Bonaventure's name means "good luck." He was born in 1221 in Tuscany, Italy, and was baptized John. Bonaventure joined the Franciscan
order, which was still new. In fact, St. Francis
of Assisi who started the Franciscans lived from 1181 until 1226. Francis was still alive when Bonaventure was born. As a young Franciscan, Bonaventure left his own country to study at the University of Paris in France. He became a wonderful writer about the things of God. He loved God so much that people began to call him the "Seraphic Doctor." Seraphic means angelic.
One of Bonaventure's famous friends was
St. Thomas Aquinas. His feast day is January 28. Thomas asked Bonaventure where he got all the beautiful things he wrote. St. Bonaventure took his friend and led him to his desk. He pointed to the large crucifix which always stood on his desk. "It is he who tells me everything. He is my only Teacher." Another time when Bonaventure was writing the life of St. Francis of Assisi, he was so full of fervor that St. Thomas exclaimed: "Let us leave a saint to write about a saint." St. Bonaventure always kept himself humble even though his books made him famous.
In 1265, Pope Clement IV wanted him to become an archbishop. Bonaventure begged the pope to accept his refusal. The pope respected his decision. However, Bonaventure did agree to be master general of his order. This difficult task was his for seventeen years. In 1273, Blessed Pope
Gregory X made Bonaventure a cardinal. The two papal messengers found Bonaventure at the large wash tubs. He was taking his turn scrubbing the pots and pans. The papal messengers waited patiently until Bonaventure finished the last pot. He rinsed and dried his hands. Then they solemnly presented him the large red hat which symbolized his new honor.
Cardinal Bonaventure was a great help to this pope who had called the Council of Lyons in 1274. Thomas Aquinas died on his way to the Council, but Bonaventure made it. He was very influential at the assembly. Yet he, too, died rather suddenly on July 14, 1274, at the age of fifty-three. The pope was at his bedside when he died. Bonaventure was proclaimed a saint in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V declared him a Doctor of the Church.
"If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God's grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research."-St. Bonaventure