Bonaventure is often viewed as the most learned man in history. He was given the title “Seraphic Doctor”--for his intellectual and spiritual works moved those who read them to angelic heights.
Bonaventure was born in Bagnorea, Italy in 1221. In 1238 he would join the order founded by the man who cured him from a serious illness, Francis of Assisi.
As a Franciscan, Bonaventure studied in Paris and would eventually become a professor at the University of Paris.
At the age of thirty-six he was chosen the General, the leader, of the Franciscan order. In 1273 he was created a Cardinal and Archbishop of Albano.
Upon his death, Bonaventure was viewed as the “second founder” of the Franciscan order. He would take Francis’ spirit and infuse it into an administrative and spiritual infrastructure that would assure the survival and success of the Franciscan order.
Inspired by Francis, Bonaventure laid the foundation for the Franciscan’s vision of philosophy and theology. His work The Reduction of All Things to Theology exemplifies this spirit. Learning was an exploration of God’s creation, of God’s handprint on creation. To seek knowledge was to seek God, to learn was to love God, to study was to pray to God. He made it a moral and religious obligation to develop one’s intellectual gifts.
Prayer and a holy life are necessities for coming to the truth. Otherwise the mind is subject to losing all truth and falling into subjectivism and relativism. Faith and reason are inseparable.
In 1273, near the end of his earthly journey, Bonaventure was appointed a papal legate to the Council of Lyons which healed the Eastern Schism—at least temporarily. The Greeks recognized that the Roman Filoque (that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son) was an alternative expression to the Greek view that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.
Before the end of the council, in 1274, Bonaventure died. Upon his death Pope Innocent V ordered all priests and bishops to offer up Masses for Bonaventure’s soul.
Bonaventure was holy because he was intelligent, and he was intelligent because he was holy.
It is an interesting aside that Bonaventure’s importance to Catholic Christianity was so great that the French Protestant Huguenots and the French Revolution’s atheist movement would burn and desecrate his body.