Was born in Italy in 1221. He joined the Franciscan Order and went to Paris for his studies. He was made General of his Order and deserves to be reckoned its second founder for his work in consolidating an institution that was as yet ill-defined in nature. St. Bonaventure died at Lyons in 1274 during the general Council between Greeks and Latins held in this city. Dante had already included him among the inhabitants of his “Paradise”. He is known as the Seraphic Doctor. According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Henry. His feast in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is celebrated on July 13. In England this day is known as “St. Swithin’s Day,” celebrating the day his relics were transferred. The Catholic Church celebrates St. Swithin’s feast on July 2.
“In Bonaventure we meet a unique personality. He was unsurpassed in sanctity, wisdom, eloquence, and gifted with a remarkable skill of accomplishing things, a heart full of love, a winning disposition, benevolent, affable, pious, charitable, rich in virtue, beloved by God and man. . . . The Lord endowed him with such a charming disposition that everyone who saw him was immediately attracted to him.” In these words the historian of the Council of Lyons concludes his account on St. Bonaventure.
At an early age he was a celebrated teacher and a powerful preacher. At thirty-six he was called to the highest post among the Franciscans, the Order which honors him as a second founder. He was an important figure at the Council of Lyons. His virtue and wisdom, his versatility and mildness were major factors in attaining the happy result that the Greeks so easily returned to the unity of the Church.
Bonaventure was a subtle scholastic and a profound mystic. Because of the latter he is known as the “Seraphic Teacher.” In philosophy he was the principal leader of the Platonic-Augustinian school of Franciscan thought; as such he stood opposed to the Aristotelianism that was making its way into the schools of the time (Thomas of Aquin). Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis was a favorite book of the Middle Ages. When St. Thomas was told about Bonaventure’s work, he said: “Let us allow one saint to labor for another.” His contemporaries are said to have believed that no one was “more handsome, more holy, or more learned” than he.
Patron: Bowel disorders.
Symbols: Cardinal’s hat; ciborium; communion.
Often portrayed as: Cardinal in Franciscan robes, usually reading or writing.