Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Look "passionately" for Christ and seek to conform ourselves to Him, this "applies to every Christian, yesterday, today and forever". John Paul II also indicated this as the "program of the Church for the Third Millennium". This is what St. Bonaventure did, "one of the most important theologians in the history of the Church," in who "as sometimes happens even among sincerely religious people " there were "grounds for human weakness, such as envy and jealousy."
In those years, meanwhile, there was controversy around the mendicant orders: Franciscans and Dominicans. "Their right to teach in universities was challenged, and even the authenticity of their consecrated life doubted. Certainly, the changes introduced by the mendicant orders in the way of understanding the religious life were so innovative that not everyone could understand. Then added to this, as sometimes happens even among sincerely religious people, were motives of human weakness, such as envy and jealousy. " In 1273 the life of St. Bonaventure experienced another change. Gregory X made him cardinal and asked him to prepare "a very important ecclesial event: the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons, which had as its purpose the reestablishment of communion between the Latin Church and Greek Church. He devoted himself to this task with diligence, but failed to see the conclusion of that ecumenical assembly, for he died during it”.
Benedict XVI dedicated his speech to 8 thousand people attended the general audience to St. Bonaventure, "man of action and contemplation, of deep piety and prudence in government". The Pope revealed that the figure of this Doctor of the Church "evokes nostalgia, because I think back to the research I carried out as a young scholar on this very author, who is particularly dear to me. His knowledge greatly influenced my formation".
Probably born in 1217 and died in 1274, St. Bonaventure lived in an age in which Christianity “deeply penetrated European culture and society” “it inspired imperishable works of literature, visual arts, philosophy and theology. Among the great Christian figures who contributed to the composition of this harmony between faith and culture" there was Bonaventure.
His was called Giovanni da Fidanza. "An incident that happened when he was a boy deeply marked his life, as he himself tells". He had been suffering from a serious illness and not even his father, who was a doctor, thought he could be saved. His mother made recourse to the intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi. And Giovanni was cured.
The figure of Francis became more familiar to Giovanni in Paris where he went to study and where, "like so many young men of the past and even today, Giovanni pondered the crucial question of what to do with his life." "Fascinated by the fervour and radical evangelical" of the Friars Minor he asked to be welcomed into the "great family of the followers of Francis." Many years later he explained that in Saint Francis and the movement he started he discerned the action of Christ.
Around 1243 he became a Franciscan, taking the name of Bonaventure and was sent to study theology in Paris where he came into contact with scholars who flocked from all over Europe. Bonaventure “matured a personal form of reflection and a spiritual sensibility of great value that, over the years that followed, he transmitted in his works and instilled in his sermons, making him one of the most important theologians in the Church's history. It is significant to recall the title of the thesis which he defended in order to be entitled to teach theology "Questions on the knowledge of Christ”. And "we can say without hesitation that all his thought was deeply Christ-centred”.
Bonaventure responded with an essay titled "Evangelical Perfection" in which "he shows how the mendicant orders," practicing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, "followed the advice of the Gospel itself. Beyond these historical circumstances, the teaching provided by Bonaventura in this work and his life is always present: the Church is made more bright and beautiful by fidelity to the vocation of those sons and daughters who not only put into practice the precepts of the Gospels, but for the grace of God, are called to observe its advice and thus give witness, through their lifestyle of poverty, chastity and obedience, that the Gospel is the source of joy and perfection".
Bonaventure was recognized in 1257 as a teacher at the University of Paris, but had to leave teaching, because that year, he was elected general minister of the Franciscans. He remained in this post for 17 years "with wisdom and dedication, visiting the provinces, writing to brothers, at times intervening with a certain severity to eliminate abuses. "
In those years, the Friars Minor numbered about 30 thousand, and were located throughout Europe as well as with missions in Africa, the Middle East and "even in Beijing." It was necessary to "consolidate" their presence and give "unity and fidelity to the spirit desired by St. Francis. Among the brothers, in fact, "there were several ways of interpreting the message and there was a real risk of internal fracture. Thus in 1260 the General Chapter received a document by Bonaventure, in which "the rules that governed the daily life of monks were gathered and unified. Bonaventure sensed, however, that the laws, as inspired by wisdom and moderation, were not sufficient to ensure the communion of spirit and hearts. The same ideals and the same motivations had to be shared”.
For this purpose, to present the true spirituality of St. Francis, Bonaventure gathered together with great zeal documents about the "Poverello” and listened to those who had known him. Thus he gave birth to the "Legenda Maior," which in Latin means "that which is to be read" and is "a historically well-founded biography, " of St. Francis, his "most faithful portrait", "the official biography of the saint."
What emerges is the picture of Francis as "an alter Christus, a man who passionately sought Christ. In the love that drives imitation, he conformed fully to Him. Bonaventura pointed this living ideal to all the followers of Francis. This ideal is valid for every Christian, yesterday, today and always, it was identified as the program for the Church of the Third Millennium” by John Paul II in “Tertio Millennio Ineunte”.
St. Bonaventure, Benedict XVI concluded, "reminds us of the meaning of our life with the following words: 'On earth ... we can contemplate the immensity of God through reasoning and admiration, in our heavenly homeland, however, by vision, when we will be like God, and through the ecstasy we will enter into the joy of God '. "