Tag Archives: Saint Bonaventure

An Advent Reflection from an old friend

Sister Clare Bernadette Knowles had this reflection published in The Global Sisters Report.

We share two paragraphs, enough, we hope, to send you to the original by following the link.
Sister Clare contributed many of the blog posts signed FMSL. Congratulations, Sister Clare!

Our Creator, whose holy name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), wants to meet us in the “now” of our lives. If I am living in the past or fixated on the future, I may miss the gift of God’s grace in the present. Therefore, the Advent liturgies urge me to “stay awake” to God’s presence in every moment “praying at all times” (Luke 21:36).

If I am awake, I cannot fail to notice that the world needs the light of Christ more than ever. Gathering storms of war, terrorism, inequality, ecological crises and a pandemic threaten to overwhelm humanity in my lifetime. It is easy to become discouraged by so much bad news.


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15 July: Feast of Saint Bonaventure

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Saint Bonaventure was born in the small Italian town of Bagnoregio, near Viterbo, probably in 1217. He studied at the University of Paris, where he joined the Order of Friars Minor. He later taught and became a Master in the school of theology at the same university. He wrote many great academic works of theology.

In 1257, at the age of forty, he was called unexpectedly out of his academic world to become the Minister General of his Order, responsible for leading all the Friars Minor worldwide. He was the seventh successor of Saint Francis of Assisi in this role. In his new role as Minister General, he managed to continue teaching through his writing. His writings of this period were less esoteric and more concerned with spirituality in the lives of the friars and the Christian people they served.

Saint Bonaventure had a gift for uniting different schools of thought into a harmonious synthesis. He used this gift through his writing in efforts to bring peace among opposing factions in his Order and later in the service of the worldwide Church. He was consecrated Cardinal Archbishop of Albano in 1273. He then assisted in preparations for the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, where he played a key role in the efforts to unite the Eastern and Western Christian churches.

Having put his energies into a General Chapter of his Order and then three sessions of the great Church Council in the same year, 1274, he died at the friary in Lyons on 15th July, aged around fifty seven. The Pope and those who had attended the Council, both Eastern and Western Christians were present for his funeral. Saint Bonaventure was canonised in 1482 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588.

Saint Bonaventure; tireless Franciscan teacher, writer and peacemaker, pray for us.


Saint Bonaventure at Saint Antony’s Church, Rye, Sussex.

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Wednesday 8 March, Ex Corde Lecture: Saint John in Bonaventure’s thought.


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Ex Corde Lectures

Johannine Dimensions of ‘The Word of the Cross’ in Bonaventure’s Thought.

Wednesday 8 March, 7.00 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.

at the Franciscan International Study Centre, Giles Lane, Canterbury,      CT2 7NA.


The famous passage from 1 Corinthians 1:18 – ‘For the Word of the Cross is to those who are perishing, foolishness but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ – speaks eloquently of the salvific nature of Christ’s death in the thought of Saint Paul. The same is true for the great Franciscan mystic, Saint Bonaventure, who links that action of the second Person of the Trinity to the personalised experience of Francis’s stigmata and a perception of a Cross that ‘illuminates’ and is the source and summit of Christian contemplation. In this Ex Corde lecture, Father Tom Herbst OFM will relate Bonaventure’s treatment of the Pauline theme of the ‘Word of the Cross’ to his exegesis of the Gospel of John.


Father Thomas J. Herbst received a BA in History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, an M.Div. from the Franciscan School of Theology?Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He obtained a D. Phil. in Theology from the University of Oxford in 2001.

All are welcome. An opportunity to ask questions will follow the lecture. We ask for a small donation to cover costs.









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5 February: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. Let it shine!



Today, God is teaching me that an effective way to deal with the causes of sin in myself is to do good.

If I turn towards others and set about serving their needs instead of punishing or controlling them:

‘Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.’                                                                                                                    (Isaiah 58:8)

What is negative in me will be shone away without my having to focus on it, as light naturally dispels darkness:

‘your light will rise in the darkness and your shadows become like noon.’                                                                                                                                                                       (Isaiah 58:10)

As St. Bonaventure taught, ‘Goodness diffuses itself’.  In other words, it is the nature of goodness to spread itself around.  The Book of Genesis, Chapter One tells us that everything God created is good, including humans.  This means it is our nature to share with the rest of creation all that we are and have by divine gift.  Jesus’ illustrates this truth with the examples of salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  It is the nature of light to illuminate the space around it and the nature of salt to flavour the food to which it is added.  Light which is completely covered over and salt which is tasteless are useless, absurd and unnatural. So am I, when I am self-centred and lacking generosity.  But whenever I act with love, God’s light dispels my shadows.

And here is a link to an ideal soundtrack for this Sunday’s Gospel reading and blog post. 


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July 15: Saint Bonaventure

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Saint Bonaventure at St Anthony of Padua, Rye, SX.

Someone should mark the feast of the  Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure. He is shown above with book and quill and two lamps, no doubt for burning the midnight oil in his studies and writing. His head is bathed in heavenly light, suggesting he is inflamed by the Holy Spirit. In this passage from ‘The Mind’s Journey to God’ he tells us, paradoxically for a researcher, to seek for God not in daylight but in darkness, not in research but in sighs of prayer.

This reminded me of the poet Dylan Thomas, for whom darkness was a creative space, even as a child. He tells us that at day’s end in A Child’s Christmas in Wales, ‘I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.’[1] And remembered, for thirty years.

And so to Bonaventure, writing poetically with many  images:
Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should mercylogoturn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in Paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

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; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love.


[1] Dylan Thomas: ‘A Child’s Christmas’, pages not numbered.

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Interruption: Bonaventure and the mind’s road to God


Agnellus’ Mirror does not reflebonaventure.rye (392x800)ct a view of science as anti-religion, or yet anti-Christian. Quite the opposite. And Franciscan spirituality is embodied and grounded, so that Pope Francis could entitle his encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si’ after Saint Francis’s hymn of creation.

In this article from the Vatican Observatory, Fr James Kurzynski writes: ‘ As we explore Saint Bonaventure’s mysticism, we will come to see how Franciscan spirituality, greatly influenced by the thought of Saint Bonaventure, affirms the exploration of the natural world and how this exploration leads us to the knowledge of God.’

It’s a long article by our standards, but well worth reading!

Bonaventure and finding God in science


Saint Bonaventure at Saint Antony of Padua church, Rye, Sussex. MMB

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March 25, Good Friday: Dying with Christ.

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We are all called to die with Christ.

Strasbourg Cathedral 

We are all called to die with Christ. One way of doing so is the way of red martyrdom, bearing witness (the meaning of the Greek marturō, from which the word ‘martyr’ derives) with our blood, as more Christians than ever before are doing.

There is also a white martyrdom, originally exemplified by those who withdrew into the Egyptian desert after the example of Anthony of Egypt. This is a death to all that separates us from God. By following the threefold way of purification, illumination and union the white martyr reconnects with the interior silence in which we know God face to face.

This death, which is also a journey, is traditionally imaged, after the Book of Exodus, as the soul’s ascent of the mountain of God. We ascend by allowing our perspective to expand. We ‘rise’ from self-centredness to other-centredness. This means allowing all of our habitual ways of seeing and thinking, however cherished, to be changed by the inflowing (the in-fluence), of grace.

bonaventure.ryeBonaventure saw that at the apex of the ascent we ‘behold Christ hanging on the Cross’ and ‘celebrate the Pasch, that is, the Passover, with Christ.’ We –

‘rest with Christ in the tomb, as one dead to the outer world, yet experiencing, in as far as possible in this pilgrim state, what was said on the cross to the thief who was hanging there with Christ: This day you will be with me in Paradise.’

The face of God is the face of Christ crucified. Our face, too, is the face of Christ crucified.

St Bonaventure from St Anthony of Padua, Rye.


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16th March – Love takes faith out of the reach of doctrine and precept



Caernarfon MMB.

St John [15.9] urges us to remain in love; remain in beauty, in peace. in tranquillity… this takes faith living out of the reach of doctrine and precept. This same experience changes wherever love is missing; and our appreciation of the underpinning goodness of Creation urges us, in the words of Bonaventure – wherever you see good – celebrate it; wherever you see goodness broken – repair it; wherever goodness is missing – bring it with you!

All very well, but what has happened to Original Sin, whose effects we see in abundance through violence, injustice and terrorism..? There are some unreal people around – those who can say isn’t life beautiful, everything is full of wonder… Not so. Life is messy – shot through with good and bad, so much so that we need to locate where we are. Far from asserting that everything is all right – everything is not all right, but that is all right!

The Incarnation holds the key – this Hypostatic Union is how God is present in Creation, and so Grace is ever and always available to us. Life is Grace, it is freely given without charge or mortgage, it is there to be enjoyed. This is Jesus’ mission to urge us and to make it possible for us to live well, to enjoy the journey… from such limited living will eternal life emerge. Life leads us to God, and the quality of living provides intimacy with God throughout the journey. So we can anticipate the arrival home with all the enthusiasm proper to eager travellers. Original Sin intrudes and handicaps this through ungracious living.




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28th January – Acquiring Hope

A 20th century Jewish philosopher, Ernst Bloch, in his impressive work The Principle of Hope, reminded people that hope means facing the future with creativity and courage. It is a most desirable gift to acquire in modern circumstances. He looked at attempts to express this over the centuries. People like Francis de Sales and Angela Merici clearly eliminated various fears from people’s lives, and thus made hope possible. However, we can ask whether it was typical of Catholic or Christian community practice to emphasise the empowerment that accompanies hope.

We often speak nowadays of bringing hope to the terminally ill, or to refugees, or to situations of drought and famine. It is a gift which can bring badly needed courage into such situations. We expect connections between hope and practical readiness to solve certain social problems. That is one valuable aspect, but not the first aspect in religious reflection on hope. Often in the New Testament hope is implied, not mentioned directly. In the early Middle Ages, this was felt to be an area in need of further clarification.

What is hope? The debate that emerged talked about the arduous times in life requiring perseverance. Hope flows from God just as forgiveness does. The first treatise on hope came from Eudes Rigaud, a Franciscan lecturer. He taught Bonaventure, who wrote his own account. When Thomas Aquinas used Bonaventure’s text, he turned it into syllogisms, merely logical statements. But hope is our way of narrating our resurrection faith, a process of imaginative awakening.


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Alternative Images of Christ



mercylogoThe notion of Christ as a sea-faring Saviour was particularly appropriate for writers in a Mediterranean setting, and was used by several authors. There is still a hint of it in Bonaventure, when he refers to making time for prayer as a way to escape danger, behaving like a sailor hastening to a harbour that is safe. Perhaps it helps to bring to mind an image of Paul and Silas travelling amongst Gentiles. But other images can also stir the mind to imagine Christ as having transformative power. His energies can bring strength in other social settings such as a mill, a wine-press of a family’s agricultural plot with its trellises and lattices. ‘Grapes being turned into wine’ is obviously a transformation metaphor. It tells us that Christ’s merciful energies can bring relief where our labouring efforts to gather a crop exhaust us.

Bonaventure also draws a parallel between the wood of a trellis for a vine and the wood of the Cross. “The beams of the gibbet are crossed; our Vine, the good Jesus, is lifted up on it; his arms and his whole body are forcibly stretched out – with such distorting violence… that all the joints of his frame can be counted.”

In the Chester Mystery Plays too, the workmen stretch Jesus excessively because his arms do not match the points for the nails. Yet the meditation here too must be on how Christ came in the midst of humanity’s uncaring destructiveness purely to bring love. He gave us that mystery of love despite our blindness.


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