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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/723

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BONAVENTURE


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BONAVENTURE


the unhappy discord still ravaging the order. St. Bonaventure's aim was to present a general portrait of the holy founder which, by the omission of certain points that had given rise to controversy, should be acceptable to all parties. This aim was surely legitimate even though from a critical standpoint the work may not be a perfect biography. Of tliis "Legenda Major", as it came to be called, Bona- venture made an abridgment arranged for use in choir and knorni as the "Legenda Minor".

Bonaventure was the true heir and follower of Alexander of Hales and the continuator of the old Franciscan school founded by the Doctor Irrefraqa- bilis, but he surpassed the latter in acumen, fertility of imagination, and originality of expression. His proper place is beside his friend St. Thomas, as they are the two greatest theologians of Scholasticism. If it be true that tlie system of St. Thomas is more finished than that of Bonaventure, it should be borne in mind that, whereas Thoma,s was free to give him- self to study to the end of his days, Bonaventure had not yet received the Doctor's degree when he was called to govern his order and overwhelmed with multifarious cares in consequence. The heavy responsibilities which he bore till within a few weeks of his death were almost incompatible with further study and even precluded his completing what he had begun before his thirty-sixth year. Again, in attempting to make a comparison between Bonaventure and St. Thomas, we should remember that the two saints were of a different bent of mind; each had qualities in which he excelled; one was in a sense the complement of the other; one supplied what the other lacked. Thus Thomas was anah'tical, Bonaventure sjTithetical; Thomas was the Christian Aristotle, Bonaventure the true disciple of Augustine; Thomas was the teacher of the schools, Bonaventure of practical life; Thomas enlightened the mind, Bona- venture inflamed the heart; Thomas extended the Kingdom of God by the love of theologj-, Bona\"enture by the theologj- of love. Even those who liold that Bonaventure does not reach the level of St. Thomas in the sphere of Scholastic speciJation concede that as a mystic he far surpasses the .\ngelic Doctor. In this particular realm of theologj-, Bonaventure equals, if he does not excel, St. Bernard himself. Leo XIII rightly calls Bonaventure the Prince of Mystics: "Having scaled the difficult heights of speculation in a most notable manner, he treated of mystical theologj- with such perfection that in the common opinion of the learned he is facile princeps in that field." (Allocutio of 11 October, 1890.) It mast not be concluded, however, that Bonaventure's mj-stical writings constitute his chief title to fame. This conclusion, in so far as it seems to imply a deprecation of his labours in the field of Scholasticism, is opposed to the explicit utterances of several pontiffs and eminent scholars, is incompatible with Bonaventure's acknowledged reputation in the Schools, and is excluded bj- an intelligent perusal of his works. As a matter of fact, the half of one volume of the ten comprising the Quaracchi edition suffices to contain Bonaventure's ascetic and nij-stic wTitings. Although Bonaventure's mj-stical works alone would suffice to place him in the foremost rank, j-et he may justly be called a mystic rather than a Scholastic onlj- in so far as every subject he treats of is made ulti- mately to converge upon God. This abiding sense of God's presence which pervades all the wTitings of Bonaventure is perhaps their fundamental attribute. To it we may trace that all-pervading unction which is their peculiar characteristic. As Sixtus V aptlj- expresses it: "In WTiting he united to the highest erudition an equal amount of the most ardent pietj-; so that whilst enlightening his readers he also touched their hearts penetrating to the inmost recesses of their souls" (Bull, Triumphantis Jerusalem). St.


.\ntoninus, Denis the Carthusian, Louis of Granada, and Father Claude de la Colombiere, among otliers, have also noted tliis feature of Bonaventure's writings. Invariablj' he aims at arousing devotion as well as imparting knowledge. He never divorces the one from the other, but treats learned subjects devoutly and devout subjects learnedlj-. Bonaventure, how- ever, never sacrifices truth to devotion, but his tendency to prefer an opinion which arouses devotion to a drj- and uncertain speculation maj- go far towards explaining not a little of the widespread popularity his wTitings enjoj-ed among his contemporaries and in all succeeding ages. Again Bonaventure is dis- tinguished from the other Scholastics not only by the greater warmth of his religious teaching, but also bj- its practical tendencj- as Trithemius notes (Scrip- tores Eccles.). Manj' purelj- speculative questions are passed over bj- Bonaventure; there is a directness about all he has T\Titten. No useful purpose, he declares, is achieved bj- mere controversy. He is ever tolerant and modest. Thus wliile he himself accepts the literal interpretations of the first chapter of Genesis, Bonaventure acknowledges the admissi- bility of a different one and refers with admiration to the figurative explanation propounded by St. Augustine. He never condemns the opinions of others and emphaticallj- disclaims anything like finalitj- for his own \-iews. Indeed he asserts the littleness of liis authoritj-, renounces all claims to originalitj- and calls himself a "poor compiler". No doubt Bonaventure's works betraj- some of the defects of the learning of his daj-, but there is nothing in them that savours of aseless subtlety. "One does not find in his pages", ^Tites Gerson (De Examin. Doctrin.) "vain trifles or u-seless cavils, nor does he mix as do so manj- others, worldly digressions with serious theological discussions". "Tliis", he adds, "is the reason why St. Bonaventure has been aban- doned bj- those Scholastics who are devoid of piety of whom the number is alas! but too large". It has been said that Bonaventure's mystical spirit un- fitted him for subtle analj-sis. Be this as it may, one of the greatest charms of Bonaventure's writings is their simple clearness. Though he had necessarily to make use of the Scholastic method, he rose above dialectics, and though his argumentation may at times seem too cumbersome to find approval in our time, j-et he wTites with an ease and grace of stj-le which one seeks in vain among the other Schoolmen. To the minds of his contemporaries impregnated with the mj'sticism of the Middle Ages, the spirit that breathed in Bonaventure's wTitings seemed to find its parallel only in the lives of those that stand nearest to the Tlirone. and the title of "Seraphic Doctor" bestowed upon Bonaventure is an undenia- ble tribute to his all-absorbing love for God. This title seems to have been first given to him in 1333 in the Prologue of the "Pantheologia" bj- Raj-ner of Pisa, O.P. He had already received while teaching in Paris the name of Doctor Devotus.

The Franciscan Order has ever regarded Bona- ventm-e as one of the greatest Doctors and from the beginning his teaching found many distinguished expositors within the order, among the earliest being his own pupils, John Peckham later Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew of Aquasparta, and Alex- ander of Alexandria (d. 1314), both of whom be- came ministers general of the order. The last named wrote a "Summa qusestionum S. Bona- venturse'. Other well-known commentaries are by John of Erfurt (d. 1317), Vorilongus (d. 1464), Brulifer (d. c. 1-^97), de Combes (d. 1570), Trigosus (d. 1616), Coriolano (d. 1625), Zamora (d. 1649), Bontemps (d. 1672), Hauzeur (d. 1676), Bonelli (d. 177.3), etc. From the fourteenth to the six- teenth century the influence of Bonaventure was undoubtedly somewhat overshadowed by that of