St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure, 1217 - 1274Saint Bonaventure (b. 1221, d. 1274) known as “the seraphic doctor,” received the name of Bonaventure as the result of an exclamation of St. Francis of Assisi, when he prayed for John’s recovery from a dangerous childhood illness, and,  foreseeing his future greatness, cried out “O Buona ventura” — O good fortune! At the age of twenty-two St. Bonaventure entered the Franciscan order. In Paris he became the intimate friend of the great Saint Thomas Aquinas and like Saint Thomas,  enjoyed the friendship of the holy King, Saint Louis.

In fifteen talks given in June of 2012, Brother Brian taught St. Bonaventure’s spirituality of Christ’s love. Drawing mainly from St. Bonaventure’s short essay, “Journey of the Mind into God,” (hereafter referred to as Journey — see the bottom of this page for an Internet source for the full text), participants were led to a deeper understanding of this professor, preacher, and successor to St. Francis of Assisi, his life, his times, his Franciscan spirituality, and the contributions that led to his being given the title Doctor of the Church.

This Saint gave us prayers and explanations of Church doctrine that have enlightened and enlivened many for 700 years. Here are some excerpts from the class notes on St. Bonaventure’s writing prepared by Brother Brian; the complete text can be found by following the blue link.

Brother Brian: “Bonaventure sought peace and inspiration in St. Francis’ cave. Peace flooded his soul, and inspiration struck in a vision very like St. Francis’ own. This vision radiated the insight that love is both rapture and the road to rapture.”

St. Bonaventure wrote [Chapter III of the Journey]: “And so, from the activities of memory, we see that the soul itself is an image of God, and a likeness so present to itself, and having God so present, that the soul actually grasps Him, and potentially is capable  of possessing Him, and of being a partaker in Him .”

Brother Brian: “Reflecting on your memory, you tend to admit how you are like God. You are so “present to yourself” that you are aware of being aware. You know that you know. You remember that you remember. This presence to yourself is your spirit leaping over limits. Matter limits all it touches. Spirit escapes. Your presence to yourself liberates you. This too is an image of God. He is the ultimate Presence to Himself. He is also present to you. These two presences merge, so that you grasp Him.”

St. Bonaventure wrote [Chapter VI of the Journey]: “After contemplating the essential attributes of God, the eye of our intelligence should be raised to look upon the most blessed Trinity, so that the second Cherub may be placed alongside the first.”

Brother Brian: “This poetry combines three sparkling truths. The first is that people who take the first four steps [“levels of Illumination”] finish analyzing creatures to their Source, or God, the Supreme Being. This is one way to know God. So we can represent it as a Cherub who is an angel specializing in knowing God. The second truth is that Jesus reveals God’s secret: He is One Being with Three Persons. Revelation is a second way that we know God. The third truth is that we should place this second Cherub alongside the first. This means that we should combine our natural knowledge with our revealed knowledge to better understand God… As St. Bonaventure described … God is one. His Truth is his Goodness.”

See Bro. Brian Dybowski’s interview on St. Bonaventure on Spirituality TV.

The full text of Saint Bonaventure”s best known work, “Journey of the Mind into God,” has been generously provided at

The Paulist Press series “Classics of Western Spirituality” includes a volume called Bonaventure.