Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bonaventura, St., a great mediaeval mystic theologian (1221-1274), commonly known to his time as the "Seraphic doctor." His real name was John Fidenza. His name is said to be derived from an exclamation of his mother's - "O buona ventura!" at his almost unhoped-for recovery from a childish illness. At the age of 22 he became a monk, and went to study philosophy and theology at the University of Paris. In 1256 he became head of his Order, and showed himself a severe disciplinarian. In 1265 Pope Clement offered him the Archbishopric of York, which he refused, but in 1272 he accepted a Cardinal's hat from Gregory X., who summoned him to the council held in 1274 at Lyons, to bring about a reconciliation with the Greek Church. During the session of this council, at which he made the opening speech, he died. He was canonised in 1482 by Sixtus IV., and in 1587 Sixtus V. decreed him a double. St. Bonaventura had a great share in advancing the cult of the Virgin; but his chief characteristic was his zeal for mystic theology. His central position was that knowledge of truth flows from a close union with God, and that this union is a return, so far as is possible, to the state of man before the Fall. This return, which is only to be arrived at by a life of purity, prayer and holiness, has three phases, which are, as it were, the three steps of a ladder. First, the footsteps of God, material objects, next His images, the intellect and the soul, while divine contemplation is the third step. We begin by studying things outside our self, then we enter into our own souls and examine them, and then we contemplate. Corresponding with these three steps, our nature possesses three faculties - sensibility, intelligence, and reason. The work setting forth these views is the Itinerarium Mentis in Deum. Another work, Commentary on Peter Lombard's Book of Sentences, contains some striking arguments for the immortality of the soul. A follower of St. Francis of Assisi, and having more than a tinge of Platonism, St. Bonaventura was more than half poet, and exhibits signs of being attached to those principles of evangelic socialism which seem to have been a special characteristic of the Franciscan order. He may, in some sort, be looked on, too, as a forerunner of St. Ignatius Loyola.