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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor

"Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Mt 10:37

St Bonaventure University, where I am presently teaching a summer session, promotes, in the spirit of St Francis and St Bonaventure, three core values: peace, the planet and the poor. St Francis, we are told, never failed greet the friars and everyone he met, especially the poor, with the simple greeting: Pace e Bene, Peace and Good, hoping thereby to create an atmosphere of peace and helping all, but especially those who might oppose his new way and fraternity, to trust his motives and desires. Filled with awe at all God's gifts, but especially the gift of creation, Francis challenged his contemporaries to reimagine their relationship to the earth and all God's people.

When Francis first began to follow God's promptings to hand his life to God without fear, he did not envision himself as the founder of a new religious order. Rather, he wanted to live in the world with a new focus and a new dream. Determined to live simply among the poor as a pilgrim and stranger, he wanted to witness to the unconditional love of God by rejecting signs of power and prestige in his society. When others heard the same call, he was happy to welcome and live with them as a sign that God wanted all people to promote peace in a world where everyone had enough to eat and live with dignity.

St Bonaventure, who some call the second founder of the Franciscan movement, was charged with settling the differences between and among Francis' followers especially with regard to their vow of poverty. A theologian, Bonaventure knew that all knowledge, especially Greek philosophy, could work together with the Gospel to intellectually ground the pursuit of God but without thinking one could ever fully understand God and God's ways. When asked to bring his great learning to the struggles of the early Franciscans, Bonaventure proved to be an inspired leader and healer. Minister General of the friars for seventeen years, he led the Franciscan community to a place of honor and humility by his willingness to stand at the center of every controversy as an agent of peace and good.

Today, seek peace with someone with whom you disagree.

What most inspires you about St Francis and the Franciscans?

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