Born Giovanni di Fidanza, he took the name Bonaventure when he joined the Franciscans in 1243. He went to Paris, studied theology and then became a teacher. In 1253, Bonaventure took over the Franciscan school in Paris, and four years later, he was head of the entire Order.
In 1257, the Order faced crisis. It was growing so quickly that it was becoming disorganized. It was also split between monks who called for a life of poverty, as Francis had, and others who believed the Franciscans could be part of the material world and still stay true to their founder's ideals.
Bonaventure tried to take a middle path. He lived a simple, pious life and argued the Order could remain Franciscan while still owning property and pursuing intellectual aims.
Bonaventure was a respected theologian and mystic. He wanted Christians to purify their souls through prayer and right behavior, and he believed that prayer could bring an ecstatic bond between mankind and God.
In 1265, Bonaventure turned down the archbishopric of York. Eight years later, he accepted the position of Cardinal-Bishop of Albano. When messengers from Pope Gregory X brought Bonaventure the news of his appointment, he actually had them wait until he finished washing his friary's dishes. In 1274, he served at the Council of Lyons, which was organized to reunite the Roman and Greek churches.
Bonaventure died at Lyons on July 15, again trying to reconcile differing spiritual views.
Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus,
my inmost soul
with the most joyous
and most holy apostolic charity,
that my soul may ever languish
and melt with entire love
and longing for Thee,
may yearn for Tee
and for thy courts,
may long to be dissolved
and to be with Thee...
May my heart ever hunger
after and feed upon Thee,
Whom the angels desire to look upon,
and may my inmost soul
be filled with the sweetness
of Thy savor.
From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives
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