Born in the Italian town of Bagnoregio in 1217, Bonaventure’s life became entwined with St. Francis of Assisi when he was gravely ill as a small child. Bonaventure’s mother pleaded insistently for St. Francis’ intercession to save her son. Years after his miraculous recovery, Bonaventure joined the followers of Francis and became a Friar Minor.
Becoming a Minister General
Even before he entered the Order, Bonaventure was noted for his extraordinary intelligence, as he was an eager student of the brilliant Franciscan theologian Alexander of Hales.
As a student and then as a professor, Bonaventure made a lasting contribution to the academic excellence of the University of Paris. As a spiritual master, he taught a method of contemplation that united the believer to God through the progressive stages of purgation, illumination, and union.
At the age of 36, Bonaventure was elected the Minister General of the Franciscan Order.
Stabilizing the Brotherhood
He was challenged with the task of reorganizing a community that had grown tremendously, and whose mission was lacking a clear focus. Over a period of seventeen years, Bonaventure instituted necessary structures and disciplines that indeed stabilized the brotherhood. At the same time, he authored several mystical treatises and Franciscan source documents that are foundational for both Franciscan spirituality and medieval theological development.
Death and Canonization
Saint Bonaventure died as a cardinal in 1274. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1482, the 300th anniversary of Saint Francis’ birth.