the Lives they wrote the vehicle of their particular
ideas. Thus Thomas of Celano favours Brother Elias and the moderate
observance, whilst the "Three Companions," and (if M. Sabatier's
contention be correct), the "Mirror of Perfection" by Brother Leo,
constitute a species of manifesto against the latter, and an appeal
for a literal and rigorous observance.

Now it is evident that whilst such a condition of things was
tolerated, unity and peace could never be established. As long as
these old legends, redolent of party spirit and biassed views,
remained, legislation making for harmony would be of no avail. This
the Chapter clearly perceived, and hence its statute. We may say of it
finally that although it was a drastic measure the circumstances more
than justified it. And we must not forget that it was adopted only
after Bonaventure's work had been examined and approved.

Of this work it is now time to give some account. {61} Owing to the
important place in history this new "life" was to hold, and the
manifold distractions of public duties among which it was to be
written, we may accept in strict and literal sincerity our Saint's
expressions of reluctance to undertake it. "Feeling myself unworthy,"
he writes, [Footnote 28] "to relate that life most worthy of all
imitation, I should in no wise have attempted it, had not the devout
desires of the Brethren and the unanimous importunity of the Chapter
moved me thereunto, and had not that love compelled me which I am
bound to feel for our holy Father. . . . This, indeed, was my chief
reason for undertaking this work; to wit, that since I owe to him
under God the life of my body and soul, and have learned the holiness
of his life through personal experience of his power with God, it
behoved me in return to collect, as best I could, his words and
deeds--fragments, as it were, partly overlooked and partly
scattered--that they be not utterly lost with the death of those who
lived and conversed with the Blessed Servant or God."

[Footnote 28: "Legend of St. Francis," Prologue, § 3.]

During the year 1261, St. Bonaventure was in Italy collecting the
materials for his work. "The better to come by first-hand information
of this life," he tells [Footnote 29] us, "I visited the scenes of the
birth, life and death of the Blessed Francis, and held studious
converse on these things with all who had enjoyed his intimacy, and
with such especially as {62} had fuller knowledge of his holiness and
were his chief disciples. To all of these all credence is due alike
for their tried virtue as for their perfect knowledge of the truth."
We cannot say definitely who these "chief disciples" were. To have
mentioned them by name would have frustrated the purpose for which the
life was undertaken. We presume, however, that our Saint was chiefly
indebted to Brothers Leo, Illuminatus, and Giles.

[Footnote 29: "Ibid." § 4.]

When these researches were completed, Bonaventure returned to Paris to
work up into an authentic record of St. Francis' life all the
materials--oral and written--he had come by during his sojourn in
Italy. Every incident of any moment in St. Francis' life is faithfully
recorded. The graces bestowed upon him, the labours he undertook, the
sufferings he bore, the virtues he practised, the miracles he worked:
all are graphically and sympathetically described. The following
episode gives us an insight into the fervour of soul with which this
task was undertaken. On one occasion, as our Saint was engaged on his
work, his intimate friend St. Thomas Aquinas came to visit him. Gently
opening the door of his cell, the saintly Dominican saw Bonaventure
seated at his table, pen in hand, and so engrossed in contemplation
that he was lost to exterior things. Deeply moved, St. Thomas withdrew
whispering to his companion "Come! let us leave a Saint to write the
life of a Saint".

_From a fresco by Giacomelli in the Franciscan Church at Cimiez_.]


In his undertaking Bonaventure had before him an ideal. He wished to
present Francis as the chosen servant of God, raised up to be the
founder and head of a great Religious Order. Accordingly, his
attention is fixed on the supernatural rather than on the natural
element in Francis, and he deals more with those aspects of his life
and character that bring him within practical reach of his spiritual
children than with those that lift him up into a sphere so high that
the ordinary soul dares not aspire to it. He distinguishes judiciously
between what Francis recommended and practised himself and that which
he strictly enjoined upon his Brethren. Here the conciliatory aim of
the book is apparent. But he is never betrayed into anything unworthy
of an upright biographer. All his facts are unassailable--nothing of
importance is suppressed or distorted. In consequence, such a picture
of Francis as his spiritual children required is the result. This was
the end Bonaventure had in view, and having accomplished it, it
matters little if his work forfeits the approval of those modern
critics who, in the life of Francis, wish to find a record of the
natural rather than the supernatural.

From this "Greater Legend"--as it is called--Bonaventure made an
abstract of the salient events, and arranged them under seven
headings, each of which contained nine lessons or readings. This was
called the "Smaller Legend" and was intended {64} for the use of the
Religious in the Divine Office during the Octave of St. Francis. To
this smaller work attaches the same historical accuracy that
distinguishes the Greater Legend. In many instances events are
described in the same words; other incidents are given in abridged
form; the whole work is marked by a more liturgic style, and
occasionally fresh details are given.



Hitherto we have considered principally the outward life of
Bonaventure; we now turn to those interior virtues which made him a
saint. Notwithstanding his manifold labours and the eminently
strenuous life he led he was a perfect master of the interior life. A
glance at his writings will show how thoroughly he understood the
secrets of Mystic Theology, and how intimately acquainted he was with
every aspect of the spiritual life. There is no phase of divine
contemplation that he does not seem to have learnt by personal
experience. It was this very striking characteristic which gained for
him the title of Seraphic Doctor.

He possessed the rare faculty of keeping his mind habitually fixed
upon God in the midst of external occupations. To this may be traced
the very remarkable attribute of his writings whereby {65} every
subject he treats of is made ultimately to converge Godwards. In his
treatises "The Journey of the Mind to God," and "The Reduction of the
Arts to Theology," the workings of his soul in this respect are
systematized and reduced to scientific order. St. Antoninus notes this
feature of Bonaventure's works when he says: "According as Bonaventure
made progress in science and the knowledge of the Scriptures, so, too,
he grew in the grace of devotion. For whatever he perceived with the
intellect he reduced to the form of prayer and worship of God and kept
meditating on it continually in his heart."

Besides maintaining at all times this habitual spirit of recollection,
our Saint sometimes withdrew entirely from the cares of his office and
gave himself exclusively to prayer and recollection. It was on one
such occasion, in the seclusion of Mount Alverna, that he conceived
the idea of, and actually composed, his "Journey of the Mind to God".
He tells us this himself. "On an occasion," he says, [Footnote 30]
"when, after the example of the most Blessed Francis, I, a sinner,
sighed for spiritual peace--I who, though unworthy in every respect,
am yet his seventh successor in the general ministry of the
Brethren--it happened that about the thirty-third year after his death
I had withdrawn to Mount Alverna as to a quiet place where I might
find {66} the peace I sought. Whilst there, as I reflected on certain
elevations of the soul to God, amongst other thoughts there occurred
to me the miracle which happened to Blessed Francis in this place,
viz. the apparition of the Crucified Seraph. On reflection it
instantly seemed to me that the vision signified the lifting up of St.
Francis by contemplation and the manner in which it was accomplished."

[Footnote 30: "Opera Omnia," Tom. V, Prologus, p. 295.]

Unfortunately the biographers of Bonaventure give us no definite
insight into his interior spirit. There is no attempt at depicting
that inner life which by words and actions, by trains of thought,
lines of policy and personal habits, is always revealed to observant
contemporaries. We have innumerable vague, though glowing,
appreciations of his virtues and character in general. We are told
most emphatically that he was a saint, but what kind of a saint we are
not informed. In this dearth of particulars we must fall back upon the
Saint's writings. We can justly hope to find in them some revelation
of his spirit--of those particular ideas that guided and animated him.
We can take it for granted that what he taught he practised. The fact
that he is a canonized Saint forbids us to think otherwise. Hence, in
his numerous descriptions of those interior virtues that should adorn
the spiritual life in general, we may see a reflection of those
virtues which flourished in his own soul.

There is a small work on the spiritual life written by our Saint in
which he depicts the virtues that {67} make for religious perfection.
The book is entitled "The Perfection of Life," and it reveals the
spirit of Bonaventure more simply and, for our present purpose, more
suitably than his greater works. It was written at the request of the
Mother Abbess of some Community of Poor Clares. He refers to this fact
in his introduction, and his words breathe such a deep spirit of
humility that I cannot refrain from quoting them.

"Wherefore, Reverend Mother, devoted to God and dear to me, you have
asked me out of the poverty of my heart to write something whereby,
for the time being, you may instruct your soul in the way of devotion.
I sincerely confess that rather do I stand in need of such instruction
myself, seeing that my life is not adorned with virtue outwardly, nor
is it inflamed with devotion inwardly, nor is it enhanced by learning.
Nevertheless, moved by your pious wish, even as you have requested I
have obeyed. But I ask your blessedness, most holy mother, to regard
rather my good will than the result of my efforts; rather the truth of
my words than the elegance of my language; and, that, where I fail to
give satisfaction, you will excuse and forgive me on account of the
lack of time and the pressure of business."

We must remember that these words were uttered by the successor of St.
Francis--a man whose reputation for learning and sanctity was
world-wide--a man who was consulted by Popes and Princes, {68} whose
merits were soon to raise him to the dignity of the Cardinalate, and
upon whose words a few years later the entire Christian Church in
General Council assembled would hang with profound admiration. Such an
utterance gives us a better insight into Bonaventure's mind and
character than pages of indefinite eulogy.

His deep sense of humility sprang from his perfect knowledge of
himself. He considered self-knowledge an essential condition to the
acquisition of true knowledge of any kind. "He knows nothing aright
who knows not himself--who understands not the conditions of his own
being. How dangerous it is for a religious soul to be eager to know
indifferent things and yet neglect to learn its own deficiencies. That
soul is near to ruin which is curious to know extraneous things and
prone to judge others yet cares not to know itself." Apart from the
sentiment of humility prompting this utterance, what profound wisdom
does it not reveal! It establishes a truly golden rule for the
guidance of the soul in its search after knowledge, secular or
spiritual. It must begin by discovering its own limitations and
defects. If it ignores these it cannot form a true estimate of
anything. This truth was uttered by our Saint six hundred years ago
and it is strange to hear it re-echoed in our own day under totally
different circumstances. Men of science, on purely rational grounds,
are reverting to the advice given by Bonaventure and are {69}
deprecating the consequences of having hitherto more or less ignored
it. Our knowledge of things distinct from ourselves must be modified
and verified by our knowledge of the means by which it is acquired.

The intensity of Bonaventure's humility is evidenced by the fact that
whereas his biographers seem to have overlooked his other virtues,
they have left on record several instances of his humility. The
following incident related [Footnote 31] by Wadding is touching in its

[Footnote 31: "Annals," Tom. IV, Anno 1269. NO.5.]

"As Bonaventure was on his way to the General Chapter of Assisi, it
happened that a poor spiritually afflicted Brother, named Fulginas,
was very desirous of speaking to him but could not do so because of
the numbers that surrounded him and engaged his attention. The poor
Brother went along in advance of the Saint until he came almost to the
walls of Assisi and there awaited him. On his approach he cried out:
'Reverend Father, I should like very much to speak with you for my
consolation, and I humbly beseech you not to despise your poor subject
though he is beneath notice'. Bonaventure immediately left the company
that surrounded him and seating himself on the ground beside the poor
Brother, listened with great patience and kindness to his long and
tedious recital, and consoled him with much compassion and sympathy.
His {70} companions, impatient at his long absence, expressed their
disapproval of his action. But he said: 'I could not do otherwise. I
am the minister and servant--the poor Brother my lord and master. I
often recall those words of the Rule: 'Let the Ministers receive the
Brothers charitably and kindly, and show themselves so familiar
towards them that they (_the Brothers_) may speak and act with them
like masters with their servants.' I, being the servant, should obey
the will of my master and solace the misery of that poor sufferer."

This other anecdote illustrates this virtue of humility quite as
forcibly, and has the advantage of being more authentic. Salimbene,
[Footnote 32] a contemporary chronicler, is our authority. "Brother
Mark," he wrote, "was my special friend, and to such a degree did he
love Brother Bonaventure, that he would frequently burst into tears on
recalling (after his father's death) the learning and heavenly graces
that had crowned his life. When Brother Bonaventure, the
Minister-General, was about to preach to the clergy, this same brother
Mark would say to him: 'You are indeed a hireling,' or, 'On former
occasions you have preached without knowing precisely what you were
talking about. I sincerely hope you are not going to do that now.'
Brother Mark acted thus to incite the General to more painstaking
efforts. His depreciation was merely {71} affected and in no way
genuine, for Mark reported all the sermons of his master and treasured
them greatly. Brother Bonaventure _rejoiced_ at his friend's reproaches,
and that for five reasons. First, because his was a kindly-hearted and
long-suffering character; secondly, because thus he could imitate his
blessed Father Francis; thirdly, because it showed how loyally Mark
was devoted to him; fourthly, because it afforded him the means of
avoiding vainglory; lastly, because it incited him to more careful

[Footnote 32: "Chronica," p. 138.]

For a mind so powerful, so enlightened, of such perfect equilibrium
and sound judgment, humility was the only possible attitude. Pride is
the accompaniment of a weak mind or an unsound judgment. It is based
upon a notion so palpably false and unworthy as to be inadmissible to
a powerful mind. The proud man attributes to himself what he does not
possess, or he fails to see that what he does possess is limited and
imperfect, and that it is attributable rather to the Author of his
being than to himself. Consequently, he does not perceive how
senseless it is to glory in it or to despise his neighbour because he
lacks it. The more a man knows, however, the humbler he is; because
the very greatness of his knowledge only widens the extent of his
outlook into the boundless sphere of truth that surrounds him, and
which he feels he cannot explore.

In keeping with his spirit of humility our Saint {72} shunned honours
of every kind. He steadfastly refused the Archbishopric of York to
which he was appointed by Clement IV., and when that Pope, to secure
more effectively his invaluable services for the Church, insisted on
making him Cardinal, the envoys who brought him the Cardinal's hat
found him washing the dishes of the monastery--nor would he receive it
before he had finished his menial task.



The Love of God is the perfection of the interior life. It is this
which unites the soul with God, and the more intense it is, the closer
is the union and the greater the consequent perfection. It is the
crown and, consummation of all the virtues. Where it exists we shall,
as a matter of consequence, find all the other virtues; and to
describe it is implicitly to portray them all. Hence, when we shall
have treated of St. Bonaventure's love for God, we shall consider
ourselves absolved from the necessity of discussing his other virtues,
especially as there is such a scarcity of data to lay under
contribution. And even concerning the virtue under consideration, we
must be content with reviewing the Saint's teaching upon it.

The Papal Envoy presenting St. Bonaventure with the
Cardinal's hat.]


None realized better than Bonaventure the supremacy of charity.
"Charity alone," he writes, [Footnote 33] "renders us pleasing to God.
Of all the virtues charity alone makes its possessor wealthy and
blessed. If it is absent, in vain are all the other virtues present;
if only it be present, all is present--for whoso possesses it
possesses the Holy Ghost. If virtue constitute the blessed
life--virtue, I should add, is nothing else but the highest love of
God." Since charity is so excellent it must be insisted upon beyond
all the other virtues. Nor ought any kind of charity to be considered
sufficient but that alone by which we love God above all things and
our neighbour as ourselves for God's sake. The Saint insists,
particularly, on the exclusive nature of the love of God. No interest
in creatures and no affection for them should be allowed to interfere
with it. "We should love God," he says, "with the whole heart, the
whole mind and the whole soul. To love anything not in God and for God
is to be wanting in His love." He quotes with approval the remarkable
utterance of St. Augustine: "He loveth Thee less, O Lord! who loveth
anything along with Thee which he does not love because of Thee". He
assigns as the proof of perfect love willingness to lay down one's
life for God: "We love God with our whole soul when for the love of
Jesus Christ we freely expose ourselves to death {76} when
circumstances demand it. To love God with our whole mind is to be ever
mindful of Him, to love Him unceasingly and without forgetfulness or
neglect." Such is the substance of Bonaventure's general teachings on

[Footnote 33: "Opera Omnia," Tom. VIII, "De Perfectione Vitae," Cap.
VII, p. 124.]

Elsewhere in his treatise, "The Triple Way, or the Fire of Love," he
treats of the subject more in detail. He writes, no doubt, from the
fulness of his heart and describes, the love which dominated his own
soul. He distinguishes [Footnote 34] six stages or degrees of perfect

[Footnote 34: "Opera Omnia," Tom. VIII, "De Triplici Via," Cap. II,
§4, p. 10.]

The first stage is that of _sweetness_ when the soul learns to "taste
and see how sweet the Lord is".

The second consists in the _yearning_ of the soul for God. Having
become accustomed to spiritual sweetness, it is filled with a longing
which nothing save the perfect possession of that which it loves can
satisfy. And as this cannot be attained to here below the soul is
continually transported out of itself by ecstatic love, and exclaims
in the words of the Psalmist: "As the hart panteth after the fountains
of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God!" (Ps. XLI. 2).

The third degree is _satiety_ which succeeds to the yearning just
described. As the soul most vehemently desires God and is lifted up
towards Him, everything that tends to hold it down becomes distasteful
to it. It can find no pleasure in {77} anything save its beloved. It
is like one whose appetite has been fully appeased: if he attempt to
take more food it produces disgust rather than pleasure. Such is the
attitude of the soul at this stage towards all earthly things.

The fourth degree is that of spiritual _inebriation_ which follows
upon the aforesaid satiety. Inebriation consists in this: The soul's
love for God is so great that not only does it reject all comfort and
pleasure but it delights in suffering. For its consolation it embraces
pain, and, as the Apostle did of old, it rejoices in reproaches and
scourgings and torments for the love of its beloved.

The fifth degree of perfect charity is _security_. When the soul
realizes that it loves God so greatly that it would willingly bear
every pain and opprobrium for Him, it conceives such confidence in the
divine assistance that it casts out all fear and assures itself that
it can never by any means be separated from God. The Apostle had
reached this stage when he exclaimed: "Who shall separate me from the
love of Christ? I am certain that neither life nor death can separate
us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The sixth and last degree is found in true and perfect _tranquillity_,
wherein such peace and quiet reign that the soul appears to lie in
peaceful slumber from which there is nothing to disturb it. For what
can disturb the soul which no movement of passion assails and no pang
of fear disquiets? {78} In such a soul peace and quiet reign. It has
reached the final stage--"His place is in peace". It is impossible to
reach such perfect tranquillity save by perfect charity. When this is
attained it is very easy for a man to fulfil all that appertains to
perfection--whether it be to do or to suffer, to live or to die.

Here indeed we have disclosed to us the dizziest heights of spiritual
perfection. No more intimate union with God can we conceive, and yet
may we not justly conjecture that it is a faithful portrayal of the
personal experience of the Saint himself. The title of _Seraphic_
Doctor bestowed upon Bonaventure is an undeniable tribute to his
all-absorbing love for God. To the minds of his contemporaries,
impregnated with the mysticism and supernatural atmosphere of the
Middle Ages, the spirit that breathed in his writings seemed to find
its parallel only in the lives of those heavenly beings--the
Seraphim--whose existence is depicted as like to a glowing flame of
divine love.

Furthermore, in his utterances concerning the workings of the soul in
prayer, there is what I consider a very striking revelation of the
intensity of Bonaventure's love for God. It is the love of God that
vivifies prayer. Prayer is more or less perfect according to the
charity that reigns in the soul--it reaches its highest perfection
where love is all-pervading. Then we look for raptures and ecstasies
such as marked the lives of the greatest saints. {79} Bonaventure's
reflections on prayer imply this most burning love. The following
utterances, [Footnote 35] of which I give the substance, are clearly
indicative of this.

[Footnote 35: "Opera Omnia," Tom. VIII, "De Perfectione Vitae," Cap.
V, _passim_.]

"In prayer we must enter with the Beloved into the chamber of the
heart and there remain alone with Him. We must forget all external
things, and with our whole heart and all our mind and all our
affections and desires endeavour to lift our souls up to God. We
should endeavour by the ardour of our devotion to mount higher and
higher until we enter even into the heavenly court, and there with the
eyes of the soul having caught sight of our Beloved, and having tasted
how sweet the Lord is, we should rush into His embrace, kissing Him
with the lips of tenderest devotion. Thus are we carried out of
ourselves, rapt up to Heaven, and as it were, transformed into
Christ." The Saint proceeds to explain how the ecstatic state is
reached. "It sometimes happens," he says, "that the mind is rapt out
of itself when we are so inflamed with heavenly desires that
everything earthly becomes distasteful, and the fire of divine love
burns beyond measure, so that the soul melts like wax, and is
dissolved--ascending up before the throne of God like the fumes of
fragrant incense. Again, it sometimes arrives that the soul is so
flooded with divine light and overwhelmed by the vision of God's
beauty that it is stricken with {80} bewilderment and dislodged from
its bearings. And the deeper it sinks down by self-abasement in the
presence of God's beauty, like a streak of lightning, the quicker it
is caught up and rapt out of itself. Finally, it occurs that the soul
inebriated by the fulness of interior sweetness utterly forgets what
it is and what it has been, and is transported into a state of
ineffable beatitude and entirely permeated with uncreated love. It is
forced to cry out with the Prophet: 'How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O
Lord of Hosts. My soul longeth and fainteth for the Courts of the
Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God'" (Ps.

Effusions such as these assuredly give us an insight into the
extraordinary love that burned in the soul of Bonaventure. From the
spiritual tepidity that oppresses us we can only contemplate it with
wistful admiration. It proves to us indeed "how wonderful is God in
His Saints," and how profoundly and intimately He influences the
hearts of His chosen ones and attaches them inseparably to Himself.

It will be fitting to bring this chapter to a close by quoting, as
outside testimony, the tribute which Cardinal Wiseman paid [Footnote
36] to this feature of our Saint's life. "There is another writer upon
this inexhaustible subject," said His Eminence, "who more than any
other will justify all that I have {81} said; and, moreover, prove the
influence which these festivals of the Passion may exercise upon the
habitual feelings of a Christian. I speak of the exquisite meditations
of St. Bonaventure upon the life of Christ, a work in which it is
difficult what most to admire, the riches of imagination surpassed by
no poet, or the tenderness of sentiment, or the variety of adaptation.
After having led us through the affecting incidents of Our Saviour's
infancy and life, and brought us to the last moving scenes, his steps
become slower from the variety of his beautiful but melancholy
fancies; he now proceeds, not from year to year, or from month to
month, or from day to day, but each hour has its meditations, and
every act of the last tragedy affords him matter for pathetic
imagination. But when at the conclusion, he comes to propose to us the
method of practising his holy contemplations, he so distributes them,
that from Monday to Wednesday shall embrace the whole, of Our
Saviour's life; but from Thursday to Sunday inclusive each day shall
be entirely taken up with the mystery which the Church in Holy Week
has allotted to it. In this manner did he, with many others, extend
throughout the whole year the solemn commemorations of Holy Week, for
the promotion of individual devotion and sanctification, even as the
Church had done for the public welfare."

[Footnote 36: Four Lectures on the Offices and Ceremonies of Holy
Week. Lecture the Fourth.]




In a previous chapter reference was made to St. Bonaventure's
appointment to the Archiepiscopal See of York. It occurred in the year
1265. The See of York had been rendered vacant by the death of Bishop
Godfrey de Kinton, or William Ludham--it is not certain which of
these two prelates immediately preceded Bonaventure's appointment. The
English chroniclers do not refer to our Saint's nomination. The fact
may never have come to their knowledge, or their silence may be
accounted for by their opposition to foreign appointments. The epoch
was one of the most troublous in the history of England. The country
was in the throes of the civil war kindled by the revolt of the Earl
of Leicester against Henry III. The partial success of the Earl and
the captivity of Henry moved Pope Urban to intervene. He despatched
Cardinal Guido to England as his legate, but the latter having been
threatened with death if he dared to set foot in the country, remained
in France. His mission was a failure. After a short delay, and some
ineffectual negotiations, he returned to Rome, where shortly
afterwards he was raised to the Papacy. It was this Pontiff who
appointed Bonaventure to the See of York. He was thoroughly acquainted
with the disturbed state of the country {83} and knew full well the
manifold and serious difficulties which would beset the occupant of so
important a See. In the Bull of appointment he makes particular
reference to this. He beseeches the Saint to attend diligently to the
needs of the Church and to work for the peace and welfare of the
Kingdom "sorely disturbed and convulsed by the storms of civil

The condition of the Church in England was not more satisfactory than
that of the State. It was deprived of the liberty necessary for its
genuine welfare. In the year 1261, we hear the Bishops of England, in
Council at Lambeth, bewailing the violation of the Church's rights
which they asserted were trampled under foot. They enumerated the
following abuses which commonly prevailed: the undue interference of
the civil power in ecclesiastical matters; the intrusion by secular
authority of incumbents into benefices; the unjust and violent seizure
of Church property and the goods of the clergy; the pretension of the
Crown to the right of patronage in all the more important benefices;
finally, the plurality of benefices, and the tenure of benefices by
foreign ecclesiastics.

No sooner was the Papal Bull delivered to Bonaventure than he hastened
to Perugia, where the Pope was residing, and besought him not to
impose upon him so weighty a responsibility. We know not what reasons
he adduced, but they must have been very powerful to overcome the
Pope's {84} resolution and turn him from his purpose, for he seems to
have chosen Bonaventure after the fullest deliberation and to have
been very intent upon his accepting the dignity. It appears that the
Chapter of York had chosen its Dean as Archbishop, but the Pope
refused to ratify the election, declaring that on the present occasion
he reserved to himself the right of appointment. In the Bull which he
issued to our Saint, [Footnote 37] he says:--

[Footnote 37: Cf. Wadding, Anno 1265. No. 14.]

"We have long considered this appointment. We have given it our
profound and careful attention. Our mind has long been occupied with
it in all its bearings. The welfare of a Church so great and
honourable, of a daughter so noble and so devoted to the Apostolic
See, of a Catholic Kingdom so renowned as England and so dear to the
Roman See--the welfare of a Church so amply endowed and enjoying
Archiepiscopal dignity fills us with deepest solicitude. It has
aroused our anxiety, increased our vigilance and intensified our
deliberation. We have studied more intimately, and considered more
carefully, all that in this election might make for the greater
welfare of the Church, of the Apostolic See, and of the entire
Kingdom. We have striven by every means in our power to find a worthy
man--one devoted to the Apostolic See and suited to the wants of the
aforesaid Church and zealous for the peace and welfare of the
Kingdom--a man conspicuous for virtue, renowned for {85} learning,
remarkable for foresight--a man whom the Lord might love, in whose
goodness He might dwell--a man whose good deeds render him worthy of
imitation, by whom the Catholic flock as by a shining light may be led
to salvation. Seeking for such an one we have fixed our choice on
thee--our mind has rested upon thee with entire satisfaction. For we
behold in thee religious fervour, candour of life, irreproachable
conduct, renowned learning, prudent foresight, serious gravity. We see
that thou hast so long and so laudably presided over thine Order, and
fulfilled so faithfully the office of Minister-General--exercising it
prudently and profitably for the greater honour and welfare of the
Order, striving to live innocently under regular observance, showing
thyself peaceful and lovable to all. Wherefore, we are fully convinced
that we see in thee what we desire for the welfare of the said Church,
the Apostolic See and the entire Kingdom. By our Apostolic authority,
therefore, we make provision for the aforesaid Church through thee,
and constitute thee its Archbishop and Pastor, absolving thee from the
office of Minister-General and transferring thee to the said Church,
granting thee free licence to go thither. Therefore we exhort,
admonish, affectionately entreat, and strictly command thee by virtue
of holy obedience not to resist the Divine Will, nor to oppose any
obstacle nor delay to our command, but humbly to submit to the call of
Heaven and accept the burden placed upon thee by God."


Undoubtedly, only the gravest reasons could have induced Bonaventure
to resist so urgent an appeal of the Vicar of Christ. What they were
we do not know, and it is useless to enter upon conjectures. The
incident shows us the extraordinary esteem in which our Saint was
held, and it also gives us an insight into the deep solicitude with
which the Popes in the thirteenth century watched over the interests
of the Church in England. The action of the Roman Pontiffs in
appointing foreign ecclesiastics to English Sees has been severely
condemned by Protestant historians, but anyone reading the Bull of
Bonaventure's appointment must confess that they took the greatest
care to select worthy and suitable candidates.

Having succeeded in obtaining the revocation of his appointment, our
Saint went to Paris, where he remained teaching and attending to the
affairs of the Order until the year 1269, when he celebrated the
General Chapter at Assisi. Returning again to Paris he devoted himself
to his writings, lectures, sermons and ministerial duties, until 1271,
when at Viterbo he played a most important part in a very memorable
event. On the death of Clement IV. (1268), the Cardinals were so
hopelessly divided in their opinions that for nearly three years they
were unable to agree in the choice of a successor. In the year just
mentioned they were assembled at Viterbo. Six candidates were, before
them for election and there seemed but little chance {87} of arriving
at any decision. Bonaventure's reputation was so great that the
Cardinals sought his services, and, according to one chronicler,
[Footnote 38] empowered him to nominate himself or any other to the
Papal See, promising at the same time to ratify his selection. He
nominated Theobald of Piacenza, a most worthy man who was at that time
Legate in Syria. The Cardinals acquiesced in his choice and the new
Pope took the name of Gregory X. This incident must be regarded as
quite authentic, for reference is made to it in the process of our
Saint's canonization. That the Cardinals seriously authorized him to
nominate himself is the only item concerning which a doubt may be
raised. To some writers it seems too improbable on the face of it, and
they refuse to admit it.

[Footnote 38: Bartholomew of Pisa, "Conformities," Lib. I. Conform. 8.
Pars. 2.]

The election of Gregory exercised an unforeseen influence on
Bonaventure's career. The new Pope arrived at Viterbo in 1272, and
proceeded to Rome, where he was solemnly crowned in the year 1273.
Full of admiration for our Saint and reposing the greatest confidence
in his wisdom, he desired to avail himself of his counsel in the
government of the Church. Accordingly he summoned him to Rome and
confided to him the transaction of many important matters. Amongst
these was the selection of Legates to undertake the reconciliation
{88} of the Greeks and Tartars to the Latin Church. However, his stay
in Rome was not of long duration, for in the same year, 1273, he was
back again in Paris attending to his ministerial duties and working
for the fulfilment of a very important commission entrusted to him by
the Pope.



Before we pass on to St. Bonaventure's elevation to the Cardinalate it
will be worth while to gather under one heading such scattered
memories of him as have been preserved, and which shed additional
light on his life and character. These are associated chiefly with the
French King St. Louis IX., and St. Thomas Aquinas. As the sainted
Franciscan General lived almost thirty-two years at the University of
Paris, it was but natural he should come into close relationship with
the equally sainted King of France. King Louis died 25 August, 1270,
and at the second chapter of Pisa, held in 1272, St. Bonaventure
introduced into the Order the solemn annual celebration of the day of
his death. Mindful of his old-time friendship, our Saint secured this
favour from Gregory X, as the first act of grace on the occasion of
his coronation.

The following incident reveals the unreserve {89} with which Louis IX.
confided in his Franciscan friend. On the death of his eldest son, the
French King, in spite of the great love he had ever borne him, was
thoroughly resigned to what he recognized as the will of God. He told
St. Bonaventure that since God had willed the heir apparent should die
he himself would not, even if he could, have his son live. "Sire," our
Saint made answer, "how can that be?" St. Louis replied, "I believe
and I know that such was the will of God. Seeing that it is God's
will, on no account ought I to will the contrary; rather ought I
cheerfully to accept God's good pleasure and not prove disloyal to His
supreme will." "How much I suffer," he continued, "you can scarcely
credit. Yet though I feel this loss so keenly, I must force myself not
to manifest it." As he said, so he did, as the whole nation was

On another occasion the King told St. Bonaventure that someone had
approached him saying, "The Lord our God has three crowns, one of
gold, one of thorns and the other incorruptible--the crown of Eternal
Life. Two of these He has bestowed on you. I earnestly recommend you,
however, that after the example of Jesus Christ, you strive to acquire
by your good works the crown of Eternal Life. What will the two crowns
you have avail you, if you secure not the third?" "Now it seems to
me," was the pious King's comment, "that he spoke with very much
wisdom. {90} His words entered my very heart." This lesson, our Saint
adds, he also impressed on his court.

St. Louis once sought St. Bonaventure's opinion on an abstruse
philosophic-theological question. "May a man," queried the King,
"choose rather to be annihilated than to remain in everlasting
torments? or ought he to prefer eternal torture to non-existence?"
"Sire," answered Bonaventure, "endless torments presuppose sin and
God's undying wrath against sin; and as no one may choose to remain
for ever at enmity with God, non-existence is to be preferred to
endless suffering." "I hold with Brother Bonaventure," the pious King
exclaimed. Then turning to his courtiers he continued, "I assure you I
would far rather cease to exist; I would far rather suffer
annihilation, than live for ever, even in this world, reigning even as
I now reign, and yet withal remain in perpetual enmity with my God."

A further incident reveals a still more intimate interchange of ideas.
The King once came to Bonaventure and said to him: "The Queen is
greatly disturbed because she hears that our son Peter wishes to join
the Franciscan Order. I said to her, 'Do not trouble and do not allow
the affair to weigh on your mind. Besides, you may mention the matter
so often that the youth may come by the desire of joining the Order.
Personally I feel assured that the love Brother Bonaventure, their
General, bears me will not allow him {91} to receive our son without
my being forewarned.' Did I not speak the truth, Brother Bonaventure?"
To this our Saint made answer, "Sire, if your son comes to me on this
matter, I shall refer to you and lay the responsibility on your
shoulders". "No, Brother Bonaventure," replied King Louis, "that would
not do. I should not like to have it on my conscience that I stood in
the way of my son's following the voice of God." "Pious and holy
King!" the narrative concludes, "his soul was so holy and so given to
God, he preferred to be deprived of his son's society rather than
withdraw that son from the service of God."

In the fourteenth century MSS. from which the previous incidents are
drawn, and which are preserved in the Vatican Library, the following
episode is found. We insert it, though historically it is not beyond
question. The brother of St. Bonaventure once besought our Saint to
use his influence with St. Louis on his behalf. "Do you wish me to
speak to the King for you?" asked our Saint. "How could I exhort and
induce others to the contempt of the world and the embracing of the
Religious Life, if I interested myself on your worldly behalf: if, by
procuring you what you desire, I afforded you the occasion of
remaining in the lay state and of loving the world?"

In the course of this biography we have alluded casually to the
intimate friendship which existed between St. Bonaventure and St.
Thomas Aquinas. {92} There is an account of a holy rivalry of modest
courtesy which took place between them when they were both to receive
the degree of Doctor at the Paris University. St. Thomas could not be
brought to take precedence of our Saint: whilst Bonaventure, true to
the name of Friar Minor, shrank from the thought of anticipating St.
Thomas. What they were unable to arrange between themselves was
settled for them by their friends. It was thus finally determined that
Bonaventure, as being somewhat older, should be the first to occupy
the place of honour. When our Saint had been adorned with the insignia
of his new degree, he was conducted to his place amongst the Masters
of Divinity, whence he witnessed St. Thomas passing triumphantly
through the ordeal from which he himself had just emerged with credit.

On a subsequent occasion, however, it was St. Thomas' turn to be
worsted in a similar contest of holy humility. There is a tradition to
the effect that when Pope Urban IV. was contemplating to extend to the
whole Church the Feast of Corpus Christi he commissioned St. Thomas
and St. Bonaventure to compose separately a suitable Office and Mass
for the feast. While the work was being done, St. Bonaventure called
upon his friend, and during the course of the conversation took up and
read that antiphon for the _Magnificat_ beginning with the words, _O
Sacrum Convivium!_--"O Sacred Banquet!" So overcome was he by its
depth and {93} sweetness that he returned home and cast into the fire
the work he himself had been preparing. Whatever the authenticity of
these two episodes, they certainly breathe the spirit of love and of
courteous esteem with which these two Saints--representatives of two
kindred Orders--were actuated towards each other.

This is another episode of the same holy friendship, which Wadding
[Footnote 39] recounts on the testimony of Mark of Lisbon. As St.
Thomas Aquinas was once wondering at the varied learning and depth of
insight displayed in his friend's writings, he asked St. Bonaventure
to show him the books from which he had drawn. Thereupon the humble
Franciscan General showed St. Thomas a Crucifix, and pointing to it
exclaimed: "It is from this well-spring of light and love that I have
drawn whatever is to be found in my lectures or writings".

[Footnote 39: Tom. IV, Anno 1260. No. 20.]

The following incident in connexion with St. Antony of Padua gives us
an insight into St. Bonaventure's unctuous devotion. When our Saint
was in Italy in the year 1263, he presided over the translation of St.
Antony's relics, which were then removed on 8 April from the humble
Church where they had reposed since 1232 to the noble Basilica where
they still remain. When the lid of the coffin was removed and all
pressed eagerly forward to gaze, it was seen that though the flesh had
long since returned to dust, and even the bones {94} were fast
crumbling away, the tongue, "which for 32 years had lain under the
earth, was found as fresh and ruddy as though the Most Blessed Father
had died that self-same hour". [Footnote 40] With the tact and
eloquence which were so peculiarly his own, Bonaventure turned this
extraordinary happening to devout account. Reverently taking the relic
into his hands and kissing it with tender devotion, he exclaimed, "O
Blessed Tongue, which in life didst ever bless the Lord and lead
others to bless Him, now doth it manifestly appear in what high honour
thou wast held by God Himself". He then directed that it be preserved
in a costly reliquary, as a special object of veneration, rather than
remain with the rest of the body.

[Footnote 40: Cf. "Analecta Franciscana," Tom. III, pp. 328 and 157.]

There is also recorded a quaint and interesting dialogue which took
place between our Saint and Brother Giles. "On one occasion," we read
[Footnote 41] in the Life of Brother Giles commonly attributed to
Brother Leo, "Brother Giles said to Friar Bonaventure, the
Minister-General, 'Father, God has laden you with many graces. But we
uneducated and unlearned men who have not received of this fullness,
what shall we do to be saved?' The General made answer, 'Did God
confer on man no other grace save only the power to love Him, that
surely would suffice'. Then asked Brother Giles, 'Can an ignorant man
love God even as can a scholar?' {95} 'A poor, little, aged peasant
woman,' the General made answer, 'can love God even more than a Master
in Theology.' Then arose Brother Giles in the fervour of his soul, and
running towards that part of the garden nearest the highway, cried
aloud, 'Poor little peasant woman love the Lord thy God, and foolish
and ignorant as thou art, thou mayest be greater in His sight even
than Friar Bonaventure'. And as he thus cried aloud he was rapt in
ecstasy and remained immovable for the space of three hours."

[Footnote 41: Ibid. p. 101.]

There is one of our Saint's works which we must not omit to mention,
for through it he is closely connected with an important present-day
feature of the Church's life. Some authors tell us that it is to St.
Bonaventure that we are indebted for our numerous modern
confraternities; either, as some say, because he originated the idea
of these pious societies, or, as others hold, because he prescribed
for them a definite form of prayer. It is certain that our Saint
founded the "Confraternity of the Holy Standard," and did so probably
about the year 1264. [Footnote 42] The root idea of a Confraternity,
however, existed before the time of St. Bonaventure; these pious
societies, in fact, seem but to be the counterpart of those local
guilds which were early established over Europe. Then anent specific
rules and prayers, etc., there are the religious {96} prescriptions
which Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, drew up for his guild, not to
mention the Confraternity organized by Odo, Bishop of Paris, who died
in 1208. This "Confraternity of the Standard," however, would seem to
have been the first introduced into Rome; and its immediate and
extensive adoption throughout Italy may possibly explain how it came
to pass that upon St. Bonaventure was fathered an idea that, probably,
was merely borrowed from Bishop Odo.

[Footnote 42: Bull of Pope Gregory XIII. "Pastoris AEterni," 23
October, 1576.]

This "Confraternity of the Holy Standard" took its name from the
banner which was borne at the head of the Society's processions and on
which was wrought the likeness of the Blessed Virgin. It was also
known as the "Society of the Protégés of Our Blessed Lady," for among
their insignia was a representation of the mother of God shielding her
clients with her mantle. At first the Society embraced only twelve
members, all of noble birth, the number, it is said, shown to our
Saint in a vision; soon, however, it grew into a large and public
body. The distinctive dress of the association was a white habit, to
the right shoulder of which was attached a blue badge on which a cross
was traced in red and white. This was the period when the Crusades
were kindling the West with religious enthusiasm, and it seemed
appropriate that in spiritual as in temporal warfare, soldiers should
bear an their person the insignia of the King under whose banner they
were fighting. {97} The whiteness of the Cross recalled the purity of
Our Lady; its deep red colour symbolized the love with which Our Lord
purchased our redemption, and the heart-felt loyalty we should
manifest in return. The aims of this Confraternity were prayer,
fasting, and almsdeeds: the promotion of peace and harmony among
citizens--then so fiercely given to feuds of civic politics; the
procuring of dowries for destitute girls; voluntary service to
hospitals; and, perhaps, chiefly, the ransom of captives from the
tyranny of the Saracens.



Soon after his election to the Papacy, Gregory X. decided to hold a
General Council at Lyons. He directed Bonaventure to undertake the
preparation of the various matters to be discussed. Amongst all those
who might co-operate for the success of the Council, the Pope perceived
that there was no one more capable than our Saint. His, authority was
great and his influence was widespread, In the preceding chapter we
have dwelt upon his familiar friendship with King Louis of France,
With Charles I. of Anjou he was likewise on intimate terms. After his
elevation to the Cardinalate the prince gave orders for his suitable
conveyance to the Papal Court. Another somewhat curious {98} instance
of Bonaventure's widespread influence is seen in a letter written to
him by the Secretary of Otto Carus, King of Bohemia. He asks our Saint
to intercede for him with his royal master so that he might receive
from him some office which he coveted. As General of the Franciscan
Order his power was very considerable, but it was greatly increased by
his reputation for learning and profound piety. The Order had already
spread into almost every country of the Old World. In the East and
West it possessed thirty-three Provinces and four Vicariates. It had
penetrated into Egypt, Palestine, and Syria; and was firmly
established all over Europe including the British Isles.

The supreme ruler of so vast and powerful an organization is
necessarily a noteworthy personage in the life of the Church. And it
is not to be wondered at that Gregory X. fixed his eyes upon
Bonaventure, and with a view to enhancing his authority and extending
his sphere of action determined to raise him to the cardinalate.
Accordingly, on 23 June, 1273, he made him Bishop of Albano and
Cardinal of the Roman Church. Bonaventure's secretary, Bernard of
Besse, viewing the procedure from the standpoint of the humble Friar
and with apparently little approval, refers briefly to the fact in
these words: "The aforesaid Lord Gregory X. forced him to become a
Cardinal". We can imagine how strenuously Bonaventure refused the
honour, but the Pope was inflexible and even peremptory. {99} He
commanded Bonaventure to submit to his appointment and in a spirit of
humility to place no obstacle in the way. He furthermore ordered him
to repair to the Papal Court without any unreasonable delay or
hesitation. Our Saint received the Brief at Paris and he set out at
once for Florence where the Pope happened to be residing. Having
reached the vicinity of the town he took up his abode in a small
convent of the Order. Thither came the Pope's envoys with the
Cardinal's insignia. As has already been said they found the Bishop
and Cardinal-elect washing the plates of the monastery, and tradition
has it that he ordered them to hang the hat on a branch of a tree
close by until he had finished.

After a brief stay at Florence, at the Pope's command our Saint set
out for Lyons, where the General Council was to be held. The assembly
began its sessions in May, 1274. The importance of the part which
Bonaventure played in this Council is admitted by all. His secretary
and biographer, Bernard of Besse, says: "By command of our Lord the
Pope he conducted the principal affairs of the Council". Pope Sixtus
IV. affirms that Bonaventure "presided at the Council of Lyons and
directed everything to the praise and glory of God; so that having
suppressed discords and overcome difficulties, he was a source of
honour and utility to the Church". It is, however, hardly credible
that Bonaventure really _presided_ over the Council, for {100} the
Pope himself was present. Most likely he presided over the private
sessions and prepared and directed the business to be publicly

The union of the Greek Church with the Latin, the deliverance of the
Holy Land from Mohammedan rule, and the restoration of ecclesiastical
discipline were the chief matters discussed by the Council.

In the work of reuniting the Greek and Latin Churches the Friars Minor
played a very conspicuous part. Through them the negotiations with the
Emperor Paleologus, and the Greek Church had been carried on. Their
efforts seemed for a time to be crowned with complete success. The
Emperor sent civil and ecclesiastical representatives to the Council
of Lyons to express the adherence of himself and the entire Greek
Church to all the tenets of the Church of Rome. In presence of the
assembled Council and amid great solemnity the envoys made a public
profession of Faith, and the great Eastern schism seemed to be healed.
Unfortunately the result was of very brief duration. In the course of
a few years the Greeks had once more returned to their old condition
of schism and heresy. Still, even for this temporary success great
credit is due to Bonaventure, for to his personal influence it must in
no small degree be attributed. His learning, his eloquence, his
affability and his piety deeply impressed the Greeks. They marked
their appreciation of his great ability by bestowing on him {101} the
name of "Eutychius". He surpassed the high opinion which Pope Gregory
had formed of him. His extraordinary gifts filled the whole Council
with admiration. The facility and precision of his diction, the
prudence and moderation of his counsel, the breadth and depth of his
learning, his skill in controversy and his wonderful power of
dispatching most weighty matters made him the most prominent figure in
the whole of the assembly. At the same time, his humility and meekness
and the cheerful sweetness of his disposition won all hearts. His
words were listened to with sympathetic attention and never failed to
produce the desired effect. It is recorded that he preached twice
during the Council: first when it was officially announced that the
Greeks were sending representatives to Lyons, and, secondly, when the
reunion had been accomplished. A large number of his sermons are
extant, but amongst them is not found either of these discourses.

Whilst our gaze is fixed on Bonaventure as the central figure in that
grand assembly of the Christian Church we can read with interest the
pen-portrait of him left to us by an old chronicler. This writer,
[Footnote 43] after insisting at much length on the spiritual
endowments of the Saint, continues thus:--

[Footnote 43: Peter Rodulph, fol. 92. Cf. Wadding, Tom. IV, Anno 1274.
No. 20.]

"Such beauty of soul was matched by exterior {102} comeliness; of
imposing appearance, tall in stature, and with a certain nobility of
bearing. His features were handsome and of serious expression. His
words were calm and his conversation kind and gentle. He rarely
suffered from ill health. His disposition was more than admirable. His
appearance cannot be described other than like that of an angel sent
from Heaven, for in his day there was no one more beautiful, holier,
or more wise. Such affability and grace shone forth in his countenance
that he was to all not only an object of love but of admiration. Those
who once beheld him felt themselves drawn instinctively to admire and
venerate him as one especially designed to further the interests of

The description is evidently that of an ardent admirer of
Bonaventure, but making all due allowance for its palpable
exaggerations we are justified in believing that the personal
appearance of the Saint must have been impressive and attractive in no
ordinary degree. This seems to have been a characteristic of many of
the saints, although their biographers, imbued with the peculiar
ascetical notion that unsightliness of body is somehow necessarily
associated with beauty and excellence of soul, usually discard all
reference to bodily endowments.

In his labours at the Council our Saint was ably seconded by two other
Franciscans--Rigaldi, Archbishop of Rouen, and Paul, Bishop of
Tripolis. Their prominence and the authority they wielded {103} seem
to have excited a certain amount of jealousy among their
contemporaries. Thus we find them referred to in the following
satirical triplet:--

  Bonaventure, Rouen and Tripolitane
  Dispense papal laws and unmindful remain
  Of their Order which scorns all honours as vain.

This suggests the question: "How can we reconcile the acceptance of
ecclesiastical dignities with the Spirit of St. Francis and the
profession of his Rule?" Many answers might be given, but I believe
the following to be the most satisfactory. The leading principle of
the Franciscan Rule is obedience to the Pope, the supreme authority in
all things spiritual. Hence, submission to what he commands cannot be
a violation of the Franciscan spirit. Like every other religious
development of human origin the Order of St. Francis is entirely
subject to the authority of the Head of the Church. He can modify it
in its constitution and in its members as circumstances may demand.
Non-Catholic writers, and even Catholics, sometimes lose sight of
this. They seem to think that the Rule of Francis possesses some
species of supreme and absolute authority which no power on earth can,
or ought to, interfere with. This assumption is utterly false. None
would have more emphatically rejected it than St. Francis himself.
Hence, when the Vicar of Christ, for the welfare of the Church, calls
upon a child of St. Francis to accept some office to {104} which
attaches dignity or honour he may humbly refuse, but a persistent and
obstinate refusal would find no justification in the profession he has



By special Pontifical dispensation Bonaventure retained the office of
Minister-General for a short time after his elevation to the
Cardinalate. His successor could be elected only by a General Chapter,
and this could not conveniently be convoked until the feast of
Pentecost. This occurred on 20 May, 1274, and the place chosen for the
assembly was Lyons. The Saint presided, and having formally resigned
his office, Jerome of Ascoli, afterwards Pope Nicholas IV., was
appointed his successor. With this event Bonaventure's official
connection with the Order of St. Francis ceased. As we shall see, it
was almost coincident with his death.

The Council of Lyons was still sitting when Bonaventure was called to
his reward. He was only fifty-three years of age, but the immense
labours he had undergone and the habitual weakness of his
constitution, hastened the end.

St. Bonaventure.
_From Raphael's Disputa, in the Vatican_.]


On 6 July, the fourth general session of the Council was held. The
reunion of the Greek and Latin Churches was solemnly ratified.
Bonaventure preached on the occasion. He took for his text the words
of the prophet Baruch (v. 5). "Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high;
and look about towards the East, and behold thy children gathered
together from the rising to the setting sun, by the word of the Holy
One rejoicing in the remembrance of God". The body of the discourse
has not come down to us, but we can well imagine that it was well
worthy of the great occasion and of the genius and sanctity of the
preacher. It was his last public utterance--the _Nunc dimittis_ of the
Church's zealous champion as he witnessed the accomplishment of the
object for which he had long so earnestly striven. He was even then
standing on the brink of the grave. The echoes of eternity were
already beginning to sound in his ears and the everlasting years to
unfold themselves before his gaze. As he heard the solemn strains of
the grand _Te Deum_ that marked the close of the great event he must
have felt that his work for God and for the Church was accomplished.
Weakened by disease and worn out by the constant strain and pressure
of business, his strength was rapidly failing. The ceaseless activity
of his great mind, his restless energy and burning zeal, had hitherto
rendered him insensible to the body's decline, but at last the limits
of endurance were reached and the end was at hand. Bonaventure
returned home from the Council, and nine days later he was dead.

The exact cause of his death is not known. One {108} writer [Footnote
44] refers to an extraordinary mortality prevailing amongst the
members of the Council. It is just possible that some species of
epidemic, so frequent in those days, may have broken out in the city,
and that our Saint in his infirm state of health fell an easy victim
to it. Incidentally, we learn that one of the symptoms of his last
illness was a complete inability to retain even the least particle of
food. This is recorded [Footnote 45] in connection with the following
truly marvellous occurrence. On his death-bed our Saint longed with
all the ardour of his seraphic soul for the sweet intercourse of
Sacramental Communion. But the cause just mentioned made this
impossible. Still, as far as possible to appease his pious longing,
the Consecrated Host was brought into his room and placed beside him,
so that his eyes might rest upon it. This only intensified his desire,
until it would appear that the Lord could no longer withstand the
ardour of his pleadings. A wonderful thing was then seen to happen.
Without any visible agency the Sacred Host left the ciborium and,
moving through the air towards the dying Saint, vanished within his

[Footnote 44: Cf. "Opera Omnia," Tom. X, p. 67. No.4.]

[Footnote 45: Wadding, "Annals," Tom. IV, Anno 1274. No. 18.]

At an earlier period in his life a somewhat similar occurrence is
recorded. Bartholomew of Pisa and the author [Footnote 46] of the
Chronicles of the Twenty-four Generals relate that, on a certain
occasion, the pious {109} General, thinking himself unworthy,
abstained for a long time from saying Holy Mass. But the Lord was
touched by his humility, and one day as he was devoutly hearing Mass,
a particle of the Consecrated Host, solely at the command of the
Saviour, left the altar and entered his mouth, filling his soul with
divine sweetness. It may be that both records are but different
versions of the same fact, and we may doubt which of them is
authentic. But if Bonaventure's malady were such as described, we
should like to think that the Lord, pitying the loneliness and
extremity of His dying servant, afforded him, even by a miracle, the
supreme consolation which his passing spirit sighed for.

[Footnote 46: Cf. "Analecta Franciscana," Tom. III, p. 334.]

Another incident which touchingly illustrates the absolute poverty in
which the Saint died is recorded by Wadding. Although Bishop and
Cardinal, his sole possession on his death-bed was his breviary.
Everything else he had distributed to the poor, and even the breviary
he regarded not as his own but as belonging to his Order, and he
directed that it should be restored to the Brethren after his death.

We would fain linger by the deathbed of the Saint but the almost
complete absence of details gives us no encouragement to do so. We are
not told even where he died. Was it in the convent of his Order and
surrounded by his Brethren, or elsewhere? How did he bear himself in
that final struggle? What were his sentiments? What were {110} his
last words? None of these things are recorded. Apart from general
observations concerning his virtues and his holiness we only know with
certainty that during the night of 4 July, 1274, Bonaventure passed to
his reward.

We may well imagine that death has no terror for the Saints; at the
same time, we cannot say that it has any special attraction for them.
Even our Holy Father, St. Francis, whilst unawed at the approach of
"Sister Death," seemed yet submissively to cling to life. It is a
natural and a legitimate instinct. Life is the sum total of our
temporal gifts, and its preservation is a duty we owe to the giver. It
is true, granted the immortality of the soul, and future reward, that
there is a greater good than the body's life and that to secure it we
may, and in some cases ought, to forfeit the latter. But these
circumstances are abnormal and rarely occur. In the ordinary course of
events the soul's welfare does not demand the body's death. The
interests of body and soul run on parallel lines, and so long as right
order is maintained they cannot collide. We read indeed that the
Saints, vividly realizing the happiness of Heaven and aspiring to it
with steadfast confidence, longed for death. St. Paul exclaiming: "I
wish to be dissolved and to be with Christ," is quoted as an example
of this. But the attitude thus expressed by the Apostle is not
incompatible with a natural repugnance to, and shrinking from death.
We believe this to be in {111} some degree the characteristic of all
men, saints as well as sinners.

Bonaventure's death was regarded somewhat in the light of a public
calamity. The effect it produced upon the Council of Lyons is narrated
as follows. [Footnote 47] "At this time, whilst the Council was still
sitting, the most reverend Father in Christ, the Lord Cardinal
Bonaventure of most venerable memory was laid with the holy Fathers,
filling, as we may believe, the Church Triumphant with joy at his
advent, but affecting the Church Militant with incredible grief at his
departure. For Greeks and Latins, clergy and laity, followed his bier
with bitter tears, lamenting the grievous loss of so great a

[Footnote 47: Author of the "Chronicles of Twenty-four Generals," Cf.
"Analecta Franciscana," Tom. III, p. 356.]

In accordance with the custom of the time and country, Bonaventure was
buried on the day of his death. His funeral was attended by the Pope
and all the Prelates of the Council. Peter, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia,
celebrated Holy Mass and preached the funeral oration. He took for his
text the pathetic words in which David laments the death of Jonathan
(2 Kings 1. 26): "I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan--exceedingly
beautiful and amiable above the love of women". The text was suggested
no doubt by that striking characteristic of the Saint upon which all
his biographers so strongly insist--his wonderful amiability. As one
{112} writer [Footnote 48] expresses it: "This grace the Lord had
granted him that whosoever looked on him was forthwith irresistibly
drawn to love him".

[Footnote 48: The historian of the Council of Lyons. Cf.
"Opera," Tom. X, p 67.]

At the next session of the General Council the Pope referred to the
grievous loss sustained by the entire Church in the death of
Bonaventure. And to mark his sense of gratitude for the immense
labours he had undergone on its behalf he ordered all the priests and
prelates of the Catholic world to offer up Holy Mass for the repose of
his soul.

The Saint was buried in the church of the Friars Minor at Lyons. In
the year 1434, a new church dedicated to St. Francis was erected in
the city, and thither, as to a more suitable resting-place, the body
was translated. This took place one hundred and sixty years after the
Saint's death. Marvellous to relate, the head was then found to be
entirely incorrupt. The hair, lips, teeth, and tongue were perfectly
preserved and retained their natural colour. The people of Lyons were
profoundly affected by this miracle, and they chose Bonaventure for
the patron of their city. The movement, already on foot, to obtain his
canonization received thereby a new and powerful impetus.

On the occasion of this translation the body of St. Bonaventure was
placed in a costly reliquary at the command of the Minister-General,
and kept at the Franciscan Church at Lyons. Later in the {113} same
century, the Minister-General, Father Francis Samson, removed the arms
of our Saint from Lyons, and entrusted them to the keeping of the
Religious at Bagnorea. In the Cathedral Church of this town these
relics are still piously venerated. Around the reliquary which
encloses them runs the inscription, "Father Francis Samson, General,
bequeathed this reliquary to the Convent of St. Francis in Bagnorea, 1
May, 1491 ".

In 1494 King Charles VIII. of France erected a magnificent side-chapel
for the remains at Lyons, and in return requested some relic of St.
Bonaventure. His desire was granted, and the relic he obtained he
finally presented to the chapel of Fontainebleau. Thence it was taken
to the Franciscan Church at Paris, where it remained till the French
Revolution. Other relics of St. Bonaventure were removed to Venice in
1494 where they are still exposed to the veneration of the Faithful.

The shrine at Lyons was enriched with many valuable
offerings--tributes of gratitude to the efficacy of our Saint's
intercession. There, in one urn plated with silver, his body was
preserved; the head being reserved in another equally costly. There,
too, the remains rested in veneration till the second half of the
sixteenth century.

In 1562, Lyons fell into the hands of the Huguenots who made an
assault on the Franciscan Church there and rifled St. Bonaventure's
shrine of its treasures. Owing, however, to the foresight and {114}
heroism of Father James Gayete, the Superior, their sacrilegious
purpose was, in part, thwarted. This holy man had betimes taken the
precaution of enclosing our Saint's relics in two urns and burying
them in a secret place. The two Religious who shared his secret were
sent to another convent lest what they knew be wrung from them by
torture. Father James was subjected to much harsh treatment, but all
to no avail. A search was then instituted through the friary and its
grounds, and finally the Huguenots succeeded in discovering the body.
This was borne to the public square and burned with many images,
pictures, and objects of devotion.

When peace again prevailed, the Religious who knew of the secret
returned to Lyons and produced the urn which contained the head of our
Saint as also the crucifix and chalice he was wont to use. The former
cultus was once more revived; the friary and church rose from their
ruins and the shrine of St. Bonaventure regained its old-time
splendour. During the French Revolution, however, the profanation was
more complete. The friary and church were razed to the ground, and
once again the urn containing the head of our Saint was buried for
safety in a secret place. This time, however, the holy Religious died
without divulging his secret, and all subsequent searches to find the
relics have proved unavailing.

_Photo. Alinari_.


_Church of St. Maria degli Angeli, Dintorni (Tiberio d Assisi)_]




From all that has hitherto been said it is evident that Bonaventure
was eminent amongst his contemporaries. He excelled in holiness and
learning. His greatness was religious. The service of God, the
sanctification of his soul and the welfare of the Church were the sole
ends to which his life was devoted. He achieved them with remarkable
success. His contemporaries perceived it and they regarded him as a
saint. A saint is a man whose life is virtuous in a heroic
degree--whose spiritual excellence is indisputable. Such excellence is
worthy of recognition, and the Catholic Church, with its true
appreciation of what is right, has adopted suitable means of
expressing it. These are embodied in the process of canonization. In
the early ages of the Church there was no special form of
canonization. It appears to have consisted in the unanimous belief of
the Faithful--at first merely tolerated, but in time positively
approved of by ecclesiastical authority. In the eighth century we come
across the liturgical ceremony of solemnly enrolling the Saint amongst
the number of the Blessed in Heaven.

This is not the place to discuss the dogmatic significance of such
procedure. Suffice it to say, {116} it would be rash to imagine that
the Church could err in so important and truly religious a matter.

Although the holiness of the Saints was recognized by their
contemporaries, and continued to be the object of devout veneration by
succeeding generations, still the Church's authentic recognition of it
has sometimes been postponed for long centuries. The Church moves
slowly in such matters. She is guided by the attitude of the Faithful.
If these, through successive generations, maintain a traditional
cultus of the Servant of God and eventually demand his canonization,
the process is usually entered upon. The utmost caution is observed in
the procedure. A most careful study is made of the life of the
individual. The heroic nature of his virtues, the constant devotion of
the Faithful towards him, the miracles attributed to him must be
judicially proven. All evidence is carefully sifted by expert
canonists. Every fact calculated to benefit or to prejudice the cause
of the Saint is skilfully adduced. All human means likely to ensure
the truth of the Church's judgment are employed.

In the Middle Ages, even as at the present day, it was the custom to
demand from the Supreme Pontiff the favour of canonization. The cause
had to be put forward, and the Church's definitive sentence formally
solicited. In the case of our Saint the petition was presented by the
Minister-General of the Franciscan Order, Fr. Francis Samson. It was
{117} supported by the following powerful monarchs and nobles: the
Emperor Frederick III, King Louis of France, Ferdinand King of Sicily,
Matthias King of Hungary; the Dukes of Calabria, Venice, Milan, and
Bourbon; also the Municipalities of Florence, Siena, Lyons, Perugia
and Balneumregis.

It is somewhat strange to observe that this petition was not presented
earlier. It was now some one hundred and eighty years since
Bonaventure's death. But, as the Pontiff declared, the delay only
added to the glory of the event. It is a prerogative of the greatness
of the Saints that it appeals so powerfully to the minds of men long
after their death. Herein it contrasts strikingly with worldly
greatness which vanishes so quickly as scarcely to survive the death
of those who possessed it.

When our Saint's canonization was mooted Sixtus IV. occupied the Papal
Chair. He had been a Franciscan, and this circumstance operated in
favour of the undertaking. To the Pontiff the enrolment of a brother
Friar in the Calendar of the Saints was peculiarly agreeable. He
refers to the fact in the Bull of canonization, and he is careful at
the same time to guard against the impression that his judgment might
be influenced by undue partiality. "We have read most diligently," he
writes, "the divine writings of the aforesaid holy man, and from the
time we were capable of understanding them they have been our chief
delight. From the older and more trustworthy Brethren of the Order,
who in {118} their youth had learnt it from their elders, we have
heard of the fame of his sanctity and miracles, and we felt that
whilst he triumphed in Heaven he ought to be venerated on earth.
Moreover, we remembered that, by choice, we had embraced the same
Order and therein by the Divine assistance made some progress in
learning and in the spiritual life--that we had fulfilled the same
ministerial office and had been raised to the dignity of the
Cardinalate and finally to the summit of the Pontificate. So that we
feel we have been raised to those eminences in the Church Militant
through which Bonaventure attained to the glory of the Church
Triumphant. But lest we should appear to be influenced by any personal
motive in this process we have been careful to employ all the
diligence and caution which the importance of the matter demands."

He points out the measures taken to accomplish this. A Commission of
Cardinals was appointed to examine the life and miracles of the Saint.
Their report in the first instance did not satisfy the Pope. It was
not drawn up with sufficient solemnity and it had to be repeated. A
fuller investigation was made, additional witnesses were examined and
new miracles investigated. The result this time was satisfactory, and
the Pontiff felt himself bound to proceed with the canonization.
"Lest," he says, "we should appear to resist the Holy Ghost, who
through the mouth of His Prophet commands us to praise God in His
Saints, we have taken counsel {119} with our venerable Brethren the
Cardinals concerning this canonization and they have approved of it
unanimously." A public Consistory was then held and the Pope enjoined
upon the clergy and Faithful of Rome the observance of three days
prayer and fasting--"so that God might enlighten us as to the correct
course to pursue, and preserve His Church from falling into error".
After this the opinion of the Cardinals was sought once more--it was
entirely favourable.

Thus assured, the Pope proceeded to the canonization. The solemn act
took place in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles on 14 April, 1482. In
the course of the ceremony a very remarkable oration on the Saint was
delivered by the great ecclesiastical orator, Octavianus de Martinis.
[Footnote 49] He insisted particularly on the miracles attributed to
the Saint, of which he enumerated something like twenty-one different
species. In the following singularly eloquent passage he summarizes
the Saint's claims to canonization:--

[Footnote 49: Cf. Wadding, "Annals," Tom. XIV, Anno 1482. No 3.]

"If, therefore, it appear that the Blessed Bonaventure was miraculous
in his works; if his Divine Commentaries show that he possessed the
gift of infused knowledge; if the assiduous fulfilment of the humblest
offices prove that he despised worldly honours, and shook off all
earthly affections; if it appear that he was patient in trials,
steadfast in persecution, that he was profitable to the Order of {120}
St. Francis and that, like St. Paul, he was miraculously called to the
service of religion; if it appear that his future sanctity was
foretold by St. Francis and affirmed by Alexander of Hales, the
Irrefragable Doctor; if it appear that the Sons of St. Francis,
themselves remarkable for holiness but considering him holier still,
made him their chief Superior, and that the Holy See on account of his
renowned merits called him to the administration of the Universal
Church; if, finally, it appear that by the common consent of the
Faithful he is regarded, invoked and worshipped as a Saint and that he
daily succours those who have recourse to him, then your Holiness
without further request might decree him those public honours which
alone he lacks. How much more readily ought you not to do this at the
earnest prayer of so many powerful princes."

At the conclusion of this discourse Peter Rodulph, the
Procurator-General of the Franciscan Order, arose, and addressing the
Sovereign Pontiff, formally besought [Footnote 50] him in the name of
the Most Holy Trinity to enrol Bonaventure in the Calendar of the
Saints. The Pope's reply is embodied in the Bull already mentioned,
from which we quote the following important passage:--

[Footnote 50: Cf. Wadding, "Annals," Tom. XIV, Anno 1482. No.4.]

"Confident that God will not allow us to fall into error in the
canonization of this Saint, by His Divine Authority and that of His
Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, we decree that Bonaventure of {121}
Balneumregis, of blessed memory, Professor of Theology, of the Order
of Friars Minor, who was raised from the office of Minister-General to
that of Bishop and Cardinal, is a Saint, and is to be inscribed in the
Catalogue of the Saints and joined and associated with them. By these
letters present we insert him amongst the number of those who are to
be venerated by the Church."

Thus was Bonaventure glorified. But further honours were in store for
him. A hundred years later 14 March, 1582, he was declared a Doctor of
the Universal Church by Sixtus V. This was an authoritative
pronouncement that our Saint was to be regarded as one of the foremost
expounders of the Catholic Faith. He was placed on a level with
Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory. These are the words of the
Pontiff: [Footnote 51] "After mature deliberation with our venerable
Brothers the Cardinals, with their counsel and unanimous consent, and
by our own certain knowledge . . . we inscribe by right the aforesaid
St. Bonaventure amongst the number of Holy Doctors, and we declare and
decree that he is to be regarded and venerated as amongst the chief
and foremost of those who have excelled in the Sacred Science of

[Footnote 51: Bull "Triumphantis Jerusalem".]

After more than seven hundred years Bonaventure's greatness is
undiminished and his glory is undimmed. His memory is fragrant in the
Church of God, and those "Divine Commentaries" {122} and other
treasures of Christian thought which he left behind him are still with
us. In the depth and clearness of his dogmatic teaching, but
especially in the ardent outpourings of his seraphic soul in his
devotional works, we are brought into intimate contact with his
marvellous life. From these, rather than from the records of
biographers, we learn its true beauty and holiness. The latter offer
us a portrait of the exterior man, but the former reveal to us the
secret workings of the soul. From his writings we gather what
Bonaventure really was--what he thought, what he aspired to, what he
sought to accomplish. It is in them we may hope to discover the real
man, and to obtain a clearer grasp of that particular development of
the Franciscan spirit with which he is so intimately associated.


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