Saint Bonaventure

Franciscan Bishop and Doctor (1218-1274)

Born about 1218 in Bagnoregio, Italy, Saint Bonaventure studied philosophy and theology at Paris and was awarded a master’s degree, lecturing thereafter with great success to his fellow friars. Elected Minister General, he exercised his office with insight and discretion. He was appointed Cardinal Archbishop of Albano, and died at Lyons in 1274. He wrote a great number of philosophical and theological works.

A reading from “The Journey of the Mind to God” by Saint Bonaventure

Mystical wisdom is revealed through the Spirit

Christ is the way and the door, Christ is the ladder and the conveyance, the propitiatory, as it were, placed over the Ark of God, and “the mystery which has been hidden from eternity”. Whoever looks upon the propitiatory and turns his face fully towards the Crucified, with faith, hope, and love, with devotion, admiration, and exultation, with appreciation, praise, and joy, makes the Pasch, that is, the Passover, in the company of Christ. By the staff of the cross, he enters the Red Sea, on his way out of Egypt to the desert; there he tastes the “hidden manna”, and with Christ he lies in the tomb, apparently dead to the world, but all the while experiencing in himself, as much as is possible in the present state of wayfaring, what was said on the cross to the robber who confessed Christ: “Amen, I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”

If this passing over is to be perfect, all intellectual operations must be given up, and the sharp point of our desires must be entirely directed towards God and transformed in him. Such a motion as this is something mystical and very secret, and no one knows it except him who receives it, and no one receives it except him who desires it, and no one desires it unless the fire of the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent to earth, inflames him to the very marrow. That is why the apostle attributes to the Hol Spirit the revelation of such mystical wisdom.

But if you wish to’know how such things come about, consult grace, not doctrine; desire, not understanding; prayerful groaning, no studious reading; the Spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity. Consult, not light, but the fire that completely inflames the mind and carries it over to God in transports of fervour and blazes of love. This fire is God, “and his furnace is in Jerusalem”. Christ starts the flame with the fiery heat of his intense suffering, which that man alone truly embraces who can say: “My soul rather chooses hanging; and my bones death”. Whoever loves this death may see God, for this is beyond doubt true: “No man sees me and still lives”.

L e t us die, then, and pass over into the darkness; let us silence every care, every craving, every dream; with Christ crucified, let us “pass out of this world to the Father”. Thus, having seen the Father, we may say with Philip: “It is enough for us”; and may hear with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you”; and may rejoice with David, saying: “Though my flesh and my heart waste away, God is the rock of my heart and my portion for ever ‐ Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, through all eternity! Let all the people say, Amen! Alleluia!”


Almighty God and Father,
on this feast of Saint Bonaventure,
enlighten our minds with the splendour of his teaching,
and help us to imitate his ardent love of you.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.